Freedom, Doodoo, and Help

Garret Prestwood, CCC member

I love the Bible. I love to read it, and talk about it, and sing it, and teach it, and hear it taught. I love it because it knows me better than I know myself, and because it tells me of the riches of the glory of God.

Last week I won the Sunday School lottery and got to talk to the KC Seniors class about Romans 6-8. There is nothing like teaching kids to help you condense the meaning of a passage down to its essentials. We picked one word for each chapter. Our words were “freedom,” “doodoo” (my apologies to the parents of the KC Seniors), and “help.” These three words remind us that in Christ we are free from slavery to sin, but we still sometimes do the things we don't want to do (that’s the doodoo). Thankfully, we have a helper in the Holy Spirit who changes us, gives us new desires, and even prays for us.

We talked about how our attraction to sin works kind of like an elephant’s memory. (I’m not sure if those old stories about an elephant’s memory are true, but we’ll go with it for the kids!)

A baby elephant is tied to a chain and has to go wherever he is led. Outside of Christ, we are slaves to sin and are incapable of not sinning.

The elephant grows up and is strong enough to break the chain. When we trust in Christ, sin no longer has power over us (Romans 6). But the elephant, though free, still follows the chain. And we still sometimes do the things we don’t want to do (Romans 7).

The elephant needs to not only outgrow the power of the chain to hold him, he also needs to walk in the other direction—against all he has learned so far—to break the chain. For that, he needs the trainer to teach him new tricks. The Holy Spirit helps us to learn and walk in a new way of life (Romans 8).

But this isn’t just a lesson for the kids. It is a lesson for me. I’ve been walking with the Lord a long time now, but I still sometimes choose to obey the old master. I get angry or impatient. I judge others. I want to control situations. I set my heart on earthly things. I seek the approval of man before the approval of God. I do the things I don’t want to do.

When Paul writes of the doodoo in his life, “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” it could be me writing those words.

But he gives a glorious answer: “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” Who will deliver me from the power of sin? Jesus will deliver me. There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

And so we grow as followers of Christ.

Freedom. But doodoo. And, thankfully, help.

 

Make Missions Great Again

Joy Purvis, Global Missions Team member

Some big themes in the modern American church are growth, community, and social justice. These are all good things to emphasize, but it appears that the church has lost some footing when it comes to missions. Take a moment right now and think about all the missionaries that CCC supports. Do you know their names? Where do they serve? What kind of ministries are they involved in? For many of us, the answer may be “I have no idea!” My point isn’t to make you feel bad about your answer but simply to make you aware of this reality. In fact, one of my responsibilities as part of the Global Ministries Team at Christ Community Church is to make missions more visible to the church and to help get everyone involved in mission work.

But first we must ask, “What is missions, and why is it important?”  Missions means going to a different culture to tell people about the gospel of God’s grace in Jesus Christ. Missions is important because it is the heart of God to reach all kinds of people. In the book of Revelation, John sees “a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb…crying out with a loud voice, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!’” If God intends to draw all nations to himself, then so should we! Jesus also said, “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.” If missions is a priority for Jesus, it must become our priority, too.

Next, we can ask “How can I get involved in missions?” There several ways. As individuals, our functions may differ, but we must be all involved in missions. Some of us will SEND, encouraging and commissioning others to carry out mission work. Others will commit to PRAY, asking God to protect our missionaries and bless their efforts with fruitful results. Others will GIVE, supplying the practical needs of missionaries and their families. Finally, some of us will GO, taking the gospel message ourselves to another land. Although we may not all be physically involved in the mission work, we are all involved in the sending, praying and giving. These three elements play a critical role in the effectiveness of missions.

Going forward, the Global Ministries Team will be trying to make missions more visible at CCC through videos and in-person testimonies from visiting missionaries or church members involved in short term mission teams. We hope these visible reminders will encourage you to send, pray, give and…maybe…GO!

You can read more about Global Ministries at CCC, including the missionaries we support, here: http://cccpca.org/global-missions/

If you want to learn more about missions at CCC, please talk to one of the Global Ministries Team members: Teresa Leonarz, Landon Holbrook, Joy Purvis, and Rick Hawkes.

May the Lord lead you to your “Rehoboth.”

Bobbie Gervais, CCC Meeting Space Team member

These were the closing words in an email from a pastor concerning Christ Community’s continuing search for a home of our own in Chapel Hill. I admit I had to look up the reference to “Rehoboth”—a name unfamiliar to me. The story is about Isaac digging wells in the Valley of Gerar in search of water. Isaac’s servants would dig a well, only to be told to “move on” by local tribesmen. So, he moved on and dug another well. Again, he was told to move on. So he did and dug yet another well. Here, “. . .no one quarreled over the well, so he called its name Rehoboth, saying, ‘For now the LORD has made room for us, and we shall be fruitful in the land.’” (Genesis 26:22) Ahhh, yes…may the Lord lead you to your Rehoboth!

As a member of the Meeting Space Team, that has been encouraging to me. Our team—your team—is diligently looking for a home for our church, and pray that we will follow God’s lead knowing that He will make room for us. We admonish each other to trust in God to guide us, to be patient, to be responsible, to be visionaries, to be faithful. It isn’t easy! We are eager to find our “Rehoboth.”

During our congregational meeting in May, we shared with you two possible locations under consideration. One was on the north boundary of Chapel Hill while the other was at the Chatham/Orange County line. With the help of our real estate agent and engineers, we have determined neither of those specific properties is workable as a future home for CCC. However, just like Isaac, we are moving on and looking for a place to “dig another well” knowing that the Lord will make room for us. We must remain faithful and not waiver from our task.

I can only imagine that digging wells in Isaac’s day was hard work, requiring strength and perseverance. Looking for a home for CCC is no different. Our work requires strength of faith and perseverance to task. Please pray for your Meeting Space Team as we continue to dig wells in and about Chapel Hill, knowing that the Lord will make room for us, and we shall be fruitful in the land.

Meeting Space Team: Kelli Allen, Bobbie Gervais, John Meeker, Greg Norfleet, Byron Peters, Jessie Stewart

We Need to Hear Each Other Sing

Crystal West, CCC member

Christ Community Church has a unique opportunity in just a couple weeks. We get just under an hour for our entire church to practice singing.

Oh wait. You aren’t a musician or a vocalist? Neither am I. But have you been rescued from death and destruction? Has Christ bought you out of slavery and the kingdom of self? Maybe you are a child beginning to see the beauty of the brightness of the Son. Maybe your faith feels weak. Your church family needs to hear you sing.

I was recently impacted through a short article by contemporary hymn writer, Keith Getty, on why congregational singing matters today more than ever. He writes, “I love Yo-Yo Ma. But singing with God’s people? Joining the eternal chorus? Embracing our blood-bought destiny? Standing with those who have tears in their eyes? Remembering when those same people stood next to me when I had tears in mine? Singing before this world of the only hope we have in the world? This is the eternal concerto of the soul—the ultimate masterpiece.”

If God has removed your heart of stone and given you a heart of flesh, we need to hear your praises, your groans and your sighs. We have a chance to truly help each other, to practice this means of instruction by song. The word of Christ goes to work making a home in us, rearranging the furniture in our hearts, when we sing “psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in [our] hearts to God.” (Col 3:16)

Come listen to your family tell you that God is with you. Come tell your family God is for them. Come show your children how worthy the Lamb is. Practice a bit of joy-filled, fruitful, resurrection life with the particular names and faces that God has given you right now:

“Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.” (Revelation 22:1-5)

CCC All-Church Worship Night
Sunday, October 29, 4:45-5:45 p.m., Extraordinary Ventures
All generations—infant to adult—are encouraged to attend!

Familiar and Outrageous Friendship

    by Byron Peters, Pastor

So what marks Christian friendship? Lots of laughs and heart-to-hearts to be sure. But truly Christ-centered friendships are perfectly comfortable with the mundane, while at the same time utterly committed to the “outrageous” truth of the Lordship of Jesus Christ over all things. Familiar and outrageous.

Today Ruby Bea and I attended the funeral of a dear friend, Beverly Headen. Beverly was the Client Services Director at PSS (Pregnancy Support Services). Though God only had her there for a couple of years, in that time she became a dear friend and was, for us as for so many, a true “counselor” who lived an outrageously Christ-centered life.

The New Testament book of Third John gives us a peek into one of these wonderful Christian friendships. The Apostle John writes his friend Gaius, and we get to read over his shoulder:

The elder,

To my dear friend Gaius, whom I love in the truth.

Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well.

See the warm, simple familiarity? “My dear friend, whom I love in the truth.” John and Gaius were very close. They were dear friends. Note well that warm greeting and honest prayer for the simple enjoyment of good health. Then that wonderful blanket prayer, “…and that all may go well with you.”

But it wasn’t just warm and familiar. John and Gaius were also engaged in an outrageously eternal work. Gaius encouraged John in the truth of God’s Word. He was also a very hospitable person. When the missionaries came through town, he willingly invited them into his home and cared for their needs. Gaius stands in sharp contrast to Diotrephes, an arrogant bully that John promises to deal with later.

But it’s the last part of that prayer that grabbed my attention this morning. The Apostle John wraps the embrace of his prayer directly around Gaius’ soul. “I prayeven as your soul is getting along well.”

What does a soul that is getting along well look like? A true friend sees it in you and prays it into you. A getting-along-well soul is both familiar with Jesus and outrageously committed to the obedience of faith. It talks with him all day long, soaks long in his Word, and will take a costly stand no matter how much the world hates you for it.

Beverly demonstrated all of this. After years in a corporate environment, God called her into ministry. She sold the dream house and car, got a Masters in Biblical Counseling, and started counseling young women whom the world had cast off.

Ruby Bea would often hear Beverly say, “Only God can do these things.” Beverly knew that, because she knew Jesus, because she knew his word, and then stepped out in radical obedience. And it’s those “outrageous” friends that are the most precious, isn’t it? Like dear Gaius. A man who loved the truth, loved the Apostle, and opened his heart and home to others.

May God make us familiar and outrageous friends.

Confessions of a Mom

Kathryn Eriksen, Director of Children and Youth

I mostly write these Connection articles under my “Children’s Director Hat,” but that wasn’t what was on my heart when I sat down to write. So today I’m wearing my “Mom” hat, and probably only writing this article because I know I’m going to China for the next two weeks and won’t have to see any of you face to face.

In Bible study this fall I am reading through the book of Philippians. And there’s one verse that always catches me when I read it.

3:17 Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us.

Paul uses his words to encourage the Philippians to work out their salvation, live a life worthy of the gospel, and even encourages them to walk like him. I so very badly want to be able to tell my children the same thing. Live for Christ, follow me and I’ll show you how, I can be your example. But so many times I fall short.

Priorities. I have a really hard time keeping my priorities where I want them to be because there are so many things pulling at me.

My health. I have genetically bad cholesterol - thanks Mom and Grandma. Seriously bad. So exercise, my diet, it’s all really important. Really important. That takes time.

My kids' education. I love my kids' schools and I want them to be better. I volunteer as room mom, I help make photocopies, I read to the class. Really important. That takes time.

My job. I love my job! I get to help plan curriculum, help parents teach their kids about Christ, plan fun outings to serve the community. Really important. That takes time.

My husband and my house. I love being a wife and a homemaker. Really important. That takes time.

Are you seeing a trend? Everything is important, everything takes time.

It’s so easy for me to pray inconsistently, study God’s word inconsistently, meditate on Jesus’ teachings inconsistently. Unsurprisingly then, my kids mimic that sentiment. So when it was graciously pointed out to me that my daughter, three weeks in a row, told her Sunday School teacher she didn’t know when she could possibly do her homework, memorize scripture, or pray because she was “too busy.” It about broke my heart. I realized this is my model! I’m too busy.

So Byron’s sermon was very personal to me this week. “Grow UP!” I am an adult and my life will live out my priorities. I will not grow, nor be the model I want to be, without my own personal spiritual exercise. To be the mom and wife I long to be, my relationship with Christ must be my priority. And thankfully the Spirit is there in my heart to guide me and grow me in that walk.

Helpless…Sorta.  Hopeless…NEVER!

Rik Gervais, CCC ruling elder

Greg mentioned during his sermon a week or so ago that I was in Germany and had the privilege of visiting Martin Luther’s home and church. It was an awesome visit for many reasons, not least of which was singing songs in Luther’s church during a noontime sing-along with the seminary students and staff, as well as visitors from all over the world! As you have heard me say many times, “It was WAYYY cool!”

But during my visit, not all was okay in my world or the rest of the world for that matter. On the personal level, my wife, Bobbie, sent me a note to let me know that she had slammed her thumb in the car door. She had also come down with a cold and was feeling pretty miserable. She was “home alone” and from where I was, I was feeling very helpless. My desire was to “fix it” for her. I wanted to be home taking care of her, giving her sympathy, and trying to ease her burden. I felt helpless.

On a larger scale, Hurricane Irma was SLOWLY moving its way toward the United States and pounding one small island after another along its way. The pictures from the ‘round the clock coverage on CNN International were heart-breaking. Total destruction in so many places. And I just knew that each place that was destroyed would quickly become “old news” as thenext place fell into the path of the storm. People’s lives were being torn up and thrown around with the same abandon that their homes and possessions were being tossed to and fro inthe wind and rain. And again…I felt pretty much helpless.

Back here at home this week, I heard stories from a couple friends who have very sick relatives who most likely won’t survive. And others have jobs that are in jeopardy. And they feel helpless. Events outside their control are tossing their lives around just like Hurricane Irma. But what I also heard as they spoke was that although they might be feeling helpless, they are definitely not feeling hopeless. I had that same feeling last week in Germany. In light of all the “bad news” in our lives one might well ask, “Why?”.

The answer is because we all believe we have a sovereign and gracious Father who is fully in control at all times and in all circumstances, including things as “small” as smashed thumbs and as enormous as hurricanes and death! When our lives have been turned upside down and make NO sense, we can cling to the truth of Scripture where God’s purpose is revealed to us. For example, Romans 8:28 tells us we can KNOW, “…that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” And we can KNOW, “…through faith in him [Jesus Christ] we may approach God with freedom and confidence.” (Eph 3:12) That means we can bring him our prayers, our fears, our tears and even our joys and he hears us, and in his perfect time, he answers us. We can KNOW we have a perfect hope, because we KNOW that “He [Jesus Christ] is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” (Col 1:17), even the pieces of our lives which seem sometimes to be falling apart.

There may be times in our lives, on a larger or smaller scale, when we feel absolutely helpless and vulnerable. Not to sound flippant, but “that’s life!” But as followers of Christ we NEVER have to feel hopeless, because we have a perfect and eternal source of hope. “Blessed are all who take refuge in him.” (Ps 2:7)

Jesus Conquers FUD

Kevin Miller, CCC Deacon

Earlier this summer we were driving up the Eastern Shore of Virginia on our way to Ocean City Maryland. My entire family was fast asleep and the night was pushing into early morning. I was feeling content as we were tracking to plan. I worked a full day at the office, the kids finished up their last day of school before summer break and we hit the road right after dinner. I couldn't wait to get to the beach and there was no way we were going to lose a day at the beach by getting a good night's sleep and waiting for the morning to head out. We were on the final stretch of the drive and I was battling exhaustion and boredom.The radio didn't offer many options so my audio experience had turned into the sound of the family snoring. Thankfully this, along with my coffee, was helpful in keeping me awake and alert. I also realized this time offered a much needed opportunity to talk with God.

While attempting to express how thankful I am for my family and for the opportunity to spend time together on vacation, I was also wrestling with a sense of anxiety. As I thought about it, I realized that the nostalgia associated with the beach was a trigger for me - eliciting happiness and joy with good memories, but also reminding me of all the struggles I experienced growing up over the years.

I started thinking about how unfaithful I have been and I was reminded about how many years I spent struggling with sin while not maintaining a personal relationship with God. Despite the grace that God has shown me and my spiritual growth in recent years, guilt started to fill my heart. Thankfully the Holy Spirit was at work in me and I could feel the guilt being overtaken with the comforting knowledge that “even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus" (Ephesians 2:5-6.)

And while I am blessed with the knowledge that God loves us even when we haven't loved Him “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us” (1 John 4:10), I found myself wondering and even doubting why God would love someone like me. The anxiety persisted and as I asked God for peace and comfort, I was feeling more exhaustion and confusion.

As we continued on our journey, we passed through small towns and then back into the darkness of remote sections of the Delmarva peninsula. My conversation with God turned to some of my current realities. I promised my family that I would take time off to spend time with them. They had heard this before. I was there, but not really present. I was taking calls and checking emails. But how could I possibly relax when my team's numbers at work were not tracking to our business goals? Then I started thinking about our family budget, and the renovations at the house that had multiplied and dragged on much longer than planned. And then my thoughts shifted to the kids; were we doing the right thing with our choices for their schools? My anxiety heightened as I thought about how I would probably need to work most of the time we were on vacation - and when I wasn't working, I'd be distracted with other anxious thoughts. I started to get irritated and frustrated thinking about how I was not able to truly spend time with my family. My excitement about heading to the beach and enjoying a family vacation was souring. I continued to pray.

As I was asking God for help and explaining the emotions I was feeling, we approached a small town and I saw a light ahead. It was one of those illuminated signs in front of a church and the sign read "Anxiety is Unbelief in Disguise". Wow. God heard my prayer and offered me a very tangible response with this sign. “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?" (Matthew 6:25-27).

I started thinking about a marketing term called FUD. It's a practice of using disinformation as a weapon against your competitor. When I look at my struggles - past and present - I see how Satan uses fearuncertainty, and doubt (FUD) as emotions that cause me to turn away from God and look to things of this world to find my security.
   • Fear about not being successful in my job turns me away from God to pursue my own glory and not His.
   • Uncertainty associated with periods of time when His plan does not align with mine (I want my vacation, I want my budget to balance, I want my home to look a certain way) results in feelings of irritability and frustration.
   • Doubt (my own unbelief) disguises itself as anxiety. When I seek control instead of submitting to God's plan, I develop anxiety.

I took my thoughts back to God and the Holy Spirit engaged to help remind me that there is good news. Jesus conquers FUD.

   • Fear is conquered with justification through Faith in Jesus Christ.
   • Uncertainty is eliminated with the knowledge of Jesus' Unconditional love.
   • Doubt no longer exists as Jesus' Death on the cross pays the price for our sins - past, present and future. "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me" (Galatians 2:20).

We ended up having a wonderful time in Ocean City---rides onthe boardwalk, crabbing in the bay, swimming in the ocean. I continued to struggle with these emotions and Satan did not give up on pushing me to his version of FUD. But by the grace of God, I had a new version of FUD to fight back with.