Friday, May 30, 2014

The Sunday Set-Up for June 1, 2014

Could a Tar Heel hug a Blue Devil?

Can a Red Sox fan not curse a Yankees fan?

Could PC and Mac users agree that both have their strengths?

Or, on a more serious note, could you care about the needs of someone you want nothing to do with?

We'll talk about it this Sunday as we continue our series on the Parables. See you then!

Reading: Luke 10:25-37

Bulletin: June 1, 2014

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Moving (Towards Trusting God)

by Carson Speight

The wait was finally, graciously, over.

For some time, I had been unhappy with my job. Not the company, or the people, but the job. I longed to obtain work that was satisfying, or as Frederick Buechner put it, “a vocation where my greatest passion meets the world’s greatest need.” I had a passion and the skills but not the opportunity. After a few years of praying, grumbling, networking and soul-searching, this past Fall the opportunity I was hoping for came. I had been recruited within my company to a role that I felt greatly matched my passions and skills. The wait was over and I was excited, thankful and relieved.

But there was a problem. After verbally accepting the position, the formal process of position acceptance and division transfer was not happening quickly. Something was wrong, as if they could not offer me the position after all. I thought, “God, was this too good to be true? Would you actually bless me this wonderfully—to give me the exact desire of my heart—only to crush it?” No way. God does not offer a blessing and then spitefully snatch it away. Instead, I learned that I could have the job as long as I moved to Greensboro. This was hard and unexpected and I was bewildered.

What was God up to? I felt certain He had been setting me up for this role for the last several years. It didn’t make any sense as to why He would uproot us to move to another city and away from our family, church family, and friends. I really didn’t think I could accept the position. Yet, when the hiring manager asked me what I would do, I couldn’t say no. I told her I would think about it.

That was an understatement. For the next week, thinking about it was all I did. My best thought was to consult wise friends. These friends explained similar experiences regarding moving to a new place or wrestling with God. Some of them told me about Greensboro and the more I inquired of the city myself, the more open I was to going there. But with all of the great words my friends gave me, I still was asking God to give me something concrete to help me make this big decision. Yet, it became clear as the week wore on that it was not likely the bush would burn for me. In fact, the words that stuck with me most came from a friend who said that God might just be asking me to trust Him. Despite this rather ambiguous notion, it seemed to make the most sense for my situation.

We knew we had to step out and trust Him. Our hearts hurt for the things we would lose here. We would leave our home that we’ve been in since our second year of marriage. We would leave our church body that we have been a part of even longer. And we knew that many relationships, simply due to distance, would lose their strength. But God was doing something great, even if it was hard. So we told everyone we would be moving. I started my new job in Raleigh at the beginning of the year, and a colleague introduced me to others as “our pilgrim to Greensboro.”

Now that the decision was made, we had to make a plan. A couple of weeks into the new year, Danielle and I discussed and wrote down all of the things that needed to happen in the coming months to leave Raleigh. That same week, my manager informed me that things were not moving quickly in Greensboro and that I could stay in Raleigh if I wanted to! You might think that would have been good news to me, but I couldn’t even rejoice because I was so perplexed as to what God was up to! Didn’t he want us to move? Isn’t that what this entire elaborate process was about? Would He really bring us through this crazy journey of trust only to have us not take the big step we thought He was asking of us? We wrestled with the questions, especially as we soon understood there was no reason to move and we would be staying in Raleigh.

It didn’t take long before the joy and excitement of staying home began to set in. We were relieved and thankful for what God had done. But we still weren’t sure why He did it. For me, it came back to the simple statement of my friend, “maybe God is just calling you to trust Him.” Certainly, God had called us to trust Him. I realize now that a large part of my confusion was assuming what would happen when I trusted God. I thought trusting Him meant selling my house, moving to a new city and to a new house, meeting new friends, finding a new church and making a new life. Yet, it seems that was never part of the Lord’s plan. Abraham believed God was calling Him to sacrifice his son, Isaac; really God was calling Abraham to trust Him. Zechariah wanted to know how Elizabeth would bear such a great child, any child for that matter, in her old age; God just wanted Zechariah to trust Him. Peter jumped out of the boat because he wanted to walk on water like his rabbi; Jesus just wanted Peter to trust Him.

And God knows we did not trust Him perfectly. Yet, like Zechariah and Peter, God is still faithful in our trust failures. Yet also, like Abraham, trusting God brings rich blessing for our lives. It deepens our affections for Him. And so it has for the Speight family.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

A Year In Rwanda...

by Hillary Dotson

Rwanda for the Year?
Yes. What better way to celebrate a recent college graduation than to head to Rwanda for the year?! My family has been a member of Church of the Apostles for the past twelve years. And on July 4th, the Apostles' Partnership Team 2014 will be sent for the fifth consecutive year, this trip being my third. Over the last 2 trips, our church’s desire has become mine as well and I have felt the Lord’s call to personally respond by staying for the year after our team returns home. So for the 2014-15 school year, I will be teaching English at the Sonrise School and Orphanage.

Since leaving Rwanda last summer I have sensed the Lord continuing to pull me back for an extended term. A discernment team, including both Patrick Dominguez and Eric Bolash, met with me in mid-February to help evaluate three opportunities and consider where and how I could best be used. They challenged me to spend the following week praying for God’s will to become explicitly clear as a decision needed to be made. The very next day the Lord put me on my back for six days (literally in the hospital with a collapsed lung) to clear away all distractions so I could seek Him and discern His best. By the end of that week, my thinking changed and I sensed clear direction to accept a position teaching at the Sonrise School: 

The Sonrise School
The Lord’s orchestration is remarkable, especially as I look back and see how He has brought me to this place. The Sonrise School was opened 7 years after the Rwandan Genocide in order to provide for the educational and spiritual needs of many children orphaned in the tragedy. Today, it exists as one of the top-performing boarding schools in Rwanda, educating children of paying Rwandan families as well as those there on sponsorship. Church of the Apostles has supported the Sonrise School since its opening.  

I am thrilled to return to Gikomero to see our brothers and sisters again, and I am excited to explore a new part of Rwanda as well. A huge prayer during my time in Rwanda is that God would show Church of the Apostles how to take the next step in our sister church partnership. Specifically, how we could create a sustainable, long-term position for someone from Apostles—a position with enough infrastructure to benefit both our sister church and the individual(s) going. Please pray for clarity along these lines during our partnership trip and during my year in Rwanda. Thank you for your support and commitment to this partnership!

Friday, May 16, 2014

The Sunday Set-Up for May 18, 2014

In the parable of the Rich man and Lazarus, the rich man ultimately ends up in hell. Apparently he is there due to callous indifference towards his poor neighbor. What does this parable have to teach us about the nature of heaven and hell? What does it teach us about grace and generosity? What does it teach us about the charter of God? This rich parable has much to tell us about mercy and how grace leads to grace. Join us this Sunday for an in-depth look at this provocative parable.

Reading: Luke 16:19-31

Bulletin: May 18, 2014

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

My life as a Christian

by Ben Fischer

            I was baptized the same day as my oldest daughter, in fall 2006.  I was 35.  I had first had thoughts about becoming a Christian 2 years earlier when I was courting my now wife, Liz.  It was Liz and my friend and fellow Navy doctor David Benson who drew me to the Church by the way they lived their lives. 
            Liz and I were introduced by a childhood friend of mine who was in graduate school with her. I was immediately drawn to Liz by her warmth, humor, and spirit of adventure.  She and my friend Todd shared enthusiasm for live music (which was the main reason they both chose to go to school in Austin), and though Liz moved comfortably in that world, I soon realized that she was not of that world.  She did not exude any sort of superior or judgmental attitude, but at the same time she lived by a different standard than the people around her. 
As I got to know her better and we started to date, her differences from every other girl became more apparent.  She expected more from me than any other girl I had ever dated.  She made me want to be old fashioned and treat her with respect; she made me want to be better.  I wanted to know more about what made her different and so she began to share her faith with me.  She gave me a Bible with my name inscribed on it in fall 2004.  I read mostly from the New Testament (the Old was and still is a bit scary and intimidating) and was inspired by the call to love and selflessness. Exhortations to lead a more virtuous and noble life spoke to me and, in combination with the real life example of my then fiancĂ©, made me want learn more about the Christian faith.
            I had up to that point in my life been seeking significance and a meaningful life in a secular context.   I was fortunate to have a loving mother and a formidable father who was stern about all the things he should have been stern about.  I knew from them and from the rigorous high school they had sent me to that a life well lived involved service to others. 
I had also been inspired by a high school Latin and philosophy teacher to lead the examined life.  I went off to college and then spent some post college adventure years earnestly seeking to find the right path that would best use my talents and interests. 
After some meandering paths through a farm in Vermont, nature preserve in Ecuador, and then a year teaching junior high in Quito, Ecuador I wound up choosing to study medicine because I had not come up with a better idea on my own and that path had always been encouraged by my family.  Though I’d had a lot of questions to that point about what a successful life constituted, I then went into 8 years of total dedication to professional training with no time to worry or think about what it all meant.  Upon emerging from my residency training, I found that I still had big questions.  I thought I had found meaning, and I had to a degree, but I had also found that you can busy yourself to the point that you can’t or don’t think about what it all means.
            In the year leading up to the time when I began to date my wife I read The Closing of the American Mind, by Allan Bloom, the main thesis of which is that a society that believes that all truths are equally true ultimately believes nothing and cannot hold together.  That book in part paved the way for me to accept Christianity.  I knew that I was dissatisfied with moral relativism and I felt myself adrift and not exactly the person I wanted to be, but I didn’t know what to do about it. 
            When I first began coming to Church I thought of myself as an observer – studying what this was all about.  I sincerely wanted to live up to the exhortations I admired from Paul and James in the Bible, but I was not sure about who God or Christ were. When Liz and I moved to Raleigh in 2007 and began to attend Church of the Apostles, I was very self-conscious about those doubts and even asked Patrick if it was okay for me to be in Church.  I felt like I was faking it.  Patrick encouraged me to keep coming and to attend a course here at the church called Alpha, which I did in 2008.  My main memories from that were Christa Wells playing songs for us at every meeting (incredible) and the line which I paraphrase – if you are uncertain if Jesus Christ is the son of God, just try following him and see if he doesn’t lead you to God.  That helped me an awful lot and gave me the intellectual license to look for God rather than to profess that I knew and had a relationship with God.
            As I have sought Christ over the past 5 years I have gradually shed my doubts and come to the state of being “all in” where I am now.  In science, a theory is affirmed by demonstrating that it consistently explains and predicts observed phenomena.  My faith has been affirmed as I have found that the Christian perspective on life consistently explains and predicts human behavior.  My understanding of the basic motivations of human beings, my own and those of others around me, are so much clearer to me now.  I see myself and my selfish tendencies so much more clearly, and seeing them I can (not always) rise above them.  My restless soul that was seeking meaning, significance, connection has found its rest.      
Like many children of my generation I was sent out into the world with the hoped for outcome that I would “be happy.”  Though I had ambitions to help others, my sifting through life choices still came down to how or whether those choices would satisfy ME.  What profession, which life companion, what place to live would make me “happy?”  My faith has delivered me from the need to seek my own satisfaction, and directed me instead to strive to love as Christ loved us and to live a life that is pleasing to God.  As a result I have never had a deeper contentment in all my life.  I know now what I am living for and where I’m going.  It’s better and deeper and richer than “happiness.”  I consider myself saved by God in the eternal sense, but also palpably in the very life I live now.  I am saved from chasing after stuff that has no eternal value. 
            I am grateful to my wife for sharing her faith with me and grateful to Church of the Apostles for shepherding me along as I explored who God is and what life he calls us to.    

Monday, May 12, 2014

Rwanda Partnership Team 2014

This year's eight-person Rwanda Team is the fifth team to travel to Rwanda on behalf of Church of the Apostles. We'll be there July 4-15. We go to encourage the church there, and to be encouraged by them to faithfully spread the gospel.

One of the most important aspects of this year's team is that we will leave Hillary Dotson! She plans to stay for the year to serve the Lord there. You can read more about her plans below. As our team of eight prepares to go, here is a brief bio on each of us. We would appreciate your prayers!

Eric Bolash
Kids wearing sandals, shorts and t-shirts often chase our van as it bounces down dirt roads in Rwanda. As they run, they wave wildly and shout, "Komera! Komera!" It means, "Stand strong! Stand strong!" The Lord has called me and our whole team back to Rwanda again this year so that we can encourage the Rwandan Church and they can encourage us to "stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord." (1 Corinthians 15:58) We are also called by the Lord to go on your behalf, as ambassadors from Apostles. So, please pray for us! May the Lord strengthen his Church as we continue this Partnership.

Carrie Alspagh
Rwanda- in my heart for 20 years
. I have been drawn to go to the Land of a Thousand Hills for many years. My family became dear friends with a Rwandan couple who emigrated to the US in the mid-1990s after the civil war. Through their eyes, we came to see the sadness and resilience of the people of this country. Also, I have friends who have been medical missionaries in Rwanda for 10 years. Each time our church has sent a team to visit our brothers and sisters in Gikomero, I have prayed whether it was the right time for me to actually go. This time, I felt peace and excitement about joining the Apostles Rwanda Team. I hope to be able to serve medically and to learn much from our friends there.  Hopefully, I will be able to engage with the ladies in the Mother’s Union too.   Psalm 32:8  I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.

Curt Blazier
It’s been almost twenty years since my last overseas missions trip, but recently have sensed the Lord nudging me more in this direction.  At the same time, I’ve been excited and encouraged about our Gikomero sister church partnership over the years.  I’ve always looked forward to attending our past summer trip debrief dinners to hear about the Lord’s work in our church partnership.  We are separated by thousands of miles, but we are connected in Spirit and purpose as we love and serve Jesus Christ and “strive together as one for the faith of the gospel” (Philippians 1:27).  As part of the Apostles team to Rwanda this summer, I look forward to developing new relationships, learning more about the lives and faith of our brothers and sisters in Christ, and worshipping our Savior with them.

Hillary Dotson
Yes, I shed a few tears the first time our plane landed in Rwanda. July 2012, my first time on the African continent. Simply the youngest member of the Apostles team 2 years ago, little did I know this was a place I’d soon come to call home. Thrilled to be going back with our partnership team for trip number 3, and excited to say that I will be staying on for a year to teach english at The Sonrise School in Musanze, Rwanda. Thus far, the Lord has used this beautiful country to open my eyes and my heart to His fullness and my place as His Beloved. My brothers and sisters there have truly awakened me to see the lovegoodnessnew lifehealing, and faithfulness that flows from our Heavenly Father. Last summer we shared the song, “My Beloved,” with our sister church and sang it often during team devotions. The lyrics below capture the light, the joy, and the life that Rwanda has brought me:
My Beloved bring me awake, Take me up to your resurrection place
My Beloved bring me awake, ‘Cause I want to feel Your light upon my face.

Jim Dotson
Having been a member of Apostles for the past 12 years, it has been exciting to see the Apostles - Rwanda partnership grow.  I am amazed, blessed, and inspired by the courage and strength of our Rwandan brothers and sisters.  While we certainly have much temporally to give, seeing their relationship with the Lord shows me how much we can learn from them.  I often thought is would be great to “go and experience” first-hand, but our daughter Hillary has gone the past two summers and this was “her ministry.”  Needless to say, when Hillary and Ann shared one night at dinner that they thought I should consider going this year, that was all the encouragement I needed.   What a privilege to go on your behalf and see what God has in store.

Lee Garrett
It is my pleasure and honor to make my second trip to Rwanda.  Since my first trip I have felt the pull of God to return with the sense that I had more to do there.  I don’t know what that will be, Patient Care, Teaching, or something totally unexpected.  I am looking forward to the trip and adding to the blessings that I have received from the people of Gikomero already.

Teresa Kincaid
"Imana ishimwe!"  These are the first words we hear as we greet our brothers and sisters with hugs.  They mean "Praise God!"  Through the power of the Holy Spirit, as in Acts 2, we join together and "Praise God" in our own native language, as we worship and share time together.  Also, I long to embrace, hold hands and jump rope with our children we sponsor with Compassion International.  Ndishimiye gukunda (I am happy we love each other) as brothers and sisters in Christ.  Please pray for our team and our Rwanda family.  Murakoze cyane gos. (Thank you very much.)

Sue Koehler
I went to Rwanda in 2011 with a team from Church of the Apostles.  The highlight of that trip for me was time spent with women from the church.  We talked about how we came to Christ and the difference it’s made in our lives.  It is that connection with women from Church of the Apostles, Gikomero that draws me back this summer.  I want to learn how they live out the Gospel in their church, community and families and bring their stories back to women in our church.  I want to help deepen the connection between women of Church of the Apostles, Gikomero and Raleigh.

Friday, May 9, 2014

The Sunday Set-Up for May 11, 2014

Not only is this Sunday Mother's Day, but it's also the Sunday that the Students bring The DEAL (our student worship service) downstairs and share our worship with the rest of the church. We are looking forward to you experiencing The DEAL. As a part of the parable series that we are in the midst of, this Sunday we are going to take a look at the Parable of the Lost Sheep from Luke 15.

So, what do you know about shepherds and sheep?  Psalm 23 helps a bit if you want to do some reading. You might also want to check out Moses' time out in the wilderness with Jethro near Midian. Or you could look at some of the early stories of David's life...especially how he learned to wield that awesome sling. But to get started remember that shepherds are sheep experts in every way. They know their sheep. And the sheep also know their shepherds.

How have you experienced being shepherded? How have you experienced being a shepherd? When was a time that you were physically lost? What did you hope for in that time?  Who did you hope for in that time? What about being spiritually lost? How did you know it when you were found? These are some of the thoughts and questions we hope to think through and share about as we bring our student service downstairs this Sunday. Please join us!

Reading: Luke 15:1-7

Bulletin: May 11, 2014

Monday, May 5, 2014

Life with a Fellow: Host Family Testimony

by Cathy Williams

Our family loves to play games. In the early years we spent many hours playing Candyland, Petshop and Pretty Pretty Princess. Since then we have moved on to more sophisticated games like Bananagrams, Clue, and our newest favorite Fishbowl. Games make us laugh and sometimes argue lightheartedly but there is nothing like a good old fashion rivalry to bridge generation gaps and bring families and friends together.

A few years ago we decided to host a Raleigh Fellow named Brent Boyd. We had never met before, but he arrived on our doorstep one Tuesday night with all of his belongings, ready to move in with us for nine months. We had dinner and got to know each other, and then he gave us a gift called The Game of Things.  This was a brilliant hostess gift, and it connected us immediately as he proceeded to beat us in a game where it is usually beneficial to know your opponents well. We decided he would fit in perfectly, and nine months later we were sad to see him go. During those nine months we were privileged to watch his budding relationship with his future wife blossom. We invited Brent into all our family activities, and he eagerly accepted. He attended hours of ballet performances and wrestling matches and cheered like one of the family...because he was and is part of our family.

Brent now lives in Charlotte a few miles from his parents with his wife Rachel whom we adore. Recently our youngest Amy Grace had a volleyball tournament in Charlotte, and I sent Brent and Rachel a Facebook message telling them we would be in the area and hoping we could see them. His mother chimed in and invited us to stay with them while we were there.  This was both a blessing and a delight. Our first night there we had a delicious dinner and caught up on what was going on in our “adopted son’s” life. It was so good to see him again as well as get to know his parents better. No evening with Brent and Rachel is complete without a good game, so after dinner the seven of us played Pit. It was just like old times! Later Amy Grace was reflecting on the weekend and commented on how much fun all of those people were. It really blessed me to realize that we were brought together through the Fellows program, but have gained lifelong friends.

Friday, May 2, 2014

The Sunday Set-Up for May 4, 2014

Over and over again, Jesus calls us to consider the small things of this world in order to grasp the grand purposes of God. Whether it is the faith of little children, the flowers of a field reflecting God’s glory, the obedience of a boy to his father, or the simple gratitude of an outcast healed by his Lord, Jesus reminds us that the Father cares about it all. This week we will be considering the Kingdom of God, which Jesus compared to a planted mustard seed eventually growing into a full size tree. Come and be encouraged as we seek to grasp the fullness of the implications of Jesus’ simple parable.

Readings: Colossians 1:1-6 and Luke 13:10-21