You’re invited to celebrate with us this Easter at the Mars Hill Baptist Church of Chicago.

No matter your background, you will find a warm welcome, uplifting music, children and youth activities, and a clear, relevant message. Watch this quick video to learn about what we have planned for you this Easter.

When you’re finished watching the video, click THIS LINK to win a $100 gift card (who says Christmas can’t come early).

New series beginning this Easter

 

You haven’t finished your life story. What will you do with the blank pages? The choices you make today will lead you one way or another—but when you know who to trust, you’ll always be headed in the right Direction. In this series, you will discover how to See It. Say It. Seize It.

You Can’t Have It Both Ways, It’s Either All or Nothing

New Message Series For 2016

What comes to mind when you hear the phrase, “I’m All In or All or Nothing?”

Originally and still a poker metatphor, ‘all in’ has also come to mean a situation whose subject is unreservedly involved, without qualification. Fully committed. In this sense the term “all in” is almost the same as its denotative opposite, “all out,” as in all-out warfare.

When many people think of church membership, they may think that it just means their name is on a roll at a church. And in some churches it means you were baptized or dedicated at that church. But it’s actually much more than that.

ALL OR NOTHING

It’s about an attitude, not an action.

In my new message series for 2016, I’m laying out the basic principles for what it means to be “ALL IN.”

  • All In
  • It’s Not About me…It’s All About Him
  • In Order to Go Up, I Must be Prayed Up.
  • As For Me and My House, It’s Settled.
  • Sit or Serve…It’s a Choice

Why waste your life when you can make something of your life? If you wait, life will probably pass you by. But if you go out and do the things you want to, take the risks you fear, you may just find that everything falls into place. Join us each Sunday in January at the Mars Hill Baptist Church of Chicago at 8 AM or 10:30 AM. It’s a safe place to hear a dangerous message.

Question: What would it take for you to be “All In” in 2016 Share your answer on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn.

#PrayFirst | Day 8

Pray for F.O.C.U.S. (Follow One Course Until Successful)

Welcome to Day 8 (the FINAL day) of our #PrayFirst Campaign!

For One Week, we will pray for One Minute every hour about One Topic as One Church to One God! Pray for the first 60 seconds of every hour and watch God bless the other 59 minutes! There is power when God’s people pray in unity. Join us as we answer Jesus’ prayer “May they be ONE” (John 17:21).

Copy of #PrayFirst Focus

If you’d like to know more about our #PrayFirst Campaign you can:

  1. Click HERE to read the overview
  2. You can read our Day One Devotional on Faith HERE
  3. You can read our Day Two Family Devotional HERE
  4. You can read our Day Three Finance Devotional HERE
  5. You can read our Day Four Facilities Devotional HERE
  6. You can read our Day Five Fulfillment Devotional HERE
  7. You can read our Day Six Family Devotional HERE
  8. You can read our Day Seven Devotional on Finishing Strong HERE

God Helps Those Who Help Themselves…Really?

Although it sounds great, it’s not in the Bible.  No matter how good it sounds, if we demonstrate some effort to improve, God will give us a little push in that direction.  So we decide to make it by sheer willpower and discipline.  The problem is, we run out of steam and lose focus.

Next year, millions will make and break resolutions because they’re trying to solve a spiritual problem through earthly means.  The challenge we all face is that we want to be transformed.  However, we tend to look within ourselves for the solution.  The solution resides outside of ourselves.  The solution is God.

Transformation is a problem that we cannot solve.  That’s why God sent Jesus!  Apart from him, we can do absolutely nothing!  In Galatians 3:3, Paul reminds the Galatians that God has given them His Spirit and with this – combined with their faith, they can make it.

Who Does God Help?

God doesn’t help those with themselves.  God helps those who abide with Him and those who walk with Him in faith (John 15:1-5).  Our efforts were never the impetus for God’s transforming grace.  Nor will they be the impetus for our changed hearts.

The Bible says that we are justified by faith.  We don’t need willpower or self-effort as much as we need faith that God will accomplish in us and for us what we can’t do ourselves.  He is the source of what we long for and need.  Willpower and self-effort can only take us so far in our desire to change.

What’s The Point?

 Change is Possible

Focus is Required

Dependence on God is Foundational

Focus requires discipline. As the famed personal finance guru Robert Kiyosaki defines it: Follow One Course Until Successful.

follow-one-course

Prayer of F.O.C.U.S (Follow One Course Until Successful)

Lord, right now, eliminate all distractions for the time it takes me to complete my priorities. Help me to turn off the wifi, silence cell notifications, and schedule F.O.C.U.S. time with you. Help me to stay on task and Follow One Course Until I’m Successful. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

#PrayFirst | Day 7

Pray That You May Finish Strong

Welcome to Day 7 of our #PrayFirst Campaign!

For One Week, we will pray for One Minute every hour about One Topic as One Church to One God! Pray for the first 60 seconds of every hour and watch God bless the other 59 minutes! There is power when God’s people pray in unity. Join us as we answer Jesus’ prayer “May they be ONE” (John 17:21).

Copy of #PrayFirst Finishing Strong

If you’d like to know more about our #PrayFirst Campaign you can:

  1. Click HERE to read the overview
  2. You can read our Day One Devotional on Faith HERE
  3. You can read our Day Two Family Devotional HERE
  4. You can read our Day Three Finance Devotional HERE
  5. You can read our Day Four Facilities Devotional HERE
  6. You can read our Day Five Fulfillment Devotional HERE
  7. You can read our Day Six Family Devotional HERE

Finishing Strong Requires a Proper Motivation

I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (3:14)

Paul said that his goal was to know Christ, to be like Christ, and to be all Christ had in mind for him. This goal took all of Paul’s energies. This is a helpful example for us. We should not let anything take our eyes off our goal—knowing Christ. With the single-mindedness of an athlete in training, we must lay aside everything harmful and forsake anything that may distract us from being effective Christians.

What’s Holding You Back?

Paul had reason to forget the past—he had held the coats of those who had stoned Stephen, the first Christian martyr (Acts 7:57, 58, Paul is called Saul here). We have all done things for which we are ashamed, and we live in the tension of what we have been and what we want to be.

Because our hope is in Christ, however, we can let go of past guilt and look forward to what God will help us become. Don’t dwell on your past. Instead, grow in the knowledge of God by concentrating on your relationship with him now. Realize that you are forgiven, and then move on to a life of faith and obedience. Look forward to a fuller and more meaningful life because of your hope in Christ.

Pray That You May Finish Strong

Jesus, help me to finish the race and to make my life a testimony to Your grace.

However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace. Acts 20:24

Lord, help me to rejoice in hard times because that shapes perseverance, character, and hope in me.

Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. Romans 5:3-4

Lord, help me to live my life in such a way that I will be victorious in You and find You in eternity.

Run in such a way as to get the prize.  Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 1 Corinthians 9:24b-25

#PrayFirst | Day 6

Pray For Your Family and Friends

Welcome to Day 6 of our #PrayFirst Campaign!

For One Week, we will pray for One Minute every hour about One Topic as One Church to One God! Pray for the first 60 seconds of every hour and watch God bless the other 59 minutes! There is power when God’s people pray in unity. Join us as we answer Jesus’ prayer “May they be ONE” (John 17:21).

#PrayFirst FAMILY

If you’d like to know more about our #PrayFirst Campaign you can:

  1. Click HERE to read the overview
  2. You can read our Day One Devotional on Faith HERE
  3. You can read our Day Two Family Devotional HERE
  4. You can read our Day Three Finance Devotional HERE
  5. You can read our Day Four Facilities Devotional HERE
  6. You can read our Day Five Fulfillment Devotional HERE

#PRP – People Reaching People

At the Mars Hill Baptist Church of Chicago, our theme for 2015 is People Reaching People (#PRP). Jesus commissioned the church to continue His ministry of reconciliation to the lost; and He both modeled and taught a strategic formula that would facilitate that great endeavor. Scripture has a word for this – Evangelism (Outreach).

Evangelism (Outreach)

Evangelism is the act of telling the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ to others. It’s derived from the Greek word euangelion, meaning “gospel” or “good news.”

The verbal forms of euangelizo, meaning “to bring” or “to announce good news” occur some 55 times (Acts 8:4,25,35; 11:20) and are normally translated with the appropriate form of the word “preach.” Evangelism has to do with the proclamation of the message of good news.*

From the beginning, God has consistently focused on a specific group, as his initial target for evangelism. That is, He primarily perpetuates His Kingdom through those close relational connections that we all have, those eight to fifteen people He strategically placed around each one of us.

Throughout the New Testament, whenever God’s Spirit changed a life, a world changer was born. Whether it was a demon possessed man, a swindler named Zacchaeus, a royal official with a dying son, a tax collector named Matthew, a Centurion named Cornelius, a businesswoman named Lydia or a recently unemployed Philippian jailor, they all were sent back home to their close relational connections. Again, Scripture has a word for this – Oikos.

Mars Hill’s Outreach Strategy

Oikos, the Greek word for “extended family,” encompasses our relational worlds—anywhere from eight to fifteen people, on the average, whom God has supernaturally and strategically placed in our circles of influence. And, if those relationships frame our primary evangelistic targets, then that reality must frame the strategy for our church.

Pray for Your Circle of Influence – Family and Friends

Make a commitment to pray daily for your circle of influence – your family and friends. Write their names down and pray:

LORD, I pray that they (CALL THEIR INDIVIDUAL NAMES) would sense God’s presence in their lives and that You would draw each one to You. Lord, I offer myself to You every day as an instrument in this process. In Jesus’ name. Amen

*G. William Schweer, Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary, ed. Chad Brand, Charles Draper, Archie England (Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers, 2003), s.v. “EVANGELISM,” WORDsearch CROSS e-book.

#PrayFirst | Day 4

Pray for Our Facilities

Welcome to Day 4 of our #PrayFirst Campaign!

For One Week, we will pray for One Minute every hour about One Topic as One Church to One God! Pray for the first 60 seconds of every hour and watch God bless the other 59 minutes! There is power when God’s people pray in unity. Join us as we answer Jesus’ prayer “May they be ONE” (John 17:21).

If you’d like to know more about our #PrayFirst Campaign, you can:

  1. Click HERE to read the overview
  2. You can read our Day One Devotional on Faith HERE
  3. You can read our Day Two Family Devotional HERE
  4. You can read our Day Three Finance Devotional HERE

#PrayFirst Facilities

For several years, we have been examining options and discerning together what role our facilities play in our mission and ministry together.  A few years ago we hired Nevin Hedlund and Associates to help us imagine what a new facility could look like and to help us assess how much it might cost.  We have not made a decision to build, but this information is very helpful as we discern that possibility. 

Vision For Our Facilities

We dream extending the reach our church through multiple campuses throughout the Chicagoland area – with beautiful, yet efficient facilities including an intimate worship center, a counseling, and prayer center, classrooms for Bible study and training; all of this designed to minister to the total person – spiritually, emotionally, physically, and socially. It will be set in a peaceful, inspiring garden setting with bright flowers, beautiful trees, and water with pools, and fountains.

Prayer Guide to Aid you in your Time with God

“This is the one I esteem:  he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word.”  Isaiah 66:2b

*Please Pray

. . . for an emptiness of our own wills, a holy indifference to our own opinions, so that we are able to hear God’s voice as to whether  to continue to meet in our current facility or to pursue a new one.  For a desire for nothing else but God’s will:  “nothing more, nothing less, nothing else.” * Pray as Jesus prayed, “Yet not as I will, but as you will,” (Matthew 26:39).

. . . that we each would “delight ourselves in the Lord” above all else (Ps. 37:4).  Likewise, ask God to make His ways, our ways . . . and His thoughts, our thoughts (Isaiah 55: 8, 9).   Also, pray that the Lord would be our very lives (Dt. 30:20), and that in Him, we would live and move, and have our beings (Acts 17:28).

. . . for wisdom, God’s wisdom, not what this world would tell us is right or best, but God’s wisdom which is “pure, peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere,” (James 3: 17).  Furthermore, “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,” (Ps. 111:10a), so petition God for us to have a holy fear of the Lord, recognizing who we are and our need for Him and for the knowledge of His will.

. . . to know His voice (John 10:3), to be still and listen to His voice (Dt. 30:20, Is. 55:2), and for His voice to be the loudest voice to which each of us would listen.

. . . for “our love to abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that we discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God,” (Philippians 1:9-11).

. . . for God “to fill us with the knowledge of His will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. . .” (Colossians 1: 9).

. . .that we would be one just as the Father is in the Son, and the Son is in the Father (John 17:21). Ask that we would be “brought to complete unity to let the world know that [the Father] sent [Jesus] and loves us as His own Son,” (Jn. 21:23).

Source: *Morris and Olsen in Barton’s Pursuing God’s Will Together, p. 187.

#PrayFirst | Day 3

Pray for Your Finances

Welcome to Day 3 of our #PrayFirst Campaign!

For One Week, we will pray for One Minute every hour about One Topic as One Church to One God! Pray for the first 60 seconds of every hour and watch God bless the other 59 minutes! There is power when God’s people pray in unity. Join us as we answer Jesus’ prayer “May they be ONE” (John 17:21).

If you’d like to know more about our #PrayFirst Campaign, you can click HERE. Also, you can read our Day One Devotional on Faith HERE and Day Two Family Devotional HERE.

#PrayFirst Finances

Get Rich or Go Broke Trying

Rich a subjective term. It’s an ever-moving target. It’s like trying to nail jello to the wall. Defining“rich” is as personal as taste preferences of food or fashion. Many times, even when you are considered by others to be rich, you don’t think of yourself that way.

Why? It’s all about perspective. The problem is you don’t “feel” rich. For the sake of this devotional, I won’t define rich…I’m leaving that task to you. I will, however, share a tip that’ll help you “feel” rich regardless of your income.

Fire The Jones’

We all know “that” family… the happy, perfect family who seems to have it all. Everyone has a “Jones” family on their block, and while some shrug their shoulders and don’t care that the “Jones” just brought home a new Mercedes, others feel as if they need to not only keep up but to outdo this neighbor or even friend.

Occasionally, we make questionable decisions to impress the others. The earlier we recognize our self-worth isn’t tied to our possessions, the sooner we’ll reach financial freedom. There’s no shame in driving a second-hand car with a few miles. You don’t need the pressure of working extra hours just to cover credit card payments.

Pray for Your Finances

And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:19 (ESV)

Lord, I surrender my financial affairs and concerns about money to your Divine care and love. I ask that you remove my worries, anxieties, and fears about money, and replace them with faith. I know and trust that my debts will be paid, and money will flow into my life. I have only to look to nature to see proof of the abundance you provide. I release all negative thoughts about money and know that prosperity is my true state. I commit to being grateful for all that I now have in my life. I learn to manage my finances wisely, seeking help where needed. In Jesus’ name. Amen

#PrayFirst | Day 2

Pray For Families

Welcome to Day 2 of our #PrayFirst Campaign!

For One Week, we will pray for One Minute every hour about One Topic as One Church to One God! Pray for the first 60 seconds of every hour and watch God bless the other 59 minutes! There is power when God’s people pray in unity. Join us as we answer Jesus’ prayer “May they be ONE” (John 17:21).

If you’d like to know more about our #PrayFirst Campaign, you can click HERE.  Also, you can read our Day One Devotional on Faith HERE.

#PrayFirst Family

God is the Foundation of Your Family

Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain. Psalm 127:1 (ESV)

Solomon the Psalmist said that it is vain to attempt things without the Lord.  The point is that trying to lead your family independently of God is futile. However, a person who trusts in the Lord and include Him in their family’s plan will find rest. Without the Lord, all work is in vain.

The family is not an institution designed by man. It was created by God for the benefit of man, and man has been given stewardship over it. Christian family is one that lines up with biblical principles and one in which each member understands and fulfills his or her God-given role. The basic biblical family unit is comprised of one man, one woman—his spouse—and their offspring or adopted children.

When a husband, wife, and children all fulfill their God-appointed roles, then peace and harmony reign in the home (Psalm 127:2). But, if we try to have a Christian family without Christ as Head or without adhering to the biblical principles the Lord has lovingly provided for us, the home will suffer.

  1. The members of a family can teach each other about God (Deuteronomy 6:4-9)
  2. Do not let sin affect your family life (Psalm 101:2)
  3. Do not bring trouble to a family (Proverbs 11:29)
  4. Husbands and wives should love each other (Ephesians 5:21-33)
  5. Children should obey their parents (Ephesians 6:1)
  6. Church leaders must have a good family life (1 Timothy 3:4-5)
  7. Families should take care of each other (1 Timothy 5:3-5)

Pray for Your Family

Heavenly Father, Please shine your light upon my family. Give us strength to overcome all of the difficulties that we are dealing with now and protect us against any and all problems we may encounter in the future. O Lord, please bring us together as we are meant to be. May the love that binds us only grow stronger as we fulfill the destiny you have laid out for us. Grant my family forgiveness for any sins we have committed. May we also forgive one another Lord, as it is sometimes difficult to do.  In your name I pray, Amen

3 Solid Reasons Why You Should Go To Church

Some believe the local church is dead and that her best days are behind her. The church is not dead, its alive. Her best days are now and ahead. I believe, as Bill Hybels says, “the local church is the hope of the world.”

I grew up attending church. Many of my earliest memories are times spent at the Mars Hill Baptist Church of Chicago, with church people, or in church services. So when I meet people who aren’t regular attenders it’s a surprise to find that sometimes they don’t know why you might be a part of it.

Go to church

Why go to church? What’s the benefit of attending regularly? When you understand the “why” it makes it easier to understand the “when” and “where.”

How I Used My iPhone To Prepare A Message In 10 Minutes

I finished last week’s post mentioning how how I used my iPhone, Cloud Storage, and a few Apps to prepare messages in 10 minutes or less. Let’s face it – there’s no way we can escape technology. It’s here to stay and we may as well leverage it for the glory of God. Furthermore, given the consumerist mindset of most church goers, presenting a real and relevant word (grounded in biblical truth) remains challenging. Communicators must learn to quickly “size” up their audience and adjust their message for maximum impact. I had to do this this earlier this year while preaching at another church.

As a pastor, I’m invited to preach at other churches during their pastoral or church anniversaries. While worshiping, God begin to impress upon my heart that the message I prepared wasn’t quite right for the occasion. I quickly discerned the room was filled with broken people who had looks of despair in their eyes. I came to encourage the pastor, but discerned that the people needed a Word from the Lord. I prayed and God revealed they need encouragement, healing, and empowerment. I opened my Bible, pulled out my iPhone 4, placed it in my Bible (to hide it), and began crafting a “NEW” message.