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Archive for the ‘Kingdom’ Category

There is a special place in God’s heart for widows.  Widows, orphans, and foreigners represent a vulnerable demographic of both ancient and modern culture.  Without a steady source of income or strong representation in business and legal affairs, they can easily find themselves exploited.

It is interesting that over and again God chooses the vulnerability of widows to demonstrate the principles of His kingdom.  Throughout the lineage of Jesus, we see widows taking their place in God’s unfolding story of redemption through the lives of women such as Tamar, Ruth, Bathsheeba, and even Mary.

It is a widow who provides for the prophet Elijah.  It is a widow who recognizes Jesus as Messiah when He is presented in the temple and only eight days old.  It is a widow who is commended by Jesus for her generosity when she offers her two mites.  And it is the story of a persistent widow Jesus uses to teach his disciples to always pray and not give up.

There are powerful lessons to be learned from those who would appear to be helpless among us.  Little is much when it is held in faith-filled hands.

The following is a collection of sixteen verses in the Bible that tell us of God’s heart for widows.

  1. Do not take advantage of a widow or an orphan.  Exodus 22:22 (NIV)
  2. He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the alien, giving him food and clothing.  Deuteronomy 10:18 (NIV)
  3. When you are harvesting in your field and you overlook a sheaf, do not go back to get it. Leave it for the alien, the fatherless and the widow, so that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hands.  Deuteronomy 24:19 (NIV)
  4. Cursed is the man who withholds justice from the alien, the fatherless or the widow. Then all the people shall say, “Amen!”  Deuteronomy 27:19 (NIV)
  5. Go at once to Zarephath of Sidon and stay there. I have commanded a widow in that place to supply you with food.  1 Kings 17:9 (NIV)
  6. A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling.  Psalm 68:5 (NIV)
  7. The Lord watches over the alien and sustains the fatherless and the widow, but he frustrates the ways of the wicked.  Psalm 146:9 (NIV)
  8. The Lord tears down the proud man’s house, but he keeps the widow’s boundaries intact.  Proverbs 15:25 (NIV)
  9. …learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed.  Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow.  Isaiah 1:17 (NIV)
  10. Leave your orphans; I will protect their lives.  Your widows too can trust in me.  Jeremiah 49:11 (NIV)
  11. Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts.  But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a fraction of a penny.  Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others.  They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.” Mark 12:41-44 (NIV)
  12. There was also a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying.  Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.  Luke 2:36-38 (NIV)
  13. Soon afterward, Jesus went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd went along with him.  As he approached the town gate, a dead person was being carried out—the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the town was with her.  When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, “Don’t cry.”  Then he went up and touched the coffin, and those carrying it stood still. He said, “Young man, I say to you, get up!”  The dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother.  Luke 7:11-15 (NIV)
  14. Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up.  He said: “In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared about men.  And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’  “For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care about men, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually wear me out with her coming!’ ” And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says.  And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off?  I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”  Luke 18:1-8 (NIV)
  15. Give proper recognition to those widows who are really in need. 1 Timothy 5:3 (NIV)
  16. Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.  James 1:27 (NIV)
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In the 25th chapter of the book of Matthew, Jesus tells an intriguing story.  He introduces us to two servants who are each given a certain amount of talents by their master.  They each invest the money wisely and double what was given to them.

There is also a third servant in the story, a man who received one talent.  This man took his talent and buried it in the ground.  Listen to the words of the third servant:

“I was afraid and went out and hid your talent in the ground.”

Those are painful words.  Those are convicting words.

As a servant of Jesus, I pray those words will not be my declaration before my Lord.  As a pastor, it is my sincere prayer those words will not be your declaration before our Lord.

My friends, God has made a deposit into your life, a good deposit.  And He is looking for a return on His investment.  He has a right to expect you to bear good fruit.

Have the circumstances of your life caused you to bury the talent Jesus has given you?  “I was afraid…I was too busy…I was hurt…I was offended…I was (insert excuse hear)…and went out and hid my talent in the ground.”

Don’t you think it’s time to break out your shovel, dig up those talents, and invest them in the Kingdom of God?

 

 

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Checking the mail a few days ago, I was excited to see my latest ebay purchase had arrived.  I made my way to the kitchen and sliced through the envelope to see a $100,000,000,000,000 bill.  That’s right, 14 zeros, a one hundred trillion dollar bill!

Although the bill I held was once actual legal currency, the postage stamp on the envelope it came in was worth more than this little piece of paper.  The bill was printed by the Republic of Zimbabwe, which has suffered from hyper inflation.  At the time it was printed, the one hundred trillion dollar bill was designed to accommodate a typical government worker with one month’s worth of salary.  It has since been completely devalued, and Zimbabwe now uses a combination of US dollars and European money.

I bought the bill as a novelty, but also as a reminder.  One hundred trillion dollars is sitting on my nightstand to remind me that economics is the ultimate demonstration of faith.  A quick viewing of any American currency will tell you the money is backed as a Federal Reserve Note, and it will then declare, “In God We Trust.”

The irony of the two statements lies in the fact that faith in God is so much more secure than the hope we could ever put in our Federal Government.  But, every day we demonstrate we are a people of faith as we give and receive little green pieces of paper in exchange for goods and services.  Faith is the foundation of the U. S. economy, and what makes our economy so volatile.

It would do us well to remember faith is the foundation of the economy of Heaven, as well.  Every transaction we make through prayer is processed through the currency of faith.

I think it’s time for a shopping spree!

Podcast

The podcast will be available Tuesday afternoon.

Links

For budget and debt reduction information that Mindy referenced in yesterday’s sermon, check out Dave Ramsey’s site or Larry Burketts’ site.

On the Radar

This Saturday is our Garage Sale for our kids grades 2-5 who are going to camp.  If you’d like to donate some items, please drop them off this Wednesday evening or contact Pastor Lolo at peterandlorinlopez@gmail.com to arrange a different drop-off time.

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. “We Cry Out” Jesus Culture version
  2. “Here Is Love” Jenn Johnson version
  3. “Your Love Is Like” by Rick Pino
  4. “The Same Power” by Hillsong  

Sunday Preview

Next Sunday, May 2, we will continue our “Infrastructure” sermon series.

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If you are like me, you watched with a broken heart as scenes of the earthquake in Haiti flashed across your television screen in January.  The images of brokenness and devastation where overwhelming, and it was easy to feel helpless in the face of such a disaster.

The world’s response to the earthquake was amazing to watch, as well.  Resources began to flow into the small nation like a flood.  In fact, resources flowed in so quickly and with such abundance that they were unable to be processed and distributed to the millions of people in need.

As heartbreaking as the scenes of destruction were, the scenes of the Port Au Prince airport overwhelmed with supplies and actually having to turn away planes filled with relief aid left viewers frustrated and bewildered.

Our gifts and our aid were not fully effective because the infrastructure of the nation was so devastated that the supplies could not connect to the need.  The resources were at hand, but still out of reach.

Jesus paints a picture of a similar scenario in a conversation He has with some Pharisees.

Once, having been asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, “The kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation, nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is within you.”  (Luke 17:20-21)

All of our lives have been shaken by some quake or another.  We are all surrounded by people each day who have been wounded by the challenges of life.

How many people suffer every day when the assistance they need is at hand, but still seems out of reach to them?

The resources of Heaven to heal, cleanse, refresh, and make new are nearer than our next breath, but they are of no benefit if we are not able to access them.

One of the keys to hope and healing in life is establishing an infrastructure in the soul that can allow our hearts to access the abundant resources of Heaven.  We must build the necessary roads, bridges, water ways, and communication systems to create a framework through which the culture of Heaven can impact our lives.

Prepare the way for the Lord, and may His glory be revealed in your life.  Amen.

Podcast

Click to listen to “Infrastructure: Roads and Bridges.”

On the Radar

Membership Dessert tonight!!!  You are invited to join us as we enjoy dessert together and share the vision and mission of EFC, and how you can get connected.  We will meet at the church at 7:00 pm and childcare is available.

Beautiful One,” EFC’s Spring Women’s Event is this Saturday, April 17, 10 am – 2 pm.  Ladies, bring a friend and join us for a wonderful day!

“All Things New” CD update: Mindy and I are excited about the great response to the new CD.  The Sweetwater Reporter gave us some excellent local exposure and we are getting good internet traffic to von Atzigen Ministries.  I just dropped a CD in the mail to Oregon this morning.  How cool is that?  We’d love to hear feedback from your experience with “All Things New.”

Youth Bar-B-Q Sandwhich Fundraiser after the service next Sunday!  April 18, we are hosting lunch on the grounds.  The youth are providing sandwhiches to raise money for camp, and the rest of us are bringing dessert and side dishes.  Make plans to hang around for a wonderful time together and bless our youth at the same time.

Kids’ Camp Garage Sale Fundraiser coming Saturday, May 1st.  If you have some items to donate, we’d appreciate your help.  You can bring your items to the church anytime after this Sunday.

Family Connection

Parents, be sure to check out the Worldchangers website.  We align our Bible curriculum from the nursery through to our children’s minsitry.  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. “Beautiful One” by Tim Hughes
  2. “I Have Found” by Kim Walker
  3. “God, You’re Beautiful” by Anthony Skinner
  4. “The Same Power” by Hillsong  

Sunday Preview

Next Sunday, April 18, we continue our “Infrastructure” sermon series.  Come join us as we examine the essential building blocks of the Christian faith — and stay for the Fellowship Meal afterwards!

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It seems pretty often that I catch a news headline about a chain reaction of generosity breaking out at a Starbucks.  It’s amazing how one act of kindness can lead to a morning filled with bright smiles and warm hearts as customers pay forward the blessing of a free cup of coffee.

Every chain reaction has to start with a catalyst.  It has to begin with a person who decides to purchase not only their morning caffeine fix, but an extra hit for the car behind them. 

In the life of David, King of Israel, we see a catalytic moment that pays forward for generations.

It began in the field of Araunah the Jebusite when David made an extravagant offering to the Lord on behalf of the nation.

But King David replied to Araunah, “No, I insist on paying the full price. I will not take for the Lord what is yours, or sacrifice a burnt offering that costs me nothing.”  –1 Chronicles 21:24 (NIV)

Somehow through this encounter with the Lord, David discerned that at the very place of this sacrificial offering, the Temple of the Lord should be established.

Then David said, “The house of the Lord God is to be here, and also the altar of burnt offering for Israel.”  –1 Chronicles 22:1 (NIV)

For the building of the Temple, on the very ground of his initial offering, David makes the most sacrificial offering ever recorded in human history.  The staggering wealth of his offering is recorded in 1 Chronicles 22.

Then he called for his son Solomon and charged him to build a house for the Lord, the God of Israel. David said to Solomon: “My son, I had it in my heart to build a house for the Name of the Lord my God . . .“Now, my son, the Lord be with you, and may you have success and build the house of the Lord your God, as he said you would . . . “I have taken great pains to provide for the temple of the Lord a hundred thousand talents of gold, a million talents of silver, quantities of bronze and iron too great to be weighed, and wood and stone. And you may add to them. You have many workmen: stonecutters, masons and carpenters, as well as men skilled in every kind of work in gold and silver, bronze and iron—craftsmen beyond number. Now begin the work, and the Lord be with you.”  –1 Chronicles 22:6-16 (NIV)

And, just like a happy morning at Starbucks, David’s generosity becomes a catalyst that ignites a nation to give toward the glorious vision of establishing a house for God to be worshipped on the earth.

Then the leaders of families, the officers of the tribes of Israel, the commanders of thousands and commanders of hundreds, and the officials in charge of the king’s work gave willingly. They gave toward the work on the temple of God five thousand talents and ten thousand darics of gold, ten thousand talents of silver, eighteen thousand talents of bronze and a hundred thousand talents of iron. Any who had precious stones gave them to the treasury of the temple of the Lord in the custody of Jehiel the Gershonite. The people rejoiced at the willing response of their leaders, for they had given freely and wholeheartedly to the Lord. David the king also rejoiced greatly.  –1 Chronicles 29:6-9 (NIV)

The story of this threshing floor turned Temple of the Lord is concluded by a verse in 2 Chronicles that ties all of the pieces together.

Then Solomon began to build the temple of the Lord in Jerusalem on Mount Moriah, where the Lord had appeared to his father David. It was on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite, the place provided by David.  –2 Chronicles 3:1 (NIV)

Now, there is more to the background of this property and the purpose of God in this story, but what we see so clearly in this little sliver of history is the impact of sacrifice and extravagant generosity on the story of human history.

When a person makes a large purchase on their own behalf, a common question they may encounter is, “How much did that set you back?” 

When an extravagant sacrifice is made on behalf of the Kingdom of God, the question that only eternity will be able to answer is, “How much did that set you forward?”

I wonder if Jesus was thinking about this field David purchased from Araunah when he told us this story about the Kingdom of God.

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.  –Matthew 13:44 (NIV)

Podcast

Click here to listen to Pastor Eric’s message “The Sacrifice of Generosity.”

On the Radar – Church Holiday Schedule

  • Wednesday, December 2 – Lifegroup / Children / Youth at 7:00pm
  • Sunday, December 6 – Second Sunday of Advent
  • Wednesday, December 9 – Lifegroup Christmas Party / Youth Christmas Party
  • Sunday, December 13 – Third Sunday of Advent
  • Wednesday, December 16 – Hayride, Caroling, & Chiminea Christmas Party
  • Sunday, December 20 – Children’s Christmas Pageant
  • Wednesday, December 23 – No Church Activities
  • Sunday, December 27 – Last Sunday of 2009
  • Wednesday, December 30 – No Church Activities
  • Thursday, December 31 – New Year’s Night of Worship

Revelation Bible study this Tuesday from 12:00 – 1:00 pm in my office.  Everyone is welcome to join in, just bring your Bible and a lunch box.  Keep up with the progress at The Watchman’s Gaze.

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. Happy Day” by Tim Hughes
  2. Your Love Never Fails” by Jesus Culture
  3. Healer” Kari Jobe version
  4. Wonderful Maker” Chris Tomlin version

Sunday Preview

Next Sunday, December 6, is the second Sunday of Advent.  We will continue our series on Sacrifice with a look at walking in Sacrifice in our relationships.

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work of God - cover jpgI have been the subject of many discipleship experiments.  Many great men have taken me under their wing for spiritual growth and maturity, and I am thankful for each of them.  But, discipleship without relationship quickly succumbs to the slippery slope of checklists.  The message that gets picked up by many young believers is, “If you want to be a good Christian, then…”

  • Do this
  • Do that
  • Do these
  • Do those
  • Do memorize
  • Do read
  • Do attend
  • Do it again
  • Oh, and don’t do this, that, these, or those.

And the checklist of the Christian faith begins to pile up until it seems we can’t see Jesus for all the jobs we have to do for Him.

Measuring up to the expectations of others can be a crushing weight.

So what is it that God expects from us?  How long is His list?  How heavy is the burden He places upon those who would follow Him?

In John chapter 6, we are privileged to actually discover the answer to this question:

John 6:26-29 (NIV)
26 Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, you are looking for me, not because you saw miraculous signs but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. 27 Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. On him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.”

28 Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?”

29 Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”

I am so thankful to discover God’s checklist in the scriptures.  Now I can finally get it right and measure up! 

The checklist of God for mankind:

  • believe

 What?  What else?  There has to be more to do.  Where is my “this, that, these, and those?”

Leave it to Jesus to make the Christian faith so complicatedly simple.  Actually, He makes it simple, and we make it complicated!

I understand there is much work to do in the Kingdom of God, and I believe faith will lead us to a lifestyle of good works.  But, I have observed the confusion of those who behave as though good works will lead to a life of faith.  That mindset leaves people hard hearted, religious, and bitter.

Would you dare to embrace the checklist of God today?  It could get adventurous in a hurry!

Jesus said it best in Mark 9:23

“Everything is possible for him who believes.”

Do you believe that?

Podcast

Follow the link to access this Sunday’s message “The Work of God” from John Chapter 6.

Links

Bonus Post: Click here to explore a word study from John 6:26-30.

Mindy spoke yesterday about a wonderful website.  Follow this link to watch salvations occur in real time around the globe!

On the Radar

Our Lifegroups will kick off the Fall Semester on Wednesday, August 19th, at 7:00 pm, and our children will begin their new semester of Wednesday evening Kids’ Church the same night.  Make plans to take part of the “life” in our Lifegroups!

School is just around the corner, and Sweetwater Aglow is hosting their annual Back To School Prayer Walk this Tuesday, August 11, 6:30 pm, at Lighthouse Assembly (on Newman Street).  Make plans to come pray for our schools!

Our youth will meet for an on-site Bible study this Wednesday.  We will meet at 6:00 pm at the church, travel together to a surprise location, and return to the church by 8:45 pm.  Check out the new youth website at www.efcyouth.com for more info!

Are you a new member at EFC?  Interested in joining and partnering with us?  We invite you to attend a Membership Dessert next Monday, August 17, at 7:00 pm.  Childcare will be available.

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. “We Cry Out” by Kim Walker
  2. “Mighty To Save” by Matt Redmand
  3. “Healer” (Here is a great video of the Kari Jobe version.) 
  4. “How He Loves” by John Mark McMillan

Sunday Preview

Next Sunday is the third Sunday of the month.  We will be celebrating our Missions Sunday.  We will also continue our series “That’s My King!” from the book of John.

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The conversation between Jesus and those who were following Him after the feeding of the 5,000 in John Chapter 6 is a remarkable exploration of the human psyche.

From the New American Standard Bible the text reads:

John 6:26-30 (NASB)
28     Therefore they said to Him, “What shall we do, so that we may work the works of God?”

29     Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.”

30     So they said to Him, “What then do You do for a sign, so that we may see, and believe You? What work do You perform?

From the literal aspect of the NASB, we begin to see the humor of the conversation, even in English, but when we look at the Greek words used and repeated in the text, the heart of man is revealed.

John 6:26-30 (NASB)
28     Therefore they said to Him, “What shall we do (4160), so that we may work (2038) the works (2041) of God?”

29     Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work (2041) of God, that you believe (4100) in Him whom He has sent.”

30     So they said to Him, “What then do You do (4160) for a sign, so that we may see, and believe (4100) You? What work (2038) do You perform? 

  • 4160 – gr [poieo] verb.  translated “do” – def: to make, to produce
  • 2038 – gr [ergazomai] verb.  translated “work” – to work, to labour
  • 2041 – gr [ergon] noun.  translated “work” – business employment, that which one undertakes to do
  • 4100 – gr [pisteuo] verb.  translated “believe” – to think to be true, to be persuaded

As I explore the conversation, this is what I hear being said:

People: What can we produce to work in the employment of God?

Jesus: This is God’s employment opportunity — believe that He sent me to you.

People: Well then, what will you produce, so that we can believe?  What kind of work will you do?

Can you see their hearts?  Can you see your heart?  It just can’t be that simple.  Somebody has to do some work around here for us to get on God’s good side.

The amazing reality is that it is that simple.  According to Jesus, if you can become persuaded that He is who He says He is, then you are qualified for employment in the Kingdom of God.

No character references.  No background check.  You’re hired.

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