Equip: The Anatomy of Groaning

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Equip: The Anatomy of Groaning

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. 

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 Equip: The Doctrine of the Holy Spirit - Temples

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Equip: The Doctrine of the Holy Spirit - Temples

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.

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.

Controls:
"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

Guides:
"O I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves." Galatians 5:16

Leads:
"He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth." John 14:17

Directs:
"But when you are directed by the Spirit, you are not under obligation to the law of Moses." Galatians 5:18

Advocates:
"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

Convicts:
"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

Teaches:
“He will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you." John 14:26b

Helps:
"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?

 

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Equip: Parenting in Proverbs

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Equip: Parenting in Proverbs

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.  

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Stories of Mercy: Sean Gilles

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Stories of Mercy: Sean Gilles

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.  

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Being the Church in Janesville - Six Months and Counting

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Being the Church in Janesville - Six Months and Counting

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.

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Fervent Prayer: Church Planting

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Fervent Prayer: Church Planting

"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

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Fervent Prayer: Financial Commitment and Provision

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Fervent Prayer: Financial Commitment and Provision

"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..."

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Fervent Prayer: Outreach

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Fervent Prayer: Outreach

"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)."

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Fervent Prayer: World Missions

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Fervent Prayer: World Missions

"...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."

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Fervent Prayer: Community

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Fervent Prayer: Community

"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..."

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Fervent Prayer: Sing

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Fervent Prayer: Sing

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.

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Fervent Prayer: Confession & Commitment to Spiritual Disciplines

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Fervent Prayer: Confession & Commitment to Spiritual Disciplines

"...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..."

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Looking Beyond

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Looking Beyond

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.

Hope.

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Honoring our Co-Laborers in Christ

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Honoring our Co-Laborers in Christ

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. 

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Giving Thanks

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Giving Thanks

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!

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The Desires of the Heart

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The Desires of the Heart

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.

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Stir Up to Love & Good Works

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Stir Up to Love & Good Works

Hebrews 10:19-25

And let us consider how to stir up one another in love and good works not neglecting to meet together. That is quite an encouragement for the church. It is easy to see church as something you go to but here the author of Hebrews points us to a path that is not simply about attending a service but about engaging in a way that is intimate. Encourage one another, stir up in love with good works, these are not admonitions that are fulfilled at a distance or by simply attending a service.

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Willing to Go, Willing to Serve

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Willing to Go, Willing to Serve

Why go on a short term mission trip? Can a week of ministry in a foreign land really do that much good? Wouldn’t it easier, better, and far more efficient to simply send the money invested in all the travel to the people being ministered to? Who really benefits?

Those are good questions, questions that I once asked.

I’ve been on six short term mission trips – three to Rwanda and three to Italy – and through experience I have found the following answers.

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A Reasonable Response - Everything

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A Reasonable Response - Everything

So often, when we think of worship, mistakenly our mind goes to the moments of musical worship on Sunday morning where we, His Church, sing together before we hear from God’s Word.  However, worship is so much bigger.  It is the response, the offering, given to God by those who have “tasted and seen” that He is good.

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How Do You See the Harvest?

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How Do You See the Harvest?

Christ used many farmer analogies and parables in his teachings. Let's face it; farming was a very common and popular occupation in his time.  However, as I dig deeper into His parables of the harvest, I couldn’t help imagining being the real farmer in this reading. Just thinking of a field full and plentiful of wheat ready to be picked and not having enough workers to pick the crop.  What would I do? Would I panic as I seek for laborers to help me pick the harvest? Would I be disappointed? Is that what Jesus did?

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