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.

“More of Him”

—Josh Smith, Ruling Elder

Some of the best advice I ever received from a wise friend early in my walk with God was, “stop should-ing on yourself.” This timely word landed on a stressed out, self-absorbed mindset overly focused about what I was or wasn’t doing, and how I was doing at it.

I still need this reminder. I’m pretty awesome at knowing what I am supposed to do because I desire others’ approval. I’m also pretty awesome at not doing whatever that is because I still desire people’s approval. As I’ve reflected on it more I find myself in a terrible trap. If I could only get my attention off myself, life might be more simple and I could stop should-ing myself.

The Great Commision is a gift. It is a command given that forces us to forget about ourselves. God doesn’t need us to accomplish his purposes. Strangely, he desires to include us. He could have chosen to propel His glory in countless other ways—ways that wouldn’t have to include half-hearted, self-absorbed image bearers mixed up in comparing themselves to one another.

Praying through Matthew 28 a few years ago I noticed something I will never be able to unsee and it helps set my heart free from myself. Perhaps you’ve already noticed it. Beautiful, meaningful facets of His character book-end this command.

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

This huge task of making disciples of all the nations is not possible by human effort. So as he hands us the keys to build his Kingdom, he gives us Himself. When we obey, we experience Him. As we trust what he says, we get more of Him. This is truly awesome.

The Great Commission is a gift because it keeps God right where he should be. At the center of our obedience. Not before or after. Center. His omnipotent authority to save anyone is displayed through Spirit-filled, humble submission. The incalculable task accompanied with unimaginable resources necessary to teach obedience to God’s Word in every culture become available by the joy of His intimate presence. When we hear stories of a heart responding to the name of Jesus we realize all authority is His. As we move towards others he proves Himself closer than we ever realized.

Perhaps we want more of Him. Let’s embrace this command and experience more of his character together.

"The Call"

—Karah Lorbacher, CCC member

So, I don’t get many phone calls. Okay, let me rephrase that…I don’t get many legitimate phone calls. Now, calls from telemarketers, I am wonderful at getting those. Most times if it is a number from a different state, or an 800 number, I just ignore it because I know it’s not someone I’m likely to know. My phone has a lovely feature that can let me add the number or block it immediately. So, I block it. But then, there are those times when the phone number is a (919) area code and I answer it…and I find out that I’ve “won an all expense paid vacation to some warm island somewhere.”

For me those calls aren’t very different from the calls I get from Satan. Calls from him saying:

“No one loves you.”

“You’re not worth it.”

“You know, you’re not a very good mom…”

I shouldn’t listen to him. I shouldn’t answer the call. But I do… Then I drown. I despair. I become lost. I feel hopeless.

When those calls come, it is hard for me to hang up the phone because I start to question my behaviors and me. All the times when I wasn’t the most patient mom or loving wife come to my mind and I believe. I believe everything he’s selling. I hear it and I feel it, so it must be true. The despair grows.

But then, I’m reminded of what I teach my children when they are upset. I’m reminded that in any situation Christ is my hope and my help. So I go to the Bible and look up something, anything that can help me. Flip, flip, flip. Okay here’s one, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10). But then, I hear a voice from the receiver that shows me all the ways those words are false. I walk around with that phone pressed to my ear and to my heart and I wear those thoughts around my neck. But they choke me. Didn’t I just read this in the Bible? Isn’t this God speaking? He doesn’t lie. So if he says it then it, and it alone, must be true.

So I take a leap of faith and hang up the phone. And I’m drawn to verses like this: “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6) I pause. I breathe in his truth and I breathe out the lies that I’ve believed. Even if I don’t feel it, it is the truth. God doesn’t lie (Numbers 23:19). I may be like the man in the epistle of Mark when he cries, “I believe, help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24) but that’s okay. My God, My Father, My Creator is patient, ever-patient with me and he will always answer my call.

“Caring for One Another:” Our Upcoming Sermon and Sunday School Series

—Byron Peters, Pastor

“We are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Live in harmony with one another. Owe no one anything, except to love each other” (various passages from Romans).

I recently met a direct descendant of a family that moved to Chatham County in 1750. As we talked, we marveled together at the vision and stamina it takes to do something as significant as establish a farm in the wilderness, as his ancestors did.

Some ideas simply take years to germinate, take root, and grow.

In 2005 God led about 80 people to trust God to plant a church in Chapel Hill that “glorifies God by connecting the riches of Christ to the realities of life.”

From the very beginning, we envisioned a covenant community so robust, biblical and Christ centered that we would be connecting God’s tailored mercies in Christ to the very specific needs of life in the 21st century Chapel Hill--not just in sermons, but in small groups and personal conversations over a cup of coffee. We envisioned each member vitally connected to others and employing their gifts for the mutual upbuilding of the church.

So we went to work trying to get our heads and hearts around God’s heart for “one-anothering.” We practiced. We trained. We conferenced and read. Eventually God opened the door for Greg to complete his Doctorate of Ministry in Biblical Counseling and paved the way for Wes and Jacklyn to start Hope Counseling Services. It was a decade of growing, learning and prayer.

Beginning January 6 we are thrilled to be dedicating nine weeks to learning better how Jesus would have us care for one another, walk with one another, and share and bear life’s burdens. For maximum impact, we’re going for a triple whammy: Sermon series, small groups, and the Adult Education hour (led by Wes and Jacklyn Tubel) will all be dedicated to this topic.

You won’t want to miss any of it, because this is God’s heart (see verses above). Would you join us in praying that God will use this season to sink our roots more firmly into Christ, establish CCC as a community that really does deliver biblical mutual care, and mature us into a church that connects the riches of Christ to the day-to-day realities of life?

Pruning Season and Wounds that Can Be Trusted

—Marshéle Carter

This week the Lord cut away from my life something I treasured, something that seemed right for me, something I loved and enjoyed. The wound is still raw. This was no simple snip to remove a withered leaf or dead twig. This week’s pruning required great patience on His part—and sharp power tools.

I’ve been here before. I should be getting straight A’s on these types of tests by now. I recognized the silence of God in this area of my life. I was disheartened by the absence of His peace and blessing. The inner restlessness and the struggles that stole much-needed sleep were sadly familiar, too. And yet, I resisted God’s invitation to trust Him for something better. The valley between good and better yawned too wide and too difficult. Ignoring my discomfort and discontent, I nodded no in response to His nudge. "Hadn’t I been through enough already?" I asked the Lord.

I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes (cleans) so that it will be even more fruitful. (John 15:1-2)

I think it’s interesting that the pruning season for trees arrives after the leaves fall. My calendar says that’s the time to shop, buy, and add more stuff to my life. Yet the seasons that God created tell me just the opposite: It’s time to trim down and let go.

There have been times when God’s pruning scissors sliced away unwanted, wiley growth in ways that were beyond my control. In those instances, I didn’t have any say in the matter. I didn’t have a vote. My only choice was either to be bitter or to let God work through the pain of the loss to make me better.

But this time, the letting go was different. This time around, God waited for me to set aside my plan on my own. He waited for me to trust Him. He waited for me to obey Him. The longer I procrastinated, the more miserable I became. And yet, He waited.

I asked Him to handle it for me, to intervene on my behalf as my valiant Warrior Almighty Sovereign Father for whom nothing is too hard...Sigh…He didn’t. I asked Him to change the situation. He didn’t. So, because I was afraid of what waited on the other side of surrender, there was a standoff. Note to self: God always wins the who-isn’t-going-to-blink-first game. He waited for me to bow willingly to His shears and to trust His eons of experience of tending His vine.

I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me, you can do nothing. (John 15: 5)

I’m learning that God only removes things in my life—a job, a relationship or whatever—to reshape me. His reason for pruning me is to make room for healthy growth and, at the right time, to produce fruit that nourishes and lasts. The distractions and death traps that I allow to remain only steal life-giving energy and blur my focus of the Lord’s better purposes for me. I’m learning—again—that the good has the power to siphon life away from the best. The result is that I become stunted, I become shorter and squattier in spirit than He designed me to be. I don’t want to be squatty in spirit.

So, why am I gazing downward today, looking at what has been lovingly lopped off and longing to reattach it somehow to my life? Why do I pine for the good past when my Father has told me that the best is yet to be? I want to get better at keeping my focus on the compassionate eyes and nimble fingers of the very capable Gardener, my Heavenly Father, and not on the people, projects and places He has removed from my life.

If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. (John 15:7-8)

I believe this recent, terrible trimming-back is intended to help me grow and become stronger and to produce the kind of fruit God looks for in me. My only role in all of this is to remain in the vine, that is, to stay connected to Jesus, by talking with Him, listening for His direction as I read His word and doing the next right thing. As I do so, my Father, the gardener, will cover the stinging, raw wounds caused by His pruning shears and will heal those painful places where He has cut away the seemingly-good-but-not-best from my life.

I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. (John 15:11)