Financial Peace University A great option for your “Discipleship Cohort”

Starting September 8

—Ashleigh Meeker, CCC Member

Do you feel like your life is one emergency after another?

Are your relationships struggling because of financial stress?

Do you feel stuck in a job you hate, but can’t afford to quit?

Do you struggle with giving/tithing?

Financial Peace University (FPU) covers all of these things and more! Meeker and I are excited to lead our 3rd FPU class with CCC, this time as one of the “Discipleship Cohort” offerings at 9:15 a.m. on Sunday mornings, starting September 8.

Meeker and I have truly experienced “Financial Peace” following the biblical principles taught in this class. We have felt the peace of stability so that when unexpected costs come up they are inconveniences instead of emergencies. We have felt the peace in our relationship, working together as a team rather than arguing over money. We have experienced the peace and joy of giving generously instead of feeling annoyed or obligated to share. And we can look ahead to the future trusting Christ for our financial security, knowing we are operating according to biblical principles in this important area of life.

FPU is a nine-week class that covers important financial topics like budgeting, emergency funds, debt, and retirement, as well as heart issues like giving, gratitude, contentment, and relational dynamics. When you sign up for the class you will receive an online membership which will allow you to watch a weekly video in your home, then during the Sunday School class we will watch a quick recap and do the discussion and homework together. Ideally, if you are married or engaged, we encourage you to take the class together as a couple but we understand that logistically this might not be possible.

Life is hard and unpredictable, and God has used this biblically-based program to give us the peace and stability to weather the storms. We are excited to share this with others and hope you are able to join us.

The Comfort of the Last Judgment: Belgic Confession #37

—Rev. Byron Peters, Pastor

During the 16th century the Reformed Protestant churches of the Netherlands were brutally and violently persecuted by the Roman Catholic government. A man named Guido de Bres (himself martyred in 1567), with some influence from John Calvin, wrote “The Belgic Confession” as an apologetic for the Reformed faith. The introduction to King Philip II declared that they were ready to obey the government in all lawful things, but they “would offer their backs to stripes, their tongues to knives, their mouths to gags, and their whole bodies to the fire” rather than deny the biblical truths of their confession.*

With that context, here is Article 37:

Finally we believe, according to the Word of God, when the time appointed by the Lord (which is unknown to all creatures) is come, and the number of the elect complete, that our Lord Jesus Christ will come from heaven, corporally and visibly, as he ascended, with great glory and majesty to declare himself judge of the quick and the dead; burning this old world with fire and flame, to cleanse it.

And then all men will personally appear before this great judge, both men and women and children, that have been from the beginning of the world to the end thereof, being summoned by the voice of the archangel, and by the sound of the trumpet of God. For all the dead shall be raised out of the earth, and their souls joined and united with their proper bodies, in which they formerly lived. As for those who shall then be living, they shall not die as the others, but be changed in the twinkling of an eye, and from corruptible, become incorruptible. Then the books (that is to say the consciences) shall be opened, and the dead judged according to what they shall have done in this world, whether it be good or evil. Nay, all men shall give an account of every idle word they have spoken, which the world only counts amusement and jest: and then the secrets and hypocrisy of men shall be disclosed and laid open before all.

And therefore the consideration of this judgment, is justly terrible and dreadful to the wicked and ungodly, but most desirable and comfortable to the righteous and elect: because then their full deliverance shall be perfected, and there they shall receive the fruits of their labor and trouble which they have borne. Their innocence shall be known to all, and they shall see the terrible vengeance which God shall execute on the wicked, who most cruelly persecuted, oppressed and tormented them in this world; and who shall be convicted by the testimony of their own consciences, and being immortal, shall be tormented in that everlasting fire, which is prepared for the devil and his angels.

But on the contrary, the faithful and elect shall be crowned with glory and honor; and the Son of God will confess their names before God his Father, and his elect angels; all tears shall be wiped from their eyes; and their cause which is now condemned by many judges and magistrates, as heretical and impious, will then be known to be the cause of the Son of God. And for a gracious reward, the Lord will cause them to possess such a glory, as never entered into the heart of man to conceive.

Therefore we expect that great day with a most ardent desire to the end that we may fully enjoy the promises of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. AMEN.

"Even so, come, Lord Jesus." - Revelation. 22:20.

*Thanks to The Spirit of Reformation Study Bible, p. 2155.

Seeking to Know Who God Is

—Bob Sisk, CCC member

“And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, ‘Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?’” (Mark 4:41).

“…He said to Simon, ‘Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch’…When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break…But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying ‘Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord’” (Luke 5:4, 6, 8).

I can still remember the first time I really heard the statement “You cannot know who you are until you know who God is.” I actually felt a need to understand “who God is.” This desire surprised me because I grew up in the church and I couldn’t remember a time when I didn’t believe there was a God or that Jesus died for my sins to satisfy this holy God.

Fast forward to 2019 and I find myself reading If There’s A God, Why Are There Atheists? by R.C. Sproul, which is basically a review of four of history’s prominent atheist thinkers and why the issues they address are really about “who God is,” or to put it another way, “The scariest thing to a sinful person in all of the world is the holiness of God.”

The disciples, on at least two different occasions, found themselves in the presence of a holy God while they were in a fishing boat, and Scripture tells us they were afraid. In both stories I can’t help but think of the disciples celebrating, “Wow! Look at all the fish. We’re rich,” or, “Did you see that? Jesus can tell the storm to stop.” In both stories, from a worldly point of view they had found the golden goose. Modern day promotion and marketing could spin these tales into millions of dollars. However, in both cases the disciples found themselves standing before a holy Christ, and this experience provided them with an insight into “who God is.”

In trying to understand “who God is” I believe I am just beginning to comprehend what it would be like for me, a sinner, to stand in the presence of a holy God without my sin being covered by the sacrifice of Jesus. In truth, I can’t imagine standing before a holy God at all, and I certainly can’t imagine what I would have to offer from my earthly deeds that God should consider acceptable as payment for my debts. What I do know is my salvation is not based upon how much faith I have, but the object of that faith. In this world, I feel sure that I will never fully understand who God is, but through the study of Scripture and the revealing work of the Holy Spirit I have learned more than I knew before, and my prayer is that if it pleases God, He will continue to reveal himself to me.

Reflections on the Odessa English Camp Mission Trip

—David Barrow, CCC Member

“God’s got this.” One of our team members said this during an Odessa pre-trip planning meeting. Rather than striking me as a cliché, these words gave me comfort and resonated with me and contained truth. I’ve long known about God’s providence and his involvement over the affairs of men, but for some reason these words just keep going through my mind.

When you start a journey, you never know what might happen. I think that is a reason why the phrase “God’s got this” gave me encouragement for our trip to Odessa. Having completed the trip, I can look back and see the ways in which God was involved and brought us together, campers and staffers alike, to fulfill his purpose and plan.

I found out on the day we were leaving for Odessa that I was losing my job on October 1st. While that news stunned me, the words “God’s got this” continued to echo in my mind. The fact that I was given more than 4 months’ notice is an example of God’s provision and I was able to head to Odessa in peace and felt the freedom to not think about work or about finding another job.

The Saturday before we left for Odessa, I spent about 5 hours working on flashcards that the lesson plan for my class instructed would be helpful. However, I placed the flash cards into my checked bag, which as it turns out, got lost in transit at the airport and was not found until the camp week was completed. As disappointing as it was to not have my prepared work, the class still went very well because I had great helpers (James, George and Katya) and interested students.

While there were other hiccups along the way—as there always are on trips, and perhaps especially in the mission field where the devil has extra incentive to intervene—what strikes me most is how well the camp went and how much joy was present. If you watch the slideshow recap that was posted on the church’s Facebook page, you see a bit of that joy in the smiles of the students and teachers. God’s desire for our success and work therein was apparent in every activity. This became clear upon reading the feedback forms from students and in recalling the words of one girl after the swing dance night: “I have not been this happy in years. I almost feel too happy!”

I praise God for his work and for allowing us to participate in that work with him. When things go well, it is easy to repeat the cliché “God is good” and forget that God is good when things go “bad.” As I have experienced a bit of both in the past few months, I hope this account can serve as a reminder that, despite our changing circumstances, God is unchangeably good; “God’s got this.”

Faith-Filled Science

—Pew-Thian Yap, Ruling Elder

 Have you been told that the Christian faith is at odds with science? Have you ever struggled with understanding how miracles fit into your scientific worldview? Is science more real and tangible to you than your faith? Or do you lead a contradictory life “limping between two opinions” (1 Kings 18:21) and check your faith at the door when you walk into your laboratory? 

 Scientific endeavors are not pursued in a neutral arena untouched by philosophical convictions. The Bible is nothing short of disruptive in my understanding of science.

 God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. (Gen. 1:3)

 He sends out his command to the earth; his word runs swiftly. (Psa. 147: 15)

 You cause the grass to grow for the livestock and plants for man to cultivate, that he may bring forth food from the earth. (Psa. 104:14)

 God creates and rules the universe by his words of power and command. The laws that govern the world are hence verbal and personal in nature. This is in stark contrast to the common conception that the laws of nature are impersonal and mechanistic. Science relies on the faithfulness of God and the regularity of his rule. In fact, it is due to God’s faithfulness that natural laws appear to be mechanistic, making science possible. The personal aspect of the created world also means that the laws of nature can be shaped by God as he pleases, deviating from the regularities that scientists are accustomed to and hence resulting in what we perceive as miracles. An impersonal view of the physical law is deistic.

 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. (Rom. 1:19-20)

 I am often perplexed by why it is even possible that we can understand the laws of nature. If our brains are purely a product of matter, how is it possible that we can fathom the interactive forces in the nano realms and the planetary activities in the heavens? Is our perception of nature reliable? Can we believe our senses and trust what we see, hear, and feel? The philosophical debate on how we know what we know has evolved throughout the centuries but often ended up with some form of scepticism. The Bible’s answer is clear: Humans are made in the image of God, and therefore we can think God’s thoughts after him on a creaturely level. In addition to constantly depending on God’s faithfulness, scientists rely on their minds being created in the image of God, so that they have hope of comprehending the speech by which God rules. Science is real because God is real.

 Science is dependent on faith far more than we realize. All human knowledge is finite and tainted by sin. God is intimately and actively involved in the created world and is the ultimate reason why science is possible and meaningful. Unexamined faith in science is exchanging the truth about God for a lie (Rom. 1:25).

What Are We Doing Here?

—Rik Gervais, Ruling Elder

What are we doing here? How often do you find yourself asking that question when you sit in church? Not just Christ Community Church, but ANY church? What are we doing here!? It should be clear what any church, but especially CCC, is all about. Our church is about discipleship.

“The church is not an arena where a professional minister is cheered on by lay people who are nothing more than spectators. The church should be discipling and training Christians for ministry. Church members, not just staff, are supposed to be ministering. That is the point of Ephesians 4:11, 12. Apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastor-teachers are given to equip the saints to do the work of ministry.” (MacArthur, J.F., Jr., Ashamed of the Gospel: When the Church Becomes Like the World, p. 184)

MacArthur reminds us, “Discipleship is the ministry of developing deeply spiritual friendships focused on teaching biblical truth, applying Scripture to life, and thus learning to solve problems biblically.” That’s how we learn, for ourselves and others, how to “Connect the Riches of Christ to the Realities of Life.” We don’t want people to simply sit in the seats and enjoy a good sermon. No, we want people to be growing in their understanding and love of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, so that they can do ministry (connect Christ’s riches to others’ realities) in His name.

MacArthur goes on to say, “[Discipleship] must be reinforced by a godly example, not just delivered as a set of academic precepts. Therefore, discipleship involves time and personal involvement with people...the church must provide an environment that encourages that kind of discipleship at every level, from the pastor to the newest convert.”

So here’s the question (or maybe questions): Do you see that CCC is all about discipleship? If not, maybe we aren’t obvious enough about it. Or, and here’s where a second question comes up, maybe you are wondering if being all about discipleship is what YOU want to be all about!

Discipleship is not easy. It takes effort to 1) develop deeply spiritual friendships, 2) focus on teaching biblical truth, 3) apply Scripture to life, and 4) learn to solve problems biblically. It takes time and commitment. And it takes willingness to be vulnerable. It takes a desire to know God that transcends all our personal wants and desires (whew, that’s heavy!). Are you willing to invest that deeply? Do you want to be more than a spectator? I hope so. So does Jesus!

Are you wondering where to even start? May I suggest you take a second or third look at the Discipleship Cohorts forming this Fall. The specific focus of each may differ, but the desired outcome of each is the same: Growth in spiritual friendships, teaching biblical truth, applying Scripture to life, and solving problems (ours and others’) biblically. If you are asking the first question, maybe it’s because you haven’t figured out the answer to the second question. Here’s a great place to start finding the answer!

Who-R-“Us?”

—Byron Jay Peters, Sr., Pastor

1 Thessalonians 5:9–11: For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him. Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.

I often feel sorry for pronouns in a biblical text. They’re so tiny and familiar. They often just live in the shadows of the more venerable nouns, charismatic adjectives, and muscular verbs (not to mention those wily conjunctions) that populate biblical sentences. Plus, often “they-R-us” and most of the time we’ve had about enough of ourselves, so we’re happy to not give them a lot of attention.

But here’s a passage that lives or dies by its pronouns. For God has not destined us for wrath…Now, whomever that “us” is, they are not destined for wrath! And it gets better: …but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.That’s literally a life-and-death distinction.

So who is the “us?”

Context is king in biblical interpretation, so let’s back up. All throughout the book Paul addresses the Thessalonians to whom he is writing this letter as “brothers” (i.e., spiritual family in Christ) and in chapter one we see this amazing testimony: 4 For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, 5 because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction.

Paul and his associates witnessed the unmistakable work of the Holy Spirit bringing new life to some people in pagan Thessalonica. That’s why Paul can start the letter as follows: “Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ…”

This little passage, tucked into 1 Thessalonians 5, is the sort of passage that is very useful in underscoring the centrality of the church to your assurance of salvation. But you’ll miss it if you overlook the pronouns. The “us” is the church—particular people in a particular times and places bound together in covenant to worship God, nurture one another, and evangelize the world.

Perhaps this is why Cyprian said “You cannot have God as your Father without the church as your mother.” Family! God’s household! Christ’s body! Each week we start our week together, worship God, hear his Word, pray, and teach our children. During the week we’ll gather with others for further “life-on-life” and prayer. We help the weak, admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted among us. We band together for things nearly impossible to obey apart from load-sharing (like missions).

Local church membership—mutual vow-taking through honest conversation with others about God’s work in our lives, openness to the love and accountability of other Christians who know us, willingness to put ourselves under word-based authority, is a beautiful and fundamental aspect of our assurance in Christ.

Of whose assurance in Christ? Ah, indeed, the church’s assurance. That is, “ours!”

It Takes NOT a Village, but the Body of Christ

—Rebekah Nash, CCC Member

"Congratulations!"

"How exciting!"

"Your life is never going to be the same!"

I knew the sentiments expressed were true. I knew we were in for a life-altering, even life-disrupting, event. But I also had no idea what was about to happen.

I am a prideful person, and (one of) my primary sources of ill-placed pride is a sense of control over my surroundings, with a subsequent (and also ill-placed) sense of self-sufficiency. I like to believe that even if others fail to keep their side of the bargain, I can take up the slack. I (emphasis on “I”) will figure it out. And I hate to ask for help.

So, God in His wisdom called me to be a mom. While it may not take a village to raise a child, it definitely takes more than one person. The first week of William's life, I was hit, head first, in overwhelming, and tear-producing fashion, with this truth.

I was tired, tired, tired. In a way and to an extent that even years of medical school and residency could not compare. I was clueless, scared and convinced that every new symptom that William exhibited would land us in the dreaded emergency room with a fever. I was lonely. I dreaded the hours of night-time feedings, dreaded watching the sunset, dreaded seeing the windows in our neighborhood go dark, and dreaded knowing I would not be sleeping more than 2-3 hours in a row, for yet another night.

But I had help available! Dave, my parents, Dr. Jessie, amazing neighbors, and the incredible train of meals from each of you. I just hated to ask for help.

But, God in His mercy, slowly, patiently broke me of my pride. It is very hard to put on a brave face when you are sleep-deprived, covered in spit-up, and holding an inconsolable infant. So, I asked for help.

And I received help in overwhelming, overflowing measure (and still am!).

Dave stayed up through the night-time feeds, queuing up endless episodes of Parks and Recreation. I texted Jessie about every odd symptom that William developed (black stuff on his tongue? what is that goop coming out of his eye!?); and Jessie, time and again, patiently calmed my frantic mind. My parents cleaned our house, made dinner, and ran endless errands (MORE diapers!).

In the words of Sally Lloyd-Jones, God, with his “Never Stopping, Never Giving Up, Unbreaking, Always and Forever Love”, showed me my sinful pride and my need. But he did not leave me to despair. He gave me the support of family, friends – the body of Christ.