Let’s Dream Together: CCC Town Hall, October 27 at EV

—Josh Smith, Ruling Elder

I love Christ Community Church. I appreciate so much about the character of the people who make up our collective body. I love that one of our greatest desires is to be marked by the value of Biblical fidelity. Our worship services are simple and pure. I am regularly strengthened by the faithfulness of the object of our worship, Christ. When people ask me about our church an affection wells up inside me from joy.

Christ Community Church is a ballast for my soul. The rhythms of worshipping with others satisfies my wandering heart. I am consistently fed a well-nourished meal of God’s Word. Praying with others and for others helps me to rely on God’s Spirit as people’s lives become part of my own. Serving one another helps me remember life is not about me and there is a much larger story in which I get to play a role.

As I follow Christ, I have seen the beauty and richness that comes from walking beside the same people. Celebrating joys and grieving losses. My life bubbles over with constant change; life is difficult. Yet, doing life with a covenant community offers me accountability and steadfast care that gently tells me who I am in the chaos. A child of the King, loved, ransomed for His Kingdom. This community helps me take my eyes off myself and pushes me to live for God’s glory. God’s glory provides hope for our world. I love our church.

Our church is in a season of growth and change. New faces of people looking for a church keep coming on Sunday. Our kids ministry is bustling. Discipleship relationships are pressing our faith into every role and responsibility of life. God’s word is being sewn into the Triangle. The gospel is being proclaimed and on display through our individual callings.

Among many other responsibilities, the elders are trusting God for Christ Community’s future. What is God calling Christ Community Church to become? What will be true about us in 3-5 years? How will we get there?

On October 27, 400-530PM at Extraordinary Ventures there is an important CCC “Town Hall” gathering where we can dialogue together over three important matters: Financial status, Facility progress, Future vision and growth. Childcare is available (nursery for little ones, movie for older ones).

As we talk about these things, we hope this will encourage some alignment of what is to come. Come hear from one another, dream together, consider what God’s heart for our next steps may be. This will be an invaluable time to give us a picture of what you love about our church and where God may be calling Christ Community.

(Not so) Great Expectations

—Erin Smith, CCC Member

 Expectations are a funny thing, aren't they? Each of us carry them about—big, small, and (seemingly) mundane things in life. I have expectations about how my day is supposed to go. How my children ought behave. For my husband to not ever have to work late. For my kids to actually stay in their rooms during room time so I can catch a break. To see growth so I can move on and feel better about myself. Deep down, I expect life to be comfortable and easy.

 But that is far from reality. This summer I've been faced with just how many expectations I have of myself and others. Often they are unspoken or unknown even to me, that is, until they are revealed by being threatened. My children disobey (even worse, they do so in front of other people whose opinions I care about!). The expectation of an easy, laid-back week of summer gets interrupted by a kid with a week-long virus. Expectations aren't always bad: it's O.K. to want some time to recharge and respectful, obedient kids. But I've noticed how quickly anger bubbles to the surface when expectations aren't met. My reaction to unmet expectations is the issue. Another way of saying that—when things don't go as planned my heart's idols are threatened. And...I...Don't...Like...It. 

 We went through the book of James in high school Sunday school last fall and I'll be leading students through it this year with Cru. The Lord grabbed my attention with this book! This passage in particular keeps coming to mind. "What causes quarrels and fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain so you fight and quarrel." The unrest isn't because of my circumstances, though I wish I could blame those things. The problem is my heart's desires and conflicting passions.

 In chapter 4, James goes on to remind us that when those passions are in conflict, we are invited to pray.  We are instructed to come before God and be honest about our desires, expectations, and disappointments and to ask for help. We are told in v. 7 to submit to Him. What would it look like to submit unmet longings to my Father who cares for me? I can trust Him with those things and to meet me in those times. 

 In His great mercy, in James 4:6, on the heels of our hearts being exposed for how ugly they really are, we are told:  "But he gives more grace." How amazing that even when my heart condemns me I can go to God, repent, and find grace. Grace that meets me in the hundredth time of anger. Grace that drives me to humility with my kids and husband. Grace that gives me hope that God can grow me to respond in a godly way next time. 

 What about you? What are expectations being divisive that you tend to hold too tightly onto? Where is anger apparent in your life (that was a helpful barometer for me)? What might it look like to submit those to the God of all precious grace?

Hidden Beauty

—R. M. Hawkes, Ruling Elder

According to Scripture, the temple of Solomon was a place of rich beauty. The interior was decorated with carvings of palm trees and flowers, lined with wood paneling, adorned with precious stones, and overlaid from floor to ceiling with gold (1 Kg 6 and 2 Ch 3). The cost would have been beyond measure. Despite the huge investment in this awe-inspiring hall, the people of Israel never saw it. It had no windows. Only a few priests would enter twice a day to keep that golden room full of lamp light and pleasing aromas. It was a home meant, not for men, but for God.

The temple is, in one way, a picture of God’s true home, namely our heart. Like the temple, the human heart is, by original design, a place suited to the Great King, a place of unique, inspiring beauty: “for we are the temple of the living God” (2 Cor 6:16). We retain some sense of our internal beauty even in its debased state. This sense creates in us a deep longing to be seen and valued. In our fallenness, our need to be known conflicts with our desire to hide from divine judgment. So, we seek the approbation and acknowledgement of other people.

Because we are aware that we are tarnished internally, we try to clothe ourselves with a replacement external beauty like the temple priests: “For Aaron's sons you shall make coats and sashes and caps. You shall make them for glory and beauty” (Ex 28:30). We long to win the approval of others, whether for our physical appearance, our friendliness, our accomplishments, our knowledge, or our wealth. We are creatures designed to be glorified and praised. The tragedy of our lives is that we continually look for approval in the wrong place, seeking praise from men instead of from God (Gal 1:10).

The Gospel tells us that we can shed all the trappings of external beauty with which we have sought to bury our beautiful but defiled heart. A re-creation of the temple of our heart can right now return it to its proper state. Even better than that, our heart’s true resident will return in all his glory to the shining home he has made for himself: “He dwells with you and will be in you” (Jn 14:17). Natal life springs up in us to welcome him home. We see our past efforts to beautify ourselves as rightly repugnant: “all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment” (Is 64:6).

A fundamental struggle of the Christian life is to stand on God’s proclamation that we are, in Christ, again beautiful to him: “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor 5:21). Our restored beauty is not the cause, but the effect of God’s love for us. Sin may assault me, but it cannot find a home in my true heart. There is a new resident there whose light overcomes the darkness: “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Col 1:27).

Odessa in October: Deepening Our Odessa Partnership

—Byron Peters, Pastor

From October 8–15, David Stepp (ruling elder), Mike Allen (deacon), Byron Peters (pastor) and Ruby Bea Peters (pastor’s wife) will travel to Odessa for an exciting global ministries partnership opportunity.

Over a year ago, God began working in our hearts (both here and in Odessa) to pray for an opportunity to gather with Ukrainian church leaders for training. Covenant of Grace church (our sister church) is one of eight churches in the country which form their own Presbytery. Most of these pastors are first-generation Christians. The Ukrainian culture has not historically been deeply influenced by a Presbyterian form of church leadership. The biblical design of a plurality of leaders (elders), under Christ as the head, working together to teach and shepherd God’s people under the authority of God’s Word and aligned theologically under confessional standards (Westminster Confession of Faith, Larger and Shorter Catechisms, Book of Church Order) with deacons giving “deed ministry” leadership is a new way of thinking about church governance for most Ukrainians.

Indeed, that is a lot to figure out! How do church sessions function? How do you pray for, recruit, train, and organize new church leaders? How do you practically apply biblical principles to real-life ministry? How do elders and deacons relate? How do pastors and elders relate? How does church discipline work?

And let’s add another layer to all of this. How do the wives of pastors, elders, and deacons function within the church? How do they keep their walks with God fresh, their marriages and families a priority, and how do they wisely negotiate relationships within and outside of the church? How do they live alongside their husbands who experience the heavy demands of ministry and the attacks of Satan?

God has orchestrated the opportunity for the four of us to spend an entire day with the Ukrainian Presbytery, sharing together what God has taught us, grappling with the questions that vex all of us who are called to ministry, and growing our relationships. While the men meet, Ruby Bea will gather with the women to learn and grow together. Additionally, our team will meet with youth workers and youth, help at an English club outreach, gather for a second morning of training with the Odessa churches, and Byron will preach morning and evening on Sunday. Plus, we will get time with our beloved sister (and CCC missionary) Robin Price.

I find it difficult to express how amazing this trip really is. This sort of collaboration does not happen overnight. It comes only after years of God building relational trust, personal friendship, and genuine gospel love. This is not “CCC riding to the rescue.” No, this will be a gathering of servants of the Lord Jesus Christ who are loved by him, love one another, and are prayerfully asking God to build his church for his glory and praise.

Would you please pray for us? Ephesians 1:15–23 would be a great text to anchor your prayers.

The Importance of Memorizing Scripture with Children

—Kathryn Eriksen, Director of Children and Youth Ministries

In order to master math, music, and scripture memory, you need to practice over and over. No practice, no improvement!

Consider Psalm 119: 9, 11
How can a young man keep his way pure? By keeping it according to Your Word. Your word I have treasured in my heart, that I might not sin against You.

Scripture memory can help you get victory over sin. When temptations come along, God brings to mind that verse from memory that specifically addresses the temptation.

I saw this play out in our family this spring with the growing anxiety in one of our children over the dreaded End of Grade tests. At times she seemed paralyzed by the stress of not getting it right. (I understand—she’s my daughter!)

A friend at church reminded me of the power of scripture. So, my daughter and I memorized Philippians 4:14 together. “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” We said it in the car before drop-off at school, wrote it in her agenda so she would see it throughout the day, said it before practice homework and bedtime when I kissed her goodnight. We practiced that verse so much, Jack started repeating it to her when she began stressing.

She began to relax, she began to process that Christ was always with her, and that in her weakness Christ could shine. I later learned that as her class talked and journaled about how to deal with stress, she shared about how praying to God always helped.

Memorizing scripture was a huge part of what helped her begin to learn to overcome that sin of worry (Matthew 6:25f.).

“Since we want children to learn to love the word of God, we should start Bible memory at the earliest opportunity. Although their minds may not understand every word, our prayer is that their spirits will be touched. As their life experiences add to their understanding, these verses will come to mean even more to them.”—David and Sally Michael, Foundation Verses

How should we start?

Here's a sample schedule you could follow for each day of the week:

• MONDAY: Read and repeat x2. Talk about any unfamiliar words. Color a coloring page and post somewhere where you'll see it often (car, fridge, dining room).

• TUESDAY: Look up the verse in the Bible. Read. Repeat x2. What's one thing this verse is telling us about Jesus?

• WEDNESDAY: Read. Repeat x2. Write or draw out the verse.

• THURSDAY: Read. Repeat x2. Talk about how this verse might apply to your lives.

• FRIDAY: See if you can say the verse from memory and celebrate!

• the NEXT MONDAY: Loop back to the previous week's verse. Repeat and then start on a new verse. Continue repeating the older verses each week.

Start with your child’s Sunday School verses. Their teachers are already working on this with them, but they need your help! I’d love to talk with you about this as I have lots of resources to help. The biggest encouragement I can leave you with is just start and figure out what works for your family as you go.

Wisdom for Parenting

—Wes Tubel, Executive Director,
Hope Counseling Services

My oldest child started Kindergarten last week. It is amazing how quickly these years have flown by. I love being a parent, and I love seeing my kids grow, develop, and mature.

Six years in, I also recognize how challenging parenting can be.

· First, each of my children is different. Each one has different strengths and weaknesses, different personalities and temperaments, different struggles, and different ways of interacting with the world around them.

· Second, as we seek to help our children grow in wisdom, faith, and love, it is hard take the time to slow down, engage them at a heart level, and reorient them according to gospel principles. The demands of the moment, and the lack of time often make it easier to just say, “stop that,” rather than taking the necessary time to help my kids learn the Mercy and Grace that is available to them in their time of need.

· Third, we live in a day and age where we have to be increasingly vigilant in order to protect our kids from harm. While our broken world has always been loaded with danger, it often feels like we live in a particularly vulnerable time.

These are just a few of the challenges we face as parents, seeking to shepherd, protect, and help our children grow up in the Lord. Sometimes it can feel overwhelming, or that I am rapidly moving from one parenting need to the next, just trying to survive. Where are the places you feel particularly challenged in your parenting?

In the midst of challenges, I’m comforted to know God does not leave us flailing about, trying to figure all these things out on our own. He gives us wisdom, help, and voices of experience to help us in our parenting. The glorious riches of Christ do indeed connect to all the realities of parenting.

But how do they connect? I am excited that Hope Counseling Services and Christ Community Church are partnering together to present two important seminars this Sept. 20 and 21. Julie Lowe, faculty member at the Christian Counseling & Educational Foundation, will use her years of experience working with families and children, along with her own parenting of six adopted children, to teach and equip us for this important task.

Friday, Sept. 20 from 2:00–5:00 p.m., Julie will be presenting Protecting the Vulnerable: Preventing and Responding to Abuse. This seminar will provide tools and equipping to prevent abuse from happening. And Julie will give guidance for how all of us must respond if abuse has been alleged or discovered.

Saturday, Sept. 21 from 9:00 a.m.–12:30 p.m., Julie will be presenting Childproof: Parenting by Faith, Not Formula. This will equip parents (and leaders working with parents) on what gospel-centered parenting looks like and how best to shepherd our children in a way that points them to the gospel and appreciates the uniqueness of each child.

Both seminars will be held at Church of the Good Shepherd. I invite you to join us and register here. And would you help us spread the word by forwarding this page to others who may be interested?

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to reach out to me!

Community Optional?

—Erin Smith, Community Group Coordinator

In a recent Christianity Today poll, 59% of young believers stated they don’t think they need other believers in their life. Is that true? Can I do this Christian life alone?

The book of Hebrews would say no. “Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near” (Hebrews 10:23-25).

This book is written to believers who are being tempted to turn back. They are being persecuted. They are faced with the lie that it would be easier not to follow Jesus. But the author reminds them, and us, over and over again that Jesus is better. He is worth following regardless of what hardships may come. But a key to being able to do that is to be in this together. Just look at the pronouns being used—“let us hold fast…let us consider…our hope.” Ours is a faith lived in community.

Personally, this is so clear as I think back on how my community group has shaped my life. Josh and I have had the privilege of being with the same group almost our whole time at CCC. We walked through good times and hard times with these people. We laughed together and mourned together. We prayed for and cried with as we walked through years of infertility. We brought meals to each other and opened our homes to one another. We learned how to follow Jesus…together.

Week in and week out it can seem mundane. Life is full and busy. It sometimes seems hard to leave home on a Friday night after a long day, only to have one of our kids have a meltdown. Hypothetically of course. ;) But it is worth it! It is truly a blessing to know these people and be known by them.

As the Fall approaches, I’d ask you: Do you have other believers in your life regularly? Are there spaces in your week where you can be honest with other Christians about how you are really doing? At CCC we offer many Community Groups and Men’s and Women’s Bible studies. If you haven’t checked those out yet, I hope you will take a look (email me at cg4ccc@gmail.com). It’s by no means the only way, but is a great way to be “encouraged all the more” as we wait for Christ’s return.

Content to Be a Thread

—Becca Miller, CCC Missionary in Thailand (and beyond)

If you want to follow along on the Millers' missions adventures, email Becca to sign up.

I go through spurts of buying fabric at the Thai market. The “Fabric Row” is a sea of raw material, thousands of bolts of every color and texture imaginable in shop after open-air shop. It’s dusty, musty, and packed into tight quarters, which makes coming home with the desired fabric feel like a treasure has been found.

I’m not into sewing. I don’t know how to use a sewing machine, and Brenden is the button-sewer at our home. But I do love colors and beauty and had a vision for a tablecloth. I bought two meters of material and just needed a hem around the edges. A friend taught me that if you find a thread where you want the edge to be and gently pull it the length of the fabric, it leaves a perfectly straight and clean line, which can then be used as an edge, without needing to sew it. It was like a magic trick, and it was good enough for my tablecloth needs.

I didn’t realize that embedded inside and within the external beauty of a fabric was this internal structure that composed the material, that has such consequence on the fabric. I suppose I should’ve known: any woman who has lived through the 1980s knows that once a rip in a pair of pantyhose begins, it’s over fast. Or that if you keep pulling on that one unraveled thread, you can undo an entire sweater.

Threads are important. They have consequence. Though as a standalone, they look inconsequential and even out-of-place, without a home or a greater purpose.

I haven’t wanted to be a thread. When we moved overseas, I wanted to produce the entirety of our work, the whole magnificent tapestry, for God’s glory (and my satisfaction). I’ll have the whole finished picture, thank you.

And God laughed, and said, “It’s MY picture, thank YOU. But I WILL use you as a beautiful thread. (Tears are welling as I write, unexpectedly. What a good God.) Through the ways that I’ve gifted you. In the pain that I bring your way, even, because it displays MY strength and glory.”

I accept. I’ll be the best thread I can be for You then. A strong, flexible, vital thread. And I’ll look for the other threads being woven and see how we can work together. And I’ll look to get new threads started. Brand new threads. From those of other nations too!

And if the thread passes through time, throughout generations, for someone else to use, and if I never see the full picture this side of heaven, I’ll confidently keep being the thread You want ME to be, trusting and awaiting Your big beautiful picture. “For a thousand years in Your sight are but as yesterday” Psalm 90:4. And if I get to see the semblance of how the threads come together in my lifetime, I wouldn’t complain either (wink).

Ephesians 3:20–21: Now all glory to God (*HIS tapestry), who is able, through His mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. Glory to Him in the church (*many threads working together) and in Christ Jesus through all generations (*threads linked over time) forever and ever! Amen.