Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Christianity’ Category

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

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

…with liberty and justice for all.

Liberty and Justice are two of the most noble concepts a person could ever hope to wrap their mind around.  They are everything our immigrant grandparents came to the United States for, they are everything our forefathers fought for, and they are all we have ever known.

Each of us has faced our own set of challenges, obstacles, and prejudices in life, but most of take for granted the amazing grace of living in a society that values liberty and justice.

The book of Nehemiah tells a beautiful story of what can happen when a community sets their hearts to build together, but there is another building story tucked inside of this book.  Right in the middle of this amazing story about rebuilding a wall around Jerusalem is a story about a different kind of rebuilding, the rebuilding of the people who will be protected by those walls.

Nehemiah 5:1-19 (NIV)

Now the men and their wives raised a great outcry against their Jewish brothers. 2 Some were saying, “We and our sons and daughters are numerous; in order for us to eat and stay alive, we must get grain.”

3 Others were saying, “We are mortgaging our fields, our vineyards and our homes to get grain during the famine.”

4 Still others were saying, “We have had to borrow money to pay the king’s tax on our fields and vineyards. 5 Although we are of the same flesh and blood as our countrymen and though our sons are as good as theirs, yet we have to subject our sons and daughters to slavery. Some of our daughters have already been enslaved, but we are powerless, because our fields and our vineyards belong to others.”

6 When I heard their outcry and these charges, I was very angry. 7 I pondered them in my mind and then accused the nobles and officials. I told them, “You are exacting usury from your own countrymen!” So I called together a large meeting to deal with them 8 and said: “As far as possible, we have bought back our Jewish brothers who were sold to the Gentiles. Now you are selling your brothers, only for them to be sold back to us!” They kept quiet, because they could find nothing to say.

9 So I continued, “What you are doing is not right. Shouldn’t you walk in the fear of our God to avoid the reproach of our Gentile enemies? 10 I and my brothers and my men are also lending the people money and grain. But let the exacting of usury stop! 11 Give back to them immediately their fields, vineyards, olive groves and houses, and also the usury you are charging them—the hundredth part of the money, grain, new wine and oil.”

12 “We will give it back,” they said. “And we will not demand anything more from them. We will do as you say.”  Then I summoned the priests and made the nobles and officials take an oath to do what they had promised. 13 I also shook out the folds of my robe and said, “In this way may God shake out of his house and possessions every man who does not keep this promise. So may such a man be shaken out and emptied!”

At this the whole assembly said, “Amen,” and praised the Lord. And the people did as they had promised.

What we see here is a cry for justice.  The citizens of Jerusalem are saying, “What is the point in rebuilding a wall if we are still slaves behind its protection?”

This story of rebuilding a wall is particularly relevant to the current social revolution of the “Occupy Wall Street” movement.

To be honest , I don’t really get Occupy Wall Street.  As near as I can tell, it is an expression of frustration against corporate greed and lack of accountability in our financial sector.  And at that level I can relate to the frustration.

But the entire movement, from the beginning, has lacked a clear voice, and so, at times, it comes across as a whine for socialism, or an expression of jealous greed.  It has even manifested itself in racism toward Jews and a push for complete anarchy.

The confusion of the Occupy Wall Street movement comes from the fact that it doesn’t seem to know what it wants; it just knows it doesn’t want what it has, and, at that level, it ends up sounding like a spoiled child.

What we see in Nehemiah chapter 5 is similar to how people feel who are part of Occupy Wall Street, except that the frustrations expressed by the Jews in that day were extreme and most obviously legitimate.

Nehemiah 5:4-5 (NIV)

4 Still others were saying, “We have had to borrow money to pay the king’s tax on our fields and vineyards. 5 Although we are of the same flesh and blood as our countrymen and though our sons are as good as theirs, yet we have to subject our sons and daughters to slavery. Some of our daughters have already been enslaved, but we are powerless, because our fields and our vineyards belong to others.”

And look at Nehemiah’s response.

Nehemiah 5:6-7 (NIV)

6 When I heard their outcry and these charges, I was very angry. 7 I pondered them in my mind and then accused the nobles and officials. I told them, “You are exacting usury from your own countrymen!” So I called together a large meeting to deal with them…

Here is the key: Injustice should make us angry, and it should lead us to action.

As I have read about the Occupy Wall Street movement , one of their hallmarks are the slogans they put on their protest signs.  These guys are professional sign makers.

I want to point out three signs that I call: Wrong, Right, and Radical.  And I want you to consider how these three ways of thinking are impacting your life.

Look at this sign:

WRONG!

“We are the 99%” is one of the huge battle cries of the Occupy Wall Street movement.  It is a claim that the problems in America should be blamed on 1% of the population who are greedy and keeping the rest of us in poverty.

The first major problem with this claim is that it is simply wrong.

At the bottom of the sign, it says, “Look it up.”  And when you do look it up, you begin to discover how overwhelmingly wealthy we are as Americans.  In the United States, the poverty line is approximately $22,350.  If your household makes less than this, you are considered in poverty conditions in our country.

But do you know where that places you in the world?

According to the Global Rich List, an annual income of $22,350 puts you among the top 10% of the wealthiest people in the world.  And check this out.  A combined household income of $50,000 would make your family among the top 1% of the wealthiest people in the world.

So back to our 1% boy…

Do you see his shoes?  Do you see his pants?  Do you see his clean finger nails?  This average American boy is among the top 1% of the wealthiest people in the world.

What is wrong about his sign is that he is using it to say, “The problems I am facing are someone else’s to fix.”  As long as any of us are looking for someone else to fix our problems, we will stay in a mindset of poverty.

No one is holding you down.  No one is holding you back from being who God has created you to be.  But, if you are waiting for a handout to get there, you just became your own worst enemy.

Here is the next sign.

Ouch, that one hurts my feelings.  But this sign is RIGHT.

Now, I do not believe America has failed as a society, but we have been damaged as a society.  And this sign is right because of the words, “So-Called.”  Anytime someone hides behind the label of Christianity and uses that label as an excuse for greed, selfishness, or hatred, they are wounding their society and they are making a mockery of the teachings of Jesus.

It may not be a secret that you attend church on a Sunday morning, but what does your version of Christianity say in the workplace?  In the handling of your finances?  In your home?  In private?

A half lived faith does a whole lotta damage to our world.

Let’s take a look at one more sign.

“The only way to deal with an unfree world is to become so absolutely free that your very existence is an act of rebellion.”

This is a quote from Albert Camus, a 20th century novelist and philosopher. And that, my friends, is the definition of radical.  It is one of the most beautiful sentences I have ever read.  And, in the Occupy Movement, it is being used in exactly the wrong way.  What a heartbreak!

The Apostle Paul says it this way:

Romans 12:2 (NIV)
2 Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

If you want to see justice in our land, begin by taking responsibility for your actions by doing these three things:

  1. Confront the wrong ways of thinking in your heart.  Filter them through the truth of God’s word.
  2. Accept what is right.  Allow yourself to be challenged by hard truths.
  3. Live radically.

If we would apply ourselves to these truths, I believe we would see true justice and liberty flow like a river through our land, and we would most certainly become ONE NATION UNDER GOD.

Read Full Post »

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)

Read Full Post »

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.

Read Full Post »

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!

Read Full Post »

The Roman RoadIf yesterday’s message left you wanting to close the door of sin in your life— that’s really good.  If it left you wanting to put out the welcome mat for God’s presence at the door of your heart— that’s great.  If it left you aching to share what Jesus did on the cross with someone you know— that’s tremendous.

Here’s a tool called the “Roman Road” to help you do that. It’s just a road map, really, through the pages of Romans that can keep you focused as you talk through the amazing gift of salvation with someone who needs to hear it.  Print it out and keep it handy, jot it down in the back of your Bible, put it in your smartphone, or memorize it completely.  But, whatever you do, be prepared to testify about how this journey has changed your life and get ready to see it transform someone else’s.

  • Romans 3:23
    For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
  • Romans 6:23
    For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
  • Romans 5:8
    But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
  • Romans 10:9-10
    That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.  For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.

 

Read Full Post »

On April 10, 1912, the RMS Titanic set sail from Southampton, England, bound for New York.  Four days into her maiden voyage, she hit an iceberg and sunk into the Atlantic Ocean.

The sinking of the Titanic is a story ingrained in our culture with mythic proportions.  The events of that tragic day have been scrutinized from every angle, but the greatest contributing factor to the loss of so many lives was the simple neglect of multiple warnings from other ships, “Icebergs ahead.”

Failure to head warnings has lead to more disasters than just the sinking of one ship.  It has lead to loss and heartbreak at every level of life and human relationships.

I believe there are three significant warning signs every follower of Jesus must be aware of if they desire to steer free of icebergs as they navigate their way through life.

Three warning signs of ice bergs ahead:

  1. When what I hear on Sunday morning changes my language, but not my life, I am in iceberg waters.
  2. When the cry for comfort is louder than the cry for compassion, I am in iceberg waters.
  3. When my eyes are so focused on this world that I am not homesick for Heaven, I am in iceberg waters.

Warning signs are not a guarantee of either a collision or avoidance thereof.  They simply are what they are, a cautious observation that you are sailing in dangerous waters.

I pray you will give careful consideration to the warning signs around you, and may you steer clear of the icebergs that could hurt you or the ones you love.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »