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Thanks to the generous folks that I have the joy of pastoring at Terra Nova Church, Jennifer and I are spending a week away… ALONE… on sabbatical in St. George Island, Florida. It’s our earnest desire to return refreshed and renewed… ready to continue the journey before us!

This was our first full day here and we’ve done nothing other than REST and obviously enjoy the beauty of our surroundings. This evening we walked down to the beach for a quick walk and to watch the sunset. It was absolutely gorgeous… as you can see in the picture below!


Beach Sunset

As we were walking, Jennifer began to collect seashells. This is traditionally what she has done every time we have been on the beach together, but the conversation today was different. It encouraged me and brought me a great amount of joy. So, I want to briefly share it here in hopes that you too may find joy in the Gospel… the provision of our gracious Savior!

Broken Seashells As we walked, I too joined in the adventure of collecting seashells. I would grab one, show Jennifer, and wait for her approval. She would look at each one and decide if it made the cut. If it was approved, she placed it in her pocket… If not, it was tossed back into the water. I began to grow confident in this process and bypass those that appeared to be broken… assuming this was part of the criteria… NO BROKEN SHELLS. However, apparently I was wrong.

Out in front of me was a pretty shell, but it was broken. Jennifer asked me to grab that one. I inquired why she wanted it due to its broken condition. Her response is what prompted this blog and my finding joy in the Gospel. She said, “It’s broken, but it’s still beautiful. Like me… I’m truly broken, but God still thinks I’m pretty beautiful.” Wow! I couldn’t agree more!

You see we are ALL broken people… filled with sin… and lost apart from Christ. Please hear me, I’m constantly aware of my brokenness… my sinfulness. This is why the Gospel is the GOOD NEWS. He has redeemed us and chooses to use us… even in our brokenness!

I’m personally grateful for this time that Jennifer and I get to spend away… TOGETHER. It’s already been an amazing time of personal reflection, repentance, and renewal. Believe it or not… Pastors are people too… their personal lives… their relationships… their marriages… have brokenness. It’s so easy to run 100 miles an hour IN MINISTRY and not slow down to nurture our own relationship with Jesus and one another.

So, tonight I REST spiritually… IN HIM… JESUS… and His grace… and forgiveness. I’m broken, but I’m still beautiful to Him. I hope you too will find peace in the redemption that is available in Jesus.

Finally, when it comes to my precious wife… she too is broken. And truthfully, I’ve fallen in love with her many times despite the brokenness… However, today… I’ve fallen in love with her because of her brokenness. The video below pretty much sums up desire for us as we continue this journey called marriage… parenting… ministry… and life.

Stay tuned. I’ll share much more as I spend some much-needed time in the arms of Jesus.

Meet John Burke.

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This past Friday was a pretty incredible day in ministry for me and The Knead. As many of you probably already know, we have the joy and privilege of serving in recovery and reentry ministry through a collaborative effort called the Hope Road Project. I just wanted to take a few minutes to share more about The Knead and this effort by introducing you to my friend, John Burke.

We officially launched The Knead last December and it’s with a great sense of excitement and anticipation that we give this update. John was one of our very first clients that began with us nearly 10 months ago. Under the direction of Charles Hickman, this journey started. John knew nothing of baking and cooking other than that which involved the chemistry of ‘cooking’ illegal substances. Let’s just say that since December, we’ve seen John changed by the power of the Gospel and he has discovered many transferable skills.

I’m grateful for the many people who have poured into John… too many to name… that have played a role in his second chance. HE IS OUR FIRST SUCCESS STORY! 

This past Friday, John was officially promoted to Kitchen Manager at The Knead and presented with his Baker’s Jacket. He now leads out in the daily operations of lunch and baking. He has also begun the process of mentoring our newest clients and has settled into a crucial leadership role. His responsibilities continue to grow daily. His passion for seeing others experience the same life-change motivates him. Continue to pray for him on this journey! Thanks to the MANY who have made the vision for The Knead become a reality!


Here is a video of that presentation…



Also here is the text of the letter I read from John’s mother during the presentation…

I write this through tears of thanksgiving in the awareness that God is BIG…IN A GOD SIZED WAY! I share your prayer often and use it again now, ‘God, you know the deal!’ and add ‘please hear my heart, not my words’.

I remember when you asked me to find out what it takes for you to go to Mission Missouri. “It’s the best place to go Mom.” I questioned your motives as to what best as viewed through your glasses looked like. It wasn’t quite what you expected when you got there.

You know I believe God has a plan in which we each get to make choices. You know I support your good choices.

You told me you thought church with this ‘pretty cool’ pastor that comes by The Mission would be good. YAY! So you won’t have ‘forced worship’ with a ‘bunch of DUDES’. I just shook my head, OKAY! I laugh in hind-sight. Have I mentioned God is BIG!!

Even from as far away as I am I start to see changes. Church Saturday night so you can sleep in on Sunday turned into church on Saturday night AND Sunday morning! Then I hear about this thing called ‘Fight Club’. I implode thinking ALL the wrong stuff. I finally ask you about it. You giggle and tell me it’s a ‘secret’. I experienced the ‘PEACE THAT PASSES UNDERSTANDING’ scripture talks about. Later I hear it’s your men’s group. Then you tell me about what I now know to be GO GROUP! OMG! WHAT HAS HAPPENED TO MY SON!! (Conviction in a completely different way!🙂

In the mean-time you were working in a job you were frustrated with. You no longer found a negative environment something you wanted to engage in. Pastor Chad offered you an opportunity to ‘help out’ at THE KNEAD and you took it. I noticed you rarely curse anymore! WEIRD!

Something really strange started to happen. You were edgy, fidgety like a caged wild animal. You shared that THE KNEAD needed you and you loved it. The paying job kept you angry and frustrated. How could you leave a job for money to work full time at THE KNEAD? “Mom, does that sound like me?! NO! Well, that’s what I’m doing! Who would EVER believe that?”

I have felt for many years that God was using your poor choices to mentor you for some great work in His name. I have also felt that a GOOD male role model in your life would have made such a huge difference. What does God do? He gives you an entire Bible centered fraternity of members as strong-willed and opinionated as you are! WOW! I am just overwhelmed. Add their families to the bunch and the relationships you have built with amazing people who love you right where you are!

I have heard humility as you shared through your tears the impact THE KNEAD has on yourself, the community of Sikeston and the clients it serves on both sides of the counter. Through your tears I hear your fear of disappointing Pastor Chad, Pastor Chas, Jodi, or Tim. Claim your God-given power son. You are an amazing man! God has carried you from convict to community leader! BIG? YES!

Everyone knows how you love word plays! You had a need. The Knead filled it. Now you knead every day. What you knead fills a need. What was fed to you was far more than bread. It was the Bread of Eternal Life. Your testimony serves the Bread to others.

You truly are living your purpose: ‘John Burke is a proud, successful man helping others by listening to what they have to say.’

I am so proud of you! I love you!!

-MOM

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Are you in conversation with the Holy Spirit?

 

For the past few weeks I’ve been preaching about the Holy Spirit. It has been a great journey and I’ve truly enjoyed watching our church grow in our understanding. The video below is a great and even humorous look into a conversation that we ALL need to have with the Holy Spirit based on Psalm 139.

 

 

How would this conversation go for you? Are you growing in your relationship with the Holy Spirit? Take some time to read Psalm 139. Better yet, let Psalm 139 read you!

 

Holy Spirit

For the past two weeks I’ve been leading our church through a series about the person of the Holy Spirit… I truly believe that we will not see the Biblical mission of the church carried out and the world changed apart from the POWER of the Holy Spirit.

We have accessible to us the same Holy Spirit POWER that enabled the virgin Mary to conceive the Son of God and the same Holy Spirit POWER that raised Christ Jesus from the dead.

“How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?” The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. — Luke 1:34-35

The Good News is about his Son. In his earthly life he was born into King David’s family line, and he was shown to be the Son of God when he was raised from the dead by the power of the Holy Spirit. He is Jesus Christ our Lord. — Romans 1:3-4

When we yield ourselves to the Holy Spirit within us… We give Him freedom to do what we are POWERLESS to do on our own. Here is a REAL testimony and example from our weekend worship service… this could not have happened apart from the Holy Spirit.

As I was standing at the door following our worship service a man shared with me that he did something that he could not explain other than it was the prompting of the Holy Spirit. He said, “Throughout the service I felt the Holy Spirit telling me to say something to the young lady in front of me, but I didn’t know who she was.” He battled with it through the service, but his faith in the Holy Spirit gave him assurance that he was to share a message with her.

So, after church he politely asked her if she had a minute and spoke these words to her… “You ARE a beautiful woman and you are going to be the best mother and give your children the childhood you always wished you had.” Pretty simple, right? To him it was nothing earth shattering.

However, when he asked me who she was and told me what the Holy Spirit prompted him to share… IT WAS A SIGNIFICANT WORD FOR HER. You see, this young lady was here for the first time in months and has been battling an addiction to heroine. She hasn’t felt beautiful in years. Also, this young lady had been adopted. He didn’t know these things… he just trusted the Holy Spirit.

As if that wasn’t awesome enough… I received a text message after church from this young lady’s mother. This is what it said… “God is so amazing! Someone had a word for my daughter that was right on target! I don’t really remember, but I don’t even think you knew about this. My daughter had been pregnant and she aborted the baby for health concerns for her and the baby (the addiction had much to do with this)… the baby was due this month. It blew her away… she told me that she had to get away from him before she started sobbing. We serve an awesome God!”

Let me remind you of the simple yet POWERFUL word that God had for this young lady… that she would have missed if this gentleman had not been listening to the Holy Spirit. “You ARE a beautiful woman and you are going to be the best mother and give your children the childhood you always wished you had.”

Will you listen to the Holy Spirit today?

 

 

This past weekend I shared a message concerning worship. I continue to be convinced that we don’t really get it. If we did, our churches and personal lives would erupt in worship. This post is just a collection of thoughts, scriptures, quotes, and videos that have spoken to me the past few weeks concerning worship. Enjoy!

 

  • Worship is responding to WHO God is and WHAT He has done. Not who He is generically, but who He is to you intimately! Not what He has done generically, but what He has done for you intimately!

 

  • All creation worships… Check out this video! It’s worth the time!

 

The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. — Psalm 19:1

 

You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God. — Exodus 20:3-5

 

  • There is a WAR for our worship! The enemy is crafty… If he can just simply get us to be distracted and place our value and attention on anyone or anything above God… That’s a win for him.

 

  • What is an idol? It is anything that absorbs your heart and imagination more than God, anything you seek to give you what only God can give. — Tim Keller

 

 

  • To refuse worship to the God who gives life is arrogance; to fight against Him is insanity; to scorn Him is the epitome of ingratitude. — Paul Washer

 

  • Today we have far too many desires and interests, and our lives are being consumed and wasted by them. — Oswald Chambers

 

  • In worship we are NOT the audience… we are participates. There is an audience of One!

 

  • Authentic worship changes the worshiper into the image of the One being worshiped.

 

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. — Romans 12:1

Finally, here is Sunday’s message if you missed it or need context.

What are your thoughts? Do we really understand worship? Is our daily living sacrifice proportional to His ultimate sacrifice?

Reconciled. A simple word, but it carries with it the sum total of the Gospel for those who are in Christ Jesus. It is very much an identity for those who follow Jesus. I’ve recently been preaching a series about who we are in Jesus and it’s very fresh for me. So, when I was sitting in the hot tub while on vacation last week and a young man comes along with ‘RECONCILED’ tattooed on his chest, I immediately make an assumption about his identity. I concluded, with the help of the other tattoos, that this guy at least has knowledge of Christ. I’m not bashful, so I ask him to tell me about his tattoo.

He proceeded to share his faith in Jesus and the fact that he has been reconciled to God through the sacrifice of Jesus. This began an incredible conversation… a conversation about his daughter, Eliana. She was over at the pool in a strange dry suit, not your typical swim suit. She was having a blast! Below are a few pictures of Eliana and her story…

Eliana Blocks

At six-months old Eliana was diagnosed with Pediatric Pulmonary Hypertension… a rare disorder of high blood pressure in the blood vessels that line the lungs. Pulmonary blood pressure rises when arteries and capillaries in the lungs become narrowed, blocked, or destroyed, making it hard for blood to flow through the lungs. Because the vessels of the lung and the heart are physically connected, this makes blood pressure in the heart rise and forces the heart to work harder than normal.

The doctors didn’t give them much hope when they told her parents that she’d only live to the age of five (5). She’s faced many difficult days and several close calls, but God has remained faithful. In fact, she just turned TEN (10). God is good and doctors CAN be wrong!

One thing that I’ll never forget is that Eliana was overjoyed to tell me that her name means MY GOD ANSWERS. She and her family knew who they were in Jesus! Before Eliana was ever diagnosed, they knew that God hears and answers. They are and will be OVERCOMERS! It’s not because life is easy, but it’s because they know the promises of God.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. — James 1:2-4

You see, knowing who you are in Christ is NOT just a good sermon topic… it’s REAL LIFE stuff. Life is NOT always easy, or as I often say, “It’s NOT always rainbows and butterflies!” It’s vital that we know and stand in our Biblical identity!

Eliana’s family is not naive. They truly understand that each day is a gift. They understand that more difficult days could be just around the corner. However, they are rooted in Jesus and know that the same POWER that raised Him from the dead is accessible to them too! Eliana is a MASTERPIECE, her family are AMBASSADORS, and they are OVERCOMERS!

WHEN YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE… YOU WILL KNOW WHAT TO DO!

In the meantime, would you please pray for Eliana and her family? In fact, you can voice your prayer in the comments section below and they can read them. The Alderete family is from New Mexico and were in Denver, CO last week for Eliana to visit her specialists. Eliana’s story and our meeting has been shared with their permission.

On a personal level… I’m grateful for the opportunity to meet this family. I too often struggle with who I am in Christ and what that requires of me. However, on Thursday evening of last week… I got it… because I was listening to God and dug a little deeper than surface level conversation. The result was a poolside (public) prayer meeting that was simply precious!

BECAUSE I KNEW WHO I WAS… I KNEW WHAT TO DO.

summer-bbq-party-tableIt’s that time of year… BBQ, watermelon, homemade ice cream, swimming pools, and fireworks… Tomorrow is the 4th of July… America’s Independence Day.

First, let me be clear… I’m proud to live in what I believe is STILL the greatest country on the planet. I’m grateful for the daily freedoms that men like my father have fought to preserve.

With that being said, I often think for those who profess to be followers of Jesus… We have been far too consumed with being American rather than striving to be like Jesus. We’ve treated Jesus as customizable; We’ve tried to make Him a politically correct, non-offensive version of ourselves, who thinks and acts like an American. We’ve worked hard to conform Him and fashion Him out of the fabric of the American constitution. I’m just not convinced that my identity is to be rooted in my American freedoms. My identity is rooted in the freedom of the Gospel.

So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. — John 8:36

Don’t be confused though. When we become FREE in Christ, it’s really only as we become DEPENDENT on Him. I truly believe this is why so many in the American church struggle with authentically following Jesus. We’ve been inundated with the idea that we are to be totally independent and we’ve filtered the Gospel through the lens of American politics.

I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. — John 15:5

As the true vine, Jesus is the source of life and strength and fruit. There is a relationship of complete DEPENDENCE between the branch and the vine. The vine supplies life-giving nourishment to the branches. Apart from it, the branches have neither life nor the production of fruit.

As believers, we MUST abandon the idea of framing the Gospel with our own American perspectives that we simply do not find in scripture. Jesus did NOT die for your freedom as we in America understand freedom… He died that we might surrender and actually become His bond-servant… a slave to the Gospel.

So, celebrate the 4th of July… enjoy the freedoms we have as Americans… However, may we daily celebrate DEPENDENCE DAY… as we die to ourselves and serve Jesus!

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. — Matthew 16:24

HAPPY DEPENDENCE DAY!

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You are the SALT of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.

You are the LIGHT of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. — Matthew 5:13-16

The Bible has some pretty clear mandates for the follower of Jesus… To be a disciple means to be salt and light.

Salt gives us the reality that we are to be an agent that preserves… Light ensures that we show the way among the darkness… So, is your life displaying salt and light?

When it comes to advancing the Gospel… Salt and light WORKS! If you are a follower of Jesus today it’s because someone was salt and light.

When it comes to being a “good Christian”… I’m not so sure about that… The Bible doesn’t tell us that. However, it does give great detail about what it looks like to be a disciple or follower of Jesus. And I assure you a disciple is salt and light.

THIS IS TRUTH: Salt always preserves and light always shows the way.

Be salt. Be light.

Today it became very clear what can happen when believers abandon personal agendas and rally under the solitary banner of Jesus… Today HOPE was given to our city! Restored hope in humanity and the hope that the Bride of Christ really CAN function in harmony when we don’t care who gets the credit…

John 13:34-35 says, So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.

Today, the Church in Sikeston left the buildings to put HOPE on display… BUT is it an epidemic? I’m afraid not… At least not yet.

EPIDEMIC: a rapid spread or increase in the occurrence of something.

Friends… Today the infection of HOPE began, but the spreading and increase… DEPENDS ON YOU AND YOUR ACTIONS TOMORROW… NEXT WEEK… AND NEXT MONTH.

Enjoy the pictures and spread the HOPE!

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Love

This past weekend we began a new series at Terra Nova Church called Christian. The reality is that MANY things can fall under the label of ‘Christian’ and yet not truly reflect Biblical truth. In fact, Jesus didn’t call us to become Christians, but rather disciples… learners, pupils, adherents, followers. And the Bible gives CLEAR expectations for those individuals.

We discovered that one way others will know that we are His disciples is based upon how we love others.

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”  — John 13:34-35

Also, when Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment was… He again replies with the idea that loving others is vital and a true reflection of being His disciples.

“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”  — Matthew 22:36-40

So, where do we start? What does loving others really look like?

It is interesting that God’s greatest commandment doesn’t ask you to love humanity in general. It asks you to love your neighbor specifically. God wants you to love the actual people that you know. The one who borrows your stuff and doesn’t return it. The one whose dog gets in your trash and leaves unwanted deposits in your yard. The one who takes credit for your work. The one who spreads rumors about you. The one who constantly clings to you.

You would probably say that you love people in general. But do you love the specific, real live people you encounter each day? That is much more difficult, and that is what God wants from you. Love your neighbor as yourself.

When we, the Church, love others the way Jesus loves us… something incredible happens… the Gospel is put on display and totally validated in a real way!

So, GO LOVE OTHERS AS JESUS HAS LOVED YOU!

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