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Archive for the ‘Emmanuel Fellowship Church’ 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

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  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!

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“The difference between average people and achieving people is their perception and response to failure.” – John Maxwell

“It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.”

Theadore Roosevelt

“Citizenship in a Republic,”
Speech at the Sorbonne, Paris, April 23, 1910

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.  They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.”  –Lamentations 3:22-24 (NIV)

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Here is a video rendition of the opening illustration from Sunday morning’s message.  Enjoy!

Links

Click here to learn more about the Native American Buffalo Jumps Pastor Eric referenced in Sunday’s message.

“No man can make me submit!” Click here to learn more about David Louseau, the UFC fighter Pastor Eric mentioned Sunday whose courage inspired his faith and prayers one night in a hospital room.

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What EFC means to me!

Love / Mend / Train / Send

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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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