Friday, March 28, 2014

The Sunday Set-Up for March 30, 2014

Some warnings in life should not be necessary.

But then there are warnings that are worth paying attention to. Jesus took the opportunity in the last hours before his death to warn his disciples about what life would be like for them as his disciples. In fact, they are warnings for everyone who follows Christ, so they're essential for us to hear. 

See you Sunday as we continue our Lenten series, "The Night Before..."

In Christ alone, 

Reading: John 15:18-16:4

Bulletin: March 30, 2014

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Missionaries of Apostles: The Farwells - Athletes in Action

John and Janie Farwell, with Tate, Kensie, and Sadie
We went to Israel with Athletes In Action to hopefully accomplish a number of things. First was to encourage, train and disciple our staff in Bethlehem.  Second was to develop some deeper relationships with the Israeli basketball federation.  And last to take some classes for personal development.

The questions asked of us upon our return from Israel: How was the trip? Was it worth it?  And for those in Raleigh, are you teaching Sunday School again?  The whirlwind that was the last year still lingers in my mind.  What God did to get us to Israel was simply awe inspiring and whole heartedly confirming, raising all the funds needed in less than two months was so encouraging.  Then came news of the use of chemical weapons in Syria three days before our departure to the region.  We prayed and relied on our previous experiences traveling to the Middle East to feel confident to go forward (after purchasing gas masks to take with us).  Not an easy decision when surrounded by family over Labor day weekend. 

Once there, we did life with our AIA staff and the families in our apartment building.  My mind went to all the things we hoped to accomplish during our time there.  I began to feel anxious.  My nature is to be a doer.  Things there got off to a slow start in terms of being ‘productive’.  I did all the usual things we are ‘supposed’ to do: prayed, worked towards setting up meetings, etc…

A sense of helplessness was and is a constant companion.  I felt the weight of responsibility to y’all, our family, friends and supporters as well as a drive to be productive and make the time ‘fruitful’.  There was literally nothing we could ‘do’ to reach any of our goals.  And yet, looking back, everything on our ‘to do list’ was done and more so.  We could not have orchestrated it any better.  The last month and a half were exhausting with all that we were doing.  I’m confronted afresh with the reality of our utter dependency on Him to accomplish His purposes.  The feeling of helplessness is so helpful as it forces me back to this reality, in every aspect of life. 

Speaking to the men in particular, our culture bombards us with the message that we have to be a mover and a shaker, make things happen to be a leader and a man; a pressure to initiate, make something out of nothing and persevere at all times.  Obviously, in the Spirit, these are all great attributes.  But God is the primary mover.  It is His agenda we are trying to accomplish, for His glory and not our own feeble blip of a reputation in the greater span of human history.  We watched God move in ways that confirm His plan and it is up to Him to make it happen.  Our job is simply to show up and be available. We can’t ‘make’ anything happen. 

My desire in sharing this with you is to let you into our hearts and be encouraged to keep ‘showing up’ and following God’s agenda in your life.  He desires the whole world to be reconciled to Himself and all of us are surrounded by those who don’t know Him and institutions which choose not to honor Him.  We have an opportunity today to be a small part of God’s restoration plan and there is nothing more exciting in life than that.

Ways to Pray:
Please pray for the ministry in Israel. 

Pray for the two trips coming up this summer.  
Pray for our staff in Israel - for their safety and protection.  
Please also pray for preparations for the fall tour and having Apostles be a launching pad to send young men out all over the world.

Friday, March 21, 2014

The Sunday Set-Up for March 23, 2014

Would you like your life to be useful in God’s hands? Would you like to be sure that He has given you all you need to live the life He intends for you to live? This is God’s great desire for you and Jesus spoke clearly about it on the night before he died. Come join us this Sunday as we explore John 15:1-17 and what Jesus had to say about “fruitful” living. Come with grape expectations! :)

Reading for Sunday: John 15:1-17

Bulletin for Sunday: March 23, 2014

Monday, March 17, 2014

Missionaries of Apostles: Courtney Lancaster - Young Life

Courtney Lancaster
Area Director
This year I've started to do outreach on campus at NC State as we've launched our Young Life College ministry.

It's been exciting to focus on that age group. Do we call them young adults or still adolescents? I'm thinking adolescents.

This year, in particular, I've gotten to spend a lot of time with NC State freshmen girls I knew in high school (as their YL leader) and have gotten to "come to college" with them. I've been praying for and walking with these girls since they were freshmen in high school.

In the past, I saw many of these girls just chuck their faith and stop learning about and pursuing Jesus like they did in high school. Since they know Young Life, they will still come to small group Bible studies and camps and club even though they are living life much like the prodigal son- squandering it.

And this past week I was with some of those girls when they "came to their senses" in a way. They admitted that they spent last semester seeking peace & happiness in boys and partying and going out, only to find emptiness & shame.

One girl whom I've known for 5 years now, said, "I think I'm ready. This is real, but I don't know how to do it." And because we have known each other for so long and have a deep friendship, I was able to ask her, "what's the word that I tell you is my word for you and that I always pray for you?" And she knew immediately the answer, "Surrender." And I said, "that's your answer."

I'm so thankful that through Young Life, a bridge of friendship was built, and I was able to cross it, in a booth at Moe's for the umpteenth time, with the Good News that Jesus did the work for us.

Ways to pray:
To have wisdom in my leadership of the Raleigh YL area
To hunger and thirst for God's Word and His righteousness
To have wisdom, grace, gentleness, truth and love when encouraging, training, guiding and leading our volunteers
To step out in faith and follow the Spirit's movement in our YL area
For our staff & leaders to be unified as the body of Christ
For discipline as I manage my schedule

Raleigh Young Life Christmas Club

Friday, March 14, 2014

The Sunday Set-Up for March 16, 2014

I love it when my dog is obedient! Problem is, Charlie (my dog) isn’t always. Have you ever given thought to what it means for us to obey the Lord? How big a deal is obedience anyway? Doesn’t an emphasis on obedience lead to a legalistic outlook and a de-emphasis on the grace of Jesus? How can obedience be an important part of my growth and enjoyment of the life I have in Christ? Come on Sunday as we explore the last words of Jesus to his disciples on the night before he died and what he had to say about obedience. Please leave your dogs at home!

Reading: John 14:15-31

Bulletin: March 16, 2014

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Pine Straw Leads To Changed Lives

The student ministry annual REACH mission trip is an extraordinary experience for our young people.  From the initial moments of the van ride to the actual site work, to relationship building with work teams and neighbors, to the program times and small group talks; this week is all about what it looks like to live out the Gospel.

Sure, we are not in our hometown, we are sleeping on the floor of a high school classroom, we are working on porches, roofs, wheel chair ramps and painting, and few of us are going to do any of those things as a career.  But, building relationships with real people who have need is something that we all need to learn to do.  Learning how to be part of a team and employ our gifts and talents in a way that isn't all about us, is also very important.  Getting far enough away to remove some of the distractions of our Raleigh, NC life in 2014 is so important, and the fact that we often have little to no cell phone service deepens that experience.

If you were to stop by my office some time, and I hope you will, you would find a wall dedicated to the photos of the Student Ministry Mission Trip Teams every year since 2005. Every face you see looking back at you from those photos would be able to tell you the story of how using their God-given gifts and talents they were able to directly impact an individual or family with the good news of the Gospel. Sometimes that good news was simply, "I am here to paint your house so that the weather is sealed out and the wood stays dry and intact." Sometimes the relationship built during that week progressed enough to invite a "neighbor" to the evening program to hear worship and the Word proclaimed.  And sometimes that good news was an opportunity to directly share the Gospel with a "neighbor." Often though the faces in the pictures would also tell you how much they learned, how much their lives were changed, and how much more deeply they understood Jesus’ love.

Here are two account from our own students who have been on a REACH Workcamp trip:

Sean Duncan, sophomore

My first year at REACH we went to our “neighbor’s” house (what we call the people who live in the homes where we work)  and it seemed totally unlivable. Duct tape was holding most things together, they were honestly horrible living conditions. There were holes so deep in the kitchen floor, you could see the ground. My heart was broken to see that someone had to live in those conditions. Our group helped re-do the kitchen and as a surprise we were able to bring her a new refrigerator at the end of the week! We also gave her a new bathtub and we took out all the duct tape in the house. She was so happy when we told her she didn’t have to use tape anymore! She was crying tears of joy when we left, it was such a humbling experience.
We were also able to invite her to our evening program. Evening program is a combination of skits and music, where we reflect on the projects we have been working on for the week. There is always a speaker, and our neighbor was able to see everyone come together to serve one purpose for one God. There was such unity in us being together even though we come from different states. And it was so special for her to see us loving and impacting her community.
Jon Mackanic, senior
Reach Workcamps have changed my life. Each summer a new challenge is presented and every year I gain a new realization of what I am able to do. Reach has allowed me to improve in finding ways to help out someone who may be less fortunate than I am. Teamwork and collaboration are essential pieces to Reach Workcamps that are otherwise difficult to find in everyday life. Reach is an escape from a busy, self-serving world to a time of spiritual development and serving others.

So, we sell pine straw as a way to raise funds for this awesome experience. Would you consider purchasing pine straw to help us accomplish our goal of helping folks in Scioto County, Ohio this July? 
You can place your order here:

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Missionaries of Apostles: Cam Malpass - Cru (formerly Campus Crusade for Christ)

Cam Malpass
God is working at NC State and Meredith College

What a joy and privilege to get to enter into the lives of college students at NC State and Meredith. And what an honor to have Church of the Apostles partner with me and be part of what God is doing on the college campuses in Raleigh!

A story of transformation
In August, I met Shea, a freshman at NC State. I started meeting with her weekly. She is one of those students who I saw much potential in and loved spending time with, yet often found myself frustrated by choices that she was making. I would sometimes question Shea as to why in the world she would want to meet with me each week—Shea wasn’t exactly the type of student that you would picture meeting with a campus minister regularly. Early on in my friendship with Shea, I told her that I was not going to give up on her and run in the other direction, as I sensed she might be expecting me to do based on things that she was telling me about her life and choices. I continued to meet with Shea and pray for God to do something major in her life, draw her to Himself and change her from the inside out.

I had asked Shea to come to our Winter Conference but she wasn’t interested in giving up her New Year’s Eve plans, so she told me “no”.  In early December, I really felt like the Lord was laying it on my heart to introduce Shea to a friend of mine on staff in Kentucky. I met Kristen, this new staff friend, last summer in Clearwater and her story and background seemed really similar to Shea’s. I thought it would be helpful for Shea to talk to someone who had been “in her shoes” and could relate and could show her that God CAN change someone—even from really hard places. So, I asked Shea if she would be willing to come to Greensboro for just one day of the conference. She said she’d think about it.

On December 29th, Shea texted me and said she was on her way to Greensboro. A few hours later, she texted and said that she was in the lobby. I was ecstatic and expectant for what the Lord might be about to do. Shea sat with me during the first speaker that morning (the talk was about how the Gospel changes you) and then she had lunch with Kristen and me. Kristen was able to share her story with Shea and for the first time I began to see glimmers of hope in Shea’s eyes—maybe this Jesus really could change her. Our lunch turned into a 6 hour conversation where eventually through tears, Shea said that she wanted to place her trust and faith in Christ. It was the most beautiful conversion I have ever experienced—Shea was broken and genuine and cried out to the Lord that she needed Him to come and change her life. She also stayed at the conference for another day!!

Shea texted this to me about her experience: “I just can’t believe that I went to Greensboro living my life one way and I came back a different person.”

Please pray for Shea as she and I study the Bible together this semester and explore more of what this new life in Christ means for her. Please also pray that God would deliver her from the chains that have had her bound tightly for many, many years. We serve a big God and we need for Him to show up to give her strength and power and courage to walk away from many destructive things from her past.

How you can pray for my ministry
1. Pray for my own walk with the Lord – that I would experience increased intimacy with Him and that my ministry would come as an overflow from my own personal walk with the Lord.
2. Pray for wisdom and discernment as I help give leadership to this ministry – wisdom to love and care for the staff team and students under my care at NC State and Meredith College.
3. In the beginning of February, we hosted a women’s event on campus and saw 76 girls (51 of them in sororities) place their faith in Christ. We are currently trying to meet one on one with each of these girls to follow up with them to make sure they understand the decision they made and have a community to join to help them grow. Please pray that we would be diligent to get back with each of these girls and not allow any to fall through the cracks.

Friday, March 7, 2014

The Sunday Set-Up for March 9, 2014

This Sunday, we begin a sermon series through the season of Lent entitled: "The Night Before…" We will be dealing with Jesus’ final teachings to his disciples before his crucifixion and resurrection. As we begin in chapter 14 of the Gospel of John, we look at the assurances that Jesus gave to his disciples. It raises questions of our own confidence. How sure is your faith? How confident are you that you are carrying out God’s purposes for your life? How much do the troubles and failings of your own life seem to knock you off course? And…(this is a doozie) what on earth did Jesus mean when he assured us that we could ask ANYTHING in his name and he would most certainly do it? Join us Sunday as we begin to examine the things that Jesus taught us on the night before.

Readings: 1 John 1:1-7 and John 14:1-14

Bulletin: March 9, 2014

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Missionaries of Apostles: Terri Shell - InterVarsity

Terri Shell
IV Area Director for
Eastern Carolinas
InterVarsity's Vision:  To see students and faculty transformed, campuses renewed, and world-changers developed.

Xuan is one student whose life has been transformed in this past semester. Xuan is a freshman at NC State who ultimately met Jesus because he said yes to the offer of a hotdog during an InterVarsity picnic at the beginning of the school year. Staffworker, Lauren Bass made that offer to Xuan back in September.  Xuan said yes and continued to hang out with InterVarsity students.  Eventually, Xuan said yes to following Jesus.  You are a part of this story!  Thanks for your prayers on behalf of Xuan and students like him. You can check out Xuan's story at:

Since the beginning of the school year, over 40 students on campuses in Eastern North Carolina have become Christians.  Jesus is using InterVarsity students to tell their seeking friends about him!  It is so clear that the Spirit is at work.

Eastern NC InterVarsity Staff Team
Prayer requests:
- Pray that the Spirit would continue to be poured out on college campuses in Eastern NC.  
- Pray that more students would seek and find Jesus.
- Pray that InterVarsity students would continue to be bold and creative in sharing their faith.
- Pray for specific ministries to athletes and artists that are developing at ECU, UNCW, and Meredith College.
- Pray for me as I lead, train and pastor a staff team of 10.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Stepping Out Into Community

by Lauren Mann

You know the old illustration of a good neighbor is running next door for a cup of sugar or an egg when you have run out.  That is the kind of neighborhood community I desire!  Sharing baking ingredients and lawn tools, really knowing each other and our families, being dependable to ask a favor or turn to in a hard time.  That sounds a lot like what we desire in the church, doesn’t it?  When my husband, Brian, and I moved to Raleigh from Illinois 4.5 years ago we didn’t know anyone.  I was looking to form relationships and thought my neighbors were a good place to start.  I asked neighbors as I met them if there was any kind of block party where people got together.  They told me there wasn’t and they were ashamed to admit that they didn’t even know everyone on our 16 house cul-de-sac.  That didn’t discourage me because I know people just need someone to take initiative and they can be quick to follow.  So I organized a block party.  It didn’t take much - I set a date and time, created a flyer with the information, telling odd numbered houses to bring a side dish and even numbered houses to bring a dessert, while everyone would bring their own main course and beverages.  I delivered the flyers personally knocking on each door and met each neighbor as I explained the party.  We all pitched in to bring tables and chairs and ate outside in our cul-de-sac.  The response was incredible!  The majority of the houses on our street were represented and everyone was delighted to have the opportunity to connect with their neighbors.  I have organized 2-3 of these block parties each year and we look forward to them every time.

Last fall I decided it would be fun to have a more regular, monthly gathering for at least the women.  And this time I decided to open it up to our whole 100+ house neighborhood (well realistically, the people I know and have email addresses for).  We do a monthly Game Night the second Monday of the month.  It is a low key time to enjoy some snacks and beverages at someone’s house, play a game that makes us connect (like Pictionary or Fishbowl), laugh and enjoy each other’s company.  It really has not taken much to organize, while the response has been fantastic.  People just need someone to initiate…

The first part of our church’s vision statement says seek after people outside the church, which is an active posture.  I think too often church people can spend all of their time with their family and friends who are all inside the church.  While I think it is important to have relationships within the church, we also need to have relationships outside the church.  Too often, I think we have more of an attitude that people outside the church can seek the church and then we will be welcoming, which is more of a passive stance.  What if we really sought to get to know the people around us who are not in the church?  Not with the goal to get them to church, but with the goal of truly getting to know them, know their background, know their family, know their concerns, know their joys and know what they think about God, the spiritual side of life and the church.

I am incredibly blessed by the relationships I have with my neighbors!  In any given week I can borrow several things from different neighbors.   But those relationships don’t end with borrowing things, I’m also blessed to share the highs and lows, the questions, concerns and joys of life with my neighbors, and also consider them true friends.