Every week, on Monday, we will have a blog for you with resources for diving deeper into the sermon.
As we continued the In the End series last week, Pastor Andrew preached on the letter to Sardis. The church in Sardis was a church that had a great reputation of life outside the church walls, but Jesus says they are dead. This is something that any church, even Mercy Hill, can fall into, and it proves the main point: in the Christian life, reputation isn’t always reality.
The nature of the entire book of Revelation is seen in the letter to Sardis. The book is written to call churches back to perseverance because it’s going to be worth it. That’s the message, but it is often lost when people get bogged down in the symbols. But thankfully, in Revelation, the clear things are the main things. And, for Sardis, the call is clearly to care more about being right than looking right.
What verses 2-3 show us is that Sardis had grown bored and lazy. Their fire had gone out, and Jesus was telling them rekindle it. They did what was necessary to have a good reputation with those on the outside looking in, while letting a true relationship with God die. And this is something we must watch out for in ourselves. It’s easier to build a reputation than a spiritual reality. Jesus calls them to wake up from their sleep, strengthen their love for him, remember the gospel of grace, keep that gospel by walking in it, and turn back to him with repentance.
In verses 4-6 Jesus mentions the rewards for those who persevere in the faith. Jesus promises to give them white garments. Why? Because in this life, we are sinners, and none of us are right before God. No matter what our earthly reputation is, we shamed ourselves before God with our sin. But Jesus died to give us a right standing and reputation before God. He was stripped naked and shamed on the cross so that our shame might be clothed with the white robes he deserves.
And here’s how we can apply this truth today: Don’t fake a reputation; trust Jesus with your reality. No matter what your sins and failures, in the gospel, Jesus promises that those who trust in his death and resurrection on their behalf are not only given a clean record before God but are adopted into his family. But we must ask ourselves, does our reputation match the reality? Are we Christian in name only? Or is Christian our true identity? Ultimately, we must trust that we are who he says we are. And we must attack this life from that position of acceptance, knowing that the battle is won and no effort we put in will go unused by God.
The following resources can be considered classics of the Christian faith. They have been used for decades by Christians to increase faith and spiritual vitality.
Knowing God – J. I. Packer
From Amazon: For over 40 years, J. I. Packer’s classic has been an important tool to help Christians around the world discover the wonder, the glory and the joy of knowing God. In 2006, Christianity Today voted this title one of the top 50 books that have shaped evangelicals. This edition is updated with Americanized language and spelling and a new preface by the author. Stemming from Packer’s profound theological knowledge, Knowing God brings together two important facets of the Christian faith― knowing about God and also knowing God through the context of a close relationship with the person of Jesus Christ. Written in an engaging and practical tone, this thought-provoking work seeks to transform and enrich the Christian understanding of God.
Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist – John Piper
From Amazon: Satisfaction…Happiness…Joy. According to John Piper, the pursuit of pleasure in God is not only permissible, it’s essential. Desiring God is a paradigm-shattering work that dramatically alters common perspectives on relating to God. Piper reveals that there really is no need to choose between duty and delight in the Christian life. In fact, for the follower of Jesus, delight is the duty as Christ is most magnified in His people when they are most satisfied in Him.
The Pursuit of God – A. W. Tozer
From Amazon: “To have found God and still to pursue Him is a paradox of love, scorned indeed by the too-easily-satisfied religious person, but justified in happy experience by the children of the burning heart. Saint Bernard of Clairvaux stated this holy paradox in a musical four-line poem that will be instantly understood by every worshipping soul: We taste Thee, O Thou Living Bread/And long to feast upon Thee still/We drink of Thee, the Fountainhead/And thirst our souls from Thee to fill. Come near to the holy men and women of the past and you will soon feel the heat of their desire after God. Let A. W. Tozer’s pursuit of God spur you also into a genuine hunger and thirst to truly know God.
I have heard several people recommend each of these devotionals.
Introductory Level: New Morning Mercies: A Daily Gospel Devotional – Paul David Tripp
Advanced Level: For the Love of God: A Daily Companion for Discovering the Riches of God’s Word, Volumes 1 & 2 – D. A. Carson
– Alex Nolette (Equip Coordinator/Community Groups)
Social media users typically fall in one of three categories: 1) the poster, 2) the scroller, or 3) all of the above.
1. To the Poster
It probably goes something like this: your phone is always out ready to capture your dinner, the candid—or the fake-laughing candid—of friends, or the guy doing wheelies on a Razor scooter through the middle of campus. Some of you may have a caption come to mind while others may ask friends for a clever caption and hit backspace millions of times before the right words come together. However clever and brilliant your post and caption may be, is it glorifying to God?
On social media, put yourself in the best position to not let others assume where you are or have creative interpretations about the things you are doing in your post. Push yourself to be wise, edifying, and living above reproach before you post. You can be choosey; you can be picky. You probably should more than not say no. Assume that everyone (this includes your mom, your current employer, your future employer, and maybe even Andrew Hopper) will read what you write and see what you post on social media. Because no matter how hard we fight against its power, things can spread like wildfire in a matter of a second.
Some good questions to ask yourself before you post on Instagram or Snapchat: What could people assume by this post? Do people really need to know this about myself or the person I am posting about? What is my motive behind posting? If you can’t come up with valid answers to these questions, it is okay to say no and not post.
2. To the Scroller
How many times have you casually scrolled through social media today? How about in the last three hours? If you were to calculate the number of minutes you spend on social media either actively engaged or mindlessly sifting for entertainment, would it take up more than 50% of your day?
Scrolling isn’t just a time killer, it can also be a heart killer. As I scroll through my newsfeed, often I am tempted to see people doing seemingly more impressive things than me, more exciting things than me, things I wish I were doing—all while looking better than me. The sin of comparison slowly creeps in, and instead of being joyful for where I am in life, I start to want something different; something I have conceived as better. Cultivating a heart of thankfulness for your present circumstances is not only a great spiritual discipline but can also combat the sin of comparison and the weight that others’ lives place on you. Lastly, there are apps that track battery usage for every app on a phone before the end of the day. It could be quite revealing where time gets spent on social media. If you think this is you, go ahead and download InMoment for iPhone or SPACE for iPhone/Android.
3. All of the Above
First, remember your identity. You represent Christ in a real way at all times both in the physical world and virtual world. Social media was obviously not present in biblical times. I can only imagine if it were, Paul would have included it in his warnings to the church because it is that big of a deal. It may not seem like it, but what you post and how you feel about someone else’s post communicates what you believe about who God says he is and what he says about you.
If you are a believer, most people that follow you probably know that you are a Christian, where you go to church, and who you hang out with. It may not seem like it in the moment, but you represent the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 10:31, Colossians 3:17). Secondly, be kind to your friends. Most people would not intentionally post something about a friend that could get them in trouble. In the moment it is probably innocent fun, laughter, and wanting to share that with others. It is good to remember, however, that they also represent something whether it is their employer, friends, or also the church and the body of Christ. Be a good friend and watch out for those you post about—put them in the best position so no one can assume about them or leave room for creative interpretation about their lives.
-Kristen Schleich (College Team)
When asked to write a blog about special needs, my thoughts of excitement were soon replaced with various questions. “Is my son considered special needs to others?” “What if the special needs my son deals with are not ‘special’ enough for others to understand?” These various questions left me convinced that this is a topic worthy of discussion and that this is an opportunity we need to seize.
Both education and encouragement are important. We need to educate so that the church and, in particular, MH Kids volunteers are more aware of special needs and better equipped to minister to special needs children. We also need to encourage families with special needs children as oftentimes it is easy to feel isolated and alone.
Why should you come to Kids Conference?
You will have the opportunity to hear about a new ministry emphasis: ministering to special needs children and their families. Every special needs child reflects the image of God (Gen. 1:26-27; Ps. 139). We have the unique opportunity and privilege to minister to these children and their families. If you are thinking, “No way! I could never do that,” we are hoping to show you that—with God’s help and with the help of others—you can! We hope this conference equips, inspires, and stretches you out of your comfort zone.
Why am I passionate about this ministry?
My heart has always been burdened for those that society often looks down upon and says, “You have nothing to offer.” Every child is special, but a special needs child is uniquely gifted and uniquely special. At times, my own personal journey with parenting a special needs child has been hard, it has been lonely, and it has been filled with many tears. At the same time, it has been one of the greatest joys of my life. Although society often looks down upon them, caring for a special needs child is significant kingdom work.
Physical disabilities are easily recognizable, but there are a host of other ‘special needs’ that are not as easily recognizable. Whether it is learning disabilities, Autism Spectrum Disorder, Sensory Processing Disorder, behavior disorders, or ADHD (to name just a few), it is my goal that every child who is part of MH Kids with special needs is ministered to effectively. If a child needs extra attention to get through the Kids Time, then our goal is to pair them with a buddy to best minister to them. It brings me great joy to see these children connect with another person, to see their face light up because someone “got them,” or to see a smile of relief from parents knowing that they can have a respite and worship without stress about what’s going on with their child.
Special needs children are like a beautiful picture puzzle (think of one of those 5000 piece jigsaw puzzles) from the Lord. Sometimes you need to be willing to move the pieces around, to keep trying and trying, and eventually, the right piece will fall into place. When the pieces fall into place, whether it is a smile, or they say a portion of the memory verse using pictures, or they participate in worship a little longer because their buddy told them what to expect, THAT fuels my passion for these kids!
Why did I want to be a Team Lead?
I desire to serve as a Team Lead of Special Needs to be an encourager and a supporter. For buddies, I hope to offer support, prayer, encouragement, and resources. For parents of special needs children, I hope to foster encouragement, prayer, support, and connection. By being able to pray for parents, by knowing what appointments they have coming up, by helping them not feel isolated and alone as they advocate for their child, I hope to remind parents that the effort they extend and the tears they shed matter. I hope to point them to the beauty amidst the brokenness.
Why should you sign up as a buddy?
We all need help in life, and some days are harder than others, and we need more help. This is no different with special needs children. Some days are harder than others and require extra help. These children and families will often become fatigued and weary if they do not have help. These kids need a lot of hand-holding during church to help them grasp how awesome God is! You might be thinking that this sounds really uncomfortable, and it probably will feel uncomfortable some days. And that is okay. I used to be really nervous going in public with my son for fear of an uncomfortable situation. I never knew which stimuli would set him off and how he would react and then how others would react towards him and towards us. I don’t fear the “uncomfortable/awkward” situations anymore as I look at it as a way of learning something new about my child. As a buddy of a special needs child, you will constantly have encouragement and support. If we don’t know how to handle something, we will pull heads together and do our best to figure it out.
I can’t wait to see you at Kids Conference on Saturday, March 24! Click here to register!
-Holly Cooke (Kids Team Lead of Special Needs)
Two weeks ago, Pastor Andrew mentioned several situations that you might find yourself in terms of marriage. No matter what you and your spouse are going through, God wants you to fight will all you have to keep your marriage together and healthy. It is a microcosm of the gospel to the world when your marriage functions as God designed it.
If you are in marital hardship currently, or even if your marriage is going wonderfully, you have to fight for it every day. Here are a few resources we recommend.
1. Community Group
Mercy Hill’s answer for almost anything in life is to get into a Community Group—or commit more faithfully to the one you’re already a part of. Why is that? It’s because discipleship happens in community. We need people in our life whose voices are more constant and scriptural than the voices of the world that are coming at us at every moment. Daily we are hearing that bad marriages are the norm and divorce is not that bad, especially if you’re not happy. But the world’s desire for you is not God’s desire for your life or your marriage. We must retrain our minds to find our happiness in what Jesus has done for us and obeying what he asks of us—specifically in this context, “What God has joined together, let no one separate” (Matt. 19:6).
Find another married couple in your group to meet occasionally with to check up on your marriage. If you haven’t taken inventory of your situation and put checks in place to handle stress and trigger-circumstances better than you did previously, you can be in another bad spot before you know it.
When things do get really bad and seemingly impossible to resolve, talk with your Community Group leader about seeking outside help. They have connections with our elders who can see to it that you are having the best care possible for keeping your marriage together.
2. Marriage & Family Equip Class
Every equip season we offer a class to help build our minds and perspectives on the biblical foundation for marriage and the family. The class hits the topic from both the theological and practical sides and will equip you to build a more God-honoring marriage.
Visit the Equip website here.
3. Brad Hambrick’s Site (Free Resources)
Dr. Brad Hambrick is the leader of the counseling ministry at Summit church. His website has wonderful (and free) resources for marriage enrichment and marriage restoration like: fifteen marriage evaluation questionnaires, podcasts of his seminars, blog posts, and recommended book resources.
We can’t recommend Dr. Hambrick enough.
Click here for free resources from Dr. Brad Hambrick.
-Alex Nolette (Equip Coordinator)
The saying goes that a picture is worth 1,000 words, and while it may not be apparent at first glance, the photo above communicates the four effects of the gospel that shape our church.
The Gospel Saves
This photo was taken in the spring of 2017 and posted in a recent newsletter from our missionaries, Carlos and Meredith Block, who serve the indigenous people in the jungles of central Peru.
In this picture are the community’s church leaders. Today the number of churches and leaders are small but growing. Forty years ago was a different story. That generation had not heard the good news—that God’s Son came to earth to die for them and rose again to give them victory over sin and death—until two women risked their lives and health to trek into the unknown and bring light to those living in darkness.
In this picture is the heritage of those women’s audacious faith. Nearly 2,000 years and 8,000 miles from where Jesus walked the earth, his Spirit moved when the gospel was shared and the people heard and new life began.
The Gospel Sanctifies
In this picture are not simply converts, but disciple makers. Many people see the gospel as a ticket to heaven but having little impact on daily life. In their culture, hardships (which are many) are often viewed as consequences for being at odds with spiritual realities. Remedy is sought either through superstitious practices or moral improvement. But the believers in this picture know God’s approval is not earned but rather given through the gospel. God’s grace fuels their love for him and motivates them to love others above themselves.
In this picture are leaders who, by the power of the gospel, are persevering against temptation in order to disciple others and build up Christ’s church.
The Gospel Gathers
In this picture is one of their church buildings. There are no steeples or stained glass. The only décor are the roughly hewed wooden benches. But this is where believers gather regularly to be instructed by God’s Word and sing out in adoration of Christ. With few believers among them, the encouragement of other believers fortifies their faith.
In this picture we don’t just see individuals who share a common interest, but a new family committed to using their gifts to strengthen each other and collectively make a difference in their broader community.
The Gospel Sends
In this picture are men and women committed to helping others hear the gospel. Whereas sin puts self at the center, the gospel reorients us to put others first. And once we become convinced that Jesus deserves all the glory, we want others to know him too.
The occasion of this photo was a meeting to plan trips throughout indigenous communities where the gospel would be shared. Much of the work our missionaries focus on is equipping indigenous believers to reach and disciple other indigenous people groups and even to mobilize Peruvians to reach other nations with the gospel.
Carlos and Meredith Block will be visiting Mercy Hill at our upcoming Missions Expo during the annual Sent Weekend. Come hear more of what God is doing in central Peru on Monday, February 12th.
-Bryan Miller (Missions Director)
Typically, the best stories have a hero—someone who has risen to the top and is now at the center of all the action—and let’s face it, that is most often the fairy tale we like to live in or, at the very least, imagine when thinking about the life we want to live. But the greatest thing we learned as a team this summer is that a mission trip is not about our story. Instead, our story fits into a much greater story of redemption, one that is worth traveling over 5,000 miles to tell.
My team and I served at Camp L’Arcada, also known as Indian camp, in Spain for the past two weeks alongside counselors and 95 kids ages 3 to 12 years old. No one on our team was completely fluent in Spanish, so the language barrier propelled us into an incredible opportunity—to love without sharing eloquent sentences and the challenge to encourage without speaking powerful words. We didn’t have much of a common language—the one thing you usually need in order to build relationships—but in that, we learned there are some things that are universal and don’t need to be translated: laughter, tears, high fives, hugs & serving. Indian camp in Spain may seem like a weird concept at first, especially in the middle of the Pyrenees mountains, but it offers a unique way to share life in the form of stories. The country of Spain is hardened to the gospel, however, when told in the form of a story, barriers are broken and lives can be transformed.
The greatest definition of humility is this– not thinking less of yourself, but thinking about yourself less. In two words, that is what my team and I learned over the past two weeks: humble servanthood. Because let me be the first to tell you that cleaning one bathroom for over 130 people is not glamorous, drying the 400th cup can get pretty old, and scraping food off of 130 plates does not smell great. In those moments, we had to think about ourselves less and focus on the ones we were serving and the One we serve. We were intentionally paving a smoother path for the gospel to be shared. We had the opportunity to pray for and over those that would be sharing the gospel throughout the week, to love the 95 campers well, and create the picture of a body of Christ—one body with many parts. We were the hands and feet while others were the mouth. We were the backbone of support, and at the end of the day, a group of 20 Spaniards became family.
The gospel was shared through words and, for our team, through actions. L’Arcada is reaching Spain one child at a time through camps and gathering them around to tell the greatest story ever told—that the Son of God would leave His place in Heaven to come down and die for me and you; that He would dare to enter into this broken world for my heart which is even dirtier than that camp bathroom on a good day; that He looked beyond himself to his children and stayed on a cross until he could cry “it is finished”. Because the One who knew no wrong took the penalty for us, we can rise from the ashes of defeat to victory. Now there’s a shocking story worth telling.
That is the reason we cleaned, swept, lead activities, and loved Spanish children—because it wasn’t about us, and it never will be. It is about the One who knew we couldn’t reach relationship with God on our own so He emptied himself and became a servant—the best model of humble servanthood we could ever know—to become the greatest story we could ever be a part of, and most definitely tell.
— Kristen Schleich (College Team)
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: who, being in very nature with God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” Phillipians 2:4-8