"Men and Women: Working Together for the Kingdom of God"

—Byron Peters, Pastor

A new day is dawning at CCC.

Over the last couple of months God has begun to answer a prayer that has been on my heart for several years now. “Lord, would you show us the way forward in appreciating and enabling the full expression of the gifts of women within our church?”

Women have always played central roles in CCC: Leading global ministry initiatives, leading capital campaigns, community groups, ministry teams, outreaches, counseling, prayer initiatives. But some women have struggled and even left CCC over this very issue, feeling that our understanding that Scripture reserves church offices (elder and deacon) only for men to be sending the wrong message and out of step with our culture.

Of course, this question ultimately must be resolved by Scripture itself. So, this Fall we’ve tackled the topic of “God’s Design for Male and Female” in our Adult Christian Education class. It’s been fascinating and incredibly informative to see this issue (the value of men and women, together, building the kingdom of God/His church) through the larger lens of God’s design as revealed in the Bible.

We’ve also revisited the biblical principles guiding CCC’s Women’s Ministry Team and sought their honest input. They, too, are eager to engage with this issue, and God has given us incredible traction. I’m pinching myself! And I’m also beginning to see lots of my blind spots! The conversations are rich, substantial, and honest. Of course, time is limited, so getting us all together has its challenges, but understanding is growing among us, progress is being made, and we hope to have some actionable takeaways soon.

In the meantime, if you’re up for a good read on this topic, I recommend Aimee Byrd’s No Little Women. Here are some quotes that give you the flavor of her insights.

• “No matter what our different circumstances and vocations may be, every woman is a theologian.”
• “Women especially play a huge role in showing the face of Christianity to the watching world.”
• “If we take women seriously, we will want them to be good teachers of the Word.”

Please join me, the elders, and the Women’s Ministry Team (Ashley Yarnoff, Mandy Holt, Crystal West, Jacklyn Tubel) in praying for increasing opportunities for CCC women to fulfill their callings at CCC.

The Love that Will Not Let Us Go

—Wes Tubel, Executive Director,
Hope Couseling Services

I love the psalms. One reason is that they put words on our experiences, and teach us ways to cry out to the Lord. And there is this God-given balance of being both specific enough about our struggles, but broad enough for you and me to fill in our own particular details.

I have routinely been meditating on Psalm 13 recently. David is in anguish and it seems like the Lord is silent to his pleas.

13:1-2 Honest questions
1 How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
2 How long must I take counsel in my soul
and have sorrow in my heart all the day?
How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?

David has been wrestling with God in prayer, asking him to intervene in his troubles, but the Lord seems silent. Notice the interplay between the spiritual, personal, and circumstantial elements of David’s struggle. God seems to have turned away from David (spiritual). David seems to be his only source of help (personal). And enemies seem to be getting the upper hand (circumstantial).

Can you relate?
• How long will I experience this unending pain?
• How long will my wayward child refuse to turn back to God?
• How long will this besetting sin be part of my life?
• How long will I be stuck in this dead-end job?
• And perhaps the biggest question: how long until you return, O Lord, and make all things new?

13:3–4 A (seemingly) illogical plea
3 Consider and answer me, O Lord my God;
light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death,
4 lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed over him,”
lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken.

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I have a hard time continuing to pray when God seems silent. Yet David perseveres in prayer: “Consider and answer me, O LORD my God.”

But how do we have that kind of trust in God, especially when he seems silent?

13:5–6 A love that will not, cannot let us go
5 But I have trusted in your steadfast love;
my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.
6 I will sing to the Lord,
because he has dealt bountifully with me.

Verse 5 is the pivot point of this psalm.

Circumstances have a way of unearthing all kinds of existential and spiritual crises. But David trusts the Lord because of the Lord’s steadfast love. This is one of the most profound promises of God. We routinely sing a song at Christ Community Church: O Love that Will Not Let Me Go. What kind of love is that? It is a committed, steadfast, covenantally faithful love of our God in Christ.

David underscores something powerful for us. Our circumstances are not our anchor. Our feelings are not our anchor. Our understanding of how God has or hasn’t answered us is not our anchor. Our anchor is that God loves us with a committed, steadfast love that will not, cannot let us go.

Would you join me in praying Psalm 13? We long for the day when Christ will return, and make all things new. And as we wait, we recognize that life is hard, and God can often feel silent. But he has promised to love us with a love that will not let us go. And that love makes all the difference.

Come quickly, Lord Jesus. And sustain us in your love as we wait.

“Be Still? How Do I Do That?!!”

—Rik Gervais, Ruling Elder

"Be still, and know that I am God….” Psalm 46:10 (ESV)

Tropical Storm Michael. You remember the day. High winds. Torrential rain. Schools closed. Power outages. It’s 2 PM. Michael is racing up I-85. At the same time, my wife is getting into a car at Lake Gaston on the Virginia state line, about to head right into the middle of Michael. I’m stressed (to say the very least!). I’ve got the Find My iPhone app going. I can watch her every turn. I’ve also got the TV on. I can hear the incessant, frenzied descriptions of the storm conveyed by journalists who are also out in the middle of it. I’m really stressed! Anxiety, in one of its worst forms, has a hold on my heart right now. What can I do? What should I do? What would you do?

I’m going to give the bible answer first. I prayed. I really did. Over and over. For God’s protection for her. For a calmness that only the Spirit’s power could give me and her.

But I also nibbled. Every snack in the cabinet got raided. I paced. I flipped channels looking for better descriptions of what was happening along I-85, minute by minute. For almost three hours I was a nervous wreck…even as I continued to pray. This is probably an understatement, but I was anxious.

What is this thing called “anxiety” and what can we do when we are feeling it? According to Merriam-Webster, “…anxiety [is] anguished uncertainty or fear of misfortune or failure.” Well, that was me alright. Funny. There are 19 synonyms listed for anxiety, but there is only one antonym. Anxiety is all-encompassing and overwhelming.

What do we do when we are anxious. I bet my responses were fairly typical. But for some, anxiety can be absolutely crippling. Maybe that’s you. Maybe snacks or pacing and even some prayer are not anywhere close to helpful. So what should you do? One choice would be to go to a website like anxiety.org where renowned experts in the medical and psychological fields from leading universities can offer countless articles. I’m not knocking them. They are smart people who really want to help.

Or you can turn to God. I searched the web (yes, even elders do that!) to see what the Psalms teach about anxiety. Articles there pointed me to more than 35 places in the Psalms where the ancient writers helped themselves, and us, find our answers in our loving, caring, protecting, sovereign God. Meditate on these passages. Make them your passages. Carry them in your pocket and in your heart. They really do help.

What else can you do? Attend the Hope Counseling conference, “Be Still, My Soul: Understanding and Addressing Anxiety,” November 10, 9:00–12:30. There, Dr. Mike Emlet will provide solid, biblically-based perspectives on dealing with anxiety. Please join us. And yes, we’ll probably have snacks!

“The Gift of Forgiveness”

—Rick Hawkes, Ruling Elder

One of the things I pray CCC will never move beyond is the simple, personal, humble work of confession and forgiveness. Seeking and giving forgiveness (not simply 'apologizing') is an essential mark of spiritual health. It means we are constantly recognizing Jesus' relevance to every thought, intention, word and deed of our lives. Since its publication in 2006, this article has been distributed far and wide, benefitting people literally around the world. I encourage you to read it, take it to heart, and apply it in the power of the Holy Spirit. To God be the glory. -Byron Peters

This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. (Matthew 26:28)
Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. (Matthew 6:12)

Forgiveness is the heart of the Gospel message: “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins” (Acts 2:38). You would think that Christians would be experts in forgiveness—ready to discuss the intricacies of working out forgiveness in daily life; the legal, spiritual, emotional, relational perspectives of forgiveness; how forgiveness works with confession, repentance, restitution, discipline, and restoration; how forgiveness relates to the duty to uphold justice by private individuals, civil courts, and church courts. Unfortunately, the only part of forgiveness that seems to hold our attention is the part that gets us out of trouble, so we can have a pleasant life.

When we forgive someone, we are affirming that they, on account of a God-given duty, owe us something, but we are discharging that debt to the account of Christ, to whom we owe all. Maybe a husband promises to call his wife, but he doesn't want to stop what he is doing, so he doesn't call and makes himself a liar. If she says she forgives him, but then she sulks or complains to a friend or expects him to be extra nice, then she has not forgiven him. She is just collecting her debt. Maybe a wife grumbles against a legitimate requirement of her husband. If the husband says he forgives her, but then is distant from her, brings the matter up again, or keeps an especially strict lookout for further disrespect, then he has not forgiven her. He is just collecting his debt.

Scripture says, "Forgive as the Lord forgave you" (Col 3:13). God forgives us by judicially transferring our debt to Christ. We do not have the power to declare someone innocent. We do have the power to say, "I am not your judge. From what I can see, you did not fulfill your God-given duty to me. However, you do not have to clear this debt with me. Because I am not my own, because I owe everything to Christ, I give everything due me to him. I am at peace with you. It is now between you and Christ." Notice that only those who know Christ and stand in debt to him have some place to discharge debts due to them. Outside of Christ, there is no account that can legally or morally accept a debt due to us. Outside of Christ, there is no force that can loosen our grip on our debtors.

In any human interaction, there will be sin in at least little ways. Because, in our own merit, we stand in desperate poverty before the justice of God, our eyes look greedily to find any flaw in others so that we might squeeze some debt out of them. He doesn't meet my eyes when we speak; she doesn't sit properly; he never returned my email; her car is dirty; his child is ill-mannered; he's heavy; she's loud; he's proud. Our hundred-million candlepower self-righteousness searchlight probes for a few pennies of offense under someone else's cushion, and we know they are also coming after us, so we keep thick drapes on our windows. This culture of offense finding is perfectly natural to our fallen state. We know we must build up an armory of offenses we find in others so that when they find an offense in us, we have a ready counter-attack. Why would I let him off the hook and unilaterally disarm? The extent of forgiveness we find in our fallen hearts is a willingness to declare a truce because the other has as much against me as I have against him.

True forgiveness is not about a truce. True forgiveness is costly. It is about being willing to suffer at the hands of another without holding any claim against him. We are taking something that is really ours, this debt created when the other person sinned against us, and we are giving it away. Our grasping hearts can hardly stand the thought of giving away this little bit of victim self-righteousness: I am better than at least this one who has wronged me. Christ was the most offended against of all men, yet he gave in return the best of all gifts. The way of the cross is not one of generic suffering. The cross shows how we must be willing to suffer at the hands of the very ones we love, returning good for evil, not because we are so good, but because we are so loved.

Forgiveness in no way undermines the law and order of God. Rather, it gives us the right perspective with which to apply God's law. While our calling as a parent, boss, judge, or jury may require us to decide what consequences follow wrong actions by others, we are always aware that, as individual sinners, none of us has a place to stand or the right to hold something against another. I will punish my child if she clearly disobeys her father, but I cannot seek any personal retribution or hold the offense against her. As a boss, I might require extra oversight of an employee who has told small lies in the past, but I will not look down on him or withhold approval and renewed trust as he meets his particular duties. These requirements of punishment and restitution reflect God's order in this world, showing us the limits of our own humble positions. God's order is applied with wisdom and mercy and justice as defined by God, not by me. This further undercuts my tendency of maintaining a private self-righteous judgment of others.

The principal tragedy of unforgiveness is that it breaks our experience of peace with God in Christ. We are God's precious ones, each one a sparkling jewel springing from a white-hot kiss of God's eternal love. Unforgiveness turns our prismatic souls from transmitters of divine glory into opaque idols of self-worship, caked with the grimy accounting of other men's sins. If you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins (Matthew 6:15). These words should make us tear ourselves from the grasp of seductive fault-finding, leaving behind our fouled garments of self-righteous judgment. We cannot confess our own failure while we are concentrating on the failure of another. When we think, "They should be more like this or that," wanting to shape people in our own image, we are displaying an attitude antithetical to the Lordship of Christ and forgiveness in him.

We should pray for the Spirit to root out the countless grudges, grievances, and complaints against others that we have tucked away in the secret places of our hearts. Under each offense that we hold against someone else lies the hidden fungus of our own self-rightness that shoves a humble love for God out of our heart. Christ alone can and will overcome these bastions of unforgiveness in our hearts. O Christ, free me from the deadly fault finding and self-righteous judgment that tears me from you and blinds my eyes to the beauty of your love for me.

The Purpose of God’s Design of Men and Women

—by Rick Hawkes, Ruling Elder

EDITOR’S NOTE: On October 7, Rick began a 7-week Adult Sunday School series on “God’s Design for Male and Female.” In our cultural moment there may be no more important topic on which to be biblically clear and informed. Plan on attending and participating in this important discussion each Sunday, 9:25-10:25 a.m. (Rick earned a Master of Divinity and a Ph.D. in Historical Theology from Westminster Theological Seminary).

A modern eye regards the Bible as a fatally flawed book because it is mostly about males. But the modern eye is jaundiced. In the eye of autonomous man, God is very distant and small, even vanishingly so, while everything about me is of the utmost importance. In Scriptural terms, the Bible is largely concerned with God’s covenant representatives and his covenant people. God’s design of creation, including his design of mankind as male and female, is the context within which God’s covenant drama is played out.

While my modern sensibilities may grate at finding that all God’s covenant representatives are male, these representatives share a much more important characteristic which I am almost wholly unable to grasp: they are not me. That God should make my relationship to him dependent on the someone who is not me leaves me sputtering with indignation. Who died and made him…whatever? Part of me believes that law, politics, economics, even sexuality, is all about me. Fortunately, this belief is an illusion that is continually torn apart by the diamond-edged buzzsaw of God’s creation design.

It befuddles me that something so riveting to me as sexuality should be of secondary importance in the biblical story which claims to be the central story of my life. If God had issued a survey before writing the Bible, I would have requested chapters on how to be financially successful, how to be admired by all, how to get people to do what I want, and what’s up with men and women. Instead, issues like the differences between men and women are secondary to a bigger story.

Yet in that bigger story, the secondary questions, including that of male and female, keep popping up at crucial turning points. Eve, as a female, somehow plays into the fall of all mankind. Sarah and her struggles with infertility, with her husband, and with her servant are a link in the birth of a nation. The beauty of Bathsheba seems to undermine, then establish the line of salvation. The disobedience of one Persian queen threatens an empire while the obedience of another Persian queen saves God’s people. On the word of a simple Galilean girl hang all the angels of heaven.

God’s design of male and female is glorious in itself. But it has far greater glory and significance as part of the story of redemption. We will go hopelessly wrong in living out our sexuality if we look at it only in reference to “me”. However, if we can pry our eyes off of ourselves and look at the bigger story in which we live and move, then we will begin to see the full glory of what it can mean to participate, as a man of God or as woman of God, in his divine comedy.

"Christian Zeal"

by Kevin Almond, CCC Member

“’Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent.”
-- God’s admonition to the church of the Laodiceans, Revelation 3:19

Zealous. The word and its derivations, zeal and zealously, are lacking in today’s Christian lexicon. The above verse in Revelation is the 26th and last time it’s used in the scriptures. Its first biblical use occurs in Numbers, when God commends Phinehas for taking immediate action to end gross acts of sin by the Israelites and stopping God’s plague at 24,000 deaths, noting, “he was zealous for my sake” and “he was zealous for his God” (Numbers 25:11, 13).

Where is zeal today, individually and in the church? Is our heart a furnace that constantly burns hot for God? Is zeal a feeling… an action… both? How do we get it? How do we keep it? How would I need to live for God to say, “he was zealous for my sake… for his God?” The Puritans, who wrote much about zeal, had answers.

Jonathan Edwards said, “Christian zeal [is] indeed a flame, but a sweet one; or rather it is the heat and fervor of a sweet flame.” William Fenner wrote, “Zeal is the fire of the soul”; John Reynolds, “an earnest desire and concern for all things pertaining to the glory of God” (i.e., the chief end of man); Samuel Ward, “zeal is nothing but heat…spiritual heat wrought in the heart of man…for the best service and furtherance of God’s glory.” And finally, Oliver Bowles: “a holy ardor kindled by the Holy Spirit of God in the affections, improving a man to the utmost for God’s glory.”

We ask for zeal in prayer. As with all graces and spiritual gifts, we need simply to ask. “You do not have, because you do not ask” (James 4:2). God desires to give us good things. He wants us to serve Him and glorify Him in His power and not our own. He wants us to be zealous for the good things of God and jealous for the things that diminish the greatness and holiness of God, so we must pray fervently.

We kindle zeal through God’s word, which feeds the Holy Spirit within us. Listening to sermons (Luke 11:28), reading scripture (Psalm 119:11-16), singing psalms (Ephesian 5:19), and meditating (Psalm 119:15) all keep the fire burning and all point us to fellowship with our brothers and sisters in Christ—in worship and in being accountable and edifying one another. Such fellowship lends itself to keeping us in constant confession and repentance before the Lord and turning away from those things that defy him and harm sweet communion with Him.

Psalm 1 is a general outline for a believer who is zealous for Christ. Don’t spend inordinate amounts of time with unbelievers (v. 1), bathe in God’s word (v. 2), and bear fruit where God leads (v. 3).

How do we live out our faith zealously? 1) work as unto the Lord (Colossians 3:23); 2) walk circumspectly, because the devil prowls around like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8); and 3) keep our hearts with all vigilance, for from them flow the springs of life (Proverbs 4:23).

Next to Ground Zero

—by Josh Smith, Ruling Elder

Modern thinkers have called the university “ground-zero” for the ideas and cultural norms our society embraces. Higher Education has so much good to offer our culture through its endeavor to understand the world. For better or worse, its dominant influence will continue to shape much of what our culture becomes.

This “ground zero” brings with it significant pressures for university students. During these years they will grapple with life’s biggest questions. Who am I? Where am I going? What is the point of it all?

Christ Community meets just 2 miles from UNC, one of the most influential universities in the country. What a gift that we can be Christian brothers, sisters, mothers and fathers, to whom college and graduate students can bring those questions.

So, we ask:

• How can we connect the riches of Christ to the realities of student life?
• What would it look like for a community of students to be shaped by generational discipleship and gain a biblical vision for work and their calling?
• How can CCC be a refuge where students can come and flesh out the implications of their worldview and learn how to faithfully walk with Christ?

Christ Community wants to be a voice of influence among all the other voices students will hear on the university campus. We’d love for you to join us and help shape the lives of others in this season of life. The wide range of gifts our church is needed to help make this more true.

Here are just a few things happening this semester you can help with:

• Offering students rides to church.
• Hosting a college/grad student lunch.
• Being willing to share with students how your faith intersects with your specific calling.
• Veritas Forum at UNC Nov. 29 will offer a platform how faith and science can provide answers to the issues of stress and anxiety.

We’d love to see God grow our church in this way. Pray with us that God would change lives of university students and bring many to worship and grow alongside us all at CCC!

Breakfast with Hummingbirds

—by Marshele Carter, CCC Member

Hummingbirds aren’t sweet; they’re vicious.

I watched them at my feeder as I ate my breakfast. Their fluttering wings and racing hearts were blurs that crisscrossed the lawn. The dogfights continued, but the red feeder remained sadly full.

Didn’t they see there were three flower-dispensers on the feeder? Why were they fussing to the death as if there were only one?

The heaven-sent illustration dive-bombed me between the eyes and I stopped mid-bite. I get it now, Lord. This is what it looks like to have everything I need and yet live my days from the fearful, territorial perspective of “not enough.”

Rewind to 10 Days Ago

EKG cords dangled from a dozen places on my body as I lay on the gurney in the emergency room. I was weary from explaining my racing heart and chest-pain symptoms to everyone on duty. I got bored counting ceiling tiles as tests concluded I was not having a heart attack. The next shift sent me home with no-skid socks and unanswered questions.

I drove home, embarrassed for having collapsed under the weight of my calendar. I felt my blood pressure rise again as I pictured my post office box stuffed with blue and white hospital bills—the price I’ll have to pay them for telling me what I already know: I’m stressed out, stretched thin and seriously in need of a better perspective.

The LORD is my Shepherd; I shall not be in want. Psalm 23:1

To be in want is to be in a state of “not enough”—not enough time, not enough strength, not enough skills, not enough money, not enough courage, not enough faith. As I read again the 23rd Psalm, the LORD showed me that this “not-enough” perspective is the root of my anxiety. He showed me that my 24/7 state of hyper vigilance is wasted time and energy; because, with Him as my Shepherd, I shall not be in want.

I can choose not to fear coming up short handed or substandard. By choosing His perspective, I won’t focus on not being enough. I won’t end the day scolding myself for not doing enough.

It’s my Shepherd’s job to make sure that I have enough, am enough, and do enough. My one responsibility everyday is to trust the LORD enough to follow Him. When I put my head on my pillow tonight, I can choose to believe that I was enough and did enough simply because I followed Him.

Done with Dogfights

It’s a bird-versus-bird world. Most of us operate from the hummingbird’s “not-enough” perspective. As a result, many of us end up in the ER and go home with unanswered questions.

I want to be finished with the “not-enough” mindset. It causes me to distrust others and dislike myself. I want to live my days, not in a desperate dogfight for the next thing, but following close to my Shepherd. He has promised that I will lack nothing I need.