2020 was a year filled with political division, natural disasters, health crises, and unprecedented challenges to the church. The Bible seems to describe a period of turmoil that directly precedes the return of Christ. Are we living in that time? What does the Bible really describe? How do we respond as Christians? On this episode, Rachel Chester talks with Yancey Arrington about how to understand Revelation and what it means for us today.
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2020 is over and 2021 is here! But as we look ahead to the hope of new beginnings and the eventual waning of COVID-19, it’s important to remember where we’ve been on this wild journey. Jon Coffey sits down with Ryan Lehtinen and Rachel Chester to talk about the good, the bad, and the lessons we learned last year, as well as taking a look at some of the Clear Creek Resources content we have to look forward to in 2021.
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For many people, this Christmas season is very different because 2020 gave us the gift of a global pandemic and all the trappings something like that comes with. In addition to the normal challenges and distractions of the holiday season many are facing isolation, job insecurity, mental health, and marriage issues. While this will be a very different Christmas, there is a silver lining. On this episode Ryan Lehtinen, Aaron Lutz, and Lance Lawson discuss the unique challenges that many people are facing this Christmas season, and how we can have hope even when things aren’t the way they normally are. They also reveal their favorite Christmas cookie, least favorite movie, and whether they’ve actually kissed someone under mistletoe.
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Now that all Clear Creek campuses have returned to in-person services, what has this season taught us about worship and music? On this episode, Ryan Lehtinen talks with Aric Harding and JJ Cole about what they have learned and some of the new projects the Arts Teams has worked on, including a new EP album entitled “True Love.”
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Beginning October 11, all Clear Creek Community Church campuses will return to in-person worship services! What will it be like? What about those who aren’t ready to return? On this episode, Ryan Lehtinen talks with Yancey Arrington and Aaron Lutz about what they’ve learned over the last 217 days since the last services, what they’re excited about, and how we can remain unified even though not everyone is ready to return.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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Diane Stell has been involved in small groups for all of the 20 years she and her family have been part of Clear Creek Community Church. She’s learned from every group experience, and each has been different, but not quite as different as the women’s group she began leading in the spring of 2020.
“It’s been a total, complete, virtual, quarantine group,” said Diane, describing her fledgling small group.
The group began with only a few women right before the COVID-19 pandemic became a reality in the Clear Lake area this past spring.
Then, quarantine and stay-at-home orders put normal life on hold for everyone. As routines were suddenly upended, it became clear that meeting as a church was not going to be the same again for quite some time.
“As time went on,” said Diane, “I would get two or three or four requests a week for women wanting to join our group. So we moved to Zoom really quickly. Now we have ten members.”
Diane spoke with each person over the phone as their initial meeting to tell them what the group was like and give them the option of joining or not. Nobody turned her down.
“I think a lot of these people would not have joined the group if there had not been a quarantine,” said Diane. “I don’t even think some of them knew they needed group as much as they needed group. Everyone I spoke to just needed to be connected, and that’s what group is. God made us that way. The first thing out of pretty much everybody’s mouth was ‘I just need to be connected to other people that are like minded,’ of course that like-mindedness being Jesus.”
Most of the women who joined Diane’s group had never been part of a small group or Bible study of any kind. Diane calls it “the most diverse group” she has ever been part of. It is made up of women aged 30-64 with varying differences in parenthood, marital status, careers, race, and family and church backgrounds.
“In the beginning, and this is typical of all groups, all you see are the differences,” said Diane. “But then very, very quickly, we bonded. And as we got to know each other I started seeing all the commonalities – how connected we are because of Christ. That’s the common thread that pulls us all together.”
In its short time together, this small group has experienced growth and unity in the midst of a difficult and ever-changing season, despite the fact that most of them have never met in real life.
“We’re just making the best out of a situation that’s not ideal,” said Diane. “I’m hoping that in the future we can meet socially-distanced.”
Even so, they’ve still managed to celebrate with one another. Recently, a member was baptized in an elder’s backyard pool. She shared the baptism video with her group and read her story of coming to faith to them at their Zoom meeting the following Tuesday night. It was a special moment they shared together.
Diane has been intentional about doing virtual game nights as well as Bible study. She’s done porch drop-offs for people needing a little encouragement, and group members call her and each other regularly to check in or just to talk and pray together.
“You can still do so much!” she said. “There’s some hard stuff going on. I feel like the group has really helped each other and been what we’re supposed to be as far as being a support for each other.”
For Clear Creek, small group has always been the physical anchor to the church — the way to know and be known by one another. Even though the in-person connection is absent from their meetings, Diane said there has not been much connection lost.
“In some ways it’s easier for people to meet this way — not having to get a babysitter, not having to ‘dress up,’” she said.
For the most part, Diane sees this group much like other groups she has led in the past. They have their ups and downs, their high moments and imperfections. But group now, during this especially strange time, is a special respite away from uncertainty and a step back towards what matters most.
“I’m really grateful for this group,” said Diane. “I’ve loved all of my groups, but I have a special heart for this one. It grounds me. It causes me to want to be closer to God. It’s changed my expectations of people in a good way. I’m having a softer heart and giving people more grace on certain things where before I’d be a little nitpicky.”
As Clear Creek gears up for Group Link in a time of uncertainty, Diane hopes people will remember that small group is still what it has always been.
“I have lots of Christian friends,” said Diane, “but group is different. Group is intentional. Group is prayer. Group is Bible study. Group is connection. Group is supporting each other.”
And she believes that being part of a small group now is “absolutely crucial.”
“I have witnessed just how much difference it’s made, having that connection,” she said. “While I think that’s true always, I think it is particularly true now. If this virtual connection is all we have, I’m so grateful we have it. God created us to be in community. It’s what’s good for us. It’s what’s best for us.”
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Easter 2020 will be an Easter we never forget. For most of us, we’ll remember the Coronavirus, the stay at home orders, and church buildings being closed. But for the Larson family, Easter 2020 will be remembered for a much bigger reason.
Cameron Larson, a teenager in the student ministry at the East 96 Campus, had recently come to saving faith in Jesus and been considering baptism for some time. Easter Sunday was going to be the day. His parents Craig and Kari had planned to help celebrate Cameron’s commitment at a friend’s pool. The plan was to have a small party with Cameron’s student small group and Craig and Kari’s adult small group in attendance. But because of COVID-19, the party was no longer possible. Instead, people attended via Facetime and Zoom calls to witness this public demonstration of Cameron’s saving faith in Jesus.
But one person who was able to be physically present was Cameron’s grandfather, Frank.
Frank hadn’t grown up with faith in Jesus. He attended church on occasion, mainly holidays. Five years ago, after his son Craig was baptized, Frank began to explore faith in Jesus at his own pace, asking Craig and Kari questions.
In September of 2019, Frank was diagnosed with prostate cancer. This February, he got news that the cancer had spread… the prognosis was not good.
Frank struggled to have hope in the midst of his battle with cancer, but in God’s grace, Frank began to find glimmers of hope in Jesus. Frank believed Jesus was the only one who could save him and rescue him – not just physically, but spiritually. Since that realization, Frank said, “peace has washed over me.”
So, on Easter Sunday 2020, as the family was preparing to celebrate Cameron’s baptism and proclamation of his faith in Jesus, Frank turned to his son Craig at the kitchen table and said, “I’m ready to have the Lord in my life.”
Craig waded into the pool that afternoon with his teenage son Cameron, and his cancer-fighting father. Craig dipped Cameron below the surface of the water and brought him up again, and then did the same to his dad.
Now, Frank continues to hope for his body in his battle against cancer, but he rests in the eternal hope he has for his soul.
‘Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”
2 Corinthians 5:17
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It feels like the world has come to a screeching halt. People are stuck inside, left to mine the tumultuous caverns of social media and the bleak news on TV. Some without a source of income. Some with an ever-present fear of the virus making its way around the globe.
But, for four brothers on the west side of League City, it’s been an opportunity for them to use their gifts in a way they never expected.
“I told the boys I wanted them to do some kind of community service to help encourage people with everything that is going on,” Jennifer Keown said about her conversation with her four sons: Micah (15 years old) – a freshmen at Clear Springs High School – Caleb (12), Joshua (12) – who actually plays the viola – and Andrew (9).
The proposal: play violin driveway concerts for families in the community.
“They were agreeable to it,” Jennifer said. “But with teenage boys, you know, it can be hard.”
The boys felt a little shy about getting started, thinking most people probably wouldn’t want to listen to classical violin music, especially in the current state of things. So Jennifer posted about it on Facebook to gauge interest.
It didn’t take long for the responses to start rolling in.
“They were still unsure,” Jennifer said. “But then they actually played for people, and they started getting comments of just how thankful people were… And at the various places we would go, there might be other people we didn’t know who were around. You know, some neighbors, or some guys who were out mowing lawns or whatever that would end up listening to them, too. So that was kind of fun.”
They even got to play for a family friend with a daughter who has medical needs that put her in a high risk group for COVID-19. As a bonus, she is really interested in playing the violin.
The Keowns have now played at six different homes, and say they aren’t planning on stopping anytime soon.
“I just think it gives people a chance to see a familiar face, and someone smiling, and doing something besides thinking about this virus for just a few minutes,” Jennifer said. “So I think it’s just a way to spread joy, and to spread God’s love to other people. And to say, Hey, you don’t have to just sit at home and be afraid all the time. We can still do things that are fun and joyful and bring a smile to people’s faces.
“I think for kids, sometimes it’s harder for them. Because, even though they are kids, if they’re going to help somebody, they don’t want to do something that’s not actually helpful. I mean even real little kids, they realize the difference between doing something that’s actually helpful and doing something somebody says is helpful, because they’re a little kid.
“So, I think it’s been cool for the boys to be able to do something that’s actually brought joy to someone else. It’s real! It’s not something other people can easily do, because not everybody has that skillset. And so it’s been a good lesson for them, to just realize, Okay, I do have the ability to serve others in this. And it doesn’t have to look a certain way. It can be the thing that I’m good at.”
After a day of playing violin in people’s driveways when they would have normally been at school or chosen to relax, Micah summed it all up in his own way.
“My oldest son always says, ‘Anytime Mom says, “Hey I’ve got a great idea!” that’s when you know it’s going to be a bad idea,’” Jennifer laughs. “But, on the way home, he said, ‘But this really was a great idea!’”
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