Monday, December 23, 2013

Please join us for Christmas Eve

I hope you will join us for Christmas Eve services at Church of the Apostles at 3pm, 5pm, or 11pm. Last year we heard the Christmas account from the perspective of the Innkeeper. This year we’ll hear it from the lips of an angel. It should be a heavenly experience!

Check out last year's “Christmas Eve drama sermon” by Church Apostles on Vimeo. The video is available for your viewing pleasure at http://vimeo.com/57774339

Patrick

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

"Smushed" by God

I'd like to share with you a story from a friend and regular visitor in our congregation. I have had the privilege of seeing God take him from a very hard place into a growing and joyful relationship with Him.  – Eric Bolash


At 44 years old, I was living what the world calls the “American Dream.” Wife with the requisite number of kids, senior executive of a large company, being paid a big salary with all the power and perks that comes with this role, nice home, two nice cars and great vacations. 

In addition, I was going to, and making a point to be seen at, a prominent area church and the popular area Bible studies. I was being real smooth in talking all about my “relationship with God and Jesus.” All the while, I had no peace in my heart, but thought if I could ever get to the level of financial independence that I was seeking, all in my world would be well and I would then have the peace I was so badly looking for. At that point, I would be able and would choose to live as a follower of Christ in my heart. And no doubt, I would then “walk the talk.”

In an unexpected two-minute conversation, all that was my world came to an end.

I came home without the job and career that I had so desperately built as my foundation—one that had become my god, and how I defined myself as a man/husband/daddy. My foundation had been built and was made up of pride, greed, deceit (of course hidden by my shrewd and manipulative words and actions), lust, envy, anger, hate…..all the rest of the list you could add here.  My god was now gone, and I had no idea how that in a short period of time I would collapse into nothingness at every level—physical, emotional, mental. I would add spiritual to that list, but I never had this even though everyone around me thought I did from my carefully crafted words and works.

A neat thing happened during the next 18 months. In the midst of an absolutely awful time that took me to the edge of my mind, physical body and life, and almost ruined my marriage and family….JESUS showed up. Of course He was always there, but it took my Father in heaven loving me so much that He set aside time and effort to smush me. He knew I would never surrender to him otherwise. Every professional I sought out for help offered up all the tools that modern day society has offer as their “fix.” And I tried them all in a big way, but to no avail. 

How was I healed? The way man has always had freely available to him…JESUS!  Funny thing, even in the most awful time, pride was so deeply ingrained in my heart that I would not turn loose of myself for a year and a half. The world tells you when you get to the end of your rope you tie a knot and hang on. That is a lie, although probably well intentioned. God’s smush finally had me to the point that I ran out of pride, and I let go of the rope. And I landed in the arms of JESUS!  What a Blessing. JESUS healed me.

I am grateful to have been taken to the point of hopelessness, because it took this for me to finally quit faking it and accept JESUS as my Savior. He gave me, and still does give the only true HOPE. I still turn away from Him when I fear the future and worry about being able to provide financially for my family. But the Holy Spirit is there with me always. Nearly every day when praying, I ask the Holy Spirit to holler real loud and even stomp His feet when talking to me, as I am still so easily tempted to pick up all the pride and selfishness, and all that goes with them. It’s humbling, but it is a blessing.


If you resonate with the author's story and would like to talk further with him, he said he would welcome that. You can send me an email, and I'll put you in touch with him: eric@apostles-raleigh.org

Friday, December 13, 2013

The Sunday Set-Up for December 15, 2013

I hope you will join us this Sunday for our traditional Lessons and Carols service. This tradition dates back to the early 19th century and recalls the great biblical accounts of the Fall, promises of redemption through the Messiah, and the incarnation of Christ. The church celebrates these events through the reading of Scripture, singing of carols, and the preaching of the Word. Speaking of which, have you ever noticed how powerful words can be? Words can make or break us. The creation began with a word, fell through words, and is being restored by the Word. Come this Sunday as we contemplate the Word made flesh.

Bulletin: December 15, 2013

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Pride for Parents: Our Advent Mission Focus

by Spencer Daniel


Our Advent Mission Focus this year is the Pride for Parents Store at The Encouraging Place in downtown Raleigh. The Pride for Parents Store accepts donations of new, unopened toys to then re-sell at low, affordable prices to families who would not usually be able to afford toys at Christmas. If you would like to participate, you can bring a new toy to the box in the lobby at Church of the Apostles. The deadline to drop off toys is Tuesday, December 17.

When Reggie Edwards, Executive Director of The Encouraging Place, called to tell me that she had the “perfect” service opportunity for me I thought that she was joking.  How can I run The Pride for Parents Christmas Store?  Last year I only served in the store by pricing and organizing the toys.  I had never seen the store in action.  But through prayer God led me to say, “Yes!”  And what a perfect service opportunity this has been for me!  I have seen God’s mighty hand in the store in so many ways.

One specific way that I have seen God’s work is through the faithful volunteers.  We have many of the same repeat volunteers shift after shift and day after day.  We have volunteers that are willing to offer their guidance and service to their community with happy servant hearts.  There are four women that stand out in my mind.  They are always early for their shifts (sometimes beating me there!) and stay to ensure that every last toy is priced and placed on the shelf.  They pray for the store before it opens, offer hugs and prayers for shoppers, and always have a smile on their faces.  I have been blessed by their words, hard work, and dedication to the store.  They are truly living out God’s plan and serving the store with a heart for God’s people.  They have been such an example for me, and everyone else at Pride for Parents, of how to treat everyone who walks through the door with the dignity and respect that they deserve.

I have also seen God’s hand in the shoppers that He brings to the store.  We had shoppers lined up and waiting on the first Thursday that we were open.  It was awesome confirmation to see them arrive after so much prayer that God would send them.  One particular story that stands out is a single mother with her two month old son.  She came on Friday with $2 to spend.  She bought four sets of clothes with her money.  Saturday she came back with $10 and bought her son two to three toys for Christmas (isn’t it every parent’s dream to provide Christmas presents for their child?).  As she was checking out we were talking about her son and her home life.  She admitted that she was in an abusive relationship with her son’s father, had recently lost her job, and was struggling to stay afloat.  Luckily, Reggie was standing close-by and we were able to introduce them and one of the volunteers prayed with her.  She’s been on my heart and my mind since and I know that God brought her to the store for a greater purpose.  This is just one example of how God is using the store to impact people’s lives in more ways than we can imagine.


The Pride for Parents Christmas Store has also been a huge blessing to me.  I have been able to see God’s work in action – in the people serving and shopping.  I am thankful for the opportunity to serve the people of Raleigh through The Pride for Parents Store.  And I am thankful that Reggie called me with the “perfect” service opportunity.    

Monday, December 9, 2013

A Different Take on the Apostles Prison Ministry


by David Whittaker

James 5:19-20 ( TMSG ) My dear friends, if you know people who have wandered off from God’s truth, don’t write them off. Go after them. Get them back and you will have rescued precious lives from destruction and prevented an epidemic of wandering away from God.

You might have the impression that the focus of our church's outreach to the North Carolina Correctional Institute for Women (NCCIW) is to secure as many "personal decisions for Christ" as possible each time we go into the prison. While this is an important step in the disciple-making process, it is only the first step in a lifelong process of being conformed into the image of Christ.

Most of those who come to our programs have made such a step in their lives. Many come with a good bit of Bible knowledge. The problem is they have let very real hurts pull them into a destructive lifestyle. Our mission to reignite that first-love passion and to help them see their sentence as a time of restoration and renewal. 

We encourage them to become truly penitent before the Holy Spirit and to allow him to do spiritual surgery in their lives. Because our audience is transitory, we seldom see any fruit from our efforts and must trust the Holy Spirit to finish the work he has started.  Our task is to show up. We would love for you to join us in this ministry. For more information, you can contact Mary Jo Hobbs: maryjohobbs@bellsouth.net.

Friday, December 6, 2013

The Sunday Set-Up for December 8, 2013

Sermon Teaser:
Who rules?
As Christians we say that "Jesus is Lord” and therefore is the ruler of our lives. But what does that mean? How do we live under his rule. What influence does His rule have over our daily decisions, thoughts, and actions? Isaiah the prophet, who lived several hundred years before Jesus, was granted special insight into the rule of Christ. Join us this Sunday as we examine his words and seek to prepare for Christ’s return, the second advent. 

Readings for Sunday:
Psalm 72:1-7, 18-19

Bulletin for Sunday: December 8, 2013

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Rwanda: Is God calling you to be there?

We are planning another trip to deepen our relationship with Church of the Apostles - Gikomero and the Shyogwe Diocese.  The 2014 trip will be July 4-15 and led by Eric Bolash.  The primary purpose of the trip will be working with the Mothers Union, and any area based on an applicant's skill set.  The Mothers Union encourages and educates women in parenting, nutrition, hygiene, family planning and offers emotional support.  They teach skills in order for the women to become self-sustaining.  The trip cost is approximately $2,800.  Applications are available on our website: HEREThey are due this Sunday, December 8th. If you have any questions, contact Eric Bolash (eric@apostles-raleigh.org) or Teresa Kincaid (nanatgk@gmail.com). 
Below is the blog post that Patrick wrote on the last day of their trip this past summer. Read about their trip and pray...asking the Lord if you are meant to go this coming year...

Day 11-I am sitting on an Ethiopian Jet liner in the 20th hour of a 30 hour journey (counting layovers).  It is hard to find the words to sum up our sister church partnership trip so far.  It has been affirming, moving, joyful, transforming and challenging.  Our hosts have been so gracious, and it and it has been wonderful to see and experience the genuine warmth.  This was our churches 4th trip, my third, several members second and a first for three of our team.  The change in our partnership has been remarkable.  Names are known.  Hugs and exclamations of delight punctuated each joyful greeting, as we hailed each one, recognizing faces and remembering names:  Gato! Betti! Bishop Jared! Pastor Ettiene! Eugenie! Felicima! Venant!   And on and on it went.  “Mwaramutze" (good morning), "I Mana Abahe Umugeedzah!" (May God bless you!), "Yesu Ashmwe!" (Jesus Be praised!)...
Taylor and Sarah with our cook Favian
As I witnessed, experienced and pondered these loving exchanges, I became more convinced of the true relational value of partnership.  The New Testament Epistles are filled with such warm greetings and blessings arising out of genuine affection and mutual knowledge of our Lord Jesus.
I come away from this trip deeply touched by our brothers and sisters in Rwanda.  They are building a new church building which we were privileged to see progress this week from ground level to about 15-20 bricks high all the way around.  They told us they are renaming their parish “Gikomero Church of the Apostles” to reflect our brotherhood.  They said “in our eyes you are Rwandan.  Please tell the brothers and sisters at home that we love them and are praying for them.  Tell them they are Rwandans, too!”
Laying brick on the foundation of the new church building
I was also very glad to see that Pastor Ettiene has become a very good and solid leader of his parish.  He loves his people, walks miles every day to encourage them in their cell groups and families, meets regularly with his lay leaders, visits the health clinic to pray with patients, and faithfully teaches/preaches The Word of God. He was delighted to show me the effects of the water project and the running water in the clinic, at a community station and just outside his home.
Pastor Ettiene oversees the building project

Ettiene greets Teresa
Our group also was impressed by the compassionate outreach taking place at Gikomero.  The church consistently ministers to over 100 single mothers who have suffered stigmatization, abandonment, abuse or rape.  These single moms are heroically working, providing and seeking the best for their kids.  The church is encouraging them with resources and the hope of the Gospel.
How I wish all our church could experience this partnership first hand.  I wish you could have met Alfred and his wife, Jennifer – a warm, loving couple who minster to youth, children, mothers, and prisoners.  Alfred was unjustly accused of participation in the genocide and spent 11 years in prison separated from his wife and children.  You would never know it to look at him.  He is filled with the grace and joy of Jesus and preaches the good news every chance he gets.
I wish you could have met the four children and one young man a few members of our group have sponsored through Compassion International.  They and their parents are so grateful for the chance to obtain education. The young man has obtained a vocational degree to operate taxis and small vehicles.  He was incredibly kind-hearted towards the younger children, sharing his candy (a gift we gave) with them, and playing soccer with them with his new ball.
I wish you could have seen the dancing at the church service yesterday as we all joined in with feet pumping and arms waving in raucous joy.  What a picture of the kingdom!  As I watched the children dancing and the adults clapping, tears came to my eyes.  This is what we are all destined for in the kingdom of God when the nations gather round to worship.  The tears came because I know these people.  I know their struggles.  I know their illnesses.  I am getting to know their fears.  I see their poverty and lack.  I’ve heard their stories of genocide.  Their dancing brings tears because it is born out of hope for a better world.  Not just in the coming kingdom, but in the progress of the kingdom NOW!!
Let the dancing begin!

Eric just can't help himself!
Patrick too!!!
I wish you could have been here for there is more to tell than I can possibly write.  I hope this blog has been a blessing to you.  I hope the few pictures and stories we have posted have made it possible for you to share in the journey.  I hope you will press in further with our sister church and hold them in your heart and keep them in your prayers.
Imana Ibana amohoro namwe.  (The peace of God be with you all.)

Monday, December 2, 2013

COME!

The title of this blog is an invitation.  It is extended to you.  To your neighbor, your co-worker, your babysitter, your mother-in-law, your yoga instructor.  The exclamation point is meant to conjure up a big smile and maybe even a hug.  It has become the tagline, as well as the invitation, for GIG our Wednesday morning women’s Bible Study at Apostles this fall. 

Let me back up in an effort to explain.  Last spring, as we wrapped up GIG for the year, God was churning hearts.  Members of the study, teaching leaders, small group leaders, all – felt an unsettledness at where we stood.  At the end of an amazing year of studying God’s word and a ‘successful’ year of Bible Study, we felt as if we had missed something.  As we shared and prayed and pondered these thoughts, it became clear that God was asking something more of us.  In a slow and gentle way, God showed us that He desired us to hold this study a little more loosely.  We had been organized and orderly, but perhaps our order had created a box that was a bit too small, a bit too self-defined.  He had poured out such richness into our hearts through His word, but we had just drunk it in with doors shut.  The question of our hearts became, how can we create a study where we are fed – with the structure needed to keep 80 women in line – but at the same time open the doors such that we reach out into our community weekly to bring in those who may have never heard of words so life-giving?

The answer to that question was COME!  We created flyers and bookmarks and Evites that every registered member of GIG could have on hand to pass out in their schools and carpools and work places.  We continued our rich sharing and fellowship in our small groups, but we opened the doors during the teaching “message” (from 11-11:30am each Wednesday).  Each week smiling women have volunteered to wait at the doors to see who might trickle in to hear of this life changing Man, Jesus.  And each week they came.  Sometimes just a couple, sometimes as many as a dozen.  Women of no faith, women of abandoned faith, women of great faith.  Women who have experienced great loss and great strain.  But each week, some have COME. 

The blessing has been all ours - to watch and see what He does with our tiniest obedience.  A Jewish woman who visited told her friend through eyes filled with tears, “I just felt so warm being here.”  He is so faithful.  All.  The.  Time.

So, to the women of Apostles, we now invite every one of you into this.  The Sip and Savor the Season Christmas Tea desires to reach out into our communities.  GIG is working with the other women’s Bible Studies, and we would like your involvement as well.  Will you join us at the Tea on Wednesday, December 11 from 10-11:30am.  And more poignantly, will you look around and ask the Lord to show you just one person (or more) to bring to hear a message of what happens when the God of all creation is born in our hearts, a message of hope to us all?  This is outreach made easy.  We will have live music, hot drinks and yummy treats.  We will have a pretty fellowship hall and smiling women.  We will do it all, so all you need to say is COME! Tickets to this event will be sold after both services this Sunday (2 tickets for $5).  If you have any questions about the Christmas Tea, contact Lauren Mann, laurenEmann@yahoo.com.  If you have questions about the COME outreach of GIG, contact Liz Fischer lizziefischer@gmail.com.



“Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine.”
Ephesians 3:20


To God be the Glory.