105: Why Does God Allow Suffering?

During the series Salty: Sticking Out for the Right Reasons, we’re discussing questions related to each message on our podcast. On this episode, Ryan Lehtinen, Yancey Arrington, and Bruce Wesley discuss the questions: Why does God allow suffering? How can we walk with those who are suffering?

Resources:

Suffer Well – Fight Triumphalism (sermon

Godly Friendship (It Doesn’t Have to Be So Hard!)

Recently, I spent an evening with some friends. We spent hours catching up and talking about our lives, struggles, kids, work, and more. Somehow we got on the topic of friendships with other women. We all agreed that having friendships with other women is extremely important — a priority even — but we also agreed that cultivating those friendships is difficult. One friend even said she feels like it is impossible.

I left that evening a little discouraged, but it got me thinking. How can we, as Christian women, make this easier? I’ve mulled over this question and have come up with four things we can do.

 

1. Be Willing

With a church and community as large as ours is, it’s hard to find and connect with other women. We see them in passing, but actually forming a relationship with them seems impossible. Social anxieties, different personalities, and seasons of life just add to our isolation.

But, we need to be willing to seek out opportunities to meet other women and be willing to show up when we find those opportunities. Several times a year, Clear Creek launches multiple women’s groups. Step out of your comfort zone and join one! I’ve been in multiple small groups, but until recently I had never been in a women’s small group. It has been life-changing! I’ve enjoyed reading the Bible with other women and doing life with them!

A couple times a year, each campus hosts gatherings for the women of their campus. This is another perfect opportunity to meet other women and connect! If you’re already in a couple’s small group or if you serve in a ministry, plan a girl’s night! Find opportunities to connect with the women around you. And be persistent. You won’t always connect with the women around you on the first, second, or even third attempt. But, keep trying. We’ve already established that community is important for every single one of us, so eventually you will connect with someone. Don’t give up!

 

2. Be Present and Be Vulnerable

Once you do have women in your life, be present. Text them, call them, and communicate regularly. Ask questions about their life and their struggles, and, most importantly, listen without judgment. Sometimes, we just need to show up. We don’t have to say anything profound or even offer advice. We just need to be there.

Several of my friends mentioned that fear is the hardest part of making friendships with other women. Fear comes in all shapes and sizes: fear of not fitting in, fear of what others will think of you, fear of not not being perfect, fear of being left out, fear of not looking a certain way, and much more. But, instead of being fearful, we need to be vulnerable.

No one is perfect. No one. We all have flaws. We’re all sinful. Once we realize this, we can let our guard down. We no longer have to fake it and pretend that we’re perfect. We no longer have to strive. Being vulnerable leads to transparency. It leads to a place of intimacy and rest — a place where we can be fully known and fully loved. This is what true friendship looks like.

 

3. Be Gracious

Not only do we need to be open and honest, but we also need to gracious. We need to accept others into our circle, even if they don’t outwardly seem to fit. We need to be quick to forgive and slow to judge.

If a friend cancels on your lunch plans at the last minute, don’t take it personally; show grace. She might be dealing with some social anxieties or family responsibilities of her own. If a friend doesn’t respond to a text or call right away, show grace. She might be swamped at work or chasing 3 toddlers around. If a friend upsets you with a comment in a text or it feels like she has left you out, talk to her. She probably did not mean to hurt you. Be slow to anger and quick to forgive.

Be gracious.

 

4. Be Intentional

Friendships do not happen on their own. They take hard work, time, and commitment. They won’t happen without intentionality.

Make a standing appointment with your friends. Maybe it’s every other week or once monthly. You have to decide what is best for your lifestyle. But, whatever you decide, put it on the calendar each month or it won’t happen.

We’re all busy. Every month we overfill our calendars with appointments, tasks, and to-do lists, until our days are bursting at the seams. We don’t have a moment to spare. And then we look up and the month is gone and it’s time to fill up the next one. So, make plans now! Don’t wait!

My family knows I go away one weekend in the fall and one weekend in the spring with other women to a Christian women’s conference. This is a standing “appointment” — something I do every year. It’s time I get to connect with God without my daily distractions and it’s time for fellowship with other women. I return home refreshed, restored (spiritually, mentally, and physically), and in a place to love others well.

And you don’t need to feel guilty about making these plans. God designed us for community, so we shouldn’t feel guilty for living in a way that God designed.

 

Lastly, be the friend the woman next to you needs — the friend you need.

Sit and listen. Ask tough questions and say hard things. Most importantly, don’t just give advice. Instead, point each other back to the truths of the Bible. Point each other back to Jesus. Pray with each other. Love each other well.


 

104: Should Christians Confront Sin in the World?

During the series Salty: Sticking Out for the Right Reasons, we’re discussing questions related to each message on our podcast. On this episode, Ryan Lehtinen, Yancey Arrington, and Aaron Lutz discuss these questions:

Do Americans in general feel more positively or negatively about Christianity? If so, why is that the case?

Is it a Christian’s role to call out sin in our cultural?

Also, new for this series, you can watch the video of our podcast converation on our YouTube channel.

Resources:

Sticking Out For the Right Reasons (sermon)

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

Follow us on social media:

Clear Creek Resources

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/clearcreekresources
Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/clearcreekresources/

Clear Creek Community Church

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/clearcreek.org​
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Yes and No: Living for Christ

I love my dear friend, Autocorrect.

Oh, the countless spelling errors Autocorrect saves us from when we haven’t had enough coffee yet and words are hard. Actually, it still comes to the rescue when we’ve had plenty of coffee and still don’t know how to put letters into words.

Autocorrect always knows whether the “i” goes before or after the “e” without hesitation. Without even using the “I before E except after C” rule!

Autocorrect even picks up our slack when we’re too lazy to capitalize our words or use apostrophes. Sure, Autocorrect isn’t the most helpful when it can’t even pick up on what we’re trying to spell, but that one is really on us for being that bad at spelling!

But the problem is Autocorrect isn’t always correct. The real issue comes in when it keeps trying to change what we truly want to say to something else entirely.

I have struggled with my own internal autocorrect. At times, I wanted to say no, but I would autocorrect to “yes.” Over time, I started to see a negative impact on my mental and physical health from continually autocorrecting to “yes.”

Saying yes to invitations or requests certainly isn’t bad, but sometimes, I was saying it for the wrong reason or with the wrong heart and wound up spreading myself too thin. I was saying yes because I feared disappointing someone or leaving them in a bind. I was saying yes because I felt like my reason to say no wasn’t adequate. I was saying yes strictly to please others.

It got to the point where it almost hurt to say no, even if I knew the reason was valid.

Then one day, with my schedule chalked full and my energy tank approaching empty, I heard something that contradicted my internal autocorrect.

“No is just as valuable of an answer as yes.”

It was like a slap across the face.

I had been told countless times before that it was okay to say no but could never fully accept it because it still seemed like a lesser answer. I was convinced that saying no would mean letting someone down.

I was more concerned about pleasing others than anything else. More than my own health. And more than my limits and boundaries.

Looking back, I think it all ultimately stemmed from my pride. I wanted affirmation and needed acceptance from those around me.

But, as the apostle Paul reminds us in Galatians 1:10, “For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.”

I had lost sight of who I was truly serving. I had lost sight of the absolute affirmation and perfect acceptance I have in Christ. I needed to shift my driving focus from pleasing people to pleasing God.

So, I finally decided to turn off my internal autocorrect and learn how to rightly and honestly respond with yes and no. I learned how to stop saying yes for people and start saying yes for God.

For example, a few months ago, someone asked me if I could disciple them through the summer. First, I prayed about it. I looked at my schedule. And then, I said yes. Not to please this person, but to serve and please the Lord.

Then a couple weeks later, I was asked to speak at one of the college gatherings. I did a heart check, prayed about it, and said yes. Again, not to please man, but to hopefully bring more honor and glory to God.

Amongst these opportunities, I also felt the freedom to say no. I’ve learned to believe that no is a valuable answer, but also not a crutch to lean on just because my comfort zone is challenged.

When asked if I could make a dessert for the student navigators going to camp, I politely declined because I recognized my limits and knew that would be one too many things on my plate that week.

Recently, a friend asked me if I wanted to have a girl’s night, and I technically could, but already didn’t have much time with my husband that week because of our busy schedules. So instead, I asked if we could do it the next week.

These may seem like simple examples, but it’s simple moments and choices like these that reveal our hearts, and I want my words and my heart to always be set to please God.

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart

be acceptable in your sight,

O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.

– Psalm 19:14

I still have to keep myself in check and make sure my pride hasn’t turned my internal autocorrect back on, but with the help of the Spirit, my responses to things are more and more devoted to pleasing God, not people.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m still thankful for my dear friend, Autocorrect. But I think I’ll keep it on my phone and not in my head.


 

103: Parenting Teens Today

“You aren’t raising kids, you’re raising future adults.” School is back in session, and even though the stress and strain of 2020 isn’t gone, the new school year feels at least reminiscent of the rhythm of life before COVID. But how, if at all, has that changed teenagers and how we parent them? And how can parents lead their teens to re-engage and move forward? On this episode, Jon Coffey talks with Clear Creek’s director of Family Ministries and Church on Wednesday Campus Pastor, Lance Lawson, and 528 Campus attender, former student ministry volunteer, and parent of four kids, Stacey Morgan, to talk about raising future adults in 2021.

Resources:

Sticky Faith by Dr. Kara E. Powell and Dr. Chap Clark

Withdraw

It’s early morning.

The sun is peaking up over the trees and you can still see the morning mist as the dragonflies dance their way through the air.

It’s quiet save for the birds calling back and forth to one another.

The earth almost feels like it’s stretching its arms out and rubbing its eyes with hope of a new fresh day. I am a spectator with my coffee cup in hand.

I’m not on vacation. I’m just in my backyard. Because a while ago, I had to make a choice to start my days differently.

Don’t get me wrong I love a great vacation getaway. There’s not much better than sitting on a beach in Mexico on the third straight day of doing absolutely nothing but reading and relaxing.

But we all know that isn’t a sustainable reality. It always turns out that life awaits us back at home.

If we pattern our lives to burn hot, run hard, sleep less, and work more until we get those three or four days of relief, we just won’t make it.

We must create space in the rhythm of our lives to slow down, because life won’t do it on its own.

I feel the gravity of all of the responsibilities that are coming my way afresh each morning.

I live and die by a to-do list that keeps me on track.

And if I don’t start my day off with some silence, it would be like heading out on a run as soon as I’ve finished lacing my shoes! I have to stretch first. I have to warm up my muscles.

To face each day, I have to warm up my heart, my mind, and my soul.

These intentional moments of quiet are a countercultural enigma that have lost their place in the rhythm of our culture.

I realized I needed it. But in the busyness of life – the necessary demands of being a husband, a full-time member of a church staff, and a father of seven kids — I didn’t set the bar too high. I just decided to leave myself the first moments of each day.

I wish my daily view was a white sand beach, but my regular place of solace and solitude is my backyard.

Even if you had the means you couldn’t fly to the mountains every morning, So you have to carve out a little space that’s readily available and easily accessible. My wife and I have spent meticulous time to create a space that just oozes peacefulness.

So, every day I start with a cup of coffee and without a phone. I allow myself a notebook in case I get a song idea, a prayer, or a story, but it’s intended to be a space to unplug. It definitely makes the parenting world more manageable before I take that deep breath and walk back inside.

As Christians we pattern our lives to be “like Christ,” and to do so we look at how he lived.

In Luke 5:15-16 we see this rhythm of solitude in Jesus’s life. At this point in Luke’s account, Jesus had been doing those things only he could do, and there was a growing buzz in the area about him. He could have easily run harder into his work, leading his disciples and new followers, but verse 16 says, “But he would withdraw to desolate places and pray.”

Jesus could have kept healing and teaching, but he knew he needed the encouragement, the rest, and the renewal from the Father that happens in those quiet moments. And if we make time for them, we will see the same things.

But he would withdraw to desolate places and pray.

— Luke 5:16

There have been songs that we sing at church that have taken root in those early morning moments of quiet.

One morning about a month ago, God brought to mind an old college friend of mine. I called him up and it so happened that he had just had to check his spouse into a facility because of suicidal thoughts. We spoke on the phone for about two hours, after we hadn’t spoken in 20 years. We laughed a little, we cried a lot, and we picked up where we’d left off.

God also uses these quiet times to show me my own blind spots. If I didn’t set that moment aside I would walk immediately into the white noise and static that fills my day, and never stop to think, or to talk to God about what was going on in my own heart and mind.

So maybe just take one step that way. It doesn’t need to be a yearlong vow of silence. Just lean in the direction of God and give him your first breaths.

See what he does in you.

I promise you won’t regret it.


 

102: Why We Pray

While over half of Americans report praying, in our post-Christian society the concept and practice of prayer can be confusing and even intimidating. Why do we pray? Does prayer really work? What should we pray about? On this episode, Rachel Chester talks with Aaron Lutz, E96 campus pastor, Rachel Fisher, Small Groups Associate, and one of our Clear Creek worship leaders, Tanner Smith, about the power of prayer in our own hearts and for the kingdom of God.

Resources:

Clear Creek Community Church Prayer Grid

Why doesn’t God answer my prayers?

 

What Does Godly Friendship Look Like?

When we were kids, our friends were some of the most important people in our lives. As Christ-following adults, is that different? Should it be?

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

Follow us on social media:

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/clearcreek.org​
Instagram –
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Twitter –
https://www.twitter.com/_cccc/

Reading the Bible: A Feast for the Soul

How would you describe the way you read the Bible?

Do you read devotionally? Maybe you read most mornings as a spiritual practice, reading for inspiration, encouragement, and to feel closer to God.

Do you read to study? Maybe you like finding commentaries written by popular Bible teachers or scholars, puzzling through questions the text presents, and finding joy in the intellectual stimulation.

Or maybe you lead a small group and you primarily read the Bible “homiletically,” or for the purpose of teaching or proclaiming Scripture and its relevance for a person’s life.

Each of these ways of reading Scripture are helpful, and we will likely read in all these ways at different times. But, the Bible asks us to go further in how we read.

Psalm 1:2, painting a picture of the model reader says, “Happy are those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or take the path that sinners tread, or sit in the seat of the scoffers; but their delight is in the law of the Lord, and on this they meditate day and night.” This entire chapter describes the model reader as one who meditates on the Bible for the purpose of living in obedience to God.

Happy are those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or take the path that sinners tread, or sit in the seat of the scoffers; but their delight is in the law of the Lord, and on this they meditate day and night.

– Psalm 1:2

The Hebrew word our English Bibles translate as “meditate” is hagah. In Psalm 1:2 the use of this word conveys the idea of a wild animal, with intense focus, gnawing, chewing, tearing at, and eating its prey. This is not an emptying of one’s mind as some meditative techniques encourage, but instead a filling of one’s mind and heart with the words of God.

Eugene Peterson’s preferred metaphor for reading Scripture comes from Revelation 10:9, where an angel tells John, the writer of Revelation, to “eat this book.” Peterson writes that the phrase “eat this book” focuses attention on reading Scripture “in such a way that the Holy Spirit uses it to form Christ in us.” The focus of reading meditatively is not on knowing more, but becoming more. Reading meditatively is about seeking to live out and participate in the story the Bible is unfolding before us, to learn how to participate in the story of God through prayer, obedience, and love.

In his book, Eat This Book, Eugene Peterson offers an approach for reading Scripture meditatively. First, read the Bible. Read for devotion, study, or for teaching, but don’t stop there. Also meditate on the Bible. Choose a passage to sit with for at least a week, then ponder it, chew on it, wonder what it is saying about how God is asking you to live. Find Christ in the passage.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote that while reading meditatively we should, “not look for new thoughts and interconnections in the text as you would in a sermon. Do not ask how you should tell it to others, but ask what it tells you. Then ponder this word in your heart at length, until it is entirely within you and has taken possession of you.”

After reading and meditating comes prayer. Prayer should progress out of our meditation on Scripture. But this is not simply reciting the words of Scripture. This is spending time praying through and elaborating on each verse.

For example, if you were praying through the Lord’s Prayer from Matthew 6, beginning with the first line (“Our Father in Heaven”), you might focus on the good Fatherhood of God. A parent might pray that the parenting of their children reflects more closely the perfect parenting of God. Praying through the third line of the Lord’s Prayer (“Your Kingdom come”), one may pray for the full consummation of God’s Kingdom on earth, when all will be right with the world, where God will wipe away every tear, where death will be no more, where there will be no more mourning, or crying, or pain.

Praying through Scripture in this way focuses a person’s heart on how he or she should live. Which brings us to Peterson’s fourth step in reading Scripture meditatively: living Scripture.

After reading, meditating on, and praying through Scripture, we may put our Bible back on our desk or shelf, but it should still be held in our mind and heart. In this way, when we leave our homes to go out into the world, we bring Scripture with us and enact Scripture in the world, blessing those we meet and participating in God’s Story through our love of neighbor and our love of God.

In this way reading becomes a banquet for ourselves and others.

So, go and eat!


 

 

101: The Surprising Impact of Studying Theology

Looking through the list of classes on clearcreek.org, there’s one that might sound a little intimidating — Systematic Theology. On this episode, Ryan Lehtinen talks with Systematic Theology teachers, Yancey Arrington and Mandy Turner, to discuss what Systematic Theology is, why it’s important, and the surprising impact it has on those who study it.

Resources:

Clear Creek Classes

Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem