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A salute to the people who protect and serve

Contributor: E. Taylor

Many thanks to military service members, police officers, and firefighters all over the world for great deeds in our communities everywhere.  We value the sacrifice and dedication that is demonstrated on and off duty in neighborhoods, backyards, streets, buildings, homes, precincts, and unnamed places everywhere.  Their devotion goes above and beyond the call of duty in and out of the uniform.  

Our uniformed officers often have to put others before themselves and their families, losing out on important moments and memories in their own lives and the lives of their families and loved ones.  It is difficult to understand the sacrifice that they make in the line of duty, and true understanding can sometimes be skewed by the media’s projections of negative events.  

Being fair and open-minded helps us see the best in everyone, including our public servants.  Seeing the best in everyone helps us reserve negative judgment, support our uniformed officers, and spread the news about their good deeds in our own communities.  Let us show appreciation for these officers – those that we know and love and others across the globe as they continue to uphold their oaths as public servants in our communities.  

The current climate of social change encourages us all to stop and examine our interactions with each other for the positives and to seek ways to be better individuals that can help bring out the best in others.  Along with protecting and serving, police officers perform rescues from unsafe and burning buildings, save animals and people stranded in trees and high buildings, have pulled up people and pets from wells and manholes, rescued miners from shafts, removed babies from wells, used the jaws of life to remove people from crushed vehicles, calm traffic and manage traffic at the scene of an accident.  These brave officers monitor traffic stops to maintain public safety and identify unsafe individuals.  

Firefighters risk their lives for us battling raging fires that blaze uncontrollably for days, weeks, and months without an unforeseeable end in sight.  These firefighters risk their lives all over the world in dark and dismal places, some never returning home to their families, others never returning home the same as they were before they left.  

All branches of military service members serve in various places protecting our borders and the world in so many ways – many known and unknown to us. As we think of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, and National Guard, we salute them for the great things they do for us and for always protecting us from dangers that are both seen and unseen.  Our military is strategically placed to keep us safe from unexpected dangers.  

We never know what to expect from day to day, but we know that we can count on all of these public servants to have our backs and to carry out their sworn duties every day.

#lovethepolice, #protectandserve, love

5 Biblical Ways to Improve Finances

Contributor: K. Wyatt

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused stress in many areas of our lives. One of those major areas is finances. Some individuals have been put out of work either temporarily or permanently. A few of us were lucky enough to be blessed with a $1200 stimulus check. And although we should be grateful for everything that we receive, it is hard to appreciate a $1200 check when you have been out of work for weeks to months amid a pandemic. Work and a steady income have stopped, but bills and other financial obligations continue to pile up. It may be hard to trust God during all of this, and some of us may wonder where God is right now. But God is here. He has always been here, and He is never leaving (Psalm 139:7-12). The same way we turn to God for support and guidance for our problems, we can turn to Him regarding our financial status. Here are five ways to improve your finances through God’s Word: 

  1. Trust God. And I mean really trust God. We may say that we trust God and the plans He has for our lives, but our actions may say otherwise. Trust and believe that God will truly bless you financially. Pray often and give all your worries to Him, and everything else will fall into place. The saying goes, “if you pray, then don’t worry, and if you’re going to worry, then why pray?” God knows what He is doing. Let him handle it (Philippians 4:19).
  • Educate yourself. Some of us weren’t taught financial literacy growing up. Now would be a great time to learn some concepts such as budgeting, credit, assets, and liabilities, etc. What you learn may help you to become more financially responsible when you begin working again. Or it may help you handle your finances better if you are still working. No one knows everything. You may find that you have made some mistakes with your finances, and that is okay. God wants us to be well informed, and He is willing to provide us with knowledge if we are willing to seek it (James 1:5).
  • Hold yourself accountable. Learn how to look at yourself in the mirror and realize that there may have been times where you could have made better financial decisions. If we want God to bless us with bigger and better things, then we must be prepared to receive those things (Luke 16:10). You may be hoping and praying for a bigger salary, but are you really prepared to manage and budget with a bigger salary. To whom much given, much is required (Luke 12:48).
  • Be content with what you have (Hebrews 13:5). Being content with what you have does not mean settling. It means that you trust God enough to utilize your spiritual gifts no matter where you are in life. So maybe amongst all the craziness right now, you decide to open a business or learn a new skill. Whatever it is, you do it full-heartedly, knowing that you are blessed, and that God loves you. And who knows what may happen after that? You may find yourself realizing your passion in life, which could lead to a new source of income.
  • Save, save, save! Save what you can, whether it is a little or a lot. Save it. You never know when you are going to need it or have the opportunity to invest it. Of course, saving is easier said than done. But try to save anyway, even if you have to use the savings eventually. Getting into the habit of saving now will make it easier to save in the future when you have more to spare. A small change now could really make a big difference later in life (Proverbs 13:11).

#money #finances #corona #covid19

5 Biblical Tips to Deal with Anger

5 Biblical Tips to Deal with Anger

Contributor: T. Dozier-Grady

“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.” James 1:19-20 (NIV)

While I was attending college, back in September 2019, a person made me upset. We were a part of the undergraduate psychology executive board. He told the executive board that he lied to some people to get money from them to help raise money for another club to which he was a part. How could he do that? I was so angry at the words he spoke. If I did not have the Holy Spirit help control my tongue, who knows how the situation would have turned out. We have experienced anger at one point in time. “Anger on its own is not a sin but releasing hastily or at the wrong time can be a destructive force.” (Bishop Rosie O’neal) I could have hurt his feelings, broke into an argument or worse, a fight. I am so thankful that the Holy Spirit guided my emotions and led me to express how I felt without being hostile towards what he said.

Bishop O’neal has defined anger as an emotion characterized by antagonism, which is the expression of opposition or hostility. It is when you have this emotion that is causing you to express hostility towards someone or something you believe has done you wrong. During the sermon on Victory Over Anger Part 1, Bishop asked us to think about these questions before we respond:

  1. How are you feeling?
  2. What do you really believe (what triggered it)?
  3. What do you perceive is happening (assumptions)?
  4. What are you focusing on?

There are going to be situations and people that will get you angry. We do not want to miss out on the blessings because we could not keep our temper down and our mouths shut. Moses lost his temper when he saw the Egyptian beating the Hebrew slave, and he killed the Egyptian. Moses was punished for forty years over his anger. We do not want our anger to put ourselves and the people around us back a generation. So, what can we do to handle our anger properly?

Jesus handled his anger by:

  1. withdrawing Himself,
  2. practicing relaxation exercises,
  3. confronting the situation,
  4. sometimes, asking a question to see what people were thinking, and
  5. forgiving and praying for people.

Based on Jesus’ example, we should:

  1. consider where our anger is coming from and why we are angry.
  2. learn how to calm down. Judge something more important than the moment. Become reflective.
  3. get a calculated response. 
  4. communicate clearly. Praying can help diffuse the anger. 
  5. concede to the consequences. 

Remember, anger, when not controlled, is dangerous, and it can set off a chain reaction. God will give you His spirit to calm down and heal you if you ask Him for help. 

I would recommend listening to the series, Victory Over Anger, and one of the latest sermons, Handling Anger Properly.

#dealwithanger #calm #slowtoanger

Salute to our Healthcare Professionals

Contributor: A. Dorcent

Healthcare Professionals, We Salute You!

Have you ever thanked someone for doing the extraordinary and received the humbled reply, “I was just doing my job.”? 

During this time of the COVID-19 pandemic, we’re seeing healthcare professionals perform above and beyond the call of duty. Their service surpasses the norm as they face insurmountable odds – experiencing overwhelmed medical facilities, working extremely long hours, and in some cases, have limited staff and supplies. They have risen to the occasion not to get to the other side of their paycheck. In this time of crisis, their service reflects the authentic spirit of compassion.

In this authentic spirit, we’ve found healthcare professionals, EMTs, nurses, and doctors become family. Our Pastor, Bishop Rosie. S. O’neal teaches we are not meant to do life alone. When our families cannot sit by our bedside, healthcare professionals have. We have watched news stories of nurses holding the hands of patients while they transition into eternity.

In the worst of times, the spirit of compassion is bursting at the seams. It gives us hope. Mankind is good. I’m reminded of the creation of mankind in Genesis. After God created male and female, He said we were very good. He was right. Compassion is displayed when we are at our lowest. It manifests goodness. It brings peace. It lifts us. It says, although you can’t take care of your personal needs now, I will. Why? Because your life matters. 

I will never forget being at one of my lowest, yet highest moments. I had just delivered a baby girl and was at my weakest. My assigned healthcare professional became my hands. She cared for my well-being. As she cared for me, I was overcome with gratitude. She went above and beyond with a kind spirit. Over the years, I thought of her. I never thought her service thrived on a paycheck. I know her excellent service didn’t come from being watched. It was just us in the room. Compassion comes from a deeper place.

There’s a familiar Bible story (Luke 10:25-37) of the Good Samaritan that cared for a traveler (a Jew) stripped and beaten in the streets. Jews and Samaritans customarily did not interact. None of that mattered to the spirit of compassion. Not only did the Good Samaritan cared for the traveler’s physical well-being, but he also took on financial responsibilities as well. This was compassion in its truest form. It requires us to come together and take on the struggles of others. Our healthcare professionals are daily delivering compassion amid COVID-19.

Healthcare Professionals, we are grateful. At times, you may feel invisible as if the only thing that matters is the work you do and not the person doing it. There is no truth in that. You matter. We are praying for you! We see and experience your compassion, and we honor you.

Thank you for not allowing us to do life alone. 

#Compassion #Healthcare Professionals #COVID-19

Sharing faith during a difficult time

Contributor: K. Wyatt

How do you share your faith during a difficult time? How do you tell others about the goodness of God when you are struggling to see the goodness of God yourself? I think that is something a lot of us are dealing with right now. We could have never predicted that a virus would come and shut down everything that is familiar to us. Usually, in times of difficulty, we can turn to a friend or family member who has gone through something similar and can share words of encouragement and how their faith brought them through. But no one has gone through what we all are going through right now. We’ve never had to shelter in place, shut down schools, practice social distancing, close businesses, and all the other things that have gone into effect due to the virus. We’ve never had our faith tested in this way. 

So how do we keep our faith strong and encourage others to do so during a time like this? Bishop Rosie said it best during one of our prayer calls during the fast: “Don’t let a new enemy make you abandon a past established pattern of victory.” God has delivered us from everything that we have been through so far. What makes you think that he won’t get you through this too? 

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever (Hebrews 13:8). This is the same God that delivered Daniel from the lion’s den (Daniel 6). This is the same God that saved Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego from a blazing furnace (Daniel 3). And this is also the same God that put Joseph in charge of Egypt after being in prison for several years (Genesis 39-41). The God who performed those miracles is going to perform miracles again.

When we remember the good that God has done, especially during times where no solutions seem possible, it helps to restore our faith. It gives us hope and a sense of peace. And it makes us want to go and tell everyone that we know. Therefore, we can share our faith during a difficult time by remembering a difficult time and how our God brought us through. “Faith draws us into a place of discipleship” (Bishop Rosie O’neal). Build on the faith that you have and minister to others during this time of difficulty.

Is social distancing weakening your relationships?

Contributor: A. Dorcent

Is social distancing weakening your relationships? The definition of the word relationship describes how two or more people connect. During this COVID-19 season, modern-day technology has allowed us to stay connected. However, sheltering-in-place and social distancing implore us to ask, how are we connecting? In order words, are our technology connections allowing us to build strong relationships with each other? 

Social media platforms allow us to frequently take a casual scroll on our devices and check up on one another. In an instant, we can send a happy birthday, happy anniversary, congratulations, or share an encouraging word. These casual scrolls can be time-consuming without investing intimately in any one person. 

This season has presented us with our finest hour for building strong relationships. Now more than ever is the time to ensure we are investing in our relationships. Literally, time is of the essence! Instead of the casual text message, we can invest time in longer conversations. Yet, the length of the discussion does not ensure the conversation was meaningful. We must be open and vulnerable with those we trust. I usually have a reflective response when asked by someone how I’m doing. Most times, my reply is, “I’m good;” when in fact, some days are more challenging for me than others. This is where trust comes in. I trust those in my circle that will listen and not judge. In turn, I become a safe place for them to share their true feelings as well. It’s okay to be human even when we’re a Christian. 

Ultimately, being a strong Christian allows us to manage our challenging days. We must intimately invest time with God. During this season, it is imperative we’re not giving God our usual time and attention. These are unusual days. The great thing about God, He is so good when it comes to building strong relationships with us. He longs for, waits, and looks forward to spending time with us. I’m reminded about His walk with Adam in the book of Genesis. I’m sure Adam found not only companionship in God the Father but also comfort. No matter what we are feeling, we can be vulnerable and honest with God. He certainly can handle any weight we throw upon Him. 1 Peter 5:7 says, “Casting your care upon Him because He careth for you.” I’m sure when God says let me have it, He means it.

There is a beautiful return to investing in our relationships with each other and God. Connecting with God and one another strengthens us, provides companionship, and comfort. 

As we practice social distancing, let us not allow this finest hour to slip away. We can intimately invest in our relationships and gain strength for today and the days ahead. Strong relationships make us stronger.

In this season, do you find your relationship with God and others growing stronger?  We love to hear from you!

Until We Meet Again…

#Relationships #Isolation #Connection #Social Distancing

Sacrifice – Wear a Mask

Contributor: K. Wyatt 

Romans 12:1 (NIV) states, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God – this is your true and proper worship.” We are to sacrifice ourselves for God’s will just as Jesus sacrificed His life for us. 

Sacrifice means to surrender or give up. Jesus gave His life for the world in exchange for our sins to be forgiven (1 John 2:1-2). We too, will receive a reward for the sacrifices that we make. God is pleased with us when we do good and make sacrifices (Hebrews 13:16). We also receive other benefits from making sacrifices for God and others. 

Take into consideration wearing masks during the COVID pandemic. The Center for Disease Control has issued guidelines for individuals to social distance and wear masks in public.  I know that it is hot outside and some people are getting tired of wearing masks and being extremely cautious, but this sacrifice is something that can help your family and your neighbors.

Jesus made the ultimate sacrifice for our lives, which resulted in the benefit of eternal life (Romans 6:23). Making a sacrifice is not easy. It takes you out of your comfort zone. It forces you to think and act in ways that you normally would not. 

You may be going through challenges in sticking to the protocols and making little sacrifices like avoiding large gatherings and wearing a mask. But in the end, your community will benefit from what you have done.

Remember that Jesus was crucified and died on a cross as a sacrifice (Mark 15) and Abraham attempted to kill his only son, Isaac, as a sacrifice for God (Genesis 22).  However, in the end, Jesus rose from the dead on the third day and now sits at the right-hand side of God (Mark 16:19, 1 Corinthians 15:4). Also, an angel stopped Abraham from killing Isaac, and Abraham and his descendants were blessed due to his willingness to sacrifice (Genesis 22:11-19). Therefore, God will also come through for you as you make sacrifices

#sacrifice #WearAMask

Sharing the gospel with strangers

Romans 10:14-17 (NLT) states, “But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them? And how will anyone go and tell them without being sent? That is why the Scriptures say, “How beautiful are the feet of messengers who bring good news!” But not everyone welcomes the Good News, for Isaiah, the prophet said, “Lord, who has believed our message?” So, faith comes from hearing, that is, hearing the Good News about Christ.” 

During the fall semester of 2019, I was reluctant to go to a school event to which my friend invited me since it was after work. I told myself that I would go for a few minutes, but the Holy Spirit knew I was needed that night to help someone. When I arrived at the event, I noticed that my friend was comforting some guy. I asked her what was wrong with him and she told me that he recently broke up with his girlfriend. I offered to walk him to his car. We talked about how he felt and gave him a shoulder to cry when he needed it. He felt that he did not want to continue, felt hopeless and he did not like being alone. I told him I understand his feeling of hopelessness, and I said that “Maybe God wants you to take the time to learn what you like to do by yourself.” I was not expecting that I would be helping this stranger as I did. Long story short, he thanked me for the advice, and he drove off to his apartment. I do not know what happened after that, but I am grateful that I listened to the spirit. 

I know it is not easy for me to start a conversation with a stranger. As Christians, we are encouraged to spread the good news of the gospel and share our faith. But how do we open the floor to discuss how God has been good to the people around me and me? First, pray about it. If you want to have a meaningful talk about God, you need to involve the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit will be the one who will change and soften their heart. I think you need to set a warm environment to permit a conversation. Be respectful and gentle. You cannot just jump right into talking about God; you have to initiate in casual conversations. “How are you doing?” “I like your hat.” Depending on if the person what to continue to speak, you can use a current event or a personal experience they mentioned to incorporate God. 

Remember, when you talk with someone, you do not have a lot of time to invest. However, you do not feel the need to rush and expect to have a full conversation about God. Be prepared to listen more than talk. Jesus spent time listening to the concerns and issues of others, and we should do the same. If that individual wants to develop their relationship with God, invite them to church or an event the church might be having that week like Bible study.

#gospel #goodnews #thetalk #faith

Connecting with friends during the pandemic

We connect with our friends in many ways. The possibilities range from brunch to road trips to social media and so much more. But with the onset of COVID-19, we’ve had to learn how to connect with our friends by other means. Group Facetime has definitely come in handy at a time like this. Other applications like Zoom, House Party, and Facebook messenger have also come into play in our virtual connections with others. The love, laughs, and secrets that we share with our friends have been preserved. 

In that same way, we should preserve our sharing of the gospel with those who are close to us. For the Bible tells us, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation” (Mark 16:15 NIV). These past few months of the pandemic have taught us that church is more than a building. Church is wherever God’s presence and the Holy Spirit is. So, in the same way that you connect with your friends about the events that unfolded in your day, connect with each other about God’s Word. 

Encourage each other to make safe, quiet spaces in your homes for prayer and worship. There is no right or wrong place to have prayer and worship for, “from inside the fish Jonah prayed to the Lord his God” (Jonah 2:1 NIV). Also, hold each other accountable as you fellowship. You wouldn’t let your friend go out in public wearing a bad outfit; therefore, don’t let your friend go without building their relationship with God. “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing” (1 Thessalonians 5:11 NIV). Not only is God pleased with us when we do these things, but this will also make reuniting after this pandemic much more worthwhile. 

Ecclesiastes 4:12 (NIV) “Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three is not quickly broken.” 

Contributor: K. Wyatt

#connecting #fellowship #friends #coronavirus #covid19 #socialdistancing

Neighbors and social distancing

The Marvin Gay song “What’s Going On?” is resonating all over our country and the world.  Some of us are wondering what is really going on in the world around us as we have entered the new normal of social distancing. 

Is it normal to go through daily activities wearing a mask and gloves?  It is difficult to define normal when toilet paper and cleaning products are scarce.  Do we go out in public and risk our health, or do we stay home from work and risk our family’s security?  How can we make things work for good if everything is uncertain and nothing is guaranteed?  

In response to this, a group of neighbors began using an app to come together to provide support and answer these questions.  The neighbors began being “neighborly,” reaching out to each other, looking out for one another, and lending a helping hand while still socially distancing.  They reminded us that the better way to do things in times like these is together.  These neighbors reminded us that two or three people or more are better together – couples, trios, quartets, groups of people – are better pulling together for a common cause.  The Bible elaborates that a two-fold cord is not easily broken and that when we all get on one accord that great things can happen as they did on the day of Pentecost (Ecclesiastes 4:12).  

Together we can do things better and greater than if we attempt to do them alone.  These neighbors decided that it would be better to look out for each other than to try to do things individually. Being neighborly is now and has always been socially acceptable.  So, let us do things for others that we would like done for us.  

Let us share our supplies, Internet links, essential items, food, information, health tips, and general knowledge with one another.  Drop off something to a friend, have an essential or care package mailed to a neighbor, friend, or loved one who needs something but cannot locate it or find it.  Check on an elderly neighbor and make sure that person or family is doing and eating well.  Check on the neighbor with several children and find out if the kids have everything that they need or pick up an extra meal and drop it off to them or order one and have it delivered.  

We can still be neighborly and keep our social distance.  Let us use some of those “back in the day” ways and show others God’s love in action.  Invest in others making good use of our time, our money, and our actions.  Although in-person visits may be limited, there are many ways to be neighborly.  Make more phone calls, send more emails, text more, video message more, or mail letters or cards.  Now are the right time and a good time to show we can love our neighbors as we do ourselves.  

#love #socialdistancing #lovethyneighbor #neighborly #neighbors #helpothers

Contributor: E. Taylor

#love #socialdistancing #lovethyneighbor #neighborly #neighbors #helpothers

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