Wednesday, October 30, 2013

An Account from the Men's Retreat

by Johnny McConnell

I have had the pleasure to go on all of the men’s retreats but one.  They have all been excellent for really challenging men to dig deep spiritually.

The theme of this past weekend was “Search and Rescue” which is certainly what the Lord has been doing for us. The speaker, Michael Thompson, made the subject come alive with vivid film clips from such movies as “The Matrix”, “The Legend of Bagger Vance” and “Saving Private Ryan.” He even aroused me to get up at 6 am to meet with some fellows to go over what we learned.  At age 73 and really being in Jesus’ hands for some time, I am already seeing my life and the place I am in, in a larger sense and looking forward to more. His three top guns from our church provided a panel and leadership which were both helpful and insightful as Steve Swayne, Jim Hinkey, and Trey Gaylord are graduates of two “Top Gun Retreats.”

I wasn’t quite sure what I was going to do with my Saturday afternoon free time, but the praise band guitars were quickly picked up and passed around for an afternoon jam session. It lasted for several hours and we had musical discussions and all kinds of picking and singing with the ages of the guitarists readily apparent by the era of their tunes.  I was obviously dated by my Chuck Berry songs, but Feeney, Smith, Armstrong, Shell and Preacher Dominguez, were all over the place with talent and we had a fair audience of singers as well.  It truly was the most fun I personally have had in a long time and I will bet more guitars show up at our next retreat.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The Men's Retreat in Pictures

This past weekend, the men of Apostles gathered at Camp Willow Run for a weekend of fellowship, worship, and learning. Here are some pictures from the weekend...

Monday, October 28, 2013

Teaching Students Not Just "What", But "Who"

by Helen Pettiford

Every day, at Sanderson High School, I see students struggling to find an authentic identity.  I used to be one of them - although perhaps with a little less teenage angst than most. Adolescence is a time filled with searching, reaching, grasping, dropping, and ultimately becoming. Hope underlies all of this; and it’s a selfish hope – we hope to be understood, we hope to be accepted, we hope to be loved.  

Unfortunately, we often tune out those closest to us like our family and friends because “they have to say nice things to us” or “maybe they don’t really know everything …” Herein lays the value of teachers. A teacher’s encouragement can have a profound effect simply because it fortifies or restores love from family and friends. One such teacher fostered a spirit of authenticity in me by taking an interest in me.  Then, I took interest in me, accepted me, and loved me. She reinforced the truth that I am a person of interest because God made me that way. So, every day I go to Sanderson High School and I take an interest in students. 

God opened up my eyes to one particular student two years ago. I will never forget the morning I found out that Sophia’s* apartment had burned down overnight in an electrical fire.  She made it out with the clothes on her back and one family picture. When I met with her family later that afternoon I got to hear their story, which was overrun with hardships that had started years before the flames. Sophia was no stranger to homelessness and worrying about money for meals. Her academic progress had even been hindered for years because of such obstacles.   

Sophia desired to do well in school but didn’t feel worthy of success or even of asking for help. Her mom and I prayed over the phone many nights, we came up with a plan and I became Sophia’s mentor. We met every week and celebrated each milestone for the rest of the semester. Sophia transformed into an assertive, passionate learner. Although she didn’t need me academically anymore, Sophia and I continued to meet for her senior year. Just last week, I was overjoyed to get a postcard from her at college: she wrote, “Mrs. P, College is CRAZY…but don’t worry about me because I know who I am…” 

(*Sophia is not the student’s real name)

Friday, October 25, 2013

The Sunday Set-Up for October 27, 2013

Sermon Teaser:
Has there been an argument, a tiff or even an all out fight in your home this week?  There has been in mine!  I can't remember a day that has gone by where there hasn't been some sort of conflict in our house.  Whether it's a squabble between my kids, a disagreement I have with my wife or a threat of consequences towards my kids who just don't seem to respect me as much as they should, we face conflict of one form or another every day. Have you ever wondered why?  In our passage for this week from James 4:1-12, James will help us to understand the source of our conflicts and he'll show us how to respond to the conflict that exists in our lives in a way that diffuses rather than ignites and brings healing rather than hurt.  So unless your home is a picture of serenity and peace (in which case, I'm moving in), come and join us on Sunday, to hear what James has to say. If you don't, I'll fight you!

Readings for Sunday: James 4:1-12 and Matthew 4:1-11

Bulletin for Sunday: October 27, 2013

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Helping One Step at a Time

Last year, one of the Community Groups here at Church of the Apostles felt led to look outside of their group and help a family in need. Below is their story of how the Lord has worked through their stepping out in faith. 

Last year, our community group decided to partner with Catholic Charities' Support Circle Program to work with a family striving to leave homelessness and live independently. We were paired with a young couple in Raleigh who had two young boys. This couple had been together for almost seven years but had never had a place “of their own” to live.  Instead, they had moved from place to place, staying in crowded arrangements with family members and even hotels, at times.

Many in our group attended an optional Saturday morning training by Catholic Charities that really prepared us for working with our assigned family. In our training, we learned the importance of building relationships and how having a dependable support network of people who we can trust and rely on helps keep any of us from being overcome by negative circumstances.

Throughout the year, we’ve partnered with our family to find affordable housing, talk through monthly cash flow and budgets, furnish their apartment, and define and work toward their personal goals for education, family, and career. We’ve also enjoyed outings with them like family dinners and picnics, girls nights out, play dates, and a Durham Bulls game. Some of the most exciting things we’ve done this year have been being a part of their first-ever lease signing as a family, helping them move in and furnish their apartment with the help of Project Green Chair, and attending their “car blessing” as they got a new, dependable car through Wheels for Hope

The year has been challenging for our group, as relationships with our family have not developed as easily as many of us had hoped. We’ve also had to realize the need to put aside our personal goals and expectations for this family and instead shift our focus to encouraging them in setting and working toward their goals. We have been forced out of our comfort zones as we have had difficult conversations and done things like write to and visit an incarcerated family member.

Nonetheless, we can see the hand of God in the timing of our presence with this couple. For example, unbeknownst to the members of our group when we first met this family, we had several personal relationships with an attorney who was able to help one family member in a time of need, truly ministering to and encouraging him in a way that we couldn’t ourselves.

Throughout the year, we’ve also grown as a group as we’ve had difficult conversations about how we could best support (and not hinder) this family and how we’d handle certain activities (such as drug use) should they continue to be an issue throughout our relationship with them. We’ve been reminded time and again of God’s unconditional love and mercy toward us. And we know that it is only through Christ that we are able to genuinely care about and love others through hard circumstances and wrong choices. Our group has definitely grown closer as we’ve spent time interceding for this precious family and seen our group members' individual gifts used to serve others.  

Monday, October 21, 2013

The Vine: Transforming the City

by Richard and Jessica Shore

Jessica and Richard
When we first moved into our downtown Raleigh home, we knew we wanted it to be place of blessing and welcome for our friends and family and we knew we wanted to follow Jesus’ command to love our neighbor, but we had no idea what that would look like. The house God led us to buy is conveniently situated next to eight low-income apartment buildings teeming with kids. As we slowly met a few kids over our first year, we knew we wanted to deepen the relationships, but we didn’t know what the first steps needed to be.

Last spring as our Vine community was planning our summer agenda, a couple of people felt that the summer would be a good opportunity to expand our focus to include outreach. As we discussed options, Ford and Lindsay approached us and said, “How about we meet every Wednesday night at your house this summer, feed healthy meals to the kids and just love on them?” Immediately, a few hesitations came to mind: “Will kids even come over? What will their parents think? What will our neighbors think? Will it feel authentic? How will our Vine community engage these kids? How do we feel about opening our house to strangers?” Without having any clear answers to these questions, we still knew it was a big push in the right direction! Sure, we said, we’re in!

Almost every Wednesday night this summer members of the Vine came over to help prepare and serve healthy food and play all kinds of games with the kids. Throwing the football, playing kickball, covering the sidewalks in chalk and jump roping were the typical activities of choice. Some nights we only had eight kids while other nights we fed over twenty-five. We slowly got to know a few parents and they became comfortable coming over for dinner, too. Since the summer ended, we’ve transitioned to one Saturday morning a month to continue the relationships.

Those of us who have served side-by-side on Wednesday nights have grown closer by serving and stepping into an unfamiliar setting together, but the two of us have felt additional unexpected blessings from this experience. In a practical way, we’ve gotten a taste of parenting without any real, lingering responsibilities.

More importantly, we’ve been given the opportunity to develop close relationships with most of the kids. They knock on our door on an almost daily basis. Sometimes we can play, sometimes we can’t, but we always try to make time to hear about a little about their day and provide a high five or hug.

In this adventure, the Lord hasn’t worked through a single person or through a miraculous discernment. He used a community of believers by planting the vision in a few people, providing the physical location through a couple of people, giving the ability to plan and prepare the meals in a few others and the playfulness, listening ears, and compassionate hearts in many more.  It is a beautiful example of the Lord using many spiritual gifts to be His hands and feet in downtown Raleigh. We’re grateful to be a small part of his big vision for downtown and we are excited to see what he does in and through Apostles in the city. 

Friday, October 18, 2013

The Sunday Set-Up for October 20, 2013

Sermon Teaser: Here I am holding up several of my preaching tools: two commentaries on James, a book of sermon illustrations, and my computer open to which helps with understanding New Testament usage of Greek, and Bible Gateway, a program that can search by scripture or topic in multiple Bible translations. Along with all this, I pray for a generous gift of wisdom from the Lord so I might know how to preach to others and apply the message in my own life.

Speaking of 'wisdom'…that is the topic this week. How do you view wisdom? How do you know if you are truly wise? What characteristics do wise people most often display? What does it take to grow in wisdom? Join me this Sunday as we look at wisdom through the eyes of James. And while you're at it, please pray that I might grow in wisdom as well.

Readings for Sunday: James 3:13-18 and Matthew 5:1-9

Bulletin: October 20, 2013

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Change a Child's World...and Yours!

Isaiah 1:17...learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow's cause.

In July 2012, I made my first trip with the Rwanda Partnership Team.  We spent one day with Rev. Gasana at the Shyogwe Parish.  He took us to meet the Compassion International Project Staff.  As we listened to the Project Director, John Baptiste, the Lord spoke to my heart.  I came home, emailed Rev. Gasana for names of children in need of sponsors, wrote Compassion in regard to these children and 7 children's packets were mailed to me.  Thanks be to God, each of these children received Sponsors through the generous hearts of people at Apostles.  In January as the Rwanda Team was preparing for another trip, the Lord pierced my heart with Isaiah 1:17 and James 1:27.  The children in Rwanda have become a priority in my life.  One way I can help is partnering with Compassion International as an Advocate for these children.  I am deeply grateful and humbled by this opportunity from the Lord.

Craig and I have the amazing privilege of sponsoring 4 children through Compassion in the Shyogwe Diocese.  Belise, Solange, Alexia and most recently Thierry.  They are loving, humble, fun and hard working children.  They enjoy soccer, jumping rope, singing in their church choirs and going to school.  They want desperately to have an education.  In each letter we receive is a prayer request for them to understand what they are learning and be able to make good grades.  The children ask how they can pray for us and our family.  We exchange Bible verses.  I send pictures of our family.  We also receive letters from the mother's.  Two mothers shared that they walk 45 minutes to fetch water several times a day.  Each time I turn water on, I see these mothers walking for water and pray for them.  I no longer take running water for granted or waste it. These mother's prayer requests are for homes of their own, so they can provide for their children and be self-sustaining.  These children fill my heart with such joy and love.  Since visiting with them in June, I feel even more attached in the heart to them.  I see their bright eyes, beautiful smiles, hear their voices and feel the touch of their hands each morning as I pray for them.  God has blessed me tremendously with these special children whom He loves so much!

Compassion International is a ministry dedicated to releasing children from poverty in Jesus' name.  They do this through holistic child development; a model that addresses the spiritual, economic, social and physical needs of children.  Compassion works through the local churches.  The Shyogwe Diocese has 2 Compassion Projects.  Sponsoring children with Compassion International in Rwanda is another avenue of building our partnership with the Shyogwe Diocese.  When you sponsor a child, you provide the opportunity for a child to hear the gospel and receive Jesus as their Savior.

After both services this Sunday, October 20, children packets will be available for Sponsorship.  Please pray about becoming a Sponsor and offering the love of Jesus to a child in need...a child who will love you as well!  Sponsorship is $38 a month and a lifetime of love given and received!  If you have any questions, you can email Teresa Kincaid at

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

A Look Inside the Youth Leaders Weekend Away

This past weekend our student ministry leaders took a retreat to the beach to get away, spend time getting to know each other better, and growing closer to the Lord. Here are some photos from the weekend and some thoughts from a few of the leaders. 

“Volunteering with the Student Ministry allows for a fun and unique way to serve Apostles. I not only get to build relationships with students, but with their families as well. When I was in middle school and high school I had a youth leader pouring into my life, and it was incredibly beneficial and encouraging for my walk with the Lord. I knew that when I "grew up", I wanted to serve in the same capacity and walk with high schoolers during those crazy/formative years! The Lord opened the door to get involved, and I'm so thankful.
     It's always refreshing when leaders (who have the same heart and willingness to serve) get together and are in one accord. I was encouraged this past weekend to hear what's in store for the future of Apostles' youth group as well as gaining new ideas in how to invest in the students in my small group.” - Kaycee Mathias, Junior Girls Small Group Leader 

“I love serving in Student Ministry because I still remember my leaders throughout middle and high school. They had such an incredible impact on my life and I want to do the same for some of the middle and high schoolers.
  The retreat was so beneficial because it gave the leaders intentional time to get to know one another, to bond, and to relax and reconnect with God. We had time to sit and just hang out with God which was so awesome!” - Nancy Lee McLean, Middle School Leader

It was a good thing to get away to spend time with the Lord and each other.  Learning about apprenticeship and the care Jesus took to pour into his men reminds us all that we are to pour into the students God has given us.  The most powerful aspect of the weekend was watching the students listen to the cost of taking the time to form relationships with each other and build one another up in Christ and to see how much they are valued.” 
- Kai Hinkey, Junior Girls Small Group Leader 

“The youth leader retreat was a special time for all of us to get together. As we all serve different groups of students, we sometimes forget that we are not alone in ministry. The time spent on the retreat gave us the opportunity to plan, share ideas, encourage one another, and refocus our mission. I am exceedingly grateful for my fellow leaders, and their hearts for students at Apostles.” - Ben Smith, Youth Worship Team Leader

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Lost in Translation

After a few decades of marriage, Barney and Arlene Ford have learned about the power of words and controlling the tongue.  This past Sunday, Patrick preached to us out of James 3:1-12.  It’s a passage that highlights the importance of how we use our tongues by demonstrating the ability that our words have for good or for evil.  It’s a passage that also calls us to consistently use our words for the praise of God and the building up of others.  Anyone with a tongue should be able to relate to the struggle and the challenge… 

In conjunction with this passage, Barney and Arlene Ford have been willing to share a testimony from their own lives about the miscommunication they have experienced in their marriage and the importance of controlling their tongues.  Enjoy (and learn from) their story:

Arlene and Barney Ford

When growing up I thought talking was just talking. The experience in my home was just like what everyone else experienced. At nineteen, when I became a Christian “foul” language was left behind in my new life.

Arlene and I married after college. Marriage turned out to be easy! Being the nice guy I thought I was, I would say to Arlene, “Where would you like to go for dinner?” Arlene’s response very often was, “I don’t know. Where would you like to go?” Knowing where I wanted to go for dinner and now believing that Arlene didn’t know, I would announce the location for dinner, satisfied that I had been sensitive and listened to Arlene. Arlene was inviting me into a conversation about where we would go to dinner, but I didn’t speak her more indirect language.

We got a view into the serious nature of how much we were missing one another when we stopped to visit my mother for a few hours on a trip to see both our parents. Back in the car and pulling away from my mother’s apartment Arlene said, “I am sorry, I guess we’ll never be able to go back.” Shocked and confused, I responded, “Why not!?!” Her answer, “Well, you and your mother had that terrible fight.” My response, “What fight?” What Arlene perceived as a relationship ending fight hadn’t even registered as an issue for me.

The intensity and expressions of anger in my home of origin and the nuanced gentleness of Arlene’s were miles apart. We spoke different languages and didn’t know it! At least I didn’t. My first response to Arlene as we struggled with this phenomena was, of course, “Speak up, mean what you say and say what you mean!”.

Sometime later, listening to the scripture being taught on the subject of communication in marriage the Lord said to me, “Learn to speak Arlene’s language.”

So began for me and for us the life long journey of listening, learning and speaking in our marriage.  

Friday, October 11, 2013

The Sunday Set-Up for October 13, 2013

Sermon Teaser: Taming the Tongue: How powerful are words? How often do you consider the weight of the words that find their way to your tongue? How might those words tear down or how might they build-up? Have you ever considered that the words you speak may also play a major role in forming you as a follower of Christ? Join us this Sunday as we delve into James’ provocative challenge to the Christian discipline of Godly speech.

Readings for Sunday: James 3:1-12 and Matthew 15:10-11, 15-20

Bulletin: October 13, 2013

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Opening Up Our Lives Through Community Groups

by Robin Bolash

I love leading and being a part of a community group– studying scripture with other people and walking through life’s up and downs with a group of friends.

Our group has been meeting together for years now – and we enjoy the fruits of all that time together – we laugh a lot, we speak freely, and we share each other’s burdens.

Recently we have had a number of new folks join our group, and at the same time we have had a family in our group in crisis. I thought the combination of those two dynamics would be awkward for either the new folks or regular members of our group. As the leader I wondered, “How can we have new people join a long established group and maintain the level of intimacy, connection, and ease of communication that we enjoy?”

However, with this family in crisis, it was clear that we needed to we needed to pray –so we did. We spent an entire meeting in prayer for this family, walking through scriptures we had studied over the past few years as a springboard for intercession on their behalf. What was amazing and encouraging was that the five new folks that joined us for the first time that night just dove right in. Even though it was their first meeting, they joined us right where we were as a community and came alongside this family with us to care for and pray for them in a time of great need.

I loved experiencing that and found it deeply encouraging. I am so thankful that these newcomers were willing to join us in what we needed to do as a community group, and thankful our established group did not hesitate to welcome these newcomers. Mostly I am thankful that week after week I get to be a part of a community group so committed to one another and to the word of God. 

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Seeds Family Worship Concert

On September 20, Church of the Apostles hosted a concert by Seeds Family Worship. Each year, the children at Apostles listen to the various Seeds CDs which set Scripture to music. It is one of the many ways the Children's Ministry is committed to hiding the Word of God in the hearts of Apostles' children. We asked a few of the families that attended the concert to share what they love about the Seeds songs:

An 8 year old said, "My favorite song is 'Young'...1 Timothy 4:12."

One mom said, "Our kids have been singing the songs everyday.  The other night, when I was praying with our son at bedtime, he started interjecting 'don't be anxious about anything...'  We then both started singing the verse, Philippians 4:6,7.  So, those songs get repeated in our house and, at times, right in context."

The dad of two girls told us, "Our kids have been singing their favorite song 'don't let anyone look down on because you are young, but set an example for the believers'...they love to sing that at the top of their voices and run around the house!"

Friday, October 4, 2013

The Sunday Set-Up for October 6, 2013

Sermon Teaser: Have you ever given thought to what faith is supposed to produce in the life of a believer? We may not be justified in God's eyes by our works but can you really say that a person has genuine faith if there is no outward evidence of that faith? Please pray that God will speak clearly to us this Sunday on the relationship between faith and works in the book of James, and join us with an expectant heart to worship our Lord Jesus Christ.

Reading for Sunday: James 2:14-26

Bulletins for Sunday: October 6, 2013 (8:30) & October 6, 2013 (11:00)

This Sunday is also Baptism Sunday. We will have baptisms at both services. Join us on Sunday to welcome these children into our church family.