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Harvey and the Church

We started blogging about #GoBold back in January and had no idea what lay ahead. Read through the posts and you’ll find words of motivation and encouragement to step out and love your neighbor. Our words of motivation and encouragement seem weak compared to the flood waters of Harvey though.

Your response to Harvey has been…epic. I didn’t want to use that word (because I’m not a bro) but you’ve left me without a choice. Thousands of you have served thousands of our neighbors. These last few weeks the love of Christ has been visible in kayaks and big trucks and food and shelter and laundry and piles of debris and sweat and N95 masks.

Your response to Harvey is the clearest representation of the love of the early church I’ve ever witnessed.

Acts 2:42-47And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.”

The context is certainly different, but the love for one another is the same.

Harvey started this mess but the church of Jesus Christ will have the last word. We love because He first loved us.

As things return to normal, fight to hold on to the willingness and openness you’ve lived in these last few weeks. Fight to continue to see people as God sees them. Fight to remain generous in the love of Jesus.

– Lance Lawson, Church on Wednesday Campus Pastor

Pursuit

One of my favorite TV Characters growing up was Sheriff Rosco P. Coltrane, a bumbling and corrupt sheriff character in the American TV series The Dukes of Hazzard.

He was accompanied by his pet/police dog basset hound named Flash. He was constantly chasing them “Duke boys.” It seemed like every episode, as Bo and Luke Duke came flying past him in their Bright Orange 1969 Dodge Charger with “01” painted on the side and a rebel flag emblazoned across the roof, Roscoe would say, “Come On Flash, we are in hot pursuit!

[CBS/Getty Images]
As I’ve had some time to rest and reflect this summer and focus toward this Fall, the word “pursuit” has continued to surface in my mind and I’ve been asking myself three questions:

What are you pursuing?

Why are you pursuing it?

Who are you pursuing it for?

 

What are you pursuing?

What flashes across your mind throughout your days that grabs your attention, and you go in hot pursuit after? I can be easily distracted by unhealthy cravings and desires as well as things that appear good but might not ultimately be best.

In 1 Timothy 6, we are encouraged to look at what has us distracted and the apostle Paul pleads with us:

“But as for you, O man of God (woman of God), flee these things. PURSUE righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness.” 1 Timothy 6:11

 

Why are you pursuing it?

I’ve learned to ask this question to get to the root of why that thing seems so enticing to me, why I think that thing or relationship will bring ultimate fulfillment. If you are honest, it doesn’t take long to self-assess the motivations of your longings and pursuits. Is it a longing to find contentment, pleasure, power, prestige…in something? Fight hard to get to the root of your pursuits and lean back into your identity in Christ and what Jesus has done for you.

“Fight the good fight of faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.” 1 Timothy 6:12

 

Who are you pursuing it for?

Am I pursuing the things I am in hot pursuit after for me alone? Is it so I look good, or I gain power, or I have more comfort, or pleasure, or security?

Ultimately, we need to realize the pursuits in our lives that are most satisfying are those things that bring glory to God.

“He who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To Him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen.” 1 Timothy 6:15-16 

I pray you would pursue Christ as you continue to Go Bold this fall with righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness and gentleness.

– Chris Alston, West Campus Pastor

Discerning the Body

I was preparing for the Lord’s Supper at the Gathering at Egret Bay last week when I had a moment that made me think about Bold Love.

You’ve heard this text many times in preparation for the Lord’s Supper. Paul writes:

”For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, ‘This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’” 1 Corinthians 11:23-24

Then he adds this, as part of correcting the Corinthian’s great misunderstanding of the meaning and purpose of the Lord’s Supper:                                    

”Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself.” 1 Corinthians 11: 27-29

If we eat and drink without “discerning the body” we eat and drink in an “unworthy manor,” and are therefore guilty concerning the body and blood of Jesus – “guilty” meaning we disrespect the meal.

When we come to the table we are to examine ourselves, discern the body, and then eat. We examine ourselves to remember our own sinfulness. Remember you annoy some people and make some people angry. Examine yourself and recognize that for someone else you are the in-grown toenail in the body of Christ.

Remember Jesus’ body was broken and blood shed for every believer; not just you, and not just me. Every believer – even the ones who drive you crazy, make you angry, even the ones who are stuck in a pattern of sin… We are the body.

As our Father graciously responds to us we must respond to each other – forgive, bear with, submit, have patience with, be considerate of. We must “discern the body.”

Here is my Bold Love moment: if we stopped with obediently doing those things it would be good, it just wouldn’t be enough to truly glorify Jesus and to truly honor the Lord’s Supper, because Jesus wanted more for us.

Think about this part of Jesus’ prayer for his disciples in the upper room:

“All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them. And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one.” John 17:10-11 

“I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.” John 17:20-23

Jesus repeats in prayer that his glory in this world right now, and the key to his mission, is our perfect oneness. As Father is in Son, Son is in us, and he prays so we would be one with each other.

We have awesome campuses, inspiring music, engaging teaching, amazing ministries, and people going all over the community doing great things to love their neighbors. That is all good! It is just that Jesus doesn’t say his mission or his glory is dependent on any of those things.

Jesus says the world will believe the Father sent the Son when the oneness we, his followers, share is a perfect picture of the glory of Jesus’ oneness with the Father – he prays for that!

Bold Love? We can serve in schools and stock food pantries and volunteer all over the 4B area. But, if as we do that stuff we disrespect, gossip about, are indifferent to, carry grudges – you know, do all the things we so often and casually do to each other in the body – Jesus would say we undermine his glory and his mission.

Don’t save it for the next time you are preparing to take the Lord’s Supper. The next time you are preparing to volunteer or to take a meal to someone, take time to “discern the body.” What is going on with you and any other believer that mitigates against oneness with the body of Christ? Go do something about that first, then go be a volunteer in the community.

– Greg Poore, Associate Pastor

The Mission Field Next Door

What if Jesus meant for you to love your neighbors? …Your actual neighbors.

“But when the Pharisees heard that [Jesus] had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. ‘Teacher, which is the greatest 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: 34-39 ESV (emphasis added)

In this passage we see the Pharisees ask a tough question with the hope of stumping Jesus, or at least tricking him into saying something they could use against him later.

Instead of stumbling into the trap, Jesus tackled the question head on. The Pharisees didn’t have to wonder what Jesus wanted his followers to do, and neither do we: love God, and love your neighbor.

Simple enough, right?

But so often, we hyper-spiritualize these instructions. We assume that Jesus meant that we should love all people, which is well and good and hard to argue. But in that thinking, it’s easy to skim this passage without being challenged – without getting to where Jesus is trying to get us. The ambiguity of our well-meaning definition leads to ambiguity in our love, which translates to a nice sentiment without a lot of action behind it.

What if, instead of a sweeping, all-encompassing instruction to show love to the world, Jesus was saying exactly what he meant?

What if Jesus meant that we should love our actual neighbors?

Clear Creek Community Church’s vision in planting churches and campuses is rooted in the belief that the gospel moves along relational lines.

People who have been transformed by the gospel of Jesus Christ want others to be transformed too.

What we’ve learned from planting three campuses is that people are three times more likely to get connected in a church if it is close to where they live.

If more and more of Christ’s people live in close proximity to unchurched people, then we have more and more potential to reach not only our friends and families, but our entire neighborhood and their friends and families, and not only our neighborhoods, but our entire geography.

Don’t believe me? Check out this map.

This is a representation of the population of Clear Creek Community Church. Our people in our neighborhoods, with each dot representing a home of a CCCC family, color-specific to which campus they attend.

 

Let’s zoom in a little further.

This is one neighborhood in League City. As you can see, someone from CCCC lives on almost every street.

In one meeting, as we were building a launch team for our East 96 campus, we challenged our people to sketch out a map of their street and the houses around their own. Then we challenged them to write the names of the people that live in those houses, and to list the physical and spiritual needs of those people.

It was a convicting exercise for many, because not everyone was able to complete the task and many struggled to even list their neighbors’ names.

What if we started there?

What if we took the challenge to love our neighbors this summer? What if we invited them into our own homes, and shared a meal together? What if we invited them to worship alongside us at a campus that was really close to where they live?

We launch our East 96 Campus this weekend. Our team is inviting everyone they know – including the people who live on their street. But that isn’t just something launch teams do, and it’s not just an important exercise for new campuses to take part in.

It’s for every man, woman and child that calls themself a follower of Christ.

What if God purposefully planted your family in your specific home, in your specific neighborhood, with your specific neighbors, so that you would take his love to that place in a way no one else could?

– Aaron Lutz, East 96 Campus Pastor

Storyteller

Stories are important. They force us to look beyond the things we can only see on the outside, aid us as we build relationships, and help us understand each other.

But maybe the most powerful aspect of stories is that we all have one.

Whether you’re a high school student or a grandfather, all of our experiences, decisions, personality, and social circles come together to form a unique journey through life that is all our own.

For a follower of Jesus, the narrative of how the gospel of Jesus has intersected your life is the defining chapter of your story.

By faith every follower of Jesus Christ has been rescued by God’s grace, brought from death to life, and now lives with an eternal hope in a reconciled relationship with God. How you came to believe that truth, what your life was like before Christ, and how you’re living out your faith today are all integral parts that comprise the story of you.

But sadly, many Christians downplay their stories, feeling that they don’t measure up or may even bore people. They think that if their story isn’t dramatic enough, it isn’t worth telling.

In reality, everyone’s story is significant.

Even if you weren’t a drug dealing gang member at the age of seven, your story of being rescued by God’s grace is still beautiful and significant. It’s a grand story because it’s the telling of how the Creator of the universe, and the author of the greatest story ever told, saved you, made you alive, rewrote your story, and continues to walk with you in this life. What could possibly be unimportant, boring, or insignificant about any of that?

You see, telling your story plays a major role in declaring the gospel to the world around us. It leads to deeper conversations about the message and meaning of Christ.

Many stories begin the same. But because of the way the gospel narrative has intersected your own, the rest of your story will look much different from many others, intriguing, and maybe most importantly, hopeful to the world around you.

As you develop closer relationships with people who are not followers of Jesus in your circles, ask them good questions, and get to know their story, their hopes and their dreams. And then ask God to give you opportunities to share your story.

– Ryan Lehtinen, Egret Bay Campus Pastor

What Do We Do Now?

Have you ever gone out of your way to show the love of Christ to someone else, only to have things not work out the way you had hoped? Or not work out at all?

Last week the student ministries from all of our campuses went to Trinity, Texas for five days of summer camp. A major component of the trip for the high school students included serving throughout the Trinity area at churches and mission sites. It was encouraging to see teenagers building a wheel chair ramp, painting houses, serving at a food pantry, and repairing a historical church building.

But things didn’t go as planned for one group of our students. They were set up to host a Vacation Bible School (VBS) at a church positioned on the main road in town. Signs had been posted, invites made, crafts prepared, lessons reviewed, and prayers said.

No one showed up.

Then the strangest thing happened. Our teenagers got excited. They went door to door with the hotdogs that had been made for lunch, inviting parents to bring their children by the next day. They offered free lunch to people who might not have had one otherwise. One teen used her phone to discover a local Facebook message board and posted details about the VBS. Along the way our students encountered poverty, skepticism, negativity, and a deep racial divide. What would have discouraged or frustrated many of us only seemed to fuel their excitement to be part of something different.

Six kids showed up on day two. Six kids learned about the love of Jesus from two dozen high school students. How cool is that?

We would all do well to keep this story in mind as we Go Bold and serve throughout our community. Things often don’t go as planned and it can be easy to let frustration set in and change our hearts. What if we served with the excitement and persistence of the teenagers mentioned above?

What if we loved the people we set out to serve more than we loved our plans, our hopes, our time, or ourselves?

What if we loved people like Jesus loved us? No matter what.

I saw that in a lot of teenagers last week and I hope it’s contagious.

– Lance Lawson, Church on Wednesdays Campus Pastor