The North Carolina Study Center

—by Jeremy Purvis, ruling elder

Christ Community Church partners alongside many wonderful ministries on campus. Most of us are familiar with Cru and RUF, and love their emphasis upon evangelism and discipleship.

But recently I’ve also become excited about an organization on UNC campus called the North Carolina Study Center. The mission of the Study Center is to cultivate Christian life and thought at UNC. Situated on a beautiful historic estate in the middle of campus (“The Battle House”), the Study Center provides a way for UNC to know Christ’s love and truth thanks to the hospitality, thoughtfulness, and joy of the extended Christian community.

One reason I like the Study Center is because it is sort of like a spiritual oasis in a desert terrain. Universities can often feel like places where your faith needs to be checked at the door so that you can think objectively and rationally. This is not only flawed thinking but at odds with history. An innumerable number of great thinkers, from Pascal to Euler to Reimann, have all held the God of the Bible as central not only to their spiritual lives but also to their calling as academics. In the same way, I think the Study Center offers a place where students can be single-minded about their calling as students and their identity as Christians.

The study center also nurtures Christian thinking. For example, they often host conferences or guest speakers to stimulate the believing mind. A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of gathering with Christian faculty from UNC, Duke, Elon, N.C. State, and Wake Forest to consider the doctrine of how we are made in the image of God. We prayed together, meditated on scripture, and brainstormed about ways to live out this doctrine within our vocations. These types of sponsored events provide a great encouragement to the faculty and students of the University.

Finally, the Study Center carries out the biblical principle of showing hospitality. Just last month, they served lunch to incoming students during move-in weekend. Over 1500 students were served! A team from CCC was involved in preparing the food, setting up tables, visiting with new students, and cleaning up afterward. As a church called to Chapel Hill, I hope that Christ Community Church can continue to partner with the NC Study Center. Our church has so many gifts for equipping and training, serving and stewardship. You don’t have to be faculty, student, or alumnus to get involved! As one of our volunteers said, “I just love working with students. They have so much life, and college is such a critical time in their lives.”

Alongside the local church and the wonderful campus ministries at UNC, the UNC Study Center layers another important dimension of Christian growth opportunity for students and faculty at UNC. You can learn more about the Study Center by speaking with me and by visiting their website: http://www.ncstudycenter.org/

“Jack and Jill Thrived up the Hill—because they were in a Community Group”

—by Greg Norfleet, Associate Pastor

Jack and Jill went up to Chapel Hill—and with good reason. The vibrancy of a college town; the opportunity for thought, work, and play; and all of the benefits of waking up in one corner of the Research Triangle. No wonder this area gets repeatedly ranked as one of the “best places to live.”

Even so, for both Jack and Jill, life up the hill is dangerous. Situational troubles swirl around and press against them: the unreasonable boss; the pigheaded neighbor; the beguiling media; the ailing parent who lives far away; the broken transmission that needs fixing now. Moral struggles churn and spill over from inside them: frustrated desires for respect and comfort; fictitious answers to questions of personal identity and purpose; spoken words that cut like a knife; foolish choices that reap hellish consequences. For Jack and Jill, troubles and struggles like these make for the perfect storm—even in this town affectionately called “the southern part of heaven.”

Sound familiar? Good news! Jack and Jill are more than “sufferers” and “sinners”; they are, in the biblical sense of the word, “saints” in Christ Jesus—that is, Christians who are “set apart” by God to live for his honor and to thrive by his power. And Jack and Jill are not alone in this endeavor, because God has given Christ Community Church to be for them a Holy Spirit filled community through which they can love and be loved.

You and I are Jack and Jill who live up the hill, and each of us needs exactly the goods that God delivers through his church. The mission of Christ Community Church is to glorify God by connecting the riches of Christ to the realities life. This mission is felt nowhere more keenly than in our small groups. It is here, within the context of mutual giving and receiving that we seek to make connections between Christ’s riches and life’s realities, and to experience the goal of being transformed into the image of the risen Lord Jesus.

So, as we begin this new academic year of life together, let me remind you of three basic principles that govern our small groups:

•  Every Christian needs gospel community—people who know us well enough to speak the gospel into our lives, and who are committed to helping bear our burdens when they get too heavy (1 Corinthians 12:12-13).

•  Every Christian needs to involve him or herself in ministry to others as God has called and gifted (Matthew 20:28).

•  Every Christian has a limited “time budget” which needs to be invested wisely and purposefully.


Holding these three principles together, we want to help you find a small group that suits your particular needs, gifts, and season in life. Contact Erin Smith at cg4ccc@cccpca.org if you’d like more information.

How will Jack and Jill and you and I thrive up the hill? By connecting to a body that receives its life from Christ, and that builds up the body through wise and loving words and deeds, as each member does its part (Ephesians 4:15-16).

An Announcement

—by Byron Peters

Announcing (drum roll, please)....

So let me set this up first.

As most of you know, our church is bursting with children. It’s such a wonderful thing to walk through EV and always be dodging, feeding, holding, teaching, or listening to them.

In fact, our Sunday morning setup crew consists of 4–5 regular kids, some as young as 3 years old, who can hook up a monitor or connect a drum mic with the best of them! But I digress…

A couple years ago Kathryn Eriksen wondered, “Would kids be interested in a bi-weekly Kids’ Club on Sunday evenings?” The answer was a resounding “YES!” and thus it was born.

Those “Kids’ Club” kids are now aging up (they do that, don’t they?). So Kathryn again put on her thinking cap, prayed, gathered a few of us together, and God has now raised up a middle school youth program (name TBD). It will meet at the same time as the Kids’ Club, but with a more mature focus.

And think about it. These middle schoolers are beginning to own their faith. They can work. They can go on retreats. They can serve. They can eat.

But what we needed was someone to help lead the charge.

Now, to my announcement:
I’m absolutely thrilled to announce the hire of CCC member Kathryn Cavin as our first ever Youth Discipleship Coordinator. Officially, she will be responsible for initiating and facilitating regular discipleship opportunities for middle-school students outside of Sunday School. Think, “A combination of service and fellowship opportunities, lesson-centered meetings, engaging outreach to friends, meals, etc.” NOTE: The objective is not so much additional teaching, but additional Christian experience in community.

Kathryn Cavin, a UNC senior majoring in English, hails from Denver, NC, and has been at CCC since her freshman year. She’s helped teach these kids in Sunday School the last two years, so she already has a history with them. Kathryn brings a lot of experience working with kids from her home church and her work as a camp counselor. She’s godly, articulate, and mature.

So pray for Kathryn and our middle schoolers as they start this new adventure! Perhaps employ Hebrews 10:24, “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.” And invite your friends with middle schoolers to CCC, where they now have a friend who can help them grow in the context of our church by connecting the riches of Christ to the realities of middle school life. And as you have opportunity, welcome Kathryn Cavin!

Lessons from the Front Row

—by Dave Stepp, ruling elder

One of my favorite television commercial “lines” is from an ad that ran in the 1980’s with Bob Uecker. The ad showed him preparing to watch a major league baseball game (in a particularly good section of the stadium), and an usher would interrupt him to tell him he was in the wrong seat. At that point, Uecker would pompously remark, “I must be in the front row,” with an emphasis (and bravado) that made the ad an instant hit, especially when the closing scene showed him reseated in the “nosebleed” section of the stadium.

Almost eight years ago I agreed to co-teach the Kid’s Connection Seniors class (3rd-5th grade at the time) as a way to provide a “shared” teaching experience with a particularly gifted elder candidate. I agreed to do this because I knew it would be helpful to that candidate, as well as to the children’s ministries at the church. I was there to serve, but to my amazement, the Lord also gave me a priceless “front row” seat in the lives of dozens of young believers in CCC’s children’s and youth ministries since that time (and into the Middle School and High School classes). Don’t get me wrong, youth ministry is anything but a spectator sport. These elite athletes climb right into the stands and challenge the authenticity and the commitment of those seated in the front row; but He is “the God who works wonders” (Psalm 77:14), and I have witnessed and personally experienced them in abundance.

Like what, you may ask? We immersed ourselves in “day-to-day” life with the tabernacle, with sacrifices and a sheep named “Bob-ita,” and with a curtain torn from top to bottom to expose the Holy of Holies. We leaned into the gospels and sat together in awe at the convergence of Jesus’ words and actions (especially when “I am” is involved). We wrote slogans and rap lyrics, and we memorized. They learned that I have a non-insignificant obsession with donuts. We learned to chant the books of the bible.  We served in the nursery together. They asked questions, they spoke the truth in love to one another, they discovered gospel truths not revealed by flesh and blood, but by our Father who is in heaven (Matthew 16:17), and they grew “in wisdom, stature, and in favor with God and man” (Luke 2:52).

And at my side during these years have been more than a dozen extraordinary and exceptionally gifted teachers who have relentlessly sought to develop youth of faith and to come alongside parents. I’ve also had the immeasurable privilege of being refined together with these teachers, “shifting weight” from teaching out of our fear and uncertainty to teaching with the boldness and transparency that the Holy Spirit provides. This, of course, spurs both teachers and students on to love and good deeds and a community-inspired dependence on the Holy Spirit.

In a word, it is awesome. I could never afford a “seat” like this at a major event; a “seat” like this doesn’t even exist at those events. And guess what? There is room in the front row right now! Check your bulletins and contact Kathryn Eriksen about opportunities to serve in Children’s Worship and Sunday School. “And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).

HCS Update

—by Wes Tubel

Every week at Hope Counseling Services, we walk alongside people who are in the midst of intense suffering. The causes of suffering are many: broken relationships, death of a loved one, unfulfilled desires, health issues, and other forms of loss just to name a few. Regardless of the root cause, one of the common questions any of us ask in our suffering is “why?”

A couple weeks ago in Adult Christian Education, we had a thoughtful conversation around this very topic. We had been studying the book of Job, and the lecturer highlighted that at the end of the day, we do not know all (most?) of the reasons why we continue to experience pain and suffering.

Our discussion that Sunday has had me thinking a lot this week about the counsel we provide to others in the midst of their darkest sorrows. What comfort in suffering can we offer? Or to put the question a different way, what do we know in our suffering?

There are many ways God orients us to faith and trust in the midst of suffering. Here are two precious realities we have in and through Christ:

1) God, himself, takes note of our tears. Psa. 56:8 tells us that God puts tears in hisbottle. The context of the Psalm is intense suffering at the hands of other people. And in the midst of the trials, God sees the impact the suffering has on David. God is not distant, passively watching us endure our misery. He is grieved and moved by the affliction of his people, and he sees the distress of our souls (Psa. 31:7).

2) God, himself, will one day wipe away every tear from every one of his people’s eyes, according to Rev. 21:4. Recently I was struck with the intentionality of God to wipe away our tears. Two things stood out to me from this verse. First, it seems to indicate that we will enter eternity with tears, a sobering reminder that our suffering will last until Jesus Christ returns. But second, it is a beautiful thought to realize that our tears don’t simply disappear. God, himself, will wipe all of our tears away. The work Jesus began in his life, death, and resurrection will be completed when he returns, and we enter our eternal home.

When someone comes to Hope Counseling in the midst of their grief and sorrow, we aim to walk patiently, wisely, and carefully. Each suffering is different. We aim to understand as much as we can about the particular details. And at the same time, we want to offer a drink of Living Water in the midst of the pain and hurt. We want to offer True Hope in the midst of their questioning. And we desire to be a safe place for all to speak honestly about what they are facing, in order to also experience the comfort that God alone can provide.

If you know of anyone who needs help and support, please let them know about Hope Counseling Services. And please pray that all of our counselors would have wisdom to know how to speak a helpful and hopeful word for each person’s time of need.

Spicing Up Your Prayer Life

—by Pew-Thian Yap, Ruling Elder

Let’s face it. We are not praying as often as we ought to. When we do pray, we tend to say the same old things about the same old things. Our repetitious prayers bore us to the point where we could hardly find the motivation to pray. Why is talking about the most important things in our lives to the most fascinating Person in the universe so mundane, monotonous, and lifeless?

In Praying the Bible, Donald Whitney puts his finger on the heart of the problem: Our tendency to repeat the same prayers about the same matters again and again. The remedy, he argues, is to center our prayers on the text of the Bible: “To pray the Bible, you simply go through the passage line by line, talking to God about whatever comes to mind as you read the text.” Whitney explains the many benefits of shaping our prayers with the words and thoughts of the Scripture. I’d like to mention here two points that are helpful to me.

Prayer as Conversation
We often assume that we must do all the talking when we meet with God. Consequently, our prayers become monologues and eventually our creative energy runs dry and we cannot think about fresh new ways to talk to God about our daily concerns. Prayer centered on Scripture lifts this burden and promotes two-way communication. We take in God’s words, circulate them through our hearts and minds, and voice out our thoughts to God. This empowers us to not only pray in new different ways, but also pray for things we don’t normally pray about. We are unlikely to run out of prayers.

Focusing on God
Our thoughts are less likely to wander when we have the text in front of us to guide our prayers. This helps battle the mind-wandering boredom of mindless repetitious prayers. The text also directs our attention more toward God and less toward ourselves. The fact that we are actively engaged in the text when we pray means that we are pondering more deeply about God’s words and are hence able to shape our prayers in greater conformity with God’s will. We don’t expect God to answer if we are not praying according to His will (1 John 5:14–15).

The new season of prayer is a great opportunity to put this into practice. Repetitious prayers ultimately become meaningless words. “When you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words” (Matthew 6:7). If our prayers bore us, do they not also bore God?

Ashleigh and the Terrible Boss

—by Ashleigh Meeker, CCC member

I had a terrible boss for over two years. She was mean. She was passive aggressive. She pawned off all of her job responsibilities on me. I tried giving her feedback and talking to superiors but it just made matters worse. I decided to “wait it out”—putting my trust in the saying “You reap what you sow.” So I sat back and waited, thinking I was trusting God, but really I was just rooting for her to fail. I wanted her to be exposed and humiliated for all her wrongdoings. Instead of immediately confessing my true feelings to God, I ignored them and let them fester. Guess what happened. She got a big promotion with a huge raise! WAIT A MINUTE!! I’m the reason she succeeded!
 
The unresolved feelings of resentment that I had let fester came rushing to the surface. My “waiting this out” strategy wasn’t working anymore, and it seemed like God’s sense of justice was misguided. My resentment told me to deal with this situation in a way that made me feel great. I gossiped. I complained. I kept a literal list of grievances in case I needed them as ammo. I would go over her head on things, and I was passive aggressive. My growing resentment justified all of these actions. Fast-forward to a year later. Our company laid off 100 people, and she was on the list. After years of suffering she was finally gone! God was finally answering the desires of my heart.
 
Then something else happened. I was asked to apply for some higher level positions because my accomplishments in the past few years had been noticed. That is when God’s Holy Spirit confronted me with my sin. Having a terrible boss gave me the skill set I needed for these higher level positions. Without her, I would have never learned how to do all the things that qualified me for this next level job. God allowed me to go through the “terrible boss” trial to prepare me for better things. I immediately was reminded of my terrible attitude, the gossip, the complaining, and my desire for vengeance.  If I had truly trusted God and confessed my anger and resentment regularly I would have had an enjoyable time at work, and impacted the work culture in a positive way. Thankfully, God doesn’t depend on me to conquer my sin. The penalty for my sin has been paid. By grace, I have been forgiven, and by grace he allows me to learn from my mistakes. God’s timing is always perfect, he always knows what is best for us, and he always forgives our dark hearts. If you are going through a Joseph moment— I encourage you to look past the current circumstances and have hope in God’s provision. God’s grace is new every morning!

Ukraine Summary

—by Byron Peters, Pastor

It could be a golden Christmas tree, right there next to the soccer field. Juicy apricots polka dot the branches like lights and litter the ground like presents. Turn the corner and Mulberry trees proffer their blackberry-like fruit to passersby free of charge. Roses spring dense, deep and fragrant adjacent to the simple camp dormitories as if to say, “Sure, we’re beautiful. We know it well!”

Ukraine could feed the world. It’s as if God had Ukraine in mind when David, foreseeing the fruitful new heavens and earth, wrote in Psalm 65, “You drench its furrows and level its ridges; you soften it with showers and bless its crops…The grasslands of the desert overflow; the hills are clothed with gladness…they shout and sing for joy.”

But spiritual darkness cloaks the country with devastating effect. It ranks first in corruption in Europe. The divorce rate is 70% with a biblical understanding of family life a distant memory. A disheartening cocktail of legalistic Orthodoxy and frantic emotional health-wealthism stifles and smothers spiritual curiosity.

Our sister church, Covenant of Grace, is at the heart of the hard work of the gospel in Ukraine. Ruby Bea and I had the immense privilege of serving alongside these dear brothers and sisters, including our own CCC missionary Robin Price, for a week-long English camp in June. The conversations were rich and thoughtful. God’s Spirit crowded into our interactions and even those less spiritually inclined pressed closer to listen in.

I mean, think of it: What can be more life-giving than a week alongside kind and curious new friends eager not only to absorb English, but to explore the gospel?

As a result of our trip, Ruby Bea and I sense the Lord leading us to make a more robust commitment to CCC’s Ukrainian strategic partnership. And your elders agree. English camp will surely remain central, but administrative support, pastoral care, elder training, and more are on our radar for the future. These are exciting times in the CCC/Covenant of Grace partnership.

Might God be gifting and calling you for a week in Ukraine next summer? If you’re interested in being considered for our team, first pray! Then email me at byron@cccpca.org.

You won’t believe those melt-in-your-mouth apricots!