We’re Missing It

One Tuesday afternoon, when I had finished a long day of teaching, my daughter asked me to play Barbies with her. I responded with “I will be there in a few minutes!” And then proceeded to continue scrolling my Facebook feed. She yelled from the front room a few minutes later “Mom! You’re missing it!”

She was right. I was missing so much.

Psychologists tell us the primary source of love is attention and compassionate listening. There is something deeply moving when someone stops and looks you in the eyes – when they actually pay attention.

The little moments that feel ridiculously mundane are the moments that are the most impactful.

Our kids learn a lot about God in the simple daily rhythms of snuggling before bed and eating dinner as a family. They are learning that God is consistent and reliable.

Be Present   

Our kids look to us as their parents to be stewards of healthy habits. If we’re overusing technology, we are setting them up for the same struggle. A survey conducted in 2019 showed that adults spend an average of 50 days a year on smartphones.

The research being done about the effects of technology on our kids is staggering. It says that children ages eight-to-10 spend an average of six hours per day in front of a screen, and kids ages 11-to-14 spend an average of nine hours per day in front of a screen.

Childhood mental illnesses are at an all-time high.

We, as parents, are doing equal amounts of damage to our kids when all they see is the glow of the phone screen reflecting on the face of their mom.

We have to set healthy boundaries for ourselves and our children. Our family started using what we call the “be present box.” Our girls know they are able to respectfully ask us to put our screens into the “be present box” if they feel we are spending too much time on our phones.

Build Relationships

Our children will be under our roof for 18 years. There are 940 Saturdays in those 18 years.

If I’m not intentional with my time it just floats away. It disappears into wasted minutes on my phone, or mindlessly watching Stranger Things while working on my laptop.

What I do with my time is what I am doing with my life. I’m learning to exchange online distractions for real live interactions. My children shouldn’t have to compete with a screen for my attention.

Additionally, I see a direct correlation to my kids’ attitude with the amount of screen time they have. Our daughters will create the most amazing games, play dress up, and build friendships when the TV is off – a stark contrast to their mindless zombie stares and silence when the TV is on.

I pray daily that my kids will grow into a deep friendship with each other and with us. My job is to foster that friendship, and a simple first step is to limit the amount of time they have in front of a screen and encourage more face-to-face interactions.

Disciple Your Kids

When asked which is the greatest commandment, Jesus tells his listeners to “love the Lord,” referencing Deuteronomy 6. But, right next to this famous verse is another which admonishes parents to diligently teach their children the law of God.

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.

– Deuteronomy 6:4-7

We don’t control our sons’ and daughters’ faith journeys. But we absolutely have a role in them. We must disciple them face to face. We can’t leave it to children’s ministry volunteers once a week at church. It takes diligence and intention and it’s my God given role as their mother.

And I believe it starts with me putting down my phone and looking them in the eyes.

 

Here’s the thing, I want my kids to remember my eyes – my eyes watching them grow, my eyes reading with them, my eyes as I tell them I’m proud of them and that I love them, my eyes as I discipline them and disciple them, and my eyes looking towards Jesus.

I don’t want them to remember my eyes constantly occupied with a screen.

When I put down my phone, it’s easier to look up and live the life that’s right in front of me.

I don’t want to miss it.

 

Why Doesn’t God Answer My Prayers?

Have you ever reached out to God with a prayer, but God didn’t answer it and it leaves you asking the question “Why doesn’t God answer my prayers?”

To learn more about Clear Creek Community Church, visit clearcreek.org

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081: Eating, Body Image, and the Gospel

Our relationship with food is complicated. We love it, but it also causes so many problems. We are unhappy with our bodies, diet options abound, and many are struggling with eating disorders. Why is God’s good gift of food so fraught with anxiety and pain? How can we find peace with food and also walk alongside others who are struggling? Rachel sits down with Bekah Madrid, Susan Wesley, and Amy Carlson to discuss their journey with food and how they found peace and truth together.

Resources: 

Peace with Food

 

Care for the Immigrant

Immigration. It’s a word that will get your attention if mentioned at the dinner table, and probably, depending on your political convictions, will elicit some sort of response. Its complexity is something that might tempt us to think about this issue apart from our faith for the sake of keeping “peace” in our circles. In fact, only 12 percent of evangelicals would agree that their faith in Christ shapes their view of this particular topic, while the rest admit to not knowing how to reconcile the two.

But, this is the reality of our world:

  • Nationally, approximately 44.8 million immigrants are currently living in the U.S.
  • The state of Texas is ranked second in the U.S. in overall immigrant population and first in being the preferred settlement for refugees.
  • 70 percent of immigrants in Texas live in one of the four metro areas (Houston, Ft. Worth, Austin, and San Antonio).
  • One out of every four people in Harris county are foreign born.

Many of these families are fleeing abhorrent violence and poverty in their home countries and are leaving loved ones behind. This is why this issue cannot be an invisible topic within our church communities.

Because talking about immigration can immediately put us into defensive political stances, we sometimes overlook opportunities to boldly love our neighbors. There are wide-ranging opinions on immigration policies, but it is possible to hold to different politics and still love one another. And not only one another. As ambassadors of Jesus, it is especially important to also love those who are different and vulnerable.

We often tell our student small group leaders that our role in discipleship as we approach these topics is not to help students think politically, but to think about politics biblically. In order to find harmony we must be willing to step into some uncomfortable spaces. God’s word should give us unity, even when we disagree on much.

 

Dignity and Value of All People   

The Bible begins and consistently calls us to value all people because mankind is created in God’s image. While sin has defaced God’s image in people, it has not been destroyed. Because of this fact alone, every human being, saved or unsaved, must be valued and treated with inherent dignity. This is foundational to God’s consistent command throughout Scripture to care for the vulnerable.

As God’s redeemed people, we must always seek to bring love and service to all who bear his image: everyone.

 

Learning from Jesus  

Further, loving those who are foreign but within our reach, is not merely a current political issue, but an issue that Jesus spoke clearly about. In Luke 10, as a lawyer tries to sidestep Jesus’ command to love our neighbors, he tells the parable of the Good Samaritan.

In the story, a Jewish man finds himself wounded on the side of the road. Who comes to his rescue is not the religious respected figures, but an unlikely hero: a Samaritan – a foreigner. He shows extreme generosity in helping the wounded man and paying for his care.

This kind of illustration cut at the heart of the ethnic tensions and preferences of the Jewish audience because of their deep suspicion of the Samaritans. While we often lack in love for those who we think “least deserve it,” Jesus is the Samaritan in our own story. He finds us broken and dying and then pays the ultimate price for our redemption. He rescues his enemies.

This is what we are called to reflect as we love those around us.

 

Learning from Our Immigrant Neighbors 

A biblical reality that we often don’t consider is how the immigrant experience parallels our Christian identity. In fact, the Bible describes followers of Jesus as sojourners, exiles, strangers, and foreigners.

While Christ has redeemed us into his kingdom, it is yet to be fully established. Until his return we live as exiles in a world that is misaligned with our ultimate place of citizenship.

You might be surprised by how much you can learn from listening to immigrants talk about their suffering in a country that is not their home and their perseverance and trust in Jesus in a place that sometimes labels them as enemies.

 

The Bible isn’t silent about God’s heart for the immigrant. His love for the vulnerable is clear, and his followers’ love should be as well. We all desire to be a part of a country that has coherent borders and an effective immigration policy. We may not agree on what that looks like, but we all should agree on loving the vulnerable.

Love for our neighbor should be a direct result of God’s love for us. God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, outside the kingdom of God with no hope of acceptance, Christ died for us. We are now citizens of God’s kingdom, one of many nations, united under Christ and known by our love for one another.

God’s tangible mercies should always be on display through the church, especially when it is extended despite background, ethnicity, and nationality. Regardless of our political differences and policy opinions, we can all remain united by the grace of Jesus and our love for all people.

May we be a church that offers the world a glimpse of the fruit that Jesus bears as God unites all peoples to himself.

And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”

– Luke 10:25-28


 

 

080: Engaging Technology

Technology is everywhere. From the places we shop, the schools we attend, the jobs we work, and even the streets we travel, you can’t escape the reach of technology, which comes with both joy and sorrow. On this episode, Ryan Lehtinen talks with Nick Skytland, a technology professional, consultant, and elder at Clear Creek’s West Campus, about how followers of Jesus can engage technology in a way that honors God.

Resources: 

What Comes Next? By Nick Skytland & Ali Llewellyn

Faith & Technology Message Series

“We Need a Theology of Technology”

 

Serving in the Church: The Rachel Chester Story

“The thing is, even when volunteering doesn’t end up being the perfect fit, it is still a gift to serve Jesus and his people in any way. God is always, always, faithful to us when we walk through doors he opens.”

As told by Rachel Chester

Once upon a time I went to law school.

I had always known that this was the plan; this is what I was going to do. I really liked law school. I did well, and so I was recruited by some big law firms who offered some big salaries.

When I actually started practicing law, however, I realized that aptitude and vocation aren’t necessarily the same. I just didn’t feel like I was a part of something that matters. Eventually, I walked away from my legal job and decided to reevaluate my career path while my husband and I started our family.

A couple of years later, while staying home with my kids, I increasingly felt God was calling me into ministry. That felt strange to say, and sometimes still does. After all, what does that even mean? How did I know? Well, I didn’t have a lot of answers. All I knew was that the church, the body of Christ, and theology was all I thought about.

But, I am a woman, and honestly, I didn’t know what the possibilities were. I was not looking to become the next Beth Moore (as if I could), and outside of that, I didn’t know what it meant to be a woman and be in ministry.

So when I heard Bruce talking about developing a marriage and family ministry with counselors, I immediately thought, This! This is something I can do! This is a way to love and serve people and use the gifts God has given me for something that really matters.

I applied and began taking classes at Dallas Theological Seminary in the biblical counseling department. I loved every second of it. I loved learning more about theology and counseling, but the thought of actually getting my license and counseling clients all day began to make me nervous.

All the time I was surer of God’s call to be in ministry, but less sure of what exactly that was supposed to look like. The closer I got to finishing, the more frustrating this became. The truth was, I just wasn’t sure I would be good at counseling, despite my belief in the importance of Christian counseling and the insights the program was teaching me.

About a year ago, I asked one of our pastors to help me think through what ministry could look like for me. And, boy, did he! He made me list my gifts and strengths on his whiteboard and then sat down with me to discuss what this meant I should pursue. While we were talking, he described a position the church might need someone for eventually: a person who would manage content that the church was putting out. For instance, every article someone wrote for the church would go through this person. I honestly remember thinking, I hope he’s not looking at me right now because that seriously sounds like the worst. I don’t want to manage anything, but definitely not documents other people are putting together. Yuck, boring, and no. He moved on quickly and I forgot about it. It was a generous, intentional conversation and I was grateful for his time.

I thought that was that.

But it was just the beginning.

A couple of days later, I got an email from another one of our pastors saying he’d heard I might be interested in volunteering and that he had some ideas of how I could help.

So, I went in to meet with him, and he talked to me about this new ministry they were kicking off called Clear Creek Resources. Their hope was to have different types of resources available so that church at Clear Creek was more than just a conversation on Sunday; it would be a conversation that continued throughout the entire week and involved current events, deeper theological dives, marriage, family, devotionals – every aspect of our lives!

He said he needed help getting articles and podcasts going. It still seemed like a weird fit for me, more like organization (which I am terrible at), but, I said I would give it a try. I had decided a few years ago that when God opened a door, I would walk through it, regardless of whether I felt equipped for that particular door or not.

So, I did.

I did the best I could to generate ideas for podcasts and articles, to find people around the church who would lend their gifts, expertise, and stories for the benefit of the church, and to think of new ways to serve our church through this ministry. I wrote a few articles myself and was convinced to start hosting podcasts too, despite my hesitation.

It turns out, the door God opened was a really great fit. It was not easy immediately. It took patience and humility and second starts, but soon enough I realized that God had known where I was going even when I felt like I was walking blind.

So much of how God created me, the gifts he has given me, the experiences of my life, even my varied education, have equipped me for this particular ministry. Clear Creek Resources is everything I am passionate about: celebrating the beautiful diversity of Jesus’s church, collaboration and relationship between devoted believers, deep discipleship that affects every aspect of life, and compelling engagement with the world in the name of Jesus. I love that I get to work with so many people, I love encouraging others to use their gifts, and I love being a small part of something that builds the kingdom of Jesus.

I’m still learning. I’m still trying to find my way as I serve my family and our King. But serving in Clear Creek Resources is a great gift and I’m so glad I said “yes.” I am grateful to be part of this team, and even more, I am grateful for God’s abundant personal care and faithfulness in my life.

The thing is, even when volunteering doesn’t end up being the perfect fit, it is still a gift to serve Jesus and his people in any way. God is always, always, faithful to us when we walk through doors he opens.

I also serve in First Impressions – I have for many years now – and it still is not a perfect fit for me. I get nervous about meeting strangers, I’m not great at remembering names, and I’m pretty introverted. But, the people I serve with are great friends – family even – whom I treasure walking through life with. I love serving with them, and I also love that I get to see every person’s face who walks in the door to worship.

The fact that I’m not necessarily great at it?

Well, it’s just a reminder that God’s strength is made perfect in my weakness; that when I surrender to him and serve despite my shortcomings, he will use my meager offerings for his glory and the good of others, because of who he is, not because of who I am.

That’s what serving really is at the end of the day: an opportunity. An opportunity to play a small role in what he is doing; to surrender to him and then watch him work; where everything, our gifts and our weakness, are used as part of his great story.


God uses us all in different ways.

How can God use you to serve in the church?

Go to https://www.clearcreek.org/next-steps/serve/ to check out all of the serving opportunities.

You can also follow @clearcreekresources on Facebook and Instagram!

Immanuel: God With Us

The name Immanuel,¹ which means “God with us,” is found only three times in Scripture. More than a hymn sung at Christmas, its meaning is wrapped in the tension between fear and peace, between the tangible and eternal. After the fall of mankind in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 2:8), there was fear and shame. Until then, God’s presence had brought peace and safety. Through Isaiah, God prophesied a time when his presence would restore peace to his people.

An Inner Peace

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.

– Isaiah 7:14

The first time we read the word “Immanuel” in the Bible, the prophet Isaiah is speaking to the leader of Judah, King Ahaz. Israel, a combination of ten tribes, had allied with Syria to attack Judah, a nation of only two tribes. The enemies were real. They were nearby. They were invading Judah.

Isaiah and his son met Ahaz outside the palace to deliver the message that God would deliver Judah despite the odds. Isaiah promised a sign so that Ahaz would believe and would not follow through with his plan to forge an unholy allegiance. After the king refused, Isaiah responded with, “The Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.”

Even if Ahaz was struggling to trust God in a difficult and stressful moment, Isaiah reassured him that God planned to arrive in a very real and powerful way. “God with us” was originally promised to a king and people who were afraid and facing possible destruction. It was an assurance of God’s presence in a time of great fear. It was God’s promise of internal peace despite external circumstances.

A Commitment

And it will sweep on into Judah, it will overflow and pass on, reaching even to the neck, and its outspread wings will fill the breadth of your land, O Immanuel.”

Be broken, you peoples, and be shattered;
give ear, all you far countries;
strap on your armor and be shattered;
strap on your armor and be shattered.
Take counsel together, but it will come to nothing;
speak a word, but it will not stand,
for God is with us.

– Isaiah 8:8-10

Ahaz refused to trust God’s sustenance and ran into the arms of an alliance with Assyria. The Assyrians would betray and pillage Judah. The second time Isaiah used the name Immanuel, it referred to the land of Judah. After disobeying God, and despite being flooded, overrun, and uncultivated due to the war, the land was named, “God is with us.” There was no peace, only God’s presence, his identity, and his commitment to the people of promise. Ultimately, but not in the near term, the enemies would be vanquished.

Isaiah was warned not to fear the same things the people feared. Judah, at the time, feared exile. They feared defeat, destruction, and death – not insignificant things! But God calls us to regard him above anything temporary. When distressed, those who wait and hope in the Lord will be an example to others (Isaiah 8:17-18).

A Fulfillment

All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:

“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
    and they shall call his name Immanuel”

(which means, God with us).

– Matthew 1:23

Fast forward several centuries. The final time we see the name Immanuel is when one of the disciples of Jesus explains the Savior’s birth. An angel of the Lord told Joseph not to fear taking Mary as his wife. Mary’s pregnancy was a fulfillment of the sign Isaiah promised to Ahaz. Quite literally, God was arriving on the scene. Joseph was challenged to commit to his bride in spite of any hesitancy or fear. He was not to fear shame. He was not to fear disapproval. Joseph was called to regard God above the reproach of his family and community. Joseph believed, obeyed, and witnessed the sign that Ahaz was denied.

 

Isaiah introduced the name Immanuel to the Jews. Matthew pointed to Jesus as the ultimate fulfillment of God’s peace and steadfast commitment. Our land, and our lives, may be in turmoil, yet God promises to be with us even now.

Let us hold fast to this truth and God’s peace when the fears of our times assail us.


¹ Written as “Emmanuel” in the King James Version of the Bible


 

079: Unity in Marriage

Everyone is different, so when two different people come together in marriage, there are inevitably joys and struggles. How can we embrace and grow from the differences inherent in this sacred union? On this episode, Ryan Lehtinen is joined by his wife, Lindsey, along with Greg and Kay Poore to talk about what God has taught them through their respective 15 and 40 years of marriage.

Resources: 

What Did You Expect? by Paul David Tripp

The Meaning of Marriage by Tim Keller

Clear Creek Counseling

Clear Creek Pre-marital Counseling Information

Unity Amidst Diversity: Every Nation, Tribe, and Tongue

From beginning to end, and all throughout the Bible, God paints a beautiful picture of unity amidst diversity.

Think about it.

In the beginning, God is creating, and in his creation of mankind he creates diversity. “Male and female, he created them.” But don’t miss the unity amidst this diversity, “God created man (all of humanity) in his own image, in the image of God he created him,” (Genesis 1:27).

Though different, God created all of mankind to reflect his image. We see this played out in the rest of Genesis as the author gives us a cultural roadmap of the nations surrounding Israel and God’s ultimate hope to bless all the families and nations of the earth.

In Revelation, God gives John a picture of the new heavens and the new earth, and he says, “After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb,” (Revelation 7:9a). There’s coming a day when we will stand shoulder to shoulder with different races and ethnicities, worshiping God in our native languages, but united by our allegiance to the one true King.

So, if God’s ultimate intent is for unity amidst diversity – if in the end, he will break down the walls that divide us culturally and we will worship in unison – why don’t most churches reflect that vision here and now?

In the 1960’s Rev. Martin Luther King Jr famously lamented that 11 a.m. on Sundays was the most segregated hour in America. Studies within the last decade show that 93 percent of all congregations in the United States are not multiracial in their composition.¹ A multiracial congregation could be defined as one that reflects, embraces, and enjoys the diversity of the community they are in.

So, how could our church better reflect the Kingdom of God here and now? What would it look like for us to more fully embrace, enjoy, love, and serve the diverse people of the 4B Area (from the beach to the beltway, from the bay to Brazoria County)? And how do we get there?

It begins with God.

God must give us a heart for the nations.

The mission at Clear Creek Community Church is to lead unchurched people to become fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ. We have a vision of reaching every man, woman, and child in our geography with the gospel of Jesus, inviting them into biblical community, and seeing lives transformed.

That mission and vision is born from the Great Commission.

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

– Matthew 28:19

Our disciple-making mandate includes a heart for the nations; for every man, woman, and child. Not just the men, women, and children who look like us, think like us, and live like us.

God, in his grace, has brought the nations to us. You don’t have to travel overseas to reach the nations because Houston is the most diverse city in America. And our pocket of Houston is becoming increasingly more diverse. But, if we are going to reach every man, woman, and child in the 4B Area, it doesn’t begin with a focus on diversity itself. It can’t just be a response to what is happening culturally. It must begin with God and his heart for the nations.

It takes intentional effort.

Reaching your neighbor with the gospel begins with God’s heart for your neighbor. You might live next door, but God created them. He loves them. As you grow to know God’s heart, he calls you to an active role in sharing the gospel with that neighbor.

If we, as a church family, are going to better reflect, embrace and enjoy the diversity of our community, it begins with God’s heart for every man, woman, and child. But it doesn’t end there. God calls us to play an active role in reaching every man, woman and child. That often begins with those you already have genuine relationships with. Where it takes intentional effort is in reaching people who don’t look like you, think like you, or live like you. We naturally relate to and reach people who are like us; people of the same race, ethnicity, socio-economic background, and education.

But, if we really want to reach a more diverse population – if we want to reach every man, woman and child in the 4B Area – that means we need to expand our circles to have intentional, genuine friendships with a more diverse population.

Being a multicultural church may mean that we lay down some of our traditions, preferences, and comforts that are more cultural than biblical. If we want to better reflect, embrace and enjoy the diversity of the 4B Area, it will take intentional effort on all of our parts.

I pray we will continue to do whatever it takes to reach every man, woman and child with the gospel, and I pray God’s Kingdom comes and his will is done in the 4B Area as it is in Heaven.


¹ Woo, Rodney, The Color of Church: A Biblical and Practical Paradigm for Multiracial Churches (Nashville, B&H Publishing Group, 2009), 13.


078: Should I Delete Facebook?

It’s no secret that we’re coming off one of the most turbulent social media stretches in history. With COVID, the presidential election, racial tension, and censorship along with all everything else people like to argue about like religion, sports, and reality TV, the once wondrous world of social media feels more like a battleground. The more we learn about how these apps work, the more wary we become, and we’re left wondering if they still have a place in our lives, not to mention on our devices. On this episode, Jon Coffey sits down with Clear Creek Community Church Digital Communications Director, Jon Crump, to discuss the state of social media and how we, as Christians, can glorify God with our relationship with it.

Resources: 

The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry by John Mark Comer

Competing Spectacles: Treasuring Christ in the Media Age by Tony Reinke

Disruptive Witness: Speaking Truth in a Distracted Age by Alan Noble