Friday, October 24, 2014

The Sunday Set-Up for October 26, 2014

Jesus loves you! 
Could a sermon ever consist of those three words and nothing else? If so, why is it we know that Jesus loves us and yet struggle to live into that wonderful reality? Jesus loves you! Yes its true. But it is truth well worth investigating, contemplating and incorporating (I promise, those are not my three main points!). Join me this Sunday as we consider this truth and pray that God may open our hearts to how wide, and deep, and high, and long is the love of God for us in Jesus Christ.

In His Love,

Reading: John 1:43-51

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

What A Gift!

As we enter into a new season of the life of Apostles after the planting of Redeemer Anglican Church, there will be ample opportunity for many new folks to step into roles of leadership at Apostles.  This is often a daunting task, but consider and be encouraged by this story of how the Lord equips us for the tasks He calls us to.

by Katie Koon

I remember the challenge in a Bible Study 8 years ago: if you want to live a life with Christ every step of the way, take your list of things to do and give it to God.  Let Him write your list.  I remember praying that prayer, “God, I want to work for you.  I want my faith to be real.  Give me a new list.”  I was a Bible Study newbie, but that is the good thing about being new, sometimes you pay closer attention and do exactly what they say. Proverbs 3:6 “He will make your path straight.”

Later that year, I got a phone call from the same teacher.  “Katie, would you prayerfully consider being a small group leader next year?”  To which I laughed and said, “That is so funny.  This is Katie K-o-o-n.  You called the wrong number!  I know you meant to call Katie X-Y-Z.  But she will be awesome leader!”  It turns out she did mean to call me.  We would be studying Revelation, of which I had never read ONE WORD.  I had no training, nothing that made me “qualified” for this.  Fearfully, doubtfully I said ‘yes’ and hoped beyond hope that no super-smart-spiritual-people would be in my group.   Matthew 28:20 “I am with you always…”

In leader’s meeting the following year, I remember sitting and listening to the prayers of these women whom I saw as giants in faith.  Hearing them talk to God, they taught me how to pray.  Listening to them review passages, they showed me what it looked like to truly mine the scriptures as if gold lay hidden.  Proverbs 2:4 “If you seek for her as silver, and search for her as hidden treasures...”

A few years later, this same teacher called and said the Lord had impressed upon her the importance to teach women HOW TO TEACH.  She said that my name had been laid on her heart, and would I consider letting her teach me.  I laughed.  “That is really funny,” I said.  “Because I have a fear of public speaking, so I will never teach.  But I would love to sit with you and learn how you study.”  She said, “What you do with this is between you and the Lord.”  Proverbs 1:23 “I will pour out my spirit on you; I will make my words known to you.”

That summer I was asked to speak to a group of adults in Atlantic Beach.  With great trepidation, I said yes.  Marion Troxler found me in the ladies’ room minutes beforehand, nauseous and almost paralyzed by fear.  Psalm 28:7 “The Lord is my strength and my shield.”

A heart tug made me desire to study God’s words with the women of Apostles, so I left the women’s study that had so taught me, shepherded me and mentored me.   A dear friend who had walked this journey with me whispered, I think the women’s Bible study at Apostles may need/want teachers.   Time passes, and I end up becoming one of the teachers at GIG, a study very much like the one I had left, looking out to faces just like mine eight years before.  If I didn’t know God, I would look back and say, “what a coincidence!”  But, instead, I say, “what a God!”

This is a simple story.  Frankly, it is so insignificant that I wonder why I am even telling it.  But I offer it as an encouragement to anyone who may need it.  God is so dear and pure and loving in His desire to live with us, to talk to us, to walk life with us.  I am always going to be tempted to wander from this God I love.   And I have come to believe, that for me, at least, He has used these ‘callings’ as invitations to walk more closely, as protections to keep me stumbling, and as a means to give me something far greater than anything I could have desired on my own.  I cannot imagine the tangled mess I would be if He hadn’t called me in.  At every step, I have been the one blessed.  

Here is what I have learned:
  • What looked like a challenge or a burden was an enormous gift.  At each step I had fear so great and doubt so large, it was numbing.  But when I look back at all the steps along the way, I see that those places were where I have felt God’s embrace most fully.
  • God didn’t call me in to lead because He needed me; He called me into to leadership because I needed Him.  He knew me enough to know that if I didn’t get to the place far beyond my comfort zone, that I would never really stop all else and cling to Him. 
  • My pride would (and still will) try to take credit for ‘stepping out’, as if I made some great sacrifice, but it was God’s design to save me from myself.  By calling me into work where I was so unequipped, I had to say “no” to so much of my daily desires. His calling me to step out was the greatest act of kindness.  It gave guard rails to my time, my thoughts, and my desires.  He knew what I needed was time with Him, and this is how He gave it to me.
  • God has shown me that serving in our gifts is not about us giving, it is actually us receiving.  Jesus has proven to be the Author and Perfector of my faith, and He has used this calling of me to write the words of my faith on the tablet of my heart.  He has done it all, and I have been the one blessed.

Friday, October 17, 2014

The Sunday Set-Up for October 19, 2014

Quick! On a scale of one to ten, how good are you at evangelism? How ready to share your faith are you? How equipped to explain the basics of the Gospel? Go ahead, rate yourself! 

If you are like most Christians you probably rated yourself pretty low. Me too. But, what if I told you that Jesus can actually make you, and all of us, quite effective at evangelism? What if evangelism was not as scary and monumental a task as we might think? What if I told you the message this week has to do with evangelism, but in away that won’t make you feel defeated but rather hopeful that God will use you, no matter how ill-equipped you feel, for His great evangelistic purposes in the world? 

Join us this week as we look at a life-changing encounter that Peter has with Jesus that set him, and later the whole church, on a lifetime adventure of catching people (evangelism) for Christ. If it can happen with Peter, it can happen with you! 

With you in His adventure,


Reading: Luke 5:1-11 

Bulletin: October 19, 2014

Monday, October 13, 2014

Medical Missions to Mongolia

Last month I went on my third trip to Mongolia with a Christian medical organization called Medical Education International. MEI has been going to Mongolia since 1998, and their missions philosophy is to provide continuing education to physicians in the host country, to assist in patient care when asked, and to use both as an opportunity to share the love of Christ with whomever we meet.

I'll give you some background on Mongolia, since most Americans don't know much about the place (I didn't either, prior to my first trip there). Sometimes still called "Outer Mongolia," it is not part of China; rather, it is the independent sovereign nation of Mongolia. Don't get this confused; Mongolians really hate it if you do, and they're a feisty bunch. You may recall that hundreds of years ago the Chinese went to a great deal of trouble to build a really, really big wall...whose sole purpose was to keep those feisty Mongolians out. The first wall didn't work out too well, so they built version 2.0. The Chinese and Mongolians still don't really get along: a thousand years of Hatfield and McCoy stuff will do that.

In the early 13th century Chinggis Khan united the feuding Mongol tribes into a force unlike anything the world had ever seen (while westerners often spell it "Genghis," Mongolians pronounce his name with their "ch-" consonant, and spell it in English as I did). Chinggis' warriors were ruthless, and they mastered the art of shooting an arrow while riding on horseback. At an astonishing pace, the Khans amassed the largest empire in history, stretching from Korea and China (Chinggis got over/through version 1.0 of that big wall) to Poland. Chinggis' grandson Khublai Khan moved his capital to Beijing, where he hosted Marco Polo as a guest.

The Khans' Empire eventually collapsed under its own weight. Mongolia was under Chinese control during the 18th and 19th centuries, but in 1924 she became the world's second communist nation. For most of the latter 20th century, Mongolia was an Asian equivalent of East Germany: while not formally part of the USSR (like the "-stan" republics to her west), she was under heavy Soviet influence and protection, serving as a valuable buffer between Russia and the mutually mistrusted Chinese. Around the time the Berlin Wall came down, similar political upheaval occurred in Mongolia: the communists were thrown out, the constitution rewritten, and free elections held for the first time in seventy years.

Mongolia today is a country over twice the size of Texas, with just shy of three million people, nearly half of whom live in the capital city of Ulaanbaatar ("U.B." to the locals). U.B. sits at the same latitude as the northern reaches of Maine, on the opposite side of the globe (i.e., twelve time zones ahead of Eastern Time), and 4,500 feet above sea level. To the north are the forests that continue up into Siberia; to the south is the Gobi Desert. U.B. is a sprawling place, with a mix of decades-old Soviet apartment buildings, new construction, and yerts (the traditional Mongolian tent home) squatting on vacant tracts of land. It ranks near the very top on the list of cities with the worst air quality in the world, in large part due to oppressive traffic congestion. And, as in most third-world cities, driving is done mostly by horn. 

Outside of the capital, Mongolia is one of the most sparsely populated places on earth, with a countryside still roamed by semi-nomadic herdsmen. It's also insanely cold. If you're curious, look up the weather for U.B. sometime in January (or ask me; I keep it on my iPhone app). Oh, and there's the wind, too. In their own version of "it's not the heat; it's the humidity," in Mongolian winters, it's not the 30 below zero temperatures that are so bad; it's the 40-mph winds that roar across the steppes. This combines to make the wind chill around minus infinity.

Under Soviet-style communism, cults of personality (as well as more traditional faiths) were prohibited. In particular, cultural pride in the triumphs of Chinggis Khan was suppressed. But since 1990, and with the dawn of capitalism, Mongolians have been making up for lost time. Anything and everything that anyone wants to sell has the big man's name on it. There's a Chinggis Bank, a Khan Bank, and a Chinggis Khan Bank. This is just as well, since his picture is on all the money anyway. Christianity, too, was essentially nonexistent prior to 1990: the common view among missionaries is that there were then fewer than a dozen Christians in the entire country. The glass-half-full picture is that there are now around 60,000 believers, and the church is growing; the glass-half-empty version is that this is still only 2% of the population. A significant challenge is that the underlying historical religious tradition is one of Shamanism (essentially a dark pantheistic mysticism) mixed with various flavors of Buddhism, making for a grim spiritual background presence. But believers in Mongolia have their eyes on their own part in the Great Commission, noting that it is one of the few countries that allows for relatively easy visa passage to Russia, China, Kazakhstan, and (believe it or not) North Korea.

Emblematic of the healthcare needs of the country is the fact that the average male life expectancy is only around 62 years, due to high rates of stomach and liver cancer, heavy cigarette smoking (in addition to the aforementioned poor air quality), and epidemic alcoholism (the flagship liquor brand is, of course, Chinggis Vodka). Women suffer from more advanced stages of breast and gynecologic cancers: mammograms and PAP smearsare rare, so the diseases are often not detected early. In light of this, our particular MEI trip revolved around a week-long cancer conference in conjunction with the Mongolian National Cancer Center in U.B. On our team were physicians from a variety of specialties, and we each gave a few lectures for the conference (I was interviewed by a local TV station after one of my talks...something my seven-year-old thinks is the coolest thing ever). I also had the opportunity to help care for a few patients undergoing surgical resection of pancreatic, liver and stomach cancers.

Another point of emphasis for MEI is networking with missions organizations that are on the ground full-time in Mongolia. There's a network of Christian veterinarians that provide support and education to herdsmen in the countryside (run by a couple from Oklahoma), a prison ministry (run by a saintly woman from New Zealand), and a hospice ministry (run by a nurse from Michigan). There are a variety of churches in U.B., at various stages of maturity and with various specific points of emphasis, including one shepherded by a pastor named Puje, where our team worshipped one Sunday. Puje also runs a church for the homeless, and a few of us spent a day conducting a clinic for those folks. This evolved fairly quickly into a washing feet (literally) and prayer clinic more than anything else, but the upshot was hopefully to show these poorest among us that they had least in our eyes, and in those of God. 

It's been an honor for me to play a very small part in what God is doing in Mongolia, and a real pleasure to minister in some small way to these lovely people.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

This Summer in Ethiopia

by Parsons Rieker, Madeline Rieker, and Patterson Sheehan

This summer, we had the amazing opportunity to venture to the country of Ethiopia for a missions trip with our school, St. David's School. We partnered with a youth group in Addis Ababa, and served primarily at two different orphanages. We built relationships with the children and taught Vacation Bible School type lessons and shared the Gospel with them. The language barrier was difficult, but playing and laughing with the children was not. Although we mostly were there for missions, we also had the opportunity to experience the culture through hikes, lions, and dancing.

On one of the days, we helped to host a carnival for about 800 orphans from all around Addis. We painted faces and played games with kids. They had a worship service that was all in Amharic and so some of the kids from the youth group translated for us. About thirty kids accepted Christ that day, including three little boys from one of the orphanages where had been working. It was so incredible to see our new friends accept Christ and know that even if we never see them again on earth, we would see them in heaven. 

Overall, we grew so much from this experience. We learned tons about the magnitude of God's love and how blessed we are. All of our interactions with the children were bittersweet- full of joy, but heartbreaking at the same time. It was an incredible way to step out of our comfort zones and encounter God in new ways.


Monday, October 6, 2014

2014-2015 Fellows Program Class

Our 2015 Fellows class has settled into life in Raleigh and at Church of the Apostles over the past month. If you haven't had a chance to meet them and talk to them, here is a little information about each of them to help you get to know them better. Now you also know what they look like and can chat them up the next time you see them...

Sam Alexander  
Hometown: Asheville, NC
College: Berry College
Major: Marketing Major
Host Family: Bruce & Susanne Berger
Mentor: Frank Shell
Internship: StepUp
Apostles' Ministry: Student Ministry

What do you enjoy most? I enjoy playing and listening to music, rock climbing, and watching movies.
Why do you want to be a Raleigh Fellow? I want to be a fellow because I want to learn how to translate my interest in marketing into a form of work that is pleasing to the Lord.

Cailey Cramer
Hometown: Zionsville, IN
College: Christopher Newport University
Major: Psychology major / Business minor
Host Family: Matt & Marilyn Young
Mentor: Cory Oltman
Internship: Boosterthon
Apostles' Ministry: Children's Ministry

What do you enjoy most? I most enjoy conversation with deeply connected friends and family, soul connections.
Why do you want to be a Raleigh Fellows? I want to be a Raleigh Fellows because I want to deeply grow in my faith and I believe this is the best opportunity for growth and development at this time in my life. I want to build my life on a firm foundation. I see that this is such a transitional time in my life and I believe the Raleigh Fellows program provides the resources and tools to learn how to build a life and faith that stands the test of time. 

Aaron Culler
Hometown: Mt. Airy, NC
College: Appalachian State
Major: Psychology 
Host Family: Bruce & Susanne Berger
Mentor: Eric Oltman
Internship: Greenscape
Apostles' Ministry: Student Ministry

What do you enjoy most? Taking weekend trips with friends and doing anything with my fiancée, Charlotte.
What do you want to be a Raleigh Fellows? I want to be a Fellow because I miss being a part of something that I know is focused on Jesus, and I feel that absence in my relationship with Him. 

Bethany Doster
Hometown: Morganton, NC
College: Covenant College
Major: English Studies
Host Family: Lou White
Mentor: Gretchen Loftis
Internship: StepUp
Apostles' Ministry: Children's Ministry

What do you enjoy most? Evenings on the back porch with my family, good friends, and sweet conversations...and so much more!
Why do you want to be a Raleigh Fellow? I first heard of The Fellows Program through a couple of college friends.  However, it wasn’t until I visited the website and read the mission statement for the Raleigh Fellows that I began to engage in the idea of applying.  I really believe this is an incredibly purposeful time in my life that I don’t want to waste. What I admire about this program is the intense focus geared towards personal growth in Christ, the continued expansion of knowledge and understanding of who God made me to be, and the overall emphasis on engaging culture. To have the opportunity to sit under the teaching of those who intensely love the Bible, to grow relationally as I interact with a group of like-minded men and women, and to become a part of a church that values family and serving others is going to be a great way I spend the next nine months.

Wade Moody
Hometown: Mt. Airy, NC
College: UNC-Chapel Hill
Major: Management
Host Family: Derick & Spencer Daniel
Mentor: Gary Rickner
Internship: Triangle Capital Corporation
Apostles' Ministry: Children's Ministry

What do you enjoy most? Being outdoors, camping, board games, reading, sports.
Why do you want to be a Raleigh Fellow? To lay a biblical foundation for my life going forward and discerning my next step in life.

Kelsey Powell
Hometown: Marlton, NJ
College: James Madison University 
Major: Communication Studies 
Host Family: Billy & Cathy Williams
Mentor: Megan McGinity
Internship: Cherokee Gives Back
Apostles' Ministry: Student Ministry

What do you enjoy most? Adventures outside and spending time with people.
Why do you want to be a Raleigh Fellow? I want to be a Raleigh Fellows so I can grow in my knowledge of God, of others and of myself.  I hope to further learn to lead a lifestyle where every part of my life is ministry and how to incorporate God into every area of my life. 

Kelsey Riggs
Hometown: Virginia beach, VA
College: Virginia Tech 
Major: Humanities, Science, and the Environment
Host Family: Eric & Robin Bolash
Mentor: Terri Shell
Internship: Alliance Medical Ministry
Apostles' Ministry: Student Ministry

What do you enjoy most? Being outside and having adventures (I enjoy swimming, biking, hiking, and jogging).
Why do you want to be a Raleigh Fellow? I want to be a fellow because I want to learn. I want to learn more about the Lord, more about the Bible, more about myself, more about building and embracing Christian community, and more. 

Brian Whitman
Hometown: Haddon Heights, NJ
College: James Madison University
Major: Business Management
Host Family: Frank & Sue Koehler
Mentor: Andy Cook
Internship: Pack Purchase Inc.
Apostles' Ministry: Student Ministry

What do you enjoy most? I most enjoy time with friends and family, sports, and exploring the outdoors.
Why do you want to be a Raleigh Fellow? I want to be a Raleigh Fellow to discover more about my faith and to discover how The Lord will use me in a professional setting. I want to be vulnerable with my struggles and be part of a community of peers and mentors that will help me through those things.

Friday, October 3, 2014

The Sunday Set-Up for October 5, 2014

Join us this Sunday as our Bishop, Steve Breedlove, preaches at both services and wraps up our series on the book of Philippians. We will also have baptisms at both services. 

Bishop Steve Breedlove
As faithful Christians we find ourselves increasingly swimming against the moral tide in our country. (In some ways it feels more like we’re caught in a rip current!) The fact is, by what we believe and (hopefully) what we practice, we call people to a very different life, especially in the realms of morality, ethics, and self-fulfillment. In shorthand terms, we call ourselves and the world to a life of godliness. The Good News is a new life in Christ, and that includes godliness. And we are audacious enough to believe a life of godliness is a life of love. 

But unfortunately for many people, when it comes to morality ethics, and a commitment to self-fulfillment, the Good News sounds like Bad News. “You’re asking me to deny this, to change that, to give this up? You’re expecting me to abandon all that I know of fulfillment. What are you offering in its place?” 

It’s an important question: what do we offer in place of the morality and ethics of the world? Can we offer a community that is so powerful, so rich and true, so plausible, so full of love, that the Gospel’s “No” becomes what we believe it truly is — a “Yes” to love? How can we live with one another in order to have a substantial community for ourselves, our children, and our friends who have yet to believe? 

The last few paragraphs of the book of Philippians offers the hope of a truly plausible community, a place of love, with godliness. 

Readings for Sunday: Philippians 4:10-23 and Matthew 9:1-13