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Stay up to date with the happenings of Embrace Church by visiting our blog. You'll find information such as announcements, sermon notes and thoughts from our pastor to encourage and challenge your walk with the Lord.

Money Matters

by: Embrace Church

10/18/2019

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Each week, as a local group of people who are trying to fulfill the Great Commission in the spirit of the Greatest Commandment, we meet in order to encourage each other, challenge each other, and push each other to be on mission together. Part of that process involves the study of scripture and application to our lives. This includes teaching, asking difficult questions, and giving space for everyone’s answers. We believe that circles are better than rows. But not everything that is prepared for this time of teaching and discussion makes it to Sunday evening. Here are some additional… read more

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Each week, as a local group of people who are trying to fulfill the Great Commission in the spirit of the Greatest Commandment, we meet in order to encourage each other, challenge each other, and push each other to be on mission together. Part of that process involves the study of scripture and application to our lives. This includes teaching, asking difficult questions, and giving space for everyone’s answers. We believe that circles are better than rows. But not everything that is prepared for this time of teaching and discussion makes it to Sunday evening. Here are some additional thoughts from Sunday’s time together. We hope and pray you find these additional thoughts compelling, challenging, and encouraging to your faith.


Money is no joke. If you’ve been around long, then you know that the Church and money have a long-storied history. From grand cathedrals to ornate statues, why the Church asks for money, why the Bible asks us to give, and what happens to that money has been the basis of much discussion. In our current series, Vintage Faith, we have been asking the question of why behind some of the most commonplace traditions practiced amongst Christians. Giving money was bound to be one of those discussions.

There are plenty of ways to express what we believe. What we say, how we treat people who work in customer service, and what we do with our free time are all great examples. However, there is perhaps a no better indicator of what we believe than what we do with our money and our time. How we choose to spend either of these resources tells the world about who we are, what we believe, and what we think is important. We are willing to take on debt, massive amounts in some cases, for things like education, houses, or cars. This proves that those things are important to some of us.

The Bible and Money

Generosity is an interesting concept that we may be quick to avoid. How I’m generous is my business and no one else’s business. I’ve heard that I’ve said that. And it is true. What you do with your money is up to you. That is the beauty of how God calls us. It is our choice at the end of the day. I think one reason we get so confused about generosity as it applies to the Church is that we misunderstand what the Bible says about being generous. Biblical generosity is only one piece of the picture. And we can’t talk about biblical generosity without talking about biblical fiscal responsibility.

Giving isn’t the only thing we should be doing with the resources we have. The Bible is clear to save diligently (Proverbs 6:6-11; Proverbs 13:22; Proverbs 21:5; Proverbs 21:20), pay our debts (Romans 13:7-8; Psalm 37:21; Ecclesiastes 5:5), avoid debt (Proverbs 22:7), and provide for our families (1 Timothy 5:8). Generosity is only one part of the entire plan that God has for the money that He has given you. It may be the hardest because it benefits us the least. God has never asked for only one part of your life. He has called for the entire thing, and it is beautiful.

The World vs. God

I shared this image during our missional community. It is a version of Crown Financial’s explanation of how the world directs money compared to how God directs money.


It goes like this. The world tells us to get paid (by borrowing or earning), enjoy our money (or borrow to enjoy money), start repaying, hopefully save, maybe give, and then realize there should be a plan. When we write it out, of course, it is crazy. Of course, the world is turned upside down! But God’s way isn’t just different. It starts out from a completely different place. God’s plan for money starts with acknowledging that none of it ours anyways. Each dollar starts with “God, this is yours. What would you have me do with it?” When we begin with this dedication of everything we make, we are already in a better place to wisely steward money. Then we plan what to do with that money. We give to care of others. This way, we never have to say, “It is someone else’s responsibility.” Instead, we get to say, “I did my part.” Then we save, repay, and enjoy what is left. It doesn’t sound nearly as fun. But it is wise.

Financial Freedom, God’s way

It is no coincidence that this is how God lays out financial stewardship. This plan with the money that God has entrusted us with keeps us from the love of money. It keeps us from being slaves to lenders. It allows us to care for the hungry, thirsty, lonely, sick, and naked. This path is freedom from the chains of financial bondage. Following God’s plan to dedicate, plan, give, and save allows for room in situations where things go awry. Most importantly, this allows us to be able to say “YES!” to God in all things. It allows us to go boldly for God to the thing God is calling us to do.

So, yes, we give to the Church. But not in a way that breaks you. In a way that frees you. We give to the Church so, as a collective, a unified body of believers, we can go into the world and be the Gospel of Jesus for the people who need it. We give to the Church not just out of simple obedience, but because this generosity is the thing that keeps us from the love of money.

If you are in the middle of this battle, undoing years of financial mistakes, don't lose hope! God is with you! It will take time, and it will be frustrating, and you will be tempted to give up. But, let's not become tired in doing the right thing! Follow the link to find out why.

Peace & Hope,
Pastor Mark

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Your Story Matters

by: Embrace Church

09/28/2019

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Each week, as a local group of people who are trying to fulfill the Great Commission in the spirit of the Greatest Commandment, we meet in order to encourage each other, challenge each other, and push each other to be on mission together. Part of that process involves the study of scripture and application to our lives. This includes teaching, asking difficult questions, and giving space for everyone’s answers. We believe that circles are better than rows. But not everything that is prepared for this time of teaching and discussion makes it to Sunday evening. Here are some additional thoughts… read more

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Each week, as a local group of people who are trying to fulfill the Great Commission in the spirit of the Greatest Commandment, we meet in order to encourage each other, challenge each other, and push each other to be on mission together. Part of that process involves the study of scripture and application to our lives. This includes teaching, asking difficult questions, and giving space for everyone’s answers. We believe that circles are better than rows. But not everything that is prepared for this time of teaching and discussion makes it to Sunday evening. Here are some additional thoughts from Sunday’s time together. We hope and pray you find these additional thoughts compelling, challenging, and encouraging to your faith.


One of my favorite songs is by a band called Big Daddy Weave. The song, “If I Told You My Story speaks to me on a personal level. I hear the words and often wonder what people would hear if they heard my story. In fact, I asked people on Facebook® and Instagram® “If you could describe your story so far in one or two words, what would they be?” Here are some of the answers I received:

Blessed, Hope-filled, Reviving, Refreshing, Lived Loudly, Loved fearlessly, On a Blessed Adventure, Always Growing, In Progress, Ongoing, Forward March, Love Filled, Always Learning, Grateful, Pivot, Redeemed, Hallelujah, Total Miracle, Unexpected, Philly Cheesesteaks (a real response that I'm still trying to get more details on!), Always Growing, Always Learning, Beautiful Mess, Repetitive Re-surrendering, Secure, Peaceful, Recovery, Rollercoaster, Grace, Hurting, Healing, Mercy

As we continue to look at the traditions that we have on Sunday nights, one tradition is the sharing of our testimony. Our stories, what has happened, how God has worked, where we struggle, where we thrive, all have great power. When we give praise and glory to God, our stories become His stories with a special anointing empowered to move people towards God. It is an incredible thing to be a part of. The more I ask for people’s stories, the more I hear commonalities. In order to understand how God can use your story, it may help to understand two different kinds of testimonies.

Paul’s Transformative Journey

Paul wasn’t always the guy who wrote the majority share of the New Testament. Before he wrote things like, “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you” he did things like “But Saul was ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison.” (Acts 8:3, ESV). Then, one day while traveling, Saul was introduced to Jesus. In his conversion of faith, Saul’s name was changed to Paul, he walked away from his old life and began passionately pursuing the mission of Christ. You can read Paul’s story in Acts 9.

Many of us have a story like Paul’s story. Hopefully, you weren’t murdering people for their beliefs. However, you may be a recovering addict, a reformed abuser, or some other past that you may be less than proud of. Then, on your own journey, you came face to face with Jesus. Provoked by the irresistible grace and mercy of Jesus, you surrendered your own will, your own way, for something much better. You gave up life, and you were made new.

Mary’s Steady Faithfulness

Unless you’ve done much studying, you may not know much about the mother of Jesus past the fact that she is the mother of Jesus. To the outside world, Mary wasn’t fit to be anything. A woman in a time when women were traded for property wouldn’t be thought of useful, helpful, or significant. An unwed, inexperience, young woman was about to be at the forefront of the greatest story in history. She was chosen for one reason; she had found favor with God. You can read Mary’s story in Luke 1.

Maybe you have a story like Mary. Your life of faithfulness is evidence of God’s grace, and a testament to God’s glory and faithfulness to His promises. There was no stumbling moment, no moral rags to moral riches transformation. Often to referred to as not being tested, the testament of Mary, and perhaps yours, is one of continuous devotion to the call and command of God.

What About You?

If I had to guess, I’d say that you have a story as well. Perhaps a great transformation or maybe one of unending dedication to God. It is also possible that your story is a combination of both. Both stories have incredible power. Whatever it is, you need to understand something very important about your story. Your story, your testimony, is meant to point people to God. We don’t share our stories to puff ourselves up or to brag or prove our worth. Like nearly every other person in the Bible, we are imperfect people used by a perfect God for His Kingdom. When we recognize our place in His story, miracles happen. So, what is your story? How has God moved in your life? How are you praying God will move in your life? Leave a comment and let us know!

For the Kingdom & City,
Mark Adams, Planting Pastor

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Mental Health and Faith

by: Embrace Church

09/20/2019

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Mental health is a serious issue. While some people deal with anxiety in a way described in this blog, others will need more intervention to help them deal with what they are experiencing. If you or a loved are dealing with a mental illness, we encourage you to find professional help along with being in a faith community. In the Emporia area, you can visit www.crosswinds.org to take self-assessments on anxiety, depression, PTSD, or bipolar disorder and schedule an appointment with a provider. There is no shame or weakness in getting help.

If you or a loved are considering suicide,… read more

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Mental health is a serious issue. While some people deal with anxiety in a way described in this blog, others will need more intervention to help them deal with what they are experiencing. If you or a loved are dealing with a mental illness, we encourage you to find professional help along with being in a faith community. In the Emporia area, you can visit www.crosswinds.org to take self-assessments on anxiety, depression, PTSD, or bipolar disorder and schedule an appointment with a provider. There is no shame or weakness in getting help.

If you or a loved are considering suicide, please seek immediate help. In Emporia, you can contact Beacon For Hope at https://www.hopelinks.org. Nationally, you can seek help by calling the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.


Around 450 million people currently suffer from some type of mental health disorder, making these disorders among the leading causes of ill health and disability worldwide (World Health Organization, October 2018).

I’m the daughter of an anxious mom. Although I didn’t know it at the time, my mom exhibited many of the characteristics of anxiety including excessive worry, agitation and irritability, panic attacks, and irrational fears. Anxiety is the number one mental illness in America (National Alliance on Mental Illness, July 2018).

Growing up, if my curfew was 12 midnight and I wasn’t home at 12:01 am, mom was on the road searching ditches and ravines for my wrecked car and body. Vacations? Yeah, we went on vacations. My brother and I begged for years to go to Disneyworld and we finally did, but not until I was 19 and my brother was 17. My mom later told me that it was because she was terrified that we would be abducted from the park as small children. I can remember hearing my mom gasping in her closet on more than one occasion as she breathed into a paper bag mid panic attack. Mom finally visited the doctor and got some help, which was a blessing.

As a young mother, I started to have fears immediately for my children. I remember crawling out of bed screaming in the middle of the night in the first few days of my daughter’s young life. I was convinced in my dream that I had buried her under a stack of folded laundry beside my bed. When my son was 5 we traveled to the state basketball tournament in Hutchinson, Kansas to support the Burlington Wildcats. He needed to use the bathroom so I walked him there and waited outside. Somehow we got turned around and I missed him exiting. He was lost in a sea of people! That situation ended up with me, down on the state basketball court, asking them to make an announcement for him to find me on the court. Crazy, right? I know...These irrational fears continued-I couldn’t control them; my husband could rarely “talk me down” when these fears took over. I was constantly worrying; envisioning the worst possible outcome of nearly every situation. It put a strain on my relationships with my husband, friends, and my children.

I remember the first time I allowed my son to go to an out of town birthday party for a friend. I was a complete basketcase. I even went so far as to put emergency contact information in his shoe in the event he became separated from the group. Guess What? He survived and had the time of his life! It was a couple of days later that I was tidying up and picked up his shoes to find them damp. “Why are your shoes wet, Bud? “ “'We went to the river before the birthday party and I was wading in the shallows and got them wet. Sorry mom, but I threw that soggy piece of paper you put in my shoe away!” What? Of course, you did son!

It was shortly after this that some dear friends invited us to their church. My family immediately connected with this church family and the rest is history. From Lamont to Burlington, then New Strawn, now Embrace Emporia; my journey of faith and walk with HIM continues to change my life. What I’ve noticed is this; as my complete trust and confidence in HIM grows, my fear and anxiety lessen. The support I’ve received from my faith families has been amazing. Are my worry and anxiety gone? Absolutely not! However, knowing that God is in control and has HIS hands on everything in my life gives me such comfort.

The Lord knows our questions and he knows our fears. I will always worry-I’m certain of that. It’s in my genes. When I am most anxious, I will turn to HIM.


When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. - Psalm 56:3


For the Kingdom and City

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Renewing The Sabbath

by: Embrace Church

09/17/2019

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Each week, as a local group of people who are trying to fulfill the Great Commission in the spirit of the Greatest Commandment, we meet in order to encourage each other, challenge each other, and push each other to be on mission together. Part of that process involves the study of scripture and application to our lives. This includes teaching, asking difficult questions, and giving space for everyone’s answers. We believe that circles are better than rows. But not everything that is prepared for this time of teaching and discussion makes it to Sunday evening. Here are some additional… read more

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Each week, as a local group of people who are trying to fulfill the Great Commission in the spirit of the Greatest Commandment, we meet in order to encourage each other, challenge each other, and push each other to be on mission together. Part of that process involves the study of scripture and application to our lives. This includes teaching, asking difficult questions, and giving space for everyone’s answers. We believe that circles are better than rows. But not everything that is prepared for this time of teaching and discussion makes it to Sunday evening. Here are some additional thoughts from Sunday’s time together. We hope and pray you find these additional thoughts compelling, challenging, and encouraging to your faith.


This past summer, my family and I had the opportunity to go to New York City with our daughter’s dance school. It was such a blessing to be able to go. We worked hard to save and we were blessed by others who wanted to help Olivia make it to this unique opportunity. So, at the end of July, we headed off to the Big Apple. We stayed in Times Square and walked almost everywhere we went. Most days, we walked over 10 miles. It was a great time together as a family. We intended to go on vacation. It was meant to be a time to rest, reflect, make some memories, and take time off. Most of that happened. We made some great memories. We took some time off. We spent time reflecting. Rest did not happen! Don’t get me wrong; I’m glad we went. If I had the chance to do it over, I would still go. I’m thankful for the time we had as a family away from the distractions and worries back home. But restful it was not!

Have you ever gone on vacation only to come home and find that you need a vacation from the vacation that you just took? Or maybe going on vacation only adds stress to your life because you know that you have to work twice as hard to catch up on the work that you missed while you were supposed to be on vacation? So instead of resting on your vacation, you spend your time stressing about all the work you will have to get done. It almost feels like your vacation is more of a punishment!

Rest is something, as a society, we seem to struggle with. I believe that may be changing some. The idea of self-care is coming into the forefront of acceptable ways to spend your time more and more. This is great news! Taking time to care for ourselves is an important part of positive mental health, and thus positive physical health as well. But I wonder if we are going far enough. I wonder if we have only taken one step in the right direction, and just maybe getting back to where we were supposed to be the whole time is where we should be heading.

At the beginning of everything, God created it all. We firmly believe that. In the creation account, it ends with this beautiful verse:

“On the seventh day God had finished his work of creation, so he rested from all his work. And God blessed the seventh day and declared it holy, because it was the day when he rested from all his work of creation.” Gen 2:2-3

This begins our understanding of Sabbath. The idea that it is not good to work all of the time. Now, we also believe that God is omnipotent, or all-powerful. If that’s true, did God need rest? Of course not. So why did God rest? Why did God create a Sabbath rest? I believe we find that in this short verse from Jesus.

“Then Jesus said to them, “The Sabbath was made to meet the needs of people, and not people to meet the requirements of the Sabbath.” Mark 2:27

We see that God rested to give us an example to follow. Rest, real rest, self-care, whatever you want to call it, is so vital to our well-being that God, in His infinite wisdom, knew we needed to rest. Daylong rest. Not just the 6 hours of sleep we get on average. God knew we would need time to stop working and get rest. He gave us Sabbath as a gift and command. Taking Sabbath requires us to manage our time in a way that honors God over everything else. The reward for doing so isn’t just the knowledge of doing what’s right. It is better slumber, better relationships, better health, better work, and a better life. When we prioritize _________ (work, people, sports, family, even going to a church service) over God's command to rest we are choosing to make that thing our god. Self-care and soul-care may be trendy, but they are not new. God knew what we needed long before we did.

When people feel distant from God, I often encourage them to begin one spiritual discipline, one behavior they can begin now to draw them into a relationship with God. Maybe the thing for you to begin is taking a Sabbath. Maybe the thing you need to surrender to God is your calendar. If that’s you, first will you do us the honor of letting us know by filling out this form so we can be praying for you? Your information will be kept totally confidential. Second, check out some of these resources from our denomination!

Know that whoever you are, wherever you are, you have been prayed for, you are loved, and we are fighting for you.

For the Kingdom and City,

Mark Adams
Planting Pastor

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Lost and Found

by: Embrace Church

08/20/2019

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Each week, as a local group of people who are trying to fulfill the Great Commission in the spirit of the Greatest Commandment, we meet in order to encourage each other, challenge each other, and push each other to be on mission together. Part of that process involves the study of scripture and application to our lives. This includes teaching, asking difficult questions, and giving space for everyone’s answers. We believe that circles are better than rows. But not everything that is prepared for this time of teaching and discussion makes it to Sunday evening. Here are some additional thoughts… read more
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Each week, as a local group of people who are trying to fulfill the Great Commission in the spirit of the Greatest Commandment, we meet in order to encourage each other, challenge each other, and push each other to be on mission together. Part of that process involves the study of scripture and application to our lives. This includes teaching, asking difficult questions, and giving space for everyone’s answers. We believe that circles are better than rows. But not everything that is prepared for this time of teaching and discussion makes it to Sunday evening. Here are some additional thoughts from Sunday’s time together. We hope and pray you find these additional thoughts compelling, challenging, and encouraging to your faith.

When I was a kid, I used to get strep throat a lot. In fact, every year from the time I was about 8 until I was 19. I’m 34 now and haven’t had strep throat since that time. The last time I had strep throat was right after I joined the Army. I was 19, madly in love with my then-girlfriend now-wife Sarah. Before I had to report to my first assignment, she got me tickets to a concert. I was in terrible pain with untreated strep throat. I didn’t want to let her down, so I played it tough. I grabbed a bottle of that over-the-counter throat numbing spray that tastes like cherries dipped in hot sauce and went to try and have a good time. I was miserable. I went through that entire bottle. The next day, I woke up and drove 5 hours from St. Louis to Fort Riley. I went to the doctor the next day. My doctor was not impressed with my heroic decision to go to a concert and then drive. I got a couple of shots, and after looking at my medical history, said something to me that I will not likely forget. “This has gone on long enough. We need to stop treating your symptoms and start treating the cause of your illness.”

We spent our time together yesterday looking at the parable of the lost sheep. You can find it in Matthew 8:12-14. It’s a short parable that Jesus uses to explain just how far God is willing to go for someone. He uses two examples in this parable. The first is children. Children, being a necessary nuisance to society, were generally treated as third rate citizens. When the disciples tried to shoo away children, Jesus equated God to a shepherd leaving the 99 sheep to find the one.

But this wandering off is only a symptom. As my doctor told me, we don’t treat symptoms, we treat causes of symptoms. What causes a person to wander off, and how can we bring them back?

Shame

Shame tends to be the great divider. When I feel shameful, the last thing I want to do is come around people and confess what I’ve done. The problem with that is shame is multiplied by isolation. When we alienate ourselves from our people, we create an echo-chamber that only repeats what we are already thinking. Whether that echo is “I’m not enough” or “God isn’t enough”, we create a terrible cycle the removes us from the community of believers.

Fear

If shame won’t do it, fear will. Shame and fear work hand in hand. Fear will cause us to run away and never return. Fear convinces us that confession and community come at too high of a personal cost to maintain. So, we remove ourselves from the community to save face. We allow fear to influence our decision because of...

Pride

Pride manifests itself in many ways. It is the master of disguise out of these three options. It may come across as arrogance. It could also manifest as independence. God doesn’t know what He is doing. God doesn’t care. I should have done it my way. Pride convinces us we don’t need the things that God has for us. If God doesn’t have what we need, why would we stay?

While this list isn’t all encompassing, I do believe that these three responses cover a multitude of root responses to life. Whether its our fault or out of our control, our situations and how we react because of them often come down to these three situations. The good news is that they are all overcome with one remedy. It is a proactive remedy that has already been provided to us for both leading and participating.

Discipleship, by its very nature, is the remedy for the wandering faith. When done the way Jesus modeled, walking through life with someone, teaching them, encouraging them, challenging them, loving them, praying with them, we have the blessed opportunity to witness the building of an unshakeable faith. It requires patience, determination, and perseverance. When these responses show up to our own sin, tempting us to walk away from God, discipleship guides the believer, weakened by life and circumstances, back to the fold.

Is there someone in your life that is teaching you, molding you, going through life with you, praying over you? I pray there is, and I would encourage you to do the same. You are not an island. You are not alone. I know this is hard work. But we have the glorious gift of not being forced to believe that we must live life alone.

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The Weeds of Life

by: Embrace Church

08/13/2019

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Each week, as a local group of people who are trying to fulfill the Great Commission in the spirit of the Greatest Commandment, we meet in order to encourage each other, challenge each other, and push each other to be on mission together. Part of that process involves the study of scripture and application to our lives. This involves teaching, asking difficult questions, and giving space for everyone’s answers. We believe that circles are better than rows. But not everything that is prepared for this time of teaching and discussion makes it to Sunday evening. Here are some additional… read more
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Each week, as a local group of people who are trying to fulfill the Great Commission in the spirit of the Greatest Commandment, we meet in order to encourage each other, challenge each other, and push each other to be on mission together. Part of that process involves the study of scripture and application to our lives. This involves teaching, asking difficult questions, and giving space for everyone’s answers. We believe that circles are better than rows. But not everything that is prepared for this time of teaching and discussion makes it to Sunday evening. Here are some additional thoughts from Sunday’s time together.

In Luke 8:4-15, Jesus gives us a great parable to apply to our lives. There are lots of moving parts here. I would encourage you to check out the passage before you keep reading. Last night, we spent most of our time looking at the 4 different soils that Jesus describes in this parable. We came to the recognition that we are never only one soil type. Depending on what is happening in life around us, we will experience each soil type (the footpath, the shallow ground, the weed-choked soil, and the fertile healthy soil) many times. One of the questions that we worked through last night that I want to make sure you hear as well, “What changes the soil in my life?” What are the things that cause us to go from that healthy soil to the shallow, hard, or weed-covered soil in our own lives? Answer that, and I believe you will have found a step towards a better relationship with God.


However, I want to take the next few minutes with you to discuss those thorny weeds. See, those weeds are important to be able to recognize. Jesus gives us a great description of those weeds. “…they are choked by life’s worries, riches, and pleasures, and they do not mature.” That is a pretty interesting combination of examples that Jesus uses. Life’s worries, riches, and pleasures are the things that keep some people from having the maturing of God’s word in their own lives. But how do those weeds get there? How do we get rid of them?

Those questions are a teaching series on their own. But I promised you I would only take a couple of minutes. For the sake of brevity, let’s get to the point. These weeds come from one of three places. Before we can remove them, we have to know where they are coming from and how we got there. Otherwise, we only treat the symptom, not the problem.

1) Life’s circumstances

This is probably the easiest answer. When Jesus talks about life’s worries, sometimes these worries come from a place that is based on previous experience. Life has a way to keep punching long after we are down for the count. When we refuse to get help from people outside of our circumstances, life’s worries can become crippling. At that point, the promises and words of God seem like an unreachable pipedream, not something where we could find hope.

Therefore, we are encouraged to share our burdens with others. When we do this, our burdens become lighter, easier to manage. Better yet, when we start out by going to Jesus, we find incredible peace.

2) Someone else planted them

“Some people just want to see the world burn” – Alfred Pennyworth

It can be hard to notice this at times. The worst enemies can appear to be the closest friends. Some people come into our life as wolves in sheep’s clothing. They show up and whisper our fears into our ears, convince us that nothing needs to change, and that we can have everything we want. But a close examination of scripture serves to remind us that this temporary life is a tool for growing God’s kingdom, not ours.

Loving people doesn’t always mean that we allow them close access to us. When people want to see the world burn, we must recognize that sometimes that means seeing us burn as well. When this happens, love those people, but do so understanding that you don’t have to be caught up in their hurt. You can point them to help. You should point them to help. However, proceed with caution. Nobody needs someone who means to cause strife .

3) It’s your garden

This one hurts the most. We are our own worst enemy. I don’t know who said that. Boy were they right! Sometimes we sabotage our own path forward. There are times (continuing the plant analogy here) that we plant a beautiful garden except for that one obnoxious weed that looked like it belonged. On closer inspection, the only thing that plant has done is killed off everything else we were hoping to obtain.

We tend to like the things we plant in our lives. Then we hold on to it much longer than we ever intended. Because we like the thing we so carefully and purposely started, we are eager to allow it to run its course even at the cost of the healthy and useful things that are already there. My neighbor is a farmer and told me once, “A weed is just a plant you don’t want there.” When we give up our lives to Christ, He chooses what is suppose to be there, not us.

There is only one way to deal with weeds in an otherwise healthy garden. Put on some gloves, get down and rip it out of the ground. Weeds only choke out the healthy plant. Sometimes they just pop up, sometimes someone else does the dirty work, sometimes it is our own mistake. You, my friend, are not alone. If you aren’t in this place, pray to the Lord of the harvest for a chance to work the harvest. If you are, take time to weed out your own life. Ask for help. Not if you think you need it. You do. So ask for the help you need. Then get back to waiting patiently for the harvest. God isn’t insecure, and you shouldn’t be insecure in Him either. We are praying for you, we are fighting for you, and we love you.

Peace & Hope,

Mark, Planting Pastor

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Scorched Lives

by: Embrace Church

08/02/2019

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Here’s the number: one million, eight hundred and ninety-three thousand, nine hundred and thirteen acres of forest burned this past year in “The Golden State”. As we were getting ready to move from California this time last year, the fires began. The state at that point would still be going through the very last of an eight-year drought. No one would ever have thought that there would be loss and devastation of such an epic proportion. Eighty-eight lives were also lost in the fall out of the fires along with over 10,000 structures.

Fire burns, kills and destroys. Completely. The word… read more

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Here’s the number: one million, eight hundred and ninety-three thousand, nine hundred and thirteen acres of forest burned this past year in “The Golden State”. As we were getting ready to move from California this time last year, the fires began. The state at that point would still be going through the very last of an eight-year drought. No one would ever have thought that there would be loss and devastation of such an epic proportion. Eighty-eight lives were also lost in the fall out of the fires along with over 10,000 structures.

Fire burns, kills and destroys. Completely. The word scorched comes to mind. The vision of blackened earth streaks across my mind. leaving only branches and twigs in its wake. smoke rises from the singed ground and you can smell the wreak of death and destruction. All life seems to have been wiped away from the face of the planet in the aftermath and the destruction.

Fast forward nine months and seventeen hundred and twenty-one miles away to Madison, Kansas where my family and I landed. Here, it is rural and farming, and cattle, and crops, and in the Spring; burning season. This time of year, farmers and landowners in general burn pasture to get rid of the weeds and undergrowth that wasn’t caught at the end of last growing season.

In California, it was called ‘fire season’ versus here in Kansas it being called, ‘burn season’. There is a drastic difference: in California, fire season suggests catastrophe, or it wasn’t meant to be; whereas in Kansas, burn season suggests control, or with purpose.

This is exactly what happens. It is with purpose that a landowner will set fire to his or her pasture in order to burn away that which is useless and dead. The result other than turning a once brown, dry prairie black, is that the ‘prescribed burn’ helps to release nutrients back to the ground for new growth to come back healthy and green.

The thought of this had intrigued me the other night and I thought to myself, “It’s amazing that my family and I move from a place where fires were devastating and almost like a plague to a place where they are started on purpose for the purpose of growth and renewal”

This thought has brought me to this moment. I knew as soon as I wrote this thought out that this was something that I needed to dive deeper into for myself. There was something deeper here for me that I didn’t want to completely unpack and deal with it in the moment, but something that I would process and chew on all week long.

You must understand, that in the 11 years that we have been “The Thompson’s” we have lived in 6 different states, and each of our four children has been born in a different state than the other. So, where my family and I have come from was a place that we loved immensely. We began to put down roots for the first time in our lives and truly loved the place where we lived, and the people we lived with. And suddenly, it was ripped away. A place where we had found stability and healing from some of the most caring and loving people we had ever met, turned to a place of hurt, bitterness, and an overall ugly mess. The devastation was real. And this wasn’t the first time we had felt this type of crushing blow. The wounds reopened. Our hearts were crushed as we were told we could no longer stay, and we had no choice but to look to God for what was next.

I realize only now what had been going on. The hurt, those reopened wounds, was the first spark of the chaotic wildfire that would be our lives over the next year. In that year, I would get turned down for jobs, be told we could no longer live in our home, have to leave very good friends, and give up hopes and dreams of our family finally being rooted. If you would have asked me at the moment I would have called the situation my family was in, “a wildfire” raging out of control. However, now that I am in the place where I am, I see that it was merely the start of “burn season”.

I say this with confidence now only because I am on the other side of it and can see where the burn was very much so in control. Despite having to lose our job, I quickly found a position that would for the most part sustain us and be healthy. Enough to keep us where we needed to be for our kids to finish the school year well. When we were told we could no longer live in our home, it was with the stipulation that we pay well over what we could truly afford in rent, and that was graciously and generously provided to us by people we dearly love. And those friends that we would dread leaving behind were the ones who stuck closest to us until the day that we pulled out of the driveway and off to our new adventure here in Kansas.

All of this still left my wife and I black with char. The ground of our live’s has been smoldering now for some time. And for a while, we have been questioning in our minds whether or not we have just come out of wildfire that has scorched our lives. It hurts. Our “ground” is blackened and smoking. But given enough time, after these ‘prescribed burns’ we are seeing all around us, those fields will turn from black to green seemingly overnight. As the old growth is burned away, it leaves room for new growth to sprout to life, and take root.

Is there hurt that you have gone through in your life? Are you going through that season where you feel the char and the black?
Do me a favor: talk to God about it! He is not so fragile that He can’t handle your emotions. He made you with those emotions and wants you to go to Him with them.
Not sure you about this still? Go to someone who says they know Jesus. Tell them, and let them help guide you through. Especially those who have gone through similar things.
The new growth will come. And it’s beautiful.

For The Kingdom,

Pastor Steve Thompson

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The Abusive Gospel

by: Embrace Church

02/11/2019

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“With great power comes great responsibility” or so the saying goes. It’s a true sentiment, at least in my experience. I love superheroes. And as superheroes go, Spider-Man (that is where the quote comes from) is near the top of the list. He falls into his power by accident, happen stance of being in the right place at the right time. Depending on your perspective of gaining super powers, it may be that he was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Regardless of which side you fall on, Peter Parker is bitten by a radioactive spider and given… read more

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“With great power comes great responsibility” or so the saying goes. It’s a true sentiment, at least in my experience. I love superheroes. And as superheroes go, Spider-Man (that is where the quote comes from) is near the top of the list. He falls into his power by accident, happen stance of being in the right place at the right time. Depending on your perspective of gaining super powers, it may be that he was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Regardless of which side you fall on, Peter Parker is bitten by a radioactive spider and given extraordinary powers. With those powers, he has an obligation to protect those around him from those who want to cause harm. It was his uncle, with his last words, that told Peter “with great power comes great responsibility.”

The same is true for Christians. We have been given great power, the power to heal, love, confront, correct, and care for those around us. With that great power, comes a great responsibility. We have the responsibility to address the world around us, give sacrificially, love unconditionally, be agents of forgiveness, examples of repentance, and ambassadors of the Christ. Sometimes, that goes awry. At times in history, there have been people who, while crying out the name of God, have committed horrible atrocities to the physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being of others. Then, there are times that well-meaning followers of Christ use the Gospel to do the exact opposite of its intent. We call this spiritual abuse. The best definition of spiritual abuse I could find is “a person’s use of spiritual or religious ideology to control individuals, enforce obedience, and results in damage to a person’s physical, emotional, or psychological well-being.” That is extensive, but also fair. Spiritual abuse has a long history, even if it has only been clinically identified in the past 25 years.

During the ministry of Jesus, He regularly confronted spiritual abuse from the leaders of that time. They carried the title Pharisee, Sadducee, Priest, or Scribe. Perhaps one of the most blatant examples of spiritual abuse that Jesus confronted is known as “The Woman Caught in Adultery.” In this account, some scribes and priests bring a woman who is accused of committing adultery to Jesus at the temple. They were trying to trap Jesus, and using a woman in the process. There was a serious problem though. If they were going to accuse this woman of adultery under the law, they would’ve needed to bring the man to be accused as well. Jesus, in bending down and writing in the dust, was following the procedural law despite those men not following the law. The second problem was a lack of eye witnesses. The law required 2 eye witnesses to the crime. So, Jesus looks at them and says “He who is without sin, cast the first stone.” The men walk away. Jesus goes to the woman, comforts her, and shows her grace in the way only Jesus does.

What do we do when the gospel is used for abuse?

First, let me make it perfectly clear that God does not tolerate abuse. It is not acceptable. Make no mistake about it. If you are being subjected to abuse of any kind, please seek help from professionals. In the Emporia area, you can contact SOS Kansas. In other areas, please contact your local sheriff’s department. Help is available, and you can survive this.

When the Gospel is used to starve the hungry instead of feeding them, sending out the foreigner instead of welcoming them, denying water to the thirsty, withholding care for the sick, ignoring the prisoner, or failing to clothe the naked, the gospel is being used to abuse. When the Gospel message is all about law with no grace, the gospel has become a tool of oppression. When racism, sexism, or narcissism are masked as biblical commandment, you are witnessing spiritual abuse. When the wants of one person are put before the needs of all people, the Gospel is being perverted. When people make orphans instead of protecting them, the Bible is being ignored. Following Christ is a choice that comes with great responsibility. James (half-brother of Jesus) writes it like this:

"Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you."

The Gospel of Jesus is one of personal responsibility and action. Our faith is not one that requires you to show up on Sunday morning for an hour or two and then pretend like you’ve fulfilled your obligation. The Gospel of Jesus, the message of hope to the world, says there is room at the table for every man, woman, and child. You are not free from the consequences of your choices, but you are not a slave to them either.

If you are in a spiritually abusive relationship, whether that is with your spouse, your spiritual leader, or your congregation, you can confront this sinful behavior. If you don’t feel safe doing that, please get help to get out of that situation. If you are reading this, and realize that you have been spiritually abusive, the Gospel still applies to you. Go to the person or people who you have abused, admit to what you have done, ask for forgiveness, and go and sin no more. Lastly, the best way to spot spiritual abuse is to be a student of scripture. Get to know God. Learn who God is and isn’t. Not only will be better prepared to identify spiritual abuse, you will be better as a person. You will begin an intimate relationship with God who loves you and longs to be known by you.

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Being Better at Being Better

by: Embrace Church

01/25/2019

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It’s been a busy week in the media. There is the kid who (may or may not be) racist. The federal government almost ended the shutdown. The Coast Guard almost got paid. New York passed a new abortion law. Gillette wanted to fill us in on toxic masculinity. There is no shortage of opinions on these matters as well. All you need to do is check the comments gallery to see outrage, excitement, relief, pain, anger, and happiness. Blame is not in short supply either. It’s the democrat’s fault. It’s the republican’s fault. Men are… read more

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It’s been a busy week in the media. There is the kid who (may or may not be) racist. The federal government almost ended the shutdown. The Coast Guard almost got paid. New York passed a new abortion law. Gillette wanted to fill us in on toxic masculinity. There is no shortage of opinions on these matters as well. All you need to do is check the comments gallery to see outrage, excitement, relief, pain, anger, and happiness. Blame is not in short supply either. It’s the democrat’s fault. It’s the republican’s fault. Men are to blame. The President is the one in charge, blame him! Police have too much power. Main-stream media is running rampant! If it wasn’t for all those “illegals…”

Anger and outrage is nothing new on social media, and it isn’t anything new in humanity as a whole. If we are good at anything, we are good at killing each other out of rage. It takes no time to research the whole of existence to find death and destruction caused by emotional barbarity. In fact, many of you reading this I would imagine have fallen victim to this sort of violence in one way or another. Whether you directly, a friend or family member, we need not search long to find the decay of society.

I regularly wonder what can be done. Not only do we have anger in this world, but we’ve given it a bull horn and platform. In the same way you can push air into a fire with bellows, media access has fanned the rage into a roaring fire leaving scorched earth in our wake. But I can’t help to think that these are not the problems. Not the real problems at least. I can’t shake this feeling that these are symptoms of a deeper issue for which we need to find healing.

When Jesus started his ministry, things were going to change quickly. Nearly every cultural norm that the Israelites had come to accept were about to be flipped on their head. One of my favorite teachings from Jesus comes as a parable called “The Good Samaritan.” This parable takes on so many issues in given how short it is. Racism, elitism, violence, and how to treat strangers are all addressed in this short parable. But perhaps best known from this is Jesus’s teaching on the law. Jesus is asked who our neighbor is. Jesus replies with this amazing parable. But this is only half of the solution to our problem.

The other half comes from understanding a part of the teaching from The Sermon on The Mount. This is a collection of sermons from Jesus that pieces together exactly what is meant by Jesus changing cultural norms of the time. Of importance for this discussion is Matthew 5:22:

"But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court."

Jesus is explaining (read the full context here) that murder is bad, yes, but so is devaluing people. To devalue a person, to remove their personhood and lower them to simply a title, is the equivalent of murder. With that in mind, should it surprise us that we are a people filled with antagonism? If I’ve already murdered you in my heart, why would I treat you with any sense of respect or decency?

If we are going to change the world we live in, we won’t be able to achieve it through legislation nor will we change it by screaming obscenities at each other. If we are going to create change, end racism, stop sexual harassment, calm nerves, heal anxiety, end abortion, solve immigration problems, or find a resolution to hundreds of other problems we must first resolve ourselves to valuing people in real and significant ways. Let’s stop with the labels. Identify miserable behavior of course. Don’t celebrate it. But people are not actions. People are not illegal, people are not a political party, people are not pro-choice or pro-life. These are beliefs, ideas, and actions. Let’s focus more on the “who” and less on the “what.”

If you want to stop abortion*, stop pouring money and energy into anti-abortion action and start supporting the mothers who are contemplating abortion by easing the road to adoption and providing on-going support for the emotional health of the mother. Work to create a better foster care system and lowering the cost of adoption. If you want to stop racism, don’t give in to societal norms of racism. Instead, gravitate towards acts of cross-cultural experiences and encourage the same of others. Sit and learn from those who are on the receiving end of race-based discrimination. If you want to see an end to political partisanship, stop treating people like they are the party they vote for. If you want to solve illegal immigration, understand the complexities of the problem and the people who are immigrating. Let’s stop treating people like labels and start treating them like people. Listen more, speak less. And most importantly, love your neighbor as yourself.

*Side note: I’m referencing choice-based abortion here. I’m not applying this to the tragic and difficult decision of abortion to save the life of the mother.

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Who's in the Nativity?

by: Embrace Church

11/27/2018

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If you came to my house sometime between November and the beginning of January, you might find that Christmas threw up in our house…everywhere! We may or may not been known as the family who puts up multiple Christmas trees inside and outside of our house. Each tree has a theme of decorations that we’ve gathered and bargain shopped over the years. In fact, we have a Christmas village that we put up every year, and our Christmas village has a Christmas tree! And while it may seem like a lot to you, we love decorating for Christmas!

Out of all… read more

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If you came to my house sometime between November and the beginning of January, you might find that Christmas threw up in our house…everywhere! We may or may not been known as the family who puts up multiple Christmas trees inside and outside of our house. Each tree has a theme of decorations that we’ve gathered and bargain shopped over the years. In fact, we have a Christmas village that we put up every year, and our Christmas village has a Christmas tree! And while it may seem like a lot to you, we love decorating for Christmas!

Out of all our decorations, our nativity set is my favorite. It is, after all, the reason we choose to celebrate Christmas. Now, I know that Jesus most likely wasn’t born on December 25th, or even in December. That’s ok. We use this time to celebrate his birth. Now, in the traditional nativity set, you will typically see baby Jesus, Mary, Joseph, some animals, some shepherds, at least one angel, and the three wise men. But, a quick look through Scripture reveals that the wise men weren’t there, probably weren’t kings, and probably weren’t dressed like royalty. In fact, the most likely showed up around 18 months after Jesus was born, went to a house, not a manager, and were probably astrologers. Crazy right? I know.

While the general impact here on the Scripture narrative is neutral, not understanding the entirety of a passage can have tremendous harm on a person’s understanding of Christianity. In fact, it may be one of the reasons why there are so many different understandings and a general sense of giving up to understanding Scripture. It is important to remember before we continue, that we worship the God of the Scriptures, not the Scriptures themselves. Scripture does expose us to the character and nature of God. For that reason, I’d like to give you 4 ways to help you understand the Bible better on your own:

Read In Context

When the letters and accounts we find in the Bible today were originally written, chapter and verse indicators weren’t included. While it is a helpful tool to help people memorize Scripture and quickly locate specific information, the reading of only one verse is an unwise choice. Here’s why. When listening to an account or teaching, do you really rely on one sentence to understand the entire topic? Of course not. We should listen to the entire concept to truly apply what we are hearing. Reading Scripture is no different. We need to not only look at one verse but at the passage. You can do this by reading 4 verses before and 4 verses after the verse you are looking at. This is a great start to getting a better context of what you are reading.

Ask Questions

If you go to Google and type in “Jeremiah 29:11” one of the top autofill options is tattoos. Before you book your appointment in the chair, ask yourself some questions. Who wrote this? Who is the intended recipient? When was this written? What was going on when this was written? Is there cultural context I’m missing? How do I know the answers to these questions are correct?

That may seem daunting to some, and I appreciate that. However, the ability to ask questions is a fantastic gift given to each person. Don’t shy away from those questions. Seek out answers to your questions. Its okay. God is not insecure. If you are looking for real, actual truth, God will reveal it to you. And by the way, check out the context of Jeremiah 29:1-11.

Learn From Others

If you are trying to understand a passage, chances are you aren’t the first person to try and understand. Find someone you trust and ask them to help you understand. Sometimes there is something new to glean from an old passage, but sometimes tradition is the best teacher. Don’t just rely on one source, and don’t be deterred by an answer of “I’m not sure” to your question. Go on a quest to find what has already been taught on that passage. After all, if all Scripture is useful, then the journey is worth it.

Apply It

Imagine going to a restaurant, someplace nice that serves the best food. You walk in, order a perfect steak and they teach you how to cut, prepare, and cook the steak to magnificent deliciousness. You sit down, inhale the smell of this enjoyable steak, lean back in your chair, and just sit there. You don’t eat the steak. You just stare at it. Then, you get up and leave the table still hungry. Worse yet, you never take the knowledge you gain and make a steak at home. Maybe you even blame the restaurant for you not ever having steak.

The obvious moral here is that you should not read Scripture and then do nothing with it. You gain nothing from that. God has provided you the opportunity to find guidance through lives problems, how to handle money, what to do when people are difficult, why your in-laws are so difficult to get along with, how to raise your kids, what you are supposed to do with your life, and many other issues that keep us up at night. That doesn’t mean application will be easy, but it will be worth it.

A proper understanding of Scripture is the good step to a life transformed by God. When we understand, as followers of Jesus, the treasure trove of instruction and guidance we have from God through Scripture, we begin to see what the teachings of Jesus can look like in today’s context. We find joy as hopelessness tries to begin, love where hate tries to exist, and peace where chaos tries to thrive. If you aren’t sure where to start, open your Bible (free for android and apple users) to the book of John, and begin reading. Look for context, ask questions, and apply what you read. Let us know how it goes.

Peace & Hope,

Pastor Mark Adams

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The Greener Grass

by: Mark Adams

11/12/2018

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As we were driving home from church, we drove past a brown pasture full of cows. As I looked out the window, I saw a cow with its head poked through the barbed wire fence, eating the grass on the other side. Mark and I both laughed, and said, “Wow! The grass is really greener on the other side.” This cow was reaching under the barbwire fence, using its neck to lift the wire, and reaching out as far as it could, past its boundary, to get to this green grass. Now, the grass was just fine inside the fence… read more

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As we were driving home from church, we drove past a brown pasture full of cows. As I looked out the window, I saw a cow with its head poked through the barbed wire fence, eating the grass on the other side. Mark and I both laughed, and said, “Wow! The grass is really greener on the other side.” This cow was reaching under the barbwire fence, using its neck to lift the wire, and reaching out as far as it could, past its boundary, to get to this green grass. Now, the grass was just fine inside the fence line. Plenty of other cows were eating this grass without a problem. There was no reason for this silly cow to go through all this trouble and pain. This sparked a thought in my mind. What happens when the grass really is greener on the other side? What happens when you are right where God wants you to be, but something else that seems better comes along? The job with better pay, benefits, or hours. The nicer car with fewer miles and more features. What happens when an opportunity arises that seems too good to be true? What do we do when a person waltzes into our lives who provide us more attention or gives us the validation that we’ve lost in our marriage? What happens when the grass really is greener? I think of Paul in this situation. He had a pretty good life, all things considered. A teacher of the law, a respected member of society, honored by his peers. Everything was going right for Paul (Saul at the time)...and then he met Jesus. Paul would spend the rest of his days preaching the gospel, being imprisoned, beaten, tortured, mocked, stoned, and eventually martyred for his faith and ministry. At some point in time, I’d imagine that Paul saw a greener pasture or two during his life. But look at what he writes in 2 Corinthians 12:7-8.

So to keep me from becoming proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud. Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away.

The grass was not only greener for Paul, but it was what he was asking for. He wanted God to remove this thorn, whatever it was. He begged God to remove this thing that God had put there to keep Paul away from pride. Look at the response that Paul received in verse 9.

Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.”

God said no! God said I’ve given you what you need and the same has been given to us all. God’s grace. It didn’t matter that the grass was greener. God had provided Paul all that was needed for a bigger purpose than Paul understood at that moment.

As I thought more about that cow reaching for what seemed better on the other side of the fence, I couldn’t help but think of the pain that the cow was enduring just to eat the greener grass. Sometimes in life, we tend to cause ourselves unnecessary pain and hurt for temporary pleasures or short-lived success. But what if God wants something different for us. What if God’s plan isn’t the most appealing. In Jesus’s final days, he prayed for a different way. But his prayer looks different than Paul’s prayer and gives us the example we need.

“Father, if you are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.”


"Obedience is what God calls us to because there is an eternal purpose to our temporary circumstances." Tweet This

Even though Jesus was praying for a different way, he trusted that God’s plan was better. Yes, sometimes the grass does look greener, but it’s obedience that God asks from us. Obedience over our own comfort. Obedience over fluff. Obedience over the temporary pleasures that life might provide us at the moment. Obedience is what God calls us towards because there is an eternal purpose to our temporary circumstances. I love this from Proverbs 4:25-27.

Look straight ahead, and fix your eyes on what lies before you. Mark out a straight path for your feet; stay on the safe path. Don’t get sidetracked; keep your feet from following evil.

I can’t get that cow out of my head, and the situation she had put herself in. The fence is not there to punish her, it’s there for her protection. It’s there to keep her from going into the road, to keep predators out, to protect her from cars driving into the pasture. This is exactly what God does for us. He gives us guardrails in life to protect us. He gives us boundaries that allow us the freedom to enjoy what He has given us, not just those temporary pleasures, but an abundant life that is beyond anything that we could ask for or dare to dream of.

I have been there. There have been many instances in my life where the grass has looked greener on the other side and believe me, I really wanted that greener grass, because it felt like the safe thing, or the more comfortable thing or the thing that would allow us more freedom with our finances. What I had to do was realize that I was only seeing a small part of the amazing plan that God has for my life. I have to understand that surrendering to God’s way and God’s will is exactly where He wants me to be. What thing in your life, what challenge, what offer, what person, has become that temptation for greener grass? What is causing you to turn your head and begin to reach outside the fence? My prayer for you today is that you would continually surrender to God. I pray today that you, in the strength and power of God, would say “Not my will but you will be done.” I promise you that remaining inside God’s will for your life is the best place you could ever be! After all, what good is it for a person to gain the whole world but to lose his soul?

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The Church and Politics

by: Mark Adams

10/19/2018

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Election day is nearing. Perhaps you’ve seen the signs, heard the ads, or received one of those mailers telling you who you should or shouldn’t vote for. Voting is an honored part of the tradition of American history and the history of many other countries that enjoy similar freedoms. For those voting for the first time, many will experience a tremendous sense of pride. For those voting more times than they can count, pride or perhaps dread may fill their hearts. Elections are no laughing matter. Many people stake their hopes and dreams, thoughts of future prosperity or demise, on… read more

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Election day is nearing. Perhaps you’ve seen the signs, heard the ads, or received one of those mailers telling you who you should or shouldn’t vote for. Voting is an honored part of the tradition of American history and the history of many other countries that enjoy similar freedoms. For those voting for the first time, many will experience a tremendous sense of pride. For those voting more times than they can count, pride or perhaps dread may fill their hearts. Elections are no laughing matter. Many people stake their hopes and dreams, thoughts of future prosperity or demise, on the outcomes of those local elections. Careers can begin and end in one day. For some, elections are literally a life or death matter. Some 25,000 pardons have been issued from Presidents since George Washington’s time. Since 1976 (the year that the death row sentence was reinstated), there have been 288 requests for clemency granted. All because of who was, or wasn’t, in office.

But this creates conflict. When people become so impassioned about who or what to vote for or against, it can create blinders for people. Instead of discussing topics with real people who have real concerns, people can bash their keyboards in some semblance of righteous indignation. Just to be clear, this didn’t start with President Trump or President Obama. In fact, mudslinging and personal attacks on candidates started as early as the 18th century. It should come as no surprise now that we see attacks, both personal and political, today. What should surprise us is the church’s reaction, and participation in some cases, to campaigning.

Reading through the life and ministry of Jesus in the gospels, one commonly accounted event is the temptation of Jesus after his baptism. We see Jesus tempted in three specific ways. He was tempted with provision, safety, and power. Not only was he tempted with power, but he is the Son of God. If it was the will of God to wield political power and effect change in the world through political context, surely the son of David would have arrived as the son of Cesar. He would have come as a political power, not a political refugee. Jesus the Christ would have come to this place as the crowned prince, not the chased child from Bethlehem. Instead, Jesus did what Jesus does so well. He showed us a better way.

Jesus comes, and when it is time to start his ministry, he doesn’t legislate people into following him. He quite simply invites them into a relationship. He doesn’t even wait for the people following him to shape up. He just invites them to follow him. He doesn’t highlight was each person is for or against. He lives life with people. And from this simple philosophy, the entire world is changed. Because Jesus spent his time teaching and living in relationship with people, the Church exists today. He didn’t pound from the pulpit demanding votes cast a specific way or overthrowing a specific leader. He taught and exemplified forgiveness, love, correction, patience, grace, and hope. When the church uses its position to give power to one political party or another, the body of believers is broken.

Jesus isn’t on Air Force One, he isn’t riding a red elephant, a blue donkey, a green leafy plant, or holding the constitution in his hand yelling a William Wallace inspired freedom cry. When we, as the body of believers, partner with a political party or person as our ultimate hope for a better future, we have allowed our political identity to overwhelm our spiritual identity. That is, at its very core, idol worship. Our hope is not in politicians or political systems. Our hope is built on nothing less than Jesus Christ. It is time for us to turn away from what is not of God, and run to God. So, I will start.

I am a recovering politi-holic. I loved the arguments, defending my position, and verbally beating up the other guy. Freedom and the American way became my heartbeat. In the wake of my well-devised arguments and political positions, I left people feeling hurt, ostracized, and pushed out. Worst of all, I used the bible to defend my party-bashing. I painted Jesus as some political activist who couldn’t possibly care less about your position or you as a person. I would argue for the sake of arguing! I was wrong. I cared more about positions and less about people.

Now, all these years removed from that, I see the devastation it causes all too well. Some churches, from the pulpit, are pushing a political agenda instead of making disciples of all people. We’ve lost focus and become a political prop for a party to win an office. We, as the Church, are being used for political gain. It is time for us to stop and follow Christ again. It is time for us to take the parable of the sheep and goats very seriously.

Please don’t read what I’m not writing. If you feel led to vote in a specific way, please do. If someone voting against your position or candidate causes some sort of animosity to rise in you and lash out, walk away. Just don’t sell your eternal salvation for your right to vote.

What good is it a man to gain the whole world, but forfeit his soul? - Jesus

What would happen if we spent as much time studying the teachings of Jesus as we do arguing politics? What happens when we take the parable of The Good Samaritan as a command to go and love our (political, social, economic, or otherwise) enemy? What would change about our world if we really were quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry? How does our world change if we feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, invite the stranger into our homes, give clothes to the naked, looked after the sick, and visited the prisoner? Let’s pour all of our time and energy into finding out together.

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Why Missional?

by: Mark Adams

10/11/2018

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For many, "missional" might be an unknown term. It is one you will hear us throw around regularly as we break down how we do what we do and why we do it. Cassie offers a great explanation of why Embrace Church chooses to intentionally be a missional church. If you want to better understand the term "missional", you can check out this article.

The simplest way to answer the question of why we want a missional movement in the church is because faith is not forged in a meeting room. We can be educated in a meeting room,… read more

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For many, "missional" might be an unknown term. It is one you will hear us throw around regularly as we break down how we do what we do and why we do it. Cassie offers a great explanation of why Embrace Church chooses to intentionally be a missional church. If you want to better understand the term "missional", you can check out this article.

The simplest way to answer the question of why we want a missional movement in the church is because faith is not forged in a meeting room. We can be educated in a meeting room, we can be encouraged in a meeting room - Christianity does these things well. What many of us have been missing is a relational piece that it so important.

The stats have been coming in for years that young people are increasingly walking away from the church. When asked why I am still here, the only thing I can explain is that when I was young, I was invited into the lives of strong Jesus followers who not just spoke about their faith on Sundays but lived it for me to see day in and day out. They invested in me by spending time with me, exploring my doubts and concerns with both life and spiritual matters. Teaching me life skills such as cooking, as well as Scripture. They invested in such a way that I, in turn, find it natural and obvious to do the same with others - so I take others and we go grocery shopping together while having deep conversations, and we have game nights and deal with important things we are dealing with while having fun. We crave relationship with other people and Embrace will meet this need by serving and inviting people to join us, by celebrating what God is doing in our midst, going through hard times with others, praying with and for people - by loving people where they are, through everything, and into who God is making them.

The saying is that people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. Embrace is about caring more about who people are, and who they are becoming than about what they do or have done. Jesus spent more time living day by day beside people, than preaching on mountainsides. It takes more time and effort to invite people into our home and life than to tell them what we think. Jesus’ command was ‘go and make disciples’ and his example was walking his own disciples around with him doing everything he did for three years.

Relationships can be the most broken and hurting things in our lives - but also the most healing and life giving. Being missional is about establishing rhythms for living life together with an outward focus. We serve together, pray and study together, celebrate together, eat together, give to one another, share in each others pain and happiness, carrying each other through all that we go through, and having fun together. In missional community we hope to be a support system, building each others faith through the highs and lows of life, and meeting people where they are and inviting them to join in on the faith forging. If we aren’t inviting new people into the faith journey with us, we aren’t doing it right.

We invite you to find a person, or three persons, or even more - to serve with, spend time with, care for each other, and celebrate with. You can do this whether or not you have faith, but this is a spectacular way to share faith. So many people are starving for these kind of relationships, and its the variety of people that you spend time with that helps to form who you are as a person. Be intentional and open to finding connections with whom you can live out this kind of deep community.

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Why Plant A Church?

by: Mark Adams

09/27/2018

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I think one of the most important questions you can ask is “Why?” That one word can open a world of discovery. It can change the way you interact with the world around you. That singular question can adjust your every action. Don’t believe me? Try asking yourself these questions next time the opportunity presents itself:
Why is traffic stopped?
Why do we do what we do?

Why is my child acting out like this?

Why am I doing what I am doing?

So, it goes without saying that, in starting a new church, we ask ourselves why. Why would we plant… read more

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I think one of the most important questions you can ask is “Why?” That one word can open a world of discovery. It can change the way you interact with the world around you. That singular question can adjust your every action. Don’t believe me? Try asking yourself these questions next time the opportunity presents itself:
Why is traffic stopped?
Why do we do what we do?

Why is my child acting out like this?

Why am I doing what I am doing?

So, it goes without saying that, in starting a new church, we ask ourselves why. Why would we plant a new church? Why would we plant in Emporia? Why would I plant a church? #motivecheck

Why would we plant a new church? Emporia is a city of nearly 25,000 people, with approximately 30 churches. So, why would we plant a church? Below are three reasons for doing just that.

1) The North American Mission Field

In North America, there are approximately 200 million unchurched and dechurched people. In North America, there are approximately 200 million unchurched and dechurched people.These are people who can not articulate the gospel message (unchurched) and people who have walked away from Christianity for a wide variety of reasons (dechurched). That’s 200 million people who need to hear and be transformed by the gospel message of Jesus Christ. That means that North America is the 3rd largest mission field in the world. We have serious work to do.

As generations move further from the Gospel, a new church allows for a new framework of understanding what the church can become. In a missional church framework, the church exists to bring the communities it serves to Christ through service, discipleship, and relational evangelism. This community-centric focus allows for a more natural progression of relationship building that leads to evangelism and discipleship. In 2000, a study of 64 churches planted in 1989 revealed that they grew 12 times faster than established churches!

2) The New DNA of a New Church

Its no secret that the Church has a muddled history. There’s no sense in denying it. And the church has a muddled history with people as well. But just because the history of people is flawed doesn’t mean the God of the universe is flawed as well. There have been mistakes. Those mistakes have hurt people in real and painful ways.

Starting fresh allows the church to remove the stigma associated with some churches of being overly politically engaged. By exemplifying and standing firm on a Kingdom-first mindset, a new church plant can overcome stereotypes related to evangelical churches.

3) Back To Mission

The responsibility of every single believer is fulfill the Great Commission. The responsibility of each church is to prepare and equip the body of believers to accomplish that mission. But the focus can’t be only growing the numbers of the local church.

A new church plant, as new disciples are created, must also be sending out those disciples. The church walls have stymied the message of the gospel and the responsibility of the disciples for far too long. A new church, from its inception, can correct that mistake.

The mission of Church isn’t complete until the responsibility of the Great Commission is complete. Until every tribe has been baptized in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, teaching those new disciples to obey all the commands of Christ, we still have work to do. People still need to be loved and cared for, to be transformed and made new. That’s why, for the one person who still needs to hear the gospel for the first time.

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What's in a name?

by: Mark Adams

09/19/2018

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When I was a kid, I really wanted to change my name. There was no reason, I just felt like a Michael, really Mike (I know…quite a bit different from my actual name of Mark) or Tom. Mark just didn’t feel like it fit. Then, I remember walking into some souvenir shop and seeing a rack of keychains with name meanings. I was intrigued and needed to know more. I frantically looked for my name. Matthew, Matt, Marc, Marcus, Martin, Mason…wait…where’s my name?! It would take some time, but I finally found my name! The meaning blew me away! According… read more

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When I was a kid, I really wanted to change my name. There was no reason, I just felt like a Michael, really Mike (I know…quite a bit different from my actual name of Mark) or Tom. Mark just didn’t feel like it fit. Then, I remember walking into some souvenir shop and seeing a rack of keychains with name meanings. I was intrigued and needed to know more. I frantically looked for my name. Matthew, Matt, Marc, Marcus, Martin, Mason…wait…where’s my name?! It would take some time, but I finally found my name! The meaning blew me away! According to the keychain (a very credible source) my name meant, “Warrior”. I felt empowered, driven, and given a sense of purpose!

Names are important and have been throughout history. Have you ever looked up the meaning of your name before? I recommend it. What we call ourselves, our children, and the organizations around us carry significance. The name of Embrace Church is no different. At the last supper, as detailed in John 13, Jesus has several compelling interactions with his disciples. He washes their feet, including the feet of the man who he knew would turn him over to the Romans. In fact, Jesus lets each disciple know that they would betray Jesus in the coming days. He loved in spite of this knowledge. He knew he was going to be put on trial and sentenced to a horrific death, and yet served them. John 13 closes with a new command from Jesus.

So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. - John 13:34

The implication here is massive. In spite of being betrayed, love. In spite of what is coming, love. In spite of mistakes, love. At Embrace Church, your politics, past, history, mistakes, and mess-ups don't change our directives. We are made to love God. We are made to love people. We are designed to build disciples. We are formed to care for those who find themselves persecuted.

The name Embrace Church is all about embracing Jesus. When we embrace Jesus, we have to let go of something else. We release our prejudices, selfishness, anger, hurt, grudges, and addictions. We embrace the life God meant for us to have. Jesus came to give us abundant life.

We can no longer sit idly as the world rushes by us. As cultural Christianity continues to die its slow death, we have an amazing opportunity in front of us. What if, instead of people outside the body of believers knowing Christianity by what it is against or a political ideology, Christians were known for loving those who persecute them? When Jesus cared for people, he never asked if the situation they were in was their own fault, or if they had broken a law, or if they supported Roman rule. He cared for them. He fed them. He loved them. Even the Pharisees were given the chance to repent, turn away from what they were doing and choose a different path.

Who will you embrace today? Who will you care for? What enemy in your life can you pray for? #forthekingdom #forthecity #embraceempori

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