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Archive for the ‘Personal Growth’ Category

Words have power, and thoughts, like seeds, can take root in the heart to alter our perspective or change our behavior altogether.  The following is a list of quotes etched in my memory, and a brief explanation of their significance. 

This is not a collection of the greatest quotes of all time, but quotes that have impacted me, personally, for a lifetime.  It is important that we remember and rehearse the words that have touched our souls.  What words have moved you in your life?  What would your list look like?

“`Twas brillig, and the slithy toves Did gyre and gimble in the wabe: All mimsy were the borogoves, And the mome raths outgrabe.” – from Jabberwocky by Lewis Carroll.  Taught me that words could be fun, that language captures the imagination.

“. . . Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori.” – from Dulce et Decorum Est  by Wildfred Owen.  Taught me that words are powerful, descriptive, moving and memorable.

“A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches.” –Proverbs 22:1.  Printed on a bookmark someone gave me in church as a child.  Taught me to treasure who I was and respect the impact of character.

“I do” – Mindy von Atzigen.  Taught me that words could be trusted.

“In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.”  – J.R.R. Tolkien.  Taught me that a book could take you anywhere.

“I have not yet begun to fight!” – John Paul Jones.  Taught me that words reach further than the sound of our voice.  They can echo through history.

“Failure is not falling down, it is refusing to get back up”  – Pastor Dan Pinto.  Taught me that life is bigger than the present and there is hope on the other side of any disappointment.

“In some way, what we do on a Sunday morning has to make sense to people.”  – Pastor Morris Sheats.  Taught me to lead in such a way that empowered others to be able to follow.

“The pumps don’t work ‘cause the vandals took the handles.” – from Subterranean Homesick Blues by  Bob Dylan.  Taught me that people don’t always have to understand you to be inspired.

“Behold what manner of love the Father has given unto us, that we should be called the sons of God.  And that is what we are.”  1 John 3:1Taught me that I was loved and accepted by God.  That I was significant.  That sins could be forgiven.  That brokenness could be healed.  That a prodigal could come home.  That a life could be made new again, and again, and again.

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The beginning of a New Year is a great opportunity to seize the reigns of your family’s finances and develop a vision for your financial future.

King Solomon writes in Proverbs, “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” (Proverbs 29:18) This quote is exceedingly true regarding our finances.  Without a vision for managing our money, we quickly find ourselves out of control and overwhelmed by debt.

Financial peace in your home can be found through setting goals, establishing a plan, and following through.

SETTING GOALS

What do you want to do with your money this year?  Do you want to be less in debt at the end of 2012 than you are now?  Would you like to be able to take a stress-free trip with your family this summer?  Would you like to begin tithing to your church?

Each year, between Christmas and the New Year, I pull out a piece of paper and begin to dream about how I will manage our money in the New Year.  I start with how much I want to give (15%), and then I look at how much I would like to save (10%).  I also consider the various ways I want to save (IRA, cash, car fund, vacation fund, emergency fund, and other investments).  After I have considered my giving and saving goals, I begin to look at the other areas of my finances.  I consider my current bills and then set goals for managing my car and home loans.

My first financial questions always deal with what I want to accomplish.

ESTABLISHING A PLAN

How are you going to achieve your financial goals this year?

Goals are useless if they do not lead us to action, and the action of financial goals is called a budget.  Through a budget, I consider the resources available to me (my paycheck) in light of the needs around me (my expenses).

I begin my plan by listing the essentials, the things I will not compromise in my finances.  I will not compromise my tithe.  I will not compromise feeding my family and providing a home for them.  From the essentials, I begin to prioritize my way through my other expenses, needs, and desires.  I ask myself questions such as: How much do we need for groceries each month?  What should be our limit on eating out?  What is the average of my electric, gas, and phone bill each month?  What are the areas where I can decrease my spending this year?

FOLLOWING THROUGH

How do I stick with the plan this year?

Even the best plan is of no value if I do not follow through with it.  Two essential keys to accomplishing your plan are training and motivation.

We must all aspire to be life-long learners, and we must recognize there is more we can learn about managing our finances.  There are countless tips, tricks, and methods that have helped families maintain their monthly budget.  If you are going to accomplish more with your finances this year than you did last year, you may need to learn more about managing money than you knew last year.

We must also work to maintain our motivation.  Months of financial discipline can be undone by one season of unwise decision making.  Husbands and wives must be working together toward common financial goals, and they must also help one another stay on track.  Motivation is also encouraged through friendships.  Sharing your financial plans with trusted friends and inviting them to pray with you and check up on your progress is a tremendous tool for sticking with a financial plan.

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Hey Friends,

Our Famous Failures sermon series has taken us deeper than I first expected, and has touched on some very delicate aspects of our faith.  In Sunday’s message, I challenged our congregation by saying, “The most dangerous thing we can do in our faith journey is interpret God’s will through our failures.”

Statements like this need to be digested.  They are not “one and done” thoughts.  In fact, they rub against some of the lies that have been deeply ingrained in our hearts about God.

I strongly encourage you to follow the link and listen again to Sunday’s message.  I actually wish you would listen to it twice.  As you listen, ask the Holy Spirit if you have misunderstood God’s heart and His will for your life because of some of the heartbreaks and failures you have experienced.  Ask God to reinterpret those events through the lens of His amazing love and the truth of His Word.

Here at EFC, we emphasize four simple truths we describe as our “Pillars of Thought.”  We have intentionally established these Biblical statements as tools to help us interpret what God is doing in and around us.  These pillars define our approach to understanding God and protect our hearts from misunderstanding His character.

I pray these principles will come to define your understanding of the heart of God as well, and may they give you courage to rise up from any failure and continue to pursue His glorious purpose for your life.

Much love,

Pastor Eric

The Pillars of Thought that define the revival culture of Emmanuel Fellowship Church are:

GOD IS GOOD

It is our adamant belief that the fundamental nature of God’s character is goodness.  When Moses requested to see the glory of God, our Lord responded by saying, “I will cause all of my goodness to pass in front of you and I will proclaim my name, the Lord, in your presence.”  (Exodus 33:18-19) The glory of God is His goodness.

WE LIVE FROM HEAVEN TO EARTH

Paul teaches that “our citizenship in is in heaven.”  (Philippians 3:20)  We are ambassadors of the Kingdom of Heaven.  Therefore, we live according to the government, culture, atmosphere, and economy of heaven.  We live from Heaven to earth, recognizing that what is invisible is a superior reality to what is visible.    We will live according to the truth Jesus taught us to pray, “Your Kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”  (Matthew 6:10)

EVERYONE IS SIGNIFICANT

We see the fingerprints of God upon humanity.  We will live lives of honor toward one another.  We live to see people saved, healed, and delivered from the effects of sin, to help them identify their God-given personality, gifts, and purpose, and to see them actively invest themselves in the work of the Kingdom.  Knowing that everyone is significant leads me to understand that I am significant.

NOTHING IS IMPOSSIBLE

Really.  The Bible says this.  We believe it.

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…with liberty and justice for all.

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

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

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

Nehemiah 5:1-19 (NIV)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nehemiah 5:4-5 (NIV)

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

And look at Nehemiah’s response.

Nehemiah 5:6-7 (NIV)

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

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

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

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

Look at this sign:

WRONG!

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

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

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

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

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

So back to our 1% boy…

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

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

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

Here is the next sign.

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

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

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

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

Let’s take a look at one more sign.

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

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

The Apostle Paul says it this way:

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

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

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

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

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Just when I decide to get up and go, when I resolve to cross that bridge and move toward a wide open field and those greener pastures, right at my point of new beginning — there is a troll under the bridge.

Blocking my path, shouting words of intimidation, he is going to roast me, toast me, and eat most of me.  His growls and threats keep me from crossing over, keep me in this dry land.  Like a prison without walls, his words paralyze me and leave me to forage among the thorns for something to satisfy my hunger.

The story of the Three Billy Goats Gruff is a tale that connects with most every child.  We all remember what it was like to be bullied, to feel too small, and to look across the bridge at a green field we may never get to eat from.  We have all carried the need for a big brother billy goat to fight our troll for us.

And then we grew up.  And the stories that once brought us comfort began to gather dust on our shelves as we set out to fight our own battles, to cross our own bridges, and find our own green pastures.  It didn’t take long before a few disappointments and one too many betrayals left us standing again in a barren field.

Once again, we muster what little courage remains, surprised by the familiar “tip tap” of our feet as we try to cross that bridge.  And once again the roar gurgles out, “Who’s that crossing my bridge?  I’ll eat you up!”

Maybe I should just stop these foolish attempts, maybe I should just give up and come to terms with living a small unsatisfied life in this mundane world.  Or maybe not.

Maybe I should head back to the bookshelf.  Maybe I should dust off that old children’s story and remember how it goes one more time.  Maybe I should remember that I do have a big brother, and He did knock that troll into oblivion, and I can cross that bridge!

Those shouts from under the bridge are only echoes, a fleeting voice trying desperately to maintain its grip of fear over you.  Those words have lost their teeth.  They can bark, but they can’t bite you anymore.  That old troll is not still under the bridge.

So today is the day.  It is time to get up.  It is time to cross that bridge and enjoy the green pastures that wait for you on the other side.  It is time to go.

“So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers…He too shared in their humanity so that by His death He might destroy him who holds the power of death – that is, the devil – and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.”  (Hebrews 2:11-15)

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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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Just in case there is anyone out there looking for some good tips on how to stagnate, how to maintain a shallow sense of spiritual immaturity, or even how to regress in their journey of faith, I have compiled “Pastor Eric’s Top Six Tools to Not Grow!”

1.     Don’t read your Bible.

Only bring it to church on Sundays.  And then only use it to hold your coffee steady in your seat.  The Bible is God’s primary tool to develop maturity in your life.  It contains the very words of God.  It is a record of God’s amazing love for you and His amazing purpose for your life.  Living your life according to God’s Word is the means by which we live in purity, prosperity, and peace.  Do not open your Bible if you do not want to grow.

2.     Don’t pray.

God is already pretty busy and you don’t want to bother Him any more than necessary.  If you pray you might begin to discover the heart of God — and it may open doors of breakthrough and blessing in your life.  To avoid growth, it is always best to just keep your problems to yourself.

3.     Don’t grow with someone.

Christianity blossoms in relationships.  If you don’t want to grow, don’t find a friend to pray with or talk about life from a Biblical perspective with.  Accountability and encouragement can really mess with the status quo.  Remember: To keep your life small, keep your circle of relationships even smaller.

4.     Don’t tithe.

Generosity is a Biblically guaranteed tool that brings spiritual growth to believers’ lives.  The Bible says that as we honor God with our tithe, He promises to open the storehouses of Heaven and rain down blessings upon us.  You absolutely cannot honor God with your tithe and maintain a small life.  If you want to keep it small, then don’t even think about being generous toward God.

5.     Don’t serve.

Service is like soil to the seeds of our growth.  It provides a place for our roots to take hold and begins to nourish our spiritual walk.  Just remember: “If I no wanna grow, then I no wanna go and serve.”

It is very possible at this point you may be very disappointed because you know that you have already taken some of these growth steps and are afraid you may begin growing.  Don’t worry!  It is still possible to sabotage any potential growth you may have started.  If you happen to accidentally find yourself doing any of these things then:

6.      Don’t be consistent.

Consistency is like a growth hormone.  It multiplies the effects of growth activities and causes them to mature faster.  But inconsistency can quickly uproot any growth before it has a chance to positively impact your life.

So, if you have finished reading the list and think it is the worst advice you have ever heard in your life, then DON’T FOLLOW IT!  Cross out the don’ts, get consistent in your own personal walk with Jesus, and start growing!

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