The M Word: The Silent Grief, The Invisible Loss

The M word is usually spoken in hushed tones. It evokes sympathy expressed with half-smiles, platitudes, unsolicited advice, and statistical assertions of odds of success. These are all meant to comfort you. Instead, they invalidate your pain by labeling your tragedy as an “everyday occurrence.” These expressions of sympathy can make you feel silenced even as you suffer—even as a piece of you becomes forever a statistic. In my case, five words snatched me from my dream come true,

“We can’t find the heartbeat.”

By now, you realize we are speaking of miscarriage.

Sadly, miscarriages are a relatively common occurrence. Even more grievous is that most women are socially taught to sweep it under the rug. We are told to go back to work, go back to our daily routine, and are not given time to properly grieve our loss.

We do not grieve like those who have no hope.

As believers in the sanctity of life, the severity of this loss has to be acknowledged. This grief is navigated by the couples affected. As Christ followers, we are called to grieve well and not as those who have no hope (1 Thess. 4:13). The hope of the gospel gives us the strength to face our grief with the knowledge that “weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning” (Ps 30:5b). The hope of the gospel gives us a long-term perspective that “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore . . .” (Rev 21:4).

Admittedly, it is difficult to stay focused on this hope. As with everything else in the Christian journey, discipleship in this arena happens in community. Our community has been instructed to “Rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn” (Romans 12:15). Women (and couples) at the start of the grief journey can learn through the example of those further along the path. Enough cannot be said for the importance of being surrounded by those who can continue to point back to the gospel at a time of upheaval and pain. Whether you are in the beginning of your journey or years into it, I would like to invite you to join us as we walk through our grief together. We will meet to work through a study of God’s word that will show us how to cling to Jesus and the hope that we have in Him. We will meet to honor God by praising and thanking Him for the blessing of children, however long they are loaned to us. We will meet to celebrate the fact that one day Jesus will undo every sad thing.

If you would like to join us, please email me at janarocken@gmail.com, and I will get you the details.

-Jana Rockensock (Mercy Hill Member)

Who Are You? Suffering Will Tell

Early in his work City of God, Augustine discusses the nature of suffering, specifically, why the good and wicked seem to both suffer. If someone is supposedly good, then why would God allow them to suffer? This is important because in our modern day era that wants to see all suffering as something that we should avoid at all costs and is seemingly purposeless, we need to return to a biblical view of suffering. A Christian exile is one who handles suffering rightly.

We are going to have Augustine walk us through thinking on this.

“When the good and the wicked suffer alike, the identity of their sufferings does not mean that there is no difference between them. Though the sufferings are the same, the sufferers remain different. Virtue and vice are not the same, even if they undergo the same torment. The fire which makes gold shine makes chaff smoke. . . . In the same way, the violence which assails good men to test them to cleanse and purify them, effects in the wicked their condemnation, ruin, and annihilation.”

Ok, a couple things that need obvious explanation.

Augustine here is saying that even if a Christian and a committed arsonist were to suffer the same sufferings (for example, both were thrown into a dungeon), this does not mean that they are equal in terms of morality. God is not using this suffering in the same way for both offenders. Augustine says that suffering endured by Christians is to test them.

But God doesn’t test people does He?

This is a misunderstanding in our day because our world wants to make this claim. But James, the brother of Jesus, led by the Holy Spirit, says differently:

2 Consider it a great joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you experience various trials, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance. 4 And let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing. (James 1:2-4 CSB)

If we are Christians, suffering prepares and sustains us to pursue a life of holiness. It strengthens us to live like the exiles we are called to be. God tests in order that Christians may past the test better than they were before.

What does he mean that suffering effects condemnation in the wicked?

First of all, I want to make it clear that Augustine was not an annihilationist, he is saying here that true unbelievers experiencing suffering are led further away from Christ. This is saying nothing different than John says, “18 Anyone who believes in him is not condemned, but anyone who does not believe is already condemned” (John 3:18 CSB). If we look at it through the opposite lens of Romans 8, we can make more sense of it.

28 We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, so that he would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters (Romans 8:28-29 CSB).

The logic of this verse is something many people miss by pulling verse 28 out of its context. All things (i.e. good, suffering, things that are neither good nor bad, all of history) work together for the good of believers. And this good is defined as conformity to the image of his Son. To take the opposite view, nothing is working for the good of unbelievers, and they therefore continue on in the further hardening of their hearts.

Let’s let Augustine sum this up.

“Thus the wicked, under pressure of affliction, [speak evil of] God and blaspheme; the good, in the same affliction, offer up prayers and praises. This shows that what matters is the nature of the sufferer, not the nature of the sufferings. Stir a cesspit, and a foul stench arises; stir a perfume, and a delightful fragrance ascends. But the [stirring] movement is identical.”

If you are a Christian, you are a child of God, and a child of God sees suffering as the loving discipline of a good Father performed for our good. The author of Hebrews says it well:

5 And you have forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons: My son, do not take the Lord’s discipline lightly or lose heart when you are reproved by him, 6 for the Lord disciplines the one he loves and punishes every son he receives. 7 Endure suffering as discipline: God is dealing with you as sons. For what son is there that a father does not discipline? . . . 11 No discipline seems enjoyable at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. (Hebrews 12:5-7; 11 CSB)

A view of suffering that is based on the Bible leads the Christian exile that is experiencing suffering to react like Job.

20 Then Job stood up, tore his robe, and shaved his head. He fell to the ground and worshiped, 21 saying: Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will leave this life. The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.  22 Throughout all this Job did not sin or blame God for anything. (Job 1:20-22 CSB)

-Alex Nolette (Equip Associate)

Experience Poverty at Mercy Hill

When I was a teenager, a middle-aged man who had followed Christ for decades told me there would be three things that influence who I become and what I believe: the things I read, the people I meet, and the places I go. So far in my life’s journey, I’d say he was right. All three have allowed me to see the world from a different vantage point.

Cross-cultural experiences are especially invaluable in giving me a new lens to see life. They challenge my assumptions and increase my awareness. Often I’ve sought to learn about another people, but the result is I learn from them.

This April, through the Compassion Experience, you have the opportunity to step into another culture without even stepping onto a plane. Mercy Hill has the privilege of hosting the Compassion Experience at our Regional Campus April 7-10.

What exactly is the Compassion Experience? The Compassion Experience is a landmark presentation visiting churches, schools, and other venues across the country. It allows guests to be immersed in the reality of daily life in poverty that millions of children face around the world. It brings visitors to cultures completely outside of their own. Most importantly, it presents the blessing of hope as these children are sponsored through Compassion’s world-class child development program.

You can register now by clicking here.

-Bryan Miller (Connections and Missions Pastor)

One Act 2013 from Compassion International on Vimeo.

3 Important Reasons to Sing Through the Awkwardness

Have you ever been singing while driving in your car, only to look over at the person in the car beside you, staring? Embarrassing, right? My go-to is usually to pretend like I’m talking on the phone. Singing is a funny thing. Although it’s socially acceptable and normal to sing, there’s something very vulnerable about singing—especially in front of people. Maybe that’s the point.

Ephesians 5:19 says singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, and making music to the Lord in your hearts.”

If we’re not careful, we can miss the importance of it. Singing in church is so much more than just singing in church. Don Whitney said it like this, “There’s an element of worship and Christianity that cannot be experienced in private worship or by watching worship. There are some graces and blessings that God gives only in the ‘meeting together’ with other believers.” I believe many things happen when the church sings together, but I want to highlight three of them:

1. Corporate Worship Cures Spiritual Amnesia

We are forgetful people. Our flesh desires created things rather than the Creator. Congregational singing is an invitation to remember our identity in the gospel. We need to remember that God is holy, we are sinners, Jesus saved us, and then Jesus sends us.

Corporate worship plays an essential part in our sanctification. We sing “among ourselves… to the Lord.” We don’t sing to an audience of one, but an audience of three: God, his people, and unbelievers. When we encounter God, he changes us. When we join in corporate worship, God loves not only to change our minds, but also our hearts. We pray when unbelievers witness this that they too will be wrecked by the gospel.

Our awe for God is heightened, our affection amplified, and our joy multiplied when we worship Jesus together. Martin Luther said, “At home, in my own house, there is no warmth or vigor in me, but in the church when the multitude is gathered together, a fire is kindled in my heart and it breaks its way through.”

2. Corporate Worship Brings Unity 

One day, people from every tribe and tongue will stand before God’s throne singing, “Worthy is the Lamb!” What better picture of heaven is there than that of corporate worship? Each week, people of different age, race, gender, and socio-economic status unite their voices in praise and adoration to our God. While stars and mountains can declare God’s glory, only God’s people (united through Jesus) can declare his glorious mercy. Many things can bring a sense of unity—restaurants, baseball games, shopping malls—but nothing brings true unity like corporate worship.

3. Corporate Worship Helps Guide Us Through Suffering

There are many things in life that are difficult, if not impossible, to do alone. One of those things is suffering. James 1:2-3: “Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow.” When troubles come my way, usually the last thing I think is, “Oh, hey! Here’s an opportunity for some great joy.” Understanding this truth doesn’t necessarily make suffering easier, but there’s something powerful about a room full of people, looking up to heaven, declaring:

“So let go my soul and trust in Him
The waves and wind still know his name.”

In trying times, my natural reaction is to look inward at my problems. But in corporate worship, I look out at a room full of people who also carry pain and sorrow, and I’m reminded that suffering is not in vain. I’m reminded that we share the same hope: one day Jesus will right every wrong.

I conclude with this: God is not only worthy of our praises; he inhabits them. The same God that created the universe indwells the very room in which we sing our songs. The same spirit that raised Jesus from the grave is moving about the room seeking to gather us to himself. May we never discount the significance of singing in corporate worship.

-Jon Azzarello (Worship Services Director)

What’s Wrong With my Kids?

It’s 8:30pm on a Wednesday. I’ve been working hard all day and can’t wait for a moment of solitude. So, after his bath time, I let my toddler know it’s time to go upstairs for bedtime. Now, just to clarify, bedtime at our house is simply reading a Bible story, praying, and going to sleep. It’s definitely not torture! However, at hearing the word “bedtime,” my son immediately drops to the floor as if he just found out that the world has run out of M&Ms. He screams and wails, crying and shaking his fists, and all I can think of is how much I wish it could be my bedtime.

I’m sure we’ve all endured moments like these. Moments when, if we are honest, we wonder, “What is wrong with my kid?” Surely other people’s kids don’t act like this. Surely they have figured out a way for their kids to deal with things rationally and maturely. Surely not. The more I talk to parents, the more I see that this is a universal problem. From a toddler crying about bedtime to a teenager refusing to make curfew, there is something inherent that causes kids to think they know best. That something is simply called sin.

Little Sinners

So how do we deal with this sin problem in our kids? While there are a lot of different books, methods, and ideas on parenting, I believe Scripture is the best place to start. Deuteronomy 6:7 is clear about the priority of the Bible in the home. As Moses writes, “You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” What’s interesting about this verse is that it points out not just one time in which we are to teach our children the Bible, but a continuous process of doing so. In regards to this, Paul Tripp writes, “You must be committed as a parent to long-view parenting because change is a process and not an event”[1]. Parenting is not a single moment, but it is a process of pointing your kids towards the redemptive work of Christ in hope that they will place faith and grow in Him.

So what does this have to do with how I handle a toddler crying hysterically or a teenager showing disrespect? Everything. It teaches us that it is not about one moment in which we define the trajectory of our parenting. It is about the many moments like these that come every single week. The truth is that little moments add up to a big impact. When we view these moments as a small piece of the greater whole, we can avoid the tendency to get frustrated about the moment not going the way we would like and instead, see each moment as a connected step in raising our kids to follow Christ.

Actually, there is something wrong with your kids, and it’s the same thing that’s wrong with us. That is why we are called to continually point our kids to the truth of Scripture and use Scripture as a lens for which we make every parenting decision. This is not to say that our parenting will be perfect or that your kids won’t struggle with sin. While we can’t keep our kids from sinning, we can change the way we deal with it. So next time you think there’s something wrong with your kid, know that you’re right and think about how you can help them see their sin and see Christ who paid for it.

For more resources on parenting, including our weekly Kids Guide, check out our Family Resource Center here. We are also excited to be offering an Equip Seminar focused on Marriage and Family, which you can register for here.

– Brant Gordon (1 year Ministry Resident)

[1] Tripp, Paul Parenting: 14 Gospel Principles That Can Radically Change Your Family

Don’t Be Blown Away: The Case for Equip

11 And he himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, 12 equipping the saints for the work of ministry, to build up the body of Christ, 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of God’s Son, growing into maturity with a stature measured by Christ’s fullness. 14 Then we will no longer be little children, tossed by the waves and blown around by every wind of teaching, by human cunning with cleverness in the techniques of deceit. 15 But speaking the truth in love, let us grow in every way into him who is the head​—Christ (Eph. 4:11-15 CSB).

This is what we consider to be the animating Bible passage for the Equip seminars, and if we are to break it down, you’ll see why we think the Equip seminars are so valuable for Mercy Hill.

The Obedience

First of all, verses 11-12 make it so that, if the church has been gifted with these roles (specifically pastors and teachers, for our purposes), then to not be equipping our members would be directly disobedient to Jesus and wasting the gifts he provided us.

The Purpose

If we look at verses 12-13, then we should be able to see clearly the purpose of all equipping. The Equip seminars should:

1) help the members of Mercy Hill be ready to do the work of ministry, whether that be in a formal ministry capacity at a church or daily mission capacity of sharing your faith at work, at school; in discipling your kids; teaching a younger believer in the faith; or serving the needy in your community.

2) build up and strengthen the body of the church, as we head towards being completely unified in the faith and the knowledge of God’s son. This is very important. New Testament scholar N.T. Wright has said that the two biggest emphases in Paul’s letters are the unity of the church and the holiness of the church. We can see the emphasis on unity in 1 Corinthians 1:10: “Now I urge you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree in what you say, that there be no divisions among you, and that you be united with the same understanding and the same conviction” (CSB) This is extremely important for the health and witness of the church. Therefore, these classes are designed to help us all get on the same page in our thinking.

3) lead towards Christian maturity and holiness as the church becomes more like Christ.

The Result

We live in a time of rationality, argumentation, secularism, and hostility to religion. The world is perhaps better equipped to deceive the church through its cleverness and cunning than ever before in the way that verse 14 talks about. These lies not only exist out in the world, but have made their way into the church. The result of the Equip seminars should be that our defenses are shored up so that we might stand firmly on Biblical truth and not blown away by the storms of deceit that push against us. And also, to be able to point out this deception that exists within our midst.

Our Hope of Striving

We hope that our Equip seminars will be a place where you are taught out of love (v. 15). We desperately want that Mercy Hill and all of its members will be continually built up, strengthened, unified, and holy as we become more attached to Christ, the head of the church. Because of our love for you, we are hoping that you will take one of our Equip seminars this Spring in order that you will be more prepared to be both active in your faith and have strong defenses for your faith.

We have some great classes for you to choose from. There is Faith & Work, Decision Making and the Will of God, God’s Global Mission, and Marriage & Family. Every single one of these topics are important and we pray that you will join us in learning together for the sake of Christ, love, and unity.

These classes are hosted each Monday from March 27th – April 17th from 6:30 – 8:30 at our Regional Rd. Campus. You can sign up here: http://www.mercyhillgso.com/equip

-Alex Nolette (Equip Associate)

 

What Does “Get in the Stream” Mean?

Imagine it’s a beautiful summer day—hot and sticky, yes. But you wouldn’t deny its beauty—and you have been hiking uphill for several miles. You happen upon a deep, rushing stream. Truthfully, you’ve gone to this spot numerous times just to watch the mesmerizing stream, and your curiosity has grown ever since that old man told you that if you just get in the stream, it’ll take you to a place that’ll you’ll be glad you went. He had warned that the journey downstream wouldn’t be easy, but it would be worth it. You’ve come to the point where you are considering getting in, but honestly, you are content in just watching.

The Stream of Discipleship

“Get in the stream” is an analogy that you may have heard around Mercy Hill, as we do occasionally mention it. There is so much meaning housed in that phrase that I want to open the door and show you around. What we are referring to is the stream of discipleship. You see, at Mercy Hill we focus on two general things: The proclamation of the gospel and the equipping of those who hear the gospel to live it out. You may have been coming to church every week for two years to hear the sermon and to worship through singing, but concerning the stream, you are simply just watching it go by. Maybe you are dipping your toe in to see what it is like, but it is not where true life-change takes place. That happens in discipleship, and discipleship at Mercy Hill is a culture that is caught by getting into the stream and letting it carry you to a Community Group, serving opportunities, committed membership, and a pattern of generous living. This stream is headed toward its destination Christ-likeness and if you have not jumped in, then you are missing out on a majority of the important things that Mercy Hill offers.

This may then bring up the question, “Well, how do I get in the stream of discipleship?” The answer is easy. The Weekender is the place to get started on your journey downstream. It’s for any of those who 1. have never been to one and 2. are tired of just sticking their toe in the water and want to get involved at Mercy Hill in a meaningful way. It’s for those who understand that there is much more to the Christian life than what happens for 70 minutes on a Sunday (i.e. the worship gathering).

Weekender Details

Our next Weekender is being held March 17-19.

On Friday from 6:00pm – 8:30pm, we will serve you dinner, and our pastors will tell you the story of our church, the core values of Mercy Hill, and what defines our church theologically. Someone from Mercy Hill’s staff team will be assigned to your table to meet you and answer any questions you might have.

On Saturday from 9:00am – 11:30am, we will serve you breakfast, and our pastors will present an explanation of what the different facets of discipleship looks like at Mercy Hill.

On Sunday, at a service of your choice, you will be assigned to shadow a serve team for a service to get a glimpse of what being in the stream looks like.

Sign Up

The journey may be difficult along the way, but we believe that it is the stream that takes you along in your path to becoming a committed disciple of Jesus Christ.

Sign up for the Weekender here: www.mercyhillgso.com/weekender

-Alex Nolette (Equip Associate)

5 Tips for a Purposeful Spring Break

Spring Break is upon us! I feel like the semester just started, but the Spring semester happens fast. Before you go on break, or if you are currently on break, here are 5 tips to maximize your Spring Break experience.

1. Read a book

I know what you’re thinking. “I hate reading; I read enough in school.” All I know to tell you is that God revealed himself through a book, therefore Christians are readers. When God saved you, he saved you to a people really crazy about a book. (Have you heard of the Bible?) So, while you are on Spring Break, use some of your time to read God’s word, the Bible. You want to hear from God? Read his book. Maybe even read something you’ve wanted to get to all semester, but just did not have the time.

2. Invite someone new to join you

Wherever you spend your Spring Break, invite someone outside your immediate friend group to join you. Just because you have plans doesn’t mean everyone does. Imagine, a whole week with someone connected to life-giving community, it could change their life. Use your Spring Break as an opportunity to pull others further into community and, hopefully, closer to Jesus.

3. Stay connected to the church

I know it’s a break, but that doesn’t mean you disconnect yourself from the local church. I would invite you to attend the Thursday service at our Regional Campus before you leave and come back in time for the next Sunday when you get back. Many of you serve every week and we need you — you are a part of our church! So consider working your break around serving. Breaks don’t have to mean disconnecting, go the extra step and be intentional about staying connected.

4. Be intentional with those around you

It’s easy to make Spring Break all about ourselves. We tell ourselves that, “we have worked hard and we deserve this time.” Yet, Jesus has called us to a life of mission. That doesn’t mean we cannot talk about anything else, but it does mean that Jesus’ mission shapes every moment of our lives. Therefore, be intentional with those around you. Have deep conversations with your friends and the new people you may meet. Be a learner, ask about their lives and backgrounds. Ask good questions and listen well. The Gospel changes everything so finding how it relates to your specific conversation should be seamless. Don’t feel like you must have this big conversation, just weave the Gospel into what you are talking about. The main thing is: be intentional and have a real friendship.

5. Get some rest

If you know nothing about me, you need to know that I take rest very seriously! (Ask the College Staff Team) Now when I say rest, yes, I mean sleep, but I mean so much more than that. Physical sleep is only the beginning! Rest is often not sleeping, but doing something you don’t usually do. Go for a run or a bike ride. You could go surfing or lay on the beach. Be by yourself or hangout with friends, do what is restful! Most of all, remember that true rest is found in the finished work of Christ. Maybe you have been stressed out all semester, get to the heart of that and learn to rest in the Gospel.

I hope everyone has an incredible break, see you when you get back!

-Jon Sheets (College Ministry Director)

 

 

Chasing Isaiah: The Prophesied Cornerstone and Stumbling Stone

This is a blog diving deeper into the content from our Exiles sermon series on 1 Peter.

Isaiah is a complicated book. There’s no getting around it. Many Christians I talk to, even mature believers, read Isaiah and intuitively understand that there is something important and deep captured in this prophetic writing, but they can’t make any sense of it. But, they are right. This book is perhaps one of the top five most important books of the Old Testament for understanding the new. We who listened to Pastor Andrew’s sermon last week can see this as 1 Peter 2:6 cites Isaiah 28:16 and 1 Peter 2:8 cites Isaiah 8:14.

Biblical scholars have become increasingly aware that the NT writers like Peter often had the original context of the scriptures they cited in mind. So, if we were to go back to Isaiah 8:14 and 28:16 and look at the surrounding context, we should understand more of why Peter used those passages and what he meant by them. That’s exactly what I did last week, and the time spent was a great blessing to me. So, I hope I can pass that blessing on. I hope to accomplish two things in this blog 1) show the general original context of each scripture and 2) demystify Isaiah a little.

King Ahaz’s Rebellion

We have to go back to Isaiah chapter 7 to get the full story here. The time is around 735 B.C. Earlier, during the reign of Solomon’s son, Israel split into two kingdoms (Israel—also called Ephraim—and Judah) and the kingdoms are involved in many conflicts over the course of the OT. King Ahaz, a descendant of King David, rules Judah, and the King of Ephraim and Syria have teamed up against him (7:1). They want to replace King Ahaz with a king they can control (someone not from the line of David) (7:6). Ahaz and the people of Judah are terrified (7:2) and therefore, God sends Isaiah to prophesy to Ahaz to not be afraid for the Lord had promised to keep someone from David’s line on the throne (2 Sam. 7:16). Isaiah’s message is literally just to be calm, not fear, and trust in God’s promises (7:4), but also warns Ahaz that if he does not believe, he will be overcome (7:9). The Lord through Isaiah even pleads with Ahaz to ask God for a sign so that he might be sure (7:11), but he would not do it (7:12). Isaiah then prophecies that the sign (essentially the sign that God will protect the line of David) is the sign of the virgin-born Immanuel (7:12). And before Immanuel is grown, Syria and Ephraim will be forsaken (7:16). This is a long-awaited sign, for it won’t come to pass for over 700 years. Consider that.

We learn in the account of 2 Kings that Ahaz completely disobeys God and forms an alliance with Assyria against Syria and Ephraim (16:7). And because of Ahaz’s lack of faith, God even rejects Judah (after already rejecting Ephraim and Syria) and promises to bring Assyria (the very country Ahaz made an alliance with) against them and wipe them away (8:7-8). Notice that the land is said to be Immanuel’s (i.e. Jesus), the true ruler of Judah (8:8).

Now it is obvious that the people of Judah won’t like this prophesy. They both fear it, and in their dread, they say it’s a conspiracy (8:12). This obviously would have frustrated Isaiah. But the Lord encourages Isaiah and instructs him to fear God instead, for he will be a holy place to him (8:13-14a), but to both the houses of Israel (Ephraim and Syria), God will be “a stone of offense and a rock of stumbling” and “a trap and a snare” to Jerusalem (i.e. Judah) (8:14). There’s an important point to see here. God declares himself to be the stumbling stone. And yet, Peter says that the stumbling stone is Jesus. Time after time, careful readers of the Bible will see that the New Testament writers clearly identify Jesus Christ as the LORD of the Old Testament. He is in essence Lord and God, but also distinct from Father and Holy Spirit.

Isaiah 28:16

After some time (probably 20-30 years), the leaders of Judah finally understand the coming Assyrian threat. But, instead of coming in repentance and faith back to God, they make an alliance with Egypt. They celebrate this new feeling of security, and they think that they no longer have to fear an Assyrian invasion (no matter what Isaiah says) with Egypt on their side. God calls it “a covenant with death” and mocks them by saying they are basically rejoicing in finding their rest and refuge in lies (28:14-15). The Lord answers by saying that he will provide a sure place for people to find refuge if they trust him and stand on it, making it their foundation (28:16). But those who do not trust God will be wiped away by the Assyrians (28:17-22).

Do you see how the context helps us understand Peter’s usage? Much like most Old Testament prophecies, there is a current fulfillment and an ultimate fulfillment in Christ. Peter, led by the Holy Spirit, sees that ultimately God is telling people that trust and faith in him and his work and promises, is a sure place of refuge and eternal salvation. All those who don’t see him, that is Jesus, as cornerstone will stumble over him and be destroyed.

This is the one from the line of David, from the root of Jesse, named Immanuel, whose throne will last forever and will never be overcome. Those who are his people, will never be ashamed.

If you are interested in further study on Isaiah, I can’t recommend this commentary enough: The Prophecy of Isaiah: An Introduction and Commentary.

-Alex Nolette (Equip Associate)

Divided by Our Differences, United in Our Need

Have you ever seen the sign above before? I pass it all the time. For most, this sign is forgettable, easily overlooked, and mundane. But for me it is deeply symbolic and a sobering reminder. You see, when I look at this sign I can’t help but see a message behind the message. The intended message is “Welcome to Greensboro!” But look closely, right down the center of this sign is a crack that runs from top to bottom splitting the sign in two. When I see that sign split and divided, I am reminded of things that divide and separate people in this community every single day. We are divided by: socioeconomic status, culture, race, denominational affiliation, preference, political affiliation, and the list goes on and on. That is what I see when I see that sign, people divided by difference.

But as soon as those thoughts flood my mind, I remind myself of a different reality. Even though we are often divided by differences, there is one sense in which we are all the same, something unites us all. Here it is: we are all in need. For some, those needs are apparent: they need food, they need money, they need a helping hand. For others, their needs are a little bit more intangible. Yet for every person, the greatest single need is the need for Jesus; for a relationship with the one who changes hearts and lives. At our core, we are all in need. No one escapes this reality.

And that reality has certain implications for Christians. If we are all in need, and we believe that Jesus is the one who can satisfy mankind’s greatest need, then Christians should be actively involved in pointing people to Jesus through the way we serve others.

We just wrapped up Serve Week here at Mercy Hill. Serve Week, as the name implies, is about serving others. It’s about meeting needs. Some of those needs are tangible: we paint walls, we collect food, we fix leaks, we build ramps. Other needs are more intangible: we encourage others, we spend time building relationships, we are simply present. But at the heart of Serve Week, and really the foundation of Serve Week, is the gospel of Jesus Christ. If you took part in Serve Week, I am so thankful for the time you invested in loving on the Triad and the many non-profit organizations we work with. If you missed Serve Week, now is the time for you to connect to a Community Group and start serving the community in community.  

Check out some of the images from Serve Week here.

-Randy Titus (Campus Pastor, Community Groups Director)