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Pride and Unity

With four young children at home, I am constantly mediating conflicts. Inevitably, when someone comes to me, it is everyone’s fault except their own.

“That is mine!”

“It was his fault!”

“But what about me?”

Sometimes one of them actually has been wronged, but deeper concern is always the attitude of their hearts. Their insistence on their own goodness, their certainty that they are right, or their interest in pleasing only themselves prevents them from moving toward each other with love.

There will always be conflict in our lives, but the Bible consistently shows us that it is possible to have conversation without sin — to disagree without division. Right now we are facing unexpected change, difficult choices, and conflicting narratives.

Should we wear masks or not?

What should school look like in the fall?

How can we move forward as a country?

As a church?

These questions are important and ongoing conversations are required. Everyone is invested and most people have opinions, but passionate beliefs aren’t the true creator of division.

Instead, the deadly poison of pride is what threatens our unity as believers. Pride makes everything about me. I become the most important person in the room, losing sight of who I am in relation to both God and others. In our pride, we consider ourselves more important than others and refuse to acknowledge our shortcomings, which leads to mistrust and separation. In our certainty that our conclusions are best, we place our opinions, rights, and affiliations ahead of our love and unity as disciples of Jesus.

For pride is spiritual cancer: it eats up the very possibility of love, or contentment, or even common sense.

– C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

In the final moments before his arrest and crucifixion, Jesus prayed for himself, his disciples, and then for “those who will believe,” which includes all of us who have been a part of the church throughout history. This prayer, for future believers, is centered upon unity with God and each other.

“The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.”

– John 17:22-23

Our unity has a purpose. Jesus prays that we would be one so that the world will believe that the Father sent Jesus and loves them even as he loves his Son — a declaration to the world of the truth of the gospel. Our unity can only be found in Christ, and then our unity leads others to Christ.

Jesus, in whom and through whom all things were created, humbled himself even unto death. His humility overcame the pride of Adam and allows us to be united to God.

Pride always leads to separation, but humility leads to unity.

In fact, the first step in coming to faith is repentance, requiring a rejection of pride and a posture of humility. In order to be reconciled to God, we have to admit that we cannot save ourselves — that we are sinners who disobey God and hurt the people around us. When we admit our faults and lay them at the feet of Christ, we completely rely on the grace of God. This humility leads to unity with God, unity with others, and is an invitation to others to embrace the love of Christ.

So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or conceit, but, in humility count others more significant than yourselves.

– Philippians 2:1-3

My children will continue to have conflicts.

The church is no different.

There will always be conflicting opinions, priorities, and passions, but these differences don’t have to divide us.

Loving each other is more important than winning any argument. Our identity in Christ trumps every other issue we face as a church family. We belong to Christ. As his people, we should emulate his example by becoming tenderhearted, living with humility, and valuing others above ourselves. This will lead to love and unity instead of pride and dissension.

As the family of God, but still a group of human beings, we will inevitably have disagreements. But if we commit to an attitude of humility, we can remain united together in Christ.


 

ALONE with God

Experiencing the joy and fellowship of community has never been more complicated. Social distancing, fourteen-day quarantines, and contactless transactions were not part of our common vernacular more than a few months ago. We ache to be together with friends and family, and the fatigue of isolationism wears down our personal practices of vigilance. Many feel isolated despite having more tools to connect with others than at any other time in the history of the world.

Christians point to the inherent community of God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—when describing our innate need for connection with others. God himself declared, “It is not good that the man should be alone” (Gen 2:18). Solomon, the famously wise king, wrote that “Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgement” (Proverbs 18:1). The presence of God and others is vital for our spiritual health.

We need each other, but we also need alone time.

In fact, Jesus was known to retreat from the crowds (Matthew 14:1, Luke 4:42), and he ordered his disciples to rest (Mark 6:31). However, a closer look at Jesus’ retreats shows a powerful pattern: Jesus left the crowds to be alone with God. He withdrew to mountains and desolate places to pray (Matthew 14:23; Luke 5:16, 6:12). When it was still dark, and during the night of his arrest, Jesus departed from his friends to pray (Mark 1:35, Luke 22:41). Not only did Jesus model “alone time with God” for his followers, he also taught them explicitly: “When you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret” (Matthew 6:6). The Psalms also encourage time away from activity and with God—time to meditate, reflect, and refocus.

Be still and know that I am God – Psalm 46:10

God’s abiding presence with us is a source of comfort and strength. He promises to never leave nor forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:6, Hebrews 13:5) and that nothing can separate us from his love (Romans 8:38-39). Therefore, trying to escape for some “alone time” apart from God is futile.

David Mathis, pastor of Cities Church in Minneapolis, says, “Unless you have his word before you to read, or memorized and hidden in your heart, you are not alone with God. You are just alone with yourself. Christ communicates himself to us through his word made alive and real to our souls by his Spirit.”

Covid-19 may be an opportunity to be away from others, or it may force you to interact more often with a smaller group of people. Time spent away from work, friends, and even family can be beneficial. It gives us a chance to recharge and refocus. More importantly, time away from others can help us realize that God is near. Remembering the priority of prayer and God’s word when we withdraw from others can turn times that feel alone or isolated into times of renewal and intimacy. The next time you choose some “me time,” try to remember that it is best spent as “we” time with God.

Seek the LORD and his strength; seek his presence continually! – I Chronicles 16:11

A Pandemic of Fear

There are extreme emotions everywhere we look right now — anger, distrust, contempt, frustration, and so much fear. COVID-19 outbreaks, financial stress, uncertainty with school, murder hornets (come on now!), all dominate our thoughts.

There is no question that fear is as contagious as any virus, and this is all on top of the myriad of ways we face fear in normal, non-pandemic life circumstances.

Fear is not sin. Like all emotions, fear is a God-given response to the reality of our world. However, we can — and often do — sin in our fear when we lash out at those around us, numb ourselves with alcohol, drugs, or Netflix, or hide from life and people. When we place our trust in something other than God, our fear can master us, and then fear turns from a real (and helpful) emotion, to a source of pain, destruction, and isolation.

So what can we do? How can we, as Christians, approach and respond to fear in a way that honors God and edifies our community?

 

Search Your Heart

So often we experience anger, anxiety, contempt, and other powerful emotions that give us a sense of control over what’s really going on – the fact that we’re afraid. Doing this allows us to focus, often in a negative way, on other people and situations instead of what is happening in our own hearts.

This is when fear moves from a common and natural response, to something that cannot be controlled and can cause devastating harm. Instead of denying our fear, we must learn how to recognize the reality of fear, so that we can bring it into the light and respond in a way that honors God.

Recently my child was diagnosed with COVID-19. My initial response was anger at the place where she was exposed, frustration concerning how on earth we would manage our family of six for the next few weeks, and contempt toward the way others were responding to our situation.

But, what I finally had to acknowledge was a deep fear of what was happening – that my child was sick, that we all might be sick, and mostly, that someone else I love might have contracted COVID-19 and be put in serious harm because of us.

And there was nothing I could do about any of it.

I had to stop, breathe, and ask myself What is really going on? What am I reacting to and why? And then, I had to be willing to honestly discover the answer.

 

Allow Others In 

The simple act of speaking your fears out loud to another person has a transformative effect.

When I call my friend whom I can trust with my fears, a weight is lifted. Even if the threat isn’t gone, and even if I still am afraid, I am no longer carrying my burden alone and so the power of fear dissipates.

Reaching out to others with our fear takes courage. It requires vulnerability to admit that we are afraid, especially if we are the type of person who feels the need to be strong and in control, or maybe has been taught that fear equals weakness. But the truth is we are weak and we live in a broken world that we can’t thrive in alone. God created us to live in intimate relationship with each other. Neurobiologists calls this the “neurobiology of we,” describing the brain as a social organism. 1

We need each other to walk through valleys of fear.

When I finally acknowledged all of the fear in my heart, I immediately contacted my best friend. Describing all of the emotions I was feeling and admitting to the fear building in my heart left me feeling exposed, but immediately lighter. She was able to speak truth into my life, and she took on some the burden of my fear simply by loving me in that moment.

We need each other, always, but especially in difficult moments. If you can find the courage to truly be honest in community, facing fear can transform isolation into a pathway to intimacy and love.

 

Trust God 

Does trusting God mean that you will never experience fear again?

No.

There are real dangers in this world, and emotions are a gift, not a curse. Instead, trusting God means that we have learned to take our fear to him — that we can trust God with our fear and everything that causes fear. Only when we cry out to God in these times can we find peace in his presence and learn to trust in his promises — promises that really are greater than any circumstance we will ever face.

In the difficult moments in life, we can choose to run away, or we can choose to run toward our Father.

Choosing to step into God’s presence, be filled by his Spirit, and pray to experience the peace of Christ has allowed me to not just make it through fear, but to find rest and purpose in the midst of it.

He is good, he is faithful, and he is present — and truly, that changes everything.

Run towards God with purposeful time in his word to remind yourself of his promises, and purposeful time in prayer to find rest in his presence.

God is for you, he is with you, and he is faithful to rescue you.

 

There is no reason to be ashamed of fear. To experience fear does not mean you are failing in your faith — don’t let anyone convince you otherwise. But fear can twist our hearts and minds in ways that hurt ourselves and others, and can lead us away from God instead of into his arms.

Like anything else, how we respond to fear is far more important than whether or not we experience it. Fear can rule us, or we can learn to respond to it well and lean on the one who rules over all.

 

1 – Siegel, Dan. Mindsight: The New Science of Personal Transformation, 211.

Carried by God

When my daughter was young, I would often carry her in a baby wrap, snug and warm and safe. She would calm almost instantly as I pressed her close to myself. My slow and steady movements would lull her to sleep with the assurance that she was safe in my embrace.

But no child remains an infant forever. My oldest daughter is too grown up to let me carry her any longer, wanting instead to prove her capability. She insists on independence, often telling me, “I know what I’m doing, Mom.”

As you might guess, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. I also often resist the help of others. I like to be in control, and being helped often means losing some control. This attitude especially emerges in times of stress and uncertainty.

This season of COVID-19 is rife with fear, worry, and anxiety for many of us. Grappling for control over each new situation, I have caught myself slipping into old mindsets that take me away from reliance on the Lord. Our resistance to receive help may seem harmless, initially, but it always attacks our relationships with God first. When we rely on ourselves too much, we fail to rely on him. If this continues, we miss out on the source of peace and comfort we need most in times of uncertainty.

Most children eventually outgrow their need for their earthly parents, but we never outgrow our need for God.

Throughout the Old Testament, we see God shepherding the nation of Israel, his chosen people. As the Israelites prepared to enter the Promised Land after wandering the desert for forty years, Moses recounted the mistakes of the previous generation. God had brought them to the land he had provided, commanding them to take it without fear of the enemies who lived there.

Then I said to you, ‘Do not be in dread or afraid of them. The Lord your God who goes before you will himself fight for you, just as he did for you in Egypt before your eyes, and in the wilderness, where you have seen how the Lord your God carried you, as a man carries his son, all the way that you went until you came to this place.’

Deuteronomy 1:29-31

The Israelites had seen the mighty works of God: their deliverance from Pharaoh’s slavery, the parting of the Red Sea, and his provision of manna in the desert, among other things. Moses reminded them that God carried them all the way, providing every need while they walked through the unknown, as a good Father should. But despite all they had seen, their despair over their circumstances was greater than their faith in their Father’s care. Convinced that the difficulty was just too much, that generation missed out on entering the land God had promised them. And we are just as susceptible to reliance on ourselves.

Like an infant, I become restless in uncertainty. Eyes blinded by fear. Mind clouded by a lack of understanding. Hands clenched onto any control I can grasp. Convinced of my own competence and oblivious to my need for the Father who carries me.

We’re all walking through many unknowns right now. And though we may desire to trust God, we often resist his help and rely on our own competence. When we catch ourselves falling into that mindset, let’s turn back toward God.

Even in times of great difficulty, we can trust our Good Father.

He is always near, fighting for us in our most desperate situations and carrying us through seasons of fear and uncertainty. The Israelites lived with God’s presence among them yet did not truly see him for what he was. Because of Christ’s work on our behalf, we can walk in the light of his love, set free from sin’s power and relying on his rescue.

Let’s relinquish some of our self-reliance and control. Holding the circumstances of our lives with an open hand, instead of a tight grip, enables us to relax into God’s capable arms. And when we allow ourselves to be carried by God, our eyes will be opened to the work he is doing.

Exchange your self-reliance for faith in our ever-reliable God—the only one fully capable of handling our burdens. When we lean in, our good Father presses us closer to himself.

He will carry us all the way.


 

5 Ways to Help Your Marriage Thrive During COVID-19

Over the past several weeks, most married couples have spent more time together than any time since their honeymoon. Though this constant close proximity has the potential for irritation, it also creates ample opportunity for growth and fun. Spending more time together this summer is a gift that we should embrace and utilize to grow in love for each other. 

But, how can we use this unique season to strengthen our marriage? To answer this question, we went to the experts — Clear Creek Navigators with decades of experience leading groups of married couples to become fully devoted followers of Jesus. A few of their strategies for growing your relationship together are compiled below. Which of these ideas will you implement today?

 

 

1. Plan a Date Night

We have a date night each week. We order pizza for the kids at 5 p.m., have them take showers, and then they are upstairs for the rest of the night, watching TV or playing video games. I actually put on something other than yoga pants and even some makeup. Shaun and I then order takeout or grill something, and we sit outside and relax with music on the speaker and adult conversations. We get the boys to bed at 8:30 and then watch a movie and relax with popcorn and movie theater snacks. I seriously look forward to it! 

Shaun & Elizabeth Hauser
Egret Bay

 

On Friday evenings, we order from local restaurants to have our date night dinner at home. We’ve even hung curtains near the entrance to our dining room for privacy from the kids. We listen to music while we dine together.

Scott & Tami Bishop
Clear Lake
 

Friday night dance dates! We found an online dance program that teaches us step by step. Once our daughters go to bed, we move the coffee table out of the way, throw on some socks, and try to dance the night away! It has provided some great laughs and moments of connection during this stressful season.

Ryan & Tasha Thomas
Egret Bay

 

2. Get Outside

We take late afternoon walks. It gives us a chance to get some fresh air, exercise, and time to chat about life. It has been good for us to take that pause in the day while getting out of the house together. We plan to keep this going long after COVID-19!

Travis & Cari Hicks
Clear Lake

We have been motivating each other to get moving! We either walk, ride our bikes, or do some other outdoor activity. As long as we are moving together, we are moving in the right direction!

Jaime & Nina Valverde
Clear Lake

 

Sarah and I go on walks almost every day with the kids. It gives us a chance to get out of the house, avoid distractions like TV and phones, and enjoy the kids on their bike or in the stroller. It also gives us time together as a family and as a couple. Being able to walk and talk to one another has been very important to our marriage during this time. 

Nathan & Sarah Southard
Egret Bay

 

3. Make Time to Talk

We make it a point to put the kids down early so that we have time and enough energy at the end of the day to talk about what went well that day, what could’ve gone better, and any changes to our plan of attack for the upcoming days. It’s also a great time to just relax and spend time together without kids interrupting.

Derek & Abby Willis
East 96

 

We take a walk most evenings so Doug can get an ICEE at Buc-ees. We use this time to catch up with each other and talk through ideas, plans, frustrations, etc.

Doug & Kara Dawson
Egret Bay

 

We both have been working since the stay-at-home orders started, but our working hours have been different so we are not rushing out the door at 6:30 each morning to get to work. We have been able to enjoy a morning cup of coffee together, with unrushed conversation and prayer before starting the day. 

Michael & Clara Springer
Clear Lake

 

4. Think about the Future

We love to travel and do projects in our backyard and around the house, so right now we enjoy talking almost daily about future trips and projects. Our talks vary from camping trips to sketches about closet shelves and garage organization. It’s fun to sit, plan, and dream a little together. 

Brad & Allison Swenson
West

 

We have started to dream together! We have been sharing with each other and our kids what we want to do post-quarantine, from planning vacations to new family norms. We aren’t dreaming out of current discontentment, but with great hope that the Lord will see us through and we will forever be changed.

Aaron & Nicole Daniel
West

 

5. Grow and Serve Together

Our small group had each person write down one thing about their spouse on each day of the week (M-F) that they like, are grateful for, are impressed by, appreciate, etc. Then on Saturday morning they would give their spouse the list. This was very well received and neat to see how something really simple could impact one of the people you love most in this world.

Dan & Danielle Mellen
Egret Bay

 

We actually have been more intentional about doing our couples devotional. It really jogs the mind to think about how we are growing spiritually through our family relationships and especially with one another. It asks hard questions and provides prayer suggestions. It is fun, but difficult at times. However, it does seem to reignite our communication with each other and relationship with God.

Darren & Alecia Whitmarsh
East 96

 

One of the things we struggled with before COVID-19 was slowing down and taking the time to get to know our neighbors. Lately, our new favorite thing to do once we put our child to bed is sit out in the driveway and eat our dinner. It’s a nice change of scenery, and we love to wave or talk to people as they walk by.

Matthew & Victoria Horne
East 96


 

Who to Trust

I remember the way I felt some years ago, the first time I watched our teenage son drive away on his own. Part of me was jumping for joy at getting out of the transportation business, but part of me wanted to scream, “I’m sorry world! Everyone look out!” It was a clarifying moment because as I watched him drive away I realized I had zero control of how he was going to do as a driver. Maybe even worse was the realization that I would still be responsible for how well he drove because I was paying for the auto insurance. It was a helpless feeling. The butterflies in my stomach were fluttering because I knew I had to give up control and I had to trust.

But, who to trust?

Trust Josh or trust God?

It didn’t take me long to figure out that if I was going to trust Josh, which I had no real choice but to do, I had to first and foremost trust God. That’s the way life always has to work, if it is going to work. We live our lives with people. All day, every day. And so, our trust in God is inescapably reflected in how we relate to the people around us. If we are not very careful to trust God first then our only option is to pin our hopes on other people, and the only way we can get other people to do what we (think we) need them to do is to control them. Running around trying to control others is a bad way to live.

The need to control is a one-way road with two lanes. One lane is filled with fear, the other is filled with selfishness. I’m going to control people to keep them from taking something from me I am afraid to lose. Or, I am going to control people to try and get what I want from them. The lane of fear is filled with the potholes of shame and guilt that come from treating other people as threats. The lane of selfishness is riddled with the potholes of frustration and despair because people are hopelessly unreliable when it comes to satisfying your soul.

The only way to exit the one-way road of fear and selfishness is to trust God first. When you do, you release yourself from the need to depend on people or protect yourself from people, you actually free yourself to serve other people. This truth is at the heart of texts like “Blessed are the meek…” “Blessed are the pure in heart…” “Blessed are the peacemakers…” (Matthew 5:1-11). People who trust God first can be the kind of people Jesus calls leaders, “But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them.  It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave…” (Matthew 20:25-27).

Jesus proclaims those who trust God first don’t have to dominate, don’t need ulterior motives, and are willing to endure some injustice to restore relationships. Jesus said people who trust God first are the kind of people who are his followers and the kind of people his followers follow.

This is always an essential truth for us, but particularly so right now, because this virus is like one of those watching your teenager drive away moments. It’s a flashing traffic light telling you “you are NOT in control!”

You are not in control of the measures government agencies and employers take to control the spread. You’re not in control of how responsible the people who pick and deliver your groceries are. You’re not in control of the people who bought up every roll of toilet paper in the universe.

I know you know all that.

But, whether you trust God first or trust people first is determining how you respond to it all.

If you are first depending on people to protect your job, your health, your savings, your vacation plans then you should be afraid. You need those people to protect what is most important to you. If you are depending first on people to address the specific impacts on your first, the way you want them to, you are going to be frustrated to the point of despair.

It isn’t that those things don’t matter. And, it is true that all of us have endured some degree of loss. For many it’s been mostly inconvenience, but for some it has been truly catastrophic. The question is, who are you looking to for restoration? Who do you believe knows what is in everyone’s best interest and has the power to bring it about? Whose goodness will allow your heart to rest enough that you can humbly obey those who administer our government and our employment? Whose power and presence can sustain you through grief and financial strain?

God first, or people first?

Who will present themselves as a servant to their neighbor? Who will rejoice in and redeem unprecedented time to be present with spouse and children? Who will regularly offer prayer for healing, wisdom, relief? The one who trusts God first, or people first?

I’ve been trying to figure out what my actions and emotions in response to the virus and its affects are teaching me about who I trust first. I’m trying to capture the moments of frustration and self-pity and figure out why I expect some other person to provide what no person can provide for me. Then figure out how I should respond that those people differently when I get my trusts in order.

I want to refuse to be gripped by fear, selfishness, or COVID-19 angst. I refuse to be a victim or a wet rag waiting for the next negative shoe to drop. I want God to make me pure in heart, to use me to be a peacemaker, to be someone Jesus would call a leader.

If nothing else, I know this much: I need to trust God first.


 

It’s Viral

Kay and I, like many other people, have been taking a lot of walks the last few weeks. It’s been fun and it’s been a bit strange because there are times when so many people are strolling it almost looks like a parade. Everyone walking in the street – keeping a polite distance – walking along with their dogs, children, bikes, and wagons. It’s hard not to think the world would be a better place if evening walks in the neighborhood became our collective norm.

Still, there is something unsatisfying about it.

The parade has the appearance of being quaint and beneficial, until you look closely enough to see what’s really going on. If you stop and just watch the “parade” through the neighborhood you notice people are together, but separate. They can get close to each other, but not too close. Some are obviously afraid of everyone and some groups are brazen in their disregard for the whole “distancing” idea.

I want to remember the picture because it so aptly illustrates what sin does.

Think about it. Like a virus, sin is unseen. It is present all around you, and even in you, and it makes you sick and it makes the people you interact with sick.

Sin is the greatest producer of “social distancing” in the history of people. Sin separates us from one another. Sin is like the unseen virus that produces conversations without hugs, presence without intimacy. Sin is the unseen virus that keeps some people bound in fear of others while some people flaunt their indifference to how they might injure other people. Sin is the virus that makes us mistrust the person approaching us, and even mistrust ourselves. So we keep safe space, we keep secrets, we erect defenses, we chase urban myths seeking cures and comforts.

Maybe the best thing that could come out of the unprecedented response to a physical virus would be if each of us would take some strong action against our spiritual virus, sin. Instead of using the current circumstances as an excuse to look outwardly and act against a physical threat, now would be a great time to look intently inward and deal with a more dangerous threat.

Here is a really good place to look for the virus: if in the midst of spending more time at home you find yourself getting irritable and impatient with your spouse, why is that? Why is it that the person you joyfully became one with is now somehow an inconvenience? What is it that is more important to you than they are? Or, what have you been thinking and doing over the years of your marriage to give your spouse reason to mistrust you or protect themselves from how you respond to life?

If there is tension between the two of you, you can “social distance,” or you can wear masks to cover up and protect what you’ve chosen to love more. You can make your focus the harm you fear they might cause you. You can prioritize your work and personal space and just adapt to the tension. That is what is happening in some hearts and homes in the midst of this forced presence at home. And so, like the evening parade in the neighborhood it looks kind of cool, until you look closely. But if you stop and watch you notice the masks, the fear, and the mistrust.

The better response would be to kill the virus that is living in you and making you the center of your own little universe. The better response would be to hold your heart and its desires up to the truth of Scripture and face up to the ways you choose to serve you, over and against choosing to practically love and serve the person you married. The better response would be to use this unprecedented opportunity to trust God in the simplest, most mundane interactions in your home to serve your spouse. You aren’t going to fix everything in a week, but you can change the trajectory of your marriage starting today, starting with you. As a beginning how about picking just one short verse of Scripture and commit to living it out at home, something like:

 

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.

Philippians 2:3-4

 

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. 

Ephesians 4:29

 

But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Colossians 3:8

 

You pick a verse that will attack the worst symptom of the virus in you. You probably already have one ringing in your ears. If so, do that one.

This strange sort of national “time out” period could be the best thing that ever happened to you, your spouse, your family. But only if you look inside and only if you have the faith and courage to ask God to forgive you, heal you, remake you in his image. God will do that if you let him. He has the power and the will to kill the virus in you.

I hope and pray you will respond to the spiritual virus that’s in you with more energy and enthusiasm than the world is responding to a physical virus.


 

The Lord’s Supper at Home

On Thursday evening of Passion Week, Jesus shared his final meal with his disciples, a meal we now call the Lord’s Supper. In it, he calls his followers to remember his great sacrifice on the cross. The breaking of the bread and the passing of the cup symbolize the body and blood of Jesus respectively.

Normally, each of our campuses host a Gathering or service the week of Easter to take the Lord’s Supper together. Since that is not possible this year, this guide will lead you in taking the Lord’s Supper in your home with your family or your small group via video conference.

Because the Lord’s Supper is an act of remembrance for followers of Jesus, any person who has believed on or trusted the Lord Jesus Christ alone for their salvation and has been subsequently baptized can participate. This means that some members of your family or small group may not be ready yet. This is a great opportunity to explain the good news of gospel.

 

Preparation

Put a loaf of bread or crackers on a platter and pour grape juice or wine in cups for everyone. It’s up to you to add music or candles to create a different environment. There are many ways to serve the Lord’s Supper. The important thing to remember is that this is a time of worship, celebration, remembering and reflection.

 

Passion Week Lord’s Supper Guide

Begin by reminding everyone of the purpose of the Lord’s Supper by reading this aloud…

We gather here to take the Lord’s Supper. Jesus instituted this meal for his followers as a regular remembrance and celebration of his sacrificial death. The breaking and eating of bread symbolize the body of Christ being broken on the cross. The drinking from the cup symbolize the shedding of his blood whereby we are forgiven. In this meal we worship him and give thanks for the forgiveness of our sins and the new life and relationship that we have in Jesus Christ.

 

Invite someone to read Isaiah 53:3-6

He was despised and rejected by men,
a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief;
and as one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

Surely he has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
smitten by God, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his wounds we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.

 

Distribute the bread and cups.  Then read the following…

Before partaking the Lord’s Supper, the church has often invited those present into a moment for confession. Confession is not something we do to make ourselves feel guilty. Instead, when we admit our sin, we are reminded of our need for grace. So, let’s now take a moment of silent prayer for us to confess our sin personally to God and then I will close us in prayer.

 

After about a minute of silent prayer, close by reading this prayer…

Holy and merciful God, in your presence we confess. We confess our sin, our shortcomings, and the times we have opposed your will this week. You alone know how often we wander from your ways, how we waste your gifts, and how we forget your love. Have mercy on us and forgive us. Help us walk more faithfully with you. We thank you that you hear our confession. Amen.

 

Invite everyone to hold the bread in their hands and read the following…

The Scriptures tell us that when we confess, God is faithful and just to forgive. This bread and cup remind us of our assurance of his grace. In Christ, we are accepted, we are forgiven, we are loved. 1 Corinthians 11:23-24 tells us, 23 For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”

 

Eat the bread together.

 

Then invite everyone to hold their cup and read 1 Corinthians 11:25-26

 25 In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

 

Close in your own prayer of thanksgiving or read the following prayer aloud…

Father, as we have received the bread and the cup, you have fed us with the spiritual food of the body and blood of our Savior Jesus Christ. Thank you for assuring us of your goodness and love, and that we are members of his body. Renew us by your Holy Spirit, unite us in the body of your Son, and bring us with all your people into the joy of your eternal kingdom; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

 

Optional: If you would like to worship through song, you can choose from Clear Creek original songs or a Spotify playlist at clearcreekresources.org/music

What We Know

There’s a story in the book of 2 Chronicles (yes, 2 Chronicles) about Jehoshaphat, the king of Judah. A few chapters earlier, the Bible tells us God was with Jehoshaphat because he sought the one true God, instead of the Baals – the popular idols of the day.

This is what we read picking up in Chapter 20:

“After this the Moabites and Ammonites [read: enemies of God’s people], and with them some of the Meunites, came against Jehoshaphat for battle. Some men came and told Jehoshaphat, ‘A great multitude is coming against you from Edom, from beyond the sea; and, behold, they are in Hazazon-tamar’ (that is, Engedi) [read: your land]. Then Jehoshaphat was afraid and set his face to seek the Lord, and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah. And Judah assembled to seek help from the Lord; from all the cities of Judah they came to seek the Lord.” (2 Chronicles 20:1-4)

So basically, these guys show up and tell the king, “There’s this huge terrible thing coming towards you! But actually, it isn’t just coming, it’s already here!”

Does that sound familiar? Does it remind you of these crazy days of COVID-19?

Have you felt this sense of impending badness coming toward us? Have you wondered to yourself, How are we going to get out of this one? Or, What are we supposed to do?

Well, Jehoshaphat, as a faithful man, was afraid and so he went to the Lord. He prays in front of the whole nation. He says:

“O Lord, God of our fathers, are you not God in heaven? You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. In your hand are power and might, so that none is able to withstand you. Did you not, our God, drive out the inhabitants of this land before your people Israel, and give it forever to the descendants of Abraham your friend?” (2 Chronicles 20: 6-7)

In this prayer, he’s stating things they all know are true about God – his strength, the promises he’s made, and the ways he’s been faithful to them before.

And then he says this:

“…For we are powerless against this great horde that is coming against us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.” (2 Chronicles 20:12b)

What a great prayer! “God, we have no control, and we don’t even know what to do. But we trust you.”

To say that, and not only to say it, but to believe it – to not just know it, but to let it affect the way you live – when facing… what? Discomfort? Disruption of our normal life? The possibility of death?

“God we trust that you are strong, we trust that you are good, we trust that you love us, but mostly we trust that you have a plan through all of this.”

It reminds me of another passage from the Bible.

Jesus, facing his own impending discomfort/disruption/death, goes to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray right before he is betrayed by one of his friends.

“And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, ‘My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.'” (Matthew 26:39)

We all want God to just go ahead and call an end to all of this source of worry and disruption and uncertainty and of possible harm. We know he can do it. But we also know he knows what he’s doing. It’s out of our hands. And what better hands for it to be in?

So, Jehoshaphat and his people come to the edge of the battlefield and find all of their enemies laying dead on the ground.

Jesus goes to the cross and dies for the sins of the world.

We don’t know what’s around the bend for us. But this is what we do know: God is strong, God is good, God loves us, and most of all, God has a plan.

He has a plan for the world through all of this. Who knows in what ways he might use his people to reach people in the world?

He has a plan for us through all of this. Who knows how he might transform our own hearts – refining us, leading us to let go of control and some of our other idols, softening our selfishness – through all of this?

And he has a plan for the grand story of the world that passes right through all of this. He knows the end. He knows it ends with every knee bowed and every tongue confessing that Jesus is Lord.

Friends, trust in God – through COVID-19, your happiness, your heartache, and everything in between.

“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:4-7)


Need a Good Book to Read? Here’s What We Recommend

The old excuse of not having much time to read doesn’t hold much water in these days of social distancing. So I asked some Clear Creek staff to give us one book about faith they’d recommend and maybe a sentence or two as to why.

Here are their responses (in alphabetical order):

  • Free to Believe: The Battle Over Religious Liberty in America by Luke Goodrich

    Chris Alston, Pastor, West Campus

    Free to Believe is an interesting take on religious freedom, how we have dealt with social issues in America, and how we as Christians can respond with conviction and grace.


  • Simply Christian: Why Christianity Makes Sense by N.T. Wright

    Yancey Arrington, Teaching Pastor

    There are fewer Christian theologians and thinkers today as important as Tom Wright. I don’t agree with everything he says, but Simply Christian is absolutely pitch perfect for helping people see the big picture of the faith. If you are already one of the faithful in Christ, it will leave you encouraged and excited about being on mission for Jesus and his oh-so-good gospel!


  • Managing God’s Money by Randy Alcorn

    Mark Carden, Executive Pastor

    Especially in uncertain financial times, we need to remember what God says about the money he has entrusted to us.  That money is NOT ours, it is HIS!  Read, learn and obey.


  • The Prodigal God by Timothy Keller

    Kara Dawson, Students Assistant, Egret Bay Campus

    This book is a great reminder of who we were before our relationship with Christ, why we must constantly point ourselves back to the beauty of the cross, and why we need Christian community to really know Jesus and become more like him.


  • Good News for Weary Women by Elyse Fitzpatrick

    Rachel Fisher, Small Groups Assistant

    Gospel on EVERY page. Best Christian book I’ve ever read.


  • A Praying Life by Paul Miller

    Karl Garcia, Pastor, Clear Lake Campus

    This is a great book that has guided and challenged me to pray differently for all of those in my life. It’s helped me see situations and how I pray about them from a new perspective.


  • God’s Big Picture by Vaughan Roberts

    Lance Lawson, Pastor, Church on Wednesday

    Reading this book made me love my Bible more.


  • The Pursuit of God by A.W. Tozer

    Ryan Lehtinen, Pastor, Egret Bay Campus

    This small classic challenges you to follow that desire placed within every person by God – to know him and have a relationship with him. I read this book early in my faith and have continually come back to it over the years.


  • The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry: How to Stay Emotionally Healthy and Spiritually Alive in the Chaos of the Modern World by John Mark Comer

    Aaron Lutz, Pastor, East 96 Campus

    and Tara Warner, Counselor

    Aaron: John Mark Comer tackles the great enemy of the spiritual life: hurry. He argues it is the antithesis of love. In order to love God and love people, we must slow down. Love is, first, patient. In a world that runs a frenetic pace, and technology that only encourages it, Comer gives great wisdom and practical ways we can slow down, hear from God, and love our neighbors.  

    Tara: We can all relate. Comer writes, “There is more at stake [with technology] than our attention spans. Because what you give your attention to is the person you become. Put another way: the mind is the portal to the soul, and what you fill your mind with will shape the trajectory of your character. In the end, your life is no more than the sum of what you gave your attention to.”


  • Jesus the King by Timothy Keller

    Nicole Morris, Children’s Associate, West Campus

    This is a book our small group did a couple of years ago that really opened my eyes to the life of Jesus, his death and resurrection, and the power of it all. It’s such a sweet reminder that God is still in control and that he has a plan, in addition to the fact that Jesus is our ultimate King. 


  • Old Testament Theology by Bruce Waltke

    Greg Poore, Associate Pastor

    This book will teach you about how the Bible communicates God’s revelation of himself to us. It will help you understand how the writers of the New Testament interpreted who Jesus was through the Old Testament Scriptures. It will also teach you a lot about how to read and understand the Bible in general. One of the most helpful books I’ve ever read.


  • You Can Pray by Tim Chester

    Denise Ward, Office Manager

    A fresh, gracious, challenging theologically sound book. It can revitalize your desire to pray.

  • Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Christian in Community by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

    Susan Wesley, Pastoral Care Associate

    This book formed my thoughts and beliefs about the church and how we live together more than anything I’ve ever read.


  • Broken Down House: Living Productively in a World Gone Bad by Paul David Tripp

    Kari Wilson, Go Global Associate

    I liked this book because it kept the gospel central and constantly reminded you of who God is, who we are in him, and how to rest in those truths no matter our circumstances.


Videos

Wednesdays at Home: 8/5/20

This is our mid-week opportunity to stay connected online with our pastors to receive mid-week scriptural encouragement, prayer, and updates on how we are responding to the COVID-19 Pandemic.

To find out more information about our church, go to www.clearcreek.org.

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

Wednesdays at Home: 7/22/20

This is our mid-week opportunity to stay connected online with our pastors to receive mid-week scriptural encouragement, prayer, and updates on how we are responding to the COVID-19 Pandemic.

To find out more information about our church, go to www.clearcreek.org.

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

Wednesdays at Home: 7/8/20

This is our mid-week opportunity to stay connected online with our pastors to receive mid-week scriptural encouragement, prayer, and updates on how we are responding to the COVID-19 Pandemic.

To find out more information about our church, go to www.clearcreek.org.

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

Wednesdays at Home: 7/1/20

This is our mid-week opportunity to stay connected online with our pastors to receive mid-week scriptural encouragement, prayer, and updates on how we are responding to the COVID-19 Pandemic.

To find out more information about our church, go to www.clearcreek.org.

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

Wednesdays at Home: 6/24/20

This is our mid-week opportunity to stay connected online with our pastors to receive mid-week scriptural encouragement, prayer, and updates on how we are responding to the COVID-19 Pandemic.

To find out more information about our church, go to www.clearcreek.org.

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

Wednesdays at Home: 5/13/20

This is our mid-week opportunity to stay connected online with our pastors to receive mid-week scriptural encouragement, prayer, and updates on how we are responding to the COVID-19 Pandemic.

To find out more information about our church, go to www.clearcreek.org.

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

Wednesdays at Home: 5/6/20

This is our mid-week opportunity to stay connected online with our pastors to receive mid-week scriptural encouragement, prayer, and updates on how we are responding to the COVID-19 Pandemic.

To find out more information about our church, go to www.clearcreek.org.

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

Wednesdays at Home: 4/29/20

This is our mid-week opportunity to stay connected online with our pastors to receive mid-week scriptural encouragement, prayer, and updates on how we are responding to the COVID-19 Pandemic.

To find out more information about our church, go to www.clearcreek.org.

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

Wednesdays at Home: 4/22/20

 

This is our mid-week opportunity to stay connected online with our pastors to receive mid-week scriptural encouragement, prayer, and updates on how we are responding to the COVID-19 Pandemic.

To find out more information about our church, go to www.clearcreek.org.

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

Wednesdays at Home: 4/15/20

This is our mid-week opportunity to stay connected online with our pastors to receive mid-week scriptural encouragement, prayer, and updates on how we are responding to the COVID-19 Pandemic.

To find out more information about our church, go to www.clearcreek.org.

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

Podcasts

049: Faith and Education

On this episode, Rachel Chester talks with principal Matthew Neighbors and teacher Dalena Ryskoski about how their faith affects their work in education. Whether it is during the chaos of a pandemic or within the everyday responsibilities of public education, Matthew and Dalena share how they draw strength from Christ and love their neighbors in schools.

 

037: Go Outside – Worshiping God in Nature

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

 

RESOURCES: 

Becoming Worldly Saints by Michael Wittmer

The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry by John Mark Comer

035: The Blessings and Dangers of Technology When Everything Goes Online

People have been forced to connect using technology now more than ever. Overnight, what could only be experienced “offline” had to be moved “online”—engaging in the life of the church, connecting with friends and family, and going to work or school. Everything is online now, at least temporarily. On this episode, Ryan Lehtinen talks with Aaron Lutz and Lance Lawson about how the technology that makes this possible is a blessing, but it’s limitations and dangers still exist. They also discuss what they hope to learn personally and as a church from this season.

RESOURCES:

The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry by John Mark Comer

Disruptive Witness by Alan Noble

“Normal Again, Thanks to COVID-19” (Article)