Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Jesus in My Place

As we loaded up the minivan this weekend to head to the beach, I’m not sure any of us could have imagined what the Lord had planned for the COTA Women’s Retreat. Sure, we may get to stare out at the ocean from our hotel room on a dreary February day. Yes, we would hopefully meet some new women from Apostles. We would probably enjoy our speaker, Kathy. And we had heard there might be a pretty fun dance party one night.

But the Lord had abundantly more for us. We didn't just stare out at the beach, we walked in the sand on a sunny, 75° February day. We did not just meet new women, we heard real stories, we bonded over shared life experiences, we forged new friendships. Kathy did not just speak good words; she dug deep in scripture and in her own heart and shared the powerful, raw story of redemption—in her life and ours. And oh, we would definitely forego a restful night of sleep to dance all night with a whole bunch of women.

Raleigh Fellows at the 2017 Women's Retreat

And our God worked. The Spirit moved. Jesus redeemed. There are stories of healing—from deep down in our toes to deep down in our souls. There are stories of experiencing God through new gifts. There are stories of Jesus showing up, even in the midst of pain.

My story (in a very abbreviated version) is when Jesus took my place at the table. In a very powerful moment of prayer, I was asked to go back to a moment in my life where I felt pain and rejection. I went back to that moment, and struggled to find Jesus there at first. But, after some conversation and questions, I was able to confess some unforgiveness, admit my deep need for Jesus, and then it happened. I went back to that painful memory, and I looked for Jesus. And there I saw him. He was sitting at the table, in my place. The hurtful words and insults still came, but Jesus took them all. As I sat cowering behind the chair I was previously sitting in, I no longer heard the insults because they went through Jesus first. I watched him take my pain and my hurt. I watched him pick up my burdens. Yes, Jesus took my place. The chains began to loosen, I finally tasted the ice cream, and it was delicious. I felt free.

So, thank you, Apostles women, for choosing to love. When a confused, hurting 23-year-old girl admitted that confusion and hurt, you did not run. You prayed. You asked questions. You spoke truth from the Lord into the deepest places in my soul. You pleaded with Jesus on my behalf. You did not even know my name, but yet you called me sister, you called me daughter, you called me friend. Thank you. 

Carryl Tinsley
2016-17 Raleigh Fellow

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Baptism Story ~ Stephen Sumrall, Raleigh Fellow

I sat completely alone in the church pew. All ninety pounds and five-and-a-half-ish feet of my skinny frame hunched over trying to be even smaller than I already was. Eyes closed and head resting on my forearms. Forearms firmly crossed over my knees. I desperately wanted to disappear. 

You wouldn’t think someone would dread celebrating their sins being washed away by the blood of the lamb. But I dreaded communion Sunday like the plague. Growing up I loathed the fourth Sunday of every month because communion wasn’t for me. I hadn’t been baptized into the church and so I was rightly told that I couldn’t partake of communion. Instead, I sat in that church pew all alone feeling as though the eyes of the congregation were boring through my soul. 

I felt like it would rock my little world of Christian friends if they found out that I didn’t believe the gospel. I couldn’t take and eat of his body broken for me. I couldn’t live my life for Christ. In some ways I never shook that feeling that I couldn’t believe, that a life wholly given to Christ wasn’t for me. 

I never shook that feeling until Sunday January 29th, 2017. On that day I was blessed to be baptized before Church of The Apostles. The ceremony was performed by my dear friend and mentor Eric Bolash in front of many people I’ve come to know and love. I finally felt that the Lord’s table was for me. That he was pierced for my transgressions too, he was crushed for my iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds I too was healed.

Though I did feel those things, I can’t say that the heavens opened up and I suddenly knew how to live my life in new commitment to Christ. That day was a blessing and a turning point, but it was just a beginning. I want to wake and live every day for Christ because he died for me. I want to feel Jesus’ love in the depths of my soul. I want him to be the most real thing in my life. But, even after being baptized, I can’t do any of those things. Only he can in me. I hope and pray for the day that he does.

Stephen Sumrall
2016-17 Raleigh Fellow

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Sow Generously, Reap Generously ~ Goldsboro Flood Relief Team

Recently, I had the opportunity to join Church of the Apostles as a group of men and women took a trip to Goldsboro, NC to provide relief for several victims of the devastating floods caused by Hurricane Matthew in October. Over twenty of us gathered at the church early on a Saturday morning to embark on the journey.

After arriving in Goldsboro, filling out waivers, and dividing into teams, Chip, our leader from NC Baptist Men's Disaster Relief, took the time to mention a verse that he read in his quiet time that morning, 2 Corinthians 9:6 ~ Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. I don’t remember all the specifics of what he said, and certainly wouldn’t have expected it at the time, but the verse Chip shared stuck in my head. Not just for the rest of the day but for several weeks to come. 

Inside Newman's Home
Our teams then departed, with our first stop being right down the road to Newman’s home. Newman had been introduced to us before we left as a faithful member of Love Memorial Church which is serving as disaster relief headquarters in the area.  Newman's mobile home and nearly all of his possessions were destroyed by the hurricane. With nowhere to live, Newman’s family traveled back to Honduras until repairs could be made.  All his appliances were on the front lawn, unsalvageable, and the inside of his home was only wooden studs. Massive damage was done. And this was only one house, in a field with at least twenty others, in a city with a population of over 30,000. It was now time to get to work.
With our group split in two, half of us headed to help a resident clear her house of damaged furniture, sheet rock and carpet and the other half to help a local church. I was part of the group that went to the church, where water had flooded the crawlspace and seeped into the floors. We partnered with members of the Air Force from nearby Seymour Johnson Base to haul the entire HVAC system from inside the crawlspace to the curb, move furniture from two offices, and tear up existing carpets. All these tasks that were certainly needed and met with true gratefulness.

However, if I’m being honest, part of me felt like it was insignificant. Sure, I gave up a Saturday. But some of these people had lost everything they owned. And maybe I moved some furniture and ripped up some carpet. But there were guys under the church most of the day waging war with an HVAC system. For some reason, what I was doing didn’t feel like enough. 

So, as I thought about this feeling and pondered my part in relation to the overall damage of the hurricane. I started to think more and more about the verse from earlier that day and what Paul had said to the Corinthians, “Sow sparingly, reap sparingly. Sow generously, reap generously.” Was my sowing sparing or generous?

This pushed me to think about and apply what we had been learning recently in our Song of Songs Sunday school class, “God intends earthly things to lead us into heavenly realities.” Paul used an earthy thing, sowing seeds, to point to a heavenly reality of what it looks like to be generous. Less seeds in a field will obviously lead to a smaller harvest, but more seeds, they lead to a plentiful harvest.

So how do I relate this to my time in Goldsboro? And work that I questioned if it was making a difference? Well, maybe I only planted one seed that day. But as a group we scattered a handful. And as a church, we have an opportunity to plant a field. There’s still a lot to be done in Goldsboro and all over eastern NC. If each person sows only one seed, does one, by itself, seemingly insignificant task, we could reap a harvest. A harvest that could make a world of difference to the communities that are so close by and the people that live in them.

I learned a lot from our trip to Goldsboro. I learned that we have a lot of members of this church that will give up their time to help others, even if it involves crawling under a church in the mud for four hours. I’m thankful to be part of this community and know that we will continue to make a difference in the lives of our neighbors.

~ Josh Crowell

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Fighting Deceptive Philosophies

As we have been discussing during the Colossians sermon series, believers have been fighting battles against deceptive philosophies since the time of Jesus. 
In preparing our students for their college years, the church has long thought of apologetics – which is the defense of faith through reason – as the means by which we fight such philosophies. Though apologetics is still of great importance, the intellectual spirit of the age has shifted the focus of the battle to a new – or, rather, additional – front.  
We are seeing that today’s intellectual climate is now not just making claims over reason, but is also making claims over and controlling the realm of personal passions and desires. It teaches students that the best way forward is by listening to themselves over against things taught by existing structures and authority figures. It also tells them that once they have set foot on the path they have chosen, they can do so only so long as they do not try to persuade or influence another’s actions and decisions (unless their path aligns with the mainstream intellectual milieu, then it feels that persuasion is welcome). 
The result of all of this is that students are being formed and shaped into individualistic worlds. They are taught to make choices that are ‘right for them’ without consulting external environments, particularly those that teach restrictions or limits on personal choice, and even without having open and honest conversations with peers on campus.
A student with whom I spoke just this week lamented that she does not feel that she and some of her like-minded peers have space to discuss what they really think about pressing issues. She said, “we receive the ‘ideals’ promoted by the university and we see all around us the ways our classmates live, but there is no common space for us to talk openly and honestly about what our ideals are (and by “our ideals” she means those unvoiced views that differ from the university’s and from those held by some of her schoolmates).  
In response to sensing this general spirit of the university as characterized in the exchange I just described, our Center has begun to create spaces that offer open conversation for students. This semester we are offering a “Life Worth Living” seminar that focuses on how the ideals of the university and the typical practices of today’s college students create an environment that sometimes aligns, but many times conflicts with a kingdom-vision for living. I am happy to say that this class includes the student whose lament I just shared, along with 16 of her schoolmates. In the spring, we will be offering a class on biblical wisdom for contemporary living which will be a different approach towards the same end. We hope to keep this type conversation consistently present the university’s academic life.
Our hope through these seminars is not just to cultivate an intellectual understanding of Scripture but also to cultivate a love and desire for the Lord. In his essay, “The Weight of Glory,” C.S. Lewis is concerned because he finds human desire not too strong, but too weak. He wants us to see, experience, and enwrap ourselves in the immeasurable riches of God’s grace and to know how long, how wide, and how deep is the love of Christ. In a world that is telling students to love whatever you will and follow what you love, cultivating relationships of deep love between our youth and Jesus will form a rootedness and firm foundation that will better enable them to withstand the hollow and deceptive philosophy of individualistic desire that characterizes this age and draw them more fully into the One who is the only true and proper source of our love and desire. 
Edward Dixon
COTA Member & Director, Center for Christianity and Scholarship, Duke University

Monday, June 6, 2016

Confirmation 2016

23 students were confirmed at the Confirmation Service on Sunday, May 22.  Congratulations to these confirmands!

 Claire Linden Alspaugh * Joanne Michele Barnhart * David Scott Curlin * Emma Joy Grindstaff * Hunter Howell Haakenson * Andrew Paul Hilts* Barbara Kathleen Hinkey * Benjamin Allen Lee * Jonathan Edward Lee* Emma Katherine Lyon * William Carson McCorkle * Grant Lawrence McGowan * Elizabeth Macon Porterfield * Andrew Paul Rossetti * Jordan Lockwood Rustin * Katherine Nicole Shearin * Paige Dorothy Van Vooren * Parker Monroe Van Vooren * Edmund Law Waddill, IV * Christopher Graham Watkins * Noah Christian Watkins * Luke Kelley Young

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

The Beautifully Unexpected

When our Fellows begin their year of community, ministry and learning, they are expecting new things. But some things are really unexpected. 

As the Fellows were led by Ford Jordan in a discussion on the sacraments of the Church, Alex Howerton began to wonder if she'd ever been baptized. She double-checked and realized it wasn't entirely certain that she had.

So, since she lives with the Bolashes, Alex struck up a conversation with me, and we agreed that being baptized during this year with Ashley and the other Fellows would be beautiful and meaningful. It would be a reminder of what baptism always teaches us as Christians: That the Lord loves us, has called us by name and has made us his own in Christ when we believe.

So last Monday, we piled into cars and travelled up to the small beach at Beaver Dam Park on Falls Lake. There were only a few people on the beach in the middle of the day on a Monday. 

A park ranger walked past us and asked, "Are you guys going swimming?"

Hoping this wouldn't be somehow against park rules, I said, "No, we're just having a baptism." 

He smiled and raised his eyebrows, but just said, "Oh, okay!"

So we proceeded. 

First, standing barefoot in the sand, we read from the Scriptures, including: 

"But now, this is what the Lord says—
    he who created you, Jacob,
    he who formed you, Israel:
“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
    I have summoned you by name; you are mine." 
Isaiah 43:1

Then the question for Alex: "Alex, do you desire to be baptized?"
Alex: "I do."
"Have you accepted Christ Jesus as Savior and Lord?"
Alex: "I have."

And so on. She affirmed her desire to continue in Christ. We affirmed our desire to help her, representing the Church.

Then, finally, after Ashley and the Fellows had spoken words of affirmation to Alex, she and I waded into the 60-degree lake. A little brisk! And as she went down into the water and resurfaced, she heard the truth that she has been sealed by the Holy Spirit and marked as Christ's own forever. 

You can see Alex emerging from the lake in the photo, water cascading from her head and face. She believed years ago. But this was a chance for she and all of us to see outwardly the unseen, inward work of washing and new creation that God has been doing in her life. 

He has been good to her. ​In all kinds of ways, many of them beautifully unexpected.

~ Eric Bolash

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Repentance of Power - A Response

Sermon Series: Repentance
Repenting of Power
Luke 3:1-20
Patrick's sermon this past Sunday challenged us to consider how we will live within the context of the powers of this world, as the people of God, who have a different relationship with power.  We were asked to repent of the ways that we have taken our power/advantages for granted.  I have been thinking a lot about this topic of power for a while (spurred on by Ferguson and the things that the Black Lives Matter movement asks me to consider about power.)  While I don’t agree with all aspects of #BLM, I do think that as a white woman I have power and advantages that do not exist for others.  One way that I am trying to not take advantage of my power is to give up the "right to be right” and to try and consider the way others experience the world through THEIR lens rather than MY lens.  
A crowd marches down Bragg Street to the Bible Way Temple after speakers memorialized shooting victim Akiel Denkins in Raleigh on February 29.
Rather than rolling my eyes and saying that black people just need to respect the cops and do what is right and none of this would happen (which I hear from people a lot), I’m trying to ask, why would so many people react so strongly to what is happening.  What is it about their experience that elicits this response (that is so different from how I think I would respond) that is different from my own experience?  Mostly I am trying to read and listen to African-American voices rather than what other white people have to say about African-American voices.  So, that is one specific arena in which I am trying to think about power.  

Terri Shell
IV Area Director for
Eastern Carolinas
Terri Shell is an Apostles member and missionary with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship.