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?

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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

 

The Gift of Being Known

In 15 years of membership at Clear Creek Community Church, I have been part of so many small groups I had to check with my husband and a friend to count them all up. When I look back at my experience with small group, I can recall so many good things: deep friendships, laughter and tears, friends that became family, and a slow sharpening of my walk with God.

Other important things have come from these years too, primarily having to do with growth in my love for the Bible and my understanding of God. And how I have needed and still need those!

But the absolute best part of small group for me has always been the gift of being known.

For some reason I am that person who will dive in deep during the first meetings and tell everyone my greatest, heart-wrenching prayer requests. I love to share the story of how God saved me and how he’s been working in me the past few decades. And I always want to know everyone else’s story, too. That part of small group where we all share our stories is my jam.

But I wasn’t always like this. I grew up quite shy. But, during my college years, I distinctly remember telling a not-so-close friend about some burdens of my past. We swapped stories for hours, and afterward I felt such a great release. Here was one more person in the world who really knew me, and that was freeing.

In her book The Life You Long For, singer-songwriter Christy Nockels writes, “I’ve found that you can’t live abundantly in your God-given capacity as the Beloved [of God] without first being in true community with others” (109). This is an amazing truth about our God: we see his love for us most vividly as we walk alongside others who love him.

There’s something special about a group of people with whom you know you share one singularly important commonality. You feel freer to speak God’s truth to one another. You feel more enabled to share your neighbor’s hurt. And you feel more at ease saying, “me too.”

In Philippians 2, Paul encourages the brothers and sisters of the faith to be of “one mind” and to “look not only to [their] own interests, but also to the interests of others.” Certainly there is an aspect of this that is meeting one another’s physical needs, but I believe this also means we should be interested in one another. We should be shouldering burdens and helping our siblings in Christ continue to follow him with perseverance.

Listen, small group is not a perfect community. Tensions happen. We’re all sinners, so you’ll likely be  hurt and hurt others as well. It’s possible you’re reading this right now thinking you’ve been hurt too much by other believers to ever truly be open in a small group.

I’ve found that you can’t live abundantly in your God-given capacity as the Beloved [of God] without first being in true community with others.

– Christy Nockels

From perceived slights to deep wounds, vulnerability can be difficult when we come to community hurting. But be encouraged that God can use this pain. He is the champion of using our human weaknesses to display his glory.

There is so much more beauty to be grasped when we allow ourselves to be known. Think for a moment on the wonderful truth that God shows himself to us in such a variety of ways, including through the love and acceptance of other people. I have found that when I open up to others, I open up to God much more readily. Community is the place where God primes the pump to show us more of his great love for us.

When I choose to share my burdens and pursue really knowing the people in my small group, I open up more avenues for God to speak to me. When I receive acceptance, guidance, and even correction from my brothers and sisters in Christ, I feel known. In turn, the reality of God’s acceptance of me in Christ rains down even more thunderously. The gift of being known by others turns into the gift of being known by God himself — a prize above all others.

As you set off to join a new small group this fall, or more deeply engage with the one you’re already part of, I encourage you to open up and be a bit more vulnerable with this family God has provided. Don’t miss the transformative power God offers us through community.


 

Finding True Rest and the Joy of Discipline

Well, it’s the end of the summer and my kids are insane. Yours too or just mine? They stay up until 10:30 p.m., they are constantly “bored,” always hungry (why are they so hungry?!), often bickering, and well, just done with the down time.

And guess what?

So am I.

Do you want cupcakes for breakfast? Should we start a movie at 10:30 p.m.?

I’m in that part of summer.

It’s time for school. It’s time for schedules. It’s time for discipline.

Summer is a much-needed break from the monotony of schedules and to do lists, and we love it! It gives us space to stop and rest and spend a lot more time together. It gives us time and space to explore God’s creation and be creative with our days.

But, after a few months of this respite, we all come to the realization that the daily disciplines of life are much needed as well. 

Our spiritual lives can feel the same way.

We get tired and need breaks, and so we stop doing some of those things in our schedule. And that’s not always a bad thing. Taking a needed break can help us to remember that even when we stop working, God still sustains and provides and stays in control. Rest can also help us to step away from our busy schedules and celebrate the beauty of this world and the people in it, and then worship God who gave it to us.

And in the same way he gave us all of the things that fill up our lives and our schedules, he also gifted us with rest. We were created to need it.

But here’s the thing: rest isn’t opposed to discipline — we need both.

In the gospel of Matthew, Jesus says, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light,” (Matthew 11:28-30).

What Jesus offers here is not just a nap, a vacation, or a summer break. He’s offering an entirely new way of life. He invites us to take up his yoke — an agricultural image that is commonly used to describe following a teacher ­— and he means for us to learn from him, to travel by his side, and be under his instruction and care. Through this, he promises we will find rest.

But this isn’t your run-of-the-mill rest; this is deep, soul-level rest. This is true rest.

And true rest is more than luxury, comfort, and free time. It’s peace and security found through a relationship with the one who created, loves, and redeems us.

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

— Matthew 11:28-30

But, in order to participate in this kind of rest Jesus offers, we need rhythms of discipline. These are rhythms that don’t stifle us, but that actually free us as we learn from Jesus, to know him deeply, and to become more like him.

And we are not alone in this journey; Jesus is with us. He promises to be yoked with us as we seek to learn and grow. And, when we inevitably stumble, he carries the load.

So, as we begin this new school year full of schedules, sports events, and work, I want to encourage you to take a next step toward this rest only Jesus can provide. Maybe you should take a class to learn how to read God’s word, join a small group to study and worship with community, or commit to spend time daily in prayer with God.

However, these words find you today, don’t miss this opportunity to respond to the invitation of Jesus. Because he is who he says he is the Creator, Savior, and King — the one who created all things, who died to rescue us from slavery to sin, and who will restore this world and reign eternally. He is the humble servant who offers to carry our burdens and teach us his ways. He can be trusted, and in him, we can find a way of life that leads to the true rest we all long for.


 

099: Princess Culture — Toxic or Transformative?

From Snow White in 1937 to Raya in 2021, princess movies have entertained and influenced little girls for decades. But is this influence good or bad? On this episode, host Rachel Chester is joined by Chris Alston, West campus pastor, Dalena Ryskoski, a volunteer on Clear Creek’s Children’s Ministry oversight team, and Aaron Chester, Clear Creek’s “How to Study the Bible” class instructor, to discuss how these princess movies have changed over time and how they lead us to change as well.