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The Power of Persistent Presence

The summer is almost over. This sad reality may evoke a sigh from deep within you. At the time of this writing it is 75 degrees outside, the sky is blue, and there is a light breeze blowing. Days like these are an absolute gift. But, I fully recognize that with the imminent changing of the seasons there will also be a change in the ebb and flow of everyday life. The kids will be back in school, the pace will pick up a bit at work, Community Groups are about to kick off again, and things will generally move more quickly all around. With these things approaching, it is good to decide where to get the most return on the investment of your time. My aim in writing this is to convince you that Community Group should be one of your top priorities going into this Fall. You see, I believe that there is power in persistent presence at Community Group.

Things that Prevent Presence

There are many things that can prevent us from being present. I think sheer exhaustion is one of the major culprits. I cannot tell you how many people have told me that there are weeks when they feel too exhausted or too busy for Community Group, but they go anyway. They admit that it ends up being the best thing for them. I have felt the same way many times.

We host a group at our house so it’s hard to duck out when we are tired. But it seems that our persistence in attending group has done nothing but bring us closer to God and closer to our brothers and sisters in Christ. For that very reason, we fight to be at Community Group every week. It means saying “no” to a ton of things, but there is power in persistent presence at Community Group.

Mental busyness is another thing that can keep you from being “present” at Community Group. You may be physically there, but mentally you are 100 different places at once. Preventing this mental busyness is increasingly difficult in our modern world but is not at all impossible. I would urge you to fight to be mentally present at Community Group as well. 

The Payoff of Presence

God’s Word is powerful. Believers cannot encounter it and engage with it and still remain unphased. At Community Group, you encounter the Word of God, you discuss the Word of God, you pray in light of the Word of God. That is a life-giving pattern that helps grow us as believers. The payoff of presence is a payoff of growth in our Christian lives.  

So, as you begin to plan for this season, make a plan for growth. God works in his people through his Word taught and life caught. Community Group is the perfect place to hear the word taught and see life caught. If you are already in a group…dig in deeply. If you are not in a group, join one right away. We have Grouplink this Friday and you can jump into a group right away here.

Randy Titus (Clifton Campus Director/Community Groups Director)

Change What You Love, Change Who You Are

On Sunday, Pastor Andrew began our series Prophets and Kings about the life of Samuel and discussed that who or what we worship determines how we will react to certain circumstances. I want to look at this from a different angle and explore more of this terrain. This topic is central to discipleship and sanctification.

I’ve recently been struck by the love that parents have for their newborn children. It’s an odd thing if you think about it. Here’s a little person that wasn’t around at all in the daily dynamics of the home previously, and yet you hear almost all parents, after their newborn has entered the picture, say that they never realized that they could love anyone so much. But what has this child done? They can barely see objects, they can’t talk; their talents are vastly enumerated as 1) screaming, 2) drinking milk, 3) soiling a diaper, and 4) sleeping.

But parental love is genuine and usually, unconditional. Even before their child has much of a personality and even when the only thing the child can do is take away sleep and require constant attention, the parent is smitten. Parents will change much of their behavior to accommodate their baby. They often devote a room in the house even before the child is born, a business woman who was once a workaholic will take a few months of maternity leave, a large portion of a parent’s finances goes toward their child, etc. I think this is a fantastic picture of the title of James K. A. Smith’s book You Are What You Love.

What we love drives us. It causes us to reorient our lives in ways that are specifically pointed to running toward what we love, it causes us to generously (and often unwisely) spend our money, it causes us to obey. But the funny thing about love is, it causes us to do all of this with joy.

The rest of this post is about how love changes us. Let’s use it as a resource to reflect on our lives and discover what it is we truly love. Do we truly love what we say and think we love?

Love Seeks to Know

Parents pride themselves on being able to tell the difference between a pity cry, a full diaper cry, a hurt cry, and a hungry cry. This is because their love drives them to know everything there is to know about their child. New romantic love is often the same way, hours of time are often spent discussing favorite foods and movies. We often care about what our family is doing even if it’s dreadfully boring because we love them.

When we love God, we seek to know him. We have a hunger and a thirst for reading the Bible, not because it’s our duty, but it is our joy to learn about him. The Bible is where he has spoken to us about himself. Also, we ever desire to pray to him because we know that he wants to hear from us. And just like every relationship, sometimes it’s going to seem routine. Pastor Tim Keller says that that is no reason to stop, because just like our earthly relationships, “We need to spend quantity time, in order to get quality time.”

We must remember though, that we can only know God because he has sought to know us. Indeed, anyone who has a love for God, is known by God (1 Cor. 8:3). He has known us fully by sending his Son to experience life as we see it, even death. God not only knows us in his omnipotence, he knows us in feeling, experience, and emotion because of the human/divine nature of his Son.

Love Seeks to Sacrifice

How often do parents spend way too much money on their children during Christmas, or men on their dates, or a hunter on guns and camo, or a driven lawyer on suits? What does our bank statement say about what we love? How much time have we sacrificially spent on others we care about? Altruistic generosity is born out of love. Intentional sacrifice without love does not exist (even if that love be honor, self, etc.)

What does our generosity say about our love for God? His kingdom mission continues all over the world and honestly, it takes money to send and support missionaries. How much of our pride and fears are we conquering by sharing the gospel with those who are lost? We know that God’s heart is for the lost and if we love him, we share his heart. How much time are we willing to spend serving God’s church, meeting with hurting brothers and sisters in Christ, or in the word and prayer? What does where we spend our resources tell us about what or who we love?

But we know that God loves us because he has sacrificed for us. Jesus says that sacrifice of oneself is the highest form of love. “No one has greater love than this: to lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). Yes, “This is how we have come to know love: He laid down his life for us” (1 John 3:16).

Love Seeks to Obey

This is perhaps the overarching principle of this whole post. What are parents and romantics really doing when they respond to every whim that their loves express? They are obeying their love’s desires, and they are doing it with joy. We obey our loves, and over time, we embody the desires of what we love. We truly are what we love.

What are you obeying? What does your obedience to God say about your love for him? Jesus put it plainly: “The one who has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me” (John 14:23). Jesus himself loved the Father and he loved his people so much that he was obedient to God even to the point of crucifixion (Phil. 2:8). Jesus died for those who hate God so that we might love him and obey him.

Pastor Andrew ended last week’s sermon by asking us to identify and repent of the idols in our lives. Another way to say that is that we should acknowledge what we love, repent of wrongly ordered loves, and seek to love God over all, so much so that we seek to know him, sacrifice for him, and obey him. And since God is the source of love (1 John 4:19), let us pray desperately that he will grow our affections for him, and let us read the word expectant that he will do so.

Alex Nolette (Community Groups/Equip Coordinator)

Resources for Getting to Know Orphans and Refugees

The following are resources to help us get to know the circumstances surrounding adoption, orphans, and refugees. Hopefully it will plant seeds in our minds as to how we as Christians can help and help well. As always, the resources recommended are great for thinking through, but they are not scripture. We always recommend reading with a mind that is open to reason, but also ready to reject what is against scripture. Yet, wrestling with hard things (some of these resources can surely take us out of our comfort zone) can be a tremendous source of growth.

Orphan Care

  1. Adopted for Life – Russell Moore

This book is built around the theology that we, as believers, are adopted into the family of Christ, and this should fuel our passion for adoption here on earth. The author, Russell Moore, draws from personal experiences and shares things he would have liked to have known before beginning the adoption journey. The Moore family has two adopted children of their own, and he gives invaluable insight into the questions he had when going through this process. This resource is helpful for those considering adoption but also for someone who is interested in its processes. Even more, this book shows how adoption goes further than just families that want to adopt, and proves that the idea of adoption displays the gospel in fullness.

  1. Orphanology – Tony Merida

In this book Merida helps readers know how to biblically care for orphans and “functionally parentless” children. It is a compilation of stories, experiences, and illustrations relating to gospel-centered orphan care. It empowers not only the church but individual believers and gives practical ways that we can respond in caring for the growing number of orphans and functionally parentless children.

Refugees

  1. Refugee Services Toolkit (RST)

The RST is an online resource that trains churches, non-profits, and individuals that serve refugee families (specifically focusing on refugee children) to help them to be able to understand what they go through during the resettlement process. By going through this toolkit, groups/individuals learn how they can best assist the family during this potentially traumatic time. Although a login is required to access the resources, the toolkit is free and helps to ensure that refugees are getting the intervention and support that will most help them.

  1. World Relief Blog

World Relief is a nonprofit organization that works within 17 U.S. cities and 14 countries around the world. Mercy Hill has had the privilege of partnering with their High Point and Winston-Salem offices as they focus on refugee and immigration services. World Relief’s role in assisting refugees can be most easily seen in the process of helping them to resettle and rebuild their lives within a new country and environment. Their website contains a blog that gives valuable insight into the lives of the refugees that they work with, basic information about refugees and their experiences, and the steps that someone could take to help.

Alex Nolette (Community Groups/Equip Coordinator)

Relationships Make the Church Smaller

The official definition of a megachurch is a church with an average weekly attendance of 2000 people or more. For most of you, it is no secret that, by God’s grace, Mercy Hill exceeds this number every week. And it is also no secret that megachurches get a bad rap because it feels impossible to build close relationships and to feel loved and cared for at them. Sadly, many go to a church looking for a family and yet find thousands of strangers. This is a real tragedy as it is directly contrary to how God has designed the church.

But It Doesn’t Have to be This Way

At Mercy Hill, we value our community groups. A community group is a small group of people that meets together weekly in different parts of the Triad, where we dive deep into a passage of scripture, discuss relevant questions, and pray. It’s also where we share our struggles and needs with each other and we build close, family-type bonds. Your community group will be your people, the people that you share life with and learn how to become a better disciple of Jesus with. Indeed, discipleship happens in community.

If there are those who have felt that they have not really gotten connected to the church and built relationships with those at Mercy Hill, there is a way to change that! If there are those of you that come only to a worship gathering to sing and hear the sermon but aren’t plugged into a community group, then you are missing about half of what God has designed the church for; there is way to change that!

Grouplink

On Friday August 4th at 6:30pm, Grouplink will be held at our Regional Rd. Kids Worship Space. Grouplink is the best way to get involved in a Community Group. You’ll register for a specific group here and then you will have dinner with your new group that night. Nothing brings people together like food.

Don’t miss out on the life-changing relationships that are built at Community Groups. Sign up today!

Alex Nolette (Community Groups/Equip Coordinator)

3 Reasons to Do Something Big on Serve Saturday

Do you want to be a part of something big? That question naturally peaks our interest, and we lean in. On July 29th, we have the opportunity as a church to join together to serve local organizations and schools, in love, as a response to the love that the Lord shows us. Serve Saturday is an annual event in which we hope to see hundreds of people from Mercy Hill mobilized to make tangible impressions of the gospel in our community. If that isn’t enough to get you moving, below are three reasons why you should clear the calendar and join Serve Saturday.

  1. Supplying the Front Lines

We hear the statistics often of the impact that poverty, unplanned pregnancy, and addiction are having on people in the Triad, and as Christians our hearts should break as we mourn the pain and struggle that accompany those in these situations. Ultimately, we recognize that there is hope, and we have the joy of seeing lives being changed through the work of organizations that we get to champion. Serve Saturday gives us the opportunity to “supply” four specific organizations that are on the front lines. It is our prayer that the projects that we will complete bolster their efforts, strengthen their staff and volunteers, and equip them for the tasks in front of them. While painting, cleaning, and landscaping projects may seem simple, they aid our front line friends in bigger ways than we know.

  1. Building Bridges

When your doorbell rings and you are not expecting a visitor, what is the first thing that comes to your mind? If you are like me, you will probably peak out the window, trying not to be noticed to see who is on the porch. From that vantage point, a decision is made as to what will happen next. Numerous responses ranging from turning off the lights and pretending not to be home (I’ve never done that and I’m sure you haven’t either) to opening the door and greeting friends with a hug. So, what causes the different reactions? The answer: Trust.

With the four organizations we get to serve on July 29th, we are essentially standing on the front porch and ringing the doorbell. They have chosen to open the door, and we are being given an awesome opportunity to love them well. They have shared some needs, and it is our goal to meet those needs to the best of our ability. We want to be a blessing and not a burden on them. Ultimately, our involvement in one day will help to continue building a bridge of trust between our church and them. Your participation can make a huge impact.

  1. Serve Saturday Is for Everyone

Since all other community ministry events throughout the year are done within Community Groups, Serve Saturday offers a unique opportunity for anyone and everyone to get involved. We have specifically tried to think of ways for kids, teens, college students, and adults of all ages to get involved at each location. Parents, we want you to bring your kids; we want to have situations where older adults are working alongside young adults; we want new relationships to be formed as you serve together. There is no prior experience required to get involved. To see the four serve locations, read a brief description of their ministry, and sign up to serve, please visit www.mercyhillgso.com/servesaturday

– Jonathan Spangler (Community Groups Coordinator)

What Flying Crocs Taught Me About the Gospel

Whish.

I felt the breeze coming off of a size 3 shoe as it flew by my head. Again.

This was the third time that Ryan[1] had become overpowered by the urge to launch a Croc grenade across the classroom to land in his brother’s lap. And after two attempts at correcting and redirecting this behavior, it was time for us to have a chat about it. We moved over to the side of the classroom and sat down across from one another. His head went down right away, but I wasn’t there to scold him. We talked for a little while about why it wasn’t safe to send our shoes sailing into a sea of our friend’s heads, but then I asked him why he was having such a hard time obeying his teachers when we asked him to stop. Exasperated, he looked up with teary eyes and said, “I don’t know why I can’t listen, it’s just so hard to keep the rules.”

The Similar Beat of Human Hearts

As he said it, I could feel my heart nodding in agreement. I realized that this conversation Ryan and I were having about his sin is the same one I have with God about my own sin all the time. And as Ryan sat there frustrated at how hard it is to keep his shoes on his feet, I could see the battle that wages in my own heart happening in his. It’s hard to choose to honor God when our rebellious hearts want to run the other direction.

In a sweet moment, Ryan and I got to pray together that God would help him say no to his sin and obey his teachers. We got to thank Jesus for living the perfect life so that when we mess up, God forgives us and doesn’t stay mad at us. Visibly relieved and with tears dried, Ryan scurried back over to join the class. We listened to the remainder of our lesson and, by God’s grace, all footwear stayed in its rightful place.

Depending on God Like a Child

Even hours after the service concluded, I continued to think back on our conversation and prayer time. Bad theology tries to teach us that God is only interested in our perfect discipline. We either become self-righteous in our ability to follow the rules externally, or devastated and despondent when we see our failure over-and-over again. It has taken me years to realize that in moments of weakness, my first move should be to ask for God’s help. I am created for a relationship with God that requires me to lean hard on his Spirit working inside me rather than white-knuckled attempts to clean up my own heart. God knows that we aren’t going to live perfectly, that’s why he wants our dependence. In the moments that I come to him as a child, vulnerable and helpless, he is always faithful to listen, forgive, restore, and lead me forward. It’s an exchange that doesn’t make sense in this world—my sin for the righteousness of Jesus—but Ryan and I are both learning that obedience grows from a heart that’s captured by this mystery of grace.

Our hope in Mercy Hill Kids is to help children learn dependence on God from the start. As we help them create these healthy rhythms in their walk with Jesus, it provides a consistent reminder of how I should approach the Lord in hard moments. Being a part of Kids Ministry teaches each of us so much about discipline, discipleship, and dependence. Each week it is a privilege to speak the gospel into the lives of these kids while the Lord uses them to speak into mine as well.

Kids Staff Member

[1] Name changed for safety of the child and sake of the parents.

Equip Seminars Kick Off

Well, Monday was another successful night in Equip history. We had around 150 people sign up and many are loving their classes already. While these seminars may have already started, you can go ahead and mark your calendars for the next Equip dates: October 9, 16, 23, and 30. The seminar topics are still being determined, but you may want to prepare to have your schedule open for these great events. Our hope is that these classes are equipping our church to live out their daily Christian lives with a strong biblical worldview that defends them against the false claims of the world.
 
To hear about the classes that have already kicked off for the summer, check out this video:
 

Alex Nolette (Equip Coordinator)

For more info on the Equip Seminars, click here

4 Ways to Pray for Our City Project Students

Imagine for a moment that every “gospel-touch” you’ve ever had during your life was gone. Anything seemingly Jesus-related . . . gone—no Bible, no community, no churches. For many of our students, these are the places they are going. Over the next two weeks, our students will be in Peru, Spain, Greece, Thailand, and India. This isn’t the case for every country, but it is the case for people in every country we are sending students. Our students will see the faces of spiritual and physical poverty. There is so much need.

As they prepare there are several things that they need. Some of them will need to bring their own supply of toilet paper, others need camping gear, and most of them need converters and adapters for their electronics. However, there is something they need much more. They need God to move. More than anything else our students need you to ask God to move in their prospective countries. They need your prayer.

Ephesians 3:20 says,Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”

 

Here are a few things you can be praying for our students, and then pray for MORE:

  1. Pray our students would be reminded of the gospel.

Our students are only able to share the great hope of the gospel because they have seen the beauty of the gospel. In Mercy Hill College, our vision statement is that we want to see “students who understand the gospel and live out of the gospel because they truly believe the gospel.” If our students are not captivated by the way they have been brought from death to life, they will not desire to share this truth with others. Pray they would recount the marvelous deeds of the Lord that they have seen in their own lives.

  1. Pray that the Lord would open the hearts of the people our students will meet.

So often we confine God to the limits of a mere man rather than expecting him to be God. Pray expectantly that the Lord would prepare people in each of these countries to hear and believe the gospel and go on to make other disciples. Pray that students would return to the United States with stories of life change. Pray that the students would believe that God would do it.

  1. Pray for our students’ physical and spiritual safety.

As students travel across the globe and back, they will endure several plane, bus, train, and car rides. Pray that our students would travel safely. Pray that the Lord would put a hedge of protection around our students while they are in country. Pray against the attacks of the enemy. Some students will encounter spiritual warfare in new ways and must stand strong on God’s promises.

  1. Pray for what comes next.

Some students will realize the Lord is asking them for more than two weeks. After their international trips, many students will decide to leverage their lives abroad as long-term or career missionaries. This was the case for me two years ago. I prayed the Lord would reveal His global purposes for me, and he took me to India. I realized God’s command for me to go and make disciples in all nations would extend far beyond America’s borders and far beyond two weeks. For other students, it will push them to be generous in sending people to the nations and praying for the nations.

Download this in-depth prayer guide that walks through Psalm 67 to pray even further for our students:

Greta Griswold (College Team)

The Power of Persistent Presence

The summer is almost over. This sad reality may evoke a sigh from deep within you. At the time of this writing it is 75 degrees outside, the sky is blue, and there is a light breeze blowing. Days like these are an absolute gift. But, I fully recognize that with the imminent changing of the seasons there will also be a change in the ebb and flow of everyday life. The kids will be back in school, the pace will pick up a bit at work, Community Groups are about to kick off again, and things will generally move more quickly all around. With these things approaching, it is good to decide where to get the most return on the investment of your time. My aim in writing this is to convince you that Community Group should be one of your top priorities going into this Fall. You see, I believe that there is power in persistent presence at Community Group.

Things that Prevent Presence

There are many things that can prevent us from being present. I think sheer exhaustion is one of the major culprits. I cannot tell you how many people have told me that there are weeks when they feel too exhausted or too busy for Community Group, but they go anyway. They admit that it ends up being the best thing for them. I have felt the same way many times.

We host a group at our house so it’s hard to duck out when we are tired. But it seems that our persistence in attending group has done nothing but bring us closer to God and closer to our brothers and sisters in Christ. For that very reason, we fight to be at Community Group every week. It means saying “no” to a ton of things, but there is power in persistent presence at Community Group.

Mental busyness is another thing that can keep you from being “present” at Community Group. You may be physically there, but mentally you are 100 different places at once. Preventing this mental busyness is increasingly difficult in our modern world but is not at all impossible. I would urge you to fight to be mentally present at Community Group as well. 

The Payoff of Presence

God’s Word is powerful. Believers cannot encounter it and engage with it and still remain unphased. At Community Group, you encounter the Word of God, you discuss the Word of God, you pray in light of the Word of God. That is a life-giving pattern that helps grow us as believers. The payoff of presence is a payoff of growth in our Christian lives.  

So, as you begin to plan for this season, make a plan for growth. God works in his people through his Word taught and life caught. Community Group is the perfect place to hear the word taught and see life caught. If you are already in a group…dig in deeply. If you are not in a group, join one right away. We have Grouplink this Friday and you can jump into a group right away here.

Randy Titus (Clifton Campus Director/Community Groups Director)

Change What You Love, Change Who You Are

On Sunday, Pastor Andrew began our series Prophets and Kings about the life of Samuel and discussed that who or what we worship determines how we will react to certain circumstances. I want to look at this from a different angle and explore more of this terrain. This topic is central to discipleship and sanctification.

I’ve recently been struck by the love that parents have for their newborn children. It’s an odd thing if you think about it. Here’s a little person that wasn’t around at all in the daily dynamics of the home previously, and yet you hear almost all parents, after their newborn has entered the picture, say that they never realized that they could love anyone so much. But what has this child done? They can barely see objects, they can’t talk; their talents are vastly enumerated as 1) screaming, 2) drinking milk, 3) soiling a diaper, and 4) sleeping.

But parental love is genuine and usually, unconditional. Even before their child has much of a personality and even when the only thing the child can do is take away sleep and require constant attention, the parent is smitten. Parents will change much of their behavior to accommodate their baby. They often devote a room in the house even before the child is born, a business woman who was once a workaholic will take a few months of maternity leave, a large portion of a parent’s finances goes toward their child, etc. I think this is a fantastic picture of the title of James K. A. Smith’s book You Are What You Love.

What we love drives us. It causes us to reorient our lives in ways that are specifically pointed to running toward what we love, it causes us to generously (and often unwisely) spend our money, it causes us to obey. But the funny thing about love is, it causes us to do all of this with joy.

The rest of this post is about how love changes us. Let’s use it as a resource to reflect on our lives and discover what it is we truly love. Do we truly love what we say and think we love?

Love Seeks to Know

Parents pride themselves on being able to tell the difference between a pity cry, a full diaper cry, a hurt cry, and a hungry cry. This is because their love drives them to know everything there is to know about their child. New romantic love is often the same way, hours of time are often spent discussing favorite foods and movies. We often care about what our family is doing even if it’s dreadfully boring because we love them.

When we love God, we seek to know him. We have a hunger and a thirst for reading the Bible, not because it’s our duty, but it is our joy to learn about him. The Bible is where he has spoken to us about himself. Also, we ever desire to pray to him because we know that he wants to hear from us. And just like every relationship, sometimes it’s going to seem routine. Pastor Tim Keller says that that is no reason to stop, because just like our earthly relationships, “We need to spend quantity time, in order to get quality time.”

We must remember though, that we can only know God because he has sought to know us. Indeed, anyone who has a love for God, is known by God (1 Cor. 8:3). He has known us fully by sending his Son to experience life as we see it, even death. God not only knows us in his omnipotence, he knows us in feeling, experience, and emotion because of the human/divine nature of his Son.

Love Seeks to Sacrifice

How often do parents spend way too much money on their children during Christmas, or men on their dates, or a hunter on guns and camo, or a driven lawyer on suits? What does our bank statement say about what we love? How much time have we sacrificially spent on others we care about? Altruistic generosity is born out of love. Intentional sacrifice without love does not exist (even if that love be honor, self, etc.)

What does our generosity say about our love for God? His kingdom mission continues all over the world and honestly, it takes money to send and support missionaries. How much of our pride and fears are we conquering by sharing the gospel with those who are lost? We know that God’s heart is for the lost and if we love him, we share his heart. How much time are we willing to spend serving God’s church, meeting with hurting brothers and sisters in Christ, or in the word and prayer? What does where we spend our resources tell us about what or who we love?

But we know that God loves us because he has sacrificed for us. Jesus says that sacrifice of oneself is the highest form of love. “No one has greater love than this: to lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). Yes, “This is how we have come to know love: He laid down his life for us” (1 John 3:16).

Love Seeks to Obey

This is perhaps the overarching principle of this whole post. What are parents and romantics really doing when they respond to every whim that their loves express? They are obeying their love’s desires, and they are doing it with joy. We obey our loves, and over time, we embody the desires of what we love. We truly are what we love.

What are you obeying? What does your obedience to God say about your love for him? Jesus put it plainly: “The one who has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me” (John 14:23). Jesus himself loved the Father and he loved his people so much that he was obedient to God even to the point of crucifixion (Phil. 2:8). Jesus died for those who hate God so that we might love him and obey him.

Pastor Andrew ended last week’s sermon by asking us to identify and repent of the idols in our lives. Another way to say that is that we should acknowledge what we love, repent of wrongly ordered loves, and seek to love God over all, so much so that we seek to know him, sacrifice for him, and obey him. And since God is the source of love (1 John 4:19), let us pray desperately that he will grow our affections for him, and let us read the word expectant that he will do so.

Alex Nolette (Community Groups/Equip Coordinator)

Resources for Getting to Know Orphans and Refugees

The following are resources to help us get to know the circumstances surrounding adoption, orphans, and refugees. Hopefully it will plant seeds in our minds as to how we as Christians can help and help well. As always, the resources recommended are great for thinking through, but they are not scripture. We always recommend reading with a mind that is open to reason, but also ready to reject what is against scripture. Yet, wrestling with hard things (some of these resources can surely take us out of our comfort zone) can be a tremendous source of growth.

Orphan Care

  1. Adopted for Life – Russell Moore

This book is built around the theology that we, as believers, are adopted into the family of Christ, and this should fuel our passion for adoption here on earth. The author, Russell Moore, draws from personal experiences and shares things he would have liked to have known before beginning the adoption journey. The Moore family has two adopted children of their own, and he gives invaluable insight into the questions he had when going through this process. This resource is helpful for those considering adoption but also for someone who is interested in its processes. Even more, this book shows how adoption goes further than just families that want to adopt, and proves that the idea of adoption displays the gospel in fullness.

  1. Orphanology – Tony Merida

In this book Merida helps readers know how to biblically care for orphans and “functionally parentless” children. It is a compilation of stories, experiences, and illustrations relating to gospel-centered orphan care. It empowers not only the church but individual believers and gives practical ways that we can respond in caring for the growing number of orphans and functionally parentless children.

Refugees

  1. Refugee Services Toolkit (RST)

The RST is an online resource that trains churches, non-profits, and individuals that serve refugee families (specifically focusing on refugee children) to help them to be able to understand what they go through during the resettlement process. By going through this toolkit, groups/individuals learn how they can best assist the family during this potentially traumatic time. Although a login is required to access the resources, the toolkit is free and helps to ensure that refugees are getting the intervention and support that will most help them.

  1. World Relief Blog

World Relief is a nonprofit organization that works within 17 U.S. cities and 14 countries around the world. Mercy Hill has had the privilege of partnering with their High Point and Winston-Salem offices as they focus on refugee and immigration services. World Relief’s role in assisting refugees can be most easily seen in the process of helping them to resettle and rebuild their lives within a new country and environment. Their website contains a blog that gives valuable insight into the lives of the refugees that they work with, basic information about refugees and their experiences, and the steps that someone could take to help.

Alex Nolette (Community Groups/Equip Coordinator)

Relationships Make the Church Smaller

The official definition of a megachurch is a church with an average weekly attendance of 2000 people or more. For most of you, it is no secret that, by God’s grace, Mercy Hill exceeds this number every week. And it is also no secret that megachurches get a bad rap because it feels impossible to build close relationships and to feel loved and cared for at them. Sadly, many go to a church looking for a family and yet find thousands of strangers. This is a real tragedy as it is directly contrary to how God has designed the church.

But It Doesn’t Have to be This Way

At Mercy Hill, we value our community groups. A community group is a small group of people that meets together weekly in different parts of the Triad, where we dive deep into a passage of scripture, discuss relevant questions, and pray. It’s also where we share our struggles and needs with each other and we build close, family-type bonds. Your community group will be your people, the people that you share life with and learn how to become a better disciple of Jesus with. Indeed, discipleship happens in community.

If there are those who have felt that they have not really gotten connected to the church and built relationships with those at Mercy Hill, there is a way to change that! If there are those of you that come only to a worship gathering to sing and hear the sermon but aren’t plugged into a community group, then you are missing about half of what God has designed the church for; there is way to change that!

Grouplink

On Friday August 4th at 6:30pm, Grouplink will be held at our Regional Rd. Kids Worship Space. Grouplink is the best way to get involved in a Community Group. You’ll register for a specific group here and then you will have dinner with your new group that night. Nothing brings people together like food.

Don’t miss out on the life-changing relationships that are built at Community Groups. Sign up today!

Alex Nolette (Community Groups/Equip Coordinator)

3 Reasons to Do Something Big on Serve Saturday

Do you want to be a part of something big? That question naturally peaks our interest, and we lean in. On July 29th, we have the opportunity as a church to join together to serve local organizations and schools, in love, as a response to the love that the Lord shows us. Serve Saturday is an annual event in which we hope to see hundreds of people from Mercy Hill mobilized to make tangible impressions of the gospel in our community. If that isn’t enough to get you moving, below are three reasons why you should clear the calendar and join Serve Saturday.

  1. Supplying the Front Lines

We hear the statistics often of the impact that poverty, unplanned pregnancy, and addiction are having on people in the Triad, and as Christians our hearts should break as we mourn the pain and struggle that accompany those in these situations. Ultimately, we recognize that there is hope, and we have the joy of seeing lives being changed through the work of organizations that we get to champion. Serve Saturday gives us the opportunity to “supply” four specific organizations that are on the front lines. It is our prayer that the projects that we will complete bolster their efforts, strengthen their staff and volunteers, and equip them for the tasks in front of them. While painting, cleaning, and landscaping projects may seem simple, they aid our front line friends in bigger ways than we know.

  1. Building Bridges

When your doorbell rings and you are not expecting a visitor, what is the first thing that comes to your mind? If you are like me, you will probably peak out the window, trying not to be noticed to see who is on the porch. From that vantage point, a decision is made as to what will happen next. Numerous responses ranging from turning off the lights and pretending not to be home (I’ve never done that and I’m sure you haven’t either) to opening the door and greeting friends with a hug. So, what causes the different reactions? The answer: Trust.

With the four organizations we get to serve on July 29th, we are essentially standing on the front porch and ringing the doorbell. They have chosen to open the door, and we are being given an awesome opportunity to love them well. They have shared some needs, and it is our goal to meet those needs to the best of our ability. We want to be a blessing and not a burden on them. Ultimately, our involvement in one day will help to continue building a bridge of trust between our church and them. Your participation can make a huge impact.

  1. Serve Saturday Is for Everyone

Since all other community ministry events throughout the year are done within Community Groups, Serve Saturday offers a unique opportunity for anyone and everyone to get involved. We have specifically tried to think of ways for kids, teens, college students, and adults of all ages to get involved at each location. Parents, we want you to bring your kids; we want to have situations where older adults are working alongside young adults; we want new relationships to be formed as you serve together. There is no prior experience required to get involved. To see the four serve locations, read a brief description of their ministry, and sign up to serve, please visit www.mercyhillgso.com/servesaturday

– Jonathan Spangler (Community Groups Coordinator)

What Flying Crocs Taught Me About the Gospel

Whish.

I felt the breeze coming off of a size 3 shoe as it flew by my head. Again.

This was the third time that Ryan[1] had become overpowered by the urge to launch a Croc grenade across the classroom to land in his brother’s lap. And after two attempts at correcting and redirecting this behavior, it was time for us to have a chat about it. We moved over to the side of the classroom and sat down across from one another. His head went down right away, but I wasn’t there to scold him. We talked for a little while about why it wasn’t safe to send our shoes sailing into a sea of our friend’s heads, but then I asked him why he was having such a hard time obeying his teachers when we asked him to stop. Exasperated, he looked up with teary eyes and said, “I don’t know why I can’t listen, it’s just so hard to keep the rules.”

The Similar Beat of Human Hearts

As he said it, I could feel my heart nodding in agreement. I realized that this conversation Ryan and I were having about his sin is the same one I have with God about my own sin all the time. And as Ryan sat there frustrated at how hard it is to keep his shoes on his feet, I could see the battle that wages in my own heart happening in his. It’s hard to choose to honor God when our rebellious hearts want to run the other direction.

In a sweet moment, Ryan and I got to pray together that God would help him say no to his sin and obey his teachers. We got to thank Jesus for living the perfect life so that when we mess up, God forgives us and doesn’t stay mad at us. Visibly relieved and with tears dried, Ryan scurried back over to join the class. We listened to the remainder of our lesson and, by God’s grace, all footwear stayed in its rightful place.

Depending on God Like a Child

Even hours after the service concluded, I continued to think back on our conversation and prayer time. Bad theology tries to teach us that God is only interested in our perfect discipline. We either become self-righteous in our ability to follow the rules externally, or devastated and despondent when we see our failure over-and-over again. It has taken me years to realize that in moments of weakness, my first move should be to ask for God’s help. I am created for a relationship with God that requires me to lean hard on his Spirit working inside me rather than white-knuckled attempts to clean up my own heart. God knows that we aren’t going to live perfectly, that’s why he wants our dependence. In the moments that I come to him as a child, vulnerable and helpless, he is always faithful to listen, forgive, restore, and lead me forward. It’s an exchange that doesn’t make sense in this world—my sin for the righteousness of Jesus—but Ryan and I are both learning that obedience grows from a heart that’s captured by this mystery of grace.

Our hope in Mercy Hill Kids is to help children learn dependence on God from the start. As we help them create these healthy rhythms in their walk with Jesus, it provides a consistent reminder of how I should approach the Lord in hard moments. Being a part of Kids Ministry teaches each of us so much about discipline, discipleship, and dependence. Each week it is a privilege to speak the gospel into the lives of these kids while the Lord uses them to speak into mine as well.

Kids Staff Member

[1] Name changed for safety of the child and sake of the parents.

Equip Seminars Kick Off

Well, Monday was another successful night in Equip history. We had around 150 people sign up and many are loving their classes already. While these seminars may have already started, you can go ahead and mark your calendars for the next Equip dates: October 9, 16, 23, and 30. The seminar topics are still being determined, but you may want to prepare to have your schedule open for these great events. Our hope is that these classes are equipping our church to live out their daily Christian lives with a strong biblical worldview that defends them against the false claims of the world.
 
To hear about the classes that have already kicked off for the summer, check out this video:
 

Alex Nolette (Equip Coordinator)

For more info on the Equip Seminars, click here

4 Ways to Pray for Our City Project Students

Imagine for a moment that every “gospel-touch” you’ve ever had during your life was gone. Anything seemingly Jesus-related . . . gone—no Bible, no community, no churches. For many of our students, these are the places they are going. Over the next two weeks, our students will be in Peru, Spain, Greece, Thailand, and India. This isn’t the case for every country, but it is the case for people in every country we are sending students. Our students will see the faces of spiritual and physical poverty. There is so much need.

As they prepare there are several things that they need. Some of them will need to bring their own supply of toilet paper, others need camping gear, and most of them need converters and adapters for their electronics. However, there is something they need much more. They need God to move. More than anything else our students need you to ask God to move in their prospective countries. They need your prayer.

Ephesians 3:20 says,Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”

 

Here are a few things you can be praying for our students, and then pray for MORE:

  1. Pray our students would be reminded of the gospel.

Our students are only able to share the great hope of the gospel because they have seen the beauty of the gospel. In Mercy Hill College, our vision statement is that we want to see “students who understand the gospel and live out of the gospel because they truly believe the gospel.” If our students are not captivated by the way they have been brought from death to life, they will not desire to share this truth with others. Pray they would recount the marvelous deeds of the Lord that they have seen in their own lives.

  1. Pray that the Lord would open the hearts of the people our students will meet.

So often we confine God to the limits of a mere man rather than expecting him to be God. Pray expectantly that the Lord would prepare people in each of these countries to hear and believe the gospel and go on to make other disciples. Pray that students would return to the United States with stories of life change. Pray that the students would believe that God would do it.

  1. Pray for our students’ physical and spiritual safety.

As students travel across the globe and back, they will endure several plane, bus, train, and car rides. Pray that our students would travel safely. Pray that the Lord would put a hedge of protection around our students while they are in country. Pray against the attacks of the enemy. Some students will encounter spiritual warfare in new ways and must stand strong on God’s promises.

  1. Pray for what comes next.

Some students will realize the Lord is asking them for more than two weeks. After their international trips, many students will decide to leverage their lives abroad as long-term or career missionaries. This was the case for me two years ago. I prayed the Lord would reveal His global purposes for me, and he took me to India. I realized God’s command for me to go and make disciples in all nations would extend far beyond America’s borders and far beyond two weeks. For other students, it will push them to be generous in sending people to the nations and praying for the nations.

Download this in-depth prayer guide that walks through Psalm 67 to pray even further for our students:

Greta Griswold (College Team)

Update on How God Is Changing Lives at Mercy Church

Mercy Hill family,

It is good to hear and reflect on the stories of what God has done and accomplished in people’s lives through empowering our efforts with spiritual significance. The following are short updates from Mercy Church in Charlotte’s pastor, Spence Shelton. We helped plant Mercy Church in 2015. These stories prove that your generosity helps fuel the mission and that the church is God’s plan A for the world. Take a moment this week to thank God for these incredible stories and pray for God’s continued movement through Mercy Church.

“Blake, who graduated NCSU in ’15 and moved with us to plant Mercy Church, got a job recently working for a plant nursery. He’s been faithful there and was quickly promoted to foreman of a team. The other day (maybe 1 month ago at most) he was sitting in a truck on a job site with a guy on his team. Blake took the time to share the gospel with him and the guy gave his life to Christ. Just a simple, everyday opportunity that Blake jumped on. That’s why he moved here!!”

“Debbie is a UNCC senior who took a huge leap of faith and decided to trust God with her summer by going on City Project. And yes, that means she’s there with you guys at MH! She went out sharing in NYC the other day and got to lead a complete stranger to faith in Christ! God honored Debbie’s leap of faith in a way that we know will change her forever and changed someone else’s eternity.”

“Last year, our church bought a gym membership for a missionary we partner with in the Middle East. It allowed him the platform to build some relationships. Last month, that gym officially agreed to a deal where our guy is now the General Manager and can hire others to come in and work there! This means a permanent gospel presence in a country that hasn’t had any in 30 years! Oh, and one of our members is likely moving there to be on his team.”

“In a month or so, we are sending our second couple for permanent relocation with a church plant to Germany! We sent a couple to Los Angeles in January to help D.A. Horton plant Reach Fellowship. Churches planting churches!” 

“It’s taken the better part of ten months, but we saw a truly broken marriage healed through, what I believe, was the active work of the Holy Spirit through their community group. I mean, they dug in, got real, and by God’s grace, they are back together.” 

We serve a God who loves to save, heal, and restore, and we’ve been seeing that in our own midst and through the church and ministries we partner with. This just goes to show that gospel ministry doesn’t add, it multiplies. The more we aid churches like Mercy Church, the more we will see God move all throughout the world.

— Alex Nolette (Community Groups/Equip Coordinator)