At Christmas time, we’re used to reading the story of a birth. Just maybe not this birth.

“When the time came for her to give birth, there were twin boys in her womb. As she was giving birth, one of them put out his hand; so the midwife took a scarlet thread and tied it on his wrist and said, “This one came out first.” But when he drew back his hand, his brother came out, and she said,“So this is how you have broken out!” And he was named Perez.Then his brother, who had the scarlet thread on his wrist, came out. And he was named Zerah.– Genesis 38:27-30

What a bizarre story found in this tucked away corner of the Scripture. One son waves hello, gets a scarlet thread tied around his wrist, and then disappears. The other son… (continue reading at www.treasuretheordinary.blogspot.com)


Words have power, and thoughts, like seeds, can take root in the heart to alter our perspective or change our behavior altogether.  The following is a list of quotes etched in my memory, and a brief explanation of their significance. 

This is not a collection of the greatest quotes of all time, but quotes that have impacted me, personally, for a lifetime.  It is important that we remember and rehearse the words that have touched our souls.  What words have moved you in your life?  What would your list look like?

“`Twas brillig, and the slithy toves Did gyre and gimble in the wabe: All mimsy were the borogoves, And the mome raths outgrabe.” – from Jabberwocky by Lewis Carroll.  Taught me that words could be fun, that language captures the imagination.

“. . . Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori.” – from Dulce et Decorum Est  by Wildfred Owen.  Taught me that words are powerful, descriptive, moving and memorable.

“A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches.” –Proverbs 22:1.  Printed on a bookmark someone gave me in church as a child.  Taught me to treasure who I was and respect the impact of character.

“I do” – Mindy von Atzigen.  Taught me that words could be trusted.

“In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.”  – J.R.R. Tolkien.  Taught me that a book could take you anywhere.

“I have not yet begun to fight!” – John Paul Jones.  Taught me that words reach further than the sound of our voice.  They can echo through history.

“Failure is not falling down, it is refusing to get back up”  – Pastor Dan Pinto.  Taught me that life is bigger than the present and there is hope on the other side of any disappointment.

“In some way, what we do on a Sunday morning has to make sense to people.”  – Pastor Morris Sheats.  Taught me to lead in such a way that empowered others to be able to follow.

“The pumps don’t work ‘cause the vandals took the handles.” – from Subterranean Homesick Blues by  Bob Dylan.  Taught me that people don’t always have to understand you to be inspired.

“Behold what manner of love the Father has given unto us, that we should be called the sons of God.  And that is what we are.”  1 John 3:1Taught me that I was loved and accepted by God.  That I was significant.  That sins could be forgiven.  That brokenness could be healed.  That a prodigal could come home.  That a life could be made new again, and again, and again.

In honor of all of our Daddies, I have compiled a list of the top 12 Bible verses for Father’s Day.  If you are a Dad, or if you ever had a dad, I pray these verses will be a source of encouragement for you this week!

  1. Genesis 18:19 – “For I have chosen him, so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing what is right and just, so that the LORD will bring about for Abraham what he has promised him.”(NIV)
  2. Exodus 20:12 – “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you.”(NIV)
  3. Deuteronomy 6:6-9 – “These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.”(NIV)
  4. Joshua 24:15 – “But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.”(NIV)
  5. Psalm 103:13 As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him; (NIV)
  6. Psalms 127:3-5 – “Sons are a heritage from the LORD, children a reward from him. Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are sons born in one’s youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them. They will not be put to shame when they contend with their enemies in the gate.”(NIV)
  7. Proverbs 3:11-12 My son, do not despise the LORD’s discipline and do not resent his rebuke,because the LORD disciplines those he loves,as a father the son he delights in.(NIV)
  8. Proverbs 14:26 – “Whoever fears the LORD has a secure fortress, and for their children it will be a refuge.”(NIV)
  9. Proverbs 23:24 The father of a righteous man has great joy; he who has a wise son delights in him. (NIV)
  10. Malachi 4:6 He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers; or else I will come and strike the land with a curse. (NIV)
  11. Ephesians 6:1-2 – “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise”(NIV)
  12. Ephesians 6:4 Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord. (NIV)

May your Father’s Day and every day be filled with delight and honor in your family!


Looking for Bible verses about God as our Father?  Click here for the Top 10 Bible Verses About Our Heavenly Father.

I remember when I was a little boy, momma loaded us up and took us to Mineral Wells to the city pool.  It was a major event for this country boy, because, for us, “swimming pool” meant stock tank.

If swimming didn’t include brownish-red water, mud between your toes, and having to avoid cow patties on the way down to the water, then I was just a little out of my element.

To tell you this truth, I still get a little uncomfortable if I can see my feet when I’m in the water.  It just throws me off.  I didn’t learn to swim in crystal clear water, and that may explain why my trip to the pool almost ended in disaster.

With my momma resting in the shade and my older brother playing around the diving board, I was having the time of my life in the shallow end of the pool…looking at my feet!

About that time, a boy decided to befriend me and let me ride on his little boogie board floaty.  I hopped on while he pushed me around, but then, suddenly, without any notice, he said, “Now are you ready to go into the deep water?”  And as I shook my head “no,” he laughed and gave me a shove toward the deep end of the pool.

I remember holding onto that boogie board, panicked and paralyzed as it floated over the rope signaling that I had just crossed into the deep water.  My knuckles were turning white as I held on.  And, as the board continued to float into deeper and deeper water, I realized that I had to do something.

So, to avoid getting into any deeper water, I jumped off of the board.  That was my safety plan: to bail out.

And I jumped off of that board right into water that was over my head.

I sank to the bottom of the pool, pushed off, and resurfaced just in time to see that I was situated right under the life guard stand.

I gasped for air, sank back down, hit the bottom, pushed off, and came back to the surface.

I remember looking at the life guard as he sat on his perch in yellow shorts with a big glob of sunscreen on his nose.  I literally made eye contact with him, mustered up all of my courage, and let out a little whimper of “Help.”

And as I fought to float, sputtering, he just looked at me and then looked away.  And I sank to the bottom of the pool for the third time.

And it was when I hit the bottom of the pool that third time that a thought was planted in my mind, a dangerous thought, a damaging thought: “You are all alone.  No one here is going to save you.  If you are going to get out of this mess, it is up to you.”

I pushed off the pool, surfaced again, took a breath, sank back down and became the architect of my own rescue as I gradually began to bob my way toward the shallow water.

In a pool full of people playing and having a good time, with lifeguards stationed all over the place, with my mom resting in the shade and my brother off playing somewhere, I saved myself.

The boy came up asking about his floaty, and I gave him a piece of my mind about almost killing me and stormed off.

But, guess what.  That seed stayed with me, “You are all alone.  No one is there to save you.”

And throughout life, many other experiences only reinforced that lie.

And the painful reality is many of us have bought in to some version of that lie: I’m all alone; I’m all I have to depend on; It’s up to my paycheck; It’s up to my hard work; It’s up to me to get myself out of this mess.

Me, me, me, I, I, I, Alone, Alone, Alone.

If the enemy can get you to buy into that one lie, he will have you tied in knots because you will feel you have no one to turn to and nowhere to go when you are in trouble.

You will carry your burden all alone, and the weight of it will crush you.

At our church in Sweetwater, TX, we describe our fundamentals of faith in what we call our Pillars of Faith.  We believe:

  • God is Good
  • We Live from Heaven to Earth
  • Everyone is Significant

And our fourth pillar of faith is the fact that:

  • Nothing is Impossible

But if you have believed the lie I just described, if you have come to believe in your heart, “I am all alone.  I am all I have to depend on.  I am the architect of my own rescue.”  Then you will never believe this truth.

When we are limited to depending only on ourselves, we live in a world full of impossibilities.  And it leads us to feeling overwhelmed and hopeless.

When life is up to us, many things are impossible.

I want to take you to the cross for a minute.  I want to reintroduce you to a man who was beaten beyond human recognition.  An innocent man hanging naked between two thieves as those who passed by mocked Him.  A man who’s blood had been spilled out into the dirt below for hours and who’s lungs had slowly been filling with fluid.  A man at the breaking point of suffering and mental and physical exhaustion.

That man hung on the cross because you are not alone, because you are not the architect of your own rescue, because you can’t depend upon yourself in this world.

No matter what you have believed in this world, the truth is you have a hero.  You have a rescuer, and His name is Jesus.

And as He hung on that cross, on the brink of death, he somehow mustered the strength to push against those nails in his feet, to pull himself up by the nails in His wrists.  Through the excruciating pain he drew enough air into his lungs to utter one last word before He died.

“Tetelestai!”  It is finished.  Paid in full.

When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.  John 19:30 (NIV)

There is a precious song I remember that describes this event perfectly.

He paid a debt, He did not owe.

I owed a debt, I could not pay.

I needed someone to wash my sins away.

And now I sing a brand new song,

Amazing grace, all day long.

Christ Jesus paid a debt that I could never pay.

But what is the little boy in the pool still trying to do?  He is still trying to rescue himself, still scrambling, still grasping for air.  He is still living in a world filled with fear and impossibilities, because it all depends on him, and he just isn’t enough.

My friends, before you come to understand that truly nothing is impossible, you must come to peace with the finished work of Christ.

When Jesus paid your debt, it left you with nothing to pay.  When Jesus covered your shame, it left you with no reason to hide.  When Jesus forgave your sin, it left you with no need to earn your forgiveness before God.

All there is left to do is believe it is true and receive it for yourself.

Consider Paul’s introductory words to the Corinthian church.

Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth.  But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.  He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him.  It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.  1 Corinthians 1:26-30 (NIV)

I love the way verse 30 reads in the NASB

But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption… 1 Corinthians 1:30 (NASB95)

When you were drowning in this world, overwhelmed by sin and its devastating consequences, when you could not save yourself, He became your rescue!

And once you embrace this fact, once you embrace the astounding reality  that you may have gotten yourself out of some tight situations in life, but the truth is you have no capacity to save yourself, then nothing will be impossible for you.

Because it will no longer depend on you, but on the God of your salvation.

Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”   Matthew 19:26 (NIV)

Let me conclude with a quote from evangelist Reinhard Bonnke:

God is our secret. He raises the threshold of our ability so that we can do His will. He doesn’t come just to make us famous or great, but only great enough to do what He wants us to do. True greatness is to do what God says.

God never asks us to do anything without Him, and with Him we can do anything, He says. God and I can do literally anything together!

The Africans have a story about an elephant that crossed a bridge with an ant sitting behind its ear. When they reached the other side, the ant said, “My, didn’t we make that bridge shake!”

Imagine: Jesus and YOU in 2012 will “make the bridge swing.” REINHARD BONNKE

God and I can do literally anything together!

What impossible bridges are you and God going shake this year?

Nothing is impossible,

Pastor Eric

The beginning of a New Year is a great opportunity to seize the reigns of your family’s finances and develop a vision for your financial future.

King Solomon writes in Proverbs, “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” (Proverbs 29:18) This quote is exceedingly true regarding our finances.  Without a vision for managing our money, we quickly find ourselves out of control and overwhelmed by debt.

Financial peace in your home can be found through setting goals, establishing a plan, and following through.


What do you want to do with your money this year?  Do you want to be less in debt at the end of 2012 than you are now?  Would you like to be able to take a stress-free trip with your family this summer?  Would you like to begin tithing to your church?

Each year, between Christmas and the New Year, I pull out a piece of paper and begin to dream about how I will manage our money in the New Year.  I start with how much I want to give (15%), and then I look at how much I would like to save (10%).  I also consider the various ways I want to save (IRA, cash, car fund, vacation fund, emergency fund, and other investments).  After I have considered my giving and saving goals, I begin to look at the other areas of my finances.  I consider my current bills and then set goals for managing my car and home loans.

My first financial questions always deal with what I want to accomplish.


How are you going to achieve your financial goals this year?

Goals are useless if they do not lead us to action, and the action of financial goals is called a budget.  Through a budget, I consider the resources available to me (my paycheck) in light of the needs around me (my expenses).

I begin my plan by listing the essentials, the things I will not compromise in my finances.  I will not compromise my tithe.  I will not compromise feeding my family and providing a home for them.  From the essentials, I begin to prioritize my way through my other expenses, needs, and desires.  I ask myself questions such as: How much do we need for groceries each month?  What should be our limit on eating out?  What is the average of my electric, gas, and phone bill each month?  What are the areas where I can decrease my spending this year?


How do I stick with the plan this year?

Even the best plan is of no value if I do not follow through with it.  Two essential keys to accomplishing your plan are training and motivation.

We must all aspire to be life-long learners, and we must recognize there is more we can learn about managing our finances.  There are countless tips, tricks, and methods that have helped families maintain their monthly budget.  If you are going to accomplish more with your finances this year than you did last year, you may need to learn more about managing money than you knew last year.

We must also work to maintain our motivation.  Months of financial discipline can be undone by one season of unwise decision making.  Husbands and wives must be working together toward common financial goals, and they must also help one another stay on track.  Motivation is also encouraged through friendships.  Sharing your financial plans with trusted friends and inviting them to pray with you and check up on your progress is a tremendous tool for sticking with a financial plan.

What do you remember about Christmas?  No doubt, there are certain gifts or events that stick out as highlights, but the ingrained memories are found in the rhythms Christmas brings to our homes.

In our fast-paced, ever changing, highly disposable culture, we are finding fewer opportunities to establish family traditions.  Christmas, however, stands as an anchor, rich in heritage and overflowing with possibilities for every home to establish their unique pattern of memories.

Christmas traditions allow us to maintain a proper perspective on the meaning of this precious season, even in the madness of our holiday shopping and schedules.  Christmas traditions allow us to slow down and take a reflective pause, before we clutter our floors with ripped-up wrapping paper and empty boxes.  Christmas traditions allow you to give your children more than a gift each year, but a memory–a memory they, in turn, can pass on to their children.  Christmas traditions give your home a heritage.

It will be up to your family to determine which traditions you establish in your home, but I recommend you not neglect two basic essentials.  I encourage you to ensure that your Christmas traditions are designed to honor the gifts that are given at Christmas time.  First, honor the gift of Jesus every Christmas morning.  Before a single present is unwrapped, allow time for the Bible to be opened.  Read and remember the nativity story each Christmas morning.  Second, honor the gifts given to one another every Christmas.  Encourage your children to slow down, only allow one gift at a time to be opened, make sure appreciation is expressed to the giver of each gift, and do not allow anyone’s generosity to be lost in the mountains of wrapping paper accumulating in your living room.

The Christmas traditions of the von Atzigen house include:

  • We always wake up in our own home on Christmas morning.  We will travel all throughout the holidays, but Christmas morning is uninterrupted and undistracted.  It is our family moment.
  • Not a creature stirs before 7:00 a.m.  This builds anticipation and allows mom and dad to recover from their late night of “some assembly required.”  Too many Christmas mornings get lost in early unwrappings and the ensuing crabby sleepiness.  And the thundering of the herd as they break into our room at 7:00 has become a beautiful Christmas morning sound, as well!
  • The Christmas story comes before the gifts.  We circle up as a family to read the Christmas story (Luke 2:1-20).  We follow the Christmas story by receiving Communion together.  We use a slice of bread and sparkling apple cider for our Christmas Communion elements, and we always drink from the finest stemware we have in the house.  We follow Communion with a chocolate mint as we remember Psalm 34:8 and “taste and see that the Lord is good!”
  • Finally, we make our way to the stockings and the gifts.  Mommy directs traffic as gifts are opened.  We make certain the giver of each gift is recognized and gifts are opened one at a time, as we pause with each present to celebrate the groovy things each person has received.

There are many more traditions you can establish, many more ways of making Christmas morning a worshipful experience.  I pray that your home will find a way to give more than great gifts this year — but, to establish great memories for a lifetime.

What about your family?  I would love to hear some of the special traditions you have established in your home to make the most of the beauty of Christmas.

  1. I am thankful to raise my children in Sweetwater, the oasis of West-Texas.  A beautiful city, filled with beautiful people.
  2. I am thankful for the team I work with every day.  A passionate, energetic, creative, and hard-working crew of Jesus-loving pastors.
  3. I am thankful for men and women who laid down their life to lead the Body of Christ and pioneer a path of revival.  Men such as Bill Johnson, pastor of Bethel Church are my modern day heroes.
  4. I am thankful for Nelson Searcy’s book “Fusion,” which has taught me how to love and appreciate the new guests at EFC.  It takes courage to walk into a church for the first time, and I want to honor that courage with a warm welcome and great encounter.
  5. I am thankful for every unsung hero and unknown face that loves unselfishly, lives faithfully, and serves unconditionally.  These are the saints I look forward to singing with someday in a Heavenly choir.
  6. I am thankful for my spiritual heritage, a legacy of faith of three generations of men loving the church and seeking revival in West-Texas.
  7. I am thankful for my kitchen table.  It is so much more than warm food and sweet desserts.  It is a place of joyful conversation, heartfelt prayers, and everyday discipleship.
  8. I am thankful for grace.  It is as amazing today as it was the first day it pulled me out of darkness and into light.
  9. I am thankful for my wife.  She inspires me every day to live fully and freely, to continually press further up and farther in to the grace of God!
  10. I am thankful for this year’s harvest: salvations, healings, rededications, restorations, weddings, baptisms, and freedom.  It’s been a good year!
  11. I am thankful for the opportunity to press into next year — and the hope that 2012 will be even more alive, blessed, and fruitful than this year!