Brag on the Work of the Spirit

All the youth boys blew me away this summer. From participation in small group discussions on Sunday to busting up pallets and digging in the dirt on the Mission Trip, they impressed me with their desire to be involved. However, I would like to brag on the work of the Spirit in some specific boys.

I witnessed Christ moving in the heart of Evan Pirtle many times. At Impact, he reflected Jesus constantly through his attitude, his depth, and his worship. At all of our events, Evan participated and took discussions seriously.  On the Mission Trip to Nashville, he was a huge boost to the group.  I believe Evan is already a leader in the youth group so there is no doubt in my mind that the Spirit is preparing him to lead his fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.

I also saw God working in Matthew Stone. Matt loves to make others laugh (and he is good at it). He is a fun presence and he makes any event he is at much more exciting. This summer, I got to see a vulnerable, thoughtful, convicted Matt that some people might not usually see. I witnessed the Spirit moving Matt’s heart towards new, mature leadership of the group.3

Patrick Russell impressed me over and over this summer. He is a man of integrity, discipline, and he cares about others. He is also very patient, forgiving, and full of grace. Patrick was a constant leader this summer, through both words and actions. He contributed to every discussion, worked very hard whenever it was needed (he and Sam assisted Mitchell and myself with intense, nasty, dirty yard work just because they wanted to help) and was a positive voice in the group.  Patrick is already full of the Spirit and is following God’s plan for his life.

 

Advertisements

See Goodness

Clear Creek’s children are surrounded by influences that are showing them how to disciple. Volunteers, like Dan and Helen Cothron, are setting examples for our children that are not going unnoticed. Houston Hicks, Ethan Lane, and Sadie Reynolds come to mind when I think of children who are using their abilities to disciple other children. Houston and Ethan both volunteer to pray and greet in the children’s wing as often as they can. Sadie is consistently the first to volunteer every time I have asked and encourages others to do the same.

Maker:L,Date:2017-9-19,Ver:5,Lens:Kan03,Act:Kan02,E-Y

This summer, I have seen goodness in our children. It has been a joy for me to witness the Lord shine through them. A few instances that quickly come to mind are the fifth graders on the mission trip to Atlanta, the inclusion of the visitors at music camp, and the joy they found at Summer J.A.M. Among all of those, one instance stands out in my mind the most.

Sundays in the three-year-old class are fun, joyful and chaotic. There are several children in that class and one of them loves to be read to at the end of class. One Sunday, she had a roughmorning and she needed the routine to make her feel better. The teacher who had been reading to her had to talk to a parent at the door and I was working on a project with some kids at the table, leaving her without someone to read her book. One of the children, Alexia Rodger, walked over and “read” the rest of the book to her. It was a beautiful thing to witness a child, who cannot even read, doing what she can to make a friend feel better. She let her light shine that day.

Maker:L,Date:2017-9-19,Ver:5,Lens:Kan03,Act:Kan02,E-Y

 

Blazing Hope Update

thumbnailBlazing Hope Ranch recently accepted a third survivor of human trafficking into their transitional program at HOPE Haven. The transitional living program at Blazing Hope Ranch provides a place where Healing, Opportunity, Protection and Education can happen on a daily basis.

Clear Creek small groups have been involved at Blazing Hope in a number of ways. Some provide gifts of love and other necessities to residents at Blazing Hope. Other groups have helped at Blazing Hope’s camp by serving meals and leading activities. One of our members said he was surprised that the campers were grateful for our coming to serve food and help with the activities. The camp opened his eyes to opportunities for service that he had never considered. Partnering in the ministry of Blazing Hope has provided opportunities to join Jesus in his ministry of reconciliation and restoration.

 

Hello, My Name Is…

It’s a phrase we have all had to speak when meeting new people, but imagine having to say it in a language that’s not your native tongue.  The SE Asia ESL class began as a way to take the work Clear Creek has been doing for several years in Asia, and continue it right here in Hixson. Similar to our overseas missionaries, teaching English as a second language is an avenue to connect people to God and to each other.

IMG_8768In 2012, while thinking about our time in China (and missing Chinese food), we met Andy and Ivy Cheng, owners of New China restaurant.  They spoke just enough English to intrigue someone from Soddy-Daisy, so we started a conversation and began a relationship. When we met Ivy and Andy, their children Elin and Sharon were still living in China with their grandparents, but were planning to move to America. Over the next six years, our families grew closer, celebrated holidays and spent time in each other’s homes.

In 2017 we saw how the Great Commission was being played out in reverse with people from all over the world coming to Hixson. We launched the SE Asia ESL class on Sunday mornings to build relationships, improve English and show Jesus to our Asian brothers and sisters that live in our city. God is working through these ESL classes to impact families. Ivy and her two children along with her mother and father-in-law are attending the ESL classes and connecting with other families in the Children’s ministry and other Christians at Clear Creek. What began as a craving for Chinese food, God used to create friendship and opportunity.

 

Resurrection

Early in July, a woman’s life, death, and resurrection was captured on Facebook Live…

She had spent the day with a friend riding around Chattanooga using drugs. Her friend offered her heroin and even though she had never tried it before, she let the friend inject her with the drug. The woman overdosed and started convulsing. She stopped breathing and lost her pulse. Her friend frantically beat on her chest to no avail. Horrified and afraid of the criminal charges that could be brought against her, the friend pushed the woman out of the car into the street. The woman lay lifeless in the gutter while the car sped away. A good Samaritan rushed to the woman’s aid. He performed CPR, restoring her life’s breath. First responders rushed to the scene.Picture3

Cry for the Broken reached out to this woman, giving her the opportunity to receive help if she was willing. Justin and Catrina Cabe drove her to a detox facility in Nashville and ministered to her heart on the way. This woman is now clean and sober thanks to a loving God who saw her brokenness and is now putting her pieces back together. The ladies of Cry for the Broken are following up with the woman by writing letters and sending cards. We hope to welcome her home soon. Catrina has also reached out to the friend who pushed the woman out of the car in hopes that she will accept help as well.

 

Cry For The Broken is a Clear Creek ministry that reaches out to addicted prostitutes to build personal relationships and share the love of Jesus as they help to transition them into sobriety-based living. They pray for and with these ladies in hope to lead them out of their broken lifestyle into a life-changing relationship with Jesus.

 

Being with Jesus and Doing what He Did, Together

One of the greatest joys in following Jesus is the invitation to participate in both the great command and the great promise that he articulates in Matthew 28. The command is to make disciples and the promise is that Jesus himself walks with us as we go. One of the questions we get asked all the time is, “Why another church plant in Chattanooga?” It’s a good question, and the answer has everything to do with participation. Participation hello-i-m-nik-687249-unsplash
with Jesus in the mission of God is an essential component of discipleship. The call of Jesus in the Gospels is to be with him and to do what he does. Showing up to a construction site is not enough to become a master carpenter. To be a carpenter one must learn from and be with a master carpenter. The same is true for apprenticeship to Jesus. That is discipleship – learning from Jesus to do life in the Kingdom of God.

At City Collective we’ve seen that planting a church has allowed people to rally around a vision and has given them opportunities to put their talents to work in the Kingdom. The reality in a new church is that all must participate in order for the vision to come about. This need creates space for new leaders to be raised up, equipped and discipled in the Kingdom. As churches grow and multiply there is a natural need for more teachers, more worship leaders, more volunteers and generally more participation in both the life of the church and the mission of God. More discipleship happens as people discover the love of God toward them and the way their talents uniquely equip them for participation in the mission of God in Chattanooga.

Significant discipleship happens in the context of small, committed communities that gather around the person of Jesus.  Some people in our city will walk into a church plant when they are unwilling to walk into an established church. In this way, planting new churches creates the opportunity for more discipleship. There is a young woman in the church who recently expressed that learning the ways of Jesus in committed community has helped her begin to walk again as a disciple. It was relationship with people that allowed her to experience renewed relationship with Jesus in spite of the wounds and pain that life has given her. The community of faith carried her and believed for her until she could believe and trust again. The intimate community born out of the vision of partnering with God in a new expression of his Church in a city can be a catalyst for this kind of rugged discipleship.

Discipleship happens as we walk together in intimacy with Jesus. That intimacy cannot be microwaved. It only comes about by doing life together around Jesus. The beauty of following Jesus in the context of church planting is that if we can create a new space to be with others and with Jesus and to practice his ways together, he will do the transforming work of making those who have come into good disciples.

 

The Music of Discovery Bible

Any musician will tell you that there is a shockingly large number of songs that all use the same four chords. In fact, they not only use the same chords, but they often use them in the exact same order. With the chords G major, D major, E minor and C major, you would be able to play everythimalte-wingen-381988-unsplashng from “Take Me Home, Country Roads” and “Don’t Stop Believing” to “Let It Be” and “Let It Go”. What’s so amazing is that, even though theyshare the exact same structure musically,each song is unique; producing music in vastly different genres and evoking wildly differing emotions. None of these songs would ever be mistaken for another on the list, yet history has proven that each song is a success.

When you take something with exceptional structure and add in the human element, bringing with it all the creativity that people possess, it is amazing how beautiful and varied the result can be. By adding in the spiritual element, the quality of the product you end up with can be improved 1,000-fold.

That, in a nutshell, was the entire idea behind Discovery Bible Study (DBS). DBS was created so that you can apply the same basic structure and approach to studying the Bible with your community, then let the personalities of your group and the influence of the Holy Spirit create something beautiful. At its core, DBS provides an avenue for us to study the word of God in a way that will point each of us to Jesus, get us into the rhythm of following Him more closely, and help us disciple others more intentionally along the way. It’s a very simple approach that can be applied to any scripture and is easily replicated from one community to the next. Because of its structure, DBS can even be used to study the Word with anyone regardless of their knowledge of the scriptures. This approach to studying the Bible will help get your group (or those you wish to begin studying with) into the routine of reading God’s Word, applying what you read and journeying alongside one another.

Several of the communities in our Clear Creek family have already been reaping the benefits of using DBS. When Dennis Henderson’s small group leader stepped down, Dennis’ transition to become the leader was easier because of the environment DBS created in their community. He was able to quickly and easily disciple those around him because of the accountability component provided by this approach to scripture. Rob and Kim Feisley have effectively used DBS with two differing people groups: college students in China and young professionals in the United States. In both situations, they have been able to help others take steps on their journey by providing them the means to lead a Bible study without feeling like they needed to be “biblical scholars.” And the list goes on…

Like the music chords we talked about earlier, DBS offers an amazing backbone ready to be used in conjunction with the creativity of people and the power of the Holy Spirit to challenge and inspire. Even though replicating it is simple, each environment will have a different DNA while achieving the same goal: to help us be in the Word and live out the Word together in community. If you would like to learn more about this approach to studying God’s Word, you can contact the church office or stay tuned for additional information as it rolls out in the next few weeks.

 

Rohaan’s Dream

Rohaan is a Muslim. Or at least that’s what his ID says and that’s what his family says. Rohaan had the opportunity to go to college in the US. Away from his family and community he had tremendous freedom, but that freedom led him to drugs.  There was not a day that went by that he was not high and his life was completely consumed by his addiction. One night in desperation he cried out a prayer to God, but it wasn’t like the prayers he had grown up saying or reciting. It was from his heart; a deep-seated desire to change, but not knowing how.Picture1

And then, Rohaan had a dream. Rohaan told me his dream, but he made sure I knew it wasn’t an ordinary dream. “It was as if I was there… because I was there. It was so real” he said. His dream:

“I was standing in my home with my father and we were by a window looking out. I embraced my father and within an instant, I was in the heavenly realms. There I witnessed the most beautiful scene I had ever seen, and I was standing before God the Father and he was wearing clothes as bright as light and he was holding a giant hammer. Suddenly, the hammer came down and broke everything beneath us. Once again, I found myself with my father in our home. Except this time, everything was engulfed in flames, even my father was engulfed in flames.  I was terrified because I thought I was going to die so I embraced my father and told him ‘I just want to be in your arms’. Although the flames were all around me and I could feel them on my arms and body, they did not burn or hurt me.”

Jeremiah 23:29
Is not my word like fire, declares the Lord, and like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces?

After that night Rohaan said that his life started to get better. He had an overwhelming sense that God was with him, but he was still depressed and fighting addiction. Not long after his dream, there was a night where he was in an especially low state. He was depressed that he had spent all his money on drugs, and therefore had no money for food or clothes. That night he felt a strong urge to read the Bible, but he didn’t have one or know how to read one. He remembered that he had seen on tv or in movies that when Christians read the Bible it was like reading time (chapter:verse), so he looked at his phone. It was 12:22 am. He Googled 12:22 and he read the first result:

And he said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing… O you of little faith! And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried. For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, seek his kingdom and these things will be added to you.
Luke 12:22-31

“I couldn’t believe what I had just read! God cares about what I wear! These words were like nothing I had ever heard before and I knew in my heart that they were not the words of man, but were coming from above.” Rohaan’s story of coming into the kingdom is a miracle. Rohaan returned home and faced many trials due to his new beliefs and there was no community to help him. In the states he had developed a liking for American football, so one night he decided to Google football videos. To his surprise, he learned that there was a football league in his city. He couldn’t wait to join and wouldn’t you believe it? He ended up on our team.

 

Real Fellowship

In Ecclesiastes 4, the Bible says that “a cord of three strands is not easily broken”. Skin-deep relationships are superficial and yield no spiritual fruit. The big topic of conversation this summer was definitely how to bridge the gap between a passive conversation and real fellowship with one another as a community of brothers and sisters in Christ.IMPACT

At the beginning of the summer, I was nervous about connecting and developing relationships with the youth group, afraid that I wouldn’t be received well. My fears were immediately eliminated when Harrison Van Eaton greeted me with laughter and a hug. Throughout the summer I saw Harrison go out of his way to include others in activities while making them feel welcomed and a part of the group. During IMPACT, Harrison would seek out individuals both in and outside our youth group and make them feel included. By welcoming new faces, Harrison is able to show how Jesus accepts all who come to him and opens the door to a relationship with Christ.

The counselors of IMPACT have arguably the most important job – enforcing bedtime. As I was making my rounds, I stumbled across Trevor McDaniel, a rising junior at Boyd Buchanan, engaging in a discussion with several of the other teens. I joined in and within several minutes the other rooms of guys had begun sharing openly about their lives and their walk of faith. Trevor opened the conversation by making himself vulnerable and the guys responded with a love and compassion that I had never seen before. He made the necessary steps to change a surface level relationship into one that represents community and fellowship. Because of his actions, many others shared and became more open with one another.

I am sure that I have never seen someone who can sustain a smile longer than Briggs Braswell. Everywhere I see him, he is sporting a great attitude and positive atmosphere to those around him. This summer I saw Briggs spread the love of Christ with good intent. Briggs is an awesome example of how being a Godly man can rub off on those around you. He helps create a safe space for teens to share freely and feel accepted. His intentional kindness shows how you can convey Christianity through your actions.

Bridge

This summer has been extremely encouraging to me because of the way the guys grew closer to God and one another. The teens in the youth group were able to make themselves vulnerable in front of each other and were received with open arms by their brothers and sisters in Christ. I saw them create a community of believers where they lean upon one another when they are down, supporting each other in their faith and actions. Being intentional in their relationships has taught them that they are not alone in their journey and that together they can be stronger in their faith. I am so blessed to have been a part of the ministry and look forward to seeing everyone again throughout the year!

AnCharlene Davis’s Story

CaptureWhen I am asked “Where are you now?”, I inevitably reflect upon “Who am I now?” I serve as an assistant district attorney in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

At times, I cannot help but think about the journey that led me here today and wonder how (and why) I came to be here in this city and at this time. It is then that I am reminded of Mordecai’s encouragement to Esther. “Who knows whether you are come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”

Just over thirty-one years ago, God presented a handful of people with just such a time. A young woman approached the doors of AGAPE to help find a home for her unborn daughter. Kind and caring people like Diana Crawford helped search for people that would be willing to love a stranger. Not long after, a preacher and his wife agreed to open their home and their hearts to a one-month-old baby girl.

Because of all of these people, I can answer “Who am I?” I am the daughter of a young woman who knew that love sometimes means selflessness and sacrifice. I hope that, one day, I have the courage and the words to tell her just how much I love and appreciate the decisions that she had to make.

I am the daughter of Charles Davis, a man that taught me that God is my Father first. Yet, it was always clear that he proudly accepted the role of Daddy for each of his days here on earth. He taught me about who a Christian should be.

I am the daughter of Lucy Davis, the strongest woman that I know. I truly believe that she prayed for me before she ever met me and continues to do so every day.

I am the sister of Robert, my big brother that quickly joined our family after I was adopted. I am the sister-in-law to Baillie and the proud aunt of Lyra, my niece. I am a friend. I am an advocate.

So, where am I now? If those people had not answered their call thirty-one years ago, I’m not certain where I would be. Surely, God would have a plan for my life, but I am grateful that they acted upon the opportunities placed in front of them. Today, if I turn my head and look out my office window, I am surrounded by the beautiful, scenic city of Chattanooga, Tennessee. I spend my days fighting for justice, advocating for those vulnerable victims, providing opportunities to those individuals that truly desire rehabilitation and recovery. And so, like AGAPE and my family, I hope to realize that my time is now. Maybe when my journey here ends, just one person will have seen God’s light and know that there is hope in this city, even on the darkest of days.