Wednesdays at Home: 8/5/20

This is our mid-week opportunity to stay connected online with our pastors to receive mid-week scriptural encouragement, prayer, and updates on how we are responding to the COVID-19 Pandemic.

To find out more information about our church, go to www.clearcreek.org.

Follow us on social media:
Facebook – www.facebook.com/clearcreek.org
Instagram – www.instagram.com/clearcreekcommunitychurch
Twitter – www.twitter.com/_cccc

Pride and Unity

With four young children at home, I am constantly mediating conflicts. Inevitably, when someone comes to me, it is everyone’s fault except their own.

“That is mine!”

“It was his fault!”

“But what about me?”

Sometimes one of them actually has been wronged, but deeper concern is always the attitude of their hearts. Their insistence on their own goodness, their certainty that they are right, or their interest in pleasing only themselves prevents them from moving toward each other with love.

There will always be conflict in our lives, but the Bible consistently shows us that it is possible to have conversation without sin — to disagree without division. Right now we are facing unexpected change, difficult choices, and conflicting narratives.

Should we wear masks or not?

What should school look like in the fall?

How can we move forward as a country?

As a church?

These questions are important and ongoing conversations are required. Everyone is invested and most people have opinions, but passionate beliefs aren’t the true creator of division.

Instead, the deadly poison of pride is what threatens our unity as believers. Pride makes everything about me. I become the most important person in the room, losing sight of who I am in relation to both God and others. In our pride, we consider ourselves more important than others and refuse to acknowledge our shortcomings, which leads to mistrust and separation. In our certainty that our conclusions are best, we place our opinions, rights, and affiliations ahead of our love and unity as disciples of Jesus.

For pride is spiritual cancer: it eats up the very possibility of love, or contentment, or even common sense.

– C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

In the final moments before his arrest and crucifixion, Jesus prayed for himself, his disciples, and then for “those who will believe,” which includes all of us who have been a part of the church throughout history. This prayer, for future believers, is centered upon unity with God and each other.

“The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.”

– John 17:22-23

Our unity has a purpose. Jesus prays that we would be one so that the world will believe that the Father sent Jesus and loves them even as he loves his Son — a declaration to the world of the truth of the gospel. Our unity can only be found in Christ, and then our unity leads others to Christ.

Jesus, in whom and through whom all things were created, humbled himself even unto death. His humility overcame the pride of Adam and allows us to be united to God.

Pride always leads to separation, but humility leads to unity.

In fact, the first step in coming to faith is repentance, requiring a rejection of pride and a posture of humility. In order to be reconciled to God, we have to admit that we cannot save ourselves — that we are sinners who disobey God and hurt the people around us. When we admit our faults and lay them at the feet of Christ, we completely rely on the grace of God. This humility leads to unity with God, unity with others, and is an invitation to others to embrace the love of Christ.

So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or conceit, but, in humility count others more significant than yourselves.

– Philippians 2:1-3

My children will continue to have conflicts.

The church is no different.

There will always be conflicting opinions, priorities, and passions, but these differences don’t have to divide us.

Loving each other is more important than winning any argument. Our identity in Christ trumps every other issue we face as a church family. We belong to Christ. As his people, we should emulate his example by becoming tenderhearted, living with humility, and valuing others above ourselves. This will lead to love and unity instead of pride and dissension.

As the family of God, but still a group of human beings, we will inevitably have disagreements. But if we commit to an attitude of humility, we can remain united together in Christ.


 

049: Faith and Education

On this episode, Rachel Chester talks with principal Matthew Neighbors and teacher Dalena Ryskoski about how their faith affects their work in education. Whether it is during the chaos of a pandemic or within the everyday responsibilities of public education, Matthew and Dalena share how they draw strength from Christ and love their neighbors in schools.

 

ALONE with God

Experiencing the joy and fellowship of community has never been more complicated. Social distancing, fourteen-day quarantines, and contactless transactions were not part of our common vernacular more than a few months ago. We ache to be together with friends and family, and the fatigue of isolationism wears down our personal practices of vigilance. Many feel isolated despite having more tools to connect with others than at any other time in the history of the world.

Christians point to the inherent community of God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—when describing our innate need for connection with others. God himself declared, “It is not good that the man should be alone” (Gen 2:18). Solomon, the famously wise king, wrote that “Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgement” (Proverbs 18:1). The presence of God and others is vital for our spiritual health.

We need each other, but we also need alone time.

In fact, Jesus was known to retreat from the crowds (Matthew 14:1, Luke 4:42), and he ordered his disciples to rest (Mark 6:31). However, a closer look at Jesus’ retreats shows a powerful pattern: Jesus left the crowds to be alone with God. He withdrew to mountains and desolate places to pray (Matthew 14:23; Luke 5:16, 6:12). When it was still dark, and during the night of his arrest, Jesus departed from his friends to pray (Mark 1:35, Luke 22:41). Not only did Jesus model “alone time with God” for his followers, he also taught them explicitly: “When you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret” (Matthew 6:6). The Psalms also encourage time away from activity and with God—time to meditate, reflect, and refocus.

Be still and know that I am God – Psalm 46:10

God’s abiding presence with us is a source of comfort and strength. He promises to never leave nor forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:6, Hebrews 13:5) and that nothing can separate us from his love (Romans 8:38-39). Therefore, trying to escape for some “alone time” apart from God is futile.

David Mathis, pastor of Cities Church in Minneapolis, says, “Unless you have his word before you to read, or memorized and hidden in your heart, you are not alone with God. You are just alone with yourself. Christ communicates himself to us through his word made alive and real to our souls by his Spirit.”

Covid-19 may be an opportunity to be away from others, or it may force you to interact more often with a smaller group of people. Time spent away from work, friends, and even family can be beneficial. It gives us a chance to recharge and refocus. More importantly, time away from others can help us realize that God is near. Remembering the priority of prayer and God’s word when we withdraw from others can turn times that feel alone or isolated into times of renewal and intimacy. The next time you choose some “me time,” try to remember that it is best spent as “we” time with God.

Seek the LORD and his strength; seek his presence continually! – I Chronicles 16:11

Wednesdays at Home: 7/22/20

This is our mid-week opportunity to stay connected online with our pastors to receive mid-week scriptural encouragement, prayer, and updates on how we are responding to the COVID-19 Pandemic.

To find out more information about our church, go to www.clearcreek.org.

Follow us on social media:
Facebook – www.facebook.com/clearcreek.org
Instagram – www.instagram.com/clearcreekcommunitychurch
Twitter – www.twitter.com/_cccc

A Pandemic of Fear

There are extreme emotions everywhere we look right now — anger, distrust, contempt, frustration, and so much fear. COVID-19 outbreaks, financial stress, uncertainty with school, murder hornets (come on now!), all dominate our thoughts.

There is no question that fear is as contagious as any virus, and this is all on top of the myriad of ways we face fear in normal, non-pandemic life circumstances.

Fear is not sin. Like all emotions, fear is a God-given response to the reality of our world. However, we can — and often do — sin in our fear when we lash out at those around us, numb ourselves with alcohol, drugs, or Netflix, or hide from life and people. When we place our trust in something other than God, our fear can master us, and then fear turns from a real (and helpful) emotion, to a source of pain, destruction, and isolation.

So what can we do? How can we, as Christians, approach and respond to fear in a way that honors God and edifies our community?

 

Search Your Heart

So often we experience anger, anxiety, contempt, and other powerful emotions that give us a sense of control over what’s really going on – the fact that we’re afraid. Doing this allows us to focus, often in a negative way, on other people and situations instead of what is happening in our own hearts.

This is when fear moves from a common and natural response, to something that cannot be controlled and can cause devastating harm. Instead of denying our fear, we must learn how to recognize the reality of fear, so that we can bring it into the light and respond in a way that honors God.

Recently my child was diagnosed with COVID-19. My initial response was anger at the place where she was exposed, frustration concerning how on earth we would manage our family of six for the next few weeks, and contempt toward the way others were responding to our situation.

But, what I finally had to acknowledge was a deep fear of what was happening – that my child was sick, that we all might be sick, and mostly, that someone else I love might have contracted COVID-19 and be put in serious harm because of us.

And there was nothing I could do about any of it.

I had to stop, breathe, and ask myself What is really going on? What am I reacting to and why? And then, I had to be willing to honestly discover the answer.

 

Allow Others In 

The simple act of speaking your fears out loud to another person has a transformative effect.

When I call my friend whom I can trust with my fears, a weight is lifted. Even if the threat isn’t gone, and even if I still am afraid, I am no longer carrying my burden alone and so the power of fear dissipates.

Reaching out to others with our fear takes courage. It requires vulnerability to admit that we are afraid, especially if we are the type of person who feels the need to be strong and in control, or maybe has been taught that fear equals weakness. But the truth is we are weak and we live in a broken world that we can’t thrive in alone. God created us to live in intimate relationship with each other. Neurobiologists calls this the “neurobiology of we,” describing the brain as a social organism. 1

We need each other to walk through valleys of fear.

When I finally acknowledged all of the fear in my heart, I immediately contacted my best friend. Describing all of the emotions I was feeling and admitting to the fear building in my heart left me feeling exposed, but immediately lighter. She was able to speak truth into my life, and she took on some the burden of my fear simply by loving me in that moment.

We need each other, always, but especially in difficult moments. If you can find the courage to truly be honest in community, facing fear can transform isolation into a pathway to intimacy and love.

 

Trust God 

Does trusting God mean that you will never experience fear again?

No.

There are real dangers in this world, and emotions are a gift, not a curse. Instead, trusting God means that we have learned to take our fear to him — that we can trust God with our fear and everything that causes fear. Only when we cry out to God in these times can we find peace in his presence and learn to trust in his promises — promises that really are greater than any circumstance we will ever face.

In the difficult moments in life, we can choose to run away, or we can choose to run toward our Father.

Choosing to step into God’s presence, be filled by his Spirit, and pray to experience the peace of Christ has allowed me to not just make it through fear, but to find rest and purpose in the midst of it.

He is good, he is faithful, and he is present — and truly, that changes everything.

Run towards God with purposeful time in his word to remind yourself of his promises, and purposeful time in prayer to find rest in his presence.

God is for you, he is with you, and he is faithful to rescue you.

 

There is no reason to be ashamed of fear. To experience fear does not mean you are failing in your faith — don’t let anyone convince you otherwise. But fear can twist our hearts and minds in ways that hurt ourselves and others, and can lead us away from God instead of into his arms.

Like anything else, how we respond to fear is far more important than whether or not we experience it. Fear can rule us, or we can learn to respond to it well and lean on the one who rules over all.

 

1 – Siegel, Dan. Mindsight: The New Science of Personal Transformation, 211.

Wednesdays at Home: 7/8/20

This is our mid-week opportunity to stay connected online with our pastors to receive mid-week scriptural encouragement, prayer, and updates on how we are responding to the COVID-19 Pandemic.

To find out more information about our church, go to www.clearcreek.org.

Follow us on social media:
Facebook – www.facebook.com/clearcreek.org
Instagram – www.instagram.com/clearcreekcommunitychurch
Twitter – www.twitter.com/_cccc

Wednesdays at Home: 7/1/20

This is our mid-week opportunity to stay connected online with our pastors to receive mid-week scriptural encouragement, prayer, and updates on how we are responding to the COVID-19 Pandemic.

To find out more information about our church, go to www.clearcreek.org.

Follow us on social media:
Facebook – www.facebook.com/clearcreek.org
Instagram – www.instagram.com/clearcreekcommunitychurch
Twitter – www.twitter.com/_cccc

Wednesdays at Home: 6/24/20

This is our mid-week opportunity to stay connected online with our pastors to receive mid-week scriptural encouragement, prayer, and updates on how we are responding to the COVID-19 Pandemic.

To find out more information about our church, go to www.clearcreek.org.

Follow us on social media:
Facebook – www.facebook.com/clearcreek.org
Instagram – www.instagram.com/clearcreekcommunitychurch
Twitter – www.twitter.com/_cccc

Carried by God

When my daughter was young, I would often carry her in a baby wrap, snug and warm and safe. She would calm almost instantly as I pressed her close to myself. My slow and steady movements would lull her to sleep with the assurance that she was safe in my embrace.

But no child remains an infant forever. My oldest daughter is too grown up to let me carry her any longer, wanting instead to prove her capability. She insists on independence, often telling me, “I know what I’m doing, Mom.”

As you might guess, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. I also often resist the help of others. I like to be in control, and being helped often means losing some control. This attitude especially emerges in times of stress and uncertainty.

This season of COVID-19 is rife with fear, worry, and anxiety for many of us. Grappling for control over each new situation, I have caught myself slipping into old mindsets that take me away from reliance on the Lord. Our resistance to receive help may seem harmless, initially, but it always attacks our relationships with God first. When we rely on ourselves too much, we fail to rely on him. If this continues, we miss out on the source of peace and comfort we need most in times of uncertainty.

Most children eventually outgrow their need for their earthly parents, but we never outgrow our need for God.

Throughout the Old Testament, we see God shepherding the nation of Israel, his chosen people. As the Israelites prepared to enter the Promised Land after wandering the desert for forty years, Moses recounted the mistakes of the previous generation. God had brought them to the land he had provided, commanding them to take it without fear of the enemies who lived there.

Then I said to you, ‘Do not be in dread or afraid of them. The Lord your God who goes before you will himself fight for you, just as he did for you in Egypt before your eyes, and in the wilderness, where you have seen how the Lord your God carried you, as a man carries his son, all the way that you went until you came to this place.’

Deuteronomy 1:29-31

The Israelites had seen the mighty works of God: their deliverance from Pharaoh’s slavery, the parting of the Red Sea, and his provision of manna in the desert, among other things. Moses reminded them that God carried them all the way, providing every need while they walked through the unknown, as a good Father should. But despite all they had seen, their despair over their circumstances was greater than their faith in their Father’s care. Convinced that the difficulty was just too much, that generation missed out on entering the land God had promised them. And we are just as susceptible to reliance on ourselves.

Like an infant, I become restless in uncertainty. Eyes blinded by fear. Mind clouded by a lack of understanding. Hands clenched onto any control I can grasp. Convinced of my own competence and oblivious to my need for the Father who carries me.

We’re all walking through many unknowns right now. And though we may desire to trust God, we often resist his help and rely on our own competence. When we catch ourselves falling into that mindset, let’s turn back toward God.

Even in times of great difficulty, we can trust our Good Father.

He is always near, fighting for us in our most desperate situations and carrying us through seasons of fear and uncertainty. The Israelites lived with God’s presence among them yet did not truly see him for what he was. Because of Christ’s work on our behalf, we can walk in the light of his love, set free from sin’s power and relying on his rescue.

Let’s relinquish some of our self-reliance and control. Holding the circumstances of our lives with an open hand, instead of a tight grip, enables us to relax into God’s capable arms. And when we allow ourselves to be carried by God, our eyes will be opened to the work he is doing.

Exchange your self-reliance for faith in our ever-reliable God—the only one fully capable of handling our burdens. When we lean in, our good Father presses us closer to himself.

He will carry us all the way.