Was it for Me?

As the pandemic waxes and wanes over the next several months, Clear Creek Community Church has begun returning to in-person worship services. Some individuals and families have returned while others are still waiting. As we each approach this “return to normalcy” in our own time and according to our own safety and needs, we benefit from taking a moment to examine our relationship with collective worship. When we each return is a less important question than why we return. And the type of experience we return to will forever be less important than the way we worship God with our daily lives.

In Zechariah chapter 7, we read that emissaries from Bethel arrived in Jerusalem with a question for the priests. More than 70 years prior, after the Babylonians invaded and conquered Judah, the people of Bethel had begun fasting and mourning during the fifth month of every year. It had become a tradition during the difficult time when regular worship at the temple was unavailable. At this point in the story, however, the exiles were returning. The temple and city of Jerusalem were back under construction. The question brought to the priests in Jerusalem was, “Should we continue?”

It appeared to be a legitimate concern. Now that things were returning to normal, did they need to keep up their ritual mourning? It was not one of God’s prescribed feasts or celebrations. Yet, God had been faithful to return the Hebrews to their promised land and the people were grateful.

God’s reply through Zechariah cut to the heart of worship:

“Was it for me that you fasted?”

– Zechariah 7:5

He then added, “When you eat and drink, is that not done for yourselves?”

To the people of Bethel, God sent a message: render justice, show kindness and mercy to one another, and assist the lonely and needy among you. In other words, if you do not live for me, no religious practice is going to make you right with me.

Interestingly, God never told the emissaries from Bethel to stop fasting. But, he did tell them a lot about what they were neglecting that was even more important. They had forgotten the true focus of their worship, and instead gotten carried away with their own agenda of the what, when, and how.

When the exiles returned to Judah, that was a big deal. There was excitement and worry: excitement for the return and worry about how long it would last. There were still dangers lurking on every side, just as COVID-19 is still present with us during our return.

Coming back together for face-to-face worship services is a big deal, too. Many people are very excited about it, and they have reason to be. Others are more hesitant, and they have reason to be as well.

In our joy to see one another again, let us not forget why we return, why we worship, and the importance of worshiping the one true God, continually.

Singing through a mask may not be the most enjoyable way to sing. Children in the worship service may seem distracting. And there’s not even coffee to gather around before or after the service. Restrictions are frustrating. Change is difficult.

But, despite these challenges, we must resist making worship about our needs and preferences. True worship looks outside of ourselves to God who is worthy of our praise and to the needs of those around us. It isn’t about us. It unites and does not divide. It places into perspective why coming together is so critical to our spiritual health. The habits, routines, and practices we have developed over the past months of online worship — and even those traditions we practice in person — are meaningless if they are only to serve us.

We must focus on who it is we worship, and what he calls us to be, think, and do.

 

So, in this time of reunion, let us not neglect to show kindness and mercy to those who still need online service and those who are with us on site. Let us not stop seeking justice for the needy and oppressed.

Like the people of Jerusalem who were rebuilding the temple, we’ve all longed to gather together again and worship God freely. Through Jesus, we live in intimate, personal relationship with God, no matter our circumstances or locations. Through Jesus, we never have to fear separation from God, for eternity.

So, let’s rejoice as we begin to meet in person again, but let us not forget the reason we gather in the first place.


 

060: Leading Worship in a Pandemic + Album Release

Now that all Clear Creek campuses have returned to in-person services, what has this season taught us about worship and music? On this episode, Ryan Lehtinen talks with Aric Harding and JJ Cole about what they have learned and some of the new projects the Arts Teams has worked on, including a new EP album entitled “True Love.”

Resources:

“True Love” on Apple Music, Spotify

Clear Creek Music

Remember When: Worship Songs and Wistful Longings

The other day as I was driving, I was flipping through my presets on the radio (yes, some people still let fate decide their music) when the song “When I See You Smile” by Bad English came on.

As I listened, something happened to me!

I was no longer crossing under I-45, I was crossing under the home field football stands, hands interlocked with my 6th grade girlfriend with our heads together leaning in to share one pair of headphones. To a hormonal 6th grade boy it was love. But now, so many years later, the melody being pushed through my car speakers carried my mind through time and space, like some sort of emotional Delorian.

It was an ache – “a wistful desire to return in thought or in fact to a former time in one’s life, to one’s home or homeland, or to one’s family and friends; a sentimental yearning for the happiness of a former place or time.”

It was nostalgia.

But here’s the thing: nostalgia can be dangerous. 

It isn’t always bad, of course. It can serve to remind us of things we’ve forgotten, or even awaken a soft spot in our hearts. So you can probably imagine how that can be a really good thing when it comes to worshiping God through song.

Music is an innate language that harmoniously connects – from our 206 bones to the 86 billion neurons in our brains. Music in all forms is powerful.

That’s why in the Bible, we are commanded to have music as a part of our worship to God, and why I’m pretty sure we worship leaders will have job security in heaven. In fact, we are commanded over 100 times in the Bible to sing. So how we think about music and singing as a church obviously matters to God.

“Oh sing to the LORD a new song;

sing to the LORD, all the earth!”

– Psalm 96:1

Music is good. Music is necessary. It takes us back, connects us presently, and gives us hope for the future.

So, how can nostalgia in music be dangerous?

When the church is gathered, music is a tool of relationship with one another and with God. But nostalgia takes our hearts by the hand and says, “hey let’s get out of here and go back.”

The problem is that we can’t go back. Nostalgia cannot transport us to our old pews where we sat as children next to our godly grandmothers. It can’t let her voice ring in your ears as she belts out over the volume of the organ the rare third verse of the “Old Rugged Cross”. Nostalgia can’t really put us back into the sweaty teen-filled auditorium from the summer between our sophomore and junior years at camp when we had tears streaming down our faces and our hands raised, crooning the lyrics to “The Stand.”

There is power in remembering our past and the spiritual milestones that God orchestrated in our lives. A blessing of music is that we can encapsulate pieces of our story in songs, and in doing so, remember and give thanks.

Remembrance is good, but the danger of nostalgia comes in when we begin to live for that feeling like a drug to experience an emotion and close our hearts to the fresh and present movement of the Holy Spirit.

When we allow nostalgia to take the wheel in worship we can become skeptical of change, agents of disunity, dissatisfied grumblers.

When I was in the 8th grade my parents divorced.

My mom moved out and our house, and what was once the epicenter of a thriving family became a tomb to memorialize it. Stacks of books sat gathering dust. Plates remained where they had always been, and so did the same pictures, the same sheets, the same rug, and the same lamp, frozen and preserved like a cold body. But it all began to deteriorate. Dust gathered. Paint faded. Piles grew.

What began as an inadvertent attempt to hold onto the past ultimately stunted the growth of the future. 

Nostalgia can do the same thing in worship at church when we long for the “good old days.” We must fight vehemently against it, not just for ourselves but for those who would come behind us. We must build a flourishing rich vibrant relationship through transcendent worship that is always growing and fulfilling the words of Jesus that he is making all things new.

If music in song is designed to be a part of a flourishing relationship between God and his bride then we must have forward emotions and experiences even as we sing about the gospel—what God has done for us in Christ, his grace for us today, and all he is continuing to do in Christ.

Nostalgia isn’t the enemy. 

After I heard that Bad English song I pulled up Spotify and added a whole 80s ballads playlist, not because I’m a glutton for heartache, but because I can look back with nostalgia and trace the story of God’s grace to see his work in bringing me to where I am today.

Nostalgia is one player in the game, valuable in its role to connect us to our past. We must know, respect, and remember the power it can have on our hearts and then look forward.

039: How Songwriters Write Songs

Ever wonder how your favorite song came to be? On this episode, Ryan Lehtinen talks with worship leaders Aric Harding and Tanner Smith about collaboration and the creative process that goes into writing a song. They also discuss the story behind Clear Creek Community Church’s latest song “Fighting Words.”

RESOURCES:

Fighting Words Music Video

Clear Creek Community Church Music

037: Go Outside – Worshiping God in Nature

Are you experiencing cabin fever? In this season where many of us have spent more time than usual at home, you’ve probably felt the urge to go outside and enjoy the world around us. On this episode, Ryan Lehtinen talks with Greg Poore about enjoying God’s creation as a way to worship him. So go outside, take a walk as you listen to this episode, and gain a greater appreciation for God’s fingerprints on everyday life.

 

RESOURCES: 

Becoming Worldly Saints by Michael Wittmer

The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry by John Mark Comer

All My Hope

 

The song “All My Hope” by David Crowder was sung during our online service of Clear Creek Community Church located in the Bay Area of Houston, TX.

To view the full service, visit https://youtu.be/0yHm83WlL6U

For more ways to participate in our online service in this season, go to clearcreek.org

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Fighting Words

Our Arts Team has gotten creative during this time to offer some encouragement during this COVID-19 crisis.

In the first week we were meeting remotely as a church, our lead pastor Bruce Wesley challenged us all to share encouragement.

The clearest encouragement that we can stand on consists of the promises of God in his word. These promises and truths of God are our #fightingwords, against that which would bring confusion and fear. Now is the time to remind everyone of the truth and power of the Gospel in this season of trouble.

This is a song that has been 95% done for months now, but it seems as if God had the last piece of the jigsaw puzzle in his hand.

Good Grief Week 1 (Full Service)

This is the online service of Clear Creek Community Church located in the Bay Area of Houston, TX.
For more ways to participate in our online service in this season, go to www.clearcreek.org/covid19 To find out more information about or church, go to www.clearcreek.org.
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Ties

The church, our church, is a collection of backgrounds, loves, family histories, races, and passions, but all of these not only intersect at Christ but intertwine and tie us to one family, one faith, one story. Our prayer is that these songs become threads in the ties that hold us together and give us a common language, a corporate response, and a reminder that none of us walk this life alone.

Purchase or stream

Spotify
Apple
Amazon
Google Play

Song Resources

HI-RES MP3 LINK

CHORD CHART

SONG STORY

LYRIC VIDEO

MULTI-TRACK

1. The Strength of My Heart (feat. Courtney Ricketts)


COMING SOON

2. Heaven’s Mystery (feat. Aric Harding)


COMING SOON

3. The Lord’s Prayer (feat. Brad Loser)


COMING SOON

4. Everlasting (feat. JJ Cole)


COMING SOON

5. You Saved Me


COMING SOON

Why Do We Worship Together?