Category Archives: Connector Articles

The Goodness of the Lord: Everything we have belongs to God!

The scripture tells us to “Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever (Psalm 107:1).” We have a lot to be thankful for! I know that we are facing difficult times, but God has been good to us. Notice that the Psalmist did not say, “Give thanks to the Lord, for he has made us comfortable.” Neither did he say, “Give thanks to the Lord, for he has given us everything we want.” He didn’t even say, “Give thanks to the Lord, for he has supplied our needs.” Of course, the Lord does supply our needs; but this verse isn’t just about praising God for what he has done. We should praise God for what he does for us, but we also praise him simply for who he is! God is good. He is worth praising. Just thinking about his goodness will warm your heart and give joy to your soul. God has done great things for us. God is great. God is good. He deserves our thanks.

We will celebrate Thanksgiving this month, and that provides us a wonderful opportunity as a church to focus on the goodness of God towards us. We will reflect on how God has been good to us this year, and we will give thanks both for his acts and his person. The Tuesday before Thanksgiving, we will have a special evening service where we will celebrate communion in remembrance of some of God’s greatest blessings to us. You won’t want to miss that time of worship as the family of God gathers in thankful remembrance of his goodness.

This is also a good time of year to think about stewardship. When you think about the origins of our Thanksgiving celebration, you might remember stories about how the early American settlers nearly starved before they were provided food by the indigenous peoples of North America. The cornucopia is a common decorative theme. It symbolizes plenty and abundance. But, we all know that resources do not always come in cornucopias! Sometimes there are seasons of dearth. The Native Americans could provide for the settlers because they had learned how to manage the land. They had learned how to take care of the resources at their disposal. That is what stewardship is all about. The truth is, everything we have belongs to God. He has placed it in our care for a short season. The question is: what will we do with it? For the first three weeks of November, we will focus on that question.

The final Sunday of November is the beginning of Advent. Beginning November 27 we will prepare our hearts for the celebration of Christmas. Retailers start early with their celebrations of Christmas because they want to make more money. We begin early because we want to honor the reason for the season.

Let me encourage you to take this month to remember the faithfulness and kindness of God towards us. Let’s focus on his goodness and his mercy. Let’s remember in the midst of all the troubling circumstances in the world around us that God is good! Let’s be thankful and let’s prepare to celebrate his coming! I look forward to worshipping with you!


A Call to Prayer: How do we begin to see the move of God many of us are so desperate for?

For the past two years, we have started the year with a church-wide focus on prayer and fasting.  I think that is a wonderful way to begin a year.  We have seen God’s hand move mightily among us because of these times of sweet communion with Him.  We all believe that prayer and fasting are essential to a healthy walk with Christ.  Because of this, we are planning to begin 2012
in the same way.  I know it’s only October, but I’m really excited about what God has in store for us in the upcoming year…especially when we put first things first and seek God with all our hearts.  I am asking God to use that time as a strengthening and encouraging time for the church.  I will be asking God to give us some breakthroughs in 2012, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

I don’t think we need to wait until January to pray and fast!  I know we can’t reasonably call on the entire church to fast every month—especially going into what one dear brother referred to as “eating season.”  However, that doesn’t mean that we all can’t begin to seek the Lord sacrificially even before we go into our time of corporate prayer.

You may not be aware of this, but the economy affects the church’s budget in the same way it affects the household budget.  We are really feeling the effects of the broader economic crunch in our nation.  But, our problem is NOT a financial one.  Our Father owns the cattle of a thousand hills (Psalm 50:10)!  In fact, the entire world belongs to Him (Psalm 24:1)!  Nor is our problem physical.  I know we have space issues, but there are Christians in the world who meet in dark basements to avoid arrest and torture.  Their cramped spaces don’t inhibit the gospel.  Our problem is also not numerical.  We all want to see more people come to our church.  But we have already seen hundreds, even thousands, come and go.  Some we have reached, and some we have not.  There are enough unsaved people within a few miles’ radius of us to fill our sanctuary dozens of times over every Sunday!  Not to mention the fact that our ultimate exemplar for ministry never built abuilding, never opened a bank account, and spent the bulk of his life with just 12 men, none of whom really stuck by him when things got toughest.

Paul tells us point blank that “Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms (Ephesians 6:12).”  There is a real spiritual battle raging for the soul of this church.  If this church accomplishes the vision God has given us, it will absolutely rock the gates of hell.  I am sure our enemy would love to make us think we are limited by our finances or by our space or by our numbers, but that is a lie.  Jesus promised to build His church so that not even the gates of Hell could prevail against it.  That is an invincible promise.

So, how do we begin to see the move of God many of us are desperate for?  We pray and we fast.  Not just when the entire body does it in January.  That is a good time for corporate spiritual discipline, but our situation is too critical to wait.  God is calling individuals to fast and pray for His glory to be poured out among us.  God is leading some of you who are reading this blurb to commit some extra time each day to calling out to God for our church family.  I urge you to answer that call.  The future of our church depends upon it and so does the eternal future of those in this community we are called to reach.


Vision

Vision.

Without a vision, people perish.  That maxim is based on Proverbs 29:18, “Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he (KJV).”  Most of the time when I hear that text, it is used in the context of leadership.  It is taken to convey the concept that in order for a church or other group of people to flourish (the opposite of perish), there needs to be a leader who has a plan for what the group needs to become or where the group needs to go.  The “vision” is taken to be the leader’s imagination of something that does not yet exist.  As long as the leader holds the goal of that as yet unrealized potential in front of people, there is the promise of a successful group.  When this doesn’t happen, the group perishes.  I think that is generally true, but this text says so much more than that!

Consider for a moment the meaning of the word translated as “vision” in the KJV.  The word literally refers to a prophetic revelation.  In other words, this is not just referring to a plan for how to build the church or your business or your marriage.  This
is referring to something much more important.  To find out what that is, we need to look at the remainder of the verse.  The word translated “perish” is from a Hebrew word which literally means “to be loose.”  The term is used in the context of moral laxity.  It means “to run wild.” So, a better translation might be, “Where there is no prophetic vision (“revelation” in the NIV) the people cast off restraint (ESV)….”

What this phrase actually refers to is made crystal clear in the second part of the verse that is not quoted nearly as often as the first, “…but blessed is he who keeps the law (NIV).”  The second part of the verse gives us the inverse of what we read in the first part.  Those who keep the law are the inverse of those who “cast off restraint.”  And who is it according to this text who casts off restraint?  Answer: Those who have no vision, no revelation, no prophetic insight.

This leaves us with the question of what kind of revelation keeps people from being “loose?”  What kind of prophetic insight restrains people from letting go of their responsibilities and walking out on their wives?  What kind of vision keeps pastors leading
churches, husbands leading homes, and Christian business men and women leading their companies?  It is not just a vision
or strategic plan for the future.  It is ultimately a vision of God!  It is a vision of a God who is in control, even when things seem chaotic.  It is a vision of a God who loves us even when we are unlovable.  It is a revelation of a God who is bigger and greater and more powerful and more beautiful and more glorious and more awe-inspiring than anything else.  That’s what this text really means.  Where there is no revelation of God, people come unglued!  Where there is no prophetic word designed to reveal His character, people are left to the overwhelming ugliness of this world.  They run wild because their vision of God is too small and they are more captivated by the world than they are by Him.

When you think of it this way, to say, “…but the one who obeys God’s law is the most successful of all (paraphrase of Proverbs 29:18b)” doesn’t really follow from saying Proverbs 29:18a as we have traditionally understood it, “Without a vision (a strong
leader creating a potential desired reality), the people perish (they are not successful).”  But, it makes perfect sense when we think of this in terms of our current series.  “Everything we do depends upon our vision of God.”  Or, “Every commission is preceded
by a vision.”  Or, “When we see the majesty of God, our problems don’t seem so big anymore.”  Or, to reflect the wording of Proverbs 29:18, “Where there is no revelation of God, the people come unglued and run wild, but those who pay attention to God (i.e., “keep the law”) are truly happy.”

I hope you will join us for the remainder of our series on Vision.  We have an exciting plan for the future.  We have a strategy in place that will push the ministry forward, but our vision begins with God Himself.  He is at the center of everything we do.  When we see Him for who He really is, we will flourish and bear fruit for His Kingdom’s sake.  May God be glorified among us, and
may He grant us a vision greater than we have ever seen before!


August Excitement Is in the Air!

If you haven’t been to the beach yet this year, Sunday, July 31st will be your chance.  That is the kick-off day for our 2011 Vacation Bible School, SonSurf Beach Bash.  This promises to be an exciting week for kids of all ages as we see our church transformed into a Grand Strand beach party.  Of course, the most exciting thing is that there will be dozens of children learning about Jesus—some of them for the very first time!  Please don’t miss this opportunity to invite someone to church.

The VBS actually begins Sunday evening on July the 31st, but Sunday morning will be a family worship experience that would be an excellent time to invite people who don’t normally come to church.  It will be an informal environment where they could feel comfortable to meet people and get exposure to our church family.  Why not think about a family you know that does not have a church home and make it a point to invite them to come?  Be sure to come join the fun…and don’t forget to wear your favorite Hawaiian shirt to add to the atmosphere!

There are a number of other special events in August I’d like to call to your attention.  The first Sunday of August will be a special Sunday for several reasons.  First, it will be the official beginning of the 2011 Falcon Camp Meeting.  For over 100 years, believers have been gathering in the tiny town of Falcon, NC to seek the outpouring of God’s Spirit.  A World Missions emphasis service will begin Sunday, August 7th at 6:00 PM and will be followed by a vision-casting message from Bishop Jim Whitfield.  Prayer  meetings are held every morning at 8:30, and three services are conducted daily Monday through Friday (August 8th-12th).  Service times are: 9:30 AM, 11:00 AM, and 7:30 PM.  There is a special Youth Emphasis on Wednesday evening led by Evangelist, Clayton King.  If you would like more info, check out the pamphlets at the information booth in the foyer.

The first Sunday of August is also special because Bishop Doug Beacham will join us here at The Capital Church for our morning services.  Dr. Beacham is the World Missions director for the IPHC.  It will be a wonderful time hearing from this man of God as he shares some of what God is doing in the world through our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Finally, we have a special guest worship leader who will join us on August 14th and 21st.  Jonathon Thompson is the son of Bishop Chris Thompson, the Evangelism USA director for the IPHC.  Jonathon has a heart for worship and for using the arts to win the lost to Jesus.  He and his wife Brandy feel a calling to the Raleigh area to build a ministry of reaching out to at-risk youth through music ministry.  He is an accomplished musician and has traveled extensively with Christian music groups throughout this area.  Please extend him a warm Capital Church welcome, and come ready to worship the Lord!

Blessings in the Lord,
Pastor Ryan


We Serve a Missional God

I love the fact that our church is a missions minded church!  We are interested in missions because God is a missionary God!  Think about it.  Jesus was the greatest missionary who ever lived.  He communicated the truth of God cross-culturally.  That is, He left the grandeur of heaven and came to dwell among us so that He might show us what God was like.  In that way, the incarnation was a missions trip!  Similarly, when we attempt to share the Gospel cross-culturally, we are embodying the Gospel for the people to whom we minister.  We become the hands and feet of Christ extended to people.  This is at the same time both a wonderful privilege and an awesome responsibility.

Last month, a team of our men visited our work in Nicaragua.   They testified to the same thing that many others have experienced on this kind of trip.  They went to be a blessing to others, but what they found was that God used the experience to bless them and draw them all closer to Himself.  I am very proud of that group and the work they accomplished for the kingdom.  I am also moved to see how the encounter with God impacted their lives.  We can never out give God!

On July 1st, we are sending a team of our youth to the same area in Nicaragua where the men worked.  I know they will encourage the Nicaraguans, but I am even more certain that they will have an encounter with God for themselves that they can’t even imagine.  They will not be in the USA for fireworks celebrations or 4th of July cookouts, but they will have a great freedom celebration as they see lives transformed (including their own) and set free by the gospel!  I am thrilled to know that our youth are interested in serving the kingdom of God in this way.

Later in July, we will also be sending a group to Youth Quest in Atlanta, GA. This will be a great time to showcase their talents as well as encounter the Lord in the services they attend together.  Pray for this time, as well, that God would use the experience to ignite passion in their hearts.

So, we are definitely a sending church and a going church; however, missions is not just about what we do for people overseas.  It is also about how we reach out to people right here in NC.  In case you haven’t heard, we will be taking a trip to the beach on July 31st!  More accurately, the beach will take a trip to us.  The theme for our Vacation Bible School is “SonSurf Beach Blast”. That will be an exciting Sunday as we kick off this ministry designed to introduce children to Jesus.  VBS presents us an incredible opportunity to teach our own children, as well as to reach out to those who may not have a church home.  The kick-off Sunday will be an event you and your family will not want to miss!  Why not consider inviting a child in your neighborhood to come along?  What would happen if every family brought one child who didn’t have a church home?  What if that child came here and accepted Jesus into their hearts?  If that excites you, it means that your heart resembles the heart of the Father!

These ministry highlights reflect the missionary heart of God.  As we engage in this activity, we are embodying the love of Jesus for people abroad as well as here at home.  Please pray for these ministries, but don’t stop there.  Find a way you can help.  You may not be able to travel, but you can send someone.  Maybe you can volunteer some time for VBS.  Maybe you can help with some of the resources needed to pull off this event.  Don’t let this exciting work for the Lord pass you by without finding a way to be a part of what God is doing among us!


What’s Your System of Measurement?

Have you ever paid much attention to how people introduce themselves?  In those first moments of meeting someone, you can often tell what is most important to them.  Some want to be sure you know where they work.  Others want you to hear about their family.  Some use the opportunity to prove they are smart or funny or compassionate or whatever.  Invariably, when people have those introductory conversations, they size themselves up in relation to those around them.  “I’m better off than her.”  “He is smarter than I am.”  “She is prettier.”  “I am wealthier.”  “I am more successful.”  “She is superior to me.”  It seems very natural in our world to measure ourselves by the standard of others.

These kinds of comparisons have been around as long as humans have walked the earth (think Cain and Abel!).  But, Paul is very clear that such comparisons are not helpful.  In 2 Corinthians 10:12, he writes, “We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves.  When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise.”  Paul was in a situation where there were some leaders who were trying to make much of themselves.  They had fallen into the worldly trap of trying to make themselves seem important and powerful.  But, Paul uncovered how immature and petty their games were.  One of the church fathers wisely noted that comparing ourselves with others always leads us astray.  It will either lead us to pride because we think we are better than the object of our comparison, or it will lead us to envy because we feel inferior to them.  Either way, the comparison is unwise from the start.

That is why Paul confessed in 2 Corinthians 5:16 that he had once thought about Jesus from this worldly point of view.  The actual term he uses is “fleshly.”  Paul was saying,  “There was a time in my life when I evaluated who Jesus was according to the fleshly measuring system used by the world.  But, I won’t do this anymore because God has transformed me from the inside out (Cf. v. 17)!”

What this means is that we don’t determine who we are in relation to others.  We determine who we are in Christ.  My identity doesn’t come from what I do or from my list of accomplishments.  My identity comes from who I am in Jesus.  It comes not from the fleshly system of thinking that insists I need to be better than everyone else.  It comes from the reality that those who drop the pretense and embrace purity of heart are the ones who really see God.

We have focused a lot on reaching out to this community.  That is wonderful.  I am excited at what God is doing and what He will do among us.  But, that should never preclude the reaching in that God wants to do in our hearts.  The best way to show this world the glory of God is for us to live lives secured by our connection with Jesus and not enamored with the same folly that leads the unwise astray.  Let’s build our identity not on what we do, not on the world’s system of measurement, but on who we are in Christ.  Let’s say as individuals and as a community, “On Christ the solid rock I stand.  All other ground is sinking sand.”


The Hope of Easter

From the very beginning of time there has been a spiritual struggle for the soul of humanity.  Soon after the account of creation introduces us to God and to Adam and Eve, we meet a darker and more sinister character – that of the serpent, the craftiest creature of all.  Subtly and subversively the serpent sows seeds of distrust, and before we progress far beyond the introduction to the grand narrative of creation, things go horribly wrong.  The open relationship mankind was intended to enjoy with God was broken because of Adam and Eve’s disobedience.  The ultimate enemy of God – filled with hatred for God’s purposes and willing destruction for God’s creation – had won an apparent victory very early in the contest.

But, there were also other seeds being sown very early in this story.  When God confronted the serpent in Genesis 3, he pronounced a curse that contains within it the seeds of the serpent’s demise.  Genesis 3:15 is known among theologians as the protoevangelium, the first announcement of the Gospel recorded in the bible.  Listen to the powerfully prophetic pronouncement from God Himself, “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.”

This verse first indicates that the struggle for the soul of humanity would continue.  There will continue to be “enmity” between the forces of darkness and humanity.  As long as humans inhabit the earth, spiritual darkness will be a work to bring discord and destruction.  We can see its influence manifested in the wicked leaders that oppress people, in the monsters that prey upon the helpless, in the greed-driven policies that perpetuate poverty.  The forces are real.  They are strong; and they hate everything good.  They have “enmity” toward us.

That hatred was most evident in the most evil crime ever committed – the murder of God’s Son.  Betrayed by a close friend and arraigned on trumped up charges, Jesus was tried before an illegal assembly and sentenced to death based on politically motivated fear.  Beaten beyond recognition and publically exposed on a Roman stake of execution, Jesus died a miserable and lonely death.  When the Roman soldiers sealed his tomb with that cold stone stab, it seemed that the archvillain in God’s story had won an irreversible victory.  But, remember the promise of Genesis 3:15.  The murder of Jesus was the serpent’s strike.  The venom of death was absorbed by him.  But, the sting of the serpent was only a strike to the heel!!  Though a deadly strike, it was not a final wound.

The final wound comes when the serpent’s head is crushed!  The serpent’s blow would cause its intended effect, but the seed of the woman would utterly destroy God’s ultimate enemy.  Three days after it seemed all hope of victory was gone, the greatest crime ever committed was followed by the greatest miracle ever witnessed.  The death of Jesus was only a strike to the heel.  Jesus rose from the grave and served the serpent a sound defeat! Jesus won big!  He made a public spectacle over the enemy by turning the deadly symbol of the cross into the symbol of his triumph.  He defanged the serpent by providing an anecdote to its venom.  Death was swallowed up by life.  That is the hope of Easter.  That is what we celebrate every Sunday when we gather.  It is what we especially remember during this time of year.  I pray that as we reflect together upon the death and resurrection of Jesus, the hope he offers us will overpower every doubt, every fear, every seed of discord, every destructive and deadly venom that threatens our soul.  May we rejoice that death has been swallowed up by life!

 Please spend some time preparing your hearts as we approach a celebration of Easter.  It may seem you are right in the middle of one of those irreversible defeats that threaten the outcome of God’s story for your life.  You may feel the weight of the cold stone slab of death upon your life.  You may know people who seem to have been bitten by a deadly serpent.  Remember the proclamation of Genesis 3:15.  There will always be enmity.  But, also remember the promise.  Jesus has crushed the head of the serpent.  And because he won, we win, too!  “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.  The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you (Romans 16:20).”

Allow the hope of his victory to counteract the venom.  Celebrate the joyous truth that Jesus is alive, and don’t miss out on the joy of sharing this liberating truth with someone who does not yet know it!