Land! Now What?

— by Byron Peters, Pastor

On April 8, 2018, members of Christ Community Church gathered and voted overwhelmingly to purchase 2.83 acres of land on Erwin Road in Chapel Hill. Looking back on the hundreds of man-hours expended over the last decade in the land-search task, I see all sorts of amazing lessons God has taught us. And then, in his perfect timing, he gives us land we can afford right in the heart of Chapel Hill! Truly amazing.
 
The next 18–24 months will be filled with work by our professional team (Bo Harrison and Phil Post). Then, if all goes well, we will own a chunk of land upon which to establish a base from which generations of Christians can glorify God by connecting the riches of Christ to the realities of life.
 
So now what? Perhaps you’ll find this passage, tucked away in
2 Thessalonians 1:11–12, helpful as I have:
 
With this is mind (their belief in Jesus because of Paul’s testimony), we constantly pray for you, that our God may count you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may fulfill every good purpose of yours and every act prompted by your faith. We pray this so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.
 
1. Let’s keep praying and working.
Paul’s prayer is fascinating in the way it weaves God’s gracious power and initiative together with our “good purposes,” dreams, and acts of faith and love. God calls, empowers, and fulfills. We pray, purpose, trust and work it out. “Father, do this in us!”
 
2. Let’s grow in our worship, nurture, and evangelism.
One practical application of this passage is that we can excel still more in living Spirit-filled lives. “Every good purpose” includes holy lives turned heavenward in worship, helpful lives turned outward in service to our church and community, and heralding lives as bold and kind evangelists. “Enable us to keep our eye on the ball, Lord—being about the things you call us to!”
 
3. Let’s give all the glory to God.
Our willing submission to God flows directly from the grace of God given in the Lord Jesus Christ himself. Our lives in Christ are all of grace, from first to last. United to Christ, we have all we need for life and godliness. “To God be the glory!”
 
So what’s next for you? How does this prayer of Paul’s refocus you as the dream of a more permanent home in Chapel Hill takes a significant step forward?

“Easter Reflections”

—by Rick Hawkes, CCC Ruling Elder

“I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection” (Philippians 3:10)
 
A part of me is embarrassed by the resurrection.  The cross is a clean and simple, though gracious, transaction.  We love talking about how Jesus died for us.  The resurrection is tougher.  Now that I am forgiven, what does the resurrection have to do with anything?  I feel pretty good about telling people that Jesus died to save sinners.  Even if the details are a little foggy to them, they get the idea of sacrificial love.  In our naturalistic society, the idea of the resurrection can only seem a pre-scientific myth, just another version of Osiris.  "What is this babbler trying to say?"
 
Human religions—from Hinduism to Atheism, from Buddhism to Disney—agree that death is not an evil; it is a natural part of life.  In our society, we can only celebrate the life of those who die; mourning is hardly acceptable since death and life are all one.  The world beats this idea into our heads to displace the idea that is born there: we are all heading toward death and that is a profound evil.
 
In a world that has been anesthetized to the pain of death by religious and scientific reassurances, preaching relief from that pain is a non sequitur.  The Athenians didn't get it; my co-workers don't get it; often, my own heart doesn't get it.  Besides, in a world divorced from its God, our life is so dim and partial, it is not always all that different from death.  The daily grind and ceaseless march of prosaic tragedy can even give death a seeming edge over life: "I have been half in love with easeful death."
 
The resurrection life that Jesus offers drives back all the brain numbing philosophies that twist life and death together.  Resurrection life is a child's Christmas morning, a bride's wedding day, a father holding his newborn, a son returning from war—all rolled into one and magnified by the Hubble telescope.  This is a life so valuable, to miss out on it is a cause to cry to the end of time.  This is a life so sweet, to not taste it is to burn in a fire of regret forever.  Life and death are no circle; they are separated by a vast immovable gulf.  Resurrection life is so un-death, a three day old corpse locked in a stone vault cannot resist it.  Neither can my stony heart.
 
Jesus says, "I am the resurrection."  Resurrection life is no more or less than our relationship with Jesus.  It is living in intimate peace with your maker.  The resurrection sometimes means little to me is because of my weak relationship with Jesus.  But this is why Jesus rose from the dead, so that he could make a way for me to come to him.  I read his word a little and get a reminder of who he is.  I see his Spirit working in me and others, and I think of him.  That isn't much, but it starts something stirring, a searing spark of pure life without any of the rotten admixtures of this tainted world.
 
The resurrection life in me reminds me that the Lord of all creation is standing by me, after having given all for me, waiting for me to show him some gesture of gratitude or friendship.  He looks at me not with condescension, smoldering impatience, or resentment, but unchanging longing and love.  Now every little thought that takes me from him becomes repugnant and horrible to me, stinking of death.  I am made for you.  I am made to share a life with you that could not be reasonable or right to have an ending.  All the sudden, the gray world which cannot imagine such a life is what seems mythological.  His love endures forever.  How could the Lord of creation, the God of love and life change his mind and let the objects of his eternal love cease?  Because I am, you are.  Because I always will be, so will you.  Lord come.

A Letter at Easter

—by Ruby Bea Peters

Getting ready for Easter… that is what we are doing at Christ Community Church. I love Easter. I always have.

As a little girl I enjoyed shopping with my mom for a new dress and shoes and hat...even gloves. The church egg hunt with all my friends. Next up…the surprise of my Easter basket and getting to wear my new clothes and seeing all my friends in their new clothes at church. Then a BIG Sunday dinner. Also, the days were "longer" and the weather was warmer. As a little girl…precious, secure, delightful memories pointing me to something greater...

My salvation, where Christ opened my heart and eyes to the true meaning of Easter. Where He has clothed me in forgiveness, total forgiveness from head to toe, and He has put me on an adventure of a lifetime. Not one where I have to search for the golden egg, but one where I have it, can't lose it, and can share it freely without regret. And the friends I have made and continue to make—oh, how beautiful they are with life stories of all colors and shades of darkness and tints of brightness. As an adult...even more precious, more secure, and delightful memories still pointing me to my Savior.

I love Easter…it sets off a new season where you get to see new birth, get a fresh start, shake off the dead of winter, and soak in the Son.

The image of  God invisible, the firstborn of all life
Before and within, He holds it all in
One name, one faith, one Christ
 
No one is good enough, to save himself
Awake my soul tonight, to boast nothing else

 
I trust no other source or name, nowhere else can I hide
This grace gives me fear, and this grace draws me near
And all that is asks it provides

*Awake My Soul, Sandra McCracken

I'm forgiven, because You were forsaken
I'm accepted. You were condemned
And I'm alive and well, Your Spirit is within me
Because You died and rose again
 
Amazing Love! How can it be
That You my King have died for me?
Amazing Love! I know it's true
And it's my joy to honor You
In all I do, I honor You

*Amazing Love, Billy J. Foote

There in the ground His body lay,
Light of the world by darkness slain:
Then bursting forth in glorious day
Up from the grave He rose again!
And as He stands in victory
Sin's curse has lost it grip on me,
For I am His and He is mine
Bought with the precious blood of Christ.
 
No guilt in life, no fear in death,
This is the power of Christ in me;
From life's first cry to final breath,
Jesus commands my destiny.
No power of hell, no scheme of man,
Can ever pluck me from His hand;
'Til He returns or calls me home,
Here in the power of Christ I'll stand!

*In Christ Alone, Keith Getty | Stuart Townend

Intentional Goal-Setting with a Godly Mindset

—by Kevin Anselmo (Wisdom for Work)

How are you at executing your goals?

In the past, I haven’t been so great and I still have lots of room for improvement today. However, I am making solid progress in achieving my spiritual, professional and relational goals by articulating some key goals across all my life domains and outlining some concrete steps to achieve them. These goals range from reading more business books in the evening (instead of wasting time on social media), exercising more regularly, being more consistent with my quiet time in the morning and being more deliberate in spending time with my wife.

Let me focus on Bible reading/devotional time. Sadly, I have never been consistent with spending time in the Word of God each and every day. I go through good streaks, but then I struggle to keep up, even though I know it is so important for spiritual growth.

Following the framework outlined in the book Your Best Year Ever, I did the following:

1. Clearly stated my goal and answered the why. I wrote, “Before I begin work each morning, I will spend 10 minutes in prayer and Bible reading. This is important because it will give me perspective for the day, will connect me to God and will help me focus on my bigger purpose in life.” Writing down goals and defining the why brings clarity to the vision, which ideally provides momentum when it might seem difficult to continue.

2. Made this goal visible. It is so easy to forget your goals. I wrote down this objective and try to re-read all my goals once a week or so to be reminded about what I set out to achieve.

3. Note take. I created a notebook that focuses on my quiet time. I make it a point each morning to read a few verses from the Bible and try to write down just one or two key points. By doing this, I am able to crystallize my thinking and by stating the date in each note, I am keeping myself accountable.

Since doing this, I have been able to succeed every day since the beginning of the year except for one hiccup. For many of you, this no accomplishment, but for me it is :)

One of my goals dating back to last year was launching a networking lunch with Byron (“Wisdom for Work”) that combined business networking, leadership and spiritual guidance. In March our friend Dana Saleeby led a great discussion on this very topic of goal setting and intentionality. It was terrific to hear Dana share some of the best practices she has gleaned over the years, and discussion at our tables was robust.

Byron closed that lunch by reflecting on James 4:13-15:
Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.”

In other words, I need to be deliberate about communicating my goals and doing the best I can to execute them, but I can’t leave out God. I don’t have total control or power and need to have the right motivation behind all my goal-setting, namely a life of “faith working through love” (Galatians 5:6). I need the Holy Spirit to live the life of Christ in me and enable me to subordinate all my goals to God’s goal for me (which might mean the willingness to veer from my own human-flawed stated goals!), trusting his power to carry them out for his glory.

Interested in exploring such topics with us over lunch? Wisdom for Work is a networking lunch for professionals which meets the first Thursday of every month at Egg and I. The goal is to gain some very practical wisdom for work in a format that allows everyone to share, interact, network and have some fun. In our next lunch on April 5th, we will focus on when and how to delve into the personal lives of our clients, colleagues and other business relationships. Register at the following link.

Women Maturing Women

— by Ashley Yarnoff, member of CCC’s Women’s Ministry Team

When I moved to the Triangle, my dear Mom specifically prayed for me to be surrounded by women whom I could call my sisters. Glory to God for His faithfulness!  The Lord was writing out a beautiful story the moment I walked through the doors of CCC.  The first person I was greeted by was Crystal West. She was friendly and genuine, and made me more at ease that first Sunday morning visit. The second time we visited, an old friend from my Evanston, IL, days, was playing piano for offering! What, Lord?! Really?! To top it all off, the Women's Bible studies were led by godly women who encouraged me to know the Lord better. I knew that relationships with the women at my new church was going to be a major part of this Midwestern girl learning to resettle her roots in the South.

Now I serve on The Women's Ministry Team (WMT). I’ve come to appreciate the beautiful principles that guide this ministry.

First, “To initiate in areas of teaching ministry to benefit the session and in areas of deed ministry to benefit the deacons to enhance the edification of women as women.” This first principle is important in benefiting the Session as Biblical literacy is crucial to maintaining a robust reverence for the Lord Jesus Christ. We are going strong with consistent offerings of women’s Bible studies.

The WMT also seeks to benefit the deacons in being liaisons to communicate the needs of the women of our church back to them. In deed ministry, women tend to be naturals at reaching out to one another and offering help. This is important for the church’s unity as laid out in passages like Philippians 2:2 which calls us to be of “the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.”

But for this article I would like to highlight a second principle. “To use the Titus 2 mandate as a foundation for our ministry which will allow for opportunities for women to nurture women.” 

This principle draws from Titus 2:1 and 3-5 which says, “But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine...Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.”

The Women's Ministry Team has been reflecting on this passage and praying about ways to improve upon what is already happening intentionally (Women's Bible studies) and organically (friendships via Community Groups, Kids Club, etc.).

Ladies, we are so excited to start honing in on how this sort of relationship can look! Our goal is to have a few small discipleship groups, maybe 3-5 women max. These groups would be led by the wife of an Elder and would meet once a month between August and May. These groups are not intended to replace Community Groups but are being offered to meet your need. Please let us know, at church or on the CCC portal, if this is something you are interested in.

Several weeks ago  Byron preached out of Acts 15-16 and asked “What is your dream team?” This phrase made me smile as I thought of the women (and men!) at CCC that have walked alongside me through the heights and depths. We pray that the Lord will use this new effort from an old idea to strengthen you, women of the church, so that Christ Community Church is all the more bold in proclaiming the riches of Christ to the realities of our lives. Might these new groups perhaps be your “dream team?” Might these little groups be an answer to your prayers to be known by and surrounded by the women of this church?

To Do, or Not to Do. That Is the Question.

—by Gary Benjamin, CCC Resident Geek

Of the many different tasks I tangle with on staff at CCC, they all seem to have something to do with computers, even back at the sound table. The sound mixing console is pretty much just a big computer itself, which needs to be programmed, reprogrammed, and programmed all over again on a regular basis (like this week). And then it has another computer (a laptop) plugged into it to accomplish other things. But for me it’s fun, and I love my job(s).

I try to hide back in the corner and not be noticed (quoting Frank Morgan in MGM’s The Wizard of Oz: “Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.”). And usually that works, unless something goes really wrong. On Sunday mornings, for all of us who work behind the scenes—coming in early and staying late—we want the focus to be on the worship of the God we love and serve, not on us. Sometimes that can be a very difficult thing to accomplish.

Personally, like most people, I like to be noticed, or at least like it when things go right, and my work gets noticed. But I don’t know that that’s what God wants for me. In a recent study I was going through, the first lesson was The Goal of Christian Living, and the question was, “What is the ‘big idea’ of Christianity?” When the Reformers answered that question, they said that the essence of the Christian life is to live coram Deo—“before the face of God.” That is, the core of the Christian life is to live one’s life in the presence of God. What gets to the heart of that for a person like me when viewing all the disparate jobs I do—and wanting to spend way too much time on each one of them—is this piece of advice from John Calvin:

“Let us not cease to do the utmost, that we may incessantly go forward in the way of the Lord; and let us not despair because of the smallness of our accomplishments.”

Yes, let us not despair. How often do I find myself on a Sunday afternoon mulling over the way something sounded on that Sunday morning, or actually listening to different parts of the service (other than the sermon) on a Monday morning, again trying to see (that is, hear) what happened. I do need to do a good job at whichever job I’m doing. It’s important. And I need to “do the utmost.” But once the job is done, no matter what “the smallness of [my] accomplishments” has been, I am not to “despair”/mull over/fret/be discouraged/be despondent/be demoralized.

So, where do I find myself most often? Maybe with these words from the Apostle Paul, from his letter to the Romans, chapter seven:

 22 For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, 23 but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!

Amen.

Explore God

Jeremy Purvis, on behalf of the Local Outreach Team

Over the next few months, we will all have the opportunity to share our faith with others through a multi-church effort called “Explore God.” Here’s how it will work. Several local churches in the area are teaming up the week after Easter to preach through a series of spiritual questions and curiosities. The sermons will address questions like: “Does life have a purpose?”; “Why does God allow pain and suffering?”; “Is the Bible reliable?”

Chances are, you’ve not only wondered about these questions yourself but you may also know other people—perhaps friends, neighbors, or co-workers—who have wondered about them, too. To bring these topics to the forefront, Explore God is publishing a series of videos that will be released through social media channels. These are very short video clips that address these topics in an engaging way. They may include real people “off-the-street” struggling to answer, for example, whether it is possible to actually know God personally.

Finally, there will be discussion groups stationed around the Triangle area. These are informal groups meant to be places where people seeking answers to these questions can talk about these topics. Through each of these mechanisms, the Explore God initiative provides a natural platform to bring the gospel message to people who are seeking answers to life’s important questions.

Here are some ways you can participate:

1. Pray. Pray that people’s hearts will be drawn to God through these efforts.
2. Get the word out.
There will be a lot of Explore God material floating around social media. Help get these ideas in front of you friends and followers by sharing and re-posting these messages. If someone is wondering why God allows pain and suffering, for example, they may very well engage in this content and be drawn to a local church or discussion group.
3. Invite a friend, neighbor, or co-worker to church.
The sermon series is designed to address these questions from a biblical perspective. It is often difficult to know how to answer some of these questions ourselves, so invite a friend to come to church and hear what the bible has to offer on these topics.
4. Join a discussion group.
Find out where your local discussion groups are being held, and attend one. This gives you the chance to have real conversations about these important topics. It may also give you the chance to share your faith, invite a friend to church, or help someone in need.

Learn more at ExploreGod.com.

Healthy Leadership, Healthy Church

by Byron Peters, Lead Pastor

God is at work in Christ Community Church! A land purchase may be on the horizon. We’re planning to open our doors wide to the community for five weeks after Easter, tackling tough questions our neighbors wrestle with. Our elders are shuffling their member “flocks” geographically so they can more easily interact with those under their care. A team heads to Italy to explore another mission opportunity. Our high-schoolers are learning Biblical counseling, and a “communicants class” for middle-schoolers pursuing membership is underway.

Who oversees all this, and how are those leaders chosen?

The Bible answers that question with characteristic wisdom. God chooses the leaders of his church. He gifts, equips, and calls (Ephesians 4; 1 Corinthians 12; 1 Timothy 3; Titus 1). And simultaneously he works by his Spirit to help the congregation recognize those gifts in those men that they might be elected to serve (Acts 1; Acts 6).

For the next couple weeks you have the opportunity to pray and then nominate men for the office of either elder or deacon. This is important work, because without healthy leadership, it’s very difficult to have a healthy church.

Elders are charged with maintaining the spiritual government of the church under the authority of God’s Word. This involves knowing personally the members of the church and their families and keeping up with how they are doing spiritually, receiving and releasing members, ordaining other elders and deacons, calling congregational meetings, overseeing Christian education and other initiatives, and exercising direction over the worship of the church.

In other words, the session (i.e., the elders viewed as a team together) of the church is tremendously important. Elders guard and guide the church. They are to be examples to the other members. They are to be wise and grave, men of godly character, able to teach, hospitable and humble servants of Christ. And when they gather to officially do the business of the church, they are “in session,” and act on behalf of Christ in his governance of his church.

Deacons are also officers in the church. They play a different role. Whereas elders give more attention to “words,” deacons give more attention to “deeds.” They render service (‘deacon’ means ‘servant’) in the areas of facilities, finances, helps, and mercy. Many of our ministry teams are extensions of the work of the deacons.

Scripture guides us in all of this. 1 Timothy 3:1-13 and Titus 1:5-9 (see also 1 Peter 5:1-4) give us principles to guide our selection of men for these offices.

Our Church Bylaws call for an annual election of officers in May. In order to elect officers, the congregation must nominate them. After they are nominated, these men are then trained and examined in accordance with directives set down in our Book of Church Order. Once the session is convinced that we have a slate of qualified candidates, elections may proceed.

Church government things like this never interested me much. I didn’t know the difference between an elder or a welder, nor did I care. But now I realize how foolish I was. The officers of a church set the direction, vision, mission, and even the “tone” of the church. They can richly bless a church, or they can tear it apart. They are directly accountable to God for their service, and will one day stand before him to render an account for their work and receive rewards for it (1 Peter 5:1-4). And you, the congregation, will be accountable to God for your choice of those officers.

As we move into an exciting new chapter in the life of CCC, let’s trust God to give us healthy leadership that we might grow as a healthy church. You can find the nomination form here .