Mystery, Revelation, and Being with Him

June 17, 2018 • Graeme Sellers

Story-telling was one of Jesus’ preferred approaches to teaching. People would come to him with a question, and again and again Scripture captures his answer this way: “Then he told them a story…” And the people would lean in, not only with their ears but with their entire being. This is the way we find our way to the Father’s heart—we enter through his story and discover where his story meets ours A question we have when it comes to parables: “Why not just say what you mean, God? Clearly and plainly. Why make us guess at what you mean?” God knows, if we don’t, that story is more powerful than statements. Of course he uses statements, too, but he knows how we learn best—stories stay with us and take up residence in a way mere facts do not. There's this to consider as well: the mystery, hiddenness of parables drives us to Him for revelation and that’s what He’s after the whole time.

I Can Walk Through Any Devastation

June 10, 2018 • Graeme Sellers

In Psalm 138:7 the poet says7, “By your mighty power I can walk through any devastation.” Many English translations render this phrase as “walk in the midst of trouble.” The Hebrew word is tṣārāh and it means trouble, distress, anguish; a situation or time of extreme discomfort; dire straits. It’s great that God’s power can get us through but don’t you wish when it came to tṣārāh that there was an opt out button? Ah, but what if these shadowlands are place we will receive unexpected favor and revelation of the Father’s heart? That's how it was for Ezekiel, who, while he was trapped in captivity and poverty and national depression, sees the heavens open and has visions of God. If we’re willing, in that desolate place, God may give us the most powerful spiritual experience of our life—these troubled places may be God’s choicest place for revelation!

Principles for a Listening Life

June 3, 2018 • Graeme Sellers

Our tendency when reading biblical stories is to supersize the spirituality of those in the featured roles. One result is that it creates a credibility gap between them and us—which means that what happens to them seems completely credible given their spiritual virtuosity but the idea that the same could happen to us seems comparably incredible. Thus we tend to self-disqualify from similar God encounters and spiritual experiences because, well, we’re no Samuel, right? But Samuel’s story connects with our story as well. His listening has much to teach us about our own.

The Most Important Things in Life

May 27, 2018 • Bob Blayter

Bob Blayter, for fifteen years the Associate Pastor here at Wonderful Mercy Church until his retirement in May 2015, is moving from Gilbert to Texas. He and Maria were with us at both services, their last time with us for the foreseeable future. We prayed over them and blessed them during the Holy Spirit Time. Then Bob brought a message from his heart encapsulating the four things he believes are the most important for every follower Jesus to attend to. It was a powerful and touching time together, and a beautiful message.

Why Settle for a Mouthful of Coffee Grounds?

May 20, 2018 • Graeme Sellers

Experiencing an outpouring of Holy Spirit is a phenomenon you cannot fully appreciate by reading about it. Or having a good theology for it. You have to be in the room where it happens, when it happens. While we don’t look to replicate a second Pentecost experience any more than we would attempt to enact a second Calvary, we do look for (and must have) ongoing fillings with Holy Spirit. Paul commands us in Ephesians 5:18b, “Be filled with the Spirit. The command in Greek is a present imperative and does not describe a onetime "filling" but a regular pattern of life. o IOW: be filled and keep on being filled! Doing this life with God without experiencing regular infilling of HS is like going to a great restraint and reading the menu but never eating any of the food. Or, to alter the metaphor slightly…

It Is Time to Choose a Side

May 13, 2018 • David Hammerslag

It's time to choose a side. We can chose Jesus' side, which allows no divisions. Everyone is part of us. Or we can chose the world's side, a life of constantly deciding who is in and who is out, whom we should love and whom we can marginalize, and struggling to maintain our place on the right side of countless lines we have drawn.

We Are All In This Family Together

May 6, 2018 • Graeme Sellers

Across racial and cultural lines we share a co-humanity that binds us together equally before God and with each other. Consider: Acts chapters 8, 9, and 10 present us with three conversions o The Ethiopian treasury official in chapter 8 o Saul of Tarsus in chapter 9 o The Roman officer Cornelius in chapter 10 For those tracking carefully, that’s a black man, a Jew, and a gentile. All Christians are called to take a stand uncompromisingly against the evil of racism and for the equality and unity of all humankind. Encoded in the Great Commission is a direct command to cross racial lines—"Go therefore and make disciples of all nations." Christianity is not fully authentic unless it is multiracial. The most powerful answer to racism in our day—and we must have one—is a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit. That’s what will change hearts and obliterate racial, societal, ethnic, and cultural barriers. Though not our only response, praying for this is our first, best response.

Baptism—Does This Mean War?

April 29, 2018 • Graeme Sellers

When it comes to water baptism, there are some questions that historically have divided the body of Christ: what does it mean, how should it be done, who can perform it, who can receive it? Humility demands this acknowledgement: we know less than we think. There is room for faithful followers of Jesus to come to different conclusions according to their conscience and understanding of Scripture. Spoiling for a fight? There’s the door. There is room in this church for more than one perspective – we won’t divide over this issue, even if we disagree about it.

Heart Trouble in Prayerland

April 22, 2018 • Graeme Sellers

Accusation and condemnation are prayer killers. As John notes, "When our hearts don’t condemn us, we have a bold freedom to speak face-to-face with God” A condemning heart is one that robs a son or daughter of intimacy with God because it causes us to wonder, “Why would God want to talk to me, much less answer me?” If accusation and condemnation are the disease, what is the cure? The mercy of God, says John. “God is much greater and more merciful than our conscience…” (v. 20a). When we hear the promises of the Word—“whatever we ask of him we receive” and “he will give you the desires of your heart”—we immediately go to a rules orientation: what do I have to do to get it? But what if being a son or a daughter is enough?

An Unexpected Pathway to Peace

April 15, 2018 • Graeme Sellers

Repentance is rooted in God’s love, not his anger, and love makes us dangerous. Repentance takes us deeper into Father’s heart, is a gift to all people in every age. Here’s the gift—when we repent it is an unexpected pathway to peace. Consider Peter’s remarkable statement in Acts 3:19: “And now you must repent and turn back to God so that your sins will be removed, and so that times of refreshing will stream from the Lord’s presence.” "Time of refreshing" also means “cooling breeze,” which calls to mind the time when God walked with Adam in the cooling breeze of the day. This is the very picture of peace!

Because They Were Afraid

April 8, 2018 • Graeme Sellers

Unity has power in the unseen realms, both for good and for bad. Positively, consider Matthew 18:19 “I also tell you this: If two of you agree down here on earth concerning anything you ask, my Father in heaven will do it for you.” (NLT) But not all unity is healthy unity; sometimes unity has power in unseen realms that threatens our well-being That’s true for the disciples in the immediate aftermath of the resurrection, as John 20:19-23 makes plain. The disciples had unity...a unity of fear. “That evening the disciples gathered together. And because they were afraid…” (v. 19) There is an antidote: peace. It’s what Jesus gives here. Perhaps because the spirit of fear is so hard to subdue, he commands this blessing twice — v. 19 & v. 21: “Peace to you!”

Spinning Plates

June 11, 2017 • June 11, 2017 • David Hammerslag

Our lives can become a frantic rushing from spinning plate to spinning plate. We give each enough attention to prevent a disastrous crash, then we rush off to the next plate that is in danger of falling. We make our lives more and more frantic, hoping that with this one last plate spinning in its place, we’ll be happy and satisfied. Do you ever feel like a plate spinner? We think if we can just manage to keep all the plates spinning -- make sure none of them come crashing down -- then we will be happy and contented. Yet, even when we do manage it, usually for only a very short while, we end up feeling exhausted and unfulfilled. Soon some of the plates will start to slow down and wobble, demanding our attention again. The plates become our masters. We become imprisoned by the need to keep the plates spinning. They command our attention. There's a better way. And Jesus shows it to us.

Life Together

What's it About?

IT'S BETTER TOGETHER! At Wonderful Mercy, we are committed to ensuring that being a part of our body is more than a Sunday thing. That’s because authentic community—doing life together—was a lifestyle for the New Testament church, a lifestyle that included real relationships. One way we walk this out is by participating in Life Together Groups. These groups provide a fun, exciting, and safe place where folks can… • Learn to develop a lifestyle that includes real relationships • Experience authentic community • Grow as followers of Christ who are being transformed to think, speak, and act more like Jesus • Find friendships that provide support and encouragement to navigate life in emotionally, relationally, and spiritually healthy ways • Help one another hear, process, and discern how to respond to what God is saying to us WHAT CAN I EXPECT? At our church, a Life Together Group usually consists of 7-12 attendees in various life stages who meet on a regular basis. This could be in someone’s home or a central location that works for the group. These communities are about establishing relationships that encourage us to grow spiritually, offer mercy towards one another in our time of need, and, as groups, be the hand of justice in our church, community, and the world around us. Some specifics: • Each Life Together Group strives to embrace and reflect the vision, mission, and core values of Wonderful Mercy Church • Each Life Together Group gathers together on a weekly or bi-weekly basis • Some groups will use established Bible or topical studies (like Experiencing God or Crazy Love), while others will not follow a structured curriculum • Groups will strive to have a maximum of 12 participants so that everyone has the chance to gets to know one another and participate meaningfully in the group We desire to see every member of our church connected in a Life Together Group. We believe participation in a Life Together Group, paired with our worship experience, can be key to becoming a passionate follower of Jesus Christ.

Easter - This Changes Everything

April 1, 2018 • Graeme Sellers

Easter changes everything for the powerless. It changes everything for failures. For the lost, the luckless, and the lonely, it changes everything. From where you sit right now, how do things look to you? It matters because where your focus is, there your future is. The question of Easter is: “Have you seen Jesus?” Once you’ve seen Jesus, you’ve seen the future. Nothing will be the end of us as long as we trust the One who raised Jesus from the dead. Easter announces a shift in expectation and outcome; like the women, we go in with a mindset of death and emerge with unexpected life, His life, surging through our own.

Called By God

December 31, 2017 • Dirk Duhlstine

Our doing should come from our being...being healthy, whole, and holy sons and daughters of a God who loves us just because we are His children. Do you recall a time when you heard God call you? Speak to you? Encourage you? Correct you? Move you in a certain direction? Save you from harm? Let's set our hearts on listening to what God is saying to us, for He loves to speak with His children!

Hope and Dreams

May 7, 2017 • May 7, 2017 • Graeme Sellers

What happens in a time of drought is that as hope declines, dreams contract. They get smaller and smaller and smaller until we only allow ourselves to dream things we believe are doable But when hope takes up residence in us, then hope is a dream factory. Hope is coming upon us, hope that fuels transformation and releases dreams. Even in a time of drought, Father is inviting us to dream again!

Be Swift to Choose Peace

November 20, 2016 • November 20, 2016 • Graeme Sellers

Peace is everything which makes for another’s highest good. Anything that is not God’s highest good for your neighbor, co-worker, countryman is an enemy of peace! So when circumstances and the enemy of our souls conspire to steal the peace of those around us, we must aggressively pursue peace by being with and standing alongside them.

Adventurous Prayer

Carol Salsman

Meeting: Every Wednesday from 10:00-11:30am Meeting place: Wonderful Mercy Church (1351 East Guadalupe, Gilbert, AZ) Description: This group will explore creative, dynamic ways of praying together. Whether you're a skeptic that such a thing exists, interested in rejuvenating your prayers or experienced in exciting, adventurous prayer, you have something to offer. Our prayer together will be targeted, worship-based, and Scripture-infused. Come and see where the Spirit takes us!

2018 Ministry Theme

Life Together

Being a part of a faith community—here at Wonderful Mercy or elsewhere—is more than a Sunday thing. It’s more than church attendance, more than placing a window peel on our car, more than agreeing on doctrinal beliefs. To belong to a faith community is to share life together. This life together must be real and authentic. We often confuse being relevant with being real, and real is what the human heart is hungry for. Sociologists tell us that millennials are especially eager for the real thing, but it’s not just millennials who are looking for the authentic. It’s all of us. The invitation to experience real community, to do life together, is a reflection of the godhead itself: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit all together, always together. The intimacy that Father, Son, and Holy Spirit enjoy is almost impossible to overstate. It would never occur to Father, Son, or Holy Spirit to go it alone. It’s nowhere on the landscape of possibilities. Why would we, then, made in the image of God, imagine that we have the capacity or freedom to go it alone? Surely such thinking is madness! We have the freedom to be in this thing together—and that’s the only freedom we have. Not that it’s easy or instantaneous. Life together is messy because we are messy. Scott McKnight observes, “Brokenness is part of what it means to indwell the church in the world today. A broken people is, in fact, what we are meant to encounter in the church because the church is sacred space for the flow of God’s grace and love and healing holiness." Where do we discover this remarkable flow of grace and healing? Often it’s in ordinary churches where ordinary people are doing life together: real, true, beautiful, and uncut. It's not the sort of thing that grabs the headlines. But it is the kind of thing that meets the deepest desire of our hearts. So it is that we step into the adventure of learning why God has drawn us to each other at Wonderful Mercy. We might have ended up anywhere—why here, why now, why among these people? And what is on God’s heart for us as we do life together? We invite you to join us as we share life together…on Sunday mornings, in our Life Together groups, and in all the ways that people who care for each other find connection with one another.

Not What Anyone Expects

March 25, 2018 • Graeme Sellers

It’s so easy to be a critic! So easy to be smugly superior to people who misunderstand what kind of Messiah Jesus is. Yes, the people get it wrong as Jesus enter Jerusalem to cheers and praise. Yes, the miracle of Lazarus coming back to life sends their imaginations and hopes spinning in all the wrong directions. But this should elicit our empathy. This should stir compassion in us, not contempt. If it does not, perhaps it’s because pride tells us that we wouldn’t have gotten things so wrong. (Hindsight almost always breeds this kind of false confidence.) If it does not move our hearts perhaps it’s because we fail to see their captivity and their yearning to be free. Our model is Jesus, whose response in Luke 19:41-42 is to break down in tears at the plight of the people.

Holy Spirit Stories & Surprises

July 30, 2017 • July 30, 2017 • Dr. Kim Engel-Pearson & Mike Bradley

As we embrace a renewed emphasis on Holy Spirit, both his person and work, we hear stories from Kim and Mike concerning how the Spirit has surprised and delighted them with his leading. These stories increase our faith and encourage us to be alert for God — his speaking, moving, inviting — in a time of accelerated activity and increased sensitivity and awareness to God movements around us.