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Archive for September, 2011

Just when I decide to get up and go, when I resolve to cross that bridge and move toward a wide open field and those greener pastures, right at my point of new beginning — there is a troll under the bridge.

Blocking my path, shouting words of intimidation, he is going to roast me, toast me, and eat most of me.  His growls and threats keep me from crossing over, keep me in this dry land.  Like a prison without walls, his words paralyze me and leave me to forage among the thorns for something to satisfy my hunger.

The story of the Three Billy Goats Gruff is a tale that connects with most every child.  We all remember what it was like to be bullied, to feel too small, and to look across the bridge at a green field we may never get to eat from.  We have all carried the need for a big brother billy goat to fight our troll for us.

And then we grew up.  And the stories that once brought us comfort began to gather dust on our shelves as we set out to fight our own battles, to cross our own bridges, and find our own green pastures.  It didn’t take long before a few disappointments and one too many betrayals left us standing again in a barren field.

Once again, we muster what little courage remains, surprised by the familiar “tip tap” of our feet as we try to cross that bridge.  And once again the roar gurgles out, “Who’s that crossing my bridge?  I’ll eat you up!”

Maybe I should just stop these foolish attempts, maybe I should just give up and come to terms with living a small unsatisfied life in this mundane world.  Or maybe not.

Maybe I should head back to the bookshelf.  Maybe I should dust off that old children’s story and remember how it goes one more time.  Maybe I should remember that I do have a big brother, and He did knock that troll into oblivion, and I can cross that bridge!

Those shouts from under the bridge are only echoes, a fleeting voice trying desperately to maintain its grip of fear over you.  Those words have lost their teeth.  They can bark, but they can’t bite you anymore.  That old troll is not still under the bridge.

So today is the day.  It is time to get up.  It is time to cross that bridge and enjoy the green pastures that wait for you on the other side.  It is time to go.

“So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers…He too shared in their humanity so that by His death He might destroy him who holds the power of death – that is, the devil – and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.”  (Hebrews 2:11-15)

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Our “comfort zone” is the mysterious bubble surrounding each of us that keeps us from stretching into unfamiliar territory.  Designed to create a sense of security and self-preservation, our comfort zones can quickly become prisons keeping us from becoming the person we truly desire to be.

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What EFC means to me!

Love / Mend / Train / Send

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Just in case there is anyone out there looking for some good tips on how to stagnate, how to maintain a shallow sense of spiritual immaturity, or even how to regress in their journey of faith, I have compiled “Pastor Eric’s Top Six Tools to Not Grow!”

1.     Don’t read your Bible.

Only bring it to church on Sundays.  And then only use it to hold your coffee steady in your seat.  The Bible is God’s primary tool to develop maturity in your life.  It contains the very words of God.  It is a record of God’s amazing love for you and His amazing purpose for your life.  Living your life according to God’s Word is the means by which we live in purity, prosperity, and peace.  Do not open your Bible if you do not want to grow.

2.     Don’t pray.

God is already pretty busy and you don’t want to bother Him any more than necessary.  If you pray you might begin to discover the heart of God — and it may open doors of breakthrough and blessing in your life.  To avoid growth, it is always best to just keep your problems to yourself.

3.     Don’t grow with someone.

Christianity blossoms in relationships.  If you don’t want to grow, don’t find a friend to pray with or talk about life from a Biblical perspective with.  Accountability and encouragement can really mess with the status quo.  Remember: To keep your life small, keep your circle of relationships even smaller.

4.     Don’t tithe.

Generosity is a Biblically guaranteed tool that brings spiritual growth to believers’ lives.  The Bible says that as we honor God with our tithe, He promises to open the storehouses of Heaven and rain down blessings upon us.  You absolutely cannot honor God with your tithe and maintain a small life.  If you want to keep it small, then don’t even think about being generous toward God.

5.     Don’t serve.

Service is like soil to the seeds of our growth.  It provides a place for our roots to take hold and begins to nourish our spiritual walk.  Just remember: “If I no wanna grow, then I no wanna go and serve.”

It is very possible at this point you may be very disappointed because you know that you have already taken some of these growth steps and are afraid you may begin growing.  Don’t worry!  It is still possible to sabotage any potential growth you may have started.  If you happen to accidentally find yourself doing any of these things then:

6.      Don’t be consistent.

Consistency is like a growth hormone.  It multiplies the effects of growth activities and causes them to mature faster.  But inconsistency can quickly uproot any growth before it has a chance to positively impact your life.

So, if you have finished reading the list and think it is the worst advice you have ever heard in your life, then DON’T FOLLOW IT!  Cross out the don’ts, get consistent in your own personal walk with Jesus, and start growing!

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Fasting can be a mysterious concept, and you may be reading this today with several questions about what fasting is, what it does, and how to go about it.  Richard Foster says in his book, The Celebration of Discipline, “The central idea of fasting is the voluntary denial of an otherwise normal function for the sake of intense spiritual activity.”  He also goes on to describe just how many heroes of the faith fasted in the pages of Scripture:

“Abraham’s servant when he was seeking a bride for Isaac, Moses on Mt. Sinai, Hannah when she was praying for a child, David on several occasions, Elijah after his victory over Jezebel, Ezra when he was mourning over Israel’s faithlessness, Nehemiah when he was preparing the trip back to Israel, Esther when God’s people were threatened with extermination, Daniel on numerous occasions, the people of Nineveh – including the cattle (involuntarily no doubt), Jesus when he began his public ministry, Paul at the point of his conversion, the Christians at Antioch when they sent off Paul and Barnabas on their mission endeavor, Paul and others when they appointed all of the elders, and on and on it goes.”

That intense spiritual activity that Foster is referring to is most typically prayer and intercession and usually includes extended periods of time spent listening for the voice of God.  The voluntary denial of normal functions can include a variety of activities.  I’ve outlined a few for you:

  • Food:  Whether it’s a partial fast (not eating certain kinds of foods or at certain regularly scheduled times) or a complete fast (abstaining from all foods altogether), this is the most common form of fasting.  A common method for a first time fast would be to go without food from sundown to sundown the next day.  [Note:  Make sure your body is healthy enough to do this.  If you are not sure, talk to your doctor beforehand.]
  • Media:  Another version of fasting that can be highly effective at helping to direct our attention to the Lord is to give up all forms of media.  This would include television, computers, social networking, smart phones, etc.
  • Social Activities:  Many people find that withdrawing for a set amount of time from interaction with people is a wonderful way to focus on their relationship with the Lord.  These are often labeled as “spiritual retreats” and are just simply a time to remove yourself from normal conversation with those around you and get alone with God.  This often works best if you travel to a location away from home and stay in a place where you can have solitude and quiet.

The most important part of fasting is to make sure you keep God in the center of it.  It should have nothing to do with making you look spiritual and everything to do with sharpening your ears to hear God’s voice and heightening your commitment to obey what He tells you.

May God’s grace cover you, as you seek Him this week.

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