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Archive for October, 2009

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Discipleship never tasted so good!

The kitchen table has always been a place of joy for my family.

Sitting together around the table, we seize the opportunity to discuss our day.  We solve problems together and role play solutions to the great dilemmas of life, such as what do you do when a boy in class keeps calling you an old lady.  (Our solution was to acknowledge him by name and ask how he was doing today — we figured he just needed a little attention.)

No other venue offers such an excellent opportunity to learn how to make a bid for a conversation, how to hold everyone’s attention when telling a story, or the ever important how to control the volume level of an excited dialogue.

Life happens at the kitchen table.  Valuable lessons are learned somewhere between the passing of the peas, sharing the last cookie, and not forgetting to clear your place.

Of all the benefits of the kitchen table, I believe its greatest potential is the opportunity it affords for spiritual discipleship.  We discuss the practical application of our faith at the kitchen table.

As far back as I can remember, we have played versions of Bible Trivia while eating dinner together, continually inviting our children to know and understand the Word of God.  Recently we stumbled upon a simple, yet amazingly powerful version of Bible Trivia that has upped the level of discipleship at the von Atzigen table.

“Where in the Bible does it talk about…?”  This is the simple question that is asked, and then my jaw drops as we go around the table and I listen to my children recite Old Testament Bible stories and relay the teachings of Jesus or the letters of Paul.

This simple question allows them to analyze what they have learned in their years of Vacation Bible Schools and Kids’ Church and then apply those lessons to the question at hand.

Right now our questions are simple.  “Where in the Bible does it talk about swords, scrolls, water, or honey?” have been some of the questions we have tackled.

But, a day will come when the question applies to a more serious topic.

  • Where in the Bible does it talk about broken hearts?
  • Where in the Bible does it talk about forgiveness?
  • Where in the Bible does it talk about God’s healing?
  • Where in the Bible does it talk about wasting your gifts?
  • Where in the Bible does it talk about what you are going through today?

If they can answer the question with lambs, princesses, and crowns today, then maybe they can answer the question of life tomorrow.

The book of Deuteronomy gives us some practical instructions for discipling our children.

Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.  Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.  Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates… (Deuteronomy 11:18-20 NIV)

And at the kitchen table, talk about them at the kitchen table!

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Apokalipsis_XVII am excited to have officially kicked off our Tuesday lunch study of Revelation.  It will take us a few weeks to settle into a routine and build rapport that will allow us to converse casually, but I have no doubt we will get there.

I am also very blessed to see that our facilitator plans to blog our weekly progress on his very snazzy looking new WordPress blog (surely Peter helped him get that thing started).  You can join in the Revelation conversation by following along with Watchman Curtis each week.

The book of Revelation is, as Curtis puts it:

…the most intimidating, mysterious, confusing and ignored book of the Bible.

But, in the midst of the mystery and confusion, we discover that it is the only book in the Bible that carries its own promise of blessing to those who read, hear, and heed its words. 

I truly look forward to this season of reading, hearing, and heeding the Revelation of my Lord Jesus, and I am thankful that even those of you who can’t join us for lunch on Tuesdays can still join in the study through The Watchman’s Gaze.  I invite you to come follow along and be blessed!

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The Story of OnesimusProverbs 16:9 tells us, “In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.”  Nowhere do we see this truth more clearly illustrated than in the life of Onesimus.  Click HERE to read Pastor Eric’s account of the remarkable story of this slave who dared to allow the Lord to direct his steps.  It’s a good one!

Podcast

Hear the complete message of The Story of Onesimus by clicking HERE.

Links

We are excited to introduce our new Children’s Ministry weblog, where you can access weekly family pages and find the latest worldchangers news.  Its another great opportunity to connect church and home! 

In yesterday’s message, Pastor Eric referenced the Global Rich List.  You can find a link to the list embedded in his blog post, The Story of Onesimus.

On the Radar

Brazil Mission Trip — Pastor Mindy and Pastor Lorin leave in December for a mission trip to Brazil!  They will each need to raise over $3,000 for trip costs.  For more info and to find out how you can support their trip, click HERE.

We have a new Lunchtime Bible study coming this week!  Beginning this Tuesday, October 20, we will dive into a lunch time study of the book of Revelation.  The study will run every Tuesday from 12:00 – 1:00 in my office.  Everyone is welcome to join in, just bring your Bible and a lunch box.

You Heard it at EFC

Been trying to remember one of those awesome songs we sang?  Here is our worship list from yesterday, for those of you who just absolutely need a copy for yourself.  You can usually find them for purchase on itunes.com.

  1. Friend of God
  2. Forever and a Day by Anthony Skinner
  3. I Surrender by Kim Walker
  4. Revelation Song, Kari Jobe version

Sunday Preview

Next Sunday, November 1, we will continue our exploration of the book of Philemon by considering Paul’s perspective as he penned this dangerous letter.

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FWIS cover 2 - Onesimus jpgWho is Christianity for, anyway?  Who do its rules apply to?  Who do its promises apply to?

Are there those in this world who are above the Christian faith?  Above laws, consequences, and accountability?  Are there those in this world who are beneath the Christian faith?  Those who are too dirty?  Those who are too broken?  Those who are too shameful?

Are there those in this world who have already used up all of their grace?  Those who have squandered their last chance?  How many times can a man be forgiven before he is unforgivable?  How many bridges can you burn before there is absolutely no way to get back home?  How useless can one life become?

His name was Onesimus, and if he were standing before you today, these are the questions he would be asking.

He is the kind of guy who, when you spend fifteen minutes with him, suddenly your life doesn’t seem so bad.  Suddenly your marriage doesn’t seem so crappy.  Suddenly you are proud your children didn’t turn out like him.

Do you know people like that?  People who make you think your life isn’t as bad as it could be?  Do you feel like you are one of those people, like you give everyone else hope because at least they are not you?

Colossae mapOnesimus was a slave in the city of Colossae during the first century.  While Jesus was preaching and teaching in the village towns around the Sea of Galilee, Onesimus was miles away crying himself to sleep every night after a day of back breaking labor.

We can only speculate as to how Onesimus became a slave.  It is very likely he was born a slave and lived his entire life as the property of another man.  Maybe he was captured in war through no fault of his own and brought to Colossae to live his life in slavery.  Maybe he was a prisoner, sentenced to a life of slavery as a result of his own foolish choices.

I can’t tell you the “how come” of this man’s life, just as I can’t fully explain the “how come” of your life.

I just know who he was when I was introduced to him.  He was a slave.  And you know what else is said about him?  He was a useless slave.  Does it get any worse?  It is bad enough to be a slave, but you are at the bottom of the barrel when you are a useless slave.  This was Onesimus.

For those of you who grew up on the farm, he was the chicken that didn’t have any tail feathers.  Even among the simplest of animals on a farm there is a pecking order.  And even among the chickens, there is a chicken that eats last, and when she goes for the leftovers, all of the other chickens attack her.

Onesimus was like a young man I once met at a gas station.  As I visited with him about his life, I discovered he was in the local high school marching band.  When I ask him what he played, he looked down, grinned and said, “The air tuba.”

The what?

Apparently he couldn’t play the tuba, but they needed more people in order to look like they had a band.  So, they handed him this bulky instrument and told him to march around on the field, but not, under any circumstances, was he to blow into that thing.

Do you know what it’s like to play the air tuba?  Hands full.  Lots of activity.  No purpose.  No music in your life.  All dressed up — with no horn to blow.

Believe it or not, Onesimus is a man we find in the pages of the Bible.  We discover part of his story in the book of Philemon.  There we read Onesimus is a useless slave, but his story gets even worse.

Apparently, Onesimus becomes fed up with his life as a useless slave, steals from his owner, and runs away.  A useless, runaway, thieving slave.  I know what you’re thinking, “I’d rather play the air tuba than live a life like that.”

But, as is the case with great Bible stories, that is not all there is to Onesimus’ life.  Just as this is not all there is to your life.  His story continues, and so does yours.

Onesimus stole from his master and fled as far away as possible.  Evidence points to the likelihood he made his way to Rome.  He wanted to go where no one could ever find him.

But, you just can’t hide from God.  Somehow, somewhere, in the great metropolis of Rome, Onesimus met a man we refer to as the Apostle Paul.  Paul was a prisoner in Rome at the time, and Onesimus, as a runaway slave, must have found it very difficult to make a living in this capital of the world.  He eventually made his way to working among prisoners just to find enough food to survive each day.  And there, as a servant to prisoners, Onesimus, the useless thief and slave, found his freedom.  In a prison in Rome, Onesimus met Jesus.

And everything changed when Onesimus met Jesus.  Everything can change when you meet Him as well.

So, what are the life lessons we can glean from the remarkable story of this useless thieving slave who met Jesus?

The first lesson we learn is:

Life Is Not Fairtop 10 percent

And the truth is, you don’t want it to be.

The average American makes approximately $26,000 a year.  Do you know where that puts them in the scope of our world? 

According to this Global Rich List, the average American is the 569, 942,529th richest person in the world.  The average American is among the top 10% of the richest people on earth.

In the United States, you are considered at poverty level if you are a single person with an income of $11,000 a year.  Do you know where you fit on a world wide scale?  You would be in the top 13% of the World’s richest people. 

87% of the world’s population lives below U.S. poverty standards.top 13 percent

Life is not fair.

I am not fair with my children.  I don’t give to each of my children equally, and I’m sure my sons are very glad, because I don’t think they would have wanted to wear a cheerleader outfit to school last Friday like my daughter did.

I love all of my children, but I do not give them all the same of everything.  No, I give them what they need.

My friends, you have been crying out, frustrated and angry, because you feel like life has given you a raw deal.

  • Why did I have to be born into this family?
  • Why did my parents have to be the ones to get a divorce?
  • Why did I have to be given this body?
  • Why was I the one who got abused?
  • Why was I the one who got addicted?
  • Why was I the one who caught the disease?

Life is not fair, but the beginning of your story does not have to be the end.  Life is not fair, but you are not alone. Life is not fair, but life can be very, very good.

Life is not fair, but it is not God’s fault.  He is not to blame.  God loves you, and God is for you, not against you.  He can turn your lump of coal into a diamond, if you will choose not to collapse under the pressure.

Every day I live my life in the company of heroes.  Sometimes the greatest hero in the room is the person who mustered the courage to get out of bed that morning; the one who battled past depression, pain, or disappointment to face a new day.

Many of you are heroes because you have managed to stay alive this long.  You are heroes because of the way you have raised your children with little or no support.  You have made it this far, but your story is not over, and it gets better from here.  It is time to raise our goals from survival to victory!

The next observation I want to make from the life of Onesimus is:

There Are Some Bridges You Just Can’t Burn

The key we must understand here is that sometimes the first step forward is a step back.

Onesimus had it made, he had escaped.  He had left behind the life of a useless slave.  He had met Paul.  He discovered Jesus.  Finally, everything was going well for this young man, and then his newfound father in the faith said those horrifying words.

“Onesimus, it is time for you to go back.”

This is the reason the book of Philemon is in the Bible.  It is a letter Paul gave to Onesimus as he sent him BACK to his owner.

Sometimes the road forward leads us back through familiar territory, but here is the key.  Though we may head back into the same place, we are not the same!  We have changed.  We will bring life to any circumstance God calls us to walk through or minister in.

In Paul’s letter to Philemon, we read:

…yet I appeal to you on the basis of love. I then, as Paul—an old man and now also a prisoner of Christ Jesus— I appeal to you for my son Onesimus, who became my son while I was in chains.  Formerly he was useless to you, but now he has become useful both to you and to me.  I am sending him—who is my very heart—back to you.  I would have liked to keep him with me so that he could take your place in helping me while I am in chains for the gospel.  But I did not want to do anything without your consent, so that any favor you do will be spontaneous and not forced.  Perhaps the reason he was separated from you for a little while was that you might have him back for good— no longer as a slave, but better than a slave, as a dear brother. He is very dear to me but even dearer to you, both as a man and as a brother in the Lord.  — Philemon verses 9-16

You can’t keep running from your past.  The more you run from your past, the more your past becomes your future.  Jesus died on a cross so you could make peace with your past, not run from it.

It is possible the next step of healing in your life may feel very much like a step back, but it is the step back that will lead you forward.

History tells us Philemon received Onesimus back into his house.  He obeyed Paul’s instruction, accepted Onesimus as a brother, and even granted Onesimus his freedom.  When Onesimus deserved death because of his actions, Philemon gave him his freedom.

Onesimus pic jpgAnd there is even more to the story.  Let me introduce you to someone church history refers to as Saint Onesimus.

In this picture, Onesimus is holding a letter in his left hand.  That letter wasn’t his death sentence as he headed back to his master.  It was the beginning of his new life.

Church history records another disciple of Paul named Timothy became the bishop of the church in Ephesus and led the church of Asia from that great city about 100 miles from Colossae.

There is a list of the Bishops who followed in line after Timothy; and the next name listed is Onesimus.

Onesimus, Bishop of Ephesus, who sat upon the Episcopal throne where he oversaw the Body of Christ.

Onesimus?  The slave Onesimus?  Leading the church of Asia?

This is the Beauty of the Bible.  This is the glory of Christianity– that, whoever you are, the story of the Jesus is for you.  The story of healing, hope, opportunity, and restoration.  The story of victory is for you.

My friend, what will you do with the days you have been given?  How will you respond to the marvelous grace of Jesus Christ?  I invite you to rise above your circumstances and live in the potential God has established for your life.  You don’t have to be the Bishop of Asia for your life to be counted a success.  No, our Lord measures by a different standard.  But, your life can be eternally significant if you follow with courage the invitation of God.

Rise up.  Let your story be told.

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163x251_mosaicMy friend and blogging mentor, Peter Lopez, is giving away a free Mosaic Bible over at Beauty of the Bible.

The give away is connected to the Holy Bible Mosaic Blog Tour which will make a  stop by Beauty of the Bible on Friday, October 23.  Leave a comment on Peter’s Mosaic Post to enter to win.

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We’d all love for life to be “smooth sailing,” but the inevitable truth remains that storms do arise.  Just ask the crew from Gilligan’s Island—you can be out for a “three hour tour,” hit a storm, and find yourself marooned on an island, wearing the same outfit for years (unless, of course, you are the “Ginger” type, and then you will have a different outfit every day, but still be stranded on the island). 

Jesus himself said, “In this world, you will have trouble,” but thankfully He didn’t stop there.  He went on to say, “But take heart, for I have overcome the world.” 

And it’s true.  He really did.  What’s more, He is still overcoming, right in the midst of your storm.  The Prince of Peace is making intercession for YOU at the right hand of the Father, even as you read these words.  He excels at speaking into the storms of your life, commanding them to be still.  The key for us, as we navigate life’s storms, is to join Jesus and do what He is doing.  If He’s sleeping, then rest beside Him knowing you can have perfect peace because Jesus is in your boat.  If He’s commanding the storm, then join Him there on the bow of your boat and speak to the storm along with Him. 

Mindy laid out five keys in yesterday’s message to maintaining your peace, no matter what the boat of your life sails through.  As you read them today, ask Father God to reveal to your heart how to live them out victoriously.

  1. Make sure you’re in the right boat.
  2. Find Jesus.
  3. Put your pallet next to His.
  4. Tell your storm that Jesus in on board.
  5. Remember what Jesus has already promised you.

Podcast

Click HERE to listen to “My Peace in the Storm” by Pastor Mindy von Atzigen.

Links

Pastor Roosevelt Houston preached on “Going to the Other Side” with Jesus, using the same text Mindy preached from yesterday.  His message is worth listening to.  Find it for free on itunes.com, searching for Gateway Church podcast, and finding his message in their sermon archive.

On the Radar

Brazil Mission Trip — Pastor Mindy and Pastor Lorin leave in December for a mission trip to Brazil!  They will each need to raise over $3,000 for trip costs.  For more info and to find out how you can support their trip, click here

We have a new Lunchtime Bible study coming this week!  Beginning this Tuesday, October 20, we will dive into a lunch time study of the book of Revelation.  The study will run every Tuesday from 12:00 – 1:00 in my office.  Everyone is welcome to join in, just bring your Bible and a lunch box.

You Heard it at EFC

Been trying to remember one of those awesome songs we sang?  Here is our worship list from yesterday, for those of you who just absolutely need a copy for yourself.  You can usually find them for purchase on itunes.com.

  1. “Sing to the King” Hillsong version
  2. “Your Love Never Fails” Jesus Culture version
  3. “God, You’re Beautiful” by Anthony Skinner
  4. “See The Way” by Misty Edwards  

Sunday Preview

Next Sunday, October 25, Pastor Eric will begin a series on the book of Philemon.  Read ahead this week to be ready for the message!

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