Posts

Faith in the Midst of Doubt

I can’t remember a time in my life without God. However, several years ago I walked through a season of doubt that was difficult, scary, lonely, and isolating.

What can Christians do when they are beginning to question everything they have ever believed?

I grew up in a loving Christian home and attended a healthy church that taught me to love God and his word. Some of my earliest childhood memories are singing along with Christian songs on tape in the back seat of my mom’s car and rushing off to AWANA with my dad, and for that foundation I am grateful. But through a long series of events, I began to experience doubts that sent me spiraling downward:

Does God even really exist?

Did we just make him up to help us deal with life and death?

If a higher power does exist, how can we know he resembles the God of the Bible?

Do I only believe in God because Christianity is all I’ve ever known?

I was pierced by so many questions that it felt like I was playing Jenga, pulling out all of the pieces and wondering if the whole tower would come crashing down. It was hard for me to even read my Bible because every time I opened it up, I was faced with the constant assault of nagging questions that threatened to dismantle everything I had based my life upon.

I kept this struggle private for a long time, not feeling permission to ask these questions and worrying what other people would say about me if I actually verbalized some of these doubts. But everything seemed to change when I opened up to other people, sharing my fears and struggles. I still had all the same questions, but the questions weren’t quite as scary anymore.

I still struggle with doubt, and I probably always will. Going through those struggles changed and shaped me in profound ways that I’m still trying to understand. The questions still remain, but I have to remind myself that questions are not a bad thing. I want a real, robust, and genuine faith that is based on the truth, not just on something someone else told me. I still don’t like to face the doubts, but I know that the faith I have on the other side of the struggle is deeper, stronger, richer, and more historically rooted than I ever had before.

This short article can’t possibly cover all the various reasons, motivations, and struggles that can accompany someone who is walking through a season of doubt. But I’d like to offer a few pieces of advice for anyone who might see a bit of themselves in my story:

Talk to Someone
You don’t have to fight this battle alone.

Give yourself permission for sincere doubt.

The church is the best place to bring your questions; find someone who you trust and open up about your struggles.

Keep Asking Questions
Doubt is not a sin.

It is part of being human and can be a healthy part of our spiritual growth.

Stay curious!

Keep a Soft Heart
It is possible to think critically with your mind while still maintaining a gentle spirit.

Our quest for truth should not leave us in a place where we are cynical, resentful, angry, or stubborn.

Wrestling through the toughest questions in life is not always easy, simple, convenient, or pretty, but it doesn’t have to be lonely, scary, or painful. We can find joy in the journey.  The hard work of faith is worth it to know God and look more like him.

 I believe; help my unbelief!

Mark 9:24b

3 Things You Must Know to Have a Thoughtful Life

When asked what the greatest commandment (i.e. the most important commandment) 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 genericsounding beliefs you see on church websites have been carefully crafted, formed by Scripture, and debated at different points throughout the 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. 

Forgiving Myself

As I lie awake in my bed after everyone else in my house has gone to sleep, my mind replays my failings like a horrifying highlight reel.

How I lost my temper with my children again.

The impatience threaded through a conversation with a friend.

The devastation on my husband’s face when my sharp words cut him down.

My grief over what I’ve done blossoms into shame, convincing me that change is impossible. The shame is amplified by bitterness, and before I know it, I have welcomed dangerous lies and doubted the gospel. My head may nod enthusiastically over Jesus’s words to forgive my offender seventy times seven, but what about when the offender is me?

I don’t think I’m alone. Longtime followers of Christ are intimately familiar with the command to forgive. But when the struggle is internal, maybe you, like me, consider it almost virtuous to punish yourself harshly and deny yourself any eligibility for grace.

Why is it so hard to forgive ourselves?

In my years-long internal battle with self-resentment, I’ve identified three major obstacles along the way:

1. Pride

As a natural people-pleaser, I appreciate high standards and the accolades thrown my way when I’ve reached them. It feels good to pretend I can be righteous and good — until it doesn’t work. Pride can make me delusional about my own propensity to sin. Pride strives to patch over mistakes, pretending they never happened. Pride tells me I should’ve done better — tried harder. But Scripture says that I can’t work hard enough, that I can’t achieve perfection on my own. God isn’t surprised or shaken at my unholiness. He knows all his children need discipline and training. Instead of burying my sin deep enough to maintain my image, humbly admitting my sin before the Lord is the first step toward forgiving myself.

2. Doubt

In the Garden of Eden, we see the serpent’s first tactic as he sweet-talked Eve and Adam, weaving threads of doubt into their view of God. The Enemy is always the first to remind me of my moral failures and the first to suggest that God might not be who I’ve believed him to be. He whispers lies that tell me God didn’t really make me righteous, I can’t really be loved enough, God doesn’t really keep his promise to forgive. But we can learn to discern his hissing amidst our thoughts. Just as Jesus used Scripture to combat all of Satan’s lies in the desert, our only defense is to plant ourselves in the Bible and stand firm on God’s promises.

3. Shame

If I allow pride and doubt to fester in me, they will swing wide the door for shame. When fear of exposure controls me and God’s love seems distant, I begin to believe that there is no escape from my sin. Shame wraps its victim in the label of their wrongs. It distracts me from God’s presence, disrupts my relationships, and discourages my efforts toward spiritual maturity. But the truth of my identity in Christ can overcome the trap of shame. I love the lyrics to the song “You Are More” by Tenth Avenue North:

You are more than the choices that you made,

you are more than the sum of your past mistakes,

you are more than the problems you create,

you’ve been remade.

Because Christ has made us new creations, we are not defined by our sins. I have victory over shame because I am a child of God, a recipient of his great mercy without earning any of it, and my sin was nailed to the cross.

And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.

Colossians 2:13-14

I don’t have to keep looking back on my past sins. I don’t have to be anxious about future struggles. Freedom from shame’s snare allows me to be honest about my failures before the Lord. I don’t have to hide or justify my sin, instead humbly approaching him for forgiveness. And when we ask God to forgive us, we can be sure that he does and that his forgiveness is final.

In his death and resurrection, Jesus conquered the entirety of sin. When we are forgiven, our sin no longer hangs over us. Our souls don’t wallow in a place of guilt, for he has defeated pride, doubt, and shame. What a gift! What love! Why would we continue to carry the burden of blame when God has removed all blame from us?

When I rehearse the truth that I am a child of God, his beloved treasure for whom he died, then my heart can confess my failures to my Father, trust his promises, and rest in his grace.

Come To Him

As we embark on our 28 Days of Prayer, I hope you’re joining in. Prayer plays a crucial role in our relationship with God, but it can be intimidating.

Many of us feel some trepidation, uncertainty, or confusion when we think about prayer.

We may feel convicted of a lack of desire to pray. We may feel ashamed about failure to consistently pray in the past. Or maybe we just don’t really know how to begin.

As we enter into this challenge together, let’s remember that prayer is simply an invitation into the presence of God. We are called to come to him.

Here are three ways in which we can accept his invitation.

COME IN CHILD-LIKE FAITH
You can come just as you are to God, messy and broken with peanut butter on your face and a rip in your jeans.

Jesus invited the weary, the broken, the bruised, the thirsty – he’s invited all those in need and all those at the end of their ropes. Your Father desires you to bring your burdens to him. The heart of the gospel is that through Jesus we come to God, not with the assumption we are good enough, but with the knowledge that we are not.

Think about how small children talk to their parents. The conversation never ends! There may be pauses, but children always pick back up again with whatever is on their minds. They just blurt out what they want and what they need. They interrupt. They ask without regard for what it will cost you or where it will come from. They ask because they depend completely upon you. And they keep asking with mind numbing persistence.

Come to your Father in prayer like a child. Children are supremely confident in their parents’ love and power. Instinctively, they trust. They believe their parents want to do good for them. And your Father’s care and provision is perfectly wise, strong, and loving.

You can trust him even more than kids trust their mom and dad.

COME IN COMMUNITY
Prayer is not just for a single person alone and desperate in a foxhole; it’s an outpouring to our Father by our family in Christ. We pray for each other and with each other. There might be times in our lives when we cannot get out of bed or even lift our heads because of the suffering of this world. But still, our family in Christ prays for us. We pray together for those who don’t know God, trusting that God not only hears us, but that our prayers matter, now and for eternity.

We need each other. We are created not only for relationship with God, but for relationship with one another. Prayer is a way of life together as the church. Our faith is personal, but it is not private.

COME IN SURRENDER
When Jesus taught his disciples how to pray in Matthew 6:10, the heart of his prayer was this:

Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

Prayer tunes our hearts to God’s will. When we come to him, we are acknowledging our need. Any posture other than humility is just self-deception. If we had it all figured out, why would we come to him at all?

Our prayers are a step of surrender.

We surrender our plans and priorities. We surrender our dreams and decisions. We surrender our very lives, praying that his kingdom would be built rather than our own. That his will would be done, not ours.

Now, God’s will is not always done on earth. Child abuse is not God’s will, racism is not God’s will, the exploitation of human beings through pornography is not God’s will, and teenagers killing themselves with drugs is not God’s will. We realize the world is broken. So, we cry out to him. We surrender ourselves to his kingdom, asking that he would make all things new.

So come to him.

Come as a child, pouring out your heart and trusting in your Father’s goodness. Come together with your brothers and sisters in the faith, lifting each other’s needs to the Savior. Come in complete surrender, seeking his kingdom and desiring his will.

Just come.

The Promises of 2022

I love a clean slate.

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.

Grace: God’s Purposeful Presence

As Christians, we are always concerned with communicating the Good News of Jesus. The gospel is the message of grace for sinners, life eternal in Christ, and the transforming power of God that impacts every aspect of our lives.

The multidimensional nature of the Gospel is seen clearly in Clear Creek’s spiritual formation chart: our activities are rooted in our gospel identity. Or, said another way, because of who God is and what he has done, we have new identities that transform what we do in this world.

Despite this understanding, however, the gospel can sometimes be presented as the antithesis to good works.

While we may think this provides clarity to the unique and redeeming work of Christ, it can make us uneasy about emphasizing good works. We are afraid we might become legalistic or worse, undermine the grace of God, by preaching a gospel of works.

Neither Jesus nor the apostles are uneasy about emphasizing good works. Jesus says we are the light of the world called to faithfully let that light shine before others so they may see our good works (Matthew 5:14,16). Paul tells us we are to “be rich in good works” (1 Timothy 6:18), “a model of good works” (Titus 2:7), and “zealous for good works” (Titus 2:14). In fact, a key function of the Bible itself is to equip us for every good work (2 Timothy 3:17).

So, where does the tension between grace and good works come from? Are good works optional? Are they ancillary? Or, are they essential to our faith?

A simple definition of grace is God’s unmerited favor. Because we are sinners, we rightly understand that we do not deserve God’s goodness. But, because of the reality of our sinfulness, it’s easy to think of grace as only being granted for our redemption. When God’s grace is only understood to be expressed toward humanity after the fall of the world in Genesis 3, it can cause us to think of grace in a static and transactional way.

Yet, grace for humanity does not originate in the response to the fall and our now sin-tainted life in this world. God is the same, yesterday, today and forever. He did not become gracious after human rebellion corrupted God’s creation.

Instead, we must learn to see God’s gracious will and purpose for humans as the first and defining expression of grace toward humanity.

The world that God created in the beginning was good! It was to be a dynamic place where good works and stewardship were at the heart of the plan. Energy, effort, discipline, growth, and change were essential parts of God’s purposes and gifts to humanity. It was a world full of potential with a story to be written and work to be done!

Yet, remember, Adam and Eve did not choose to be created, they did not earn their existence, and they didn’t deserve the delight of living in God’s good creation. So, we can see that grace was poured out on innocent, not condemned beings. This is the lens through which we must see and understand grace even in our post-fall existence.

Grace is a means not an end. God’s grace for humanity has a purpose — a God-sized purpose — where we exist to reflect his image throughout his creation. He allows us to participate in the greatest good of them all: a relationship with himself. God’s unmerited favor is, has always been and always will be his purposeful presence with us. Grace allows, enables and empowers us. Grace is not opposed to goodness, grit, or goals.

We need to understand this as believers of Christ not just so we do remember that effort is not the same as earning, and that doing is not the same as deserving, but also because it will enable us to fulfill our mission to lead unchurched people to become fully devoted followers of Christ.

We cannot fulfill our purpose apart from knowing and being known by God in Christ, but through him, we can and should do much good in his world.

Grace should energize us to engage in service projects in our community, so the presence of God is manifested for the people of the 4B area. Good works are essential to the Christian life. It’s no wonder that Paul not only says we are to be zealous for good works but that in Christ we were in fact created for good works (Ephesians 2:10).

Our call is to bring wholeness, peace, and justice to God’s creation. To do this, we must go beyond words. The world must see our good works in such a way that they give glory to our Father in Heaven and then are inspired to join us in our calling to reflect God’s grace to the world.


 

The Immanence and Transcendence of God

Christmas brings with it a “comfortable” view of Jesus. Like Ricky Bobby in the movie Talladega Nights, we love the image of “Dear tiny Jesus, in your golden-fleece diapers, with your tiny, little, fat, balled-up fists pawing at the air.” There’s a tender vulnerability in a baby that allows us to approach him without the fear usually inspired by the presence of God himself. This is the beauty of the incarnation – a God who has lowered himself to take on human frailty and dwell in our midst.

Unfortunately, there can be a danger in our Ricky Bobby thinking, picking and choosing the version of Jesus who most appeals to us while ignoring the aspects of his character that are more complicated or difficult. Despite the comfortable feelings that this minimization can bring, our concept of God can begin to feel inadequate to the difficulties we face. We need a God of power and might, one whose purpose is more significant than soothing us with warm, fuzzy feelings.

There is an increasing longing within our culture for something beyond ourselves – a spiritual desire for a greatness beyond our own achievements and effort and a power that can transform our lives. The human heart yearns for something more: more glorious, more grand, more worthy.

Only in Scripture can we find a picture of God who is both perfectly transcendent and truly immanent — infinitely beyond us and yet personally with us.

Transcendence is that aspect of God’s character that recognizes his position above and beyond all that he created. He is great, impenetrable, and matchless. His immanence recognizes that he graciously enters into his creation, working and acting within the world that he has made. The gospel message is most effective when we hold both attributes of God in balance, neither minimizing his transcendence to increase our comfort nor minimizing his personal nature to satisfy our reason. When we present both aspects of God’s character equally, his goodness is magnified.

The Lord is high above all nations,

and his glory above the heavens!

Who is like the Lord our God,

who is seated on high,

who looks far down

on the heavens and the earth?

– Psalm 113:4-6

Here the psalmist praises God for his transcendence — placing God in his rightful place “above all nations,” filled with authority, and independent from his creation. Unbound by space or time, he is infinite, omnipresent, and sovereign over all. Our God is above even the heavens themselves, beyond any need that we could fulfill, and past the limits of our finite understanding. This is no small God, able to be pacified or distracted. Our only right response is a posture of reverence, awe, and humility.

But the truth of God’s transcendence does not contradict his personal interactions with us. Rather, it increases the value of that relationship. The next verses in the same psalm paint a picture of an immanent God of love:

He raises the poor from the dust

and lifts the needy from the ash heap,

to make them sit with princes,

with the princes of his people.

He gives the barren woman a home,

making her the joyous mother of children.

Praise the Lord!

– Psalm 113:7-9

The mercy of God overflows from this passage. His consideration for the needy, his reversal of their suffering, his care for the childless all indicate that there is no suffering he cannot see. Even the most invisible and devalued in our society are treasured and sustained by the God who is present with us; the God revealed in the gospel of Matthew as Immanuel (1:23). Jesus displayed this same compassion in his earthly ministry as he healed the sick, touched the leper, and wiped the tears from women’s eyes.

But the mercy of God doesn’t negate his infinite nature, for only his complete freedom allows him to right these wrongs. God’s immanence gives him awareness of and compassion for our suffering and sin. God’s transcendence gives him the power to heal, rescue, and redeem. Because he is beyond the limits of all we understand, he can reverse the fortunes of those who seem inevitably downtrodden. And nowhere is this seen more clearly than in the incarnation and atoning work of Christ.

Though the Son of God was completely, utterly divine, he stepped down to earth and entered the womb of a woman. He took on a human nature in order to live among us. And in his death, he paid for our sins against an infinitely holy God as no mere human could have done, for his transcendent nature bore an infinite cost.

Our God is beautifully personal, and we should rejoice in his invitation to intimacy with him.

As we anticipate and celebrate Christmas this season, may we be reminded that the little babe in the manger was also our infinitely transcendent King lifted on high, who in humility descended to dwell with us.

God is both further from us, and nearer to us, than any other being.

– C.S. Lewis


 

Confident in Christ, Compelled by Love

The Church today suffers from a confidence problem. Our culture may seem to be growing more hostile to Jesus and his gospel message, but that does not change God or his plan to redeem the world. Are you someone who has complete confidence that God’s message of hope in Christ is the right message? Are you convinced, like Jesus, no matter who is in front of you – no matter how strong, intelligent, sinful, hardhearted, or far gone they seem – that “the gospel is the power of God unto salvation for all who believe” (Romans 1:16)?

This confidence is foundational for living effectively as a missionary.

 

CONFIDENT IN CHRIST

The love of God displayed in Christ is too marvelous to allow anything to get in the way of proclaiming it. Like Jesus, we must not allow any obstacle to hinder us from engaging others.

Jesus lived with complete confidence. He wasn’t arrogant, because his confidence was placed in something beyond mere human ability. As followers of Jesus, we can imitate him by placing our confidence in the same two objects that he trusted in.

First, we must have confidence in God. Jesus knew himself and the Father. He neither had to be reminded of his own power, majesty, holiness, and greatness nor of God the Father’s qualities and worth. No matter who stood before him – king, slave, rich, poor, or a troubled Samaritan woman – Jesus wasn’t intimidated. He knew that God, and his plan for the world, were both perfect and complete.

Second, we must have confidence in the gospel message. Jesus knows he is the only hope for every man, woman, and child. Jesus was never overwhelmed by anyone’s sin. On the contrary, sin was overwhelmed by him. That’s why Jesus never encountered a life that was too far gone from him to rescue. He knew who he was and what he was going to do at the cross. He knew he had come to bring new life!

Intimidation can arise when our eyes become fixed on the person we are sharing with instead of on Jesus. This is not to suggest looking past or trivializing people, but to fix our eyes upon Jesus, never losing sight of who he is and the power of the gospel he brings. To fail to do so risks becoming easily overwhelmed by shifting our focus to the problems, questions, or intellect of the people we’re trying to reach. Confidence shrinks as well as our desire to share the gospel.

Do you believe God is wonderful and glorious? Do you believe in his message of reconciliation? Are you convinced the gospel is the hope for every man, woman, and child? Be confident in God and the gospel he offers!

 

COMPELLED BY LOVE

Our confidence in the gospel of Christ should also result in love for others. It is sad that the American church is better known for what we are against rather than who and what we are for.

To be fair, we are not entirely to blame. There are spiritual forces at work which hate us and would continue to do so even if we did everything correctly. Jesus reminds us:

“If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.”

– John 15:18

However, no matter how much hate we endure, as God’s people we need to hold fast to what drives our gospel mission: love. It’s an essential part of the foundation for missional living.

The gospel message cannot be divorced from love. Our engagement with lost people should find its roots in our love for God and his glory. It was the great desire of Jesus to see his Father glorified above all else (John 17:1-5). Everything Jesus did was done to show his love for the Father (John 14:31).

In Matthew 22:37, when asked what the greatest commandment of the Scripture was, Jesus answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” We must seek to be driven by love for God in the mission of making disciples. Evangelism was never meant to be a spiritual drudgery we slavishly perform, but instead, a glorious calling fueled by an ever-deepening love and awe for the one who first loved us.

And if we grow in loving God, we will then be moved to love the lost as well. It’s no coincidence that Jesus followed his statement about loving God with these words, calling them the second greatest commandment: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39). This was the reason Jesus was called the friend of sinners. He loved others well – all kinds of others, especially those that everyone else wrote off as too broken, dirty, or evil. We must love others as Christ loved them in order to fulfill our new mission in life.

Do you have a genuine love for people? Do you love, not just for the ones who are easy to love, but, as Jesus modeled, those who are difficult?

 

May we, as missionaries, be people who are confident in Christ and compelled by love!

 

(This article adapted from Go & Multiply: Sharing the Gospel in Word and Deed)

 

My Truth

Words are strange. They are the building blocks of our language; signifiers that carry meaning. But that meaning can be imprecise or changing.

Think of the word love. Its meaning can change based on a variety of factors. Telling your spouse you love them carries a different weight than telling your pet you love them. Or using love to describe your favorite food or book. The meaning of a word can change based on context, audience, or tone.

Or culture.

Every culture has language specific to its time and place. Words and their meaning can change over time and culture. Such is the case with the word truth.

Christians have always held to the notion that there is such a thing as objective truth.

By and large, our culture does not have a strong understanding of the term truth. As we leave Postmodernism, wherein truth was stripped of all meaning and made completely relative, our culture has realized that truth must exist in some form. This agreed upon form of truth is now found in people’s stories. Experience has become the lens through which modern minds process and respond to thoughts and ideas.

When people say “my truth” they often mean “my story.”

We all have lenses through which we see the world. These lenses affect how we view the world, God, truth, others, and ourselves. As we work to understand God’s Word, we have to be aware of the lenses we use. If our lens is purely our own experience, we will read Scripture as if we have the right to interpret God’s message in a way that agrees with what we want to be true based on our experience. Sharing our experiences with others is a great way to connect, but experience makes a poor lens.

As disciples of Christ, we must have our lens shaped by the truth of Scripture. God’s word has much to say about what and who truth is. In John 17, Scripture provides us with Jesus’ prayer to the Father in which he prays for his disciples. Through this prayer, Jesus revealed what truth is: “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.”

Jesus flat out said that God’s word is truth.

Later, the apostle Peter says the Word of God is eternal truth which lives forever (1 Peter 1:23). Jesus described himself as “the way, the truth, and the life” and said that “no one comes to the Father except through me,” (John 14:6).

This biblical view of truth is an antidote to our cultural understanding of truth. Through Scripture we know that absolute truth exists, the Word of God is true and unchanging, and faith in Jesus is the only true way to know God. The truth contained in Scripture is true for all times, all peoples, and all places.

Yet, the idea that truth and experience are equitable still peaks its head into our Bible studies. While earnest believers might not purposefully confuse their personal experience with truth, the reality is that sometimes believers interpret Scripture in light of their experience.

Think of the language that you might hear in group, “Here’s what this passage means to me…” In reality though, when we approach Scripture as a church or a small group, God has one intended message. We must do the work to understand the context and language, but God’s meaning is not unknowable. When we share our response to the Bible with others, instead of saying what a passage means to me, it is more accurate to describe how a passage applies to me.

For example, say your small group is reading through the Gospel of Luke, and you’ve come to the parable of the prodigal son.

You might hear people in the group share the truth of the passage through their own lens. One person might say this parable means to them that God is waiting for us to return to him. Another might say this passage means to them that kids have to make mistakes on their own and return to God. Still others may say that they see this passage as a warning against the temptations of the world.

But, to really understand the parable in Luke 15, we must understand that God has truth that he is communicating to us. This means that we have to do the work to understand what the passage means to God and not to us. If we do the work of understanding the context of Luke 15, we can see that Jesus is talking to religious leaders (Pharisees) who were upset that Jesus was speaking to, and eating with, sinners. The parable of the prodigal son then, was originally intended to illustrate God’s goodness to sinners and to challenge the Pharisees to see and replicate that goodness.

Once we have a common understanding of a passage, we can discuss how it applies to us. Some in our small groups might identify with the younger brother running from the Lord, and realize they need to repent. Others might see themselves to be more like the Pharisees and need to repent of their unloving attitudes. And still others might just need to be reminded of how good God is.

When we become Christ followers, the lens through which we see the world radically changes.

However, we still live in this world and we often put on its cultural lens without realizing it. Scripture makes it clear that there is such thing as Truth. A definite, objective, eternal truth. As Christ-followers, let’s honor Jesus as the Truth and seek after him with all that we have.


 

Whose Fault is the Hurricane?

When natural disasters occur and lives are lost or destroyed, everyone begins searching for answers. The pain is so great and the suffering is so consuming that we feel a need to make sense of the chaos. Some people do that by searching their Bible for connections between the current disasters and the end-times, while others look for someone to blame.

Is a city or nation’s sin at fault for this tragedy?

Is it a result of God’s judgment?

Why did this happen to them—or to us?

A similar question was posed to Jesus during his ministry. In the midst of a conversation about the final judgment, someone asked how this connected with some recent tragedies. Were these two unexpected events—eighteen people dying in the collapse of a tower and the killing of innocent bystanders by soldiers in the Temple—a punishment on those who suffered? Jesus responded:

Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.

– Luke 13:1-5

Jesus knows what they are really asking: Did these people deserve what came? Are they particularly bad? His words remind us that suffering is a result of sin, but it is not our neighbors’ sin that should worry us, but rather our own. What can Jesus’ answer teach us about how we should respond to hurricanes, pandemics, or any other suffering in this world?

 

REPENT

In the beginning, God’s creation was completely good, but Adam and Eve’s rebellion changed everything. And their sin is our sin too—it is the sin of all mankind. This is the broken world that we have created, in which we constantly feel the consequences of our corporate and individual sin.

In our fallen world, the redeemed suffer alongside the enemies of God, as both his common grace—sunshine, rain, science, art—and the brokenness of the world are experienced by us all.  The world is full of goodness, but we still must reckon with the impact of our sin on the world. And beyond our day-to-day difficulties, a judgment is coming that will bring greater destruction than anything we have experienced. The full wrath of God will be revealed.

Disaster of all kinds should lead us to repentance, not because we live in a city that is particularly bad, but because we are all sinners. Humanity has rejected God and determined to live our lives outside of his authority and presence, to disastrous results.

We all must repent. This is not merely a call to the lost. Repentance should be a defining mark of the Christian life. To follow Jesus is to acknowledge to God, ourselves, and the world around us that we fall short constantly, even as we continually turn toward Jesus in trust and obedience.

 

REMEMBER

We still live in a fallen world, but there is hope amid the brokenness, even as storms rage in our minds, our families, and creation itself. We will see suffering in this age, but Jesus descended into our suffering world to rescue us from the destruction of our sin. Christians should understand more than any others the deep pain of a paradise lost, but we also know the hope of Jesus.

Jesus confirms the reality of judgment for our sins, but he also offers a solution—himself. The one through whom and for whom the world was made, the sovereign King of all, has descended from his throne to redeem us and all of creation. Not only has he saved us from judgment, but he is making all things new and will return to rule his people in the restored creation, made perfect once again.

He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.

– Revelation 21:4

 

RESPOND

Suffering provokes believers and unbelievers alike to seek answers. When disasters strike—natural or personal—we should grieve with those who grieve, acknowledging the terrible reality sin has wrecked upon the world. Let us then offer an answer of hope and trust in Christ, both proclaiming and embodying the gospel of redemption. We ourselves are new creations, indwelt by the Holy Spirit, and our response is the best testimony of the promises of restoration found in Jesus.

How we offer this tangible, sacrificial hope to others is unique to each of us: a meal for someone in pain, giving up weekend rest to clear debris, offering shelter to a family without a home. There are a myriad of ways to love and serve others, but we all have the responsibility and opportunity to participate in the missional work of Christ to draw others to himself and set the world right.

Disasters remind us that although judgment is coming, there is a solution: faith in Jesus. We might not always understand why suffering occurs, but we do know who gives us redemption and hope, walking beside us in the face of it all.

 

May suffering and pain always lead us to repent of our own sin, remember the work of Jesus to redeem and restore his creation, and respond with missional love to a lost and broken world.

 

When you look around and wonder whether God cares,

you must always hurry to the cross

and you must see him there.

– Martin Luther


 

Podcasts

140: Why Doesn’t My Kid Believe? — Youth and the Deconstruction of Faith

In our most recent series, Reclaiming [Your] Faith, we’ve been talking about what the Bible has to say about diversity, intellectualism, justice and sexuality.

For some, how they’ve seen those who follow Jesus respond to these issues has caused them to question, deconstruct, and even deconvert from Christianity.

On this episode, Ryan Lehtinen sat down with Kyle Mikulan to discuss what it means for someone to deconstruct their faith and how you can walk with someone who is going through that process.

139: Diversity of Belief in the Church

Even within the Christian faith, there are differing opinions on doctrines like baptism, leadership, and spiritual gifts.

How can we know what is of primary importance and what is secondary?

Should we even care about these differences?

In this episode, Rachel Chester talks with Yancey Arrington about the diversity of beliefs within Christianity and how we can faithfully strive for both truth and unity.

131: Curses, Tears, and Worship — Praying with the Psalms

Clear Creek Community Church is taking part in 28 Days of Prayer as a church family.

As part of these 28 days, we are praying through Psalms, the prayerbook of the people of God.

Throughout this book, there are many different types of psalms; each one a different and authentic way of crying out to God our Father.

In this episode, Rachel talks with Tanner Smith, Director of Prayer Ministries, and Denise Ward, teacher of Grief Share and Women of the Word, about the example of honest and intimate prayers in the Psalms and how we can incorporate them into our own prayer lives.

130: What is Spiritual Warfare?

Throughout Revelation, John wants his readers to realize that there is more going on that meets the eye; there is a spiritual reality at work with angels and demons, and God and Satan.

So, what is spiritual warfare?

Is it something we really experience today?

Ryan sits down with Bruce Wesley to discuss Satan and demons, as well as the authority, power, and peace of Jesus.

 

127: End Times Forum Q&A — Part 2

On February 20, we hosted the End Times Forum featuring our Teaching Pastor, Yancey Arrington.

After the main session, Yancey answered questions from the audience, but we were unable to get to all of them.

So on this episode, Ryan Lehtinen invited Yancey to the podcast studio to ask him the rest.

 

126: End Times Forum — Q&A

What does the end of history look like?

When will Christ return?

Will believers undergo the tribulation?

These are the kinds of questions that Christians have been asking for centuries, and in seasons where global troubles increase like today, the questions are even more pervasive.

In partnering with our series All Things New: A Study of Revelation, CCCC hosted an End Times Forum where we looked at the different ways Christians have understood what the Bible teaches about the end of the age and sought to answer some of the most asked questions about one of the most important doctrines of the faith.

 

 

125: End Times Forum — Main Session

What does the end of history look like?

When will Christ return?

Will believers undergo the tribulation?

These are the kinds of questions that Christians have been asking for centuries, and in seasons where global troubles increase like today, the questions are even more pervasive.

In partnering with our series All Things New: A Study of Revelation, CCCC hosted an End Times Forum where we looked at the different ways Christians have understood what the Bible teaches about the end of the age and sought to answer some of the most asked questions about one of the most important doctrines of the faith.

 

 

121: Does God Control Everything?

Life is full of the unexpected: both good and terrible. Is God really in control of it all? And if he is, why do so many bad things happen? Are we still responsible for our choices? Ryan Lehtinen sits down with Lance Lawson and Aaron Lutz to discuss God’s sovereignty, humanity’s freedom, and what this means for our lives.

Resources:

Divine Sovereignty and Human Freedom by John M. Frame

Just Do Something: A Liberating Approach to Finding God’s Will by Kevin DeYoung

 

 

120: Is This the End Times? (Repost)

Last year we recorded a podcast on the end times, before knowing we were going to walk through Revelation in 2022 as a church. Here’s the conversation with Rachel Chester and Yancey Arrington about how 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? But over all, this episode is about how to understand Revelation and what it means for us today.

The Bible and The Future by Anthony Hoekema

Surprised by Hope by N.T. Wright

 

 

119: How to Read Revelation

Revelation is of the most popular books to read in the Bible, but it can also be the most intimidating.

Is it actually possible to understand Revelation?

Rachel Chester sits down with Jenna Kraft and Aaron Chester, teachers of How to Study the Bible, to discuss how to unlock the truth and beauty of the culmination of the entire biblical story.

Resources:

How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth by Gordon D. Fee

Clear Creek Classes: How to Study the Bible

 

 

 

Videos

How Can I Experience Blessing?

How can I experience blessing?

Does God Promise Healing?

Does God promise healing?

It seems like that question demands a clear cut answer.

Listen to how our Teaching Pastor, Yancey Arrington answers this question in our latest video.

Why Does God Allow Suffering?

If God is good…

If God is all powerful…

If God is all-knowing…

Then why does he allow suffering?

 

How Can Christianity Be True if Christians Are Hypocrites?

A common objection to the Christian faith is that Christianity cannot be true because Christians are hypocrites.

How can Christianity be true if Christians are hypocrites?

This is a legitimate question that it deserves some thought.

Is God Really Active in the World?

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

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

Follow us on social media:

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/clearcreek.org​
Instagram –
https://www.instagram.com/clearcreekc​
Twitter –
https://www.twitter.com/_cccc/

Why is the Bible so Violent?

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

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

Follow us on social media:

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/clearcreek.org​
Instagram –
https://www.instagram.com/clearcreekc​
Twitter –
https://www.twitter.com/_cccc/

6 Reasons Why You Can Trust the Bible

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

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

Follow us on social media:

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/clearcreek.org​
Instagram –
https://www.instagram.com/clearcreekc​
Twitter –
https://www.twitter.com/_cccc/

Can All Religions Be True?

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

Follow us on social media:

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/clearcreek.org​
Instagram –
https://www.instagram.com/clearcreekc​
Twitter –
https://www.twitter.com/_cccc/

Did the Resurrection Really Happen?

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

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

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

Follow us on social media:

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/clearcreek.org​
Instagram –
https://www.instagram.com/clearcreekc​
Twitter –
https://www.twitter.com/_cccc/

What is the Gospel?

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

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