Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The Sunday Set-Up for December 1, 2013

The crop duster in this photo is a WOMD--Weapon Of Mass Destruction. It destroys every harmful critter that tries to attack the farmer's crop. But what does crop dusting have to do with Advent?

Come find out on Sunday as I preach on the advent of the Lord and our preparation for his coming.

Until then, Happy Thanksgiving. Our church staff is grateful for each of you.

Let every heart prepare him room,

Readings for Sunday: Psalm 122 and Isaiah 2:1-5

Bulletins for Sunday: December 1 (8:30am) and December 1 (11:00am)

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

A Report from The Fellows Conference

by Cary Bayless, 2014 Raleigh Fellow

A few weekends back your Raleigh Fellows had the joy of attending the annual Regional Fellows Initiative Retreat in Virginia. The retreat included lots of coffee, bonding in a van ride through the mountains, an expansion of each Fellows community, talks and discussions on Justice based out of Micah 6:8, an intensely competitive ultimate frisbee tournament (even though we didn't win we had the best jerseys), a hilarious montage of skits and videos by each program, heavenly worship, bonding for the guys from sleeping in tents in the frigid October air, and beautiful peace from the surrounding Blue Ridge Mountains ablaze in ambers, oranges, and greens. It was life giving. 

To discuss all of the aforementioned joys would take pages of ink, so I will instead leave you with a few important nuggets we all learned. 

First off, man, we are thankful for YOU Church of the Apostles and Raleigh, North Carolina. Seeing all of the other programs our friends from college and new acquaintances are a part of was wonderful! Each program is unique and Jesus is present in every Fellows program, but in every program he is teaching different things. Being in Raleigh we are really learning a lot about biblical community, loving like Jesus, and what it means as an adult to follow him in our places of work, in our homes, and with each other. The Raleigh Fellows program does this very well and we are all very thankful for that.

Second, we are thankful that our God IS good and He IS just. Hearing our speakers talk about what it truly means to love mercy, seek justice, and walk humbly with our God was refreshing and encouraging. We were pushed to see that all of these mandates in Micah 6:8 are applicable to us whether we are working to free our brothers and sisters around the world from human trafficking, working for a landscaping company, or serving as a teacher. No matter what our profession, Micah 6:8 applies. This is a beautiful part of the Gospel. Wherever we may be, serving God is a part of our job. 

Finally, we are thankful for the opportunity to be a Fellow. From every conversation I had with friends in other programs one chord rang similar: having nine months as a Fellow is one of the best decisions we have made thus far in our lives. It's not easy. It's not a perfect community in constant harmony. In fact, at times life as a Fellow can be hard. But it is so, so good. The reason is simple enough: Jesus. He is the reason we are all here. We all want to grow in our love of him. We all want to learn how to love others like him. We want more of Jesus and being a part of a Fellows community gives us that opportunity. Taking classes that study the Bible as a whole, prayer, solitude, silence, and leadership; Jesus is central. Being in a new community and living with a new family; Jesus is the cornerstone. Entering into what John Mayer would disdainfully call "the real world," we see to do so well, we must have our whole hearts turned to Christ. Seeing these truths in each program was encouraging and seeing how God is using everyone's time as a Fellow to draw us all closer to him was even more encouraging.

The retreat was wonderful. The coffee was fresh, the laughter always present, and the Fellows community beautiful. We are all thankful for the opportunity to go and would love to talk to you about it more at anytime! Just don't bring up the ultimate frisbee tournament.

Raleigh Forever,
Raleigh Fellows 2014
Cary Bayless

Friday, November 22, 2013

The Sunday Set-Up for November 24, 2013

Sermon Teaser: Have you ever considered what you’re saying about yourself when you pray? Have you ever considered what you’re saying about your God?  Come and join us at Apostles this Sunday to find out as we finish up our series in the book of James.  While you’re learning about prayer, you’ll get some advice that will help you as you wait for the Lord’s return, whether it’s next week or thousands of years from now…

Readings for Sunday: James 5:13-20 and Mark 1:29-34

Bulletin for Sunday: November 24, 2013

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Rwanda Roof Project

Editor's Note: In our partnership with the Gikomero church in Rwanda, we are joining with them to pay for a new roof to their church building. God is providing, and we will celebrate his provision this Sunday! In the article below, Sue Koehler describes her perspective on God's work in Rwanda and the importance of this new roof.

My first encounter with Rwanda was June of 1995. It was one year after the genocide. I was on staff with Food for the Hungry International in Mugunga Refugee Camp just outside Goma, Zaire. The camp was home for about 150,000 Rwandan Hutus who had fled the oncoming RFP soldiers that finally ended the slaughter of the Tutsis. It was one of five camps of approximately the same size along the Rwanda/Zaire border. At that time, eighteen years ago, I couldn’t imagine a Rwanda reunited with the nearly 1 million refugees living in these make-shift cities of UNCHR-issued plastic sheeting. Tensions were high. Fear and rumors of invasion were constant. The future looked bleak.

Fast forward to 2011 when I joined a small team from Apostles to travel to Gikomero, Rwanda to explore how to further develop opportunities for members of Church of the Apostles Raleigh to build relationships with our sister church in that rural Rwandan town. My first time back to Rwanda in nearly twenty years, much had changed. It was no longer a country in crisis, but a country reunited and rebuilding. The camps no longer existed, Zaire was renamed the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Hutu and Tutsi once again living side by side in Rwanda. Yet, the fears of the camps were not gone, they were just pushed underground. They were veiled behind each face I saw along the sides of the road as we passed by in our mini-van and behind the new construction and new moto-taxis zipping along the road.

Our team worshiped the final Sunday of our trip at our sister church in Gikomero; a small parish perched atop one of the many mountains in that beautiful ‘land of a thousand hills’. The whole congregation was there for their monthly gathering. Most had walked a great distance to reach the church for the service. They’d walked along dusty trails in their Sunday finest to meet for baptisms, communion, and a message by the Mizungu (white man) from America, Pastor Patrick Dominguez. The small church building was our backdrop, not our shelter. We worshiped under the blue sky. Women shaded themselves and their babies  under multicolored umbrellas. I marveled at the site. Two decades prior, it was a place of bloodshed during the genocide. Hutus, on order from leaders, murdered Tutsis who had fled from neighboring communes to this location seeking shelter. Now, it was a place of worship. I looked out at the crowd and wondered if I’d worked with any of these adults as children when they were separated from their families and living as orphans in the camps.

Patrick Dominguez led another Rwanda Partnership team this past summer. During the trip he was made aware by Pastor Etienne of our sister church’s plan to construct a new church building; one that was larger and capable to hold services indoors with the congregation, so they wouldn’t have to meet outdoors. It would also provide for a place for the students of the elementary and secondary schools to meet for large events. A request was made for financial help to cover the cost of the roof of the church. The congregation had already raised over $3,000 towards the construction of the building. The roof was estimated to cost $15,000. Patrick returned to the Rwanda Partnership Team and the Leadership Council with that request.

My first thought was, “That’s a lot of money for a building. Couldn’t our money better be used for AIDs work or some program to help orphans and widows?”. But that changed when I considered the significance of that local church in living out the gospel in Gikomero, as an agent of change in the hearts, minds and bodies among individuals and thereby the community. It's not a development agency run by expatriates, but the church made up of men and women from their neighborhood. Church of the Apostles in Gikomero is reclaiming a violent place with a sanctuary. One made of bricks and mortar for sure, but also a spiritual place of sanctuary amidst darkness, both past and present. What a beautiful sign of God's hope and redemption in a place that will need much of that in the years to come. What a privilege we have, Church of the Apostles Raleigh, to share in that effort.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Fellowship Through Art

by Jane Barnes

Most Tuesdays, a group of us meets in the Fellowship Hall to paint pictures. This is a time of fellowship and helping one another. We are the "Painting Group", which is composed of 3 Apostles Members and 4 fellow artists.
This group meeting in "My Father's House," has blessed me greatly. These friends and this time together is one way that God has fulfilled His promise to me from Psalm 20:4, "May He give you the desire of your heart".  God has given me the desire of my heart, to paint. Here in my father's house I find joy in the fulfillment of this desire.
A friend here at church asked me to paint her father's house. Another member saw the painting and asked me to paint her father's house too.  Thus, the 2 paintings shown here.


I pray that this painting time is a time of outreach as well as blessing to me. This is one way that we are trying to live out the mission of our church - "Seek the lost, build up the found and transform the city through Jesus Christ."

Friday, November 15, 2013

The Sunday Set-Up for November 17, 2013

Sermon Teaser: Waiting. Perseverance. Patience. These are the exhortations of the apostle James. How have you trained your soul to excel in these biblical attitudes? What are the benefits? How does an attitude like this change the way we treat each other? How does it shape our character? Think about these things…and then wait patiently for Sunday, when we take on this subject in our second to last sermon in the book of James.

Reading for Sunday: James 5:7-12 and Matthew 24:36-44

Bulletin for Sunday: November 17, 2013

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

When Work and Mission Intersect

Corey is the third person from the left.
by Corey Vana

Several weeks ago I went on a “Vision” Trip to Belize on behalf of Stop Hunger Now.  You see, GSK, for whom I work full time, has a volunteer program called PULSE, where employees can volunteer their time for up to six months at a partner Non-Government Organization (NGO), locally, within their country, or internationally.  I chose to stay in Raleigh and was matched with Stop Hunger Now.

My trip to Belize was set up to meet with our meal partner, Kidz Konnect 4 Jesus, a ministry which began 6 years ago through the work of David and Karen Rhoads.  After visiting southern Belize, Karen and David had a vision to spread the gospel in Belize through school age children where they saw a great need in this very poor country.  Stop Hunger Now began supplying meals to Kidz Konnect 4 Jesus after Karen presented a compelling case to Stop Hunger Now regarding how children and family were starving because of lack of food.  My role on this trip was to observe and document pictorially how the meals are used.

Over the past few years, I have been on several mission trips to Rwanda and Honduras so I was prepared for the stark poverty and subsistence living of these people.  But what struck me on this trip was the dedication and commitment to the Kingdom that both David and Karen had in their ministry.  All credit and glory was directed to the Lord and any decisions to expand operations or ministry are always taken to the Lord. 

David’s effort to repurpose buildings or grounds that have been abandoned by the government are visionary in nature.  Where I saw a row of old, abandoned block homes in a jungle of grass and weeds as an eyesore, David saw it as an opportunity to house abused women and to plant and harvest corn in the fields.

The Lord touched me on this trip reassuring me again of how he uses the willing and faithful for his glory.  Although I haven’t yet heard his call as to the next phase of my life, I am patiently listening for the quiet whisper of his voice to me.

Friday, November 8, 2013

The Sunday Set-Up for November 10, 2013

Sermon Teaser: You could be the lucky winner! We’re giving away $10,000 and a 72” plasma screen TV this week to the first person to sit in the front row. (Pastors not included!) Did I get your attention? This week James gets in the face of wealthy people who use their riches for personal pleasures, and even abuse their employees for personal gain. What’s you’re perspective on wealth? What connection is there between money and following Jesus? What would your spending patterns reveal about your values? What does eternal judgment have to do with the way we spend money? Join us this week as we look at how James deals with this subject. 
(By the way, I was just kidding about the cash prize and the TV giveaway!)

Readings for Sunday: James 5:1-6 and Luke 16:19-31

Bulletin for Sunday: November 10, 2013

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Leading with a Limp

Going through the motions doesn’t please you, 
a flawless performance is nothing to you.
I learned God-worship when my pride was shattered.
Heart-shattered lives ready for love don’t for a moment
escape God’s notice.
– Psalm 51:16-17 (MSG)

I recall a question that I received via an email, years back, from a concerned observer of a particular Sunday morning worship service.  “Why don’t your singers smile more?” the person asked, “Are we victorious or aren’t we?”  Now THAT’S a good question.

Recently, a vocalist who serves on the Worship Team at Apostles had to miss Wednesday evening rehearsal due to a difficult family crisis.  The next day, she sent me an email, wanting to know if she could still serve that Sunday even though she’d missed the rehearsal.  She wrote: “It is up to you of course, but I would love to stand up with the team and sing ‘How Great Is Your Faithfulness’ in the midst of this latest storm.” Did I say yes?  You bet I did.  Glorious.

As a leader of corporate worship, as in many other settings, there is the temptation to come off as polished, put together, happy, skilled, charming, profound… the list goes on.  And why not?  I mean, people really dig that.  Who doesn’t like a good standing ovation at the end of the “special music”?  But what does God prefer – our smoking harmonies or our shattered pride?  Both have a fragrance, and no mistake, but which one is pleasing before God?

In my first ten, nearly eleven, months here at Apostles, something I have truly come to appreciate is that our leadership spends little energy attempting to hide their own humanity, their imperfections and struggles.  On the contrary, they lead from their brokenness and dependence on God.  This frees me, and my team, to lead in a similar fashion.  *sigh*

I’ve noticed this.  I believe God has too.  Amen.

- Jonathan Noël, Worship Director

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Our Benevolence Ministry

by Gwen Barringer

Our Benevolence Ministry at church helps families in all kinds of crisis with financial support.  We’ve been known to help keep a family’s utilities from being shut off, supply food cards or gas cards, finance car repairs, or help with the cost of day care.  Our team has worked with other churches and North Raleigh Ministries to support the less fortunate folks in our area. 

Our church’s Benevolence Ministry works with the support of our pastoral staff by serving our church family as needs arise.  Financial assistance has been given towards medical bills and counseling.  We even offer budget counseling for families who are finding it hard to make ends meet. 

Here is just one story about how a family was helped through our Benevolence Ministry:
Section 8 housing assistance is offered by HUD through local housing authorities, and this assistance can mean the difference between a family living from shelter to shelter and actually having a home.  After waiting six long years on the Raleigh Housing Authority’s list, Susan (not her real name) finally heard she was to get housing assistance of 100% for her daughter and her.  All she was required to do before she claimed her new home was put down the required security deposit.  Susan had just lost her full time job and was working part time, but could only scrape together a bit more than half of her deposit.  She was frantic at the thought of losing this aid.  She reached out to our church for help through our Benevolence Ministry.  We pledged the remainder of her deposit, prayed with her, and discussed other agencies that could help her getting settled in her new home. 
I can tell you that helping, praying with, and walking alongside folks in times of great stress or crisis has been a privilege for me, because I receive far more from these people than our church could ever give them.  It is such an honor to serve in this ministry.

Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

Matthew 11:28

Friday, November 1, 2013

The Sunday Set-Up for November 3, 2013

Sermon Teaser: Dreaming about your plans? Imagining your better tomorrow? Where does God fit into it all? Are you a person who deeply considers the will of the Lord as you set goals, make plans, and carry out your business? James has some ancient wisdom for us to consider if we truly wish to live out of the center of God’s will. Join us this Sunday as we contemplate the will of the Lord.

Readings for Sunday: James 4:13-17 and Luke 12:13-21

Bulletin for Sunday: November 3, 2013