Friday, August 29, 2014

The Sunday Set-Up for August 31, 2014

For the last few weeks we have been reading through the book of Philippians together. One of the marks of Paul's letter to the church at Philippi is that he is proud of them and finds great joy in the way they are living out their faith.  C.S. Lewis wrote, “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.”  It seems as though the church at Philippi lived this quote.  They allowed their faith to impact the way they viewed everything about their world.  Yet, Paul encourages them to "work out their salvation with fear and trembling." How does that exhortation hit you?  What does it mean to work out your salvation?  

Paul also says to do so "without complaining or arguing."  
When you are working on something that is difficult, how long is it before you complain?
Does hard work or great effort cause you to be short tempered?
If it does, and it often does for me, why is that our response?  Let's think this through a bit more as we look at Philippians 2:12-18 this Sunday.  Listen to your conversations this weekend and see how often what you say is a complaint even when it doesn't need to be?

Readings: Philippians 2:12-18 and Matthew 5:13-16

Bulletin: August 31, 2014

Friday, August 22, 2014

The Sunday Set-Up for August 24, 2014

Do you have a motto you live by? There are many catchy ones and some meaningful ones out there. “Live free or Die!” “Sic Sempre Fidelis!” “Always be prepared!” Have you ever considered what might be an appropriate motto for the Christian life? This Sunday we delve into Paul’s exhortation to the church in Philippi to live lives “worthy of the Gospel of Christ.” That may be a motto worth adopting. Join us as we explore the worthy life and come prayerfully expectant to hear the voice of the Lord.

With you in Christ, 

Reading: Philippians 1:27-2:11

Bulletin: August 24, 2014

Monday, August 18, 2014

Two Weeks Sharing God's Love with the People of Ecuador

Tracy on both sides of the world.
by Tracy Vazquez

This summer I had the honor and privilege of traveling to Quito, Ecuador for 2 weeks with Go International and Coast to Coast Central for the first part of a multi-year, multi-nation movement called The Justice Tour. The goal of the Justice Tour is to bring justice and God’s love to each continent. Upon our arrival we had a prayer rally at the middle of the world (on the Equator): The Justice Tour kicked off, literally, in the middle of the world.

I had been on mission trips before; I even spent a year living in Mexico as a missionary. I hold nothing against those trips because the Lord had his purpose for them,  but they were all very focused on numbers and outcomes. They wanted statistics and they wanted immediate results. Their strategy for ministry was to walk up to people and recite the basics of the Gospel. I never felt comfortable with this approach and I was always made to feel like I was somehow inadequate or less spiritual because this didn’t come easily for me.  I have always had a heart for people and a heart for missions. After feeling like a failure for a year in Mexico because I couldn’t minster to people in this way, I gave up on working in full-time missions. God was clearly not done with me and this trip has only reignited my passion for sharing God’s love with others.

The Team
From our very first meeting in Miami, there was something different about this trip. Our trip leader, Greg Baca, said that our main purposes in Ecuador were to love people well and to bring light into the dark places. This was so freeing to hear because I could do both of those things. He also said that ministry shouldn’t be complicated or fit into a box. Ministry should simply be meeting peoples needs and bringing God’s light into the dark places. Sometimes we get caught up in doing things a certain way because we have always done them that way, instead ministry should be creative to allow God room to work.  Our God is Creator and we should want to co-create with him.  

Loving people well:
Most of our time was spent in Quito, but we took a few days and went to a town a few hours away, called Latacunga, to help Jessie and her family. Greg met Jessie at a ministry, Casa Mi Sueños ("My Dream House"), which helps women who have come from jail, prostitution and human trafficking, get back on their feet. Greg teaches business classes there and Jessie stood out as one of the most promising students in his class. You would never know it from meeting her but Jessie was in prison. We were never told what she did, but her abject poverty and the fact that she was left alone while both her parents worked, lead her to make some poor decisions. Since being released she has completely turned her life around. She is the oldest of 6 children and is currently in nursing school. Her family’s economic situation hasn’t changed though so Greg wanted to step in and help. The children range in age from 6 months to 18 years old and since Jessie is gone most of the day in school her mom has no one to leave the younger children with. Her mom has always dreamed of having a store in their house so that she can work and still watch the children. So, we put on our painting clothes and went to work. We also stocked the store so that they could get a great start. A portion of the money that we raised for our trip went to fund this project. Jessie and her mom were both so overwhelmed with gratitude that they could barely speak. When her mom did speak she said, “I always thought God was real, but now I know He is.” This family will now be able to have a steady source of income and hopefully break the cycle of poverty.

Bringing light into dark places:
One of the most powerful things we did while we were there was The Night of Refuge. A portion of the money that we raised for our trip went towards the expense of this evening. The heart behind this night was to offer women who work in the sex industry a night of refuge from that life. We reserved a private room in a restaurant and made everything super girly. Some of the girls were invited and other girls we purchased for the evening from the brothels. We wanted these girls to feel loved and appreciated, something they don’t experience everyday. The night consisted of dinner, music, a photo booth and a message from one of the leaders, Christa, on how they were created for freedom.  When she shared about being in chains and how Christ wants to set them free, there wasn’t a dry eye in the room. So many of the girls could relate to that analogy. We finished out the night with dancing and gift bags. The girls received a gift with donated toiletries, makeup, necklaces that we made for them and contact information for Casa Mi Sueños. The women said that they have never in their lives been treated so well. That in itself made the whole trip worth it just so they could experience God’s love.

Would you join me in loving people well and bringing light into the dark places right here in Raleigh?
"God is LOVE"


Friday, August 15, 2014

The Sunday Set-Up for August 17, 2014

“To live is Christ, to die is gain!” 

Most of us don’t spend much time considering our own deaths, but Paul wrote these words while imprisoned in Rome (most likely). He knew there was a possibility of a sentence of death. Yet he rejoiced that his imprisonment was causing other Christians to speak about Christ more boldly. You may not have any current fears of death looming over your head but do fears of other things steal your joy? Does the worry of what people might think cause you to rarely speak of Christ? Do you yet know the fullness of what it means to say with Paul “to live is Christ, to die is gain?” 

Join us this Sunday as we explore Paul’s exhortation to boldness and joy.


Reading: Philippians 1:12-26

Bulletin: August 17, 2014

Friday, August 8, 2014

The Sunday Set-Up for August 10, 2014

I’ve been praying for you!

So someone tells you this, but the question is “what are they praying?” So often our prayer requests center around our aches and pains and troubles. These are certainly good things to pray about and many Bible accounts detail God’s gracious answers to our cries for help. Yet, how often do you pray for, or ask for prayer of, someone to become more loving, deeper in knowledge, more pure, more discerning, and more like Jesus? These are the prayers we are exhorted to pray and to ask for others to pray for us. They may sound quite high-minded and loftily religious but they are in actuality the down-to-earth concerns of ordinary people who follow an extraordinary Lord. Would you come this Sunday and join with all God’s people as we seek to understand the desire of God to meet and enrich us in every aspect of our lives? We are in His heart!

Grace and Peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ,


Bulletin: August 10, 2014

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Transforming the City: The CCDA National Conference

Farr & Kimberly
This past Sunday Farr and Kimberly Curlin shared about their work in urban Chicago with the Christian Community Development Association (CCDA). The National Conference for the CCDA is coming to Raleigh September 24-27. To learn more about how you can become involved with the conference either by attending or volunteering (or both!), visit our website

Here is Farr and Kimberly's story:

Kimberly and I lived nine years in Chicago’s Lawndale neighborhood, just a few blocks from the offices of the Christian Community Development Association (CCDA).

CCDA is a network of Christians who live in some of America’s neediest neighborhoods so that people can be restored to God and each other.

In Lawndale we observed among our friends and neighbors many examples of what CCDA is about: Ordinary Christians choosing to live and become good neighbors in somewhat tough neighborhoods, and in many cases seeing God do extraordinary things. We’ll briefly describe just two examples:

Rob and Amy Castaneda moved into South Lawndale in 1998, the same year I moved there, to be near the public school where Amy would be teaching. Shortly thereafter, Rob observed gang members flashing guns outside their home. When police arrived, Rob showed them where the gang members had hidden their guns behind a car. Over the next two weeks, gang members twice set fire to the Castaneda’s house and repeatedly threatened to kill them. Rob and Amy refused to leave in the face of the threat. In fact, they doubled down to get more involved in our community.

Rob started coaching the basketball team at the school where Amy taught. He got permission to open the school gym on Saturdays and weekday evenings, where he began to host what quickly became a nearly constant schedule of basketball clinics and leagues for youth. As Rob and Amy tell it:

"A community was formed within that school space—a safe place where rival gang members played together, and kids sat on the sidelines talking about life. Friendships were made across racial and cultural lines. The relationships with youth that began on a court grew deeper and spread throughout the neighborhood. Thriving under the influence of positive role models, youth discovered how to participate in their community in a responsible way. Beyond the Ball was born.”

Out of Rob and Amy’s insistence on loving their neighbors, an organization has grown up that has changed the face of our old neighborhood, involving more than 1000 children last year. And Rob and Amy are giving those children a vision for coming back to Little Village, as our old neighborhood is called. Several of the boys who I played basketball with 12 years ago when he started his after-school basketball program are now school teachers and professionals who have chosen to live in the neighborhood and continue to serve its members together.
Notably, Rob and Amy have lived this adventure while working in the marketplace—Amy as a school teacher, Rob as a low voltage wiring contractor.

Our friends Laura and Brent Michel have lived on Avers Avenue, a block south of the CCDA offices, for over ten years. As Neighbors on Avers Avenue, they began by inviting kids into their backyard to play basketball and yard games.  Backyard games grew into summer VBS in partnership with another like-minded neighbor, and then into an after school club.  While running these activities Laura felt called to invest in three young girls, sisters, for the long haul.  She has mentored them, helped them seek out opportunities in and around the city, and channeled monetary donations to the girls’ tuition at a local private Christian school. All this while working and raising her own three children.   

Of note: A few years ago Laura rallied her neighbors to turn three vacant lots into a community garden. The property had become a trash dump. After trying to contact the legal owner to clean it up, she and her neighbors took matters into their own hands.  It is a beautiful garden today, full of fruits and vegetables, a track around the outer rim, and even playground equipment which she and her neighbors won through a local news contest for people making a difference in their communities.

These are just two of the many examples we saw of people discovering extraordinary grace to be good neighbors and becoming true salt and light in an underserved neighborhood. If you attend the CCDA conference, you’ll hear meet many people like the Michels and Castanedas and perhaps discover your own call to love your neighbors in one of the more underserved neighborhoods in Raleigh.

Friday, August 1, 2014

The Sunday Set-Up for August 3, 2014

You've probably had that experience of discovering something amazing that you couldn't wait to share with your friends.

I remember the first time I ate at Chubby's Tacos over on Lake Boone Trail. Woah. Those are good tacos. So, the next time someone asked where we should meet for lunch, my response was, "Let's meet at Chubby's. You'll thank me!"

Jesus tells about some unexpected, joyful discoveries in Matthew 13. He describes what it's like to discover his kingdom in the parables that we'll look at this week. Come and hear about "The Joyful Discovery."

See you Sunday, 10am

In Christ,

Bulletin: August 3, 2014