Your Christian Mind is a Terrible Thing to Waste

—Byron Peters, Pastor

We all know Christian education is important, don’t we? I heard recently of one of the children in our church who, when tempted by her friend to “do this and don’t tell your Dad--he’ll never know!” said to her friend, “I’m not Adam and Eve!” She refused--because she had learned and applied God’s Word.

Christian education stretches all the way back to early Israel, and that Jewish commitment to the Scriptures (Psalm 119; Psalm 1: Joshua 1:8) carried into the New Testament.

Jesus “grew in wisdom and stature, in favor with God and man” (Luke 2:52). Paul, the greatest missionary Jesus ever called into service, was “...educated under Gamaliel, strictly according to the law of our fathers, being zealous for God just as you all are today” (Acts 22:3). That education, gained before he came to faith in Christ, served him well as he served Jesus. Timothy learned the Bible from his mother and grandmother (2 Timothy 1:5), as well as the mighty apostle Paul himself (2 Tim 3:14).

Timothy was to “do his best to present himself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth” (2 Tim 2:15). Women in Ephesus (2 Tim 3:6-7) were being deceived because they were untaught, unfamiliar with the word “which is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psalm 119:25).

Our culture, even our Christian subculture, undervalues Christian education. As a result, many of us are like sheep among wolves, tossed about like waves of the sea, easily deceived. We struggle to know how to guide our families, help our friends, and live wisely in God’s world.

CCC is committed to robust Christian education for all ages because we envision God transforming us into the likeness of the risen Lord Jesus by his Word and Spirit so that we (and our children) grow to see as he sees and love as he loves. But how does this happen?

This Fall we are going to try a new approach to adult Christian education called “Discipleship Cohorts.” These smaller, targeted learning communities will allow for more educational options, conversation and practical application. Adults learn best by discussion and applying, and we hope our cohorts facilitate that very sort of interaction.

Discipleship cohorts will launch in September, 2019. Please be praying for this initiative, that God will grow us up and grow us together in Christ. Click here for more details on course offerings. NOTE: Church Leadership Training, open to men and women, requires a 9-month commitment. The others are shorter in duration.

Don’t waste your Christian mind. Invest in your Christian education and pray for God to bring a great and gracious return on that investment.

Jesus, What A Friend

—Ashley Yarnoff,
on behalf of the Women’s Ministry Team

One day, not too long ago, I had a conversation with someone go horribly wrong and now our relationship lies in tatters. God only knows if and when it will be healed. Yet, that very same day, I had a conversation with a friend at CCC that was beautiful, encouraging and deepened our relationship. This is not the first time I have noticed the realities of life often run in stark parallels.

Those conversations gave me a glimpse into the beauty of Jesus’ friendship to me. That bad conversation? It reaffirmed that God alone is worthy of my allegiance for He is not a God of mere sentiment but of deep abiding love (John 1:4). In the good conversation I understood like never before, the “friend who sticks closer than a brother.” Is Jesus not our Elder brother? Christ was loyal to God the Father, in His death and Resurrection and we are now called sons, daughters and friends! I trust God will provide in both of these relationships because He has promised me so. Praise God! He is a firm foundation when our earthly friendships are great and especially when they are ugly! This illustrates some of the themes from this past sermon series, ‘Caring for One Another.’

On Saturday April 6 the women of Christ Community Church will continue on these themes as we gather on the UNC Chapel Hill campus and discuss “Who God Made Us to Be” and how that impacts our relationships with one another. I am excited that our very own, Jacklyn Tubel, will share what she has learned regarding our identity in Jesus Christ. I am grateful God is encouraging us as a church to be more vulnerable so that we might care for one another as Jesus called us to!

Would you describe your relationship with the Lord as a friendship? Are you confident God is at work in your relationships? Are you the kind of friend with whom others can share the good, the bad, and especially the ugly? Please join us next month at this local retreat so we can grapple with these sorts of questions together! We need you and value your presence!

“Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well.” 1 Thessalonians 2:8

Did You Know?

—Greg Norfleet, Pastor

Over these last two months, we’ve had the privilege of giving focused attention to our calling to care for one another. God has been good to us. He’s met us in our Sunday worship, adult Sunday School, and Community Groups. He’s used these means to cast his vision, renew our minds, and spark honest and fruitful conversations.

We’re learning that to be human is both to need help from one another, and to give help to one another. We’re learning that our church—this “body” of mutually dependent “members”—grows to maturity as ordinary Christians have ordinary conversations infused with extraordinary truth and love. And we’re learning that all of this can and really does happen because of Jesus, the living “head” of our church; he empowers each one of us to give and receive his extraordinary care.

Since our series soon draws to a close, and since we have largely highlighted those “everyday conversations” through which so much care comes, it seemed fitting to highlight a few more important channels of care within our church:

• Did you know that Community Groups are designed to be the first line of pastoral care at CCC? Having a baby? Moving? Going through a rough patch? Consider sharing these things with your group and even with your group leader.

• Did you know that your elder is a great resource for you as you face challenges in living? He is not only eager to listen, understand, and support you in prayer, but often times can help you consider how, in Scripture, God speaks directly to your questions and challenges.

• Did you know that one of the primary roles of our deacons is to assist members with issues like financial counseling and other practical helps? They, too, stand ready to assist with needs like these.

• Did you know that our Women’s Ministry Team is growing in new and exciting ways? In many cases, they are uniquely equipped to help other women grow as Christians or work through difficult challenges.

• Did you know that Christ Community Church and Hope Counseling Services continue to develop our mutually beneficial partnership in pastoral care? Staff at both are equipped to provide biblical counseling, so feel free to ask which resource might fit you best.

What a privilege to be and do church together. And what a joy to watch Jesus work through us to care for one another. Let’s excel still more!

Why Did You Stick?

—Rik Gervais, Ruling Elder

“And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship… and all who believed were together and had all things in common.”  Acts 2: 42, 44

About a month ago I started thinking about why some folks “stick” at CCC and some don’t.  I’ve even asked some of you the question, “Why did you stick?” Typically, I get the following reasons:

 - Teaching: The gospel is preached clearly and boldly each week.

 - Counseling focus:  The way people are willing to care for each other

 - Theology:  Some just naturally gravitate toward Reformed theology.

 - Ministries: Especially the children’s ministry (Thank you Kathryn, Alissa and ALL the teachers who make this ministry so rich!).

 - But the #1 reason:  People notice a real sense of community.  Guests can get connected quickly (if they are willing to try) and they often say, “I felt like people cared about me.”

Was that your experience?  It was mine and Bobbie’s. When we first visited CCC, I’ll never forget thinking, “This guy (Greg) doesn’t have the common sense to get out of the rain!” as he stood in the parking lot to greet us after church on our first visit--in pouring rain!  But we also left church that Sunday thinking, “This is a place where people easily stick out their hands in fellowship and let us know we are welcome.”

If you had a caring, welcoming reception at CCC that made an impression on you that made you want to stick, are you doing the same for the guest who may be sitting beside you this week?  And if this is something you already do—wonderful. This week encourage your friend who is not so bold to extend the hand of fellowship to a guest so that, as Greg exhorted us in his sermon, we might all “excel all the more!” That’s what will continue to make CCC a church where people want to stick.

No School Like the Old School

—Jeffrey West, Ruling Elder

You know the story of the first deacons, right? Acts 6 says that the apostles were overwhelmed trying to meet the physical and material needs of the church, so they said to the people, "pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty."

This old school method of the congregation nominating and electing those whom the elders have examined and who then are subsequently ordained and installed, has been the tradition of church governance since the beginning. Finding "men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom," is in your job description if you are a member of Christ Community Church.

We are entering that time of year where we open nominations for the offices of elder and deacon. Who do you know who fits the above description? He will no doubt be flawed in many ways, but will also have a deep desire to grow in Christ and serve the community. I would encourage you to talk to that person and ask him if he would mind you nominating him. Then nominate by filling out this simple online form (https://tinyurl.com/CCCOfficerNominationForm), before Monday, March 4th, 2019. If you cannot complete an online form please call the church office or email admin@cccpca.org for further instruction. The elders will take it from there and begin a process that will include training and examining that person before he will go back before the congregation for election. Start considering now and look for more information and reminders in the weeks to come.

Let the Word of Christ Dwell in You Richly

—Brion Pearson

On the last Sunday of 2018, I accepted Pastor Byron’s challenge to hand copy a short scripture passage each day during my quiet times. He suggested Philippians, which is my favorite of Paul’s letters. I started this exercise on New Year’s Eve. It is changing my thinking and touching my heart.

I usually copy one paragraph at a time into a notebook, leaving a margin to record my thoughts. Rewriting the verses word-for-word slows my thoughts so that my heart can hear Paul’s meaning. I begin to feel Paul’s concern for the believers at Philippi and their struggle to live new lives for the gospel, amidst their hostile culture. I imagine Paul in a Roman prison cell, sharing his own life in Christ with people he loves in Macedonia. When I come to Philippians 2:1-11, I have to pause. Paul arrests my attention with phrases like, “in humility count others better than yourselves” and, “have this mind among yourselves, which you have in Christ Jesus.” The Holy Spirit’s light penetrates my self-centered patterns of thoughts and action. That’s when I realize that I don’t have to remain this way. The Spirit tells me that Jesus offers me a completely new perspective, His own servant humility and righteous attitudes which He can infuse in my life every hour of every day.

Copying Philippians makes the scripture specific for me. I ask myself why Paul chose this particular word or used that phrase to express an idea. I get to re-explore the meaning of sentences I’ve read many times but never truly understood. I dig into words heavy with significance, such as: gospel, rejoice, suffering, humility, peace, and contentment.

Copying Philippians makes me feel closer to Paul as a person. It helps me hear Paul’s voice and ask what he must have been thinking and feeling. I consider the human struggle for Saul to be transformed into Paul, a man broken of self-interest, now filled by grace and truth, love and wisdom. I ask how God might transform me to be a better servant, a better husband, a better father, a better brother and neighbor.

Copying Philippians makes me aware of the Holy Spirit’s presence. As I copy the words, I feel the Spirit enliven them in me. I’m affected by the love and strength which the Spirit offers me throughout Paul’s letter. The Spirit encourages me that I, too, am part of the gospel, personally called to daily follow Paul’s example, even as he imitated Christ.

So . . . I’ll continue rewriting scriptures in my own hand. Even now I sense the Spirit drawing me to the Gospel of Mark. I’m kind of excited about the Spirit working the Word deeper into my thoughts, engaging my will, emotions, and imagination. I anticipate Christ’s words dwelling more richly in me. As I copy verses daily, and the Spirit writes them on my heart, I expect to know more of Christ’s presence abiding with me, living in me. That gives me so much comfort, and renews my hope to know His power conforming me to Himself.

Born Without a Silver Spoon

—Pew-Thian Yap, Ruling Elder

Life isn’t always fair and equal. God created us equally, but not the same. Some are born into wealth and others into poverty. Being born without a silver spoons in our mouths can mean that we are stuck with a bad head start that might limit what we can achieve in life. While the situation may seem unfair, the Bible says that the poor are blessed (Luke 6:20, James 2:5). As I reflect on this, there are a number of reasons I can think of why we should be thankful amidst our state of insufficiency.

Scarcity helps us understand needs, not in the abstract sense but as real personal experiences. A big part of compassion is knowing neediness. Compassion is “suffering together” in the sense that another's sorrow is our sorrow and another's joy our joy. Real compassion does not happen without a real understanding of needs. Who can understand needs better than the needy?

When we beat the odds through extraordinary grit and perseverance, the resulting joy of triumph is unparalleled. We learn to cherish and make the most out of what we have. We learn that everything is to be treasured and carelessness and wastefulness are not tolerable options. We learn to swim upstream against the current. What can be more exhilarating than making something out of nothing in your life?

Our neediness places us in a unique position to help others who are in need. Our “been there, done that” ensures that our remedies for people in hardship are tried and tested. We comfort with not empty words, but with our life’s testimony that can reach and touch the hearts of the needy. Putting ourselves in another person’s place is easier if we’ve actually been in the person’s place.

Spiritually, we are all born poor with the same bad head start. In our spiritual poverty, we are all needy. But we have a Lord who is able to sympathize with us (Hebrews 4:15) because He was born without a silver spoon and had experienced neediness. For our sake, he chose to become poor, so that we by his poverty might become rich (2 Corinthians 2:9), allowing us to be comforted in afflictions and in turn enabling us to comfort those in hardship with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God (2 Corinthians 1:4).

"The Blessings of Odessa"

—Ruby Bea Peters, CCC member

“My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ…” The Apostle Paul to the church at Colossae (Col 2:2).

In preparing for the Odessa Christian English Camp last summer with our sister church, Covenant of Grace, I remember saying to the kids, “Pray for Dad and me to walk closely with the Lord on this fast paced trip where we will have many duties. I honestly do not feel prepared, but God has it happening the way it is happening. So thankful that He is the faithful One.”

June 9, 2018, I wrote in my journal:

Byron and I made the trip! Lord, I don’t really know what You have for us. Please make me sensitive to Your leading …in word and deed.

Bear with one another….Lord, enable me to set my agenda aside. I need to embrace a new culture, new people, new foods.

Enable me to bear with others well and be a source of Godly encouragement.

June 11, 2018, on a bus heading to English Camp:

It is hot and uncomfortable.

Still seems a little surreal that we are here.

This bus ride is way too bumpy!!

June 15, 2018, on the bus ride back to Odessa after camp:

I had no time to write in my journal, because I was deep in a significant conversation with a wife struggling in her marriage. We have kept up with one another, and she has continued to attend other Covenant of Grace events. I pray that we get to see each other this summer.

My thoughts when leaving Odessa:

What sweet times we have had with people (Robin, George, Snezhana, the Burnham family, and our new Ukrainian friends). Thank You, Lord.

We have enjoyed the time…deep conversations, laughter, new foods, lots of open Gospel opportunities. Dear people! It’s been good for us.

This trip has been refreshing on all levels. Gospel ministry gives me life.

Would I do it again? Yes.

And we are…This June Byron and I are planning to board a plane for Odessa. I can’t wait. I know that I will feel unprepared, but once again God will prove Himself faithful. Might God be calling you to go with us? Speak with me, Byron, or anyone on the Global Ministries Team.