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Mercy Churchers Serving Globally…

SIM Ebola Work Great to hear from one of our Mercy Churchers who works in Africa 8 months of the year with community health. She shared this AM at Mercy Men's Monthly breakfast. Join us tomorrow at 10am to hear more from Susan McDonald. Her compassion ministry group SIM is running one of the hospitals in the news related to the Ebola outbreak. http://www.sim.org/ ‪#‎jesusmotivatedcompassion‬

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Leaving Calvinism: Keith Coward’s Story

Leaving Calvinism: Keith Coward’s Story
Aug 4, 2014 by Scot McKnight

This paragraph is revealing and over the years I’ve heard this so many times… I have italicized the words that reflect a common set of categories used to explain anyone not a Calvinist. We get no where when Calvinists — and not all are like this — claim non-Calvinists don’t have the stomach for the full counsel of God. This is a bundle of non-falsifiable logic: if they agree it’s because it’s true; if they don’t it’s because it’s true and they don’t accept it.

But several things eventually led to me reconsider the views of almost all my teachers, colleagues, friends, and heroes. The first was that an acquaintance gave me a copy of a book written by a “Reformed Arminian”. I read it out of curiosity, and though it did not persuade me in the least it did challenge my prejudice against Arminians. Scripture seemed clear about RT, so I had assumed that anyone who denied it was either ignorant or insolent. Some had not read the Bible carefully enough and others just could not stomach God as he revealed himself to be. But this book offered a clear alternative to Calvinism and intelligently interacted with its favorite proof texts. The author did not convince me, but he did give me a new category: there were non-Calvinists who had taken the Bible to heart and honestly believed that it taught God’s desire to save all…

And here he says the Bible itself tipped him over the edge:

The third thing that set me on the course to reject RT was the thing that had led me into it – Scripture itself. As a pastor I preached through books of the Bible verse by verse. Occasionally I would encounter a common Calvinistic proof text and realize that it did not necessarily say what I had thought it said. John 3 does not necessarily teach that regeneration precedes faith; John 10 does not necessarily teach that Jesus died only for the elect; Eph 1 does not necessarily teach that God ordained whatever happens; 1 Pet 1 does not necessarily teach that God elected individuals for salvation – unconditionally, effectually, exclusively. Once again, these discoveries did not shake my confidence in RT. There were too many passages that clearly taught it; I considered Romans 9 impregnable to Arminian assault. But I realized that the quantity of verses used to support my view did not matter if, upon closer scrutiny, they could not bear the weight that we Calvinists were putting on them on a case-by-case basis….

That was a turning point in my life. For the first time I said, “Whatever it cost me (and I knew it could cost me everything), I want to know the truth.” I spent the next year and a half going back through Scripture, reading books on both sides of the issue, listening to debates and lectures, praying fervently, studying passages, and meditating deeply. Gradually, my questions about RT turned into doubts, and by the end of 2013 I realized that my doubts had turned into disbelief. I had not fully reconstructed my theology, but it was clear that I no longer found Calvinism coherent, much less biblical….

Finally, I lost my livelihood and have not yet recovered it. There have been seasons of desperation and even anger as I’ve asked why the Lord led me down this path that seems to lead nowhere. But he has provided for my family abundantly, and he has reminded me to worry not about how I’m going to pay the bills, but what pleases him (Prov 3:5-6; Matt 6:33).

In the end, this journey has not been about having the right answers, but following Jesus. I differ from some Arminians when I say that if, when I meet the Lord, I discover that Calvinists were right after all, I will fall on my face in worship, savor the sacrifice that covers sins committed in ignorance, and trust him for the grace to love him as he is. I am not seeking a man-centered religion more palatable to my ego, but have followed him down this path because I am zealous for his honor as a loving God, a just God, and a God who is so sovereign that he can make creatures who, like himself, are not scripted . . . but free and thus capable of loving and being loved by him. What I have found is a God that actually lives up to the glorious God preached by Calvinists.

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Participation Matters

I was sharing with a brother in Christ the other day that one of the things that I value most in the worship of the local church is participation.

This has been one of our core worship values since the founding of mercy church, "all can play!"

This is a list of our worship gathering core values:

1. Spontaneity over Efficiency
2. Order over Control
3. Ancient traditions - Post-contemporary Styles
4. All Can Play

It's dangerous, but if we are to truly be Spirit-led, we must value spontaneity and be willing to let our humanity get mixed in with God's presence. We want to have the need for the gift of discernment-instead of having no need because we control everything. Order allows freedom and creativity.

May God and humanity disturb us, make us uncomfortable, and shock us as we open our souls to the Spirit of Christ. In fact we will encourage questions, dialogue, and disagreements-and invite God's presence into the doubts of humanity-that REAL hope in Christ may emerge. God can handle authenticity-it is not offensive to Him. All growth involves some chaos. New life comes out of messiness. As Charismatics we seek to release our human desire to control things and submit to order of God.

We value the worship of the Ancient church. We seek to incorporate Eastern Orthodox, Celtic and Western Church traditions into our worship services. The goal of our worship is to glorify and love on the Holy trinity - being people of His presence. Stylistically we are all over the map. We also encourage the congregation to express the gifts of the Holy Spirit, through love, in worship and life (see 1 Cor. chs. 12-14).

Finally, we seek to incorporate many people into our worship gatherings. This is done through group singing, scripture readings, creeds, prayers (planned and spontaneous), silence and other new and old visual elements.


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11 Differences between a College Football Fan and a Church Member

11 Differences between a College Football Fan and a Church Member - Thom Rainer

Shel: Yeah I've been reposting too much Thom lately. Sorry I will work on that. You can subscribe to his feed at: http://thomrainer.com/

Warning: The article below is a bit of sarcastic humor. I am speaking in hyperbole to make a point. The football fan noted represents a very rabid football fan. The church member represents some, but certainly not all, church members.

Disclosure: I tend to be a rabid college football fan. I see my allegiance as an area of devotion that needs significant adjustments downwardly. So I don’t necessarily practice what I preach. For example, even as I type these words, I am reminded that the kickoff for my team’s first game of the season is exactly five weeks from today.

Caution: While I do write these comparisons with some humor and a lot of hyperbole, you might get just a bit uncomfortable reading them. That may indicate there is some truth in each of them.

  1. A college football fan loves to win. The typical church member never wins someone to Christ.
  2. A college football fan gets excited if a game goes into overtime. A church member gets mad if the pastor preaches one minute past the allocated time.
  3. A college football fan is loyal to his or her team no matter what. A church member stops attending if things are not going well.
  4. A college football fan is easily recognized by his or her sportswear, bumper stickers, and team flags. Many church members cannot even be recognized as Christians by people with whom they associate.
  5. A college football fan pays huge dollars for tickets, travel, and refreshments for games. A church member may or may not give to his or her church.
  6. A college football fan reads about his or her football team every day. A church member rarely reads the Bible once in the course of a week.
  7. A college football fan attends the game no matter how bad the weather is. A church member stays home if there is a 20 percent chance of rain.
  8. A college football fan invites others to watch the game every week. A church member rarely invites someone to church.
  9. A college football fan is known for his or her passion for the football team. A church member is rarely known for his or her passion for the gospel.
  10. A college football fan will adjust gladly to changes in kickoff time. A church member gets mad if his or her service time is changed by just a few minutes.
  11. A college football fan is loyal even if he or she never gets to meet the coach. A church member gets mad if the pastor does not visit for every possible occasion.

Yes, I admit I do enjoy college football. But I really love Christ’s churches even more. I need to demonstrate that reality more readily. Do you?

So . . . what would you add to my somewhat sarcastic list? Do you see the humor? Do you see some truth?

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“Was Bonhoeffer Gay?” and Other Adventures in Missing the Point 2K Kingdom People by Trevin Wax

“Was Bonhoeffer Gay?” and Other Adventures in Missing the Point

Kingdom People by Trevin Wax

[Shel: This article makes some great points we have talked about as well at Mercy Church.]

A new biography on Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Strange Glory, implies that the German theologian experienced same-sex attraction toward Eberhard Bethge, his friend and confidante who later wrote a biography of Bonhoeffer and oversaw the collection of his works.

The response to the biography has been interesting. In his typically understated manner, Frank Schaeffer wrote an article, “Dietrich Bonhoeffer Was Flamingly Gay — Deal With It,” in which he predicted evangelicals would be up in arms about such an explosive claim.

In contrast, Sarah Pulliam Bailey reported on how different Bonhoeffer scholars and evangelical leaders have responded. Christianity Today gave a positive review of the biography, as did The Gospel Coalition, though the reviewers saw the biographer’s focus on Bonhoeffer’s sexuality as distracting.

The facts in the case of Bonhoeffer are clear: he was engaged at the time of his execution, and he wrote about the fact he would die as a virgin. No biographer or scholar claims that Bonhoeffer engaged in a sexual relationship with anyone, male or female, whatever his attractions may have been.

I believe the conversation about Bonhoeffer’s sexuality tells us more about life in the sexualized culture of the 21st century than it does about Bonhoeffer. In fact, if we pay attention, we will see how Bonhoeffer’s life and legacy directly challenges several commonly held assumptions today.
Assumption #1: Life lived to the fullest must include sexual fulfillment.

Bonhoeffer lived faithfully – emphasis on fully – as a virgin. One should not miss the countercultural reality on display in his life.

Post Sexual Revolution, people often define themselves by their sexual identity. For this reason, many people see any restriction or moral restraint on how sexuality is expressed as oppressive, a dagger to the heart of a person’s life and dreams.

For the Christian, such an exaggerated view of sexuality is a pernicious lie. It feeds the falsehood that, without sexual fulfillment, it is impossible for someone to live a full and engaging life. In contrast, Christians believe celibacy is not a pitiable choice but a beautiful calling.

Bonhoeffer’s witness (along with evangelical heroes like John Stott, not to mention Jesus Himself) testifies against the assumption that self-actualization must include sexual relationships. His life challenges a culture that says you are your sexuality.

Sam Allberry, a pastor in the UK who experiences same-sex attraction yet believes homosexual behavior to be sinful, is familiar with the accusation often made against evangelicals, that adhering to Christianity’s sexual ethic contributes to teenage angst and suicide. His response is spot on:

“No, the problem is a culture that says your entire identity and sense of who you are is bound up with fulfilling your sexual desires. You are the ones who have raised the stakes that high. So that the moment you don’t fulfill your desires, you have nothing left to live for.”

Society’s view of a Forty-Year-Old Virgin is Steve Carrell. Christianity’s view of a forty-year-old virgin should be Dietrich Bonhoeffer.
Assumption #2: Affectionate male friendships must be romantic in nature.

History is replete with examples of robust male friendships that are full of affection and expressions of love and yet are not sexual.

Unfortunately, the sexual revolution has made it more difficult to imagine passionate philos apart from eros. That’s why revisionist historians read romantic notions into Teddy Roosevelt’s affectionate letters to his closest friends. People wonder out loud about Abraham Lincoln’s sharing a bed with his friend, Joshua Speed. It’s hard for our society to understand how King David could weep so terribly over the lost love of Jonathan unless there was some sort of romance between them. And now, Bonhoeffer’s relationship with Bethge is put under the microscope of 21st century assumptions.

In fairness to the biographer, it is certainly possible that Bonhoeffer was attracted to Bethge, even though acting on such a notion was always out of the question. But it’s also possible, even likely, that Bonhoeffer’s friendship was, like many male friendships of the time, strong and affectionate, with a passion that did not include sexual desire.

The speculation about Bonhoeffer’s sexuality distracts us from the greater loss of slowly disappearing same-sex friendships, the kind of love we see in literature between Sam and Frodo, relationships that many today can hardly conceive of, apart from some sort of sexual longing.
Assumption #3: Sexual attraction must define one’s identity.

Because our society has adopted the notion that sexual expression is wrapped up in our identity, some may think that getting to the root of Bonhoeffer’s sexuality is the only way to truly understand the man he was. But I suspect Bonhoeffer himself would dispute such a notion, and so would most people throughout history.

When we assume sexual orientation is fixed from birth and unchangeable, the question of identity naturally comes to the forefront: “Was he gay or not?” But Christianity rejects such a reductionist view of sex and identity. Everyone is warped in sexual attraction, at least to some degree. We are all sexual sinners in need of the grace and mercy of God. We are marked by our need for grace, not our longing for sex.

Bonhoeffer’s identity was not defined by sexual attraction, but by his costly discipleship following in the footsteps of his King. Going beyond letters and writings and personal correspondence to speculate on the unspoken sexual longings of a figure from the past says more about us and our own preoccupations than about the person under scrutiny.

Evangelicals aren’t going to go crazy in responding the new Bonhoeffer’ biography. Why? Because the idea that Bonhoeffer may have experienced same-sex attraction doesn’t matter all that much in assessing his legacy. He was a faithful man of God who immersed himself in Scripture, read the signs of the times, stood boldly against the Nazi war machine, and died as a hero.

The best way to honor Bonhoeffer is to not to speculate about his sexuality, but to see how his example counters the errant assumptions of a sexualized culture

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When God Calls You to a Place You’ve Never Been by Debora Coty

When God Calls You to a Place You've Never Been
7/21/2014 Debora Coty

SHEL: A nice illustration...


I was hiking a mountain trail last week when something stopped me in my tracks. It was a sight I truly didn't expect to see.

There, at more than 4,000 feet above sea level, a snail was painstakingly making its way across the gravel road.

What in the world was a sea creature doing way up here?

Fascinated, I stopped to watch the little guy's tedious journey as he encountered obstacle after obstacle. (It was, after all, a gravel road.) His little neck stretched out as far as possible, his two antlers (or maybe they're called feelers) probed the gravel rocks—the side of a boulder from his perspective—blocking his way.

After careful analysis, he decided on his best route and gradually, by the teensy-tiniest increments, detoured to the left or to the right around the roadblock. He'd stick his long neck out, then constrict it, which effectively dragged his gigantic safe house after him.

If something spooked him (like a giant named Deb poking around), he immediately retreated into his safe house. At least he thought it was. Safe. I cringed when I thought of what a passing car would do to his place of refuge. Pulverize is putting it mildly. Probably a good thing he didn't know about cars; he might never venture from the bushes.

And then I thought about myself and how so many things scare me enough that I don't want to venture from the bushes either. I'd rather curl up in my (perceived) safe place surrounded by my comfortable shell.

But Papa God didn't create us to cower. We were made to journey. To cross dangerous roads. To stick our necks out, probe with our feelers, and reroute around the boulder blocking our path. Stretching ... probing ... adjusting ... moving forward. And to sometimes do it in places way out of our comfort zone; places we feel like we don't belong, places 4,000 feet above our natural habitat.

That's pretty much how my writing journey feels most days. Like I'm way out of my habitat. My feelers get a real workout trying to figure out a route around obstacles I've never encountered before, some I never knew existed.

And my safe house doesn't drag as well as it used to. Or maybe my neck's getting tired.

With all these thoughts swirling in my head, I drew inspiration from my little snail friend. He just kept on. Stretching ... probing ... adjusting ... moving forward.

Two hours later when I backtracked to check his progress, he was still doing it. Only now he was almost across the road. And that's where I want to be too.

So what's your goal? What motivates you to keep stretching ... probing ... adjusting ... moving forward?

Debora M. Coty is the author of 10 books and is a newspaper columnist, orthopedic occupational therapist and tennis addict. Follow her on Twitter @deboracoty.

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Mosul’s Last Christians Flee Iraq’s Hoped-For Christian Stronghold

Mosul's Last Christians Flee Iraq's Hoped-For Christian Stronghold Historic community comes to 'a real end' after ISIS ultimatum tells Christians to convert, pay tax, or die. Kate Tracy [ posted 7/21/2014 05:29PM ] Mosul's Last Christians Flee Iraq's Hoped-For Christian StrongholdSTR/EPA There are no Christians left in Iraq's second-largest city Mosul, across the river from the ruins of Jonah's Nineveh, after an ultimatum over the weekend left them with three choices: convert to Islam, pay jizya (a poll tax levied on non-Muslims), or die at the hands of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS). Mosul was intended by Iraq's government to anchor a future province in the Nineveh plains where Christians could govern themselves. This past weekend, ISIS gave Christians until noon Saturday to choose between the three options. "After this date," read the ISIS declaration, "the only thing between us and them is the sword." The New York Times reports that, while a few Christians may remain in hiding after this weekend, Mosul's once diverse Christian community has likely come to a "real end." The $250 poll tax ISIS imposed, prohibitively expensive for many Christians, sent more than 200 families fleeing Mosul even as ISIS militants confiscated their belongings, including cars, money, medicine, and food. Some journeyed 42 miles to Kurdish Tel Afar on foot, reports the Assyrian International News Agency (AINA), while some of the families went to Kurdish-held Irbil, or Dohuk, which is 87 north of Mosul, reports CNN. After Mosul's Christian leaders did not attend a Thursday meeting ISIS called to notify them of Islamic rules to follow, ISIS leaders used vehicle loudspeakers to announce their ultimatum throughout the town, according to World Watch Monitor. Middle East Concern reports that ISIS earlier last week marked Christian houses in Mosul with the letter the phrase "property of the Islamic State" and an Arabic mark for "Nazirite." Louis Raphael Sako, Chaldean Catholic Patriarch of Baghdad, said in a statement that the labels disrupted centuries of religious coexistence. "This categorization based upon religion or sect afflicts the Muslims as well and contravenes the regulation of Islamic thought," he said. "With all due respect to belief and dogmas, there has been a fraternal life between Christians and Muslims. … Together they built a civilization, cities, and a heritage. It is truly unjust now to treat Christians by rejecting them and throwing them away, considering them as nothing." Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of Christian refugees have resettled in tent camps in Kurdistan, but the situation is less than comfortable. As temperatures reach 115 degrees, refugees have nowhere else to go and very few possessions, reports Al Jazeera. World Compassion, one organization offering aid to the refugees, is working alongside the U.N. to provide the Mosul refugees—and others—with food and other necessities. AINA reports that 15 Assyrian families, some not healthy enough to flee the city, converted to Islam. Mosul has grown increasingly dangerous situation for Christians since the ISIS takeover in mid-June, with militants destroying a statue of the Virgin Mary, and removing the cross from St. Ephrem's Cathedral, where the Syriac Orthodox archdiocese has its seat in Mosul. Militants even took sledgehammers to the traditional site of the prophet Jonah's grave, The New York Times reports. "They did not destroy the churches, but they killed us when they removed the cross, this is death for us," one Mosul resident told the NYT. The Daily Beast reports that ISIS leaders finance their campaigns by selling looted antiquities on the black market, so many historic artifacts from Christianity and other religions will likely disappear as ISIS militants continue their campaign. "Those who claim to speak for a vengeful Allah take great delight in smashing idols wherever and whenever they can get to them," noted Daily Beast editor Christopher Dickey. "Theirs is a war of symbols." ISIS has come under international censure from religious leaders including Pope Francis, who expressed his concern for the Christians in the Middle East, "where they have lived since the beginning of Christianity, together with their fellow citizens, offering a meaningful contribution to the good of society." In the first reported case of its kind, ISIS militants carried out the death sentence that Sudanese mother Meriam Ibrahim escaped by stoning a woman for adultery in northern Syria, reports AINA. The U.S. Embassy responded to the stoning in a tweet: "We condemn in the strongest possible terms ISIL's barbaric stoning of a woman yesterday in Tabaqa." U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon condemned the actions of ISIS in Mosul, saying, "Any systematic attack on the civilian population, or segments of the civilian population, because of their ethnic background, religious beliefs or faith may constitute a crime against humanity." In Baghdad, Muslims have shown support for their fellow Christian citizens by attending a church service with Christians, reports the NYT.

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Arminianism FAQ 5 (Everything You Always Wanted to Know…) July 14, 2014 By Roger E. Olson

Arminianism FAQ 5 (Everything You Always Wanted to Know…)
July 14, 2014 By Roger E. Olson 0 Comments

Arminianism FAQ 5 (Everything You Always Wanted to Know…)


This is the final installment of this series. I realize that I will not have answered every conceivable questions about Arminianism. “FAQ” means “frequently asked questions,” but not even every frequently asked question about Arminianism can be answered in one series such as this. Readers should realize that these are my answers, not necessarily the answers every Arminian would give. However, I have been researching, speaking and writing about Arminianism for well over twenty years now. I beg my fellow Arminians’ indulgence. If you disagree with something I say about Arminianism here, please don’t over react and go on a rant. Just state your own opinion and give your reasons for it. I am sure there will never come a day, short of the eschaton, when all Arminians cross every “t” and dot every “i” of Arminian theology exactly alike.

FAQ: Where is “prevenient grace” taught in Scripture? A: Of course there are individual passages that point to it, but the term itself is not there. It is a theological concept constructed (like “Trinity”) to express a theme found throughout Scripture and to explain what would otherwise remain seemingly contradictory. John 12:32 is perhaps the clearest Scriptural expression of prevenient grace which is the resistible grace that convicts, calls, illumines and enables sinners so that they are able to repent and believe in Christ and be saved. There Jesus says that if he be lifted up he will draw all people to himself. The Greek translated “all” is pantas and clearly refers to all inclusively, not to “some” (e.g., “the elect”). The Greek word translated “draw” is much debated. Calvinists usually argue that it should best be translated “compel.” However, if that were its meaning here, the result would seem to be universalism. However, belief in prevenient grace does not depend on proof texts. The concept is everywhere taught implicitly in Scripture. It is the only explanation for the following clearly Scriptural chain of ideas:

1) No one seeks after God (total depravity),
2) The initiative in salvation is God’s,

3) All the ability to exercise a good will toward God is from God,

4) salvation is God’s gift, not human accomplishment, and

5) people are able to resist God’s offer of salvation. All of that is summed up in the phrase “prevenient grace.” Arminians disagree among ourselves about the details such as who is affected by prevenient grace and under what specific conditions. All agree that the cross of Jesus Christ mysteriously accomplished something with regard to prevenient grace, but there is some disagreement about the necessity of evangelism (communication of the gospel) for the fullness of prevenient grace to have its impact upon sinners.

FAQ: Doesn’t classical Arminianism really say the same thing as Calvinism when it comes to the sovereignty of God? After all, if God foreknew everything that would happen and created this world anyway, wasn’t he foreordaining everything simply by virtue of creating? A: This is a very good question but one based on a misunderstanding of divine foreknowledge. Classical Arminianism does not imagine that God “previewed” all possible worlds and then chose to create this one. God chose to create a world and include in it creatures created in his own image and likeness with free will to either love and obey him or not. God’s knowledge of what happens in this world “corresponds” (is the best word) to what happens; it does not cause it or even render it certain. Admittedly we cannot fully explain God’s foreknowledge without slipping into determinism. But the mysteries of free will (power of contrary choice) and divine non-determining foreknowledge are mysteries much more easily accepted than any form of divine determinism which, given the shape of this world, would inevitably cast shadows on God’s character.

FAQ: Can an Arminian explain the few crucial ideas that distinguish Arminianism from Calvinism for non-scholars? A: Yes. There are three of them. First, God is absolutely, unconditionally good in a way that we can understand as good. >(In other words, God’s goodness does not violate our basic divinely-given intuitions about goodness.) Second, God’s consequent will is not God’s antecedent will except that God antecedently (to the fall) decides to permit human rebellion and its consequences. All specific sins and evils are permitted by God according to his consequent will and are not designed or ordained or rendered certain according to God’s antecedent will. Third, salvation of individuals is not determined by God but is provided for (atonement and prevenient grace) and accomplished by God (regeneration and justification by grace through faith).

Read more: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/rogereolson/2014/07/arminianism-faq-5-everything-you-always-wanted-to-know/#ixzz37UtF3Vkd

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