By Keith Cowart
We have cried out to God, “COME ON!"
Jesus answered our cry: “I have come ..."
"I have come that you might have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10).
What is the nature of this life? It is not a life divorced from the realities of the world, but one infused with supernatural resources that enable us to live fully and freely in all circumstances. Though the Bible consistently warns us to expect trials, persecution, and suffering in this life, it also uses words like “conquerors” (Romans 8:37) and “overcomers” (1 John 5:4) and “victors” (2 Corinthians 2:14, The Message) to describe the way we respond to those challenges.
Yet, I have to confess that the abundant life we Christians proclaim and claim to possess sometimes seems fleeting. Without question, I have tasted it and found it to be incomparably good. But I also find myself missing it more often than I would like to admit. As a pastor, I have met with hundreds of individuals over the years who have been at various stages of either desperately pursuing or giving up on the hope of extraordinary life.
Why the struggle?
Jesus answers that question in the other half of the same verse: we have an enemy who opposes in every way the life Jesus came to bring. He fights to keep us from it, and once we have it, though the war is lost, he and his minions continue to snipe at us from afar like a rogue guerilla unit that refuses to admit defeat. Let’s not forget this reality as we pray for a fresh move of God’s Spirit. Our prayers will be opposed. At the same time, let’s also remember that while the battle is very real, it is not a battle of equals. The same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead (and destroyed the power of sin and death!) now lives in us. That means we do not fight for victory, but from victory as we pray for one another.
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” (Matthew 11: 28-30)
We awaken this morning to another call from Jesus to “come on." Hear his invitation in this scripture. Hear his desire to love you in a very specific way. Today’s particular call is to those of us who are tired, worn out, burned out on religion. But what is he calling us to? Oh, the beautiful truth of the real remedy to our weariness! He is calling us to Himself. “Come to Me”. That is his call to you today.
Jon Bloom of desiringgod.org unpacks this call:
The simplicity of Jesus’s promise is both striking and refreshing. Jesus doesn’t offer us a four-fold path to peace-giving enlightenment, like the Buddha did. He doesn’t give us five pillars of peace through submission as Islam does. Nor does he give us “10 Ways to Relieve Your Weariness,” which we pragmatic, self-help-oriented 21st century Americans are so drawn to. Unique to anyone else in human history, Jesus simply offers himself as the universal solution to all that burdens us.
And his simple promise is audacious: “Come to me.” The only way that this isn’t megalomaniacal lunacy is if Jesus is who he claims to be: the eternal Word made flesh, our Creator (John 1:1–3, 14; John 8:58; Hebrews 1:1–3). His simple promise implies a power behind it more than sufficient to lift what weighs us down.
What does coming to Jesus mean? When we read the context of this promise (Matthew 11–12), his meaning becomes clear. In his rebuke of the cities (Matthew 11:20–24) and religious leaders (Matthew 12:1–8) that saw firsthand his miraculous works, so clearly demonstrating who he was (John 5:36), and still refused to believe in him, we know that when Jesus said, “come to me,” he meant, “believe in who I claim to be and therefore what I am able to do for you.”
And here is where our burdened souls are tested. Will we believe in him; will we trust him? We want to rest our souls on the knowledge of how and when our burdensome problems will be addressed. But Jesus does not provide those details. He simply promises us that they will be addressed.
Jesus does not want our souls resting on the how and when, as if we are wise enough to understand and determine them. Rather he wants our souls resting on the surety that he will keep his promise to us in the best way at the best time. “Come to me,” he says, “cast your anxieties on me for I care for you” (see 1 Peter 5:7). “Trust in me with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding” (see Proverbs 3:5), he says, “and you will find rest for your souls.”
By Pam Cowart
Yesterday we heard Jesus calling us to AWAKEN to the reality of His deep, healing, powerful love for us. Take a moment to read this insight from Charles Spurgeon. Spurgeon was a preacher in the 1800s, so you may need to slog through some of the less than modern language, but the beauty of Spurgeon’s perspective on what it means to love and be loved by Jesus is worth it.
"I charge you, O daughters of Jerusalem, if ye find my beloved, that ye tell him, that I am sick of [with] love" (Song of Solomon 5:8).
Such is the language of the believer panting after present fellowship with Jesus, he is sick for his Lord. Gracious souls are never perfectly at ease except they are in a state of nearness to Christ; for when they are away from him they lose their peace. The nearer to him, the nearer to the perfect calm of heaven; the nearer to him, the fuller the heart is, not only of peace, but of life, and vigor, and joy, for these all depend on constant intercourse with Jesus. What the sun is to the day, what the moon is to the night, what the dew is to the flower, such is Jesus Christ to us. What bread is to the hungry, clothing to the naked, the shadow of a great rock to the traveler in a weary land, such is Jesus Christ to us; and, therefore, if we are not consciously one with him, little marvel if our spirit cries in the words of the Song, "I charge you, O ye daughters of Jerusalem, if ye find my beloved, tell him that I am sick of [with] love." This earnest longing after Jesus has a blessing attending it: "Blessed are they that do hunger and thirst after righteousness"; and therefore, supremely blessed are they who thirst after the Righteous One. Blessed is that hunger, since it comes from God: if I may not have the full-blown blessedness of being filled, I would seek the same blessedness in its sweet bud-pining in emptiness and eagerness till I am filled with Christ. If I may not feed on Jesus, it shall be next door to heaven to hunger and thirst after him. There is a hallowedness about that hunger, since it sparkles among the beatitudes of our Lord. But the blessing involves a promise. Such hungry ones "shall be filled" with what they are desiring. If Christ thus causes us to long after himself, he will certainly satisfy those longings; and when he does come to us, as come he will, oh, how sweet it will be!
By Pam Cowart
In January of this year we heard God calling us to AWAKEN. We gathered to fast and pray in a desire to respond to this calling with obedience. We prayed we would all awaken. We heard the knock on our individual and corporate hearts asking us to “open the ancient gate and let the King of Glory enter in.”
And enter He did! The Spirit of the Living God was among us as we gathered for early-morning and noontime prayer, as well as in our nightly revival gatherings. Again, in late April/early May we gathered to pray and fast for the Call to AWAKEN revival week with Mark Nyswander. We heard the call to AWAKEN to the fullness of the Holy Spirit. We experienced what the Holy Spirit in our lives can do to transform us, redeem us, restore us and empower us. There have been powerful testimonies of what God has done in the lives of individuals and in us corporately as we have woken up!
At both revivals we joined together in the war cry, “COME ON!” That cry has a three-fold meaning:
As we enter a third week of fasting and prayer leading up to a third week of Call to AWAKEN revival gatherings, this cry is still before us. It is still valid and needed as a war cry among us. Yet, I hear a stiller, smaller, quieter voice inviting us into something deeper yet. I hear the voice of Jesus cutting through the noise of this world. I hear His firm, confident, compassionate voice waking us with a call, “Come on.” I hear Jesus saying, “Come on ... wake up ... get up ... follow me.” I hear Jesus saying, “Come on ... follow me ... I am inviting you into something new.” I hear Jesus saying, “Come on ... I truly want you to know and experience an awakening to MY LOVE FOR YOU!”
This invitation into the depths of His love is not some sugary, sappy journey. The filling of our lives with the love of Jesus is the source of all we need. This deep filling is for healing and wholeness. This deep filling is for empowerment for battle. This deep filling is for pouring out to those in need around us. This deep filling is to grow us up together to be the mature and functioning body our Head needs us to be.
What a glorious invitation it is. Will you come? Will you say “yes” to his invitation”? Will you come on? Will you wake up?
CCC's Arise (Young Adults) community is blessed to welcome Columbus State University international students each semester with a special dinner, and then partner with these students throughout the semester. This year's event, themed "Welcome to America," was held on August 18 and included a special meal, interactive games and dancing.
CCC has sent dozens of missionaries out into the world over the years. From planting churches in Europe to serving refugees in the Middle East to working with college students here in the U.S., our people are fulfilling Jesus’ Great Commission to “go and make disciples of all nations.”
Two young adults from CCC are preparing to work in full-time missions, and each has a rather unique call in how they’re going to do so.
For Carly Blalock, it’s midwifery. Carly is training with GoMidwife, a Hawaii-based organization that equips and sends birth workers throughout the nations to teach and serve women during the childbearing years.
“Mothers and babies are dying everyday due to lack of adequate healthcare,” Carly says. “I am training with GoMidwife to become a Certified Professional Midwife and share the Gospel through midwifery. I feel called to areas where people are predominantly Muslim, but I want to be properly trained so that I can run birthing centers and train others with excellence no matter where I am in the world.”
Samuel Phillips also has a heart for international missions, along with a passion for aviation and a knack for fixing things. That combination will soon land him at Trinity Aviation Academy in Eatonville, Washington, where he’ll be training to serve as a missionary pilot and aircraft mechanic.
“Missionary pilots help share the Gospel by providing reliable transportation to local missionaries serving in remote regions, and by helping with relief in war-torn and natural disaster areas,” Samuel says. “After completing the three-year program at TAA, I hope to serve as a pilot and mechanic with an organization such as Mission Aviation Fellowship, New Tribes Mission, or wherever the Lord leads me.”
We wish Carly and Samuel the best as they step out in obedience to God’s call on their lives.
Want to help support either of these young people in their mission? Here’s how:
By Allen Allnoch
Ten years ago, bluegrass music legend Ricky Skaggs released an album, “Salt of the Earth,” with his wife, Sharon White, and her family band, The Whites.
The title song described the honest, selfless, genuine people who embody that phrase:
They’ll all come runnin’ if there’s someone in need
They’ll reach out if someone’s hurt
Diamonds and gold could not match what they’re worth
Good people are the salt of the earth
Shane Clark is one of those salt-of-the-earth kind of people. It’s telling that he was reluctant to have photos of himself made for his new Shane Clark Music Facebook page. Actually, he was reluctant to have a Facebook page, period. For this humble servant of God, life is not about drawing attention to himself, but rather about fulfilling Jesus' Great Commandment – love God, love your neighbors.
On his newest CD, “The Hymn Awakening,” Shane has surrounded himself with a whole company of salt-of-the-earth folks – including Skaggs himself – who also happen to be world-class musicians and vocalists. The result bears out his purpose of using his gifts to serve God and other people.
Shane, a Columbus native with close ties to Christ Community Church, leads Camp Laughing Child, a Christ-centered therapeutic adventure camp for institutionalized children living with terminal illnesses in southern Mexico. Sales of the CD benefit the camp, which provides creative nature-based and animal-assisted therapies on seven acres of beautiful mountain surroundings.
“The Hymn Awakening” is a collection of traditional hymns anchored by Clark’s rich vocals and flavored by a diversity of guest artists. It features a lineup of contemporary bluegrass all-stars, including fiddle virtuoso Andy Leftwich, singers Sonya Isaacs and Claire Lynch, guitarist Ron Block (a member of Alison Krauss’s band, Union Station), five-time Grammy winner Rhonda Vincent, and rising star Sierra Hull.
From Leftwich’s elegant opening notes on “Lead Me to Calvary,” to the toe-tapping rendition of “Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus” with Skaggs and Jimmy Fortune (formerly of the Statler Brothers), to Shane’s chill-bump harmonies with Vincent on “My Jesus, I Love Thee,” the CD is a delightful new take on a timeless set of familiar church songs.
Just as Shane and his guests have poured their hearts into these songs, he’s pouring his life into the lives of sick children 2,000 miles across the continent.
Those kids – and we, too – are richer because of these good, salt-of-the-earth people.
Copies of “The Hymn Awakening” (along with Shane Clark's first CD, “Deep Blue Hymns”) are available in the CCC Resource Center for a suggested donation of $15 apiece. All proceeds benefit Camp Laughing Child. Follow Shane on his new Facebook page at facebook.com/ShaneClarkMusic.
Almost three years ago, in September 2014, Christ Community Church launched its first satellite campus. Since then, what God has done in and through that local church body is nothing short of amazing.
What once was known as CCC-Phenix City now is called Village Church. It now is a standalone Free Methodist body, and on Sunday, June 18 it began meeting in a debt-free home of its own.
“We’re stepping out in faith, embracing our new name and our new location that God has gifted to us,” Pastor Jonathan Taylor writes on Village Church’s website. “We are so thankful for the love and support we’ve received from our Free Methodist denomination and also from our parent church, Christ Community Church in Columbus. We’ve been blessed to be able to see God clearly, and grow stronger in our community of believers, through this adventure.”
Click here to read more of Village Church’s story, and here to visit their homepage. Want to visit? They meet each Sunday at 11 a.m. at 1608 14th Court in Phenix City.
A look at what CCC kids and adults are doing out in the community during our June 4-8 Week of Hope outreach.
Why are we designating this particular week a “Week of Hope?” Shouldn’t we be putting our faith into action and taking hope to the world every day?
Yes we should. Loving our neighbor is a 24/7 biblical mandate, to be sure. And it’s fueled by the power of the Holy Spirit, as Pastor Keith taught in this week's Sunday message.
But just as with our Church Has Left the Building outreach last year, a ready-made outreach sometimes can be the nudge we need to get “out there” and be the hands and feet of Jesus.
And certainly any time we help “the least of these,” we are blessing someone and serving Christ himself.
Week of Hope also is a great opportunity to get to know some of our local ministry partners and get involved on an ongoing basis – organizations such as International Friendship Ministries, Heal the World Thrift Store, Open Door Community House and Sound Choices Pregnancy Clinic.
We’re working with eight ministry partners in all this week, but that’s only a small segment of the organizations we link arms with throughout the year. Visit our Around the City page for a look at all of our area partners, and click the "Contact" link if one of them stirs your heart to help.
As for Week of Hope, we’ve been comparing it to a mission trip, with a few key differences to make participation easier: 1) It’s right here in Columbus; 2) It doesn’t require hundreds of dollars in expenses; and 3) You can do it in two-hour increments – shifts at 9:30-11:30 a.m. and 1-3 p.m. each day (Monday-Thursday).
You can find all the details, including information on each partner/work project, right here. Pick a shift – or two, or more, even – and get out there!
The CCC Blog is a collection of writings and images from staff members and guest contributors, all pointing to the extraordinary life made possible by a relationship with Jesus.