I grew up in a cessationist church. Cessationism is the belief that the miraculous sign gifts of the Spirit ceased within the first 100 years of the church. The opposing viewpoint is continuationism which is the theological belief that the sign gifts of the Holy Spirit have continued to the present day. The church I grew up in was full of gracious people and the gospel was preached. I assumed most good churches believed in cessationism. I heard horror stories of ridiculous preachers doing comical sign gift routines with their churches that we attributed not to the Spirit but to Satan. I was taught that in 1 Corinthians 13:8-12 when this passage says that prophecies, tongues, and knowledge will pass away when “the perfect comes” which my teachers saw as the completion of the scriptures.
Within the last century there has been an increase amongst professing Christians of experiencing the “sign gifts” attributed to the Holy Spirit. In conjunction with these experiences many questions have arisen concerning the nature of revelation. For many, the personal edification that takes place by speaking in tongues is a cherished gift. For others, the edification of a group of believers that takes place in the interpretation of the tongue is an unmistakable sign of God’s present care for his body. Yet for some who cite Sola Scriptura, a belief or practice in either of these gifts is a rejection of the sufficiency and relevance of Scripture. It can be difficult for sincere Christians as they feel torn between a practice of specific gifts and fidelity to the Word of God.
What if there is another way? What if our understanding of the purpose of the gifts of the Spirit doesn’t betray our understanding of Sola Scriptura? What if the Spirit working in an individual’s body works similarly in the corporate body of Christ?
First, we must define Sola Scriptura. We look to the historical definition cited in 1646, drawn up by Westminster Assembly as part of the Westminster Standards to be a confession of the Church of England, it became and remains the standard of doctrine for many in the Reformed traditions. It states, “The whole counsel of God, concerning all things necessary for his own glory, man’s salvation, faith, and life, is either expressly set down in scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the Spirit, or traditions of men.”
If we disregard context of this writing it would be easy to see the application to Pentecostal practice today. This application is made by leading voices in evangelicalism today. After all, is prophecy and the interpretation of tongues a work contributed to the Spirit? And is God not revealing information to his people through these means?
If the focus of Sola Scriptura is simply the last line “nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the Spirit, or traditions of men”, it is easy to understand why the sign gifts would be rejected in our modern context. But if we take into account the time at which it was developed and the statement as a whole, we will see that it has nothing to do with what Pentecostals consider a working of the Spirit.
If the Solas are the fruit of the Reformation era, and Luther’s Ninety-Five Theses were the seed, then the abuses of Papal authority proved to be fertile ground for their development. While not yet completely opposed to the doctrine of indulgences at the time he developed his theses, Luther was beginning to see the direct contradiction to the gospel that theologies attributed to papal authority presented. As Justin Holcomb notes,
“Luther’s Ninety-five Theses hit a nerve in the depths of the authority structure of the medieval church. Luther was calling the pope and those in power to repent—on no authority but the convictions he’d gained from Scripture—and urged the leaders of the indulgences movement to direct their gaze to Christ, the only one able to pay the penalty due for sin.”
It is my opinion that the Reformation was a response to 3 issues within the Roman Catholic Church at that time. Those issues were: An abuse of power, A necessitating denial of Scriptural authority to maintain that power, and the false gospel they produced.
If we are to apply Sola Scriptura against the use of tongues and interpretation we must ask three questions. They are:
- Do we believe that those practicing tongues and interpretation in a corporate setting are establishing themselves as the supreme authority above scripture and the church?
- Do we believe that those practicing tongues and interpretation in a corporate setting are equating the edification with new revelation that it should be considered on par with cannon? If your answer is yes, do you believe that 1st century believers did the same? If so, where are the manuscripts of their services to be added to canon?
- Do we believe that those practicing tongues and interpretation in a corporate setting are establishing a false doctrine and diminishing Christ?
It is my belief that Pentecostals would answer a resounding “No” to the questions posed. I am sure there are examples of abuses in Pentecostal gatherings that can be pointed to that would allow us to answer yes to these questions. However, within most pentecostal denominations this is not the case. In my opinion as the Spirit instructs, convicts and comforts individuals in their daily circumstances, he also does so for his corporate body. Individually and corporately the Spirit edifies His people. Whatever is interpreted is measured against scripture for its validation. Scripture is always the ultimate authority that all our experience is subjected to.
Pentecostal experience and 16th century Papal authority are not connected. To apply Sola Scriptura against those practicing the gifts in a corporate setting is a category error. We should take joy in the whole counsel of God. We should also take joy in the edification the Spirit brings to his people. Just as two friends do not need to be reconciled; Sola Scriptura and corporate edification by the Spirit do not need reconciliation, but celebration.
Each year as we prepare for, or as the team is serving, I am asked about our trip to Italy. It is usually a question of “Why Italy?” out of a sense of curiosity. But, admittedly, some of the questions are much more pointed. Some ask why we would send people and resources to a European “Christian” country when we could have a much greater “impact” elsewhere.
While one is out of curiosity and one is more direct, they both provide the opportunity to dive deeper into our understanding of Christian missions. It allows us to dig deeper and have a clear understanding of where God is needed, how He has chosen to save the world, and how modern mission trips fit in.
Where is God Needed?
In our effort to send missionaries to the ends of the earth, in some ways we as American Christians unfortunately fall victim to our own efforts. In order to raise support, missionaries need to motivate people to give, and to do so they share their ministry as a compelling need. And what is more compelling than the picture of the hurt, poor and lost of this world. Think of the picture of the African child in tattered clothes looking up to the camera with sad eyes. It compels us, but it also very subtly deceives us. It deceives us into the notion that their need is “greater” than that of our neighbor next door, or a citizen of a European country. All three contexts share the same truth: there are people in each who don’t have the restoration and redemption of the Gospel in their life.
This is reminds us of Jesus when he said, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:8 ESV) We are called to all places at all times. And this includes Italy, a nation where Catholicism has become cultural and has minimal impact on a personal level. While 80% of Italians claim to be Christian, only 3% report actively participating in their faith.
How Will He Save?
So if God is needed in all places and at all times, how should we reach out? Unfortunately, this is where we once again fall victim to our own efforts. Since most mission trips involve a significant financial commitment, we have approached our trips as wanting to “maximize impact” and making sure the trip is “worthwhile”. We think in terms of return on investment.
But let me be clear. God’s salvation plan has not included one-week trips until the last 50 years. For the first 1,900 or so years God’s plan was focused on planting Gospel-centered faith communities among the lost of the world. His salvation plan was first the saving grace provided through His Son, and then proclaiming this good news through local churches animated through the transforming and restoring work of His Holy Spirit.
The hope of the world is first and foremost God’s saving work, and second, His bride the Church. When God poured out his Spirit He did so to a local community of believers who were committed to each other and to the Gospel, and through them the good news went out.
As a reflection of this, everything we do in missions at Mercy Hill Church for missions is centered around the local church wherever we serve. Whether we serve in Italy, Rwanda, Mexico or locally, we partner with and edify the local church in those communities.
So, How Do Mission Trips Fit In?
“If the hope of the world is the local church, then why go at all,” you may ask. But this question is still flowing out the view that a mission trip is about what we can accomplish or achieve. The proper question should be what will we allow God to accomplish on this trip?
And if His plan of salvation is our guide, then we know what is most important to Him is relationships. It is our relationship to Him, our relationships with each other, our relationships with brothers and sisters in Christ around the world, and our relationships with the hurting, lost, and broken of this world. Just as Jesus said, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:37-40 ESV)
Because of this, our mission trips at Mercy Hill Church center on building relationships in all these areas. We design and create space on our trips for this to happen. There is individual time for people to reflect and walk with God. There is time in cafes in Italy, on the terrace at Solace Ministries in Rwanda, and time on our other trips. There is time ministering with our brothers and sisters in Christ in the local context so we can encourage them and they can edify and teach us. And there is time to be involved in reaching out in ministry. If this involves some construction work or a tangible project, cool, but that will just be secondary to our main focus on building relationships.
With all of this in focus now, I hope that you can see that our question of “Why Italy” can now change to the statement “Of Course Italy.” Of course Rwanda, and Mexico, and Royal Family Kids, and India, and the Middle East, and Milwaukee, and beyond.
May we be a church that at all times and in all ways is reaching out to all places. And as our church family is reaching out to our brothers and sisters in Padova, may we be lifting them up in prayer this week and beyond.
MH Missions Trips
Find out more about Mercy Hill missions trips at mercyhill.org/missionstrips
Doctrine of the Holy Spirit: In Step with the Spirit
Last year as the Italy mission trip approached, I tried picking up enough Italian to get by. I downloaded an app and absorbed as much as I could. I aced level after level on the app and soon was ranked as 25% or so fluent in Italian. I thought I had it in the bag, and was ready for the trip.
Then I arrived, and tried to order my first coffee at a cafe.
The expression on the waiter’s face was one of polite confusion. It seemingly didn’t even register with him as Italian, and that it must have been some other foreign language. Embarrased, I switched to English and made my order. While I knew the mechanics and vocabulary of Italian, my lack of experience and immersion led to my ultimate failure when it came to living it out.
If I am honest with myself, I have made the same mistake in regards to the Holy Spirit, and the lesson is simple: intellectual knowledge is no substitute for experience.
As Phil mentioned in his blog a few weeks ago, the role of the Spirit is to guide, control, lead, guide, advocate, convict, teach, comfort, encourage, counsel, give peace and help to pray. But simply knowing these roles on an intellectual level will leave our experience of God lacking.
In the New Testament, both the narrative surrounding experiences with the Holy Spirit and the prescriptive passages about the Holy Spirit use language that is very relational in nature. One passage that highlights this is Galatians 5. In verse 16 we are told, “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh” followed later by verse 25 which says, “If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.” Unfortunately, this passage is one that is glossed over by us as Christians, and we mistakenly view it as simply flowery description of a theological concept. In fact, most of us skip over this language and latch on to the list of don’ts (verse 19-21) and do’s (verse 22).
This is where our experience of Christianity must move beyond merely an intellectual exercise. Only through daily walking with God, allowing Him to move and speak to us in all the ways outlined in Scripture, will we truly experience the freedom that is inherent in the Gospel. It sounds simple, doesn’t it? But here’s the scary thing: we can accomplish much that has the appearance Christianity in our own ability.
That is why our doctrine of the Holy Spirit cannot exclude the need for the real experience of the Holy Spirit. In fact, I suggest that the most important piece of the doctrine of the Holy Spirit is that He is to be experienced and not merely understood. We are called to walk in the Spirit.
So what does this look like? How can we walk with God?
Again, I think our modern Christian expression can become pragmatic too quickly. We tell each other to “spend time in the Word”, “pray at all times”, “attend x, y, or z church event” and many other straightforward action steps. While these are valuable disciplines and steps to take, we will never be able to capture the Holy Spirit through our own effort or ritual. He moves and speaks as He wishes.
And that is the first step to walking with the Spirit. Are we truly willing to walk where He guides and leads, or are we trying to craft our faith in our own image? Are we willing to dive into our own hearts, pains, and hang-ups and let Him speak into them? Are we willing to let him nudge us out of our comfort zone and into the lives of others? Are we willing to let Him guide us beyond our own expectations into the depth and life He has for us? Will we truly walk with Him?
It sounds like a simple question, but a brief survey of the book of Acts tells us that when the church walks with the Spirit, we are not only released into the fullness of a Gospel community, but also exposed to persecution, pain and suffering. When the Spirit leads, it is not to a place of complacency or comfort, but one to where we see God redeem and restore the hurting and lost around us.
But this collective experience must start at the individual level. We must resist the urge to live life in our own effort, of our own design, and be willing to stop and repeatedly check whether we are walking with, speaking with, communing with the Spirit. I encourage you each to pause in the next week and lay that question before the Spirit: “Am I walking with you, or am I walking at a pace of my own design?”
Do you find yourself groaning as a Christian? You don’t groan alone. The Holy Spirit groans with you, according to Romans 8:26: .
"In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express."
What makes the Holy Spirit groan? Is he disappointed with us? Are inarticulate groans sighs of self-pity and despair? Do inarticulate groans refer to the experience of speaking in tongues?
In our exploration of the anatomy of groaning in Romans 8, we want show that the Holy Spirit groans as he gives birth within us to a new identity in Christ that wills to do what God wants.
Who is the Spirit?
Romans 8 contains more references to the Spirit than any other chapter in the Bible, yet not once is the name “Holy Spirit” used. Instead of a proper name, we have descriptions: Spirit of life (v 2), Spirit of God (v 9), Spirit of Christ (v 9), Spirit of Him who raised Jesus (v 11), Spirit of Sonship (v 15) or simply “the Spirit.” God the Son has a proper name. He is Christ Jesus (v 1). God the Father is “Abba, Father” (v 15). But nowhere do we hear of the Holy Spirit in Romans 8.
Good theological reasons stand behind this ambiguity. The Spirit’s groaning is not inarticulate. “He who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with the will of God” (v 27). Paul tells us two things. First, the Holy Spirit is a person with a mind whose groans are intelligible to the Father. Secondly, the Holy Spirit’s groaning is intelligible because it is congruent with God’s will. The Holy Spirit accords with the will of God because the Holy Spirit is the will of God. The Holy Spirit is the going forth of God in the power of his love. Going forth in power assumes a source and a goal. God the Father is the source, and Jesus Christ is the goal. The Holy Spirit is neither source nor goal but that which unites both. As the will uniting Father and Son as well as the power of God in us, the Holy Spirit acquires many names depending on the function He plays: counselor, comforter, enlightener, etc. These functions and more are summarized by the name “Holy Spirit” as defined in the Apostle’s Creed: We believe in the Holy Spirit.
God’s Spirit and Our spirits
If the Holy Spirit is God’s will going forth in the power of his love, how does God’s Holy Spirit relate to our spirit? “The Spirit,” Paul tells us, “bears witness to our spirit that we are God’s children” (v 16). How do we know through our experience we are God’s children?
We know we are God’s children, Paul tells us, whenever we put to death the lingering enmity towards God that constitutes our old way of life. The transition from verse 13 to verse 14 captures the relationship between our spirit and the Holy Spirit. Paul starts this section reminding us we have an obligation (v 12). The obligation we have grows out of the previous section in which we are told our old self is dead because of sin, and our spirits are alive because of righteousness. We have a new self. It is Christ in us (v 10). Christ in us complements verse 1 where we are in Christ. Christ in us is a new identity based on his perfect sacrifice for our sins and his perfect obedience imputed to us (v 4). Verse thirteen contrasts those who live according to their old identity to those who “by the spirit put to death the deeds of the body.” The spirit in verse thirteen refers to our spirits as the means of mortification. This is shown by the causal link to verse 14: “Because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.” The Holy Spirit cannot be both cause and agent of resistance to sin. We have an obligation to mortify sin as the Spirit of the Lord empowers us to do so. Our active resistance to sin is the sign we experience as the work of the Holy Spirt in us showing us that we are God’s children.
How do we mortify sin? John Owen (1616-1683) wrote a book that is vital for us today entitled, Mortification of Sin in Believers. In short, Owen advises us to name it, repent of it, starve it and oppose it by trusting in Christ’s perfect obedience in us. Oppose lust with Christ’s joy, resist anger with Christ’s peace, and defeat pride with Christ’s humility. Christ’s perfections are preferred over our old hatred of God by the power of God’s love manifested in us through the Holy Spirit.
The Groaning of the Holy Spirit
The work of the Holy Spirit in us is called vivification. To vivify means to animate or give life. Paul compares the groaning of the whole creation to childbirth in verse 22. Think of a newborn. After the trauma of childbirth, a newborn is held aloft and spanked on the buttocks to cause it to scream. A scream inflates the lungs, filling them for the first time with the breath of life. To the newborn a scream is shocking, but to everyone else it is a welcome sign of life. To us, the Holy Spirit’s cry is a wordless shock at the overwhelming power of God’s love over our unloving, faithless hearts (which can be expressed by the gift of tongues, the outpouring of our hearts to God). To God, it is the welcome sign of his love at work in us to want what God wills. Vivification is the other side of mortification. As we put to death our old self, the Holy Spirit brings to life our new self hidden in Christ.
We are spirit beings, and as spirit beings the only thing that can contain our spirit is our bodies (our flesh), without our living bodies we cannot physically exist in this world. Just like an astronaut cannot live in space without their space suit which provides them with air to breathe etc.., we cannot live here without our own suit, our bodies. But let's go deeper, what if I say that our body is more than a suit, it is also temple?
Let’s look at the dictionary definition of the the word temple.
A building devoted to the worship, or regarded as the dwelling place, of a god or gods or other objects of religious reverence.
You see, as believers and followers of Christ; the Bible tells us (see verse below) that our body is the temple for the gift that God has given us, The Holy Spirit.
“Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, 20 for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body.” 1 Corinthians 6:19 - (NLT)
So, if the Holy Spirit does not reside in your temple, or as I would phrase it, “Is not sitting on the throne of your heart and mind”, then who is? Know this, the temple is never vacant. There is always someone sitting on the throne of your heart and mind! It’s either you or the Holy Spirit dwelling in the temple!
If it is you and your sinful nature occupying your temple, then you will fail at being a follower of Christ. The human heart is the most deceitful of all things (Jer 17:9), we may think our way of doings things seem right but if you are dwelling as the god of your temple in place of the Holy Spirit, our lives will lead to death and destruction (Prov 14:12). Yet, many christians say “I’m good Holy Spirit, I will be sitting on the throne of my temple, I’ll call you when I really need you!”
But Christ knew better, he knew that while his followers were still on earth, that they would not be able to willingly serve and obey God, let alone do the will of our heavenly father by our own mere willpower. He knew that his people needed supernatural help. He also knew that being holy wasn’t just a matter of following rules, for his priority was based on a intimate relationship with our heavenly father through his son Jesus Christ.
As a result, God made it possible for us to follow and obey God by making sure that the Holy Spirit rightfully resides in the throne of our temple as he leads us to Christ, and unlike our sinful nature, when the Holy Spirit is leading us he never goes against Scripture! The Holy Spirit entered our temple when we decided to give our life to Christ.
We need to continually ask the Holy Spirit to lead us, to guide us, and to help us do the things God wants us to do, and when we continue spiritually growing as Christians, our desire should be to allow the Spirit to take control over more and more areas of our lives. Why on earth would anyone want to try to be a believer and follower of Jesus Christ without having the Holy Spirit on the throne of their temple? Quite simple, because we still want to be the God of our own temple (our body and life) and rule from the throne of our own hearts.
Below are some action words from scripture that describe what the Holy Spirit desires to do when you give him the throne of your temple.
"But you are not controlled by your sinful nature. You are controlled by the Spirit if you have the Spirit of God living in you." Romans 8:9
"O I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves." Galatians 5:16
"He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth." John 14:17
"But when you are directed by the Spirit, you are not under obligation to the law of Moses." Galatians 5:18
"But when the Father sends the Advocate as my representative—that is, the Holy Spirit—he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you." John 14:26
"And when he comes, he will convict the world of its sin, and of God’s righteousness, and of the coming judgment." John 16:8
“He will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you." John 14:26b
"And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness." Romans 8:26a
Comforts, Encourages and Counsels:
"But when the Father sends the Advocate (Or Comforter, or Encourager, or Counselor) as my representative—that is, the Holy Spirit." John 14:26a
Gives you peace:
“I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart." John 14:27 -
Helps you pray:
"And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words." Romans 8:26
If your temple and the throne of your heart isn’t for the Holy Spirit to dwell in, then you are your own God (yes, I just said that), and it’s no wonder that you might be struggling as a Christian. Our God was caring and loving enough to provide us with the Holy Spirit, why wouldn’t you want to him to dwell in you?
In our midweek Christian family night, we just completed a two-week study of parenting in the Book of Proverbs. Two proverbs often come up in discussions of parenting. “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it” (ESV), is one. “Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline drives it far from him,” (from which we get the English proverb, “Spare the rod and spoil the child”) is another. Both are found in Proverbs 22, verses 6 and 15, respectively. Together these two proverbs form a tightly bound parenting model, but we need some context to use them profitably.
We are excited to bring you the first of many Stories of Mercy. Sean Gilles story includes his recovery of cancer and a testimony of the church coming around him to support and love him in one of the most trying times of his life.
I would ask Mercy Hill as a whole to continue to pray that God continues his work in the Rock County location. It has been a privilege to see Jesus grow His church in these ways and others. Please pray that God would continue to provide the finances that we need to expand our children’s ministry area and materials for outreach. Pray that God would continue to grow His church through a healthy mix of unbelievers, Christians, the hurting, the healthy, and leaders. And pray that he grants us wisdom in ministering to the city, and new ways to authentically engage our city, proclaiming the Gospel in relationship and actions.
"And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles." Acts 2:42-43 ESV
From the birth of the Church in Acts, we see what the new gathered Body of Christ focused on: God’s Word (apostles’ teaching), community (fellowship and breaking of bread), and prayer (communing with God). Thus, from the very beginning of Mercy Hill, these verses have been close to our hearts and has helped define and shape our mission of being the Church. Keeping our focus on the simplicity of the Gospel, as taught in Scripture, and proclaiming that Good News both from the pulpit and through personal relationship, is a big part of what I think makes Mercy Hill Church the amazing community that it is. And it seems that God is stirring the hearts of others all over southeastern Wisconsin who desire to see churches planted that are committed to the beauty and simplicity of the Gospel. God has been building His Church with people ready to be His Church, and because of this, we are excited for what God is doing through the church planting efforts here at Mercy Hill.
Today, let’s focus our prayers on the area of church planting:
- Pray that God would continue to build His Church here and abroad
- Pray for our current church planting efforts/connections:
- Mercy Hill Rock County, Janesville (Josh and Angie Dostal)
- Imago Dei, West Milwaukee (Pete and Kristy Ziolkowski)
- Nuovo Vita, Salerno (Justin and Abbey Valiquette)
- Pray that God would provide to expand His Church:
- Leadership, resources and finances
- Pray that we would continue to train and equip leaders for church planting
- Pray that God would continue to make His mission clear to our churches
- Pray that God would clearly direct our Elders in future church planting efforts
"Hopefully throughout your time at Mercy Hill, you’ve sensed and heard that why we give matters more than what we give. We emphasize this every Sunday during worship. And through the example in Luke 21, the Bible gives us many reasons to be generous. Today I’d like to highlight one of those reasons; to care for others..."
"Throughout Holy Scripture, it is clear to us that we have been commissioned by Christ to go forth into the world as his ambassadors (2 Cor 5:20). As we do this, we are to proclaim the Gospel wherever we go, endeavoring to raise up disciples as we ourselves follow after Christ who is with us “to the end of the age” (Matt 28:19,20)."
"...So it seems that God will most definitely accomplish this in the culmination of all things. So why do we need to be involved then? This reminds me of the story of William Carey. He was a lay Baptist pastor in 18th century England who went on to become known as the “Father of Modern Missions”. It was believed by most in the Church at that time that the Great Commission was only a command to the apostles and that those in other “heathen” nations were of no concern to them."
"The term community has become a buzzword in our culture. Millennials are said to desire it, employers seek to build it, sociologists bemoan its demise, and churches have rediscovered its value. But as with most buzzwords: when you hear it often enough it gets lost in the noise..."
God chose us and then the message we received from God was Jesus. In Jesus the Messiah we received from God our Father heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. He accepted us through Jesus and forgave us for all the wrong we have done and will ever still do. Through Jesus we have forgiveness and peace with God our Father and are put together with others in Christ’s body, the Church. And what are we the Church doing? Singing, singing, singing songs that teach and warn leaving us very grateful to God our Father through Jesus our Messiah.
"...it is essential that we face the call in Christ to train ourselves for godliness and recommit ourselves to the spiritual disciplines that help to produce in us this godliness that is of value in every way. There is a long list of spiritual disciplines that many find valuable for the production of godliness in their lives but there are 3 specifically that as pastor at Mercy Hill church I would like to see us commit ourselves to in 2017..."
If I were to believe social media or popular culture, 2016 is a year to wipe from our collective memory.
Celebrity deaths. Politics. Terrorism. Civil wars. Cyberattacks. And so much more. It has spawned all sorts of viral memes and metaphors from the silly to the dead serious. But in the echo chamber that has become popular culture, I have noticed one thing that is distinctly missing.
If you were at service this last Sunday you were made aware of the tragic deaths in a house fire of our dear friends Steve and Patti Gray, the pastors of International Christian Fellowship in Padova, Italy. Many of you know of our special relationship with this church and these co-laborers in Christ as a result of our annual missions trips to minister to the church but many of you do not know the profound role this church and these ministers played in the formation of Mercy Hill Church.
I love the stretch of time between Thanksgiving and Christmas. I love everything about the holidays: the time with family and friends, the football, the gift-giving and, of course, the food. This last week I was reflecting on all of the things for which I'm thankful, and I found my mind drifting to the church.
I've been part of Mercy Hill Lake Country since the summer of 2009. From the time we first arrived my wife and I fell in love with the people, mission, and philosophy that we discovered. We found a church home that faithfully proclaimed the Gospel and sought to dwell in deep community with one another. In 2011, I was asked to come on staff. In 2012, I was called to the teaching pastor role in Delafield.
Since my time as teaching pastor began I've seen God do amazing things. I've seen people from all walks of life called to salvation in Christ. I've seen more than 50 people from Lake Country be baptized. I've seen marriages restored and lives changed.
And all of it is due to the work of Christ in the lives of His people.
In addition, I've witnessed as our church grew from a 10 person core group to the 250 people who now call Mercy Hill "home". 18 months ago we added a second service. Now both services are filled, and our current location is at its limit. Even though the philosophy and mission have stayed the same, we find ourselves needing to go through changes.
Beginning on December 11th we will be holding Sunday service at Lake Country Lutheran High School in Hartland. In some sense this can feel like a difficult step: we will have to setup and tear down each week, leave a location that we truly love, and re-establish in a new (though very close) community. But the benefits far outweigh the costs.
With one service, our hospitality and children's areas will be able to more easily staff their needs. For the first time in 18 months we'll all be together in one service again. We'll have enough space so that visitors and congregants don't have to struggle to find a place to sit. Perhaps most helpfully, we'll be able to spend time at the new building before and after services. My hope is that this will help people more easily engage in relationships and find entryways to deep, meaningful community.
I give thanks for the opportunities the Lord has provided for us and I'm excited to see how He will use the next stage of our church life for His glory and for the joy of His people.
For all members of our church family, across all three locations, I ask that you please join us in praying for God to continue to move during this time of transition. For those of you who call Mercy Hill Lake Country your church home, we look forward to seeing you on the 11th!
In 2010, my husband Brian and I felt called to become foster parents. A year later we were blessed with the adoption of our son. A few years later we believed we were called again to become the adoptive resource for a little girl, but in the end it didn't work out. Since then, we now have grown to feel we would not be able to foster or adopt again, although we are open to whatever God has planned.
This is the story of how God revealed Himself to me through the children at Living Hope International.