Ask the Pastor

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I’ve decided I must move faster to retire all the leftover questions from our “Hot Seat” Sunday back in August, so today let’s look at four different marriage-related questions

1) How do you get over the pain of infidelity?

  • Obviously, there is NO easy answer to this question, but in my opinion, there are two necessities: (a) the injured party must forgive.  That will probably take time and also require the guilty spouse demonstrating by his/her actions a willingness to regain trust in the marriage, but it’s impossible to get over the pain without forgiveness; and (b) in my experience, it almost always requires counseling from a third-party who can help the couple objectively.  Let me close by encouraging you that it CAN be done, as many couples have proven through the years, and your marriage can be better than before!

2) How do you deal with a controlling and verbally abusive mother-in-law that lives with you? 

  • Wowzers, no softball questions this time, huh.  In a nutshell, it will require tough love and it’s important that both husband and wife are in agreement.  If you need some Biblical support, try Genesis 2:24.  From a Biblical standpoint, there’s no doubt that the marriage takes priority over the parents, so that must be walked out in the home, especially if the in-law’s live with you.

3) How do I become a better listener when communicating with my wife? f

  • That’s a GREAT question, because most often (in my experience) we don’t recognize the need for listening to our spouse.  To answer the question, there are lots of tactics you can employ, such as repeating what you think she said and verifying with her before responding, etc.-but in brief, listening is a skill that anyone can attain by focused effort. Look at her when she’s talking to you (not staring at your phone or the TV); give her your focused attention, and you’ll both be happier!

4) I desperately want to have another child, but my husband is against it. I pray and ask God to soften his heart. Should I continue? 

  • As much as I hurt for you, I must say this is an area where husband and wife should be in agreement.  When my wife and I have disagreed on important issues, I feel that, at the very least, my timing is off.  So by all means, continue to pray – but also be open to God changing your heart.  If God does not change your desires and you still want another child, I would encourage you to pray earnestly again, and then schedule a time to talk with your husband when neither of you is stressed – so that the conversation can be rational and logical, not argumentative and demanding.  Give him reasons why you want another child along with possible solutions to any objections you think he may have in advance. Finally, leave the outcome with God, and don’t allow this to become a point of contention and bitterness in your marriage.

Whew!  I hope those brief answers were helpful.  Would you care to join the conversation?  If so, leave your comments or questions below.

By the way, since all 4 of today’s questions were marriage-related, let me encourage you to join us for our December sermon series at each CLC campus as we look at “Family Christmas” and try to help CLC’ers with the stresses that often accompany this special season – it’s gonna be good!

Ask the Pastor

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Still answering questions from our “Hot Seat” Sunday that we weren’t able to get to in service – this week’s question is about single adults who want to get married: What should you do when you want to marry, but just can’t seem to meet anyone? Can you pray for a mate? Is that something that God sends or that you search out with his blessing?”

Great questions, especially because SO MANY single adults, both male and female, are asking those as well.  Let me try to address each:

  1. I definitely encourage you to pray.  In fact, I would say, pray first.  (Your second question about praying for a mate is answered in Genesis 24:1-51.  I suppose some might point out that it wasn’t the single adults who prayed for a spouse, but rather Abraham’s servant praying on behalf of Isaac – but as far as I’m concerned, the principle remains the same – as verse 7 promised, the Lord sent His angel ahead of them and saw to it that he found a wife for Isaac, and verse 51 declares, “the Lord has directed”)  Call me old-school if you want, but I believe that just as God brought Eve to Adam and orchestrated the events to connect Rebekah with Isaac, HE can still send you a spouse in this day and age!
  2. However, I would also encourage you to do more than pray.  Just as Adam cooperated and Abraham’s servant made the journey and sought the right woman for Isaac, it will be important for you to look for God’s choice of a spouse.  I’m not opposed to online dating services, especially those with a Christian background, like match.com or eharmony.com.  Please understand: none of these sites is perfect and there may be unscrupulous people involved – so move cautiously with real discernment!
  3. While I do NOT recommend the bar scene, it also can be wise to attend Christian events and conferences, where you have the opportunity to meet other single adults who are also believers.
  4. Don’t be afraid to let others know of your desire to find God’s choice in a mate.  It may be that your mentors or other Christians that you know and admire could make a connection for you that might eventually lead to discovering God’s choice.

The last thing I’ll say is don’t compromise!  I’ve seen so many Christians “settle” for someone that was not a strong believer or perhaps not walking with the Lord at all, out of fear that they might never marry.  Trust me, almost everyone I know in that category soon regretted their decision.  Better to be single and serve the Lord, than to be married and miserable!

I hope this helps.  My heart is touched by the many godly men and women I know who sincerely want to be married, but remain single, and I pray for anyone reading this post that God would answer your prayers for a godly mate soon!

Would you care to join the conversation?  Leave a comment below, or add a question of your own for a future “Ask the Pastor” post.

Ask the Pastor

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Believe it or not, I’m still answering questions left over from our ‘Hot Seat’ Sunday back in August.  Today’s question is “Why do some people believe in ‘generational curses’?

Good question.  My simple answer is “because they’re real”.  Let me explain:

  • Starting with Exodus 20:5, God said that He would “lay the sins of the parents upon the children” and that the entire family would be affected, for 3 or 4 generations.  Other translations of that verse indicate that He would “visit the iniquity of the fathers on the children”.  Iniquity is the proclivity or inclination toward wickedness; it literally means “crookedness”.  In other words, just as our height, weight, hair color, complexion, etc. tend to run in families, so an inclination toward certain types of sin can be passed on from generation to generation.
  • This is particularly true of certain kinds of addictive behavior – such as alcoholism, for instance.  We’ve all known families where certain sins ‘show up’ in succeeding generations – think of how often children who witnessed domestic abuse in their home grow up to be abusive adults.
  • Exodus 34:7 and Numbers 14:18 and Deuteronomy 5:9 repeat this same warning about the sins of the parents being passed on to the children – so this is not an isolated, one-time-only obscure verse of Scripture.  It is entirely possible for the tendency toward certain sins to be passed on generationally!
  • Ezekiel 18:20 also makes it clear that children are NOT punished for the sins of their parents – each of us is responsible for our own choices.  The generational curse, even in Old Testament times, was only  predictive – because of human tendencies – but not inevitable, because of our free will to choose our own behavior.

However, let me just as quickly add that we are no longer under the curse of the Old Testament!  Galatians 3:13-14 make it quite clear that Jesus took our curse upon Himself at the Cross and He defeated the Curse of sin for us!

In other words, no matter what sins are in your family’s history, the blood of Jesus has power over them all.  If you suspect that certain tendencies toward sin or addictive behavior have been passed on to you or your children, as a child of God you can renounce those sins and appropriate the shed blood of Christ for your family.  What was handed down, even for generations, can STOP with you!

I hope this was helpful, even though a thorough explanation would require more detailed teaching than this post would allow.  Would you care to add your thoughts, or even ask a question of your own?  If so, leave a comment below-

Ask the Pastor

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I’m still answering questions we didn’t have enough time to cover during our “Hot Seat” Sunday back in August, and today’s question is a biggie: “what does the Bible say about women in ministry?”

 

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.  Never, ever!  Otherwise, it loses its authority and we are left without a rudder – we simply wouldn’t know what to believe.

And since I know that the Bible never contradicts itself, I personally don’t see any way that 1Timothy 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 upcoming Women’s Conference, Living the Dream” this November 17-18 (plus stay over for Sunday, November 19 and speak at all 3 services in Tinley Park that day)

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

Ask the Pastor

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I’m still answering questions left over from our “Hot Seat” Sunday back in August, and today’s question is “How do we reconcile the Trinity and Jesus-only doctrines?  Or is it even necessary?”

  • I appreciate the second question as much as the first, because in my view, it’s not necessary to reconcile the two, since I really believe it comes down to semantics; i.e., both sides believe the same thing, but use different terms to describe those beliefs.

In over 27 years as pastor of CLC, I’ve taught on the ‘Godhead issue about two or maybe three times, and what I’ve said each time is that, in my humble opinion, the debate between the ‘oneness’ view and the ‘trinitarian’ view is a matter of semantics. I was raised and spent the first 22 years of my ministry in the Oneness camp, and during that time, plus the last 27 years at CLC I’ve listened carefully to Trinitarian views, and I have yet to hear any Christian leader truly disagree about the Biblical truth that there is only One God.

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

  • While the questioner didn’t ask about water baptism, it’s been my experience that this is the main “sticking point” for the debate between the Oneness (or Jesus-only) view versus the Trinitarian view – so I’ll go ahead and address this issue as well. At CLC, because of our understanding of Scripture, we only baptize by full immersion. We believe that is the only Biblical practice and we encourage those who were baptized thru sprinkling or pouring water to be re-baptized by immersion. When it comes to what some call a ‘baptismal formula’, we use the name of Jesus in all our baptisms – BUT, we do not view that as a ‘test of fellowship’, and we accept into membership those who were baptized by immersion after coming to faith in Christ, regardless of what ‘formula’ the minister baptizing them used.) Again, we refuse to be divisive over non-essential issues.

I hope this helped a bit.  Now, what would YOU like to Ask the Pastor?  Just leave your questions or comments below-

Ask the Pastor

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I’m still working on questions from our ‘Hot Seat’ Sunday that we didn’t have time to answer.  This week I’ll tackle two:

  • Can Christians lose their salvation?

As I understand Scripture, no Christian has to worry about “losing” their salvation, because  God has promised that HE will keep us from falling (Jude 24and that no one can pluck us out of his hand (John 10:28-29)

However, I also understand that Scripture indicates we have a free will of our own, and I do believe that we can choose to walk away from God’s grace and forfeit our salvation.

This is a hotly-debated subject among Christians for many, many years, and I’m not likely to resolve it in this post.  If you want to look into it further, I have written about it here.

  • What was Paul’s thorn in the flesh?

This expression is used in 2Corinthians 12, and Paul said it was a messenger of Satan to torment him.  Even though he asked the Lord three times to take it away, God told him that His grace would be sufficient for him to bear that thorn.

Ever since then, Bible students have wondered exactly what that ‘thorn’ might have been.  Some have suggested it was a problem with his eyesight, as could be intimated from Galatians 4:15 and Galatians 6:11, thinking that his vision was so bad that he had to write very large letters in order to see what we wrote.

The bottom-line is that no one knows what his thorn in the flesh was, and I think that’s on purpose – because each of us also have weaknesses and challenges, and just as God promised Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you”, so we also can take hope and courage that His grace will be sufficient for us, no matter what our issue may be.

I hope this helps.  Would you like to add to my answers?  If so, please leave a comment below, or perhaps even a question of your own for a future ‘Ask the Pastor’ post.

Ask the Pastor

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Let’s look at 3 similar questions that we didn’t have time to answer during our “Hot Seat”  Sunday – all 3 are great questions because many believers are in this same situation:

  • What do you do if you marry someone who started as a Christian but doesn’t want to be a practicing Christian anymore?

First, I recommend that you pray.  Sincerely. Earnestly. Recognize that YOU cannot change the heart of your spouse, but God can.  After you have invested time in real prayer, when you sense the time is right, then talk.  Not in a heated, emotionally-charged discussion, but in a logical, reasoned manner – explaining to your spouse how important your faith is to you, and how important you feel it is to your relationship.  Seek to understand why your spouse has walked away from the Lord.  Once you understand why, you may be able to help. If not, then seek counsel.  Hopefully, your spouse will receive the helpful counsel from your pastor or a trusted counselor.  I pray that this helps and that your spouse will return to walk with the Lord – keeping in mind James 5:20

  • How can I be a light in my marriage? We are unequally yoked.

Honestly, my heart goes out to any believer who is in an “unequally yoked” marriage, meaning one in which your spouse is not walking with the Lord, while you are.  I can’t even imagine the profound sadness of not being able to share your most important relationship of all with the person that you love and want to spend the rest of your life with.  Whether your spouse opposes your faith and merely tolerates it, it hurts.

There could be several options, depending on exactly why your spouse is not a believer – but the Biblical answer is found in 1Peter 3:1-2 and 1Cor. 7:12-16.  Your lifestyle can win your spouse!

  • How can I raise my children when their father is following the Muslim religion?

First, I hope you’ll attend our seminar at CLC-Tinley Park tomorrow (Oct. 7, at 9am) because our guest teachers have lived and work among Muslims for many years and have godly wisdom to help us reach Muslims for Christ.  But for my part, I think perhaps the starting place would be for you to kindly (not in an argumentative way) explain to your husband WHY you love Jesus, and how important it is to you that your children grow up to know the Lord as you do.  Hopefully, he will agree that you can bring the children to church and teach them God’s Word.  But whether he does or not, I encourage you to be very intentional in living a godly life before your children, sharing your values and your heart with them regularly, so that even if their father prevents them from going to church, you are bringing church to them!  The verses above also apply to your situation, and God is able to work in the hearts of your children!  Never underestimate your motherly influence in their lives!

I hope that helps.  If you’d like to add to my answer, please leave your comments below – or ask a question of your own.

Ask the Pastor

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As we continue looking at questions we weren’t able to get to during our “Hot Seat” last month, let’s address two more today: Will those who have never heard of Christ or the gospel go to hell?”

Great question that has been asked for about as long as the church has existed!  Let me quickly tell you WHY I believe the answer is unequivocally, ‘YES’:

  • because God would never have sent His only begotten Son to die for our sins, if we could be saved without such a cost (1Peter 1:18-19; 2Cor. 5:21; John 3:16-18)
  • because otherwise, the damnable doctrine called “universalism“, that has been rejected by The Church for it’s entire history, would be true.  (Universalism basically says that God is do loving that, at the end, He will allow everyone into heaven because He doesn’t want to send anyone to hell.
  • because otherwise, we do lost people a disservice by sending missionaries to preach to them, because then those who heard the gospel and rejected it would be lost, whereas they would have been ok before the missionary came. Yet Jesus clearly told us to go and preach to everyone (Mark 16:15)

Finally, another CLC’er asks, “Is CLC primarily a mission minded church?”

Hmmmm, primarily is a very strong word, so I’m not sure that we can ‘claim’ that, but I hope it’s true of us, since the Great Commission of Jesus is definitely the primary reason for the Church to exist – otherwise, The Church of Jesus Christ would have died out in the first century.  The Great Commission is the LAST instruction that Jesus gave to The Church, so it was the primary thing on His mind.  My greatest desire is that CLC would always be a missions-minded church!

To that end, we’re starting our “N2 (neighbors & nations) series” this Sunday, with special guests from Costa Rica (Bruce Crawford speaking at our Blue Island campus), the Philippines (Herley Montes speaking at our Hammond campus) and Nigeria (Chinedu Oranye speaking at our Tinley Park campus). It’s going to be a great kick-off Sunday and I hope you’ll plan to join us!

Hope that helps a bit.  Would you like to add to my answers by leaving a comment below?

Ask the Pastor

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I’m still answering questions left over from our “Hot Seat” Sunday last month, and these 2 may help people: “Are those who die in infancy saved?”

Great question, because for anyone who has lost a child in death, besides the immediate sorrow and heartbreaking pain, is that eternal concern: is my baby in heaven?

It would be easy for me to just answer this question from sentimentality, and say, ‘of course infants go to heaven, because God is good and surely all innocent babies go to heaven’ – but sentimentality is not a Biblical reason.  Many people today, even Christians, entertain a very dangerous and false teaching known as universalism, which simply says everyone will go to heaven.  But the Bible does NOT teach that.  Scripture teaches that we are born into sin and that we must receive Jesus as our Savior in order to be saved.

However, I believe the Bible also teaches that infants who die ARE saved, for these reasons:

  • 2Cor. 5:10 clearly states that we will be judged by God for the sins we have done in our earthly body, NOT for Adam’s sin.  Since infants have not committed sins, they are saved.
  • In Deut. 1:35, God specifically told the people of Israel that they would not be allowed entrance into the Promised Land because of their sin, but then in Deut. 1:39, God specifically exempted their innocent children from that judgement. Since these ‘little ones’ had no knowledge of good and evil, they would not be judged for their father’s sins, but would inherit the Promised Land.
  • Jesus made it quite clear in Mark 10:14 that little children belong to Him, and He welcomes them!

Yes, I believe infants and small children who die are in heaven with our loving Savior!

The second question is “where are our loved ones who died in Christ”?

I am convinced by Scripture that those who died in Christ are with the Lord – 2Cor. 5:1-8 and Phil. 1:21-24 both indicate that when we leave this life, we are immediately with the Lord – if we are believers, that is – those who did not receive Christ before death will await their final judgment in hell.

I hope this helped a bit.  If you’d like to add to my answers, or perhaps ask a question of your own, please leave a comment below-

And don’t forget that THIS SUNDAY at each CLC campus is Generosity Sunday as we bring a great close to our ‘Moneywise’ series-

 

Ask the Pastor

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Well, we made it to Zurich without any complications, so I’m typing this post while we wait for our flight to Moscow.  Here are some questions left over from our “Hot Seat” Sunday:

If the church is set up to be a “community” and we all serve to fulfill the need for reaching people, then why do people always expect to get paid for “volunteer” work?”

While this is a valid question, it’s not one that Scripture addresses directly, so I’ll give you my opinion in just 2 words: human nature.  All of us are born into this world with the nature of our father Adam, and as much as I hate to admit it, we are inherently selfish.  So it only stands to reason that IF we walk by our fleshly nature, we don’t want to serve, we want to be paid.

My suggestion is that instead of judging others in the church who don’t live up to our expectations that we live by Romans 14:10, 13 instead.

Someone else asks, “So as a new employee, how do you handle back stabbers, sabotagers at work, when your boss refuses to intervene?”

I’m guessing that’s a question that almost every believer in the workplace has asked at one time or another.  Again, the Bible doesn’t address this particular question directly, but I’ll give you my thoughts:

  • Since your boss refuses to intervene, and you are (Biblically) under his authority, you can just learn to accept it, without participating in the backstabbing behavior yourself.  There is Biblical support for us to accept mistreatment in 1Cor. 6:7 and 1Peter 2.
  • Of course, you have another option: look for another job.  While there’s no guarantee that you won’t face similar mistreatment at another workplace, you have a right to seek peace on your job.

Finally, a CLC’er asks, “Should pastors of “mega-churches” be rich and live excessive lifestyles or should the bulk of that wealth, if earned through ministry, go back to the church?”

Honestly, from the tone of this question, I suspect you’re not really asking a question, but instead passing judgment on some pastor(s) that you don’t agree with.  The only thing that I would contribute to this discussion is a warning as to how dangerous it is for any of us to  assume anything about others.  For example, both Rick Warren and Joel Osteen, to name just two “mega-church’ pastors who are millionaires, refuse to take a salary from their churches and live off the royalties of their book sales.  In fact, in Rick Warren’s case, after his book, Purpose-Driven Life, became so wildly successful, he paid back Saddleback Church  every penny he had earned since starting the church!

Personally, I have enough to do to keep my own life in line with God’s Word, without criticizing or judging others whom I don’t even know.  The whole 14th chapter of Romans again comes to mind.

Hope that helps.  If you’d like to add to my answers (or disagree), please leave a comment below – or even a question of your own for another post.

 

Ask the Pastor

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Continuing to answer questions that we weren’t able to get to during our “Hot Seat” a few weeks back, beginning with this one from a 10-year old CLC’er who wants to know “why does God allow Lightning and Thunder?”  (she’s frightened by both & doesn’t see any purpose for them)

Well, that’s a question I’ve never been asked before.  And while the Bible doesn’t go into great detail on this subject, I can tell you that sometimes God uses lightning or thunder to accomplish His purposes.  For example:

  • Exodus 9:23-29 – lightning was used by God to show Pharaoh and the Egyptians that the earth belongs to the Lord, and frightened them into releasing Israel from slavery.
  • Exodus 20:18-20 – God used the lightning & thunder to get His people’s attention, so they would hear His Word through Moses.
  • 1 Sam. 7:10 – God used thunder to confuse Israel’s enemy, so they could defeat them.
  • 1Sam. 12:17-18 – God used thunder so Israel would know He was speaking to them.

In fact, several times in Scripture it seems thunder is symbolic of God’s voice – and while several verses indicate that we don’t really understand, we know that God can speak!  So the purpose of lightning & thunder is to demonstrate a little of God’s power.

Now, if you want a scientific explanation, this is a pretty good one.

Question 2 during the ‘Hot Seat’ was, “should believers follow the Democratic or Republican party? 

My answer is, neither!  Follow Jesus!

Finally, question 3 from the ‘Hot Seat’ was, “Has the antichrist been revealed? And will he be before the Rapture? 

My answer is I don’t know, and possibly.

Hope these helped a bit.  Feel free to weigh in if you have insight into any of these 3 questions, so we may all learn – just leave your comment below.

Who are you inviting to hear Talaat & Tai McNeely THIS Sunday at CLC-TP?

 

Ask the Pastor

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Two of the questions we didn’t have time to answer last Sunday are similar: “Pastor, my question is in times like these where we know we can’t do life without God, how can we humbly w/o getting too churchy or political conversate about the word of God with those who don’t know God?” and “I have friends who are atheists and I want to know how I can go about witnessing to them? If they don’t believe in God or the Bible, how do I talk to them about it? 

Great questions, and the topic is one that I’m sure will be more and more common in days to come, as our country is increasingly post-Christian, where a significant part of the population checks “NONE” when asked about their religious beliefs.

I’ll admit, this is not my strongest area of ministry, but let me share a few thoughts:

  1. First, I’m going to assume that the people you’re wanting to reach are genuine atheists or non-believers, as opposed to someone who is insincere but just wants to argue with you.  (I don’t know how to persuade someone who’s just trying to argue, and life is too short to spend it on them when there ARE lost people who are hungry for more in life)
  2. Secondly, none of us is capable of winning an atheist (or other unbeliever) just by our  persuasive speech. So prayer is the most-important thing you can do to engage those who don’t believe in the Bible.  God is able to bring circumstances into their life and touch their heart in such a way that they do become open and receptive to your witness.  And as John 6:44 so clearly points out, no one comes to the Lord without being attracted to Him by the Spirit’s work in their heart.
  3. Beyond that, there are “apologetic” resources available to help you with conversations designed to help your unbelieving friends find a reason to believe.  Here are a few that you might find helpful:

I hope this has been helpful, but I also invite my readers to share other tools or resources that you have found effective.  Leave your comment below-

Follow-up from the HOT SEAT

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This past Sunday was a lot of fun (well, for those of you listening in comfort; it did get a little hot on stage) and Chris and I were able to address a lot of your questions. (If you missed out, you can watch the replay here – 8:30am OR 10am OR 12 pm.) I hope our responses and especially pertinent Scriptures brought you some clarity.

However, there were at least 37 other questions that we did not have time to address, and our heart is to help CLC’ers with those questions, too.  So for the next several Fridays, I will be addressing those questions in my weekly feature, “Ask the Pastor”.

I hope you’ll join me starting THIS Friday, September 1!

Ask the Pastor

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One of my favorite CLC’ers writes, “With our culture being so divided politically & racially, resulting in the  spread of so much hate through news media & social media, how are we as Christians to respond? Surely we must speak out against evil, but it seems when we do so, we can easily fall into the same trap of fighting hate with hate, instead of responding in love.

GREAT question, not only because it is such a hot topic currently, but also because so many of us as Christ followers seem to be unsure of how to respond, with some of us adding fuel to the fire of division with our social media posts, etc. – while still other believers remain silent and seemingly ignore the issue in the hopes of keeping peace.  Here’s my take:

  • Jesus said, “blessed are the peacemakers” and that means we don’t throw gasoline on the fires of division; we seek reconciliation.
  • James 3:17-18 speaks God’s practical wisdom for those times we find ourselves in these kind of situations.
  • Proverbs 18:21 in the Message translation says, “Words kill, words give life;
    they’re either poison or fruit—you choose.”
    That’s a great reminder, whether we’re speaking or posting on social media, that we have a choice.  I encourage you to think about the potential affect of your words before you post and before you open your mouth. And the New Testament passage in Philippians 4:8-9 gives us great counsel for what to think about!
  • This may not be Scripture (it’s a quote from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.), but it’s undeniable truth:

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.
Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.
Hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence, and toughness multiplies toughness in a descending spiral of destruction….
The chain reaction of evil — hate begetting hate, wars producing more wars — must be broken, or we shall be plunged into the dark abyss of annihilation.”

That’s my position.  What’s yours?  Leave a comment below-

Join us this Sunday (Aug. 27) for the “HOT SEAT”, when our pastors will answer your spontaneous questions….it should be fun!

Ask the Pastor

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One of my favorite CLC’ers writes, “Is there a difference between conviction and condemnation? If so, how can you tell and who is the source of both?”

Great questions, because it’s such an important distinction:

Yes, there’s a very significant difference between the two, since Satan is the “accuser of the brethren” (Rev. 12:10who seeks to put condemnation on followers of Christ, while one of the ministries of the Holy Spirit is to bring conviction to us when we’re going astray, so we can get back on the right track (John 16:7-11)

Conviction is actually a good thing, much like pain in our physical bodies.  None of us likes to feel pain (or conviction) – but both get our attention, and let us know that something is wrong.  In fact, I’m persuaded that none of us would turn to the Lord for salvation unless we first felt the conviction of the Holy Spirit, that let us know we were in the wrong and needed to turn to Christ to be saved.

Condemnation, on the other hand, is never corrective in nature, but rather is designed to make us feel hopeless, that we are unworthy or lost, and that there’s nothing we can do about it.

Further, I’ve noticed that conviction is sharp and specific – to help us realize exactly where we’re in the wrong and how we can correct it.  But condemnation is blunt and heavy and usually a general sense of guilt – that we are condemned by God and that there is no hope for us.

In one of my recent daily readings I noticed this beautiful passage: Job 5:17-18.

Thank God for the conviction of the Holy Spirit!

I’d love to hear YOUR thoughts about the differences you’ve noticed between conviction and condemnation – just leave a comment below.

While you’re at it, what would YOU like to Ask the Pastor?

Ask the Pastor

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One of my favorite CLC’ers submitted several questions he was asked by a college student: Is there a difference between receiving the Holy Spirit (like from my understanding of Ephesians 1:13) and receiving the baptism of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:4, Acts 19:2-7, Matthew 3:11)? Can someone have the Holy spirit and not be baptized in the Holy Spirit? Does someone receive the Holy Spirit immediately when they become saved? And according to Romans 8:9 and Ephesians 1:13-14, is it necessary to receive the baptism of the Holy Ghost to go to heaven? And is the gift of speaking in tongues according to 1 Corinthians 12 the same thing as the evidence of speaking in tongues when the holy spirit fills someone?”

Whew!  That’s a lot of ground to cover in one post, but I’ll give it my best shot.

In order, Yes. Yes. Yes. No. No.  Now let me explain, because it seems this college student was taught many of the same ideas that I grew up with in my Pentecostal upbringing, some of which I now believe are not quite accurate with the whole of Scripture:

  • As I understand God’s Word, when any person truly believes on Jesus for salvation, he/she receives the Holy Spirit (see John 3:5Gal. 3:2;  Rom. 8:9; Eph. 1:13-14This experience is what Paul referenced in Romans 8:9 when he said without this, we don’t even belong to Christ – so clearly we cannot be saved without this!
  • However, the Bible clearly teaches that there is an experience often referred to as the “baptism” of the Holy Spirit that is given to believers to empower us to be a witness.  This experience is usually accompanied by speaking in a language that we have never learned – “speaking in tongues” or, as we usually refer to it at CLC, a “prayer language”, since the primary purpose of this gift is to enable us to have deeper intimacy with the Lord in prayer (see 1Cor. 14:2, 4, 5, 18).  The three passages listed in the second question clearly refer to this “baptism” of the Holy Spirit. Yes, a person can receive the indwelling Holy Spirit at the moment of salvation without ever going on to be baptized in the Holy Spirit for power – as we see in Acts 8:12-17.  These Samaritans clearly  believed the Gospel and had even been water-baptized, so they had the indwelling Holy Spirit when they believed, but were not baptized in the Holy Spirit until the Apostles Peter & John came and laid hands on them.
  • Since a believer receives the indwelling Holy Spirit at salvation, if for some reason they do not go on to the baptized in the Holy Spirit for power, they would still go to heaven  (in my opinion), since they belong to Christ.
  • Finally, as I understand the Scriptures, there are actually three different purposes for speaking in tongues: (1) as a ‘sign’ that a person has been baptized or immersed in the Holy Spirit.  (By the way, the term “initial evidence” is not found in Scripture, and in my experience, tends to create more arguments than attract people to receive their prayer language.  I think the examples in Acts certainly indicate that people will speak in tongues when they’re baptized with the Spirit, but I don’t make that a hard & fast rule, since it’s not possible to put God in a box.); (2) as a private “prayer language” as we see in 1Cor. 14 and Romans 8:26-27 and Jude 20), to enable us to have deeper intimacy with the Lord in prayer; and (3) as a public gift for use in Christian gatherings in conjunction with the gift of interpretation of tongues, to convey a message of encouragement to those gathered.

We covered a LOT of ground with this as briefly as I could, so I hope it helps.  Perhaps some of my readers will add to my brief answer by making their comment below.

Now, what would YOU like to Ask the Pastor?

Ask the Pastor

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Well, no new questions were sent to me this week, but I was asked one question in the lobby recently, although it’s probably not one that many folks will be itchin’ to know my answer to: “When you baptize at CLC, what does the minister say – ‘in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sin’ or ‘in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit'”?

Not only is that not a hot-burner issue for most believers, but my answer is also not likely to please.  See, that’s one of the debates that’s been around almost exclusively in Pentecostal churches for the last 90 years, and it’s fueled primarily by the position of those who teach that water baptism “in Jesus name” is a requirement for salvation.

I will say this: because of my background, I have studied this issue extensively.  My conclusion, years ago, is that this is not a Biblical issue, but rather a matter of semantics.  Not only that, but I’m even more convinced that God is not looking down from heaven at the moment of one’s baptism to see if the minister says the “magic words” to insure one’s salvation!  We are saved by faith in the shed blood of Jesus Christ, when we place our whole trust on what HE did for us, not on what we can do for ourselves!

Having said that, I will also say that a close examination of the New Testament doesn’t reveal a “formula” for water baptism, but it certainly cannot be denied that the name of Jesus plays an important role – not unlike the fact that we pray in the name of Jesus and we cast out demons in the name of Jesus.  So, while it is not a ‘test of fellowship’ at CLC, when we baptize, our pastors do say, “in the name of Jesus”, rather than the phrase, “in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit”.  (To check out the Scriptures for yourself, look at Acts 2:38, Acts 8:14-17, Acts 10:44-48, Acts 19:1-6, Acts 19:13-16, Col 3:17, 1Cor 1:13-15)

At CLC, we have chosen not to divide the body of Christ over semantics, but instead contend for clear Biblical truth rather than personal preferences or pet doctrines – and, in this instance, the clear Biblical truth is that every believer should experience water baptism in celebration of what God has done in their life!  (To schedule yours, contact us today)

Care to add to my answer?  Please leave a comment below.

Now, what would you like to Ask the Pastor?

Ask the Pastor

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There were no new questions submitted this week, so I’m repeating this post from 2009:

Here’s the latest question I’ve received: what recommendation do you have on how to study the Bible? I find myself jumping around hoping the Lord will just point me where I should go.

Excellent question!  And what a common problem – I think a lot of believers would have to admit to ‘jumping around’.  Here’s my 2-cents on the subject:

1.  If you haven’t read the entire Bible, I always recommend a thru-the-Bible plan, such as we give out at CLC.  You can also find some great plans here.  From my standpoint, any plan is better than no plan, or as you’ve heard before, “failing to plan is planning to fail”.

2.  Since you asked about study, not just reading, I would probably start with a “Bible survey” type course – that is, one that gives you the big picture of the Bible, from Old Testament to New Testament.  I’ve taught those classes for years, and I still love doing them, because of all the ‘light bulbs’ that go off in people’s heads when they start seeing how it fits together and the foundation of major doctrines, etc.

3.  Another great method is to study a particular doctrine or topic or character in Scripture.  It’s easy to do, with a simple concordance like Cruden’s or Strong’s, that you can purchase at a Christian bookstore or with the previous links – or, thanks to the internet, do your study for free here.  For instance, if you want to study “grace” or “baptism” or “Joseph”, you simply look up all the verses with those words, and do your own study of the Scriptures, keeping in mind that no doctrine is built on one isolated verse, but (in the words of the good ‘ole KJV I grew up with), it’s “line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little”.

4.  Finally, the most important key: start!  The road to hell is paved with good intentions, and there’s no better time to get started than now!  I hope that helps – I know wherever you read or study, God will speak to you – at least that’s how it works with me, and I’m always better for it.

What would you like to Ask the Pastor?

Ask the Pastor

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One of our elders writes, I have a question from Hebrews 8:1-2.  What does it mean when it says …he ministers in the heavenly Tabernacle? Is there a literal Tabernacle in heaven that was built by the Lord?” 

Great questions, and some I’ve never been asked before.

I haven’t heard anyone else address this and the commentaries that I reviewed seemed to imply that the language here was figurative; i.e., that Christ’s body is the Tabernacle, and since He is now in heaven to make intercession for us, that’s how he ministers in the heavenly Tabernacle, His body.

However, I’m not so sure.  For instance, in the next chapter, Hebrews 9:23-24 specifically says the items here on earth are copies of the true ones in heaven.  As I look closely at the wording, I can see where it could possibly just refer to ‘heaven’ as the ‘holy place’ and Jesus himself being the Tabernacle – but at the same time if we read it literally, I think we could make a case that there is a literal Tabernacle in heaven.

I think I understand why Peter wrote 2Peter 3:15-16 (assuming Paul is the author of  Hebrews, as I believe – although that’s debated, too!)

Instead of saying, “we’ll understand it better, by and by”, let me close by asking my readers – do you have anything to add?  If so, please leave a comment below-

Now, what would YOU like to Ask the Pastor?

Ask the Pastor

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No new questions came in this week while I was in Siberia, so I’m reposting from 2011:

A reader recently asked, “I would like to know if you believe in the concept of reconciliation. Mainly if you believe it can really take place between two people who used to be friends but have had a rift in that relationship?”

Excellent question – and one probably almost all of us have had to grapple with at some point in our lives.

First, I must believe in the concept of reconciliation, and so must you and every other believer – for the whole Bible is the story of reconciliation, as God was not content to allow mankind to remain separated from His love.  Our mission on earth as believers is referred to as the “ministry of reconciliation” and our Gospel as the “message of reconciliation” (2Corinthians 5:18-21).  So, “YES”, I believe in the concept of reconciliation, because Jesus made it possible for me to be reconciled with God.

Secondly, I must also believe that reconciliation is possible between two people who were friends but had a rift in their relationship – because Scripture makes it clear that it is possible (Matthew 5:23-24I can’t imagine Jesus instructing us to do something that is not possible!).

Now, just because it’s possible doesn’t mean it’s easy.  As Proverbs 18:19 clearly says, restoring a friendship can be very difficult.  And according to Romans 12:18, there may be those situations where you’ve tried everything possible to restore the relationship and the other party remains unwilling.  But in my experience, if both parties truly want to be reconciled, and each is willing to swallow their pride and do what’s necessary to make things right, it IS possible for them to be reconciled.  In fact, I know that it is, because I’ve seen it done in my own life.

If you’re reading this, and even now there are people you’ve become estranged from because of some offense, I would urge you to take the initiative, make the approach, swallow your pride, forgive and ask forgiveness, and make things right (the Bible word is ‘restitution’) – you’ll be so glad you did! (I think James 5:19-20 applies here)

I’d also encourage you to join us at any CLC campus this Sunday when “God@the Movies” continues – because there are some great principles for living in each message!

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

Ask the Pastor

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No new questions were submitted this week before I left Chicago, so I’m re-posting this question from 2010:

My #1 questioner writes: “I have a question about fear.  I know that it is not a good thing to fear and we all know about the book of Job when he said that the very thing he feared came upon him.  Also, we have to be very careful about what we speak because this could cause negative things to happen.  My question is, I have always been taught that we can go to God and talk to Him about anything.  Sometimes I have certain things that frighten me and that I refuse to let myself dwell on because I don’t want the things that happened to Job happen to me.  But when I am in my prayer room I speak these things that frighten me to God(my daddy)and I tell Him these things. Would this be the same as speaking negative things out of my mouth even though I am telling them to God? “

Good question about a much-needed subject.

First, you are right that fear has a way of drawing negativity to us and becoming a “self-fulfilled prophecy”.  That’s because fear is the opposite of faith. So just as faith attracts blessing from God, fear attracts the attention of the enemy by creating an open door into our life.

However, it is my personal opinion that you CAN say anything to God, since he invited us to do so in 1 Peter 5:7.  By telling Him of your fears in prayer, you can receive His assurance and reaffirm your trust in Him (Psalm 56:3).  My only caution is to make sure that once you ‘cast your fear upon Him’ that you leave it there. In other words, don’t give your fears to God in prayer and then pick them up again when you quit praying!  Leave your fears in His hands.

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

Ask the Pastor

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There were no new questions submitted this week, but I’ll answer one that lots of people have asked in the past: why do we do a ‘movies’ series each summer?

I think there are several reasons why our “God@the Movies” series has become our most popular series of the year:

  • everyone likes a good story!  After all, that’s what makes Hollywood so entertaining – whether it’s good v. evil or the underdog who wins or any number of other popular themes, every good movie has a good story. And Jesus knew this, as evidenced by the number of stories he told.  (We call them parables, but at their core, they are stories about things we understand, to help us grasp spiritual truths)
  • movies reflect the culture of our day.  If you want to understand today’s culture, go watch a popular movie.  And while I’m not really interested in exegeting American culture, I need to understand where people are in order to reach them with the gospel.  It’s ironic how we teach missionaries to go into foreign countries and make their first priority to learn the language and culture of the people so they can reach them, but then criticize American churches who do the same thing here.
  • people can relate to the big screen.  The #1 reason we started doing this series, and have continued to do so each July is that even unbelievers can see themselves through the lens of Hollywood.  This series enables us to take movies they may already be familiar with, to bring them face to face with Biblical truths they may never have received before.  In fact, my friend Mark Batterson told me years ago that his movie series was the hardest-hitting series of the year.  I had a hard time imagining that, until we started our own, and I’ve seen it first-hand: Hollywood doesn’t pull punches, and by using current movie illustrations, we’ve been able to confront both saints and sinners with convicting Biblical truth!
  • a picture is worth a thousand words.  Every sermon needs illustrations, and what better way to illustrate the Biblical principles we’re teaching than to show a movie clip that fleshes it out in living color?
  • your unchurched friends will accept an invitation.  This is another BIG reason we do this series each year.  You have friends who might never be interested in learning about the gifts of the Holy Spirit or about ‘dangerous prayers’ (to cite just two of our 2017 sermon series), but they do watch movies.  And they may find the idea of a church preaching a movie series to be curious enough to accept your invitation.  Who are you inviting to GATM this month?
  • it’s FUN! Who said we can’t have fun in church?  I’ve never understood why some Christians look like they were baptized in pickle juice.  Jesus used humor with his disciples and I’m convinced he enjoyed a good laugh with them regularly.  GATM gives us multiple opportunities to laugh – and a merry heart does good like medicine!

I can’t wait to share “How to Overcome Challenges” with you through the lens of “Hidden Figures”, starting this Sunday, July 2 at our Tinley Park campus.  (I’ll get to Blue Island and Hammond with that message soon)

Now what would YOU like to Ask the Pastor?


Ask the Pastor

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One of my favorite CLCers writes, “What does the Bible say about tattoos and what I would call extreme body piercings?  Is this defacing your body?  Are tattoos “wrong” in God’s eyes?

Great question, especially since this has become such a popular practice in recent years. You asked for my thoughts, so I’ll give them:

I’m old-fashioned.  You know I grew up in an ultra-conservative, legalistic church with all sorts of dress codes that we called ‘holiness standards’.  Many times I’ve wished we could somehow have a little compromise between what seems to be accepted in today’s church versus the church of my youth.  But I digress.

Honestly, I don’t like tattoos or piercings.  We’ve had more than one ‘debate’ with our own children about them….won a few and lost a few.  But from a Biblical standpoint, I don’t feel I have adequate support from the Scriptures to forbid them at CLC, since, in all honesty, the Bible doesn’t address this specifically – unless you want to use Leviticus 19:28.  That verse may sound clear at first glance, but if you consider the context, which was about avoiding heathen practices and which also includes other prohibitions that we practice everyday (see verses 19 and 27)

Pastor Craig Groeschel answered this question via video as well as anyone can (in my humble opinion).  Take a look at this and see if it answers your question.  I would also ask anyone considering either to prayerfully consider 1Cor 6:19-20 and examine their heart-motive for ‘wanting’ the tattoo or the piercing.

Bottom line: as with all questions which involve ‘questionable’ behavior for a Christian, I recommend Col. 3:15 and Rom. 14:22-23.

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

Ask the Pastor

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No new questions came in this week, so I’m repeating this post from a few years ago:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Don’t forget – this Sunday, June 4 is PENTECOST SUNDAY with special guest Steven Thompson at our Tinley Park campus & Robby Dawkins at our Hammond location.  Hope to see you!

Ask the Pastor

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During this ‘GIFTED’ series, one of my favorite CLC’ers asked, “Is there any indication at all in scripture that Jesus had a prayer language or spoke in tongues with an interpreter?

Great question, and one that others are probably asking, too.  Here’s my answer:

NO. There is never any mention of Jesus speaking in tongues (“prayer language”, as we often say at CLC) or using the gift of tongues and interpretation of tongues.

However, that does not disturb me in the slightest as to the importance of praying in tongues in the life of a believer today, for these reasons:

  1. Jesus predated the advent of tongues as a sign of the Holy Spirit baptism.  In fact, Jesus ascended into heaven at the end of the four Gospels (recorded in Acts 1), but the first instance of anyone speaking in tongues was about a week later, in Acts 2:4.  Acts 2:32-33 makes it even clearer: Jesus was the one who baptized those 120 believers with the Holy Spirit, but He was already in heaven when it happened to them. Thus, we can see that He was not living on earth when the Holy Spirit was poured out, with one of the signs of that outpouring being the ability to speak a language we never learned. So Jesus didn’t have a prayer language for the same reason that Abraham or Moses or David or any other ‘hero’ from the Old Testament did not – that gift was not offered during his lifetime.
  2. If I may elaborate on that point a bit further, Jesus Himself told us that the Holy Spirit  couldn’t come until He ascended back into heaven – notice John 14:12 and 16:7. So again, there was no need or opportunity for Jesus to experience a miraculous prayer language, since the Holy Spirit could not be poured out until He ascended back into heaven.
  3. Also, I should point out that Jesus was not baptized in the Holy Spirit in the same way that we are today, because He was the Holy Spirit embodied (Col. 2:9)and the Scripture plainly says that He had the Holy Spirit “without measure” (John 3:34).  He had no need of a ‘sign’ because He was the only begotten Son of God!
  4. For what it’s worth, I have heard some well-meaning but Biblically misinformed folks say that Jesus spoke in tongues while on the cross in Mark 15:34.  However, those words were the common Aramaic that Jesus spoke – definitely not in tongues, as can be seen in that the people who heard him rushed to respond.

I hope that helps. Perhaps someone reading this can offer additional explanations – or maybe you also have a question to Ask the Pastor.  Please leave your comments below-

Meanwhile, I’m excited about this Sunday when we’ll explore the ‘power gifts’ of faith, working of miracles and healings!  It’ll be a great Memorial Day weekend at each CLC campus, and we’d love to have you join us!

Ask the Pastor

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During our current “GIFTED” series, someone asked me, “are all of the gifts in Scripture given when we are baptized in the Holy Spirit? What about the gifts in Romans 12 that we study during the CLC Growth Track?

Great question, and since we don’t have time to address it during our current series, let me do so here:

First, there are three primary listings of ‘gifts’ in the New Testament, and I see a clear distinction in each set:

  • Romans 12 lists six “grace gifts” that I believe are given to us by our Heavenly Father at our natural birth.  These are often called ‘motivational’ gifts, and they can be readily seen even in our children, as they affect our approach to life.  If little Johnny spills his milk, the prophetic-gifted person responds with, “I told you to be more careful”, while the mercy-gifted person comforts Johnny with, “It’s ok, Johnny” and the helps-gifted person will grab a paper towel to clean up the spill and get Johnny a fresh glass of milk, etc. These gifts show how God has wired us from birth, and can really be helpful for us to recognize, since they can show us where we will be most fulfilled in our career and our ministry!
  • 1Corinthians 12 lists nine “gifts of the Spirit” that are clearly given by the Holy Spirit when we are baptized in the Spirit.  They are the focus of our current series, and, as we are seeing, they are supernatural gifts from the Holy Spirit, that enable us to speak things we could not speak without His enablement, and know things we could not know without His enablement, and do things we could not do without His enablement.
  • Ephesians 4 lists five “gifts from Christ” that are actually gifted-people who serve the body of Christ; i.e., they are gifts to the Church.
  • I’m not at all sure that these lists are exhaustive and there may well be other gifts  (some teachers have counted 27 or more); however, these are the only ‘lists’ provided in Scripture.

Thus we receive gifts from the Trinity: some gifts from the Father at our natural birth, some gifts from the Holy Spirit when we are baptized in the Spirit, and some gifts from Jesus as members of His Church.

Clearly, these are definitely different gifts, given to us at different times and certainly for different purposes.  Our ‘GIFTED’ series is only looking at the nine enablements of the Holy Spirit.

And since you asked, I would encourage every person reading this to discover your gift this Sunday (May 21) at your campus of CLC in the Growth Track class.  Not only will you learn about the importance of your gifts, but you’ll even take a spiritual gift profile that will  reveal your primary giftings, and as I said before, this discovery can be of great benefit, both in the marketplace and in ministry.

Hope that helps.  Would you care to add to my answer by leaving a comment below?  Or perhaps you have a story to share as to how your gifts have proven to be a blessing to your life?  Let’s encourage one another-

Ask the Pastor

 

shutterstock_148655030 (1)One of my favorite CLC’ers writes, “I’ve been having a discussion about tithing, specifically tithing on a large sum of money, like a $100,000 settlement. One thinks it’s ok to tithe in monthly increments while I feel that the tithe should be done in lump sum… as the money is given to you. I strongly believe that only tithing 2% when the money is received can result in the other 98% being cursed. I know the financial disadvantages that failure to tithe can cause. I also know how easy it is for money allocated towards tithing to find other places to go. Please advise.”

Interesting question, and one that I’ve never been asked before.  Here’s my thoughts:

  • First, the tithe, in Scripture, is based on our increase (see Deut. 14:22, 14:28, 26:12-13 and Prov. 3:9).  I mention that because when it comes to businesses, for example, the tithe is not based on their entire income, because in order to receive that income, they had expenses like overhead, cost of supplies, payroll for employees, etc, etc. – so the business should tithe on their profit, not on their gross sales.  Similarly for the sale of a home and possibly a settlement as was mentioned here.  Instead of tithing on the sale price of a home or the full settlement received, I think a person could deduct the purchase price of the home when they bought it and only tithe on the profit or increase they received, and that a person who received a settlement could deduct any true expenses they had in order to obtain the settlement, such as legal fees that were necessary in order to receive.
  • Second, and more direct to the question, is that the tithe is NOT just any tenth; it is specifically the first tenth of our increase (see Exodus 23:19; Proverbs 3:9), which is why the tithe is synonymous with “firstfruits” throughout Scripture.  That’s because tithing has never been a money issue; tithing has always been a faith issue.  It takes  faith to give God the first tenth of my income instead of paying all my bills and then giving God the last tenth (or worse yet, a tip out of what’s left!)
  • I tend not to think in terms of a ‘curse’ being on us or our money in this day of God’s grace (unlike Old Testament times such as Joshua 6:18, 7:11-15 or Mal. 3:8-11), but I can’t disagree with the questioner that only submitting a portion of the tithe would bring about financial disadvantage, rather than the blessing of God.  And I wholeheartedly agree that it is SO easy for money allocated to tithes to go elsewhere – that’s why the first withdrawal from my bank account after payday is my tithe!

Hope this helps a bit.  Perhaps YOU have thoughts to add to my answer.  If so, please leave your comment below or even ask your own question for me.

Ask the Pastor

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There were no new questions submitted this week, so I’m reposting from 2011-

This week’s question is, “In Genesis 4:1, does scripture specifically say that Cain was Adam and Eve’s first child and Able was their second child?  I know they had more children because Cain must have taken one of his sisters to be his wife.”

Interesting question; one I’ve never been asked before.  I went to several translations and commentaries, including the Amplified Bible, which offers the strongest indication by saying “next” in regards to Abel’s birth.  However, the rather obvious answer is that the Bible does NOT specifically say that Cain was their first child. I suppose one could argue that they could have had a daughter first – although Eve’s exclamation about Cain’s birth certainly seems to me like a strong indicator that he was her firstborn.

I did discover one thing in my research that I didn’t know: some scholars believe that Cain and Abel were twins, and that children in those early days of man’s history were usually born in pairs. It’s an interesting idea to say the least, and one that I can’t refute with Scripture.

And I do agree with my questioner that Cain must have married his own sister – I just can’t see any other possibility in the Biblical record.

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

Ask the Pastor

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One of my favorite CLC’ers writes, “In Luke 21 Jesus predicts the destruction of the temple and just when I think He is talking about end times, He states that this generation will not pass from the scene until all of these things come to pass. Is He assigning a different definition for generation? If not, that generation has long since passed from the scene so has that prophesy been fulfilled?”

Great questions.  Let’s take them one at a time.

  1. The first thing I notice is that Jesus actually spoke here of several different signs, not just the destruction of the temple that he started with. And as he described various signs, he included several “time” words;
  • notice verse 9, “the end won’t follow immediately
  • verse 12, before all this occurs…”
  • verses 20-24  clearly speak of what happened in 70 A.D. when the Roman general Titus surrounded Jerusalem and eventually destroyed the city, not leaving one stone of the Temple atop another.
  • I think the last half of verse 24 is particularly significant as it describes a time when the “period of the Gentiles will come to an end”.  From history we know that after Jerusalem was defeated/destroyed by Titus in 70 A.D., it was under Gentile control until 1967 during what’s known as “The 6-day War”, when Israel seized control of Jerusalem from the nation of Jordan.  If my understanding of Luke 21:24 is correct, since 1967 we have been living on “borrowed time”, since the period of the Gentiles was over and Jesus could have returned for His Church (except for Matthew 24:14 as I shared last Sunday at CLC)

2. Clearly (at least to me), that last part of verse 24 marks a different period of time than the earlier prophecies in verses 9, 12, and 20 thru the first part of verse 24.  And your question about the meaning of a generation doesn’t appear until verse 32.  So I don’t think Jesus is assigning a new definition to ‘generation’; I just think he’s referring to the generation that sees the period of the Gentiles end.

3.  Another indication that it is that later generation that Jesus references is verses 29-32  and the illustration of the fig tree sprouting leaves.  The fig tree is found many times in Scripture and has often been thought to represent the nation of Israel.  If so, then verse 29 speaks of Israel becoming a nation in 1948.  So perhaps the best understanding of these verses in context of Luke 21 is that the generation that is alive for Israel’s statehood and the period of the Gentiles being fulfilled will still be alive at the coming of Christ – which definitely speaks of the nearness of His return.

As I mentioned last Sunday, I’m no prophecy scholar and I could be off – but I hope this has helped your questions a little.  Perhaps someone reading this post has some other passages that shed light on your question – if so, please share it with us below.

Until then, what would YOU like to Ask the Pastor?

 

Ask the Pastor

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There were no new questions submitted this week, so I’m re-posting from 2013:

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

  1. One question had to do with “the church” as a place to potentially find one’s future mate – if the church is not a welcoming environment, then where & how can a Jesus-follow look for their mate? 
  • Personally, I don’t think there’s any better place to find a mate.  Chris & I met in church, and so have innumerable other happy husbands-and-wives.  If the church you attend frowns on that, I’d have a respectful conversation with the pastor to find out why.  Of course, there are cyber options out there – but be careful!
2. Another reader wrote, “I’m 38, never married, no children, professionally successful & a home owner…..how do I present myself as not being “too independent” to a suitor while still continuing to “handle my business” for my home?
  • Honestly, call me naive I guess, but I can’t imagine any ‘Mr. Right’ having an issue with a successful woman.  And if he is intimidated or scared-off by your facts, in my opinion, he’s not the man of your dreams.  For sure, your successful career should be an asset, not a hindrance to a godly man (read Proverbs 31:10-31 again to see how an independent and successful wife blesses her husband and family!)

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

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

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

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

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

 

Ask the Pastor

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There were no new questions submitted this week, so I’m re-posting from 2011:

A non-CLC reader asks, “In Matthew 27:52, it says “and the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose.” Does the Bible give any more information on these saints who arose?  Where did they go? Did they continue living? Where were there spiritual bodies before they arose? Also, after Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, does the Bible say anything else about him?”

Wow….so many questions, and all so good!  Let’s try to answer them, one at a time:

1.  Yes, the full description is giving in the verse you quoted AND the next verse (Matthew 27:52-53).

2.  So, according to v. 53, they went into the city of Jerusalem where they appeared to many people.

3.  No further information is given anywhere else in the Bible, so we are left with 2 possible conclusions: (a) either they continued living until they died (again), or (my best guess, since Hebrews 9:27 says we’re all destined to die once), (b) they remained in Jerusalem until they ascended into heaven with Christ at the end of his earthly appearance.

4.  Before they arose, their spirits would have been in Abraham’s bosom, awaiting the resurrection, just like all of the righteous dead from Old Testament times.  (Some have speculated that these saints in particular may have been martyrs from Old Testament times, or possibly even saints who had seen Jesus, but died before him, such as Joseph, John the Baptist and others – but that is strictly conjecture since the Scripture doesn’t give us any clues as to their identity)

5.  Yes, in John 12:9-11 we read of Lazarus being at a supper with Jesus, and he (Lazarus) actually became the ‘attraction’ that brought many people to that dinner, as people had heard of his resurrection of the dead, and because of his testimony, many were believing on Christ – so much so that the leading priests plotted to kill him, too!

In fact, we’ll look at that last passage about Lazarus in our Easter celebrations this weekend – it all starts tonight at 7pm, then Saturday at 5pm & Sunday at 8:30, 10 and 12.  It’s not too late to invite someone to be your guest!

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, “When a person is baptized with The Holy Spirit are they able to operate in all the gifts? Again, I have heard people say a person may never speak in tongues even though they have been baptized with the Holy Spirit. Yet, I have also heard that Holy Spirit will move on you and you can operate in all the gifts at any given time. Your thoughts?”

Great questions.  Actually, we’re planning an entire 5-week series called “GIFTED”, starting May 7 that should answer these questions in much more depth, but let me give my perspective here:

  1. The ‘debate’ among Spirit-filled churches seems to be whether the gifts are simply resident within the Holy Spirit, in which case any believer can be “used” in any of the gifts at any time, OR whether the gifts of the Spirit are given to individual believers to possess and utilize as the Lord wills. As is so often the case in Biblical debates, I tend to think it’s a “both/and” question rather than an “either/or” matter.
  2. For instance, 1Cor. 12:7-10 certainly seems to indicate the gifts are given to  individual believers, while verse 11 could be interpreted to mean that the Holy Spirit has all the gifts and decides at any given moment to use whom He wills.  My pastor when I first entered the ministry taught (for instance) that the gift of healing was not  “the gift to heal” as if some individuals had a gift to heal others, but rather the person who was healed had received a gift.  I’m inclined to think it can work both ways; i.e, when we are born again, the Holy Spirit chooses to give us certain gift(s) that we can exercise by faith.  However, when we are faced with a certain need and there is no one present who possesses the specific gift that would help the situation, then I believe the Holy Spirit could “move” on any believer present, to manifest that gift and meet the need, as we willingly cooperate with the Spirit.
  3. In regards to your first question, I have met individuals who claim that they possess or were used in all of the 9 gifts listed in 1Cor. 12 – but I’m not sure I believe them.  Certainly Jesus exercised all of those gifts, but I tend to think that most of us fall short of His example.
  4. As to the ‘tongues’ question (is it possible to be baptized in the Spirit but not speak in tongues), there are as many different opinions on that subject as there are people, it seems.  From my understanding of Scripture, I don’t personally see any example of someone in the NT Church who was baptized in the Spirit but did not speak in tongues (or as we prefer to say at CLC, “have a prayer language”). But I gave up arguing that people must speak in tongues in order to be baptized in the Spirit several years ago, since that only seems to stir up arguments and strife.  I much prefer to focus on all the benefits of having a prayer language, and encourage every believer to experience and use that gift in their own walk with the Lord.

I hope that helps.  Feel free to leave a comment below to give your thoughts on these questions, or to ask your own question.

Meanwhile, let this be the first public announcement that I’m SO excited to make – in the ‘GIFTED’ series, when we teach about the specific “speaking” and “knowing” and “doing” gifts, we will follow up the Sunday teaching by having a Wednesday “activation” service with three of the most gifted leaders I’ve met: Apostle John Eckhardt, Apostle Matthew Stevenson and Evangelist Robby Dawkins.  We’ll give you all the details later, but mark your calendar now for May 17, May 24 and May 31 for what is sure to be a highlight of 2017 at CLC!

Ask the Pastor

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One of our elders recently asked me a question that also came up during the outstanding Marriage Retreat last weekend, so I thought it was worth repeating here for others: “What does a wife who is believer and her husband is not…do in regards to tithing?
I’ve heard people say if her husband tells her she can’t tithe she shouldn’t. Is it ok for her to tithe even though it may cause arguments? I’ve always wondered what to tell women when they ask me this. I always think of the scripture in Acts 4:19. What if her husband wanted her to lie, steal, stay home from church, or watch pornography? Does she submit to these things because he is the head?

Great question, and, honestly, I think your logic is spot-on. Here’s my answer:

  1. I think the starting place is always good communication. If an unbelieving husband is opposed to his wife tithing their income, she should start with a calm, logical appeal as to why she wants to tithe. (If she’s convinced from God’s Word that there is a blessing when we honor God with the first tenth of our income, her husband may well agree once he hears her reasoning.)
  2. Perhaps I should have said, even before she appeals to her husband’s logic, the wife should first pray that God will open his heart. The Holy Spirit can do more to persuade even an unbeliever’s heart than the wife’s logic.
  3. However, if neither prayer nor a reasoned appeal has worked and the husband still forbids his wife to tithe, here is my recommendation:
  • if the husband is the sole wage-earner in the marriage (meaning the wife is not gainfully employed outside the home and thus has no income of her own), then she should not tithe.  After all, the tithe is 10% of one’s increase, and since she has no income and her husband forbids her to tithe off his income, it’s a moot point.
  • However, I’ve known several cases where the unsaved husband gives his wife an “allowance” to operate the household, buy groceries, etc. and the believing wife was so convinced of the blessing of tithing that she gave 10% of her allowance.
  • Finally, if the wife has a job and her own source of income, then I certainly think the verse already mentioned, Acts 4:19, is applicable, and the wife should be obedient to the Lord with her income.

Hope that helps.  I’d love to hear from others who’ve had personal experience in this situation, or who have stories to share of what others have done in this regard.  Please leave your comments below-

Ask the Pastor

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One of my favorite CLC’ers writes, In Acts chapter 16:1-5, Paul wanted Timothy to join him and Silas as they went from town to town, but he arranged for Timothy to be circumcised before they left. Yet In Acts 15, the apostles and elders had ruled that Gentiles didn’t have to be circumcised to be saved. I’m confused as to why Paul arranged for Timothy be circumcised in chapter 16?”

I understand your confusion, and it’s a great question.  Let’s try to sort it out together:

This issue was the greatest threat the early Church faced, and, in my humble opinion, if the apostles and elders had ruled in favor of circumcision, I fear that The Church would have been far less successful in reaching the Gentiles.  But as we read in Acts 15:1-11, 19-29, it was a unanimous decision to not put the burden of law-keeping on the Gentile converts, and it resulted in great joy among the Gentiles when they heard this (Acts 15:30-31)

Now, as to the question of why did Paul arrange for Timothy to be circumcised just one chapter after the apostles determined that circumcision was NOT required for Gentiles, I think the answer is in the context:

  • in the Message translation, it says Paul didn’t want to offend the Jews in that area, who knew Timothy’s father was a Gentile (and that meant Timothy was not circumcised).  In the NLT, it says he did this in deference to the Jews“.  
  • So the bottom-line is that, this incident seems to follow much like Paul’s teaching in Romans 15:13-19 that we should never use our liberty to cause another believer to stumble.  In Timothy’s case, even though Paul knew that circumcision was not required by the Lord, he felt it would be best to submit to circumcision so as to not be a stumbling block to the Jews in that area who knew Timothy’s family.
  • That’s actually a NT principle in many areas of life, and one that I think we often ignore in the American church.  For instance, 1Cor. 6:1-6 teaches that believers should not sue another believer in a court of law.  In fact, Paul was so strong on that issue that he said in verse 7 it would be better for us to accept the injustice and let ourselves be cheated rather than take a fellow believer to court! In this day and age where it seems everyone is so determined to stand up for their ‘rights’, this is another example of how Jesus’ teaching cuts against the grain and is the opposite of what our world thinks.  In the Kingdom, the way up is down and the way to get is to give!

Hope that helps a bit.  Perhaps you’d like to join the conversation by adding your comments below – or even leave your question for ‘Ask the Pastor’.

 

Ask the Pastor

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

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

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

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

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

Ask the Pastor

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One of my favorite CLC’ers writes, “I agree with your answer [last week] that the position of a person does not matter to God if the prayer is sincere, but in our time of the New Covenant doesn’t the one praying have to believe in Jesus Christ and pray in His name for their prayers to be heard by the Father? John 14:6 doesn’t seem to leave much wiggle room about that.”

You are so right about that, and my answer last week was definitely incomplete in that regard.  Probably the only exception to what you’ve mentioned would be the prayer of a sincere seeker (“IF there is a God, please help me” kind of prayer – I’ve heard too many testimonies through the years to think that God won’t hear that prayer).

And as we saw in last Sunday’s message, Hebrews 11:6 makes it quite clear that the ONLY way we can come to God for anything is to approach Him in faith.

Lest last week’s answer imply that our lifestyle is unimportant to getting our prayers answered, let me also point out the example of good king Hezekiah in 2Kings 20. God sent the prophet Isaiah to tell him he was about to die, but after Hezekiah ‘reminded’ the Lord that he had faithfully served Him, God ‘changed His mind’ (that’s how it ‘appears’ to us humans) and sent Isaiah back to tell the king that HE was adding 15 more years to his life!” That example alone tells me it’s a powerful thing to walk humbly and faithfully with the Lord when it comes to getting your prayers answered!

Hope that helps a bit and I’m especially thankful for the opportunity to correct any misconceptions by last week’s answer.  Is there more you’d like to add?  If not, perhaps you also have a question – please leave it below.

Don’t forget to set your clocks ahead as we ‘Spring forward’ with Daylight Savings Time this Sunday, March 12!  Your pastor wants to see you in church!

Ask the Pastor

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Finally a new question! An Indiana CLC’er writes, “The Bible says “the prayers of a righteous man avail much.”What about the prayers of someone completely lacking righteousness? It seem to me the prayers of a sinner who gives their life to Him is the ultimate definition of “availing much”.Is it just different prayers that make the difference or the status of the one doing the praying?”

Great question.

First, your statement about a sinner who gives their life to Christ reminds me of the argument I heard years ago from John 9:31 and a denomination that said God wouldn’t hear a sinner’s prayer – which seems pretty preposterous to me, seeing that we are ALL sinners and could never be saved unless He first heard our prayer for help!  So I definitely agree that a sinner’s prayer for salvation ‘avails much’.

As to the question about the status of the one praying, the scholars say that “the righteous man simply designates one who is wholeheartedly committed to God and sincerely seeking to do his will”.  That being the case, almost anyone can qualify if they sincerely call upon the Lord.

Honestly, when you read the passage in context (James 5:14-18) it seems the emphasis is NOT on the person doing the praying as much as it is on the effectiveness of prayer.  In fact, in context, it mentions our need to confess sins prior to the verse in question, and after the verse it uses Elijah as an example and specifically mentions that he was human with shortcomings just like us.

So my understanding of the verse in question that anyone who asks in sincerity and faith can pray effectively!

Hope that helps.

What would you add to my answer?  Please leave a comment below, or ask your own question for next Friday-

 

Ask the Pastor

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Unfortunately there were no new questions this week, so I’m reposting this one from 2008:

Lori asked what we can do about people who seem ‘immune’ to the Gospel – those who may think it’s ‘great for you, but I don’t need it’.

My guess is that in our pluralistic society where truth is relative and “whatever works for you is fine by me” attitudes, you may find more people who fall into this category than any other.  That’s one reason I think it’s so important that we focus only on our responsibility.

Remember the line in “Rudy” where the priest said, “there’s two things in life I’ve learned: one, there is a God. And two, I’m not Him!” — it really does apply to each of us when it comes to witnessing.  Only God can open someone’s heart to receive the Gospel.

So our role is (a) to pray for them, that God would open their heart and cause them to be open, tender and receptive to His Word; and (b) to let our light shine by our loving and winsome conduct around them.  Paul said it best in Titus 2:9-10 – our lives can make the Gospel more attractive.

Beyond that, it’s really up to God.  I hope this helps, and that all of us will continue to Paint the Town Red! (NOTE: that was a 2008 sermon series about personal evangelism – but I’m hoping that CLC’ers continue to reach out to unsaved friends and family with the Good News of what Jesus did for us!)

What’s on your mind?  Do you have a question for the pastor?

Ask the Pastor

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No new questions were submitted while we’re in the Philippines, so I’m repeating this post from 2014 when a faithful CLC’er asked a question I’d never been asked before: “Where does the church get the different series that we follow during the weekly services?”

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

  • Some series we try to include annually, because we know people will always need practical help with subjects like marriage and finances.  We may put on a creative title or cutesy approach to try to entice people to come, but every year we’re gonna try to include help for our folks on those issues. “Stewardship 2.0” or “Rules of Engagement” are examples of that kind of series.
  • Some series will be included annually because of their importance to us as a church.  For instance, as an unashamedly Charismatic church, we will probably do a series each year about the Holy Spirit (We’ve planned an exciting series about the gifts of the Holy Spirit for June). “Kingdom” would be an example of this, as would our current series, “That’s MY Church”, where we are reviewing the values that drive our ministry.
  • Some series ideas come to us from other ministries.  For instance, in my morning walks (usually on a treadmill at the gym; sometimes around our subdivision when weather allows), I listen to podcasts from some of America’s leading pastors, like Robert Morris, Chris Hodges, Craig Groeschel and others. Sometimes as I receive from their teaching, I feel that I should pass it on to our church family, and we develop a series around the same theme. White Christmas came about that way.
  • Our popular summer series, “God@the Movies” came about as a result of reading or hearing about other churches that were doing something similar.  We considered if for a few years before giving it a try and have been wildly surprised not only by the boost in summer attendance, but especially by the changed lives that have resulted.  (Our choice of movies and approach to the messages is totally our own, as we’ve never followed any other churches in that regard – but we make those choices with the help of pastors & leaders on our sermon planning team.)
  • Probably the majority of our series come out of my prayer time and my interaction with people at CLC, which cause me to sense a real ‘need’ to address certain subjects. We may look for fun titles or approaches, but the series itself is our way of trying to correct a problem or meet a need we sense in the church family. “Generations” would be an example of that kind of series.
  • Finally, I personally think the best series each year are a result of me getting a ‘rhema word’ from God in my own study times.  That’s the ‘old-school’ Pentecostal preacher  in me, no doubt, but I honestly believe when the Word comes alive to me, it will also come alive to our people and meet needs in a way that nothing else could! “Deeper” is a great example of that, and I believe our next series beginning March 5 will be as well – we’re calling it “Faith Gaps”, but it was born when 1Thess. 3:10 jumped off the page at me during my devotions a few months ago.

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

Ask the Pastor

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No new questions this week, so I’m repeating this post from 2013:

This week’s question was submitted anonymously during our “You Asked For It!” midweek series back in December, but we weren’t able to cover it publicly then: “It is a sin to be depressed?”

Great question, simply because so many Americans (and believers) suffer from depression.  I think I’d be safe in saying that almost all of us deal with it from time to time.  Here’s my answer:

  • If depression is a sin, then a LOT of Bible ‘heroes’ were big-time sinners (like us) because Moses (Exodus 5:22-6:12), David (Psa 42:3-11), Elijah (IKings 19:3-14) and even Jesus (Matthew 26:37-39) experienced moments that we would probably call depression!
  • In addition, I’ve learned from my wife (the licensed counselor) that some depression is clinical, which means there is a chemical imbalance in the brain that causes the depression.  I don’t think any of us would say that diabetes is a sin, or that high cholesterol is a sin, so why would we classify someone with clinical depression as sinful?
  • On the other hand, most depression is caused by circumstances (Numbers 21:4; Lamentations 1:12-20), and while most of us have experienced moments of despair when we don’t see a way out of our situation, as believers we must admit that such a viewpoint is not of faith, since nothing is impossible with our God.
  • So when it comes to circumstantial depression, no believer should wallow there for long, because the Word of God and worship are mighty weapons (2Cor 10:4-5) to help us see beyond our present circumstances to the glorious plan He has for us!  (2Cor 4:16-18).  That was Jesus’ secret (see Isa. 42:4; Heb. 12:2)

In fact, this message of HOPE is what Easter is all about, for the Resurrection is God’s greatest object lesson: if He can do that, He can do anything! (see Ephesians 1:17-21) – and we’re going to CELEBRATE that fact in all of our Easter Experiences – I hope you’ll reach out one more time to invite someone to be your guest!

Now, what would YOU like to Ask the Pastor?

Ask the Pastor

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There were no new questions submitted this week, so I’m re-posting from 2014:

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

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

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

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

Ask the Pastor

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There were NO new questions submitted this week, so I’ll ask one myself: where should YOU be this weekend?

The unequivocal answer is: at the First Love Conference in Tinley Park!

It all starts tonight at 7pm with former NFL wide-receiver, Pastor Gordon Banks!

It continues tomorrow at 9am with Pastor Gordon AND Prophet Dennis Cramer!

Tomorrow night at 5pm will be a night of ministry with Prophet Dennis Cramer!

Sunday in Tinley Park we’ll receive a 3-part series at 8:30, 10 and 12 from a dear friend who has served as a CLC Overseer from the beginning, Pastor Eddie Cupples!

(Sunday at 10am in Hammond will be Pastor Gordon Banks, and at 11am in Blue Island, Prophet Dennis Cramer will be ministering)

The closing session in Tinley Park will be Sunday evening at 5pm with my pastor, Bishop Joseph Garlington! 

And on Monday we’ll move to our Northwest Indiana location in Hammond for a special “Learn & Lead” morning with Bishop Garlington and Dr. David Ireland, starting at 9am!

The real question is what will YOU receive from the Lord before it’s over?

See you there-

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Ask the Pastor

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We had no new questions submitted this week, so I’m reposting from January 2010:

A CLCer asks, “In Rom 14:10 & 2Cor 5:10 it says we all appear or stand before the judgement seat of Christ. Then is it correct to say we will all get to visit heaven? Is Christ’s judgement seat in Heaven or a suburb of Heaven? Is the great white throne in heaven across the hall from the judgement seat? If so, will Jesus go across the hall to say ‘I’ve got some bad news and more bad news’?

Great questions…and I especially like the tongue-in-cheek approach!

First, let’s distinguish the difference in the two judgments: the judgment seat of Christ cited in the two Epistles above is the Greek word, “bema”, which refers to the judging stand used during the Olympics for the winners to receive their awards. In other words, the judgment seat of Christ is where true believers will appear, to receive our rewards. No unbelievers will appear before Christ’s bema-seat.

The great white throne, on the other hand, is described in Rev. 20 as being the place of final judgment for those who are cast into the lake of fire, after having been judged by God’s word. NO believers will have to appear there.

As to the location of the two, I can’t speak with certainty about the judgment seat of Christ; but the great white throne must be in heaven.  So, as funny as it sounded when you asked, I guess it would be correct to say that everyone will get to ‘visit’ heaven!

Unfortunately, what happens at the great white throne is no laughing matter.  In fact, it’s one of the most important reasons why The Church needs to be reaching out to everyone with the Good News of salvation – to “plunder hell & populate heaven” (to quote Reinhard Bonnke)  I’m believing 2010 will be a great year of harvest at CLC!

Actually, I’m still believing for that in 2017, too!

Now, what would YOU like to Ask the Pastor?

Ask the Pastor

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There were no questions submitted during this holiday week, so I went back exactly five years ago to re-post this question from 2011:

Our final question of 2011 comes from a friend to me & CLC who writes, “If a man has had a sex change, surgery and all, and now lives as a woman and wants to be a Christian attending church, how should the church respond to him/her? Also would you tell her to stay a woman or go back to a man?

When I first read the question I thought (in my best Lovie Smith voice), “Now what kind of question is that?”

But in case it’s a serious question, I’m gonna give it a serious answer, as my final Friday post for this year.  Let’s consider the facts:

  • since there was no such thing as “sex changes” in Bible times, we must understand that the Bible does NOT address this question.
  • Since there are no direct references to this dilemma in Scripture, our only hope would be to apply Biblical principles to try to answer this.
  • The ONLY verse I can think of that might somehow apply to this hypothetical situation is 1Cor 7:20-24.  Since this person had the sex change before becoming a Christian, as I apply these verses, I would say ‘she’ should remain as ‘she’ is.
  • As to how the church should respond to her, I would hope that any local church would respond to this individual as we would any other person; i.e., with love and compassion and the same Christian courtesy that we would want for ourselves – while also helping to disciple this individual in the ways of Christ, including sexual purity and wholeness.

For sure, it’s an interesting question – but probably not that far-fetched in today’s world.  May we shine as lights in this dark world so that people who are hurting and lost without Jesus, regardless of how their ‘lostness’ (sin nature) may be manifest, will be drawn to the light and not repelled by it.

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

And I hope you’ll join us Saturday (tomorrow) at 10pm as we bid farewell to 2016 and welcome 2017!

Ask the Pastor

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Today’s question comes from a CLC’er whose adult child passed away this year, and she asks painful questions that many have asked when grieving: I’m  having a really hard time regarding the loss of my son.” 

She listed a series of questions, which I’ve included below in bold, and my response is beside each one, but let me first make this statement: The Bible does not give us a neatly-packaged answer to all of our questions about life after death.  Instead, there are bits and pieces of information, scattered across many different books of the Bible, along with this over-riding truth from 1Corinthians 13:12 that speaks of ‘that day’ when we will finally be in heaven with our Lord, and gain perfect understanding.

  • where is he now?  My understanding is that believers who die are immediately in the Presence of the Lord, awaiting the Resurrection of our bodies.
  • what is he doing?  While the Bible seems to be silent on this detail, I’m sure that all those in the Presence of God are experiencing His love and joy on a level that we can’t even comprehend.
  • can he see me?  Once more, Scripture doesn’t really provide this detail, but I’ve read numerous accounts of those who had ‘near death experiences’, and their testimony is that they were definitely able to see and be aware of those on earth.  (By the way, one book I highly recommend is “Imagine Heaven” by Pastor John Burke, in which he compiles fascinating research on those NDE’s)
  • what does he know?   According to 1Cor. 13:12, he knows the Lord just as completely as the Lord knows him!  (Whether that includes knowledge of loved ones still on earth and their sorrow at losing him, I don’t know – but since there are no tears in heaven – it would seem God somehow ‘protects’ them from that knowledge)
  • is he ‘watching’ over me, his children, his siblings, etc.?  I find nothing in Scripture to indicate that loved ones in heaven play any role with us on earth.  They do not become angels, as some have believed, and there’s no example in the Bible of them intervening in the lives of people here on earth.
  • what happens to the saved who die?  As I said above, they are immediately in the Presence of the Lord.  See 2Cor. 5:1-8, especially verse 6 and verse 8
  • what and where is Paradise?  The Jews believed it was a compartment of “Abraham’s bosom” (which probably doesn’t help answer your question).  Again, the Bible isn’t clear, but I would personally think it’s a heavenly place.
  • Can we be saved and  go to heaven drunk?  I know you said this was a rhetorical and humorous question, but I also know that many believers have struggled with the circumstances of their loved one’s death by suicide or during a time of sinful compromise, so I still want to answer: whether or not we go to heaven when we die is determined by whether or not we knew Jesus as our Lord & Savior.  Period.  If we start ‘qualifying’ people on the basis of works, it becomes a slippery slope for us all – so I stay away from ‘judgment’ questions and trust Jesus to do what’s best for all His children!

Pastor Josh Moran passed on this great article that may benefit those of you whose loss is especially difficult this Christmas season.

I hope this is helpful, and mostly I pray for every reader who has lost a loved one this year – knowing that more knowledge still doesn’t replace the emptiness in your heart.  I pray that the comfort of the Holy Spirit is very real to you during this holiday season, and beyond.

Would YOU care to join the conversation?  If you have comments to add to my attempt to answer, OR a question of your own, please leave them below-

Ask the Pastor

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There were no new questions submitted this week, so I’m re-posting this from 2013 in the hopes that it may be helpful to some who may be considering a new church home in the new year:

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

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

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

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

Ask the Pastor

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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-

Ask the Pastor

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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

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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- 

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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:

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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-

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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-

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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!)

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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

Business question

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?