Having a Top 5 is a simple way to identify, pray for, and be intentional with the people in our lives we hope come to know the grace of Jesus.
Thankfully, we aren’t the ones who save. Jesus is. The pressure isn’t on us to transform hearts or to have all the answers. Yet we have a responsibility to take seriously the mission Jesus gave us in Matthew 28:19-20:
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.
Here are two simple mistakes to avoid when reaching your Top 5.
TREATING PEOPLE LIKE A PROJECT
We must be careful not to think of the people on our Top 5 as projects.
They aren’t just names on a list.
They are friends, family members, coworkers, and neighbors.
These are people we love – because they are worth loving, regardless of what they believe.
2 Corinthians 5:17-20 says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation;that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us.”
You have been entrusted with a message, not assigned a project.
When our loved ones celebrate, we celebrate! When they grieve, we grieve. When they need support, we serve. We do this because we love the people in our lives and because that’s the kind of people we are.
We love because he first loved us. And we pray that through our relationships, God will speak grace into hearts.
Another mistake to avoid is…
NOT BEING READY TO SHARE YOUR STORY
The passage above from 2 Corinthians says that we’ve been entrusted with a message of reconciliation. At some point you will have an opportunity to talk about Jesus with someone.
What will you say?
You don’t have to know everything about the Bible or have a comprehensive understanding of systematic theology to share the message of Jesus. Although you should be growing in your knowledge of the Bible and understanding of God, you don’t have to have it all worked out before you share the hope that you have in Christ.
1 Peter 3:15 says, “…in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you…”
For starters, all you need to know is why you have hope in Christ.
What has he done in your life?
How have you experienced healing and freedom?
Why have you put your trust in Jesus?
Peter says we should always be prepared to share the hope in us. A little preparation goes a long way. Take a few minutes to write out your story. It could be as simple as looking back at the story from your baptism, or jotting down something God has done in your life recently. Knowing in advance what you want to say will serve you well when the opportunity presents itself.
When it comes to reaching our Top 5, we love the people in our lives like Jesus would, and we rest knowing that he is the one who will transform their heart.
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Reading a great book can be transformative, whether its fictional, theological, devotional, or anything else! Reading a great book can also just be a great way to find quiet away from the hustle and chaos of modern, screen-centered life.
We asked a few members of our church staff, “What was the best book you read in 2022, and why?” Here is what they told us!
So, choose one (or more) of these books to read in 2023. Consider inviting a friend to join you and pray that God would transform your hearts and your minds through reading and contemplating the wisdom you find.
“Sometimes it’s easier to obey God than it is to trust him. Even when we don’t want to obey them, we generally see God’s laws as reasonable and wise … but sometimes our circumstances defy explanation, leaving us confused, frustrated, and struggling with the very honest question ‘can I trust God?’”
Trusting God is a robust study on the topic of Gods sovereignty; you’ll find yourself trusting him more completely — even when life hurts.
The best book I read this year was Gentle and Lowly by Dane Ortland. I just appreciated the emphasis on God’s love for sinful, struggling people. It helps a sinner want to draw near to Jesus instead of hiding or feeling unworthy. I needed it and the guys in my small group needed it, too.
Nancy Guthrie is a gifted Bible teacher. In this book, she puts you in the place of the original New Testament reader, showing you specifically how the Old Testament leads to Jesus. She shows you how all the “great characters” of the Old Testament ultimately point to Jesus. I don’t think I’ve ever appreciated the Old Testament like this. I learned a lot and really enjoyed it along the way.
This book has changed my prayer life, and I think it will change yours as well. It is both insightful and practical. Not only are there helpful revelations in each chapter, but each concludes with a practice that makes it easy to immediately apply what the Spirit reveals to you. You have to read this invitation to the wonder and mystery of prayer!
— Tanner Smith (Director of Prayer Ministry, Worship Leader)
Wright’s book answers questions about the biblical perspective on last things: Where do we go when we die? Where is Heaven? How does the resurrection impact our resurrection? What is the new heavens and earth about? How do these truths impact the church’s mission?
Wright, a world-class New Testament scholar, clears up misunderstandings that pervade today’s church on end times issues with incredible discernment and clarity. There won’t be many better books on the subject than the one N.T. Wright has penned. This book’s teaching on the future will make a difference in your present.
— Yancey Arrington (Teaching Pastor)
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At some point in my college career someone told me, “Use your time wisely because you’ll never have this much free time again.”
I laughed and said “okay,” but was really thinking of how busy I was as a full-time student who was highly involved on campus, working part-time, and volunteering with my local church.
Looking back, I understand the comment they made.
It’s not that I’m necessarily busier today, I just have different responsibilities. I have a marriage that takes work and effort. I have a job that requires more hours. And believe it or not, I must go to the grocery store and cook because there’s not a campus cafeteria to eat at every meal. Every day I have to partake in all the fun things that make up adult life.
I have less free time to use however I want, but I still give my free time to the same things because I think they’re really important for God’s kingdom and my soul.
When I first started college, I wasn’t committed to attending church on Sunday or the college small group on Wednesday nights. I didn’t think I had the time, or to be more honest, I chose to give it to other things.
After a couple months, I realized the reality of my priorities and made a change. Every Sunday morning and Wednesday night quickly became blocked off on my calendar. Over time, my Tuesday afternoons were designated to serving with a youth organization and I became one of the college small group leaders.
I committed to community and serving.
It would have been easy to sleep in on Sunday, plan something with friends on Wednesday, or pick up an extra shift on Tuesday, but I actually looked forward to these things throughout my week. And I still do, just in a different city with small group and Student Ministry on different nights.
Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain. – Philippians 2:14-16
I was able to live differently than those around me on my college campus and hopefully give them a glimpse of God’s love and grace. I was able to share the goodness of God with junior high students that I would have normally never crossed paths with. And I did it all with a Gospel-centered support system around me.
We have countless opportunities to be involved in God’s mission, we just have to step into them.
Don’t book up your free time so much that you don’t have time to love and serve your family and friends.
In college, I made sure I had good quality time with my friends. Time away from studying or walking to class to really check in on them. Sometimes conversations were light, like how classes or relationships were going, others were heavy as we talked about mental health struggles and sin. I wanted my friends to know I was there for them always, regardless of the topic or time.
While I still carve out one-on-one time for my friends, I can also love them with my spouse beside me. Over the last couple years, my husband and I have had several friends who have had babies, so we support them by bringing them a meal, offering to pick up groceries, or watching their little peanut so they can get out of the house baby free.
I serve my people in these ways because that’s how God has gifted me, some of my spiritual gifts being exhortation and hospitality.
Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. – 1 Corinthians 12:4-6
Maybe being a shoulder to cry on or cooking aren’t your things. But God has gifted you in your own unique ways that can be used for his kingdom and in the lives of those around you.
Though the main focus of this article is on time, I think it would be a big miss not to address another really important resource: money.
Growing up, my parents taught my brother and I to tithe. I had a childlike understanding of it at the time, but I guess it always felt like a rule, not an act of obedience, and definitely not with proper heart posture.
Fast-forward to when my tithe became more than a couple dollars and suddenly it became more difficult to let those dollars go.
I worked hard for my money and still didn’t feel like I had that much of it. How was I supposed to just give some to the church?
The number in my bank account acted as a security blanket. But I was clinging to the wrong thing.
“No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” – Matthew 6:24
Money can only give me a false sense of security, but it will always fall short. God is my ultimate security and provider.
At times, it seemed to take a crowbar to pry open my fist. I had to teach my heart and mind to relax and recognize that anything I was holding was put in my hands by God first. I also had to keep the gift of salvation that was freely given to me in its rightful, centered place. Now, I joyfully give to my Savior who gave his life for mine.
Each stage of life requires a rebalance of how we use our free time and resources, but it’s not an excuse to stop being involved, available, or generous. You might just have to do some extra planning and pray for God to open your eyes and heart to the opportunities around you.
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. — Ephesians 2:10
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40 Days of Prayer and Fasting is over, and yet for many of us, we’ve seen a noticeable change in our lives after devoting intentional time each day to prayer and saying “no,” to something we love for a season.
It’s been so exciting to be praying the same things at the same time with the people of God in community.
But now what?
How do we continue fostering a life of prayer and devotion to personal renewal for the long haul?
Here are three ways to navigate the end of 40 Days of Prayer Fasting and keep seeking Jesus as you step into the holiday season.
1. Create a Daily Prayer Rhythm
Historically, the people of God have devoted themselves to daily rhythms of prayer. It’s a great way to practice the presence of God and push pause on the busyness of a frantic life. Here are a few resources that can help with that.
Having a book or app that takes you through a daily devotional, including a prayer time, is a great way to walk with Jesus consistently through your week. Reading Scripture and praying are two ways we communicate with God and stay in close fellowship with him.
I know what you’re thinking. Didn’t we just finish 40 Days of Prayer? Yes we did! But, we just wanted let you know that we’ve made all of this content available so now you can participate in 40 Days of Prayer and Fasting anytime. Maybe you jumped into the 40 days late or are just interested in doing it again sometime down the road. Maybe you want to invite your small group to participate together. Find all of the daily content here.
Whichever route you choose, remember that prayer is foundational to spiritual formation, and full devotion to Christ takes place through intimacy with him.
We also want to hear what this 40 Days of Prayer and Fasting experience has been like for you. So, share your story here and let us know how God is moving in your life!
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40 Days of Prayer and Fasting is a united effort to draw near to God together as we ask him to bring about a spiritual renewal in our lives, our family, our church, our community, and our world.
Week 1: Dependent Prayer Day 1: Fasting
He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry. The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.” Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone.’Luke 4:2-4
Pray that you can learn to completely trust and depend upon your Father in heaven. Ask God to help you have the same faith Jesus displayed in the wilderness, and that he would reveal himself to you as you depend upon him for all things.
Day 2: Pride
Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility consider others more significant than yourselves.Philippians 2:3
Pray that God would reveal the pride and selfishness in your heart. Allow the Holy Spirit to help you see others in your life through his eyes, and to consider them above yourself. Who can you serve today?
Day 3: Humility
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.Philippians 2:5-8
Thank God that he has given us the example of Christ and pray that he would help you to live in humble obedience and submission to his good, perfect, and loving will.
Day 4: Rest
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
Take some time to be still and know that he is God. Ask God to help you trust in Jesus for true and lasting rest. Thank him for the gift of Jesus who willingly carries your burdens and offers rest this world can never offer.
Day 5: Busyness
But the Lord answered her, Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion and it will not be taken from her. Luke 10: 41-42
If you haven’t yet chosen something to fast from, ask God to reveal what you should fast from so that you have more time with him daily. God loves you and loves spending time with you, more than you will ever know.
Day 6: Truth
Trust in the LORD with all of your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.Proverbs 3:5-6
Ask God in which ways you depend upon yourself, or this world, for truth instead of trusting in him. As you seek God in Scripture, pray that he would help you to trust fully in his presence, revealed truth, and love for you.
Day 7: Renewal
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.Romans 12:1-2
Ask God to bring renewal and transformation to your life and the community around you. Ask that he would help you to orient your entire life to him, seek him with all that you are, and conform you to the image of his Son, Jesus, as you seek to live on mission.
Week 2: Indwelling Holy Spirit
Day 8: Filled by the Spirit
You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you. Romans 8:9-11
Thank God today for the gift of his Spirit who dwells within you because you belong to Jesus. Pray that you would be filled with his Spirit to live completely dependent upon him as you move throughout your day.
Day 9: Guided by the Spirit
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.Galatians 5:22-25
Pray to your Father that you learn to walk by the Spirit. Ask that he help you to let go of the selfish desires of your heart and instead to love and serve others displaying the fruit of the Spirit to all those around you.
Day 10: Convicting of Sin
As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. For you felt a godly grief, so that you suffered no loss through us. For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.2 Corinthians 7:9-10
Pray that you would be convicted by God to repent wherever your heart and life is contrary to him. Trust in the work of Jesus and know that there is no condemnation in Christ; ask that God would help you to truly know and believe how fully forgiven and loved you are in Christ, even as you seek godly conviction that leads to repentance and renewal.
Day 11: Empowering of the Spirit
Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.Ephesians 3:20-21
Surrender to God’s Spirit, the same Spirit that resurrected Jesus from the dead, who dwells in you, and empowers you to love, serve, and live on mission in ways that you never thought were possible.
Day 12: Gifting of the Spirit
To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills. 1 Corinthians 12:7-11
Pray that God would reveal your spiritual gifts, which are promised and bestowed upon all believers in Jesus. Ask him to empower you to fully use your gifts in his mission to reach, redeem, and renew the world in the name of Jesus.
Day 13: Reminding Us of All Truth
When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.John 16:13
As you fast, ask for clarity of mind. Thank the Holy Spirit for the way he reminds and reveals the truth of God’s word to you. Pray that his presence in your community would lead to deeper understanding and dependence on his truth.
Day 14: Communing with the Spirit
Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.Romans 8:26-27
As you pray, know that God’s Spirit intercedes on your behalf, even when you feel completely weak or lost. Pray that the Holy Spirit would search the deepest needs and desires of your heart and trust that God knows you fully and welcomes you completely because of Jesus.
Week 3: Healing
Day 15: Physical Healing
In that hour he healed many people of diseases and plagues and evil spirits, and on many who were blind he bestowed sight. And he answered them, “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them.Luke 7: 21-22
Confess to God that he is the Great Healer. Name your brothers and sisters in Christ who are struggling physically and ask our Father to heal them. If you are suffering, ask for healing in your own life according to his will. Thank God for the future promise of all things being made new in his Kingdom. Ask God to give us stories to tell of his power and mercy, that his good news would be proclaimed, and his name honored.
Day 16: Emotional Healing
He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.Psalm 147:3
Ask the Lord for healing from the emotional scars you bear. Tell God you trust his power to heal, and that his grace is sufficient for you. Ask him to give you an open heart to his healing power and for an increasing awareness of his steadfast love for you.
Day 17: Spiritual Healing
But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.Ephesians 2:4-7
Speak your thankfulness to God for his forgiveness and grace. Ask God to teach you to remember that he alone has forgiven your sin and healed you from unrighteousness. Pray that God will make your life a witness to the power of his rich mercy.
Day 18: Relational Healing
So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.Matthew 5:23-24
Pray that God will make your relationships as important to you as they are to him. Ask God to give you the faith required to go and be reconciled to anyone with whom you have a fractured relationship.
Day 19: Wounds
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.2 Corinthians 1:3-4
Ask God to give you peace of heart while he works to bind your wounds. Pray for a soft heart toward other people who are hurt and downcast. Ask the Spirit of God to reveal ways you can pray for the people he brings to mind.
Pray these verses. Ask God to help you trust him in the depths of your struggle.Ask the Lord to send people to you who will speak grace and truth to you and strengthen your faith.
Day 21: Grief
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”Matthew 5:4
Speak the name of someone who is grieving. Ask God to give them comfort and rest in their season of pain. Thank God for the genuine hope we have in Jesus. Ask God for peace in knowing there is life beyond this life.
Week 4: Freedom
Day 22: Freedom from Idolatry
Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.Colossians 3:5
Pray that your Father would reveal anything your heart desires more than God himself. Ask for the strength to ruthlessly remove every unholy attraction from your life. Pray that he would quiet you in his presence so that you can see clearly and worship him alone.
Day 23: Freedom from Unhealthy Habits
Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.1 Corinthians 9: 24-27
Pray to your Father to help you to live purposefully. Ask him to give you the will to submit all your ways to him and discipline your heart and body. Pray that you can become intolerant even of trivial sin, remembering that everything you do either glorifies or dishonors Jesus.
Day 24: Freedom from False Beliefs
The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes;Psalm 19:7-8
As you seek your Father in prayer, pray that he would enable you to hold tightly to the truth of his word and reject false beliefs. As you fast, ask that he give you a hunger for his word, so that you might know the truth and live your life submitted to him. Ask that he help you to put into practice his unassailable truth.
Day 25: Freedom from Depression and Anxiety
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
Voice your concerns and fears to God. Cast your cares upon him and remind yourself of his deep care for you. Ask for his peace to guard your heart and mind and give you freedom from the crippling effects of depression and anxiety. Thank him for his presence and love.
Day 26: Freedom from Materialism
Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.Matthew 6:31-33
As you pray, trust that God knows what you need and will always do what is best for you. Pray that God would free your heart from being consumed by material things and a desire for worldly comfort. Spend some time thanking God for every good gift in your life.
Day 27: Freedom from Religiosity
For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. Whoever thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men.Romans 14: 17-18
Pray that your Father would free you from mere rule keeping and self-dependence. Nothing can save except the blood of Jesus. Ask God to fill your heart with the peace and joy that comes from trusting that his grace and mercy are enough for you.
Day 28: Freedom from Envy
If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.Galatians 5:25-26
Pray that the Holy Spirit would guide you in all of your relationships. Ask that God would teach you to be humble, so that you can serve and celebrate people the same way as Jesus. Ask that God would give you freedom from comparison and set your heart to become more like Jesus.
Week 5: Holiness Day 29: Repentance
Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.1 John 3:2-3
Confess your sins to God. Thank your Father for adopting you and ask for the faith and courage to rid your life of all desires and actions that are opposed to his holiness. Ask him to purify your heart as he is pure and to help you bear fruits worthy of repentance.
Day 30: Death to Sin
Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. Colossians 3:5-10
As you fast and consider the way of Jesus, ask him to reveal the parts of your life you must put to death. Ask God to make every sinful desire and action distasteful so that you will stop doing anything that does not lead you to honor and obey him.
Day 31: Distinctiveness
Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.Hebrews 12:14
Ask God to grow your desire to be set apart for him. Ask him to grow you in courage and conviction to model your life after him, so that you may reflect the goodness and grace of Jesus to others.
Day 32: Integrity
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. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.Philippians 4:8-9
Pray and ask your Father to strengthen you to live in complete integrity. That God would enable you to love and trust him so much that you do not need to hide your ways or manage your image.
Day 33: Honesty
But that is not the way you learned Christ!— assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.Ephesians 4:20-24
Ask God for the simple courage to always tell the truth. As you fast and pray, pray for God to show you any part of your heart that is willingly deceitful or tolerant of falsehood. Ask God for help to put away your old thinking and walk in truth.
Day 34: Transparency
If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.1 John 1:6-9
Pray and express your desire to hide nothing from God. He knows everything about you and loves you completely. Ask him to search you for secret motives and desires; confess those things to him and seek opportunities to be transparent with a brother or sister in Christ.
As you’ve refrained from distractions through fasting, take some time to listen to God. Ask him to grow your understanding of the goodness and truth of his word. To help you conform your life to his precepts and in every moment choose his kingdom to come and his will to be done.
Week 6: Mission
Day 36: Compassion
When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” Matthew 9:36-38
Pray that God would give you deep compassion for the lost. Ask that he would open your eyes to see those who are far from him in your neighborhood, family, or work. Ask him how he might use you to help meet their needs and share the gospel.
Day 37: Local and Global Mission
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth. Acts 1:8
Pray that God would reveal to you where he can use you for the gospel today. Ask him to show you where he has planned for you to participate in his mission. Even when you feel inadequate, trust in his Spirit to be with you and speak for you.
Day 38: Friend of Sinners
The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’Matthew 11:19
Pray that God would show you those in your life and community who feel as if they are not loved by God. Pray that you would be a gospel presence of love, forgiveness, and compassion to those who the world has cast aside in the name of Jesus.
Day 39: Salt and Light
You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet. “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. Matthew 5:13 -16
Ask your Father in heaven to help you to be a light to the world. Trust that he is renewing you day by day to look more like Jesus. Ask him that your good works would be seen not for your own pride or success, but for his glory and mission.
Day 40: The Great Commission
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
Pray for 5 people in your life today that do not know Jesus. Pray that their hearts would be softened and that God would move in their lives so they would become fully devoted of Christ. Ask God how he can use you in their lives and then take some time to listen.
https://clearcreekresources.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/11/40-Days-of-Prayer_General.jpg10801920Clear Creek Resourceshttps://clearcreekresources.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/CCResources-1.pngClear Creek Resources2022-11-16 12:55:542022-11-16 12:55:5440 Days of Prayer and Fasting: Day 1-40
When asked what the greatest commandment (i.e. the most importantcommandment) in the Old Testament law was, Jesus said to love God with all your heart, soul, and mind and to love your neighbor as yourself.
All the laws of the Old Testament essentially boil down to these two things: love God and love others.
“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
— Matthew 22:36-39
We are called to love God with everything, including our mind.
But how can we love God like that?
How do we live a thoughtful life?
Here are 3 things you must know and a few resources to help you learn more.
1. Know Who You Believe In You have to first know God as he has revealed himself in the Bible. One of the charges against many Christians today is that they simply don’t know what the Bible says. They might know a few passages because they appear on social media posts with pretty backgrounds or coffee mugs, or because those are the verses they memorized as children. But, it seems, the Christian tradition of reading and knowing the Bible is not as strong as it once was.
We believe the Bible is God’s word and that it was written by human authors, under the supernatural guidance and inspiration of the Holy Spirit.Christians have always affirmed that it is the supreme source of truth for their beliefs and living.
But the only way to discover and understand the truths God reveals in the Bible is to read it for yourself.
And if you want some added help understanding things, get an ESV Study Bible or take our How to Study the Bible class in the fall.
Better yet, don’t do it alone. Join a small group to read, discuss, and apply God’s word in community.
To love God with your mind, you have to know God as he’s revealed himself in Scripture.
2. Know What You Believe In You have to know what you believe and the core beliefs that Christians throughout history have stacked hands on. Studying theology can help you do that.
We’ve also posted the essential beliefs of our church on our website. Frankly, they are pretty generic essential beliefs similar to what you’d find on many church websites.
But know that those generic–sounding beliefs you see on church websites have been carefully crafted, formed by Scripture, and debated at different points throughoutthe history of the church.
We don’t take them for granted and neither should you.
To learn more, here are two great resources to get you started:
3. Know Why you Believe In It You have to know why you believe what you believe, and, at least to some degree, be able to explain and defend what you believe. There’s actually a name for the defense of the Christian faith: apologetics.
That doesn’t mean you have to be one of those debaters who like to argue and discuss and push back. Some people are wired that way and some people aren’t. But like Peter says in 1 Peter 3:15, “But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.”
Know what you believe—the hope that is in you. And know why you believe it so that you can explain it to someone else who asks why you have that hope, and why you believe what you believe.
Be prepared to address objections or concerns people might have. People have questions. You’ve probably asked some of them, even if you’re settled in your belief:
How could a good God allow suffering?
How can a loving God send people to hell?
Hasn’t science disproven Christianity?
How can you say there’s only one true faith?
Doesn’t Christianity denigrate women? And condone slavery?
Fortunately, there are good answers to these questions. Christians have applied their minds to the study of Scripture for hundreds of years to come up with satisfying, God-honoring answers to these questions. So do the work to know what those answers are.
Here are two great resources to get you started on studying apologetics:
While Christianity is very much tied to our hearts, it requires us to use our wits, our reason, and the entirety of our minds to truly follow Christ.
Let me encourage you, don’t check your brain at the door.
Dive in, learn, and use your knowledge and reason together with your feelings and faith. And as you do, may you, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.”
https://clearcreekresources.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/05/IMG_3516-scaled.jpg15362048Ryan Lehtinenhttps://clearcreekresources.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/CCResources-1.pngRyan Lehtinen2022-05-19 13:55:442022-05-21 21:26:563 Things You Must Know to Have a Thoughtful Life
My dad needed my help recently. He was preparing to undergo a medical procedure for his heart, so I took it upon myself to help him sort through some things he needed to do. It was fairly standard stuff. I helped him fill out a legal document and talk with his doctor about the procedure and his options. We discussed his wishes in case things went wrong during the procedure and I was left to make hard choices on his behalf.
While I took care of these typical family duties, I chuckled to myself. Less than three years ago, I would never have imagined being in a place where I’d handle these types of things for this man.
But there I was, discussing end-of-life scenarios with a father who had neglected, abandoned, and disappointed me more times than is fair to mention against him.
I wasn’t able to do it because I love him so much or because he’s turned a corner or because I am such a great Christian.
I was able to do it because I wanted something normal between us. And normal is not a thing I take for granted in the relationship I have with my father.
It felt something like a normal relationship between a father and daughter.
Normal is something I thought I’d had to give up a long time ago — a loss I had to learn to forgive.
And it was also something I had to grieve.
I believe it’s true of us all that when we begin to engage in the hard task of forgiveness, we also have to face grief. But grief isn’t something we normally associate with forgiveness. Or, at least, it wasn’t for me.
We know forgiveness doesn’t mean we “erase” the hard or evil thing that happened to us. We know we can’t forget it.
But what do we do when we arrive at the point in our journeys of forgiveness where we have to deal with the overwhelming pile of emotions at the root of our unforgiveness?
Here’s how the process of forgiveness worked in my life.
I felt the Lord calling me to forgive my dad, but when I would butt up against the really challenging feelings of anger or sadness, I wouldn’t quite know where to put them or how to deal with them. I was prepared to act on the task of forgiveness, but I wasn’t prepared to deal with the grief associated with admitting what I had lost.
Over time, God showed me how he intended to use my grief as one of many tools to grow my heart for forgiveness. Tapping into the sorrow over what I had lost (or never really had) helped me take all those emotions to God.
And when I took my grieving heart to God, he was faithful to heal it.
I began to see how grief was just part of the journey of forgiveness. An absolutely necessary part.
We’re told in the Psalms that “the Lord is near to the brokenhearted” and that “he heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds” (Psalm 34:18 and 147:3).
If we want the kind of forgiveness the Lord offers for our broken relationships, then we must address our broken hearts.
We must confront our grief and allow God to come near to us and heal us. That’s when he can “bind up [our] wounds” and fashion our hearts into ones that seek forgiveness.
I love my dad, and I gladly take the normal times when they come. Forgiving him was hard. Confronting my grief over the loss of a “normal” relationship was harder.
But God was merciful to show me that his way was better, and he gave me a new heart capable of holding both love and loss.
He can do the same for you.
https://clearcreekresources.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/MicrosoftTeams-image-18-scaled.jpg13652048Christy Williamshttps://clearcreekresources.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/CCResources-1.pngChristy Williams2022-04-13 12:20:382022-04-17 11:22:05How to Grieve Through Forgiveness
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.
Run to Jesus.
https://clearcreekresources.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/01/priscilla-du-preez-F9DFuJoS9EU-unsplash-scaled.jpg13652048Yancey Arringtonhttps://clearcreekresources.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/CCResources-1.pngYancey Arrington2022-01-11 05:30:522022-01-11 10:56:17Is it Okay to Doubt God?
That first page of a new journal, starting a new book, or the first day of a new season. And, I really love the beginning of a new year. Every new year holds so much promise.
2021 started with promise. It was certainly going to be a better year than 2020; it had to be.
No more COVID, no more political division or racial divide? At least, that was the hope, right?
Well, we didn’t even make it a week into 2021 and the wheels fell off, again.
2021 felt like any other year that started with so much promise, but ended up being such a disappointment.
We can laugh it off now — we kind of have to — but the effects of the past few years are real: division, sickness, and uncertainty.
2021 broke a lot of promises.
Well, here we are again. It’s January. A clean slate. I love a new year!
But our hopes have been tempered. Everyone seems to be a little more cynical and hardened this time around. And maybe we should be. Life is hard and will continue to be hard. In fact, long before COVID-19 Jesus told his followers:
I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.
— John 16:33
Jesus was honest about the challenges of life.
But, there is a difference between a realistic understanding of our broken world and losing hope as Christians.
So what if 2022 really does offer promise? And what if that promise will never lead to disappointment?
As we begin the new year, here are three promises we can hold on to:
1. YOU ARE NEVER ALONE
These past couple of years, we’ve experienced isolation, separation, and loneliness to a greater degree, but this is not new. Spiritually and relationally people have a tendency to feel isolated. We need to be reminded that we are never alone if we know Jesus.
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
As we walk through 2022 (and whatever may come with it) we can be reminded that we have a God who is present with us always.
In fact that’s what we just celebrated at Christmas. Jesus, who is Immanuel, God with us!
And, as amazing as it is that he came to dwell with us, Jesus also came and experienced the real suffering and brokenness of our world. He knows what it’s like to be thirsty and hungry, to be tempted and rejected and abandoned.
He knows what it’s like to suffer and even to die.
He understands it all and is with us in it all. Always.
2. GOD WILL GIVE US STRENGTH
I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
— Philippians 4:10-13
This is a popular verse, but so often misconstrued. Paul was not saying he could do whatever he wanted to do because God would strengthen him. He wasn’t talking about the perfect jump-shot or a six figure salary.
Paul was in the midst of the suffering and tribulation Jesus had warned about.
But, even there, Paul was content in abundance, and he was content in suffering, because Christ was present with him.
It’s not a promise of comfort or ease, but of God’s presence and power in the midst of anything we might face.
3. GOD IS WORKING ALL THINGS FOR GOOD
I know this is often a Christian cliché, but it’s also a real promise.
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
— Romans 8:28
The context of this verse is, again, acknowledging the suffering in our world.
Paul was describing those who walk in the Spirit as disciples of Christ.
For us, no matter what we face, we can be sure that not only are we never alone, not only does God strengthen us along the way, but we can trust that in the end, his goodness, power, and sovereignty will work out for our good and his glory.
Let’s be clear though, this promise doesn’t mean that everything is good. There is so much in our broken hearts and our broken world that is decidedly bad, like sickness, betrayal, cancer, hurricanes, selfishness, and so much more.
But, even in the middle of all of it, we trust that God is faithful to keep his promises. And in the end, he takes even the worst of life, the brokenness of our world, and he works it for good. It is an incredible promise!
The “promises” of this world will always disappoint, but we can be certain in the promises of God. None of these promises guarantee an easy new year ahead, but they are true and something we can and should hold fast to no matter what 2022 brings.
God’s promises are as true today as they were last year. They will always be the same and they will always offer hope beyond today.
This is what true faith, founded in Christ, looks like.
https://clearcreekresources.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/01/timothy-eberly-U4UwzRSns6M-unsplash-scaled.jpg13652048Aaron Lutzhttps://clearcreekresources.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/CCResources-1.pngAaron Lutz2022-01-04 10:11:402022-01-04 16:24:36The Promises of 2022
If you’re like me (or Hobby Lobby), your Christmas tree goes up before the turkey is served on Thanksgiving Day.
I know, I know. So many of you are shaking your heads already.
People have big opinions on when trees, music, lights, and even coffee cups should appear for the Christmas season.
And while this topic is debated mostly in good fun, it serves as a small sample of the polarized and divided cultural climate we all seem to find ourselves in these days.
But, even though I’m on the Christmas-as-soon-as-you-want side of this debate, I’m willing to find the middle ground here and admit that Thanksgiving does not get the focus and attention it should.
Really, it’s fitting that Thanksgiving comes before Christmas — not because we need another way to decorate with pumpkins, but because the entire Christian life should be marked by giving thanks. Even, and sometimes especially, in the times before we enjoy the blessings of God’s gifts, times when we are tired and unsure, and times that are hard.
In fact, the history of the Thanksgiving holiday in our nation is instructive for how disciples of Jesus can rightly approach giving thanks to God.
The holiday of Thanksgiving has been celebrated on and off in the United States since 1789. President Abraham Lincoln made it an official national holiday in 1863, proclaiming it, “a day of thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father.”
If you don’t remember from history class, Lincoln was the president of the United States from 1861 to 1865 — the same years as the Civil War. In this war, 618,222 men died, which is far and away the most casualties in our nation’s history. It was undoubtedly one of the most challenging and divisive periods America has ever experienced.
And yet, in the middle of this time — before the end of the war — Lincoln asked the nation to give thanks to our good Father in heaven.
And long before Lincoln, there was the Apostle Paul.
Paul suffered for his faith in Jesus. He was beaten, persecuted, imprisoned, and eventually martyred. And yet, these are Paul’s words written to the people of the church:
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
— 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
Throughout the gospels, we see Jesus giving thanks to his Father.
He gives thanks for the bread God provides before he distributes to the hungry crowd. He gives thanks to God before the resurrection of Lazarus. He gives thanks to his Father before he breaks the bread and pours the wine that represents his broken body and his blood, fully knowing what these symbols will mean for him the next day.
He demonstrates thanksgiving for good gifts and thanksgiving in suffering.
The Greek root of Eucharist (the fancy word for “The Lord’s Supper”) can actually be translated as “thanksgiving.”
When we take the Lord’s Supper together, we are remembering God’s good gift of his son, who died for our sins and was resurrected as our king. We remember the past and give thanks. We also give thanks for the present gifts and blessings God has given us, from our daily bread to his presence among us.
So we can give thanks for the Advent of Christ — the Christmas season — resting in the truth that God can be trusted. We can give thanks, knowing full well that we, like Lincoln, like Paul, and like Christ, will experience discord and suffering in this life, but that God can be trusted through it all. And we can give thanks for the coming Advent: the return of Jesus when all things are made new.
So, this holiday season, whether we are struggling or celebrating, whether we have lots or little, whether we prefer pumpkins or trees, let’s give thanks together.
Let us be thankful for God who gifted us with his only beloved Son.
Let us be thankful for the good gifts we enjoy now.
Let us be thankful for the promise of gifts to come.
Thanksgiving before Christmas. Thanksgiving for Christmas. Thanksgiving always.
https://clearcreekresources.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/11/timothy-eberly-yuiJO6bvHi4-unsplash-scaled.jpg13652048Rachel Chesterhttps://clearcreekresources.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/CCResources-1.pngRachel Chester2021-11-23 15:19:412021-11-23 15:19:41Thanksgiving Before Christmas
Over the next couple of weeks the women of CCCC will gather together at their campuses to worship, enjoy fellowship, and remember and celebrate the steadfast love of God.
On this episode, Rachel Chester, Tiffany Ravedutti, Jenna Kraft, and Mandy Turner discuss the plan for women’s ministry in 2023, their roles, and walk through the context of Exodus 34.
https://clearcreekresources.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/03/Steadfast-Podcast.png14342556Clear Creek Resourceshttps://clearcreekresources.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/CCResources-1.pngClear Creek Resources2023-03-19 06:00:262023-03-20 11:50:04175: Steadfast – Preparing for CCCC Women’s Event 2023
How can our generosity make a real impact in our communities?
How do we step into the mess, right where we are, with the light of the gospel?
In this episode, Rachel Chester sits down with Ryan Thomas, CCCC Go Director, and Shari McCormack, CCCC Go Associate, to discuss how to serve our local community as the hands and feet of Jesus.
https://clearcreekresources.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/12/michael-tuszynski-4nuCGapo4Zs-unsplash-scaled.jpg17052560Clear Creek Resourceshttps://clearcreekresources.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/CCResources-1.pngClear Creek Resources2022-12-12 09:31:452022-12-12 13:12:30166: Local Ways to Serve During the Holidays
How have you seen God move in your life, your family, and as a church?
On this special “Year In Review” episode, Aaron Lutz sat down with Ryan Lehtinen and Kyle Mikulan to look back on the year that was and look forward to a new year personally and as a church family.
https://clearcreekresources.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/11/yearinreview2022.png10801920Clear Creek Resourceshttps://clearcreekresources.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/CCResources-1.pngClear Creek Resources2022-12-04 06:00:232022-12-06 14:05:16165: 2022 Year In Review
What if worship was more than the songs we sing, but served as a way of re-shaping how we see God and the world?
What if worship regularly reminded us of a greater story God is telling?
In this episode of the Clear Creek Resources Podcast, Aaron Lutz sits down with two of our worship leaders, Brad Loser and Tanner Smith, to talk about worship that transforms us and worship that re-stories us in the gospel.
https://clearcreekresources.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/10/B67A3319-2-scaled.jpg17072560Clear Creek Resourceshttps://clearcreekresources.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/CCResources-1.pngClear Creek Resources2022-10-09 06:00:142022-10-06 09:17:55157: Restoried in Song – Worship that Transforms
On this episode, Ryan Lehtinen talks with Bruce Wesley about the spiritual disciplines that have been especially helpful in his spiritual life.
They also discuss some of the practices that don’t get mentioned as often, like fasting, meditation, and celebration.
https://clearcreekresources.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/05/MicrosoftTeams-image-59.jpg10801920Clear Creek Resourceshttps://clearcreekresources.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/CCResources-1.pngClear Creek Resources2022-05-15 05:00:382022-05-12 15:56:15138: Legalism or Discipline?
https://clearcreekresources.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/01/MicrosoftTeams-image-10-scaled.jpg13652048Clear Creek Resourceshttps://clearcreekresources.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/CCResources-1.pngClear Creek Resources2022-01-16 05:00:162022-01-16 09:40:27119: How to Read Revelation
Food is a good gift from God meant to be enjoyed and shared. However, what is designed to be good can get distorted in a world of social media, negative body image, and diet culture. On this episode, Ryan Lehtinen talks with his wife, Lindsey Lehtinen — a licensed counselor — about what to do if you have a bad relationship with food.
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When Jesus commissioned his people to “Go and make disciples,” in Matthew 28:19, he was telling us to bring the gospel, not only to the ends of the earth, but also everywhere we go in our normal, everyday lives. On this episode, Ryan Lehtinen talks with campus pastors, Chris Alston and Karl Garcia, about how they intentionally and authenticity engage in relationships with people around them.
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Life is busy. We invest in our jobs, kids, and future, but sometimes marriage ends up on the back burner. How can we invest in the one God has given us and why does it matter? On this episode Rachel Chester sits down with Bruce and Susan Wesley as they share how they seek to know and love each other and how a strong marriage shapes the rest of life.
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Food is an essential part of our lives. From sack lunches to wedding feasts, providing and sharing meals is a fundamental part of how we interact. How can we use meals to celebrate and worship God? How can we use food to love and serve others? On this episode, Rachel Chester talks with Ryan Lehtinen and Yancey Arrington about their most memorable meals, favorite foods, and how they have seen God use the table to his purposes throughout history and in their own lives.
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Prayer can feel intimidating and overwhelming, not knowing where to start, but here are three ways to help you begin praying today!
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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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One of the great barriers to becoming a follower of Jesus Christ is that Christianity is too exclusive. How can Christians really claim that Jesus is the only way to heaven? How can they say Christianity is the one true faith? And what about the millions of people all around the world who follow other religions?
To learn more about Clear Creek Community Church, visit clearcreek.org
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Ross and Alana Sidman have been small group Navigators at Clear Creek for years, living on mission, and inviting others to church all while walking their dog.
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Kate Mendoza started a women’s small group in March of 2020 and quickly watched her group grow together and take next steps in their walk with Jesus.
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“We’re just this small story in the greater, bigger story of what God is doing. These are some things God has done in this life for his greater good.” – Aaron Suhre
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Amy Swift and her husband, Chris, moved to Louisiana from Texas, about a year after they were married. It was supposed to be a short-term move, but it turned into five years. And it was a long, lonely five years for Amy.
The Swifts just had their first baby, she was living in a new city where she knew no one and Chris traveled a lot for work. Which meant Amy was home with the baby most days, and she began to feel the crushing weight of isolation, separation and eventually depression.
She was tired, frustrated, anxious, and alone.
Chris & Amy thought getting back to Texas might fix everything… Texas is awesome, but Amy’s dark season wasn’t over when they moved back.
But I want you to hear how God used HIS PEOPLE to bring peace in Amy’s life. How through his people she experienced the presence of God.
Take a listen.
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“The thing is, even when volunteering doesn’t end up being the perfect fit, it is still a gift to serve Jesus and his people in any way. God is always, always, faithful to us when we walk through doors he opens.”
As told by Rachel Chester
Once upon a time I went to law school.
I had always known that this was the plan; this is what I was going to do. I really liked law school. I did well, and so I was recruited by some big law firms who offered some big salaries.
When I actually started practicing law, however, I realized that aptitude and vocation aren’t necessarily the same. I just didn’t feel like I was a part of something that matters. Eventually, I walked away from my legal job and decided to reevaluate my career path while my husband and I started our family.
A couple of years later, while staying home with my kids, I increasingly felt God was calling me into ministry. That felt strange to say, and sometimes still does. After all, what does that even mean? How did I know? Well, I didn’t have a lot of answers. All I knew was that the church, the body of Christ, and theology was all I thought about.
But, I am a woman, and honestly, I didn’t know what the possibilities were. I was not looking to become the next Beth Moore (as if I could), and outside of that, I didn’t know what it meant to be a woman and be in ministry.
So when I heard Bruce talking about developing a marriage and family ministry with counselors, I immediately thought, This! This is something I can do! This is a way to love and serve people and use the gifts God has given me for something that really matters.
I applied and began taking classes at Dallas Theological Seminary in the biblical counseling department. I loved every second of it. I loved learning more about theology and counseling, but the thought of actually getting my license and counseling clients all day began to make me nervous.
All the time I was surer of God’s call to be in ministry, but less sure of what exactly that was supposed to look like. The closer I got to finishing, the more frustrating this became. The truth was, I just wasn’t sure I would be good at counseling, despite my belief in the importance of Christian counseling and the insights the program was teaching me.
About a year ago, I asked one of our pastors to help me think through what ministry could look like for me. And, boy, did he! He made me list my gifts and strengths on his whiteboard and then sat down with me to discuss what this meant I should pursue. While we were talking, he described a position the church might need someone for eventually: a person who would manage content that the church was putting out. For instance, every article someone wrote for the church would go through this person. I honestly remember thinking, I hope he’s not looking at me right now because that seriously sounds like the worst. I don’t want to manage anything, but definitely not documents other people are putting together. Yuck, boring, and no. He moved on quickly and I forgot about it. It was a generous, intentional conversation and I was grateful for his time.
I thought that was that.
But it was just the beginning.
A couple of days later, I got an email from another one of our pastors saying he’d heard I might be interested in volunteering and that he had some ideas of how I could help.
So, I went in to meet with him, and he talked to me about this new ministry they were kicking off called Clear Creek Resources. Their hope was to have different types of resources available so that church at Clear Creek was more than just a conversation on Sunday; it would be a conversation that continued throughout the entire week and involved current events, deeper theological dives, marriage, family, devotionals – every aspect of our lives!
He said he needed help getting articles and podcasts going. It still seemed like a weird fit for me, more like organization (which I am terrible at), but, I said I would give it a try. I had decided a few years ago that when God opened a door, I would walk through it, regardless of whether I felt equipped for that particular door or not.
So, I did.
I did the best I could to generate ideas for podcasts and articles, to find people around the church who would lend their gifts, expertise, and stories for the benefit of the church, and to think of new ways to serve our church through this ministry. I wrote a few articles myself and was convinced to start hosting podcasts too, despite my hesitation.
It turns out, the door God opened was a really great fit. It was not easy immediately. It took patience and humility and second starts, but soon enough I realized that God had known where I was going even when I felt like I was walking blind.
So much of how God created me, the gifts he has given me, the experiences of my life, even my varied education, have equipped me for this particular ministry. Clear Creek Resources is everything I am passionate about: celebrating the beautiful diversity of Jesus’s church, collaboration and relationship between devoted believers, deep discipleship that affects every aspect of life, and compelling engagement with the world in the name of Jesus. I love that I get to work with so many people, I love encouraging others to use their gifts, and I love being a small part of something that builds the kingdom of Jesus.
I’m still learning. I’m still trying to find my way as I serve my family and our King. But serving in Clear Creek Resources is a great gift and I’m so glad I said “yes.” I am grateful to be part of this team, and even more, I am grateful for God’s abundant personal care and faithfulness in my life.
The thing is, even when volunteering doesn’t end up being the perfect fit, it is still a gift to serve Jesus and his people in any way. God is always, always, faithful to us when we walk through doors he opens.
I also serve in First Impressions – I have for many years now – and it still is not a perfect fit for me. I get nervous about meeting strangers, I’m not great at remembering names, and I’m pretty introverted. But, the people I serve with are great friends – family even – whom I treasure walking through life with. I love serving with them, and I also love that I get to see every person’s face who walks in the door to worship.
The fact that I’m not necessarily great at it?
Well, it’s just a reminder that God’s strength is made perfect in my weakness; that when I surrender to him and serve despite my shortcomings, he will use my meager offerings for his glory and the good of others, because of who he is, not because of who I am.
That’s what serving really is at the end of the day: an opportunity. An opportunity to play a small role in what he is doing; to surrender to him and then watch him work; where everything, our gifts and our weakness, are used as part of his great story.
God uses us all in different ways.
How can God use you to serve in the church?
Go to https://www.clearcreek.org/next-steps/serve/ to check out all of the serving opportunities.
You can also follow @clearcreekresources on Facebook and Instagram!
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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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Meredith Harris once sold a gift-products line called Thirty-One to a house full of laughing women. The events were always upbeat, and Meredith delighted in hosting her friends for a light evening of fun.
After one such event, Meredith was packing up and talking with an acquaintance, Allison Swenson. The two were shooting the breeze when Allison abruptly changed the direction of the conversation.
“Allison said, ‘I haven’t really shared this with anyone, but I just had a miscarriage,’” Meredith recalled. “I remember feeling very special that [she] would share that with me. That just fast-forwarded the depth of our friendship because [she] had shared something that was very painful.”
Meredith and Allison both recognize that conversation over a decade ago as the first of many times each would walk the other through loss.
“Allison and I’s friendship is very intertwined with grief,” said Meredith.
Allison Swenson with her husband, Brad, and their two sons, Bradley and Cole.
“So, several years ago,” said Allison, “I started a pregnancy journey that began with a miscarriage and then two live births. One little guy lived for 30 minutes and the other little guy lived for 20 days.”
Allison, her husband, Brad, and their two young sons have experienced other losses, as well. Hurricane Harvey devastated their home, and, most recently, Allison’s father passed away.
Meredith’s grief journey began as one grieving alongside her friends.
“My journey [began by] walking with friends who lost two of their children to unforeseen heart issues within one year,” she said. She then walked alongside her friend Allison as she grieved the losses of her two children.
“And then my seemingly very healthy brother died unexpectedly of a cardiac event when he happened to be at our lake house,” Meredith said. Her only brother, Bill, left behind his wife, pregnant with their second child, and a very young son.
As these two friends have journeyed through their own losses, those of each other, and other friends, they have gained unique perspectives on navigating friendships and loss and how to hold steadfast to their faith through grief. They have waded into the challenging and overwhelming waters of grief and come out stronger.
From left to right: Denise Ward (Meredith’s mom), Meredith, Brad and daughters, Amy Ward holding son, Bill Ward (Meredith’s brother), Dave Ward (her father).
On being the best friend you can be
Both Meredith and Allison noted the many ways friends cared for them in their grief. One friend who loved fashion hand-selected outfits for different occasions Meredith would need to attend. Allison recalled how, while she was on hospital bedrest, Meredith and another friend “drove inside the loop” every week to inject much-needed laughter in dark times. There were friends who delivered groceries and friends who cleaned their houses, only asking that they leave the door unlocked.
And it’s here that they have advice for the person grieving: allow your friends to serve you. And to the friend: serve the way you feel led, not how you think it should look.
“We cannot put our friends in a box of one way to love and care for us,” said Allison. “Allowing my friends to serve me and love me in their gift sets is really valuable.”
As Meredith grieved the loss of her brother, she saw that sustaining friendship with a grieving person equates to simply being present. Meredith’s parents’ house became the hub for visitors, family staying over from out of town, and gatherings. People brought food to their home for over a month, so they kept an ice chest on the front porch for deliveries. One friend stopped by to put fresh ice in the chest every day for a month.
“It was just the most wonderful [thing],” she said. “No words were used, but it communicated, ‘I love you. I thought about you. I took care of a need today.’”
Ultimately, those acts of service done by people uniquely created by God to serve in specific ways helped Allison and Meredith, in their respective situations, grieve well, and it displayed the body of Christ in action.
“If you have that calling and feel truly led, just go do it!” said Allison. “Send the card, go to the funeral, make the phone call, drop toilet paper on the front stoop… because when those things don’t happen, that’s when you feel alone, lost, and forgotten.”
Meredith added that, as a friend, your duty is to “say with your words, ‘God has not left you’ and then communicate with your life that you have not left that person either.”
In the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, Allison and her husband were not able to get back to their home in the first few days and had to allow friends to begin the process of gutting their home and removing their possessions to curb the growth of mold.
“During Harvey,” recalled Allison, “that’s what I felt like the Lord was screaming at me: ‘You are known, you belong, and you are okay.’ And that overshadowed every single thing we lost. Everything was out on our front lawn, but people were waiting there for us to drive up.”
On how to love a close friend who is grieving
Meredith and Allison both talked about a deeper kind of friendship — “safe” friends who allowed them to be honest. These were the life-giving friendships that helped them to walk in a healthy place as they grieved. The sometimes difficult part was discovering that not all of their friends were able to give this kind of friendship.
“For me it’s just trust,” said Allison. “Without that trust, I would not be vulnerable. Vulnerability in grief and trauma is important because I need to feel safe, loved, heard, and seen in my most raw state… Having permission to be true and unashamed and allow myself to feel in front of someone else is life changing.”
Brad and Meredith Harris, and their two daughters Charlotte and Camille.
Meredith added that she began to clearly see a distinction between “people that can handle deep pain with you and people that are not ready or have not personally experienced any deep pain.” The latter, she says, “still want to keep [deep pain] at an arm’s distance.”
“And you have no choice when you are in the pit of grief other than to be really raw,” Meredith continued. “And so if there are people that cannot enter in with you — and that just looks like sitting with you and letting you snot cry — if they can’t handle that, it’s almost a natural thing. They kind of just stay away because it’s too much for them.”
Meredith came very close to being stunted by her fear of dealing with a friend’s immense grief. When she and her husband, Brad, arrived at a hospital to be with their friends whose son had been rushed to the ER after collapsing at soccer practice, they arrived at a scene that turned out to be much more complex and difficult than they had imagined.
“We walk up to the hospital doors and [our friend’s father] comes out screaming to God, not screaming at God, but in a fearful way,” Meredith recalled. “And then I stopped dead in my tracks, and I said ‘I can’t do this.’ Brad had his hand on my back and said, ‘You don’t have a choice.’ And he lightly shoved me, like we’re gonna do this together.’”
Meredith looks back on that as a defining moment for the kind of friend God calls all believers to be: one who wades into the waters of grief alongside their friend.
“God calls you to go,” said Meredith. “To make the phone call. To show up at their door. To be uncomfortable.”
On pointing a grieving friend to God’s truth
Staying connected with biblical truth is absolutely essential for a grieving person, and they need friends grounded in the truth of God to help them navigate their grief.
“Before it gets to that point [of tragedy], I would encourage people to be known,” said Allison. She emphasized the importance of being connected in community no matter what is going on in your life “so when something happens you can allow yourself to be counseled.”
“You know [the truth] in your head, but there’s this incredible disconnect with your heart,” said Allison. “What’s in your head keeps you grounded. Staying connected, pursuing community, pursuing truth always – every day – can prepare us for this life-altering moment.”
Meredith agreed, “Being immersed in the truth in everyday life prior to the grief is really key. If you have this beautiful foundation when things are pretty peaceful and have this steady peace in your life… [you remember] the God who loved me in a steady time has not left me now.”
From left to right (standing): Lindsey Lehtinen, Meredith Harris, Allison Swenson, Brigette Swafford. From left to right (seated/crouching): Nicole Haas, Erin Funke, Christie Frodge, Laura Sherman.
This concept can sometimes be fleeting, even for seasoned believers, when faced with tragedy.
“I have one brother. We both love Jesus and are in the middle of actively trying to serve God. And God just takes him,” said Meredith. “I think there is something in us that thinks that there are some things that are off limits.”
“So you need people who are brave enough to tell you ‘That’s not true’,” said Allison. “There are so many people going through really hard things and won’t allow themselves to be vulnerable or people to know how they’re really doing. I just want to encourage that pursuit of finding that person [or] people… and not to give up when you get burned.”
These are the friends that offer a lighthouse of guidance when those around them cannot find their way.
On finding strength in grief
As Meredith and Allison have allowed God to heal them over time and allowed friends and family to speak God’s truth into their lives through serving them, they have both recognized a subtle change in the way they approach life, faith, and others.
And that is a work of God.
“I thought I cared well for people before Bill died, but once I experienced it for myself, I [realized] I had no idea what they were truly feeling,” said Meredith. “I wanted to care for them, but relishing in their pain with them — I had no clue.”
Carrying the burden of another’s pain might seem weak or problematic, but it is actually a source of strength. It is a quiet strength, they now see, but it has emboldened their faith.
“Strong is not defined by ‘I don’t hurt or have pain,’” said Allison. “Strength is not defined by how many tasks I get done or whether I can push my emotions aside. If you can survive, if you can stay present for your family, I think there’s strength in that. I think there’s strength in staying married in grief, staying in friendships, getting out of the house. All of those things are strong.”
Ultimately, only God has provided the strength Allison and Meredith have needed to endure the overbearing storms of grief.
“Strength is continuing to have hope”, said Meredith. “I haven’t lost hope. Being rooted in hope — that’s where I have found my strength. And I have learned so much about God’s sustaining power in this. Less miraculous, flashy Jesus and more the steady hand of the Holy Spirit. He is preventing me from feeling crushed. I am broken, but I am not crushed.”
Allison also felt God’s miraculous work in her life to bring her peace in the midst of devastation.
“The closest I have felt to the Holy Spirit,” said Allison, “was washing [my son] William after he had passed and dressing him. And I long to feel that connection that I felt in that moment. I should remember that as one of the most devastating moments of my life, but I remember it as this beautiful peace that I have not felt again. I think that’s the miraculous part.”
On their friendship
These two women have endured much devastation and loss in the first decade of their friendship. But they count all of it toward setting a firm foundation that they’ve relied upon for safety, accountability, and truth in their darkest days.
“Allison was one of the only people I shared the depths of how ugly it really got,” said Meredith. “I was really transparent with her, and she could totally handle it. She was not freaked out by what I said. She validated my feelings, but then pointed me to truth.”
Allison agreed. “We don’t pull any punches. We can speak some pretty deep truth and trust that it’s okay.”
This is what Allison and Meredith believe is the most needed type of friend when you are going through the worst experience of your life. One who is present. One who will hold steady. And one who will point you to the only one who can truly offer hope and healing in the midst of the storms of life.
https://clearcreekresources.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/john-towner-FD_sabE544U-unsplash-scaled.jpg13662048Clear Creek Resourceshttps://clearcreekresources.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/CCResources-1.pngClear Creek Resources2020-04-16 17:54:022020-04-23 21:10:26Lighthouse: Navigating the Waters of Grief Together