Appealing to God for Mercy

—by Charles Chowa, CCC member

To you I call, O Lord my Rock;
do not turn a deaf ear to me.
For if you remain silent,
I will be like those who have gone down to the pit.
Hear my cry for mercy
as I call to you for help,
as I lift up my hands
toward your Most Holy Place.

I have been reading through the Psalms and I am amazed at their richness and beauty. I am also challenged daily to grow my faith in God!

This week, Psalm 28 really put on the pressure for me to live a transparent life before the Lord. The first two verses helped me to understand that if I claim to love God so much, I must persist in appealing to him to speak to me when he is silent. Unfortunately, I seem to give up easily when my prayers go unanswered in a short period of time. Not so the psalmist!

The psalmist, king David, cries out for God to speak and answer his prayer. It can be deduced from the psalm that David had been praying for a long time without getting an answer. However, David did not give up, like I usually do. Instead he follows up with a good argument by reminding the Lord that if he remains silent, “I will be like those who go down to the pit.” I appreciated a few things from David’s example:

1.    David’s importunity: David was persistent in his prayer because he imagined himself standing at the edge of a pit, about to topple into it to certain death, and God as the only one who was nearby to hear his terrified screams for help. If I viewed my problems that way I am sure I would never give up asking for help until God answered.

2.    David’s attitude: David was not praying arrogantly or belligerently as if God owed him anything! God does not owe anyone anything. David was aware of this and so was humbly asking for mercy and help. I think subconsciously I feel that God owes me his love and therefore his help. After all, am I not his child? Have I not been joined to Jesus Christ and become an adopted son? Why then does my Father not answer my prayer right now? David, even as a man after God’s own heart, did not presume upon God’s kindness, but prayed with humility. He says in verse two, “hear my cry for mercy as I call to you for help!” His attitude is that God is free to answer my prayers or to withhold his help, but I will continue begging for his mercy.

3.    The basis of David’s appeal: David says “Hear my cry for mercy…as I lift up my hands toward your most holy place.” This refers to the holy place of the tabernacle where the ark of the covenant was kept, and where the blood sacrifices were offered for the nation’s sin on the day of atonement. David’s appeal to God through the most holy place is an indication that David acknowledged that his prayers would only be answered on the basis of shed blood. David was a sinner whose sins needed to be atoned for before he could approach the Almighty! The eternal equivalent of which is the mercy seat of Jesus where we find eternal atonement for our sins.

This psalm taught me not to give up, but instead to pursue God in humility and faith. Every situation I encounter may be likened to a pit, and I need God to help me to avoid it or navigate it safely. Yes, he has made many precious promises in his word, yet his command to me is to come in humility, and persistence, asking for mercy!

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

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.

Praying With the Psalms (And the High Schoolers)

Dave Stepp, Ruling Elder

How’s your prayer life? I am often intimidated and discouraged by this question; I feel like my prayers should be more eloquent, less repetitive, and somehow embody the incomparable mystery and depth of a personal relationship with the living triune God.

So where do I turn? Where are the riches of Christ to help me grow?

Historically, the Psalms have been a key resource for Christian meditation and prayer. The Psalter functioned as the Jewish common prayer book, so the Psalms also served as Jesus’ common prayer book. Psalms were read, recited, sung, and prayed. But why doesn’t this book seem to resonate with me like that? Many of them can seem critical of God and I find myself wondering if they are even appropriate prayers for a Christian. Others can seem strange, even simplistic or cold, and don’t clearly relate to Christ.

With the help of a Gospel in Life group bible study entitled, “Praying with the Psalms,” the High School Sunday School class has been learning to pray since the beginning of the summer. The key? Approaching the Psalms as something that teaches us to pray through imitation and response.

This may seem strange at first: a more vibrant prayer life through imitation? And how does that enable a rich or personal response? Think of small children and how they learn to speak. Children are spoken to by their parents first. They hear words and phrases repeated again and again, and they learn to imitate the words and phrases they have heard. Then, gradually, children acquire the capacity to respond to their parents with an answer. They start by imitating, and learn to respond.

We see this same dynamic in scripture, such as 2 Samuel 7:27 where David proclaims, “For you, O Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, have made this revelation to your servant, saying, ‘I will build you a house.’ Therefore your servant has found courage to pray this prayer to you.” Read it carefully: God’s speech initiates and motivates David’s prayer of gratitude. Prayer is an answer to God’s revelation and promises.

Take note: this approach of being taught through imitation and response is challenging. It forces us to go “against the grain” and deal with a broad range of emotions (pain, suffering, praise and thanksgiving) when we don’t feel them personally. It forces us to deal with God as He is and trains us in conversation with theknown God, revealed through Jesus Christ, based on how He speaks to us. But, for the same reasons, it draws us close to God as we learn to answer and respond to Him.

Finally, let me offer three suggestions for you on your own journey of praying with the Psalms. First, ask a High Schooler! Our students have been studying Psalms of meditation, repentance, and sorrowing; they will be studying Psalms of petitioning and adoration later this semester; and they have learned a lot! Second, on your own, select a Psalm and imagine Jesus literally singing or praying it (consider his humanity, his deity, his humiliation, his exaltation, and the particular circumstances where the Psalm fits into his life). Third, focus on praying the Psalm to Jesus (start by praying some of the very petitions you read; then rephrase some of the statements as petitions to God so more of the prayer is in your own words; and finally move to praising, repenting, and supplication on the basis of the statements and subjects of the Psalm but in your own words). May the riches of Christ permeate deep into your heart and abound, in response, through your prayers!