Shepherds’ Message

Dear North Raleigh Family,

We hope you are well, trusting and rejoicing in Jesus, even in the midst of these unusual and sobering times.  As events have progressed over the last couple weeks, we have decided that our services will continue to only be offered online for an indeterminate number of weeks. 

Our decision was not made out of fear, but out of a desire to actively love and protect the most vulnerable people in our church family and throughout the Triangle. This decision, prompted by the Holy Spirit and in accordance with governmental decrees, communicates that not gathering in our building is the best way to be the church in our city, and the best way to love our neighbors.

We are the church, wherever we are. As we continue to worship in our homes, we are as much in the presence of God as surely as if we were sitting in the auditorium together.

We want to encourage you to:

  • Keep updated with recent news and events by visiting our website: northraleighchurch.org
  • Additional resources & communications will be available through email and our church Facebook page.
  • Encourage one another through emails, phone calls and texts. Physical distancing doesn’t mean spiritual distancing.
  • Look for ways to do “good in the neighborhood” as you recall that it is our good deeds that creates the good will for us to share the good news. The gospel will not be quarantined.
  • Pray for all those physically and economically impacted by this contagion. Pray for healing, for a cure & for all those serving in the frontlines in battling this pestilence.
  • Commit to reading your Bible daily.
  • Your generosity will help us with meeting needs and opportunities. Please continue to give online at https://app.easytithe.com/App/Giving/nraleighchurch. You may also mail your offering to the church office.

We look forward with great anticipation to our reunion. As we enter another week under different circumstances, may we be people who fully trust in God’s faithfulness, always remembering that God is our hope and strength.

Don’t panic. I’m with you. There’s no need to fear for I’m your God. I’ll give you strength. I’ll help you. I’ll hold you steady, keep a firm grip on you.

Isaiah 41:10 (The Message)

You are loved!

The North Raleigh Church of Christ Shepherds

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Message From the Shepherds

Dear Church Family,
 
These are difficult days.  We continue to monitor the events surrounding COVID-19.  It is our goal to keep the well-being of our church family, neighbors, and city in the forefront of the decisions we find ourselves facing.  We covet your prayers.
 
In Acts 8:2 Luke uses a word to describe what was happening to the church because of difficult times in Jerusalem.  He says they were “scattered.” The word “scattered” is the same word used by Jesus in Luke 8, the parable of the sower, to describe what happened to the seed the farmer sowed.  In the scattering is where the good news and expressions of the love of Jesus were being spread. 
 
We are “scattered” currently, in trying, but mighty ways.  These days provide opportunity for seed to be sown and the love of Jesus to be shown.  We were made for times as these.
 
Here are the latest updates, as of Tuesday, March 17: 
  • Church services will not be held at the building on Sunday, March 22 or March 29.  Decisions about future dates will be made as the situation continues to unfold.  We want to be good neighbors as we honor our government leaders and support the steps they are taking to battle this pandemic.  We see this not as a step of fear, but of faith.  We ask you to pray, along with us, that our witness will help advance The Kingdom and the spread of the gospel—which is always good news.
  • Fortunately, social distancing does not equate to spiritual distancing. As a portion of God’s people in North Raleigh, we want to encourage you to gather differently in the next two weeks.  Kent’s sermon from Colossians will be posted online (with more details coming on that later), and we ask that you have worship together with your family and share communion.
  • We will have a small group gathering at the church building on Wednesday evenings for Bible study.  There will be no ladies class. There will be no childcare, as we seek to abide by the guidelines issued to parents by Wake County Schools. 
  • Connect Groups and Discipleship Groups will meet at the discretion of the group leader(s).  We will follow establish CDC guidelines (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prepare/prevention.html), and ask that if anyone is feeling unwell, vulnerable, elderly, immunocompromised or anxious to please stay home. Also, if you live or work around those who are most at risk (elderly), please stay home.   
  • Stay prepared to mobilize in creative ways to live & give Jesus within and beyond our church family.  We are considering ways to best mobilize and respond to needs as we see them come available. Please contact your primary elder if you have a need, or know of a need that the church can help meet.
  • We will be using technology and social media to resource and encourage you in coming days.  Be sure to visit our Family News Facebook page and website.
  • Continue to give as you have been, and maybe a little more.  We are expecting needs to arise within our church family and in the community around us.  We also have obligations that must be met, even when we are scattered.  You may give online by visiting our website www.northraleighchurch.org and click the link at the bottom for online giving.  You may also mail your offering or drop it by the church office.  We do anticipate an opportunity in the future to help close any gap in our budget shortfall.
 
There is another powerful text that has the word “scatter”.  We hope this reading from Psalm 112 will give you great peace as we are sown. 

“Surely the righteous will never be shaken;
    they will be remembered forever.
They will have no fear of bad news;
    their hearts are steadfast, trusting in the Lord.
Their hearts are secure, they will have no fear;
    in the end they will look in triumph on their foes.
They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor,
    their righteousness endures forever;
    their horn will be lifted high in honor.”
Psalm 112: 6-9 (NIV)
 
You are loved!
The North Raleigh Church of Christ Shepherds

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2019 Advent Devo: Who Do You Think You Are?

Do you have a list of questions you want to ask Jesus when you meet him?  My list includes:

  1. Couldn’t you find a different way for mosquitoes to be nourished?
  2. What purpose do allergies fill?

I expect these questions are as welcome to Jesus as our 5 year old children asking adults their endless series of “why this and why that” questions.   Looking past the specific questions is the important point that children ask questions of a person they recognize as knowledgeable, trustworthy and authoritative.

The Pharisees, spies and Sadducees line up to ask Jesus their questions, not so much to gain any knowledge, but to maneuver or entrap Jesus.  The Pharisees’ question really comes down to “who do you think you are”? What they saw in front of them was a man, but with the undeniable Spirit of God.  Of course, no one would challenge Jesus with real or manufactured questions if they didn’t recognize him as knowledgeable, trustworthy and authoritative.

If you were a 5 year old witnessing these exchanges, what would you conclude?  Here are my thoughts:

  1. The people asking the questions didn’t like Jesus very much, but he didn’t do anything harmful to provoke that.
  2. The people asking the questions must recognize Jesus had the answers or they wouldn’t have asked him.
  3. Jesus was the center of their attention even though they were supposed to be the ones “in charge”.
  4. Jesus must really be special for everyone to want to speak to him.
  5. Jesus is smarter than all of them because no one said his answers were wrong.

The 5 year old version of me adores Jesus.  He is a superhero. No one can challenge him.  No one can defeat him. Why did the lustful 20 year old version of me, the 40 year old professional version of me and the jaded, 60 year old version of me think of him any differently?  I long to have the 5 year old version back. I long to simply be amazed at God in the flesh and follow him daily. There is no question nor need that I have that he is not the ultimate answer for.  He is the lens that I view the rest of my life through – no questions asked.

You are loved!
Don Keefer


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2019 Advent Devo: Kingdom Decision-Making

We all have choices to make.  We have priorities and are often faced with numerous opportunities to decide how to spend our time.  These decisions can be tough, especially when trying to remove the “me” factor. It’s terribly hard not to just end up deciding based entirely on how I perceive it will affect me.  Will I consider it fun? Is there an opportunity for me to meet someone important who can help me with something I desire? Will it benefit me financially? Will it help my children?  Tougher decisions typically require a weighting of pros and cons in order to come to the right decision.

In Luke 14, Jesus proposes a different approach.  It is full of a lot of very hard teaching and in trying to take a thousand-foot view of the chapter, it seems to me that part of what he’s doing here is challenging folks to expand the center of their universe a bit – showing them that it doesn’t revolve around them.  Over and over he challenges their thinking. They challenge the notion of healing on the Sabbath, but he points out that they wouldn’t think twice about breaking the rules if it was a benefit to them or a loved one. He challenges their desire to be self-important and rub shoulders with the elite and encourages them to invite the unimportant and the outcast to dinner rather than those that will benefit them.  And in his typical kingdom-twist parable style, he seems to assert that his own kingdom dinner invitation is not regarded by the self-important as something all that terribly desirable. Perhaps that hanging out with Jesus is not something that will help you get ahead in this life. They each have better offers – business transactions, family matters and the like – so he ends up gathering those considered unimportant in the eyes of the world (and perhaps their own eyes).  He offers dignity and fellowship and belonging – where the least is the greatest and the greatest the least – concluding this discourse with the stinging words I say to you all, the one who receives an invitation to feast with me and makes excuses will never enjoy my banquet.” (v.24 TPT)

And from there it just gets downright uncomfortable.  He pulls out the “D” word (disciple) and says you must be willing to give up all to follow him – whether things or relationships – whatever is holding you back.  In fact, those things you think you own …nope! Not if you want to follow Jesus.  It all becomes his. Most importantly, YOU become his.  And your decisions become less about what you want or what benefits you and all about what honors him and reflects living in his kingdom.

The invitation to feast with him is open to us every day.  And I notice that when I’m faithful to respond to the invitation and make myself present to Jesus, something changes in me and I see things through his perspective just a little bit more. Joy and contentment are found in ways that are not available anywhere else.  So make the choice to be present to him and to feast together with him – each and every day – and his words from v 14 will become more and more real all the time Then you will experience a great blessing in this life, and at the resurrection of the godly you will receive a full reward.” (TPT)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tP3CsHfU7dc

You are loved!
Kevin Henegar


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2019 Advent Devo: Jesus Is So Easy to Resist

Luke chapter 9 is filled with positive highlights of Jesus’ ministry and teachable moments for the disciples and for us.  Jesus sends out the disciples with power to teach and to heal, Jesus feeds five thousand, Peter recognizes Jesus’ divinity, Jesus shows his divine nature in the transfiguration and “everyone was marveling at all that Jesus did” (vs 43).  Luke is communicating how compelling a person that Jesus is – thousands come to hear him preach, he can provide food and healing himself and through others. Over and over we see Jesus being glorified in these stories. But, then in verse 51, that all comes to a screeching halt when Jesus wants to make a pit stop in a Samaritan village.

Of course, we know the Samaritans were generally looked down upon by Jews as not “real” Israelites despite living in their country.  Did the Samaritans view this snub of the famous Jesus as some form of pay back disguised with the rationale of not wanting Jesus to become “unclean” while he was heading toward Jerusalem?  We won’t ever know what the Samaritans were thinking, but it was clear that Jesus was affected by the resistance – to the point that the disciples offered to destroy the people via divine retribution!  Of course, Jesus love for people prevailed over any disappointment or anger as he simply moved on.

The reaction of the Samaritans baffles me.  All Jesus ever wanted to do, and still wants to do, is to bless people, to save people from evil, and to offer abundant life.  But, looking back on my own life, I have treated Jesus the same way. I don’t have some rebellious position to stand on, although some people do.  I always had good rationale why Jesus’ way was not right for me at this time, convenient for me at that time, nor desired by me because of the sacrifice I must make to honor him and welcome him in my heart.  Resisting Jesus simply required me to stiffen my neck instead of bowing in servitude, harden my heart instead of obeying, and distract myself instead of repenting. Jesus quietly moved on. It is so easy.

What I don’t see clearly is how it affects Jesus when I do this.  Is he as disappointed in me as he was in the Samaritans? I have to believe that he is, but still loves me more than he wants to destroy me.  He didn’t leave his position at the right hand of God to come to this earth, be born to humble circumstances, live a life devoted to serving God and laying down his life for me on the cross because he wants to destroy me.  Regardless of how I treat him on a particular day, he is faithful to his nature of wanting to bless me. All he asks is that I welcome him into my life and allow him to be sovereign over my will and actions.

Share with me today in a decision to welcome Jesus instead of resist, to beg for his presence and healing in our lives.  John 14:23 promises he will make his home with us if we love him and keep his word. Isaiah 57:15 tells us that God “lives in a high and holy place, but also with him who is contrite and lowly in spirit”.   Let’s humbly and gladly welcome our King of Kings and Lord of Lords in to every part of our lives today and every day!

You are loved!
Don Keefer


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2019 Advent Devo: Wake Up

It had been around four centuries since the Israelites had heard a Word from the Lord.  He had gone silent. After years of trying to call his people back to himself, there is a great Holy pause.  A great waiting period. There were a few folks who managed to wait on him with hopeful anticipation, but I think most (like I would have surely been) had stopped expecting.  They were no longer anticipating nor looking for him. They had grown comfortable and careless. They were slumbering through life. And it’s into this scene that Luke sets the stage so well for the arrival of the promised Messiah to enter public ministry.  I love how he recounts every generation by name back to the garden – it’s like this was planned. It’s like he’s coming at just the right time (Rom 5:6).

And God’s plan is not for him to just show up one day.  His plan involves an announcement from the one who is called to prepare the way.  Jesus’ cousin John the Baptist has a very specific purpose. He’s sorta like a spiritual alarm clock.  His call is to awaken the people to the coming Christ.  He announces the coming kingdom and the need for repentance.  Wake up! Be on the lookout! Change your ways! He admits that his call to life change and baptism is simply a start.  He can awaken and help folks to see the ways they have gone wrong and encourage behavior change, but his words lack the power to reconcile and sustain.  Much like the prophets of old, he had no power to renew and transform. He knew what he had to offer was woefully incomplete.

But… he speaks of Christ in v16-17 “The main character in this drama, to whom I’m a mere stagehand, will ignite the kingdom life, a fire, the Holy Spirit within you, changing you from the inside out. He’s going to clean house – make a clean sweep of your lives…” (MSG)

Don’t you just love JTB? Isn’t he what we are supposed to be? He clearly knew his purpose and place.  I’m not the one, but I know who is…  I can’t change you, but I know who can…  His life consistently and faithfully points to Jesus.  He has no interest in making a name for himself, but only draws attention to himself enough to awaken hearts and prepare the path for the coming King.  May we, like John, embrace our limitations and strive simply to awaken hearts to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords – the only one who can redeem and reconcile and change hearts and lives from the inside out.  Worship the King of glory!

You are loved!

Kevin Henegar

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FYVtW3FYQUI


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Cross Walk Devotional: Our Wholly Predictable God

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There is an old hymn called, “This is my Father’s World”.  The first verse of this hymn says:

“This is my Father’s world, And to my listening ears;

All nature sings, and round me rings, The music of the spheres.”

This song is meant to provide comfort to us, because all nature witnesses to the power and providence of our heavenly Father, if we are so oriented to listen.  The last line is particularly interesting as it suggests the moon, planets, stars – in fact, the entire universe plays different parts to one harmonious, orderly and beautiful score.

But, on the day of Jesus death, all nature testifies to a very different story line and the music is chaotic, unpredictable and violent.  The sun stops shining mid-day, there is an earthquake that breaks open tombs, awakens the dead and they start walking around again. An invisible hand rips the huge curtain in the temple.  Perhaps a zombie apocalypse comes to mind – at least that is probably the effect of these events on the people. People are terrified, but do they understand the connection between the death of Jesus and the testimony of nature?  It appears that only the pagan centurion and his men get it. The ruling Jews & Pharisees are somehow all too willing to stick in their ear buds, block out this music and listen to the relaxing melody brought to them by their favorite singing group, Moses & the Law.

Truly, this was a significant day and probably not quickly forgotten by its witnesses.  But, 2000 years later, there is “nothing new under the sun. Everything that happens has happened before” (Ecc 1:9 paraphrased).  I confess that I don’t always reflect on the spectacular, supernatural events of that day and they don’t affect me like they should.  The everyday grind of work to do, bills to pay and chores to run are the noises that drown out that celestial music. I don’t look for, nor do I desire anything unpredictable in my life.  It’s not that I don’t fully appreciate the significance of Jesus death and the redemption it brings, it’s often just not “front and center” like it needs to be and would be if nature testified to this event every day.

The purpose for Jesus’ redemption is for me to be transformed in to his glory, which means submitting to my Lord in all areas of my life.  May I have more of the faith of the centurion who says, “truly this was the Son of God” and make that the foundation of every aspect of my life.  May I put my faith in the wholly predictable God even in the unpredictable events that come my way – a wholly predictable God that will be glorified, will make himself known, will save his people and will return again!

The last verse of the hymn talks about that last, triumphal day when nature once again declares his glory in an unusual way, when the “clouds be rolled back as a scroll”:

“This is my Father’s world, the battle is not done.

Jesus, who died, shall be satisfied, and earth and Heaven be one.”

I can’t want for those trumpets to sound!

You are loved!

Don Keefer

 

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Cross Walk Devotional: Flee and Be Safe

The arrest of Jesus by the mob, initiated by the political leadership, is punctuated by a hypocritical kiss from Judas, a violent strike by a disciple that, fortunately, did not escalate to an all-out brawl, and then desertion by the disciples.  As always, Jesus is composed and in control even as these events swirl around him. There is much to consider here, but I wish to focus on the last event – the young man who followed Jesus, maybe too closely, was considered a threat, seized by the mob, and wriggled out of his clothes to escape naked.

This is a strange aside to the main story and makes me think Mark was the young man.  He had to flee from the very people that he should have been able to turn to for help – the priests, the teachers of the law and the elders.  But, where did he go? Who provided a place of refuge and clothes for him to wear? For this event, there is no answer given. But, the need of this man at this time is a metaphor for the need of all mankind.

The power of darkness and the attraction of sin is great, so that everyone gets caught in its grasp.  We lie to ourselves, thinking we can manage to overcome it on our own; or we think we aren’t so bad; or, worse yet, we deny that it is evil and will separate us from God.  Do you really want to be all alone when the power of darkness won’t let you go? Don’t you want somewhere to flee to be safe and cared for?

Fortunately, the good news of the gospel is that Jesus has overcome the power of darkness.  He is our perfect high priest who provides the sanctuary for us, the redeemed, to flee. Of course, he requires that we shed our old clothes (lives) and flee naked to his sanctuary where we are “clothed with Christ”.  The second part of Hebrews 6:18-20 says, “…we who have fled to take hold of the hope set before us may be greatly encouraged.  We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where our forerunner, Jesus has entered on our behalf.”

Real security is a rare commodity.  We have found it in Christ by grabbing hold of him, clinging to him with all our heart, soul, mind & strength, and being greatly encouraged by the knowledge of his sacrifice and resurrection that provides this refuge!

You are loved!

Don Keefer


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