“Mountaintop experiences,” are something of a marvel. We tend to hear about them connected to things like conferences, camps, and conflicts.

“I didn’t even want to go,” someone might say about a conference. Or, “I had to beg him to go to camp,” the mom says of her teenage son. Or, “it took my life falling apart during a hurricane…”

The Bible is filled with experiences like these – God meeting people where they are, giving them the strength or affirmation they need to carry on. But more important than the experiences are the reasons for them.

God takes us to the mountaintop for a purpose.

In one of the most memorable mountaintop experiences in history, the Bible gives us a front row seat to what these moments are for, and how to respond to them.

The story goes like this:

Jesus takes three of his followers, Peter, James, and John up a mountain to pray. It doesn’t seem like anything too extraordinary, right? I mean, no matter which account you’re reading (the story is recorded in Matthew 17, Mark 9, and Luke 9), in the chapters leading up to this moment, Jesus has been asserting himself in the public’s eye. He’s been casting out demons, healing diseases, performing miracles, ticking off religious leaders, miraculously feeding thousands of people, walking on water, and telling stories that most people don’t understand.

That’s the crazy stuff. What’s so wild about a prayer meeting on a mountain?

Well, on that mountain, as Jesus is praying, something really crazy happens. He is suddenly transfigured!

The disciples look and they see Jesus, the same person they ventured up the mountain with. But now his facing is shining like the sun and he’s wearing “dazzling white” clothes. (I don’t know about you, but when I hear a grown man say “dazzling” I just assume things are getting serious.)

But, on top of all that, it’s not only Jesus standing there.

Jesus (probably with a grin) says something like, “Oh guys I’m glad you’ve joined us. Peter, James, John, this is Moses and Elijah.”

The disciples are likely thoroughly shocked and confused. I mean these guys are their legends. They’ve been dead for hundreds of years and yet are standing right in front of them. Crazy!

But… Why?

Why are Moses and Elijah there on the mountain? Why are any of them up there? And why did Matthew, Mark, and Luke record it for us?

The Bible doesn’t ever really spell it out for us, but all signs point to them being there as witnesses to Jesus’ glory. During Jesus’ day, the whole of Scripture was often referred to as “the Law and the Prophets.”

So, is it a coincidence that God sends two of the most prominent figures (Moses representing the Law and Elijah representing the Prophets) to bear witness about the Messiah to some of the very people who would later have to go and bear witness about him in the world? These five men are some of the greatest the Bible ever introduces us to, and they all pale in comparison to a glimpse – merely a sliver – of Jesus’ true glory revealed.

“And Peter said to Jesus, ‘Rabbi, it is good that we are here. Let us make three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.’ For he did not know what to say, for they were terrified,” (Mark 9:5-6).

It’s such an incredible, unbelievable, shocking sight that Peter suggests they do… something… anything! He wants to commemorate this moment.

But that’s not what this is about.

“As he was saying these things, a cloud came and overshadowed them, and they were afraid as they entered the cloud. And a voice came out of the cloud, saying, ‘This is my Son, my Chosen One; listen to him!’ And when the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone,” (Luke 9:34-36a).

The sky goes back to a normal blue. The glowing figures have gone. The booming voice has ceased. And there is nothing but a gentle breeze blowing at the top of the mountain. Jesus stands alone, his eyes toward the sky. Slowly he lowers his head until his focus lies once again on his followers. A smile flashes onto his face as if to say, “I told you, you wouldn’t want to miss this.”

Still amazed, and perhaps frozen in shock, I’m willing to bet the disciples wanted to stay up there and ask Jesus a lot of questions. And Jesus could have sat back and taken in their admiration and then let them run off and tell everyone what had just happened.

Instead, they descended down the mountain, and were immediately met by a large crowd amongst who was a demon-possessed boy.

Jesus took his disciples and went right back to work.

It was as if he looked into his disciples eyes – the same eyes that had just had the glory and majesty of their leader revealed to them – and said, “Come friends, there is still work to be done.”

There are times in our own lives where we have some big questions about Jesus or his purpose for us. We have doubts. Maybe our faith wavers and we wonder if we even still believe. We’re in a valley.

But then God invites us to come up the mountain with him, and we have no idea what that means or what’s in store for us. “Why don’t you go this conference?” or “go to this camp,” or “talk to this person,” or “join this small group,” or “just go to church this week.”

We say “yes,” we go, we hear great teaching, or are moved by a song, or have a meaningful conversation. It’s clear that God is giving us exactly what we need whether or not we knew we needed it. Suddenly we find ourselves at the peak. We’re standing on top of this mountain and we feel so incredibly close to God.

We look out around us and we can see down into the dark valleys we came out of and many more mountain peaks and valleys ahead. We get a sliver of perspective on all of life’s craziness. And we are filled with the hope and peace that everything is going to be alright in the grand scheme of it all. Jesus is who he says he is and there is a glorious destination that awaits us somewhere beyond the horizon.

On our mountaintop we feel safe and comfortable, hopeful and excited, joyful and alive.

And we want to stay up there.

But, just like it was with Jesus and his disciples, there are tasks that await us down the mountain – life to be lived. This glimpse of glory was never meant to be the end of the journey.

If Jesus and the disciples stayed on the mountaintop, then the little boy doesn’t get healed and the disciples don’t go on to help carry Christianity, in its infancy, to the world.

Jesus came down from the mountain that day knowing that one day he would climb another mountain called Calvary. And he knew that when he died to save all of mankind, his disciples would be scared. He knew that when he asked them to go forward, carrying the good news of salvation to the nations, they would be wading into the darkness. He needed them to know exactly what it was they would be giving their lives for.

There are dark days still to come – maybe some of yours are here now.

But God is with us.

He doesn’t bring us up the mountain just to send us on our merry way and hope everything works out. He brings us up the mountain to engage us, encourage us, and reveal his glory to us, so that when we find ourselves in the darkest valley, we can be reminded that he is exactly who he said he is, and that all he has promised will one day come to pass.

Come friends, there is work to be done.


7 Keys to Developing Authentic Community

(adapted from Repent & Believe: Relying on God’s Power)

People experience community around shared values. That’s why there are book clubs, internet forums, and fantasy football leagues. But you don’t have to share multiple common interests to experience Christian commu­nity with people. Rather, Christians have a unique opportunity for commu­nity because we share our deepest value and highest treasure, Jesus Christ. We can experience Christian community when we connect with others who worship and follow Jesus. But we must do more than simply attend church services together to develop community.

Small groups are one strategy for developing Christian community. We hope that everyone who attends a small group experiences the wonder­ful benefits and joys of Christian community, but they might not. It takes time to develop community, and it takes more than just time to deepen community.

Here are some keys to develop and deepen community:

  1. Keep Showing Up

Community requires time. The number one reason people give for not being in a small group is the same reason given for not exercising: they don’t have time. When someone does determine to make time for small group, they sometimes have expectations that they are going to “get something out of it” every time they show up. But like exercise, the only way you get something out of it is when you make time for it and keep showing up. And yet just showing up regularly is just the beginning.

  1. Take Risks

Relationships include risks. Committing to show up at someone’s house feels like a risk. Getting together with new people, answering questions about what you think, and telling people what you believe are all risks. Disagreeing with someone is a risk. Sharing a prayer request is a risk. Pray­ing out loud with others for the first time feels like a risk. There are risks in every relationship where there is love, respect, mutuality, and service. But these risks have rewards. Over time, trust deepens and opens the door to the biggest risk.

  1. Be Known

All people want to be fully known and fully loved. We want people to know our names, our stories, our hopes, our thoughts, our feelings – our innermost selves. But because we have been hurt before, some of us are not transparent enough to be known. Like Adam and Eve, we cover up our nakedness with fig leaves of image management. Thus, we don’t feel loved, because we have to be known to feel loved. Otherwise, when some­one shows love toward us, we might think, “But if you really knew me, you wouldn’t love me.” Developing and deepening Christian community includes the process of becoming known over time. Ultimately, when you are known and loved, you become the person God intended you to be all along. We tend to take this process of being known very slowly, until a catalyst accelerates the process.

  1. Run to the Train Wreck

A train wreck might be suffering, marital stress, a health crisis, a wayward teenager, or any number of other things. When a train wreck comes in a small group, it often helps the group get honest. But in the midst of strug­gle, the sense of community in the group grows deeper, faster. We might say that groups just meet together until the first train wreck in someone’s life, then they come together to experience real community. We are more likely to stop managing our image. Everyone gets real. The key seems to be that when the train wreck comes, the people in the group run to the train wreck. They don’t avoid it or throw platitudes at those suffering, because they know, love, and serve one another.

  1. Gospel First

In Christian community, instead of giving one another good advice in the midst of a struggle or personal challenge, we bring the gospel first. The first step to bring the gospel is reminding one another of how God longs to meet us in our sin and suffering with mercy and grace. So we turn to God in prayer as a group. We seek his wisdom in Scripture. We remind each other of promises from God.

  1. Serve One Another

When we experience Christian community in a small group, we grow in our ability to serve one another. In community, it’s not all about us. At times, our sole purpose is to serve one another. According to Hebrews 10:19-25, we continue meeting together so that we can stimulate one another to love and good works and encourage one another. When our group demonstrates the commitment to truly serve one another in a way that we are all growing closer, deeper, and stronger in our love for God and others, we get to experience the rare and beautiful gift of community in the way God intended it.

  1. Have Faith

We must believe what God says about community. The church is the body of Christ (Romans 12:4-5). He is in the midst of his people (Luke 17:20-21). Where two, or more, are gathered in his name, he is with us (Matthew 18:20). We believe together, grow together, and endure together. And if we believe that Christian community is a vital part of worshiping and following Jesus, we will rearrange our lives in order to experience it.

My prayer for you is that you experience the kind of Christian community described above. As community deepens and ages, it becomes one of the greatest gifts we receive in this life. While it’s a gift from God, we contribute to the development of this community too by the way we treat one another.


What You Say

“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”

– Ephesians 4:29

It’s surprising just how much pain a little bite of too hot pizza can cause the roof of your mouth, or how a sip of too hot coffee can scorch your tongue. Even more surprising is how much pain your tongue can cause you, your friends, your spouse, or your neighbor.

In the Bible, James says your tongue is like a little bit of fire that can set a whole forest ablaze!

You know it’s true. You are good at using your words as weapons. You know how to use them to start fires and fan the flames. You can flatter and you can smooth talk, and then say things that wound.

I’m guilty. That is why Ephesians 4:29 has been a significant verse for me for years. I know I sin continually with my speech, and I don’t want to. I memorized Ephesians 4:29 because it commands me to consider what I am supposed to be doing with my tongue. It’s satisfying when I am silent, encouraging, and grace giving. It is as painful as scalding hot pizza when my words are destructive.

Ephesians 4:29 gives you a simple set of purposes for the words you speak: encourage and give grace. It is a wonderful thing when you engage your obedience before you start talking.

So here’s the thing we can all change. Let’s ask ourselves, “Are the words in the pipeline between my brain and my mouth about to encourage and give grace?” When they are not, repurpose them or shut up. The world will be a better place!

My favorite part of this verse, and the most difficult, is the little phrase “as fits the occasion…” That means I’m supposed to actually be aware and considerate of all the people who will hear what I say. It means I should remember that every word I speak communicates what I value and what’s on my agenda. The kicker is, what I say paints a picture of my relationship with God.

Jesus said our words are simply fruit of our affections; he said our words are rooted in the soil of our heart. “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” (Luke 6:45)

The scorched earth my selfish words can produce is no greater than the scorched earth from whence they come. I don’t want to be scorched earth. I want to be a grace giver. I want to be an encourager. I want to be righteously considerate of other people. Don’t you?

So, here’s a challenge for you: consider what you say.


How to Get Spiritually Fit This Year

It’s January and there’s excitement and hope in the air. Excitement for a fresh start, but also hope that this next 365 days will be better than the last 365. And while many people want 2020 to be the year where they grow financially, relationally, or physically, there are others who simply want to grow closer to God.

Maybe that’s you? Maybe you would say to yourself, Enough is enough. I’m tired of keeping God at arm’s length. I sense the emptiness and aimlessness that comes with not walking with him daily. I want that to change. I want to get stronger spiritually.

But before you start working through all the different read-the-Bible-in-a-year plans, making your kids recite the Apostles’ Creed before they can eat dinner, and attending church services eight days a week, let me give you a caution:

Trying to get stronger can actually make you weaker.

It’s true. I believe you can read the Bible more than you’ve ever read it, pray more than you’ve ever prayed, and consistently attend services at Clear Creek and still end up stagnant, or in even worse shape spiritually than before you started trying.

How’s that? Let me explain. This month, more people will go to the gym than any other time of the year.

Many of them will burst through the gym doors, blow past the welcome desk, and start hitting as many different pieces of equipment as possible – benching as much weight as they can muster, lifting the heaviest dumbbells they can find, and slinging around other weights in whatever motion feels best, all the while thinking, If I just do more I’ll get stronger.

Some of you who know about weight training are cringing because you understand how this approach to lifting has the potential for great injury. You know that when it comes to exercising, technique matters. For example, people are seen in gyms all the time with crooked shoulders because of slightly deformed muscles which is partly due to bad technique. The muscles adapted to incorrect movements and grew accordingly. Experts tell us using incorrect techniques can pull, rip, or wrench any muscle in the human body. It can tear delicate connective tissues in a matter of seconds. That’s the irony bad technique brings. You can hit the gym every day, work harder than anybody else, and actually wind up weaker instead of stronger.

That’s why there is a maxim in weight training: How you do it is as important as what you do.

Technique matters in spiritual training as well. How we do it is as important as what we do.

And if your spiritual strategy for 2020 is to do more (e.g., services, prayer, Bible reading), you should know that simply doing more isn’t good enough.

In Jesus’ day there were a group of religious people called the Pharisees. They did more than everyone around them. They had more Bible knowledge than anyone else. They prayed in public so everyone would see. They were religious elites, spiritual gym-rats who lifted as much as they could as often as they could.

Yet, there wasn’t a group Jesus called out more than them. He called them hypocrites, (Matthew 23:25), the blind leading the blind, (Matthew 15:14), serpents and a brood of vipers. (Matthew 23:31-33), and white-washed tombs who were pretty on the outside but full of dead people’s bones on the inside. He told them in Matthew 23:15, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte [i.e. conversion], and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves.”

Why such strong words? Because their “Do More” strategy actually made them judgmental, legalistic, and spiritually oppressive. It didn’t make them stronger, but weaker.

If we want to get spiritually stronger in 2020 then we need to learn the how, not only the what.

We don’t only need to know about different spiritual exercises but also some guidance on how best to do those exercises – to work on proper technique.

In John 14:15 Jesus says, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”

Our obedience reveals our love. But, Jesus is also telling us how to be obedient – that keeping his commands should flow from our love for him.In other words, if you want to strengthen your faith in God, you must first strengthen your love for God.

Again, think of the gym.Generally speaking, those who stay in shape all year are those who love to exercise. That doesn’t mean they don’t have days they don’t want to do it, but for the most part, working out has moved from duty to delight. It’s the masses, who feel like working out is either a chore or bore, that drop out by February. But if you love something, you don’t do it because you have to, but because you want to. And, because of that, you will keep doing it.

That’s why, if you want to get spiritually stronger in 2020, the first thing you need to examine isn’t your schedule, or how much you know about the Bible. It’s your heart.

Look at the size of your love for God. If our love is small and we implement a “Do More” plan of spirituality, one of two things usually happens. We’ll either get really proud and self-righteous about all the stuff we’re doing (like the Pharisees), or we’ll eventually quit doing anything spiritual because we’re not as fired up as we used to be. Either way leaves us weaker.

It’s why churches, like fitness centers, have big attendance in January and shrinking numbers in the months that follow.

Our hearts need something that can start, sustain, and grow our love for God. We need something that overwhelms our affections, stirs us in our depths, and moves us like nothing else. And God gives us exactly that. What is it?

It’s the gospel of grace!

It’s the good news that God sent Jesus to do for us what we cannot do. By his death at the cross and resurrection from the grave, we can be loved, forgiven, adopted, and secured in Christ.

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)

When we intentionally focus our hearts and minds upon the grace of God, the Spirit will grow our affection for God.

But how?

This is the exercise. To get stronger, you have to go to the gym. At the spiritual gym we read the Bible, pray, attend services, join a small group, and serve our community, but not from the attitude of doing more, but rather with a heart that aches with love for God and the incredible gift of grace that he has freely given.  This is the proper technique to keep us from tearing or deforming our spiritual muscles with the wrong approach.

When you continuously orient your heart around the grace of God in the gospel, the more you’ll grow in love for God, the more you’ll want to obey God, the more you’ll want to grow in God, and the more strength you’ll see in yourself – all because your effort isn’t originating from duty, but delight. You are living out the truth of Nehemiah 8:10, “…the joy of the LORD is your strength.”

When your happiness is found in Christ your holiness is sure to follow.

“For it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace…” (Hebrews 13:9b)

May 2020 be a year where we do the right things in the right ways and move our duties into delights; where we grow in our love and affection for God, and we grow stronger as a result.

It’s time to hit the gym!


Unwrapping the Gift of Christmas

Finding the perfect gift for someone in your life takes time, energy, and creativity.

It can be stressful.

A recent survey found that 37 percent of people say shopping for the right gift is the most stressful part of the holiday season.

I miss the early days of parenting when finding the right gift was easy. It didn’t matter what we picked out. My kids were more excited about all the wrapping paper and the empty boxes piled up around the living room on Christmas morning than the gifts themselves. (Confession: Sometimes, if the boxes ended up being the big hit, I would quietly return any unnoticed gifts to the store the following week.)

But those days are over.

Now, they’re older and the allure of empty boxes doesn’t have the same effect. Unfortunately for my bank account, they actually want the gifts inside. I guess growing up does that to a kid.

So now that they can appreciate a good gift, we try to find something they’ll truly love. But there is something in it for the gift-giver as well. Watching someone you love tear open a gift you specifically chose for them is thrilling.

In fact, if the box turned out to be a bigger hit than the contents, you would not only be offended, but also might wonder how the recipient was so enamored with the flash of the packaging that they missed the beauty of the gift itself.

Here’s the truth: this isn’t just a thing young kids do. As recipients of the greatest Christmas gift of all, we often find ourselves focusing on all the flash of the packaging instead of the gift within the Christmas season.

The birth of Jesus gets packaged up in traditions, parties, gadgets, trimmed in lights and busyness, and gets a big bow of delicious food laid on top. There is so much going on in this season that it’s easy to miss it. And frankly, I enjoy a lot of the packaging. Christmas is one of my favorite times of the year.

It’s fun and flashy, and it’s okay to enjoy it. But don’t miss the real gift in the midst of it all. Joyfully engage in all the stuff that comes along with Christmas, but let it only serve to enhance your focus on the most important gift of all.

Colossians 1:15-20 isn’t a typical Christmas passage because it doesn’t talk about baby Jesus in the manger. But, it is a passage that unwraps for us who this baby is and what he came to do—the real gift of Christmas.

15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.

— Colossians 1:15-20

There is no greater Christmas gift than Jesus – Immanuel, God with us – who put on human flesh, lived a sinless life, and died on the cross to reconcile to himself all things. Don’t miss it. This is the meaning of everything we celebrate at Christmas. It’s the gift that I hope enamors my kids most of all. All the flash and fun are meant to highlight and enhance the beauty of the real gift of Christmas—that by faith in Jesus, he has made peace by the blood of his cross.

God, the giver of this precious, perfect gift, is honored when we receive and worship Jesus at Christmas. It brings him glory when all the fun traditions, parties, gadgets, lights, busyness, and food that come with this season serve to point in celebration to him, and what truly lights up the eyes of his children is the relationship that we have with Christ Jesus our Savior.


Praying For Global Missions


Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word… — Colossians 4:2–3a (ESV)

Open doors can’t be taken for granted. Many missionaries work in countries that are difficult to access or in areas that are resistant to the gospel. But open doors include more than just access to nations and people groups. Individuals’ hearts also need to be open and receptive to God’s truth.

   Pray …

  • That God will open doors of ministry, blessing partnerships and friendships.
  • That those who serve will be led by the Holy Spirit and recognize open-door opportunities.
  • That God will lead his people past barriers to hearts ready to receive his Word.


[Pray] also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel… — Ephesians 6:19 (ESV)

Missionaries are regular people who fear pain and rejection as much as anyone else. When faced with opposition, they need God’s strength to help them stand firm.

   Pray …

  • That the Holy Spirit will provide missionaries with words that communicate effectively in other cultures and languages.
  • That they will have boldness to overcome the fear of embarrassment or failure.
  • Against evil forces that would seek to hinder the spread of the gospel.


Finally, brothers, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may speed ahead and be honored, as happened among you… — 2 Thessalonians 3:1 (ESV)

Obstacles must be removed to allow God’s Word to spread rapidly and freely, and missionaries need the strength to continue on in the face of opposition or difficulties. Just as Aaron and Hur supported Moses’ arms in the battle against the Amalekites (Exodus 17:12), you can strengthen the arms of missionaries by supporting them through your prayers.

   Pray …

  • For strength and stamina as missionaries encounter antagonistic spiritual forces (Ephesians 6:10–18).
  • That people will resist Satan’s plans to obstruct the spread of the gospel (James 4:7).
  • That God’s Word will indeed spread rapidly and be honored wherever it goes.


[Pray] that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men. For not all have faith. — 2 Thessalonians 3:2 (ESV)

In some countries, missionaries may be exposed to the possibility of danger and personal harm. Opposition to the gospel may include hatred and violence.

   Pray …

  • That God will keep missionaries safe.
  • That God will change the hearts of those who are resistant to his Word.

*This excerpt from

Additional Resources:

Go Global – Clear Creek Community Church

The Unforgivable Sin

Are there things we can do that God can’t forgive? Is there an “unforgivable” sin? What does it mean to blaspheme the Spirit?

These questions usually arise after reading Matthew 12:22-32,

Then a demon-oppressed man who was blind and mute was brought to [Jesus], and he healed him, so that the man spoke and saw. And all the people were amazed, and said, “Can this be the Son of David?” But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, “It is only by Beelzebul, the prince of demons, that this man casts out demons.” Knowing their thoughts, he said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand. And if Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand? And if I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. Or how can someone enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man? Then indeed he may plunder his house. Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters. Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.”

The narrative here is pretty straight forward. Jesus healed a demonically-oppressed man and the religious leaders accused Christ of accomplishing the feat by the power of Satan (referred to here as Beelzebul). Jesus highlighted the ridiculousness of their accusation by asking why the Satan would want to thwart his own agenda. The reality was, in expelling the forces of darkness, Jesus demonstrated that he was establishing the kingdom of God. In short, Jesus was clearly the Messiah sent from God the Father. Christ’s entire earthly ministry up to that point – work the religious leaders witnessed with their own eyes – undoubtedly pointed to that truth.

So, it was in that context, in the middle of those undeniable demonstrations, when Jesus said, “Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come,” (Matthew 12:31-32).

It appears Jesus was saying that the Pharisees were blaspheming the Holy Spirit by rejecting the Spirit’s testifying work about who Christ is.[2]Even worse, not only did these religious leaders reject the Spirit’s work, but attributed it to Satan himself. It was this specific blasphemy from which Jesus said there is no return. 

This should make some sense if you consider the greater context of the passage. When the Pharisees said Jesus was from Satan, they were rejecting the only path God offers humanity for forgiveness. Therefore, denying what is really the work of the Spirit in Jesus and attributing that power, instead, to Satan, is ultimately a product of unbelief. Simply put, the Pharisees’ stubborn rejection of Jesus and the Spirit’s testimony of him was a stubborn rejection of the gospel. This is what is meant by the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. As biblical scholar Graham Cole notes, “The blasphemy against the Spirit is that self-righteous persistent refusal to embrace the offer of salvation in Christ.”[3]

This is invaluable for believers to understand. Unfortunately, we hear Christians (and sometimes Christian leaders) warn the church about the “unforgiveable sin” as if there was something we could do as believers that would remove us from the family of God. Consequently, some get nervous wondering what sins might expel them from the kingdom. However, this is where we should remind ourselves of the context of this passage. Theologian and scholar R.T. France said, 

It is [the Pharisees’] diabolical opposition to the good purpose of God which is ultimately unforgiveable. The point needs to be emphasized, since the language of this saying has been incautiously applied to real or supposed offenses ‘against the Holy Spirit’ which have nothing to do with the blasphemy of these Pharisees, and serious pastoral damage has been caused. This saying is a wake-up call to the arrogant, not a bogey to frighten those of tender conscience.[4]

Frankly, some scholars wonder if this text can be applied today at all, thinking it unique to the Pharisees, if not limited to the earthly ministry of Jesus.[5]Others believe the specific blasphemy of the Spirit isn’t so much a doubting of the truth about Jesus, but a rejection of the Spirit’s clear and direct testimony the individual knows as true in head and heart but rejects it still.[6]Thus, while there may be differences in the particulars concerning blaspheming the Spirit, the general idea is that this sin is the unbelief and rejection of who Jesus truly is and what he does. 

Therefore, when others ask, “Can a Christian commit the unpardonable sin?” the clearest answer is “no,” because to be a follower of Jesus is to believe and accept the testimony of the Spirit – that Christ is Lord – which is the exact opposite of the Pharisees’ response. Thus, the sin of blaspheming the Spirit is one which a believer cannot commit. 

It is true that Christians should live lives that seek to flee from sin, yet when we do disobey, we ought not to be so distraught as to think we’ve committed an unforgiveable sin. The gospel reminds us that Christ’s cross has taken the penalty of all our sins. 2 Corinthians 5:17-21 should encourage us at this point: 

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation;that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Christ is our righteousness. His redeeming work at the cross has forgiven us all our sins, where our trespasses aren’t counted against us anymore. For those who believe, there is no sin we can commit that is unpardonable. The gospel is bigger than the failure of all our sins. This is where our confidence should lie; not in us, but in Christ for us!

Theologian Louis Berkhof offers a pastoral thought for Christians who fear if they have committed the sin of blaspheming the Spirit, writing, “In view of the fact that this sin is not followed by repentance, we may be reasonably sure that they who fear that they have committed it and worry about this, and who desire prayers of others for them, have not committed it.”[7]Cole offers counsel as well, saying, “Any Christian disturbed as to whether they have committed this sin needs to be encouraged to think that they have not. Rather, such warnings, I suggest, are used by the Spirit to recover the drifting Christian and to encourage perseverance in the faith. The tender Christian conscience is a sign of hope, not evidence for despair.”[8]

Follower of Jesus, rest well in Christ. He has obeyed for you. You are clothed in his righteousness. Your sins are forgiven. This is the good news of the gospel! Know that you can never blaspheme the Spirit and commit the unforgiveable sin. On the contrary, you live by the Spirit, are gifted by the Spirit, sealed by the Spirit, and may you be continuously filled with the Spirit. 

[1]See also Mark 3:29-30; cf. Luke 12:10

[2]It could be possible that Jesus, seeing the trajectory the Pharisees are taking with him, is warning them not to commit this blasphemy.

[3]Cole, Engaging with the Holy Spirit, Crossway, 2007, 29.

[4]France, The Gospel of Matthew, NICNT, Eerdmans, 2007, 482-483.

[5]e.g., Chrysotom and Jerome.

[6]cf., Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, Vol. 3, Baker, 2006, 156. See Louis Berkhof with almost exact statement in his Systematic Theology, Eerdmans, 1938, 253.

[7]Berkhof, 254.

[8]Cole, 34.

Gifts of the Spirit

We believe the lists of spiritual gifts in the Bible aren’t meant to be exhaustive. However, we have compiled a list of spiritual gifts that are seen in operation at Clear Creek Community Church. 

Administration – working with and through followers toward achieving Biblical goals and organizational objectives.

Church-planting (Also named Missionary) – the Spirit-given ability to minister cross-culturally with the goal of planting churches.

Discernment – to distinguish between truth and error, good and evil.

Evangelism – to act as a productive instrument of God in people coming to faith in Christ.

Exhortation – to come along side another in need of encouragement, challenge or earnest advice.

Faith – to trust in the power and presence of God and to act on this trust.

Giving – to freely give for the Lord’s work.

Hospitality – to provide an open home to those in need of food, lodging and fellowship, and a refuge to a bruised individual.

Knowledge – to master God’s revealed truth in Scripture.

Leadership – to set goals and to motivate others towards their accomplishment in the Body of Christ.

Mercy – to aid the suffering or undeserving and to spare them from punishment or penalties justly deserved.

Prophecy – to report an insight brought to the mind by the Holy Spirit to assist in ministering to others.

Pastoring (Also named Shepherding) – to effectively guide, feed, and protect a flock of followers in Christ.

Teaching (Also named Preaching) to cause the authoritative word of God to shine by giving detailed understanding and application of Biblical truth.

Helps – to provide timely assistance that relieves other Christian workers for direct spiritual ministry.

Wisdom – to apply knowledge effectively.

Spiritual Gifts Online Assessments:

If you want to learn more about Spiritual Gifts, we recommend Discover Your God-Given Gifts by Don and Katie Fortune.



Does God Care About My Finances?

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:19-21)

God loves us unconditionally. He gave his son to pay the price for our sin – a price that you and I could not, and cannot ever, pay. God gave us this gift so that we would have an opportunity to give him our heart. Though he has equipped us each with our own unique set of abilities, personality, and passions, God is primarily concerned with our hearts. So, when Jesus said, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also,”he was emphasizing the importance of our heart’s allegiance.

Jesus goes on to say, “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money” (Matthew 6:24). He warns us that we must be careful not to put our trust in money. We are inclined to tie up our hope, identity, and security in money since it can give us a sense of personal control. God does care about our finances, but more, he cares about our heart. He cares about the motives behind the way we use our resources. Therefore, there are some fundamental elements he lays out that show us how to handle our money or finances in a godly way.

First of all, we must acknowledge that God is the owner and provider of all things. King David says it this way in 1 Chronicles 29:11, “Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours. Yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and you are exalted as head above all.”

So, what does the owner or provider of all things tell us to do with the money he has entrusted to us?  He says:

  • GIVE. God doesn’t want the leftovers, he wants the first and best. God wants to be a priority in our lives, and because our hearts are where our treasure is, there is a pretty simple way for him to see if he has your heart. God demands to be first. Make giving the first priority in your budget. (See: Proverbs 3:9-10, Exodus 20:2-3, Matthew 6:24)
  • SAVE. God wants us to save for the future. He makes it clear that saving money is a wise decision. And he wants us to think strategically about every area of our life, in order to glorify him with everything we have. Make saving the second priority in your budget. (See: Proverbs 21:20, Proverbs 21:5, Luke 14:28)
  • LIVE ON THE REST. After we have given back to God a portion of the money he has provided for us and saved some of that money for the future, we should live on the remainder. That means we need to manage our spending, our commitments, our desires in a way that we can pay for them with the money we have left each month. 

But, be warned, when we don’t live on the rest, we go into debt. Remember, God wants our hearts. He tells us that we cannot serve God and money. Regarding debt specifically, God says that being in debt is like being a slave (Proverbs 22:7). Avoid debt at all costs. If you find yourself in debt, develop a plan to get out of debt as soon as you can.

When we choose to honor God with our money, we become willing partners with him, storing up eternal treasure, and entrusting him with our lives, our futures, and our hearts.

Commit to develop a budget that allows you give, save, and live on the rest. Ask someone to hold you accountable to living on that budget and thank God every day for providing what you need.

The Parent as Primary Disciplemaker

At every park and backyard in America, parents mill around jungle gyms, monkey bars, and swing sets in order to keep an eye on their kids at the playground. But, invariably, accidents happen and kids get hurt. Maybe one skins his knee on the ground, bumps heads with another child, or has some other misadventure. What is the first thing he does? Instinctively he looks to a parent to see what reaction the mishap provokes. And, inevitably, there is the parent who looks horrified and shouts in a shrill voice, “Oh my goodness, sweetie, what have you done?” To which the child, now assuming he has five minutes left to live, begins screaming at the top of his lungs.

But, there are also the parents who, when given the same scenario at the playground, immediately, confidently, and calmly say to their children, “You are okay. Shake it off and keep playing.” What happens next? My sense is you already know the answer. You likely witnessed it time and again at the playground yourself. Most kids, as a result of a parent’s confident and assuring counsel, move beyond the irritation and discomfort of a minor injury and continue their fun day at the playground without shedding a tear.

Ponder that scenario for a moment. How great an influence must a parent possess that a child will emotionally interpret what has happened to him or her merely by gazing at a parent’s response? Parents are their children’s biggest influences. Often our work ethic, emotional patterns, or even the way we talk are just a sampling of the innumerable attitudes and actions we display in adulthood that echo our parents’ example we witnessed in our childhood.

The reason this influence is so pronounced is not only because of the emotional attachment between kids and their parents, but also the sheer amount of time children spend with their families. The late seminary professor, Howard Hendricks, says that children in Christian families spend about one percent of time at church, 16 percent at school, and 83 percent at home. Even assuming these percentages shift as children move into adolescence, the message is clear: parents are the most influential human beings in the lives of their kids.

A parent’s influence not only helps kids with bumps and bruises, but, more importantly, in leading their spiritual development. Indeed, the home is the discipleship strategy God ordained, and why, from the very beginning, fathers and mothers are central to the spiritual formation of their children. Contrary to what some may assume, when it comes to role and responsibility of imparting the gospel to our children’s hearts, minds, and lives, Scripture focuses the spotlight, not on the church and its programs, but squarely upon parents and the home.

One of the foundational passages for this truth is found in Deuteronomy 6:4-7,

Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.

Did you see the strategy? According to this passage, Hebrew fathers and mothers are indisputably their children’s primary disciple makers. They are to teach [these truths about God] diligently to [their] children, and shall talk of them when [they] sit in your house, and when [they] walk by the way, and when [they] lie down, and when [they] rise.

This home-centered strategy for discipleship continues in the New Covenant with the church. God’s plan for children’s spiritual formation continues in (not deviates from) the original discipleship path established in the Old Covenant. For example, Ephesians 6:4 reads, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” When looking at the entire span of biblical revelation, the apostle Paul affirms the continuity of the parent as primary disciple maker in the days where the church has now become the people of God (cf., Heb. 12:9, 2 Tim. 1:5).

It is also worth noting that believers during both covenants had either priests, prophets, pastors, or someone whose primary designation within the community of faith involved spiritual guidance and teaching the Scripture. Yet, it is striking to see that even with these necessary, and God-ordained, individuals helping shape the spiritual formation of the people, the burden for a child’s discipleship remained primarily upon the parents. This only serves to highlight the truth that God’s plan has always been, and will always be, parents acting as the primary disciplers of their children.

This foundational biblical truth should also resonate with our experience, not only as parents, but as those who have been parented. Our personal patterns and habits that echo our parents’ influence on us merely confirm why there is no one better to impart to a child a love for Jesus. It is also why the parent as primary disciple maker is one conviction we must firmly hold. Unfortunately, many parents often leave the responsibility for their children’s spiritual growth with the church staff who lead children’s ministries on any given Sunday.

At first blush this church-only strategy seems natural because, like a teacher for educational development or a coach for athletic development, specialists often play a central role in the growth of our children. Therefore, it would seem the obvious strategy for our child’s spiritual growth would fall in bulk upon the pastor’s shoulders and the ministries of the local church. But we have clearly seen in Scripture that both Old and New Testaments testify this is not the case. The parent operates as their child’s first pastor, minister, and teacher. This does not mean our children should refrain from involving themselves with age-graded ministries of a local church. Far from it! However, it does mean those ministries are not a replacement for the parents’ critical position as primary disciple maker.

If this was the type of legacy you personally received as a child, make a break as a parent. If this is the legacy you are presently giving your kids, repent and give them something worth passing down. Remind yourself that, for better or worse, you are your kids’ primary children’s minister and their foremost student pastor. If that feels overwhelming, then welcome to the club. I have been in ministry for three decades, hold a couple seminary degrees, teach the Bible on a regular basis, and still feel overwhelmed as I look into the eyes of my three sons and wonder what their future holds. But being overwhelmed does not mean parents get a free pass from the Bible’s calling on us to disciple our children. Be encouraged! If God calls you to this role, it means you really can do it.

So, give it a try.

Let the church come along side you. And watch what God can do in you and your kids for his glory and your good!