Life is Precious

Byron and Ruby Bea Peters, in Honor of Sanctity of Human Life Sunday

Byron here, by way of introduction...

Parenting and walking with the Lord has its seasons. Sometimes it’s predictable and routine. Other times it’s chaotic and we feel way out of our depth.

It’s been my privilege to observe my wife’s parenting and walk with God “adjust” across the span of over 30 years. Before kids, time with God lingered long. With young ones, it was “pray always” and snatch time in the Word whenever she could.

In this season of our lives, she writes a “family email” every day. It’s usually a combination of updates (for example: “Layson got her bridesmaid’s dress for John Martin’s wedding today!”) and reflections on what God has had for her that morning in the Word.

I was encouraged recently by this simple reminder from a “family email...”

Well, it's still white with snow here. Our section of road looks to be pretty clear (our section of road was also in the sun all of yesterday...but for those sections in Briar Chapel where shade remained, so did the ice/snow).

What is it like where you are?

Life surely is precious...sometimes I get overwhelmed when I ponder what we get to do and see...from our immediate surroundings to those further away. That my body works the way it does with breathing, moving, healing, to the quiet beauty of a snow fall, to the cuteness of Millie, to the warm morning sunshine hitting the trees in our backyard. That we get to form relationships, communicate, care, encourage one another.

I’m reminded that life, every stage of it, is a precious gift, and to get to experience our personal stages and the life stages of others is something I often taken for granted. It is sometimes messy and will more than likely include tears of sadness and tears of great joy and laughter.

Life is a gift. I am thankful for the life experiences God has given me, and I am thankful for the lives that He has put around me...some for moments and others for decades. Some very young and some frail with age and near earthly death.

Life is precious. I pray I always treat it that way.

You are precious,

Mom

Here are some excerpts from Psalm 139 that remind me how precious life is:

O Lord, you have searched me and known me!

You know when I sit down and when I rise up;

   you discern my thoughts from afar.

You search out my path and my lying down

   and are acquainted with all my ways.

You hem me in, behind and before,

   and lay your hand upon me.

Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;

   it is high; I cannot attain it.

For you formed my inward parts;

   you knitted me together in my mother's womb.

I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.

How precious to me are your thoughts, O God!

   How vast is the sum of them!

Search me, O God, and know my heart!

   Try me and know my thoughts

And see if there be any grievous way in me,

   and lead me in the way everlasting!

NOTE: Pregnancy Support Services wants to thank you for the partnership of Christ Community Church over the years. For Sanctity of Human Life Sunday (January 21), please prayerfully remember the upcoming giving opportunities (Baby Bottles, Alms Offering January 21).

Hope Counseling Services: Looking Back, Looking Ahead, and Introducing our Board Members!

Wes Tubel, Executive Director Hope Counseling Services

It is hard to believe it has been a year since we began our work at Hope Counseling Services. God has done so much in such a short period of time. Our mission is to bring Hope to Life through Christ-centered biblical counseling services.  

The year has been filled with laying the groundwork to sustain a long-term ministry. We’ve spent time working on our bylaws, identifying and vetting board members, establishing our center’s policies and procedures, designing our branding, launching our website, and getting the offices set up to accommodate those coming for counseling. All of these are important and necessary in order to offer a high-quality service to those seeking help.

The year has also been filled with growing opportunities to provide counseling to many in our community. Since last spring, each month has seen a growing number of people coming to Hope for counseling. It is a privilege to walk with each person, seeking to understand the particular details of each story, and having the privilege to point them to the tailored mercies Christ offers in the midst of life’s particular struggles.

I wanted to take this opportunity to share some highlights as we look back at this year, and also share some exciting things as we look ahead in 2018.

In the month of December, 70% of our available counseling hours were filled. We continue to work hard sowing seeds and spreading the word about our counseling services.

We have provided counseling for couples and individuals throughout our community, serving people from 17 different churches.

We have also had the opportunity to counsel some who do not yet know Christ. We trust that seeds planted will bear fruit in their lives and that they will turn to Christ in faith and repentance.

250 people attended our launch event in early November (including many of you!).

2017 was a fantastic start to our ministry, and we praise God for all the ways he has provided, for the opportunities to connect the riches of Christ to the realities that many are facing, and to build fruitful relationships with a number of other churches. But in many ways, the work is just beginning. Our dream is to establish a long-standing counseling center that will impact our community for Christ for decades to come. As we look ahead to this year, I also wanted to share some of things we are excited about:

Each week we receive new inquiries for counseling. We are already considering how we can increase our capacity and available counseling hours, including bringing on an additional counselor sometime later this year.

Several churches have contacted Hope Counseling Services to inquire about our training services. We are in the beginning stages of making plans to provide these trainings.

Jacklyn will be the keynote speaker at two different women’s retreats for area churches in March

And we are excited to announce that our inaugural board will begin work with five members this month. It is a privilege to introduce our board to you:

Rik Gervais: Board Chairman, Ruling Elder at CCC

Marshele Carter: CCC Member, Founder of Carolina Cause Communications, and Adjunct Professor in Public Relations at UNC

Crystal West: CCC Member, CCC Women's Bible Study leader and Women's Ministry Team member, PMA® Certified Pilates Teacher, Dance Educator

Todd Rust: Ruling Elder at Church of the Good Shepherd, Senior VP-Investment Officer, employed by Wells Fargo Advisors

Wes Tubel: CCC Member, Executive Director Hope Counseling Services.

Please continue to pray for our ministry. We want to be wise and helpful to each person who is coming to Hope for help. And we desire to be faithful stewards of what God has entrusted to us. May God give us every grace we need this year to fulfill our beautiful mission.

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.