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Archive for the ‘Parables’ Category

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

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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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Image provided by http://dryicons.com

The story is told of a Middle Eastern traveler making his way on a long journey across the desert.

As he plodded on his camel steadily through the dry heat, he came upon an oasis.  Approaching the desert spring, the traveler was surprised to find three brothers weeping profusely.

Through conversation with the mourning brothers, the traveler discovered their father had recently passed away.  The source of the tears was the brother’s inability to satisfy their fathers’ last wish.

The father had given strict instructions that the inheritance of his estate be divided in such a way that the oldest received one half, the second received one third, and the youngest received one ninth of the father’s estate.

The brothers had successfully divided the rest of their father’s property, but were unable to do so with the camels.  The father had left them 17 camels, and, try as they may, the brothers could not distribute the camels according to father’s wishes.

The traveler considered the dilemma and then offered the brothers a solution.  He insisted they receive his camel as a gift.  After much conversation and many attempts at refusal, the brothers relented to the travelers’ demands and received the kindness of his gift.

With 18 camels, the brothers were able to properly divide the inheritance and satisfy their father’s wishes.  The older brother received one half of the herd and took his 9 camels.  The second brother received one third of the herd and took his 6 camels.  The youngest brother received one ninth of the herd and took his 2 camels.

Surprisingly, 9 camels plus 6 camels plus 2 camels equals 17 camels.  With the inheritance properly distributed, the traveler was able to take his camel and continue on his journey.

What solution do you have to offer to the desperate situations around you?  What comfort or resolution can your wisdom and generosity bring to those God brings into your path?  Are you riding on the 18th camel?

(Special thanks to my dear friend Loren Bryant for introducing me to “The Story of the 18th Camel.”)

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Pots of Stone Soup are springing up all over the Big County.  From the local fish and chicken eatery to schools and home kitchens, friends and family are cooking up the adventure!

Here is a recipe for Stone Soup submitted by a dear friend, Ron Smith. 

 Ingredients

  •  Any pot that is handy
  •  Enough water to fill pot
  •  A fire starter and extra kindling (just in case)
  •  One special stone
  •  A variety of special soup ingredients, from common to totally unique (These may be gathered from a variety of sources and locations. Don’t turn down anything without very good reason.)

 Directions

  • Start a fire in a convenient, or sometimes in an inconvenient, location. Simply starting the fire is the important initial action.
  • Place pot on fire.
  • Let water begin to simmer. (If absolutely necessary, let pot come to a boil.)
  • Gently place one special stone in heated water. (Sometimes tossing the stone vigorously in the pot works even better.)
  • Gradually add additional ingredients. Don’t fret too much over what order or in what quantity they go in originally. Just make sure there are many ingredients.
  • Stir pot frequently. Don’t get lazy here just because the aroma, taste, and texture are already good. Stirring often is an absolute must for a successful dish.
  • Taste test occasionally, making sure all ingredients are included in their uniquely agreeable proportions.
  • Garnish with a healthy dose of love and serve continuously until all are filled.
  • Move to a new location and start recipe again.

You can discover more of Ron Smith’s writings at www.freshfocus.wordpress.com.

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The story is told of a French soldier returning to his home after the Napoleonic wars.  Weary and alone, he steadily traveled, passing through village after village seeking shelter and the hospitality of his countrymen.

He was saddened to find the devastation of war had broken the spirit of the villagers.  High taxes, poor crops, and uncertainty had stolen their sense of love, trust, and community.  And so our lonely soldier traveled, trying to make his way home, and trying to make these war torn villages more like home as he went.

His luggage was peculiar.  He didn’t carry the rifle that had helped him survive the hard fought battles he had seen.  He didn’t carry a knapsack full of clothing.  Not much could be found in his old wagon, but a large metal pot and a special box with something priceless inside.

One day, he wondered into a village in the region of Lyon and made his way to the town square which housed the local well.  His presence was met by the slamming of doors, the closing of shutters, and mothers calling their children in early from their playing.  The soldier simply whistled and walked on. 

Upon arriving at the well, he filled his metal pot with water, placed it on an old fire pit in the town square, and lit a nice fire underneath.

A miserly old man passed by and scoffed at the soldier.  “Don’t know why you’re stopping here,” he said, “And definitely no need for a cooking fire.  There ain’t a bite to eat in the whole region.  You’ll starve like the rest of us if you stay too long.”

“Oh, I’ve everything I need right here,” the soldier replied.  “In fact, I was thinking of making some stone soup to share with the rest of you.”

With that, he opened the box and pulled out a velvet bag and from the bag he removed one small stone and plopped it in the water.  The soldier leaned over the pot, breathed in the aroma with a satisfactory groan, and gave the pot a stir.

Well, it didn’t take long for the entire village to hear word of a stranger cooking up something odd in the center of town.  Many of the villagers began to make their way toward the square, while many others began to peer out of now unshuttered windows.

As the soldier gave the broth a taste and licked his lips in anticipation of a scrumptious meal, hunger began to overtake the villager’s skepticism.

“Ah,” the soldier said to himself rather loudly, “I do like a tasty stone soup.  Of course, some flour would sure thicken up the broth.  It’s hard to beat a thick and rich stone soup.”

It wasn’t long before a villager returned with a cup of flour and offered it to be added to the pot.

“Excellent,” cried the soldier, “You know I once had stone soup with minced spices and a bit of garlic.  It was fit for a king.”

No sooner had he spoken the words than two housewives appeared with garlic and spices to add to the simmering pot of deliciousness.  And with that, the soldier gave one more sniff of the pot, yawned quite loudly and decided to go and rest under a tree while the stone soup gently cooked.

It was all the villagers could do to resist stealing a spoonful of soup smelling so wonderful with the fresh garlic and spices wafting in the air.  As the soldier slept a farmer made his way to the pot with some carrots he had hidden away in his cellar.  He was followed by a boy who had been sent with an onion.  Not long after that, the local butcher came bustling into the crowd with a sausage he decided could be spared for such a grand event as stone soup.

As the soup bubbled and the list of ingredients grew, the soldier rested until dinner time when he promptly jumped up, rushed over to examine the soup, and determined it to be the taste of perfection, if only it had a pinch of salt.

Moments later containers of salt came at the boiling pot from four different directions.  It was all the soldier could do to keep the soup from being ruined by over zealous salters.

That evening, an entire village of once broken and disconnected people enjoyed a mighty feast on the lawn of the town square.  They laughed and danced and remembered the old times with such fondness that, for the first time in a long time, they had a pleasant hope about tomorrow.

You can only imagine the offers that were made to purchase that magical stone from the soldier, but he refused to sell, and on the next day he loaded up and traveled on. 

Steadily making his way home from the war, he went, making war torn villages more like home along the way.

It can be quickly seen that Stone Soup is a metaphor for life, leadership, and generosity.  As you contemplate the impact of that metaphor on your vision for a new year, I encourage you to ponder three truths revealed in the story.

  1. As a child of God, you are a soldier traveling through a war-torn land on your way home.
  2. You have been commissioned to make this ravaged earth look more like home.
  3. Every pot of soup you start, you do for His glory.

Grace and peace and a Happy New Year to you all!

Podcast

Check back soon for this week’s Stone Soup podcast.

Links

Check out the church website for additional information about life at EFC.

Parents — don’t forget to head over to the WorldChangers page to access ways to connect Kid’s Church to your kitchen table.

On the Radar – Church Holiday Schedule

  • Wednesday, December 30 – No Church Activities
  • Thursday, December 31 – New Year’s Night of Worship — and talent show!  Email me at efcsweetwater@aol.com to sign up.

Revelation Bible study is taking a Holiday break.  We will resume our eschatological exploration Tuesday, January 5, 2010.

The Drum Circle will be getting back on rhythm in 2010.  Drop me an email if you are interested in learning to play hand drums.

Sunday Preview

Next Sunday, January 3, is the first Sunday of the New Year — and the decade.  We look forward to a great start to this year and a great morning of worship with you!

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We asked quite a few “why” questions yesterday as we contemplated the birth of our Savior.  I hope and pray the message gave you some good thoughts to consider.  The purpose and plan of God to offer His Son as a sacrifice for mankind demonstrates to us that Jesus truly is THE way to salvation, not simply a way to salvation.

Another “why” we encounter during the Christmas season is the question, “Why do we have a Santa Clause?” 

It’s a very good question.  Who is the big guy in the red velvet suit anyway?  And does he prefer milk or Coca Cola with his cookies?

It is my humble opinion that Santa Clause never intended to hijack the meaning of Christmas.  If anything, the meaning of Santa got hijacked somewhere along the way.

I invite you to read my historical fiction account of “A Christmas Without Options” and discover what history and tradition tell us about the real significance of that jolly old soul.

Podcast

Click here to listen to Pastor Eric’s message “God’s Perfect Sacrifice.”

Links

In yesterday’s message we listened to the song “Such a strange way to save the world” by 4 Him.  Click the title for a reprise.

Parents — don’t forget to head over to the WorldChangers page to access ways to connect Kid’s Church to your kitchen table.

On the Radar – Church Holiday Schedule

I am looking forward to our children’s Christmas pageant next Sunday.  They have been working very hard to present the beauty of the Christmas story to us.  I love to catch the whispered hums of my little ones as they rehearse their songs throughout the day.  We will also be distributing a Christmas gift to all of our congregation this Sunday—something the worship team has been hard at work on for a month now!

This is going to be a very special morning for us as a church family.  I hope you will invite your family to experience this wonderful day with us.  And, please be in prayer for Pastor Lolo as she works with the children to put the finishing touches on the pageant this week. 

  • Wednesday, December 16 – Hayride, Caroling, & Chiminea Christmas Party — Leave from the church at 6:30.  Click here for more details.
  • Saturday, December 19 – Ladies’ Cookie Swap & Ornament Exchange.  Click for instructions.
  • 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 — and talent show!  Email me at efcsweetwater@aol.com to sign up.

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.

The Drum Circle will be getting back on rhythm in 2010.  Drop me an email if you are interested in learning to play hand drums.

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. “O Come, Let Us Adore Him”
  2. “I’ve Found a Love” Bethel Live version
  3. “I Adore You” Jesus Culture version
  4. “How He Loves” Kim Walker version

Sunday Preview

Next Sunday, December 20, is the fourth and final Sunday of Advent.  Come celebrate with us as our children lead us in their Christmas presentation!

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cell phoneSo, we’re preparing to teach our youth about the Ten Commandments last night, and my wife comes up with the brilliant thought of letting them phrase each commandment as a text message.  What a cool idea!

Seeing as how I still try to text using proper grammar and  punctuation, this one was a stretch for me.  But, our High School guys had a blast with it and punched out some pretty cool commandment codes.

Here’s what we came up with:

The Texting Ten Commandments

(According to those awesome guys at Ramp Youth Church)

  1. no gds b4 me
  2. no idols
  3. hnr God’s nme
  4. keep sbbth hly (thanks to Daniel)
  5. honr ur fatha n ur motha (thanks to Hunter)
  6. u cnt kll (thanks to Mason)
  7. u shal not hook up (thanks to Jordan)
  8. dnt stel (thanks to Bryan)
  9. spk truth
  10.  keep i’s 2 self

And then, I jumped online to upload our creative commandments and discovered we’re not the only ones to come up with such a witty concept.  Someone has beat us to the send button — and did a pretty good job with it, too.

So in addition to our little Wednesday project, here’s another texted interpretation of the Law of Moses as found in Exodus 20.  These come from a website called McSweeney’s.

God Texts the Ten Commandments

By Jamie Quatro

  1. no1 b4 me. srsly.
  2. dnt wrshp pix/idols
  3. no omg’s
  4. no wrk on w/end (sat 4 now; sun l8r)
  5. pos ok – ur m&d r cool
  6. dnt kill ppl
  7. :-X only w/ m8
  8. dnt steal
  9. dnt lie re: bf
  10. dnt ogle ur bf’s m8. or ox. or dnkey. myob.

M, pls rite on tabs and give 2 ppl.

ttyl, JHWH.

ps. wwjd?

 

Hope you enjoy them.  Hope you text them on.  Hope you honor them.

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