Archive for the ‘Heroes’ Category

As I made my way around the church Wednesday night, meeting people, answering questions, directing traffic, and hugging necks, I was blessed by the sounds I heard all around me.  I could hear the sound of babies in the nursery, the sound of children worshipping, and the sound of teenagers gathered in small groups asking hard questions in their search to understand more about God.

Parents were coming and going, most of them on their way to Lifegroup.  Doors were opening and closing.  Heals were clicking and clopping down the hallways.  It was the sound of life, the sound of messes getting cleaned and problems being solved, and it was beautiful.

Right in the midst of it all, rising above the clamor, I could hear voices.  I could hear the voices of those who had dedicated their night to teaching all of these young, hungry, noisy hearts about the love of Jesus.  I could hear the voices of love, the voices of patience.  I could hear the voices of those who spoke with a hope that their words would impact the lives they were speaking into.

My friends, the sounds of ministry occur because of the vision of those who willingly give their time and energy to love others.  People just like you and me who have resolved to honor God by serving others.

October is Pastor Appreciation Month, and I encourage you to make sure you seize an opportunity to appreciate the people in your life who minister to you and your family.  Make sure you don’t let the month go by without letting them know their loving actions make a difference.

Take the time to say “Thanks!” to each of the fabulous ministers in our church (Pastor Lolo, Pastor Loran, Mrs. Denise, and Pastor Mindy)– the people who lead the way in making the ministry of Emmanuel Fellowship Church so special!

  • T – Take a moment to express your appreciation.  Don’t let it be a passing remark.  Pause, look them in the eye, and let them know you notice the work they do.  Let them know how their service has impacted your family.
  • H – Honor them with your words and actions.  Do not allow the consistency of their service to be taken for granted.  Consider the investment they have made to minister to you and your family and remember to treat them with a spirit of gratitude.
  • A – Ask if they could use a hand.  When you notice a need, be quick to meet it.  Take a few extra seconds to make sure they have everything they need to love and serve your family in the best way possible.  Take the initiative to serve those who serve you!
  • N – Nudge your children to respect and help their teachers and pastors.  A short conversation on the way to church and a positive handoff into the classroom can position your child to be a great influence.
  • K – Keep your pastors in your prayers!  Nothing is more important than a ministry team that is prayed for by their congregation.
  • S – Send them a token of your appreciation.  A card or a gift can be a powerful tool to refresh a heart.  Your investment into them will, no doubt, yield a rich reward of continued ministry to your family.

Follow these links for more great resources for Pastor Appreciation Month:



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There are verses in the Bible I sometimes wish weren’t there.

James 5 contains one of those verses.  In James 5:17 we read:

Elijah was a man just like us…

My frustration with a verse such as this is it leaves me without an excuse.  If Elijah was a man just like me, then nothing separates the life he lived from the life I live, nothing separates the things he did from the things I can do.

We go to the Bible looking for super heroes.  We want special people with special callings to rise up and do special things that no one else can do.  But, the Bible does not comply with our search for complacency. 

The Word of God does not give us heroes, it gives us examples.

The pages of the Bible are full of men and women, just like us, who took their ordinary lives and allowed God to do something extraordinary through them.

Noah, Abraham, Moses, Deborah, Samson, Ruth, David, Elijah, and even Jesus, in his earthly ministry, were all people just like us who chose to let their faith in God lead them to action.  They lived their lives in such a way as to leave those of us who follow without an excuse for mediocrity. 

Honestly, my frustration with James 5:17 is not so much what is says as the question it leaves burning in my heart.  I am alright with Elijah being a man just like me, but it makes me wonder, am I a man just like Elijah?


Click here to listen to Pastor Eric’s full message on Elijah, “Fire on Mt. Carmel

Missions Update

Be in prayer for our Mission Team in Guatamala!  Check back soon for their itinerary.

On the Radar

Family Fun Night is here!  This  Wednesday, June 9, at 7 pm, you are invited to join us for an entertaining evening of softball, homemade ice cream, and fellowship at Newman Park.  I have heard some amazing reports of Rocky Road, Homemade Vanilla, and even Jalapeño ice creams on the menu.   

Softball Team Colors — Youth wear RED and Adults wear Blue!

Family Connection

Parents, be sure to check out the Worldchangers website.  We align our Bible curriculum from the nursery all the way up to our youth.  Access the Family Connection page on the website to bring your children’s Bible lesson home to the kitchen table. 

We also have all the info you need about RAMP, our ministry to youth in Sweetwater High School and Middle School and surrounding campuses, as well, at www.efcyouth.com.

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. “Blessed Be Your Name” by Matt Redmand
  2. “Saviour King” by Hillsong (New: Live Video Below!)
  3. “The More I Seek You” Kari Jobe version
  4. “Where You Go, I’ll Go” by Brian Johnson

Sunday Preview

Next Sunday, June 13, we continue our Summer preaching series, “Mountains and Valleys.”  Through this series, we will discover how to walk with God through both the high and low points of life.

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Every person has a story.

Every story has potential for a happy ending.

Every story has a villain.

Every villain is creating conflict.

Every story has a Hero.

Your life is an amazing story.

Your story is continuing to unfold.

Your story is not over.

Your story is interwoven with the stories of others.

You are not the author of your story or of theirs.

You can play a part — but you cannot write another’s story.

Live your story.

Love other’s stories.

Let God write something amazing.


The Speck of Sawdust,” Pastor Eric’s message from May 16, is now available online.  Click to listen.


Emmanuel Fellowship has a great blogging community.  Follow these links to find out what our friends have been posting lately.

On the Radar

Family Fun Night is scheduled for Wednesday, June 9, 7 pm.  You are invited to join us for this entertaining evening of softball, homemade ice cream, and fellowship in the park.

We have 135 Question Jesus Asked posted on the blog.  Leave a response and let us know which question most captures your heart.

Family Connection

Parents, be sure to check out the Worldchangers website.  We align our Bible curriculum from the nursery all the way up to our youth.  Access the Family Connection page on the website to bring your children’s Bible lesson home to the kitchen table. 

We also have all the info you need about RAMP, our ministry to youth in Sweetwater High School and Middle School and surrounding campuses, as well, at www.efcyouth.com.

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. “Everlasting God” Chris Tomlin version
  3. “Freedom Reigns” by Jason Upton
  4. “I Surrender” by Kim Walker

Sunday Preview

Sunday, May 23, we will be continuing our new and sermon series.  You are invited to come and explore with us the “Questions Jesus Asked.”

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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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plowed-field“What do you see?” was the foundational question of the prophet Jeremiah’s ministry.  Over and again, Jeremiah’s life would be filled with visions that he would in turn communicate to nations and kings, and what he saw would be the key to the message he delivered.

That same principle of vision is an essential factor in the ministry God has given each of us.  What you see determines what you say, what you do, and how you live.

As Mindy shared with us yesterday in her message, “Jeremiah: Faith for the Unseen,” the vision test for Jeremiah was the dormant branch that stood before him.  Jeremiah saw its identity and its potential. “I see an almond branch,” he said.  The young prophet could see what it was and the fruit it would produce.

What do you see today?  What do you see in your home, at work, and in the mirror?  What do you see for your future and how do you see your past?  What season of life are you in and where will you go from here?

The key to living in the grace of God is the capacity to see what God is doing around you and partner with Him in that activity.  This is the vision which brings hope, purpose, fulfillment, and fruit to life.

As we were closing the service yesterday, I saw a plowed field with rows and rows of uncut diamonds planted in the furrows.  It was as if the Lord was showing me there was an untapped harvest here in West-Texas.  God sees the beauty and the value that remains undiscovered in your life — and the soil of West Texas is the perfect place for your life to yield a harvest.  Can you see it?


Follow the link to access Pastor Mindy’s message “Faith for the Unseen” from the life of the prophet Jeremiah.


As Mindy shared yesterday, the song “You Have Redeemed My Soul” from the Enter the Worship Circle project kept coming to my mind.  Here’s a tribute video I found on youtube.

On the Radar

All youth and parents are invited to join us for a BBQ at Pastor Eric and Mindy’s house this Wednesday, July 1 at 7:00 pm.  We will eat, meet, play, and discuss upcoming plans for the youth ministry of EFC.  New 6th graders are invited to attend, as we will be welcoming them into the youth group!

Fountain Gate Fellowship in Abilene is hosting a Worship Training Seminar on Saturday, July 11, from 10:00 am to 2:30 pm for worship team members and those who just love to worship!  More information is available on their website at www.fountaingatefellowship.org

Our first Kids’ School of Worship will be held at Emmanuel Fellowship July 28-31.  This amazing event will follow the format of a VBS with the emphasis of instructing children (and adults) in the privilege of worshipping our King.

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 find them for purchase on itunes.com.

  1. “See His Love” by Tim  Hughes
  2. “You Gave Your Life Away” by Paul Baloche and Kathryn Scott
  3. “I Repent” by Barry and Michelle Patterson
  4. “Revelation Song” by Jennie Lee Riddle

Sunday Preview

For the months of July and August, we will take a summer tour through the life of our Lord Jesus as told in the book of John.  I invite you to join us this Sunday for our first message in the series “That’s My King!”

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Honor and the Smell of SmokeSome things you just can’t hide.  Like standing by a fire, you’re gonna end up smelling like smoke.  Honor is one of those unconcealable qualities of life, because honor doesn’t flow from the lips, it flows from our lives. 

Our Lord Jesus nailed the essential aspect of honor when He said, “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.” (Matthew 15:8). 

As we looked at the life of the prophet Elisha yesterday, we were able to discover the protection a life of honor offers and the doors honor is able to open.  Elisha was simply tending to his fields when the Mantle of Elijah was placed upon him, but he did two things well in response to this new anointing.  He burned his escape route and he kept his eyes focused on his instructor.  Elisha fully honored his mentor until it was his time to pick up Elijah’s cloak and step into his own ministry.

Is honor a word that fits into your vocabulary?  Does it fit into your lifestyle? 

What struggles do you have honoring the people and the positions around you? 

It is my hope that, in my life, honor will not be a catchy word I throw around for my own benefit, but that honor will be the established attitude of my heart.  Regardless of what I perceive with my eyes, I desire to treat people with the honor being fashioned in the image of God deserves.

  • Honor is a choice.
  • Honor is given, not earned.
  • Honor is given, not grabbed.
  • Honor remains even after its usefulness.

“To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power,  for ever and ever!”


Follow the link to access Pastor Eric’s Father’s Day message from the life of the prophet Elisha at http://efcsweetwater.com/index.php?nid=11648&s=gl


Check out this great “Happy Father’s Day” kinda wedding video! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jMtm1M8Q9tI&feature=related

How about a “Happy Father’s Day Sprite Style.” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zJBcbnSqGz8

Something to chew on: “Rethinking the Cross” by Peter Lopez

On the Radar

Our youth are spending the week at Christ for the Nations Institute in Dallas, TX, for an awesome time of worship and the Word.  Please remember to lift them up in prayer as they experience the life changing love of God.

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 find them for purchase on itunes.com.

  1. “Blessed Be Your Name” by Matt Redman — http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2cyqn2LxKVk
  2. “Your Love Is Everything” by Chris Quilala — http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0aSjM2kF4pA&feature=PlayList&p=CE575C95FECBEFB4&playnext=1&playnext_from=PL&index=10
  3. “Dance With Me” by Chris Dupre
  4. “Forever And A Day” by Anthony Skinner

Sunday Preview

Next Sunday, we will conclude our series on Old Testament Heroes with a look at the remarkable life of the prophet Jeremiah.

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Visiting with people as they were heading out of the service Sunday, I had an interesting conversation with one of our local tattoo artists.  Responding to the morning message, he said, “Your heart can be wholly, holy, or holey.” 

 Now that’s a profound thought.  As near as I can tell one will lead to the other, but there is one that undermines them both.  Let me explain:

“Holiness” is our desire.  It is the command of God for our lives and it is the gift of God through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross.  A holy life reflects the grace of God through our character and actions.

“Holeyness” is the under miner.  The holes in our life from past wounds and sin create pitfalls from which we sabotage ourselves and our purpose in Christ.

“Whollyness” is the heart that is undivided.  This is what God commends Joshua for when He says:

“Because they have not followed me wholeheartedly, not one of the men twenty years old or more who came up out of Egypt will see the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob— not one except Caleb son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite and Joshua son of Nun, for they followed the Lord wholeheartedly.” Numbers 32:11-12

How is your heart today?

Is your heart so holey that you have lost sight of living holy? Or are you living wholly in the grace that makes us holy unto our God and King?

Remember, the holes are healed and a whole heart is developed only in the holiness of the presence of God.

“The Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks with his friend. Then Moses would return to the camp, but his young aide Joshua son of Nun did not leave the tent.” Exodus 33:11


Follow the link to access Pastor Eric’s message on Joshua from last Sunday at http://efcsweetwater.com/index.php?nid=11648&s=gl


I’ve posted the Parable of the Mandarin Goby on the blog.  Click here to catch the closing story of Sunday’s message.

A great resource for learning how to live in the Presence of God is a book called Practicing His Presence, which was written by a monk named Brother Lawrence.  You can find the book at Amazon.

On the Radar

Spend an evening in His presence at the Night of Prayer and Worship this Friday at The Sweetwater Prayer Center.  The party starts at 7:00 pm.  Children are welcome to join us, but a nursery will be available.  Join us for a glorious time in the presence of our King.

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 find them for purchase on itunes.com.

  1. “O Taste and See” by Brian and Jenn Johnson  watch on youtube.
  2. “I Love Your Presence” by Anthony Skinner  watch on youtube.
  3. “A Little Longer” by Jenn Johnson  watch on youtube.
  4. “Revelation Song” by Kari Jobe – This one is a must watch. 

Sunday Preview

Our hero for next Sunday is Elisha.  His life teaches us the profound impact of honor.

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