Tag Archive for: Bible

Art, Antibiotics, and Astronauts: God’s Gifts of Common Grace

What do Van Gogh paintings, antibiotics, the International Space Station, and microwave ovens have in common?

In a very real way, they are all gifts from God. How so? Let’s listen to Philippians 4:8, a well-known passage from Paul the apostle:

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

For years, Paul’s words to the church at Philippi have fascinated me because I used to think the apostle was calling believers to discern and embrace the good from Christianity.

But upon further reflection, that makes no sense.

The faith is entirely good and needs no discernment. Therefore, it’s more likely Paul is calling believers to discern and utilize the good, wise, and true things they find in society.

Indeed, biblical scholars note the list Paul gives is representative of the virtues celebrated in the Greek Hellenistic society of that day. For example, the famous philosopher Cicero, who was a contemporary of the apostle, said, “But what is there in man better than a mind that is wise and good?… all that is lovely, honorable, commendable.” Wow! It’s almost a mirror of Paul’s list.

Furthermore, commentator Dr. Gordon Fee concludes,

“Paul is telling [the Philippian church] not so much to ‘think high thoughts’ [but] to ‘take into account’ the good they have long known from their own past, as long as it is conformable to Christ … to encourage the Philippians that even though they are ‘citizens of heaven,’ … they do not altogether abandon the world in which they used to, and still do, live.”¹

This call for Christians to discern and utilize the goodness and wisdom of the world may surprise some, but it’s not astonishing for those who know about the biblical doctrine of common grace.

Common grace, also referred to as general grace, concerns God’s goodness which extends to all his creation — things that are ‘common’ or ‘general’ to all humanity like order, art, science, creativity, etc. Scripture refers to God’s common grace in places like Matt. 5:45, “For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust”; Psalm 145:9, “The LORD is good to all, and his mercy is over all that he has made”; and Luke 6:35, “… for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil.”

Consider the following human activities: 

  • Going to MD Anderson for cancer surgery or picking up cold medicine at your local CVS;
  • Touring The Museum of Fine Arts in Houston or laying on your couch listening to Spotify;
  • Meeting with a local financial coach for retirement planning or reading a well-respected psychologist’s book on personality patterns.

These are all examples of engaging the truth, goodness, and wisdom of God’s common grace in a society. We do this every day without knowing it. Yet, Philippians 4:8 reminds us to do so discerningly (“whatever is…”), because not everything in culture is good, true, or beautiful.

Culture and society are broken by sin, and thus are mixed bags of good and bad, beauty and ugliness, truth and lies. That’s why the apostle says followers of Jesus should neither outright reject all its products nor swallow it whole but parse out and engage the commendable, excellent, and true within it.

For example, maturing Christians will be those who increasingly aren’t fearful of the common graces of science, technology, or medicine. They recognize how unbelieving culture can, with discernment, produce great things of worth that are good, true, and beautiful gifts.

Gifts like Van Gogh paintings, antibiotics, the International Space Station, and microwave ovens.

 


Footnotes

  1.  Gordon Fee, Paul’s Letter to the Philippians, NICNT (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1995), 415.

Roe v. Wade: What Is Next for the Church?

Recently, I came home from an errand to the news that the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade ending the constitutional right to an abortion. This means states will now regulate the legality of abortion. Some states will continue as if nothing happened, others will essentially make abortion, in different forms, illegal.

With this news, many good, kind, and fair people are crestfallen by the decision, believing the rights of women have been curtailed. Other good, kind, and fair people are ecstatic, believing hundreds of thousands of innocent babies won’t be killed.¹

It won’t be surprising to know I fall in the latter group.

I believe abortion, generally speaking, is a moral evil. As a follower of Jesus, I find Scripture to overwhelmingly uphold a strong ethic of life as well as give special care to the vulnerable and needy, of whom I believe unborn infants qualify. I know others will vehemently disagree and want to make emotionally-charged rebuttals among other things.

But my aim here isn’t to convince anyone. It’s simply to say the following.

Christians who believe this is a great week for the unborn should also be prepared to trumpet how committed the church needs to be to protecting, supporting, and caring for women who find themselves in crisis pregnancies. The church should be holistically pro-life and not merely pro-birth.

That means we care not only for a child coming into the world but also what kind of world that child comes into.

For example, statistics show abortion in America is overwhelmingly slanted to those in poverty, so wherever the gospel can speak to economic and structural injustices that tempt distressed women into terminating their pregnancies, followers of Jesus should be just as engaged.

To that end, I am grateful that Clear Creek Community Church for years has been committed to this work with their active support of ministries like:

Anchor Point crisis pregnancy center
Orphan care that seeks to help with fostering, adopting
Pregnancy and Parenting Support Center with pregnancy counseling
The Center for Pregnancy which assists unexpected pregnancies

In light of this Supreme Court decision, there will be many Christian leaders rightfully calling for the church to roll up its sleeves by working on creating a better culture of life instead of merely arguing against abortion. This is right and true. And while Clear Creek is far from perfect, the truth is that we have been putting our money (and people, time, and talents) where our mouth is when it comes to supporting and valuing a more holistic view of life.

However, none of those things will come into play when your pro-choice friend is upset by this week’s news. As a gospel measure, I would call you to show them empathy, sensitivity, and kindness. Our history at Clear Creek has been to show compassion for those who struggle with abortion as well as those who’ve had abortions. We should also extend that compassion to those who believe it to be an unalienable right. Yes, we might disagree with our neighbor, but Jesus also calls us to love them.

I urge you to heed the words Bruce Wesley preached a week or so ago when he said, “May our love be louder than our disagreements.”

I pray this would be true of us today, tomorrow, and every day God has us here.

Love well, for the world will know we are Christians by our love.

 


Footnotes

  1. Studies show there were 930,160 abortions in 2020.

A Simple and Powerful Prayer for Your Child

I remember learning about an approach to prayer years ago when my son was a toddler, and I’m grateful for the way it shaped me as a young father. The advice was simple and practical – use Ephesians 3:14-19 as a way to pray for those you love.

My son is a teenager now and I continue to pray this way for him and my other children. Using these few verses from the Scriptures to direct my prayers has not only helped me pray clearly and consistently for my kids, it has formed the deepest hopes and dreams I hold for them in my heart. I expect to ask God for these things in my kids’ lives for the rest of my life.

Ephesians 3:14-19 says, For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, 16 that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”

Wrapped up in these five verses are three powerful things I ask God to do in each of my kids’ hearts.

Lord, please give my child faith in Christ

I strive to teach my kids about who Jesus is and what he has done, but try as I may, I cannot create faith in their hearts. I know God has to be the one to give them the grace of his presence and roots of faith, so I make verses 16 and 17 my request to God saying, “Lord, grant my son strength through your Holy Spirit so that Christ would dwell in his heart through faith.”

Father, please show my child how much you love them

I have spent a lot of time considering the richness of verses 18 and 19 in my own heart. This is the most impassioned prayer I regularly bring to God, “Father, please open my daughter’s heart and mind to the depths of your love. Help her know, without question, that she is loved by you. Give her security and identity rooted in your unquestionable love. Help me love her like you do.”

I often add in a confession of my own faults and shortcomings as a father and ask God to answer this prayer in spite of me. My kids need to know the nature of their true father and I ask God to help me be more like him.

Lord, please fill my child with your presence

This passage has God’s presence as bookends. Paul tells his reader that he bows his knees to ask that God gives them strength and power through the Holy Spirit in their inmost being, and he finishes hoping his reader is filled with all the fullness of God.

I make these words my request saying, “Lord, whatever my son faces today, be ever present to shape his experience, thoughts, and actions. Fill him with your Spirit and give him strength and wisdom to live differently — to live for you.”

I have many hopes for my kids but none more important than these. Consistently asking God to give and grow faith, to expand their knowledge of his love, and to make them aware of his presence each day has shaped the way I parent and the heart I have for each of them.

We Need Community

The last couple of years have been difficult. With rampant sickness, quarantines, and lockdowns, many of us have experienced a level of loneliness we never thought we would.

Community is a gift and a blessing. As we’ve become markedly more aware since March 2020, we were not meant to exist as sole individuals.

Even the most anti-social movements tend to create communities to support each other.

My generation saw the emo kids gather, the 80s had the punks, and 60s and 70s saw people flock to the hippie movement in droves.

Humanity longs for community — to know others and to be known. Humans need a place in which to grow, learn, work, serve, and worship alongside other people.

How gracious the Lord is to know what his creation needs!

Mankind was created to function together.

In the Genesis creation account, we see God pairing the man, Adam, with his wife, Eve. In creating this union, the Creator himself stated, “It is not good for man to be alone,” (Gen. 2:18).

From the outset of creation, God envisioned his image bearers existing in community, beginning with the family.

Family is the first community we are given — the first place to know others and be known. But our familial situation changes throughout our lives. We move, marry, and experience loss.

Thankfully, God has created an eternal family.

The story of Scripture is that God shows how wonderful and glorious he is by redeeming rebels and not only showing them mercy and grace, but actually bringing them into his family.

Just look at the familial language throughout the Bible like God being called “the Father” and Jesus “the Son,” believers being called co-heirs with Christ, the Church being referred to as Jesus’ bride, and Christians being adopted by God.

The Church is a new family. There we can experience community to a degree not seen elsewhere. As the Body of Christ, believers are called to take up each others burdens, provide for each other, hold each other accountable, and encourage each other. Joining a church means joining a community of people who recognize God as Father and long to serve one another.

In this community, believers know others and are known themselves.

Personally speaking, my family would have crumbled long ago had Christ not blessed us with a loving and faithful community of believers.

When we experienced a chronic health issue that resulted in pain, these faithful followers of Jesus were there to lift us up in prayer.

When I struggled with addiction, they were there to hold me accountable.

When my wife and I feared for our physical safety, they offered protection.

When my family was in need, they were there to provide support.

To this day, when I experience difficulties or doubts, I can remember the times in which the Lord has provided for me through other believers — his hands and feet. 

If you have never experienced authentic gospel-centered community, I would encourage you to do the work to connect with other believers in the local church.

Fewer gifts or blessings have proven so sweet.

Genesis to Revelation: The Tree of Life

As people who can stop at HEB for any food we desire, regardless of the season, a garden holds little appeal for most of us in today’s world.

We prefer flowers or shade trees in our yards instead of plants we can eat.

But to a herding, agrarian culture like the ancient Israelites, food growing freely from a tree wasn’t too far from miraculous. It’s no wonder that when God placed Adam and Eve within the Garden of Eden, he surrounded them with fruit trees.

In the garden, their every need was met. They were protected from every danger. Everything chaotic had been brought under the perfect control of their powerful Creator and ordered for their good.

And in the midst of it all, there were two trees.

When we read the story of temptation in Genesis 3, our attention is drawn to the forbidden tree, by whose fruit humanity fell. But after their sin, the focus shifts:

Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever—” therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life.

Genesis 3:22-24

Because of their sin, the man and woman were removed from both the presence of God and the provision of the garden.

The curse of the ground meant that never again would all of their needs be met without struggle, and the way to life eternal was permanently barred.

The uncertain and dangerous wilderness stretched before them as their only home.

But Adam and Eve were not left hopeless.

They had been given a purpose: to fill the earth and bring order to the chaos of the world beyond Eden.

They had been given a promise: Eve would bear children, and one of her offspring would deliver them from the serpent’s path of death.

Despite their removal from the direct presence of God, he had not abandoned them.

Humanity slowly cultivated the earth building families and farms, cities and civilizations.

Every effort and achievement was inevitably marred by sin, but the image of the creator still shone throughout.

With each step toward order, each moment of beauty, each development of culture and technology and polity and art, God built a world in which his people could flourish.

A good creation, stained by sin, but bringing glory to him as humans ever sought for the paradise that was lost, collectively crying out for its return.

They shall beat their swords into plowshares,

    and their spears into pruning hooks…

but they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree,

    and no one shall make them afraid.

Micah 4:3-4

But the desire for Eden went unmet, until a man came to the shores of the Sea of Galilee, proclaiming the kingdom of God. His words were filled with life and hope. His compassion was generous and contagious. His signs were inexplicable and undeniable.

He was like a green olive tree in the house of God, trusting in his steadfast love forever (Psalm 52:8).

He was the righteous one who flourishes like a palm and grows like a cedar, planted in the house of the Lord (Psalm 92:12-13).

He was that man who trusts in the Lord, like a tree planted by water who has no fear when the heat comes and never ceases to bear fruit (Jeremiah 17:7-8).

The presence of God and the provision of the garden had once more come to his people, as Jesus embodied the tree of life perfectly among them.

And in his death on a tree, he made a way beyond the barrier to enter into eternal life. Though the serpent believed himself victorious in the death of the Son, the very one whose identity was Resurrection (John 11:25) could never have been held by the grave.

The source of all our life and hope rose to new life as the firstfruits of all our future resurrections.

In the final chapter of Revelation, John is shown a picture of the future promise, of life without fear under our own vines and fig trees:

Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. They will see his face.

Revelation 22:1-4

The scene is not identical to the Garden but completes and transcends it. The people of God have multiplied and filled the earth with the glory of God, as we were created to do. The garden city has been established, and the tree of life provides eternal health and abundance. No enemies can enter, for the victory of the Lamb over the serpent is complete.

And, if we believe in Jesus, this is the promise: we will be in his presence once more, for the blood of Christ has washed us clean, redeeming and restoring us to the garden of grace and peace forever.

He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree,

that we might die to sin and live to righteousness.

By his wounds you have been healed.

1 Peter 2:24

Hold Nothing Back

My husband and I fell onto the couch. Our three kids were finally in bed after an unusually busy day. We still had lunches to make and dishes to clean, but we needed a moment to catch up.

“I have to tell you something,” he began. And then he said five words that cut through everything else: “I got laid off today.”

This isn’t true. It can’t be true. It can’t be.

“Are you serious?” I asked.

He was.

Initially, we both looked at the positives of the situation. He had been wanting to make a career change, and now he was free to do so.

But as the weeks turned into months of job searching, my suppressed fear of our uncertain future began to show up outwardly in anxiety attacks.

And I hated those moments because I thought I was made of stronger stuff.

I had a close relationship with God. He carried me through challenging and painful seasons at a young age. I’d even had opportunities to mentor other women through their own challenging seasons. So, when anxiety welled up in me, I wondered how strong my faith really was.

I thought I should have been able to handle the uncertainty of our situation and withstand it with inward and outward peace. But I constantly felt a low-level sense of fear, and anxiety would rip through me at unexpected times. I was a mess.

I prayed regularly. But I felt like there was a barrier, like I was holding something back.

That’s silly, I thought. Why am I not telling God stuff that he already knows?

It felt like a struggle to be completely honest.

When I finally opened up about my deepest fears, God put a spotlight on that part of me that was ashamed of feeling fearful and anxious. It was as if he was saying, That shame is not from me. I don’t expect you to carry all of this.

God wanted me so close that I was willing to give all my fears to him, trusting fully in his great love for me; holding nothing back from him.

The apostle Peter says as much when he exhorts believers in Christ to “cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you,” (1 Peter 5:7).

I had inadvertently taken on a responsibility that I was never meant to carry. Instead of opening my hands to God and releasing my fears and worries to him, I had actually closed my hands around my anxiety. I was relying upon myself to muster peace instead of relying on God to give me peace.

No wonder anxiety would well up in uncontrollable ways! I was storing it up rather than giving it away.

It’s fitting, then, that right before Peter encourages us to cast all our anxiety on the Lord, he tells us to “humble [our]selves… under God’s mighty hand,” (1 Peter 5:6). Trusting God with our anxieties takes humility. It takes viewing ourselves as less powerful than we think we are and viewing God as more capable than we imagine he is.

When I hold anxiety back from God, I only prove my stubborn self-reliance. I close my hands, and I say, “I’ve got this, God.”

But when I cast my anxieties on him, I open my hands freely and say, “I need You, Lord.”

I still have bouts of anxiety. But now I don’t feel this weird guilt-laden burden to manage it. I know I can give it to God.

God longs for us to run to him with all of our fears and failures because he loves us.

As we begin this new year, let’s go to him eagerly in prayer as we learn all the more to trust him with our fears, anxieties, and all our cares.

He is more than capable of handling it all.

Genesis to Revelation: The Dwelling Place of God

Most of us are familiar with the content of Genesis 1 — “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” Our kids have done crafts in Children’s Ministry depicting the pattern of creation described there.

We also likely know the story of Genesis 3 with Adam and Eve, the snake and the tree, and the beginning of sin and shame.

But Genesis 2 shows us an essential part of the Biblical story that’s easy to pass over. Here we see God didn’t just create a universe of wonders but carefully designed a home for those made in his image—Eden. Adam and Eve are given a paradise where their every need is met and their Father walks with them in the cool of the day (Genesis 3:8).

We know how the heartbreaking tale unfolds. Adam and Eve reject God’s rule and seek independence, walking away from God’s presence into death, darkness, and chaos. Their sin drives them from the garden, for light cannot dwell with darkness, and holiness cannot abide corruption.

But even in the midst of their failure and shame, God doesn’t abandon them. He reaffirms his desire to dwell among his people through the astonishing promise to raise up one of their descendants to conquer sin once and for all. Without compromising an ounce of his holiness, he presents a solution through his grace. But in the meantime, generation after generation of God’s people live and die outside of his presence.

If we fast forward to Exodus, God has set his people free from slavery and led them into the wilderness, where they were called to build him a tabernacle, meaning dwelling place. Finally, God’s personal presence would dwell among his people again. The Israelites were given the astounding privilege of worshiping, serving, and living in the presence of the Holy God, the creator of heaven and earth.

Unfortunately, just like Adam and Eve, they were deceived by the lies of the world and chose to walk away from God.

Despite warning after warning, their hearts were hardened and they were eventually handed over to their sin and exiled from the land.

Years later, though they returned to the land, it seemed impossible that God’s presence would ever dwell with them again or that the promised conqueror of sin would ever come.

But John’s gospel begins with a powerful promise, echoing the story of Eden:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made… And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. 
– John 1:1-3, 14

The word “dwelt” in Greek — skēnoō — actually means he tabernacled among us. Imagine how John’s original readers would have heard that phrase. The tabernacle was a sacred place where a holy God dwelt on earth, and now Jesus is that ultimate meeting place between God and people. God himself has once again come to dwell with them.

As we read the Gospels, we see the true King who demonstrates the heart of God, conquering sin by sacrificing himself in place of the rebellious humans who have continued to walk away from him. His death destroyed the barrier of sin that barred us from the holy presence of God.

That Greek word skēnoō is used only four more times in the Bible, and all of them occur in Revelation.

Let’s look at the promise of Revelation 21:3.

Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell (skēnoō) with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.

What was lost in the beginning of Genesis is being restored at the end of Revelation.

God will dwell again among his people, sin and death will be destroyed, and humans will regain complete access to the fullness of life in the presence of God.

His plan from the very beginning is still the same plan.

God’s desire to dwell among his people cannot be thwarted by our rebellion and shame.

We can trust in the promise of his presence and the coming fullness of our joy.

You make known to me the path of life;

in your presence there is fullness of joy;

at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

Psalm 16:11

Is it Okay to Doubt God?

If you look around the world today, amidst the days of COVID variants, political tension, and a myriad of other stressors and struggles, it’s easy to feel some sense of doubt about God and his presence in the world. It’s easy to wonder why he isn’t doing something about it. Or if he’s even really there at all.

The truth is, even though our worries and fears carry some different names in the modern day, doubt has always existed within the Christian faith.

Even people who were with Jesus — who knew him personally — still struggled with knowing if it was all real.

So, it’s no surprise we sometimes find ourselves with similar feelings.

If there was anyone in all of history who would seem immune to doubt, it probably would’ve been the man traditionally known as John the Baptist.

His mom was the cousin of Mary, the mother of Jesus, which meant Jesus and John were kin. So that’s pretty good. Better yet, God selected and chose John to announce the way of Jesus to the people.

John was a prophet, he was a man of God, and he was a man of great faith.

He even baptized Jesus.

In Matthew 11 Jesus says:

Truly, I say to you, among those born of women, there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist. Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.

– Matthew 11:11a

I mean talk about something to put on your resume, right?

Jesus called me the greatest person who’s ever lived.

When Jewish kids had posters of the rock stars of the faith on their wall, John the Baptist was right in the middle.

But, as we see earlier in Matthew 11, we observe something interesting happening.

Traditionally, the Jews thought the Messiah would come and destroy the oppressive Romans. He would be this amazing unconquerable king. He’d be a warmonger.

And not only was Jesus not like that, but things weren’t going well for John the Baptist who had just baptized Jesus and declared him the Messiah. In fact, during his ministry, John was imprisoned, and at this point in the text he’s on the docket to get executed.

So, suddenly, it seems all the questions in John’s mind about Jesus, and about his faith, and about this whole idea of Christianity began to bubble to the surface of John’s thoughts.

Here’s what he did:

Now when John heard about the deeds of Christ, he sent word by his disciples and said to him,Are you the one who is to come? Or shall we look for another?

– Matthew 11:2-3

Stunning! Here we have the great John the Baptist struggling with doubt about Jesus.

He’s like, “Jesus, are you really the Christ? Or did I screw that whole thing up? We’ve been waiting for somebody. Are you really who you say you are?”

What I love about this, is that it tells us something very important about people who want to deal with their doubts.

If you’ve struggled with doubt or are currently struggling with it, before you do anything else, you simply must know that going through these seasons — those ones that wreck you about Jesus and God — is normal.

And not only is it normal, but it’s also necessary.

Doubts are the growing pains of the faith. It’s always been that way. They’re usually seasons of discomfort, and sometimes they bring us to tears. It’s real pain. But they’re seasons we must endure if we want to grow in our faith.

Coming to grips with the idea that doubt in your faith journey is normal and necessary — just knowing that — lowers the anxiety about it. Because doubt, though it is painful and difficult to journey through, means that at the very least you are asking big questions of a very big God.

And whatever your questions are, whatever doubts you have, the most practical first step is that you must work to find the answer.

And I specifically said “work to find it,” not just “find it,” because I can almost assure you that it’s going to take time and energy.

Go to Christian leaders that you trust. If you’re in a small group, and you’re not bringing your questions and doubts to them, you’re missing a grand opportunity to leverage good Christ-following people. Ask them! And read about the subject you’re asking about (but not just from Google).

The enemy of faith isn’t doubt, it’s apathy.

Real doubts demand real work.

There will be days you feel like you’re keeping your head above the water, and there will be days you feel like you’re drowning.

My favorite verse in all of the Bible that deals with doubt is Mark 9:24 where a guy says to Jesus, “I believe. Just help my unbelief.”

It’s one of the most honest prayers I’ve ever heard.

That’s a prayer I pray.

God, I believe. Help me in areas where I don’t believe.

And for those who struggle with doubts that’s a great prayer to pray. Run to Jesus with your doubt!

But, don’t just run to Jesus to find help from him, but run to Jesus to find help in him.

You can take all the doubts that plague you — and they can be really big — but they’re size cannot eclipse the historical fact that Jesus rose from the dead. Whatever doubts you have can be overwhelmed by the weightiness of who Jesus is and what he’s done.

In Matthew 11, Jesus responded to the disciples of John the Baptist like this:

Go and tell John what you hear and see. The blind receive sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up. And the poor have good news preached to them.

– Matthew 11:4b-5

In other words, here’s what he said, “You tell John that you can all have confidence in me by looking at what I’ve done.”

And we have it even better as Christians today, because John never got to see Jesus go to the cross and then, better yet, rise from the grave.

But we have.

Jesus’ answer is, “You have to trust me.”

And we must do the same.

Even when we can’t trust what’s happening around us.

Even when we can’t trust ourselves.

Doubts are the growing pains of faith. They’re part of the journey. And they’re serious.

But they aren’t insurmountable.

Ask questions.

Run to Jesus.

Trust God.


 

Is December 25 Really When Jesus Was Born?

You don’t have to look far to find people who embrace the commercial aspects of Christmas but also question the truth of Christianity’s claims about Jesus.

One of those questions is simple, but can also be confusing to Christians and non-Christians alike: is December 25 really when Jesus was born?

Well, the short answer is we don’t know. While there are a couple of theories, the Bible doesn’t speak to the specific time when Jesus was born, and historical accounts are silent on the exact day as well.

There is speculation that the birth of Christ was celebrated on December 25 to coincide with pagan holidays, but most scholars agree there is little evidence supporting this theory. It wasn’t until the twelfth century that Jesus’s birth and pagan feasts were first connected, and the tradition for December 25 is actually quite ancient. The first historical mentions of this date for Christmas were made as early as the second century, while most Christians settled on this date by the fourth century.

None of the gospel writers mention the specific date of Christ’s birth. But both Matthew and Luke provide significant details about the birth of Christ, and their presence indicates their importance to the narrative as a whole.

For instance, Luke lets us know that Jesus slept in a manger (Luke 2:7), reflecting his gentle and lowly nature. If God felt it was essential for us to know the exact date of the Savior’s birth, he certainly would have told us in his Word.  Sometimes, it’s really okay to say that we don’t know.

So if we don’t know that December 25 was really the birthday of Jesus, can we know if he really was born at all? Was Jesus a real, historical person?

While increasing numbers of people do not believe Jesus was a real person, both secular scholars and those who study the New Testament are in overwhelming agreement that he actually lived.

This was true in ancient times as well.

Within a few decades of Jesus’ lifetime, Jesus was mentioned by both Jewish and Roman historians in writings that corroborate the Gospels’ descriptions of his life and death.

So, even though we don’t know the exact day of Jesus’ birth, we have ample evidence that he existed, throughout, not only Christian tradition, but secular history as well.

Regardless of any question on when Jesus was born, only the Bible can explain to us why he was born:

And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus.  He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

— Luke 1:30-33

The Son of God, who left his rightful place in heaven, humbled himself and was born in a manger. He came into this world to atone for our sins and was resurrected to eternal life. He revealed God to us, he gifted us his Spirit, he reigns in heaven, and he is coming again to redeem all of creation.

While we do not know everything, we can be certain of the essentials. God himself, through whom all things were created, came to the world as one of us. To live and die and live again for us.

Because he loves us.

Because he loves you.

This I know is true.

He is Immanuel, God with us, to be both experienced now and treasured as a promise of what is to come.

And so, December 25 is the day we officially celebrate the birth of Christ, and a day that we stop and recognize the greatest gift anyone has ever been given. But it’s too big for one day, or one month, or even a season.

December 25 is the day we mark on our calendars, but there is reason to celebrate this story every other day as well!


 

A Seat at the Table

You know the scene — that tumultuous environment known as the high school cafeteria.

You know the feeling of walking in to such a setting, lunch in hand, scouring the room for a place to sit.

Am I allowed to sit at that table?

What would people think if I sat there?

I can’t sit with them; they’re not my crowd.

And many of us know the feeling from the other side — the person sitting at the table, monitoring the movements of the hopeful seat hunters.

Are they going to sit here?

What would people think if they sat with us?

They aren’t one of us, I hope they don’t try it.

We call them “cliques” in high school. At that stage of life, we’re identified by what we do and who we spend time with; by the sports we play or don’t; by the grades we get (or don’t); and by our general attitude toward this building we’re required to be in.

Honestly, it’s easier to eat lunch with people who do the same things we do. It’s fun to talk about music with other people who like it. There’s camaraderie in clowning around with the other guys on the football team. And it’s motivating to sit alongside students with the same goals of getting into a good college like we want to.

The problems come when we see anyone outside this circle — anyone not at this table — as “them,” and anyone inside it — anyone sitting at the table — as “us.”

And that isn’t just a high school problem.

As college students, and young adults, and married couples, and parents, and voters, and sports fans, and co-workers, it’s common to fall into the “them” and “us” way of thinking.

Honestly, we don’t need to talk about whether this is right or wrong.

We know.

Deep down we know it’s a shallow view of life to only commune with those who look like us, or act like us, or think like us.

But, we also know it’s comfortable.

It feels good to be affirmed, to be heard, to be able to say what we really think.

And the truth is, we also know being around like-minded people holds some value.

It is a valuable thing to be able to gather with people who will listen to us, understand where we’re coming from, and who can offer specific, tailored counsel to our situation and circumstance.

So, what do we do?

Do we sit at the lunchroom table with only “our” people?

Or do we allow others who might upset the established vibe to join us?

In the Bible, we see Jesus navigate this issue with beautiful balance.

Jesus, throughout his ministry, has his guys — the disciples — with him wherever he goes. He spends a lot of time with them. In the book of Acts we come to understand that these men are leaders he’s raising up to lead the church in its infancy, but they’re also just his buddies. He eats with them, teaches them, travels with them, and works alongside them.

But, Jesus’ purpose isn’t solely focused on these men. He has other things he’s trying to accomplish as well.

We see him go out of his way to speak with the woman at the well (John 4:1-42), and stay at Zacchaeus the chief tax collector’s house (Luke 19:1-10), and heal the sick like the paralyzed man (Luke 5:17-26) or the woman with the issue of bleeding (Mark 5:24-34), and love the hurting like Jairus the ruler of the synagogue and his daughter (Mark 5:21-24, 35-43) and Mary, Martha, and Lazarus (John 11:1-44).

These aren’t the people it would have been most advantageous for Jesus to be around. These were the outsiders and outcasts, the broken and the beaten-down, the desperate and the dying.

If this were the high school cafeteria, Jesus would have been working to push all the tables together, including — and maybe especially — the ones where no one else wanted to be.

Jesus made room at his table.

Just like he made room for you.

This is the beauty of the Gospel, that Jesus would invite us in, that he would offer us a place in his father’s family, by doing for us what we couldn’t do for ourselves — despite our differences and despite our disobedience.

But it doesn’t end there.

Jesus not only invites us in to salvation and grace, but he then invites us into his mission of extending that same offer to everyone in the world.

“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, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

– Matthew 28:19-20

At Clear Creek Community Church, we say we want to reach every man, woman, and child, in our geography with the gospel, and that our mission is to lead unchurched people to become fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ.

There are a lot of people in this cafeteria we call the 4B Area. There are many different cliques, a variety of people groups and social statuses, and a wealth of diversity. But if we want to live out the mission of not only our church, but of Jesus, then we must be willing to do the uncomfortable, the unconventional, and maybe even the “uncool” — to ask people who don’t normally sit with us to take a seat.

Is there room at your table?


 

Tag Archive for: Bible

The Guitar I Didn’t Want to Give Away

I didn’t want to give away my first electric guitar.

Even though it was an Ibanez “shredder,” designed for a style I don’t really play anymore, it was sentimental to me. I had owned it since I was a teenager, and it had been with me through the many changes in my life. It moved with me to different parts of Texas at least four times. I assumed I’d always keep it, even if it never more than a nostalgic conversation piece in the closet.

So, when I sensed God leading me to dust it off, get it fixed up, and give it away, I was immediately resistant. Aw man, God. It was my first guitar! I whined a little to him and bristled against the conviction, but I knew it was what he wanted me to do. Another guitar in my house wouldn’t mean much. But to give that guitar away could mean something to someone else, even if it caused me a little pain to do so.

All right.

Okay.  

OKAY God!

I’ll do it!

I planned to give it to the Hope 4 Honduras youth pastor, a wonderful guitar player and worship leader, I’d met on a previous mission trip to Honduras. But right before leaving Houston, I found out he’d gotten a job elsewhere and was no longer at the mission.

Well, who can I give it to now, God? 

I debated even bringing the guitar at all but decided to follow through on God’s prompting. I didn’t know who I would give it to, but I stayed alert for an opportunity.

Shortly after arriving in Honduras, I ran into Leo. I had forgotten about this guitarist. Leo works at the mission in IT and security (and he happens to be a killer metal guitar player).

Leo was raised in an environment where Satanic activity, black magic, and witchcraft were the norm. Before Christ, he was surrounded by all sorts of darkness and even played in a band called Blasphemy. But when he came to the Lord, he emerged from his shrouded past and stepped into the light.

The Lord led him to put down his guitar for a long time as he healed from his former life. God showed him that his motivation had been for his own glory and recognition rather than God’s.

But, after years of soul-searching and transformation, Leo pondered on if he should pick up a guitar again. Someone had even given him an acoustic guitar. This time, he promised himself, his relationship with music would be different. He loved metal and performing live, but he wanted to make sure that his motives were pure — that it was for God’s glory alone.

My husband, Billy, and I sat on the Hope 4 Honduras patio, listening to Leo’s story, and a fire shone in his eyes as he told us that he finally felt God telling him he was ready. He had scheduled some time in a recording studio, only a few weeks away. His goal was to form a Christian metal band, bringing Christ to the dark places of the metal scene. He wanted to minister to those musicians as well, sharing his testimony and the glory of God in his redeemed life.

All he needed was an electric guitar.

He didn’t have much money, but he was hoping to be able to find something that worked and sounded good. I asked him the brand and type of guitar he would get if he had more money. When he said “Ibanez” and started describing the exact characteristics of the guitar I had, I knew it was time.

When I told him the story of how the guitar got there, the two of us were in awe.

I will never get over how specific God’s love is for us. His touch is so personal! He provides us with more than we can ask or imagine, at exactly the right time. This was Leo’s affirmation from God: telling him beyond a shadow of a doubt that he was, indeed, ready.

And Leo is running with it. He’s been practicing and recording, and has decided to call his project “Memra,” which loosely means “Word of the Lord.” It is an Aramaic word used in the Bible to describe God’s power coming alive in the physical world — as it will with Leo’s music.

To God be the glory for what he will do with Leo and his gift! We are so excited to see what God does next.

Reading the Bible Together

“I had tried to read the Bible on my own… but once I was in the group doing it together there was a lot more accountability.

Each week different perspectives come in to play, too. There’s lots of different views and points of view in our small group, which is awesome because then you hear other people’s interpretations on things.”

The Joe Stockdale Story

For many of us, COVID hit and impacted our emotional and spiritual world. To varying degrees, we’ve all felt it over the last year. 

For Joe Stockdale, COVID limited his freedom, but led him down a path to true freedom through the Bible, a friend, and an online worship service.

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

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

The Austin Webber Story

Check out the incredible story of how reading the Bible changed everything for Austin Webber. Watch the video here!

Empty: The Marilyn Hester Story

“I felt like I was entering a darkness I couldn’t get out of. I’ve been in a cave before where they turn the lights out on you and you can’t see your hand in front of your face. It’s so black.

“That’s where I felt spiritually.”

 

* * *

 

Marilyn Hester’s bracelets clicked together musically as she spoke, adding expression and emphasis to her story with each hand gesture. Her bright voice, quick movements, big laugh, and sharp tongue suggested she was much younger than 76. And the joy in her smile did not convey the grief she still carried.

Marilyn became a Christian over 40 years ago. To her, God had always been her “best friend, confidant, counselor, everything.”

“He is everything to me,” she said. “I’ve always talked to him. I always had a relationship with him from the moment he revealed himself to me. He created that… He gave me an understanding of his word and the ability to remember it. And I have learning problems!”

Marilyn struggles with dyslexia and attention deficit disorder. As a new believer, Marilyn asked God to help her remember Scripture, and he did. “The word came to life for me; it meant something to me,” she said. “He brought it to life as being real and truth… What’s in here,” she said, pointing to her head, “he pulls out for his purpose. He brings his word to my remembrance.”

Over the years, Marilyn realized she was gifted in remembering and using God’s words in conversations, in speaking to groups of women, in teaching, and in her fervent prayers throughout each day for her loved ones. When her husband, Ed, endured open-heart surgery and almost died, she prayed until he was well again.

And when her daughter, Kim, was diagnosed with an aggressive cancer of the tongue at age 42, she planned on doing the same thing.

Around six months into her diagnosis, Kim left an abusive relationship to move in with her parents again. It was a changing of the guard at the Hester home. Their middle daughter, Carrie, who suffers from muscular dystrophy and mental retardation, had lived with Marilyn and Ed most of her life, but was on her way out of her home for surgery and rehab. Kim returned, needing her parents’ help and care once again.

But the cancer spread rapidly, weakening Kim’s body and mind with every treatment and setback.

“Kim’s suffering was before my face every minute of every day,” recalled Marilyn. “That was more than I could bear —  to see her in that kind of pain. Deep, deep, deep down, I knew she wasn’t going to make it. But I kept praying and putting [God’s] word before him.”

Just over a year into her diagnosis, Kim Hester entered the hospital for the last time. She was given just days to live, and the family was told to make final plans.

“I thought we had more time,” said Marilyn.

[Marilyn (right) with her daughter, Kim.]

“When it was time, she was just gone like a vapor,” Marilyn said with a snap of her fingers. “She took a breath and didn’t exhale. There was no struggle. There was no pain. There was no anxiety.”

Marilyn was able to take some comfort in knowing that Kim was a Christian. She believed Kim died and was immediately in the presence of Jesus. The peace of that certainty was real. But the pain of her loss was overwhelming.

“I could be in the store and would see a pair of shorts — and she loved shorts — and it would bring back memories of when she was a kid and all that, and I would have to go to the car and cry,” said Marilyn.

“The pain was horrible. It was a physical pain, and I wept deeper than I’ve ever wept in my life… It would just erupt like a volcano, and then it was over. That was at the very beginning.”

Then, still in those early days of the grieving process, Marilyn and Ed were thrown a curveball when they were made fully aware of the living conditions of their other daughter. Carrie lived in a group home which meant that Ed and Marilyn had little legal say over what happened to her there. They were beholden to the caregiver who ran the group home, but they discovered she was not taking proper care of Carrie nor was she regarding Carrie’s grief over the loss of her sister. Marilyn’s hands were tied because she and Ed had no way to properly care for her on their own, and this affected her deeply.

“I really felt like I had no more kids,” Marilyn said. “My son worked all the time and lived across town and pulled himself away from us… And I’d lost Kim. And now I’d lost Carrie. So, I began to feel like I had three children and now I had none. It took away my identity. It made me feel like I wasn’t a mother.”

“I began to realize I had put my identity and worth into how my children turned out, or how much influence I had in their lives, and then they’re gone,” she said. “So where’s my identity? Who am I? It was just another thing that was pushing me down into this quicksand of darkness, deep darkness. Because I felt like I was worth nothing.”

At some point, Marilyn’s daily time set aside to read the Bible and pray began to take a discreet turn. “I would read his word and think Okay, well you had the power to heal her but you didn’t do it. I began to center on what I wanted for Kim more than what [God] wanted for her.”

Slowly, Marilyn’s thoughts toward her beloved Lord began to change and lies took root in her mind.

“You see the pain of the memory, and then behind it is this little thinking… And you fight it for a while. It’s like [Satan] tickles your ears with a lie and truth and together they become truth to you. And you just listen. And you don’t even know you’re doing it, but you begin to believe that God was not there for you.”

Often, the lies came in the form of seemingly benign questions, like Did God really love Kim?

She began to question God and then believe things like, “God doesn’t love you God left Kim. God left you. God doesn’t care. You can’t trust his word.”

“It was like little bitty tiny bites into my heart and mind,” recalled Marilyn. “And I began to listen and think you’re right, you’re right, you’re right.”

[Kim (left) with Marylin (right).]

Finally, after a long day of trying unsuccessfully to find a new home for Carrie, Marilyn had had enough. She sent her husband into the house and stayed in the car to let God know exactly what she thought.

“I was so incredibly involved in the grief that I was not pouring it out to [God],” she said. “It was like a volcano erupting. I couldn’t control the crying. I couldn’t control the words coming out of my mouth… I was more honest with him than I think I’d ever been.”

In the midst of this crying out, Marilyn sensed a brokenness between herself and God that she had never before experienced.  “I was like a broken vessel,” she said. “And in that, he just sat there and listened. He never made me feel like he was angry with me, like he would leave me. I knew he was there. But he was so quiet. And I needed him to talk to me!”

“Very slowly I pulled away [from God] until there was nothing,” said Marilyn. “There was no comfort. There was nothing… I quit talking to him. We didn’t have anything to say to each other any more.”

 

 

* * *

 

Give ear to my prayer, O God,

and hide not yourself from my plea for mercy!

Attend to me and answer me…

 

Some time later, Marilyn awoke one morning and decided to open her Bible, something she had not done in a while. She thought, “I’m going to open his word. It’s not going to mean anything anymore but I’m just going to read it.” Scripture was no longer bringing her “any comfort,” so she had set it aside. But on that morning, something prodded her to open God’s word.

As Marilyn opened to Psalm 55, she read words penned as a lament of David. The words were familiar, not only to her mind but also to her heart. She understood the anguish David experienced. She continued reading.

 

…I am restless in my complaint and I moan,

because of the noise of the enemy,

because of the oppression of the wicked…

My heart is in anguish within me; 

the terrors of death have fallen upon me. 

 

It reminded her of something from her childhood.

“I would have these nightmares all the time that someone was trying to kill me,” recalled Marilyn. “I remember thinking that I was going to die in the dream.”

 

Fear and trembling come upon me,

and horror overwhelms me.

 

“Before this person trying to kill me could touch me, I would just be lifted up above the whole thing, and I would fly,” Marilyn said. “And the ability to fly as a child just blew me away, and there was a peace. I could see the guy running after me, but he couldn’t get to me. I would soar like a bird above all of the danger and was perfectly safe in this one place. I felt at home.”

 

And I say, “Oh, that I had wings like a dove!

I would fly away and be at rest…”

 

When she read those lines, something shifted within her. “No longer was it David… it was me,” she said. “It was like God took me back to the dream and said ‘I delivered you then. I deliver you now.’”

All at once, the memory of her childhood dream and the circumstances of her present moment collided as she read those verses, and the darkness within her broke.

“That was God when I was a little girl!” she recalled. “Oh my God, that was God! He really does care!”

“He knew me as a child,” she said. “He delivered me from my nightmares with his own peace. The word that he showed me… was the same thing that happened in that nightmare, and he delivered me. He knew me then, and he knows me now.”

 

* * *

 

Marilyn marks that moment as the time where the deep darkness left and never returned.

“I felt like I was trying to lift myself out of [the depression], and God did it,” she said. “He did for me what I could not do for myself.”

[Marylin (right) holding Kim.]

As she looks back on the darkest days, and how God pulled her up out of the pit, she thinks the experience was “about needing [God] more than it was about needing him to do something for me.”

“I missed him more than I missed my own daughter,” she said. “I missed that relationship we had before. It was a walking, talking, living relationship.”

Marilyn knows now that walking away from God was the worst thing she could have done in her grief.

She has learned a few things.

“Go to the Lord with the suffering, and be honest with him. Don’t hold anything back… If you’re just grieving and stepping away from God and not letting him heal [you], then it’s more painful because you don’t have the power to heal you.”

Marilyn still grieves, but it’s different now.

“We’re closer,” she says. “I think what God wants to do with walking through the grief process is to fill that emptiness with himself. And it takes time. Still the pain of it is there… but it’s different than it was before. It truly feels like grief; it doesn’t feel like blackness.”


 

Behind the Science: The Tia Fink Story

A person does not need to look too far before they are faced with the puzzling mystery of how everything on this earth and in our solar system and out in the universe works together in such ordered fashion.  The beauty of science and creation is clearly seen all around us— if we are looking.

Tia Fink is a scientist and professor of environmental science at Lee College.  She attended many churches growing up that had either very human-centered views of religion or very corporate views of religion.  The focus was either on what humans should or should not be doing to please God or how a person would be blessed to the degree that they were willing to empty their pocketbooks on a Sunday morning.  Both these unbiblical and damaging approaches left Tia with a distaste for God, church, and any kind of religion. She decided to become an atheist.

“I was just happy letting everyone believe what they wanted to believe,” Tia said.

In 2004, when Tia was 20 years old, a work friend invited her to visit Clear Creek Community Church.  While the fill-in-the-blank sermon notes were pleasantly non-threatening, and the people seemed friendly, Tia stopped going after only a few weeks.

“I liked the fill-in-the-blank worksheets a lot,” Tia admitted, “but at that time, I just didn’t want to attend and didn’t think any of it was important.”

Sometimes people would talk to Tia about church and God, and her responses varied between ‘I don’t get it,’ ‘No, that’s not for me,’ and ‘Never again am I trying that.’

“There were other times when people really wanted to know what I thought, and I would say, ‘Well, everyone believes in some sort of “higher power,” no matter what name they called it.’ For the most part though, sometimes I would recognize that maybe there was a higher power, but that he doesn’t care at all because this world is so messed up and evil.  But because of all the evil in the world, I believed that God didn’t exist at all, neither did Satan, neither heaven nor hell.”

Years later, this approach to life was no longer working for her.  She and her husband found themselves in a huge financial bind that led to depression and eventual separation from one another.

“Within four months, I lost my husband and all my earthly possessions,” Tia recalled. “I thought we were still going to work things out, so I let him have anything he wanted from the house.”  But then it turned out she had nothing left.

At that rock-bottom point, Tia had another co-worker  who noticed that she was really struggling. He told her, “If you’re looking for answers, the Bible is where you could find them.” Although she was very skeptical, she had nowhere else to turn and she did need help. So in either a moment of courage or desperation (or maybe both), she asked him where she should start.  Tia finally started her journey of truly discovering whether or not God was really real, and if he was, how he could possibly care about her life.

Tia began reading both the Old Testament and the New Testament at the same time.  And being a scientist, any time she came across verses that didn’t make sense or that she disagreed with (or even ones that she didn’t like), she put on her research hat and started digging.

“I’m not one that if I read something, if it totally doesn’t make sense, I’m just going to move on and leave it alone,” Tia said.  “I would research, ‘Why? Why would God do that?’ There were some very interesting parts that, from my standpoint, just seemed horrible and cruel. But when I researched the background for them and why they happened, it started to make sense why God would choose to want things done that way or allow certain things to happen.”

Her year-long process of excavating the truths underneath the scriptures led to a true discovery of what the Bible really said about God.  This also led her to read supplemental books at the same time she was reading through the Bible. She was looking for answers to explain some of the most challenging topics she encountered both in the Bible and in her personal life: Why does God allow horrible things to happen?  Where is God during my suffering? What does it mean that God is sovereign?

When Tia was reading through the Bible, she was looking for answers for her situation, but she wasn’t seeing those. Originally, she didn’t know you could look in the Bible about marriage, or divorce, or finances.

“I think the way I approached [reading the Bible] helped me have a bigger picture of it all, versus just looking at my current situation.”

Eventually, Tia came to faith after reading about the nature of God, Jesus, and her own need for a savior.  She realized God wanted his people to worship him and him alone when she read about the pagan concrete idol Dagon in 1 Samuel that broke to pieces and bowed face down before the Ark of God and His presence.  She realized Jesus was the only pathway to a right relationship with God when she read his words in John 14 that he was “the way, the truth, and the life.” She realized that because of God’s great love for the world, expressed in John 3, Jesus’ life was given up as a sacrifice for the sins of man.  And when she read Romans 3, she realized that no one was good on their own and she needed this savior, Jesus, too.

The scriptures even revealed the kind of person she wanted to become because of her newfound faith in Jesus.  She wanted to be like the deep-rooted trees planted along the riverbank that Jeremiah spoke about because these were the trees that never stopped producing fruit and could withstand heat and drought without worry.  And she wanted to be like the wise person who builds their house on solid rock from the parable that Jesus told in Matthew because the person who builds their house on bedrock could withstand any amount of rain and wind and floodwaters.

It was clear to Tia that Jesus, who was both the living water and the rock of her salvation, was the answer to her circumstances.  It wasn’t that the heat or drought or the rain, wind, or floods in her life would necessarily cease, but that her faith in Jesus would ground her to no end.  It was only after these revelations that Tia decided to check out church again.

“This process of fact-checking the Bible also led me to fact-check some local churches, too, and I think that was unbelievably helpful,” Tia said.  “I first started by watching some online sermons… and I found myself saying, ‘That’s not true!’ or ‘That’s not what the Bible teaches! Why are they teaching this to people?’”

Then she remembered Clear Creek Community Church and the fill-in-the-blank sermon notes.  She started watching many archived sermons and decided to attend in person again. Tia even fact-checked Clear Creek messages.  But after finding them to be biblically accurate, she knew she had found a church she could trust.

Tia has now been attending CCCC for over two years.  She joined her current small group in February 2018. She serves on Sundays with the high school student ministry.  And she is still a scientist.

“I feel like I understand everything in science better,” Tia said. “We know a lot of things [about our world], which is great. God gives us the knowledge to know these things. The what, the when, the where, and the why are pretty much mostly answered up to this point.  But most of the time, scientists are so reluctant to put in the who.”

However, it seems that even the intelligent design of our solar system challenges this reluctance.  The simple fact that our planet has an orbit keeps us from crashing directly into the sun.  Our specific orbit keeps us from crashing into other planets.  And Jupiter is so delicately positioned to act as a sort of shield for the earth, deflecting harmful gases and asteroids that might otherwise be bound for Earth [Opfer, 2015].

“You can read all these scientific things and you can see how the world works and the physics and the chemistry and the environmental science and the biology, but there’s always these holes, like these gaps of what we don’t know.”

The who, Tia explains, is the one who so carefully created both the parameters of the universe and the very atoms that make up a unit of matter.

“Subatomic particles and the strength of gravity appear to be finely tuned just right to support stars, atoms, molecules, and life,” Tia said.  “Scientists believe if the Big Bang conditions had been slightly different, then the universe would not exist (Johnson, 2003).

“Or just take neutrons and protons as an example. Neutrons are just slightly heavier than protons.  If it were the other way around, atoms couldn’t exist because all the protons in the universe would have decayed into neutrons shortly after the big bang.  No protons, then no atomic nucleuses, no atoms, no chemistry, no life,” Tia claims.  “Saying that God doesn’t exist in that is pretty much setting yourself up for more failure than understanding.”

At the same time that her understanding of the created world amplified, so did her compassion for her friends and her scientist colleagues who still do not believe.  For Tia, choosing to believe in God within a community of atheists can be challenging, at times. Sometimes when presented with opposing discussions with friends or colleagues, she has to say, “I understand where you’re coming from, but that’s not what I’m gonna believe anymore. I’m going to be over here believing this, but if you ever have questions, I’ll tell you anything you want to know.”

“All you can do is try to share the gospel with them sometimes, and share with them in a gentle way so that they’re not going to be hostile towards it.  But it’s not our work to do. It’s God’s work to save them.”

On top of these challenges, Tia’s personal circumstances—the ones that drove her to seek answers in the Bible in the first place—have not changed much at all.  And yet, somehow, everything has changed. While Tia began her spiritual journey hoping for a restored marriage, along the way she found a new perception that God didn’t just exist, but he knew her by name, he was writing her story, and she could trust him.

“As you read through the Bible, there is all sorts of devastation; we’re not the first people to have war and famine and adultery and everything else,” Tia said.  “Lots of people in the Bible had to learn how to be content. I’m sure they didn’t want to be in prison.  I’m sure lots of God’s people didn’t want to have all the bad things happen to them that happened to them.  I’m sure they didn’t like those situations at all, but He allowed it to happen—and it was still for their good, somehow.”

In the quest to be content in her circumstances, Tia admits that putting these truths into her mind and soul daily is the main thing that keeps her moving forward.

“If you look at the big picture, God’s sovereign over all of it, even from the grass growing to the condition of the soil to every drop of rain.  So if He sees and controls all that, what makes you think that he doesn’t see and know and control your circumstances? Because He does.”

 


 

References:

 

Opfer, C. (2015). What If Earth Changed Its Orbit. Retrieved from

https://science.howstuffworks.com/science-vs-myth/what-if/what-if-earth-changed-its-orbit.htm

 

Johnson, G. (2003) Can Science Prove the Existence of God? Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2003/11/11/science/can-science-prove-the-existence-of-god.html

The Well

The sand crunched on the path beneath the woman’s sandals as she walked. She kept her head tilted down to shield her eyes from the sun burning brightly overhead as she went. She needed water for her family, and that was where her journey was taking her.

She shifted the position of her empty water jar, and held it against her stomach with both arms, crinkling the fabric of her tunic. The road was empty. She had timed this trip well. There would likely be no one at the well where she was headed; no one to look at her with judgmental glances, or whisper to each other as she passed by.

This is the life she had earned and she knew it, but that didn’t mean she wanted the reminders from everyone else if she could avoid them.

 

* * *

Chanda McKinney was eight years old when her family moved from Colorado to the Houston area. John McKinney, her dad, had worked for the Coors Brewing Company in Colorado, and had taken a job in distributing with the Miller Brewing Company in Texas to take advantage of a better economy.

John had been a Christian for just a few short years and was doing his best to lead and provide for his wife, Sherry, and three daughters. Chanda’s family went to church every Sunday in the morning and the evening. They were there on Wednesday’s as well, and Chanda and her sister’s attended summer church camp every year. But at home, Chanda’s parents were constantly at odds, and frequently lashed out at each other in front of their kids.

“He was teaching the kids and heavily involved in the church,” Chanda says about her father. “The children loved my dad – we loved my dad. Yet, I heard my mom just constantly talking very poorly about my dad – a disdain that was extremely disheartening to hear her say about him.”

As an added benefit of living in Houston, Chanda’s family lived close to her mom’s family. And as a result, Chanda spent many of her childhood Saturdays shopping with her mom, aunt, and grandmother.

Sitting in the backseat of the car as they would drive, Chanda heard her mom vent about the difficulties of marriage and parenting. It colored the way Chanda saw relationships and, because she rarely heard things from his side of the story, the way she viewed her father.

As the months went on Chanda overheard more and more from her mother about how her father was dropping the ball as a family man, spending all of his time either at work or church.

On one of those Saturdays, Chanda’s aunt and mom were discussing the importance of talking to kids about inappropriate touching after hearing the idea stressed by Dr. Phil. Chanda doesn’t remember much from that conversation, except when her mom made a passing remark about the possibility of Chanda’s father committing such an act. It didn’t come to light for Chanda until many years down the road, that a grandfather whom she never knew, had been abusive towards her dad’s sisters. Chanda’s mom was merely commenting on a dark fragment of family history. But for an elementary school-aged Chanda, the damage was done. Chanda was haunted by the comment.

“In that moment, it changed my entire relationship with my father because I lived in fear that he would abuse me,” Chanda said. “I felt powerless, and fearful, and just frozen with paranoia that my dad would do something like that to me. And so from that point, I just learned from watching my parents. My mom had gained a lot of weight. She would probably be what doctors would consider to be obese… I never heard my dad say this about her, but I heard her say things like, ‘He doesn’t even touch me or talk to me because of my weight.’ What I learned was that if I could get fat then I could protect myself.”

Over the next few years, Chanda lived in a state of imbalance. She intentionally binged on sugar and sweets at every opportunity, but heard her mom complain about being overweight at the same time. Chanda tried to keep up with the pace, but couldn’t fully comprehend the issues that she saw her mom facing.

Seeing his oldest daughter becoming more distraught, but not knowing the extent of what was happening to her, Chanda’s dad chalked it all up to the hormones of a preadolescent daughter.

“My dad became passive in the hopes that my mom would do better with me,” Chanda said. “I took that as rejection… I felt abandoned by him even though we were in the same home.”

 

* * *

 

Beads of sweat formed and rolled down the woman’s temples as she walked. Her face was positioned to look at the ground beneath her feet to keep her eyes from straining in the sunlight. She knew the well wasn’t too far away and so she lifted her head just enough to see the distance she still had to travel.

She stopped.

A man was sitting on the lip of the well, watching her from only a short distance away.

She continued slowly and approached the well, trying not to make eye contact. She hadn’t seen him before, and knew he must passing through. She wondered why he would be alone, and what he might want.

“Give me a drink,” he said, startling her and interrupting her thoughts.

She starred at him for a moment, meeting his gaze for the first time. There was a strange gleam in his eyes, as if he knew her.

But how would he? It was obvious to her now that he was a Jew. And her being a Samaritan, had met only a very few number of Jewish men before. This was not one of them, and out of habit she became uncomfortable that he was speaking to her.

“How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” she questioned brashly, intending to warn him off of any ill intent.

He smiled softly, leaned forward and looked down towards his hands.

“If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” As he finished this phrase he looked up again and his eyes pierced her own.

They starred at each other in silence for a moment, as a soft breeze blew a few strands of hair across her face.

“Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us this well and drank from it himself. As did his sons and his livestock.”

The man continued to look her in the eye as he spoke.

“Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

The woman was stunned. She’d never heard anyone speak this way. Unconsciously, she leaned in and took a small step forward.

All of her life, she had searched for something to make her feel fulfilled. To feel like she was worth something. To feel hope for her future.

What this man offered was more than water, but she knew not the words to say what it was.

“Sir, give me this living water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.”

 

* * *

 

Chanda was starting to crave attention.

She had started to take an interest in the boys at school and sought out their attention. There was rarely a time that she was not involved in some sort of a dating relationship after starting intermediate school.

As she started to taste the small amount of freedom that came with junior high, Chanda began to feel like her parents were trying to squelch her social life. She quickly began finding ways to be around them as little as possible. Nearly every weekend she went to a friends’ house – most of whom did not have church-going parents – and Chanda discovered more freedom to do whatever she wanted.

“We didn’t have a curfew,” Chanda says. “We would sneak out. There was alcohol and drugs. We’d sneak boys in; we’d sneak out to see guys. I mean, that was the lifestyle and I wasn’t even in high school yet.”

Chanda’s secret life was starting to spiral out of control.

As they began to realize that there was something going on with their daughter, Chanda’s parents sought out professional help and set up regular meetings with a counselor.

But as her counselor and parents begged Chanda to talk, to open up, the more she didn’t want to speak. She liked the attention. She liked the control. And so she said just enough to keep them at bay.

“They talked to me about sex – how important it is to save yourself for marriage. That was all very important. But when they were talking to me about this, what I heard was, ‘Your only value is your virginity.’ And so I figured if I gave that away, then someone would love me. And so I just kept giving it away, giving it away, giving it away. And nobody stayed. The rejection, the abandonment, the hurt, the pain, and all the soul-ties, and hurt and havoc, and now a reputation and isolation, and drugs and alcohol – I was just dying to escape what was going on inside, but I couldn’t even begin to talk about it. So that just led to more.”

Internally, she was starting to feel hollow, like a deep sense of emptiness that she couldn’t fill, no matter how hard she tried.

During her freshman year of high school, when Chanda was just 14 years old, her already overwhelming feelings of shame and guilt took a tragic turn. She spent the night at a friends’ house and was molested by her friend’s stepfather. Chanda’s friend found out about the incident and went to a counselor where she explained the incident involving Chanda, and then confessed that her stepfather had been molesting her for several years.

The friend moved away to live with her biological father.

The stepfather went to jail.

Chanda fell into a state of despair.

She continued to search for worth and meaning in her relationships with guys at school. But the search continued in vain.

When she was 16 years old, tragedy struck again.

“Another time was when I was with another best friend at her house, her mom was gone. There was alcohol there, and I was completely inebriated. Just drunk. Didn’t even realize I couldn’t stand up. I didn’t know until I stood up. I kind of fought my way to the bathroom because I believed that if you needed to sober up you’re supposed to shower. That’s what they do in the movies. And so I made my way to the bathroom, and started kind of undressing to get into the shower, and kind of passed out, and came to with just one guy after another having sex with me.”

By law, it was rape.

The next morning, the friend’s mother approached Chanda, explaining that people at the party had seen what had happened. She was holding Chanda responsible for what had happened, and told her that she wouldn’t tell anyone if Chanda would agree to get on birth control.

“I just didn’t want my parents to know,” Chanda says. “And I didn’t want to lose another friend. I just believed her mom.”

Chanda was filled with an even deeper sense of shame and guilt than before. And she continued to bury these feelings deep down where no one could see how much heartache and emptiness she was dealing with. She held out her reasoning that if she just found the right person to be with, she would feel valued and loved and her problems would disappear. And if she couldn’t find that then she would numb the pain with enough drugs and alcohol that she simply wouldn’t care anymore.

Chanda’s parents had reconciled their marriage by the time she finished high school. A few years prior they realized their need for help and started seeing a marriage counselor. As a couple and individuals, they were starting to turn their lives around. They had a healthy marriage. They attended church regularly. But they were minimally aware of what was happening in Chanda’s life.

Chanda started attending San Jacinto College to study cosmetology after high school. It was something she was interested in, and showed potential, but her social life was continuing just as it had in high school.

At the age of 18, Chanda got pregnant.

“I met another guy, and we dated,” Chanda says. “I though we were like together. Anyway, I got pregnant. Couldn’t get ahold of him. He ignored my calls. I just thought for sure, that he was going to come around. I mean, I’m pregnant. But I never heard from him.”

Three months into her pregnancy, Chanda knew she was in over her head, but didn’t know where to turn for help.

“I had no other choice, I thought, and had an abortion,” Chanda says. “It was the worst experience of my life… The shame was just, I mean, overwhelming.”

Desperate to shed the pain and guilt, Chanda went right back to doing what she always did.

Over the next few years, Chanda would find herself in several more unhealthy relationships. She was violently abused. She fell deeper into the usage dependence of drugs, alcohol, and sex. She was left empty, time and time again. But she couldn’t break the cycle.

One night, she was arrested and taken to jail after the police caught her and a couple of friends using cocaine outside of a club.

Chanda wound up with five years of deferred adjudication (a type of probation), which meant she would have to meet routinely with a probation officer and pass a regular drug test.

Chanda was still going to clubs regularly, but had figured out a way to pass her urine analysis when she had to meet with the probation officer without slowing down her lifestyle. She was settling into somewhat of a routine to try to make it through the next few years.

“I moved in with my boyfriend, who lived with his mother – a strong believer,” Chanda says. “She would pray for me, and my heart would just break. We would go to church with her every now and then, and I’d just cry. I knew I wanted to come back to Christ.”

Chanda considered herself a Christian from the time that she had prayed to receive Christ and was baptized as an 11-year-old. She was still going to church somewhat regularly into her late teens and early twenties, but she continually felt like church and the rest of her life didn’t fit together.

“I would be there, like, ‘Oh, please let it be a long prayer, so I can close my eyes, because I’ve been up all night and I’m hungover.”

It was a couple of years into probation that Chanda got pregnant for the second time.

Chanda’s boyfriend took her to the clinic where she would undergo the procedure to have her second abortion.

“There was no way I could live with that shame. It was the worst thing I think I’ve ever done. Out of all the victimization things, this was my choice. I couldn’t live with it. I was so depressed. More drugs. More alcohol.”

 

* * *

 

The man looked at her deeply.

The sun was hot overhead, and he wiped the sweat from his temples before he leaned forward as if he was about to tell her something of utmost importance. The woman was eager with anticipation and felt her pulse quicken as she shifted the water jar in her arms.

“Go, call your husband, and come here,” the man said.

She felt her heart stagger.

“I have no husband,” she said breathlessly.

His expression remained calm and sincere. “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true.”

The woman took a small step back and she looked down to the ground between her and the man sitting on the edge of the well as she felt her eyes begin to fill with tears.

How did he know? Was he from here? Was this all some kind of a cruel trick?

“Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet.” She said, quickly wiping her eyes dry, and trying to change the focus as they spoke. “Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.”

“Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father,” he said with a sort of gentle sternness in his words. It felt as though he knew exactly what she was trying to do, but went along with it anyway. “You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is here now, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”

She had never heard anything like this before. She wondered what was this man might be trying to do to her? Was he attempting to confuse her, only to talk more about her promiscuity?

She knew how to end the exchange. He couldn’t argue with prophecy, could he?

“I know that Messiah is coming; he who is called ‘Christ.’ When he comes, he will tell us all things.” She was starting to back away, readying herself to turn and leave.

He stood now, rising to his full height. Firmly he said, “I who speak to you am he.”

She stopped.

 

* * *

 

Chanda was on vacation with her parents when she got the call from her probation officer.

The results of her final probationary drug test had come back, and they weren’t good. He was calling to inform her of the legal ramifications – 30 days in a rehab facility and 60 days in a halfway house.

Chanda was devastated.

It was around this time, Chanda had started to feel a desire to try to get right with God. She felt like a legal punishment such as this was a slap in the face.

Maybe I’m here to fix somebody else,” Chanda says she thought before going to the rehab center. “Why God, do you have me here? I was just about to get off… Why am I here? I thought it was a punishment. And I remember having a conversation, actually with my mom, and she said – and this was her turning point too – she said, ‘Maybe you’re there for you.’”

Chanda started praying that night.

As she entered into rehab and began to realize that she had no boyfriend with her to distract her, no drugs or drinks to take her focus off of her problems, and no job to take up her time, Chanda came to a realization.

“I had a choice,” Chanda says. “It was the line in the sand.”

So Chanda picked up her Bible and started to read.

She read Isaiah 40:29-31 that says: “He gives power to the faint, and to him and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.”

She read the story of the prodigal son in Luke 15.

And she read Romans 8 where it says: “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

She read of God’s love and that Jesus died for her sins, and she felt her heart begin to change.

“So many things changed for me,” Chanda says of those 90 days. “For one, my perspective of others. Here’s me; self-righteous, judgmental, looking down on others, never relating. And yet I’m sitting now in a room full of people where I am them. I am the one that needs a savior – a rescuer… I really came to the end of my ‘self’ in there.”

After the 90 days were over, Chanda saw life in a new way. She started regularly going to church, recommitted her life to Christ, got baptized a second time and stayed sober. She was attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, and even started trying to eat better and exercise to take care of her body in a way that she never had before. Her relationship with her parents was healing as they talked through her past, and she began to feel the weight, from the approval and attention she so desperately craved as a child, began to wane.

“So four years after that, I’m 27, 28 and I felt very strongly that I had done everything to do inside my company,” Chanda said. “What was the next step? I prayed about it and felt very strongly God was like, ‘go to New York.’”

So Chanda packed up her life and moved to New York City, searching for a fresh start; a way to begin again in life.

Chanda did well for herself in the world of cosmetology, building a regular clientele that helped her gain a good reputation in the area. Eventually she even got to take on more high-profile clients like New York Yankees players and a few other local celebrities.

But for all the success she had found in her profession, Chanda still found herself struggling in the social sphere. She waded into the world of online dating, and quickly felt the desire to be valued creep back into her mind. She gave herself away again, and even began to dabble with smoking marijuana in an effort to keep one guy around. It didn’t work. But the door had been re-opened.

Chanda was continuing to attend church every Sunday, but felt her double-life starting to return, lurking beneath the surface. She tried to get control before things got out of hand like before.

She met another guy online and they began dating. He had a history with drugs and hadn’t yet given his life to Christ, even though he expressed a desire to do so. Chanda wanted nothing more than to help him. Immediately she began to focus her efforts on “saving” him. She thought of it as a project with mutual benefits. He would be saved and she would prevent a backslide in her own life. So Chanda started taking him to church with her on the weekends. She saw promise in him, but began to fear that he wouldn’t stick around and see it all through. She compromised.

Less than a month after her 30th birthday, Chanda found out that she was pregnant again. She was wrecked by the discovery.

But she saw it as a wake-up call. She stopped smoking and drinking, and started praying, asking God for direction and help.

Chanda’s parents were receptive and gracious with the news. They knew their daughter was struggling and, though they hadn’t walked alongside her for everything before, they wanted to help her now.

After fasting and praying about his daughter’s hurt and pain Chanda’s dad knew what needed to happen. The man who had been at a loss as to what to do with a hormonal teenage daughter was willfully stepping back into her mess.

“He was just like ‘Come back. I’m fasting and I’m praying for you. I’m here for you. Little girl, come back.’ I’m like 30, and I’m still his little girl. No conditions, no questions. Just, ‘Come back.’”

When they spoke again they all agreed – Chanda was going to move back in with her parents.

Chanda packed her things, and headed back to Texas.

“I went from buying $400 shoes in New York, to pregnant, not married and having to start over.”

Despite the humbling nature of it all, Chanda says moving back to Houston was the best decision she could have made at the time.

Her parents helped her through the remainder of her pregnancy and reconciled their relationship with their eldest daughter.

Chanda, John (Father), Marissa (Sister).

Chanda gave birth to her son, Caleb, in 2004.

Several years later, Chanda and Caleb moved to League City even though she had sworn that she would never move back to the burbs. She began looking for churches in the area that would allow Caleb to go to school with the same kids that he saw on Sundays. She settled on Clear Creek Community Church and shortly after she started attending, got involved in a small group.

“By the grace of God, my small group leader was single and shared very graciously, authentically and transparently about her same-sex attraction,” Chanda said. “And I was like, ‘thank God, there’s normal people here.’”

“I remember one of the first conversations I had with her on the phone,” Krissy Jones, Chanda’s first small group leader at CCCC, said. “We talked for like an hour and a half. Neither one of us really like small talk and so we just cut to the chase. And I remember thinking, this girl is really cool and I’m really glad that she’s in my group… She had this kind of hard exterior like, ‘I don’t know you, and I don’t trust you,’ you know, ‘I’m sarcastic, and I’m going to use humor to sort of deflect people from getting to know me.’ But I think it was just because she hadn’t been around people that she could trust in a long time. She said that she was praying for a safe friend.”

Krissy proved to be the safe friend that Chanda needed.

Together they started to speak openly about their own sin and struggles, and held each other accountable – something Chanda had never really experienced.

“Believe me, I tried to push her away,” Chanda says about Krissy. “It was the first time that I had friends that I could go to church with and have a good beer with at Boondoggles. It was so nice. I didn’t’ have to pretend.”

Chanda and Krissy.

* * *

The woman used the edge of her tunic to wipe away the tears that were welling up in her eyes.

She knew that this man spoke the truth. He was the Messiah.

His smile broke her train of thought. She hadn’t even realized that she had turned back around and was staring at him. He looked almost as if he was used to doing this kind of thing to people – as if this wasn’t the first time he’d shocked someone in this manner.

He turned his head, as if he’d heard a noise, and she turned to see what drew his attention. On the path leading to the well was a group of men, maybe a dozen or so, that looked a little disheveled from days of traveling. One of them lifted a hand to waive to the man at the well. They were with him.

As the group of men drew nearer, the woman set her water jar on the ground near the well and softly smiled at the Messiah again before turning and hurrying down the path back towards the small town she had come from.

She quickly strode past the approaching group of men, and she saw now that they were carrying food they had apparently gone to get. They all stopped and starred at her as she passed. They looked very confused.

Her pace quickened as she continued down the path. She felt as though she couldn’t move fast enough. She had to tell someone what had happened to her. She had to tell them about man at the well. I have to tell them. They have to meet him too, she thought.

She felt the joy surge in her veins and broke into a run.

Everyone must know.

 

* * *

 

A few years after Chanda started attending Clear Creek Community Church, she was identified as someone with potential to lead a small group and, under Krissy and several other women’s tutelage, eventually began leading a small group of her own.

Since that time, Chanda has grown even more in her relationship with Christ, realizing that many more people have had experiences that echo her own and that she can help.

“I serve at Anchor Point. I get to help a ton of fatherless children there. And it’s a crisis pregnancy center, so I get to give back to what was so graciously given to me… Where I could have been and where I am now is just so awesome.”

Chanda serves in Creek Kids (Clear Creek Community Church’s K-5 ministry) teaching Kindergarteners-3rd graders about the Bible and the love of Jesus Christ. She also serves the community by mentoring kids through Generation One. She has now been the mentor to a young girl from the Third Ward of Houston for the past nine years.

Currently, Chanda is working to start her own mentoring program that will partner with CCISD to pair mentors with high-risk children in the community.

Chanda continues to work as a hair stylist in the Houston area, and is still finding a lot of success in that career. She has a good relationship with her parents and sees them regularly.

As for dating, Chanda says she’s still open to the idea but that it no longer feels like the burden that it used to.

“I’m completely convinced that my picker is broken,” Chanda says chuckling. “And so I now know that if I’m supposed to date God knows where I live. I do what I’m supposed to do – what He’s called me to do.”

Krissy and Chanda are still great friends and meet for lunch nearly every week.

“She’s my ride-or-die,” Krissy says of Chanda. “From a personal standpoint, with my testimony and stuff, I was so scared to open up, specifically with women, about it… But she was not threatened by it at all. She was not judgmental. I mean she was just like a true, loyal, solid friend. When Creek talks about 2am friends, I know like, ‘Yup, that’s her.’ That’s her.”

Most importantly, Chanda is striving to be the best mother she can be. As a single mom, she’s raising Caleb to know the love of Christ.

Chanda and Caleb.

 

“Religion was what I grew up with,” Chanda says. “It was a very all-or-nothing mentality. Understanding that I didn’t have to clean myself up, like, running back to him when I did mess up was okay. That’s what he wanted. And I didn’t really get that until I had my own child. And that was huge, and very impactful. I’ve learned tremendously through parenting my own son, and just the grace involved in that.”

Chanda will be the first to tell you that she still has her fair share of struggles. Her life isn’t perfect and she is still working through the issues that have haunted her throughout her journey. But her heart and outlook on life are completely changed.

“You know, there’s no more shame that keeps me just locked in a pattern of sinful habits,” Chanda says. “I’m no longer looking inward. My hope is anchored in who He is. Without Him I’m like filthy rags. I was always fully aware that I was a wretch. But you know what? Jesus knew everything that you were going to do, or not do, and he died for you anyway. He died for you knowing all of that… When God views me, he sees Christ.”

John (Father), Sherry (Mother), Chanda, Caleb.

 

* * *

 

“Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, ‘He told me all that I ever did.’ So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them, and he stayed there two days. And many more believed because of his word. They said to the woman, ‘It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.’” – John 4:39-42 (ESV)

 

Tag Archive for: Bible

164: Can Being Thankful Really Make Me Happy?

Our culture, and the church, talk a lot about an attitude of gratitude, but this is easier said than done.

Is there a real scientific connection between gratitude and mental health?

What does the Bible say about thanksgiving?

In this episode, Rachel Chester talks with Lindsey Lehtinen about the scientific evidence and biblical foundations of the real and central role of gratitude in a flourishing life.

163: How Can I Become Generous?

We know we should be generous, we want to be generous, but how can we actually become a generous people?

In this episode, Rachel talks with Patrick Johnson, the founder of Generous Church, and Mark Carden, Clear Creek’s Executive Pastor, about practical ways to cultivate generosity in our hearts, our family, and churches so that we can be on mission as the body of Christ.

162: What Does Generosity Have to Do with My Faith?

We live with a scarcity mindset of comparison and fear, but the Bible calls us to a completely different way of life.

In this episode, Rachel Chester sits down with Patrick Johnson, visionary and founder of Generous Church, a ministry with the hope of spreading generosity as a way of life throughout the entire globe.

Why do we struggle with generosity, how it is central to our faith, and how can we can cultivate generosity in our hearts? Patrick discusses these questions and more.

160: What is the Point of Prayer if God Already Knows Everything?

God knows all things, so why ask for what we want, or confess what we have done? God knows what will happen, so why spend time in prayer about the future? In this episode, Rachel Chester talks with Yancey Arrington about God’s all-knowing, all-powerful, all-present nature, and how this actually invites us into real relationship with him and true purpose in the gospel story.

155: Legacy Before Kids

Our current series, The Blessing, is about passing the goodness of God onto the next generation. But what about those who don’t have kids of their own?

What is it like to experience a series about family legacy when it doesn’t apply to you? How can people without kids find comfort in their season of life and also find ways to make a difference in the next generation?

In today’s episode, Lance Lawson sits down with Sherry Royce and Brianna Bolling to discuss this and more.

149: Retired — What’s Next?

We are all created for work, but what happens when it is time to retire?

How does this affect our identity? How can we still make a difference?

In today’s episode, Aaron Lutz sits down with Greg Murphy and Glenn Lutz to discuss our need for work, rest, and how we can all participate in God’s work no matter where we are.

148: I Don’t Want to Join a Small Group

If you’ve been around Clear Creek for any time at all, you know we talk about small group often.

But what if you’re too busy, or too shy?

What if you’ve tried group but had a bad experience?

In this episode, Aaron Lutz sits down with Rachel Fisher, Small Groups Associate, to talk about the legitimate obstacles people face when it comes to joining and leading small groups, and why, at the end of the day, they are still worth it.

134: Views From Jerusalem — In the Steps of Jesus From Israel to Texas

Yancey and Jennefer Arrington, and Aaron and Rachel Chester, were given the extraordinary opportunity to visit Israel.

They spent ten days in the places where most of the biblical events took place; walking where Jesus walked, and praying where he prayed.

While in Jerusalem, just yards from where the remains of the temple of Israel still stands, Rachel sat down with Yancey, Jennefer, and Aaron, and asked them, what they learned, how it affected their faith, and what it might mean for the people of Clear Creek Community Church.

28 Days of Prayer — Psalm 139

Here at Clear Creek Community Church, we are walking through 28 Days of Prayer together.

As part of that, we have a special podcast series, where you will hear from different people around our church read and pray through a Psalm.

Our hope is that these prayers will be a blessing to you and also a resource as you grow in your relationship with our Father.

133: Forgiveness in Marriage

Marriage is a place where we experience the worst of each other. Forgiveness is a must for any couple in it for the long haul.

How do Jesus’ teachings about forgiveness apply to the marriage relationship?

How can someone move past the hurt and brokenness of divorce?

Is your marriage really worth saving?

On this episode Lance Lawson talks with Lance & Erin Boyd about how forgiveness brings healing and hope.

Tag Archive for: Bible

Do I Have to be Baptized?

Do I have to be baptized?

The answer is no and yes, but if that’s frustrating to you, check out this video to learn the loaded answer.

 

How Can I Experience Blessing?

How can I experience blessing?

Is God Really Active in the World?

How can we say God is working and active if there’s so much evil, pain, and suffering in the world? If God is, in fact, good and loving, then did he just set the world in motion and then let it go its own way?

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

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What Is My Purpose?

What does God want us to do with our lives? Does he have a plan for each of us? If you’ve ever asked these questions or ones like them, know that the Bible does provide some clarity. Watch this video to learn more.

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

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What Does it Look Like to Love God?

Jesus said the greatest commandment is for us to love God with all of our heart, soul, and might. But how do we do that? What does that practically look like in our lives?

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

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Why is the Bible so Violent?

If you’ve ever read the Old Testament of the Bible, you’ve read stories where God’s people committed violent acts against other people, and sometimes God even told them to do it. So how can we reconcile the violence of the Bible with a good and loving God?

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

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6 Reasons Why You Can Trust the Bible

Is the Bible reliable? How can we trust a book written thousands of years ago enough to change the way we live?

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

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Did the Resurrection Really Happen?

“If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” – Romans 10:9

Have you ever wondered if the claims of Christianity are possibly true? Did Jesus really rise from the dead?

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

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Is Faith Opposed to Science?

To learn more about our church, visit www.clearcreek.org. Follow us on social media:

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What is the Gospel?

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

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