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I remember when I was a little boy, momma loaded us up and took us to Mineral Wells to the city pool.  It was a major event for this country boy, because, for us, “swimming pool” meant stock tank.

If swimming didn’t include brownish-red water, mud between your toes, and having to avoid cow patties on the way down to the water, then I was just a little out of my element.

To tell you this truth, I still get a little uncomfortable if I can see my feet when I’m in the water.  It just throws me off.  I didn’t learn to swim in crystal clear water, and that may explain why my trip to the pool almost ended in disaster.

With my momma resting in the shade and my older brother playing around the diving board, I was having the time of my life in the shallow end of the pool…looking at my feet!

About that time, a boy decided to befriend me and let me ride on his little boogie board floaty.  I hopped on while he pushed me around, but then, suddenly, without any notice, he said, “Now are you ready to go into the deep water?”  And as I shook my head “no,” he laughed and gave me a shove toward the deep end of the pool.

I remember holding onto that boogie board, panicked and paralyzed as it floated over the rope signaling that I had just crossed into the deep water.  My knuckles were turning white as I held on.  And, as the board continued to float into deeper and deeper water, I realized that I had to do something.

So, to avoid getting into any deeper water, I jumped off of the board.  That was my safety plan: to bail out.

And I jumped off of that board right into water that was over my head.

I sank to the bottom of the pool, pushed off, and resurfaced just in time to see that I was situated right under the life guard stand.

I gasped for air, sank back down, hit the bottom, pushed off, and came back to the surface.

I remember looking at the life guard as he sat on his perch in yellow shorts with a big glob of sunscreen on his nose.  I literally made eye contact with him, mustered up all of my courage, and let out a little whimper of “Help.”

And as I fought to float, sputtering, he just looked at me and then looked away.  And I sank to the bottom of the pool for the third time.

And it was when I hit the bottom of the pool that third time that a thought was planted in my mind, a dangerous thought, a damaging thought: “You are all alone.  No one here is going to save you.  If you are going to get out of this mess, it is up to you.”

I pushed off the pool, surfaced again, took a breath, sank back down and became the architect of my own rescue as I gradually began to bob my way toward the shallow water.

In a pool full of people playing and having a good time, with lifeguards stationed all over the place, with my mom resting in the shade and my brother off playing somewhere, I saved myself.

The boy came up asking about his floaty, and I gave him a piece of my mind about almost killing me and stormed off.

But, guess what.  That seed stayed with me, “You are all alone.  No one is there to save you.”

And throughout life, many other experiences only reinforced that lie.

And the painful reality is many of us have bought in to some version of that lie: I’m all alone; I’m all I have to depend on; It’s up to my paycheck; It’s up to my hard work; It’s up to me to get myself out of this mess.

Me, me, me, I, I, I, Alone, Alone, Alone.

If the enemy can get you to buy into that one lie, he will have you tied in knots because you will feel you have no one to turn to and nowhere to go when you are in trouble.

You will carry your burden all alone, and the weight of it will crush you.

At our church in Sweetwater, TX, we describe our fundamentals of faith in what we call our Pillars of Faith.  We believe:

  • God is Good
  • We Live from Heaven to Earth
  • Everyone is Significant

And our fourth pillar of faith is the fact that:

  • Nothing is Impossible

But if you have believed the lie I just described, if you have come to believe in your heart, “I am all alone.  I am all I have to depend on.  I am the architect of my own rescue.”  Then you will never believe this truth.

When we are limited to depending only on ourselves, we live in a world full of impossibilities.  And it leads us to feeling overwhelmed and hopeless.

When life is up to us, many things are impossible.

I want to take you to the cross for a minute.  I want to reintroduce you to a man who was beaten beyond human recognition.  An innocent man hanging naked between two thieves as those who passed by mocked Him.  A man who’s blood had been spilled out into the dirt below for hours and who’s lungs had slowly been filling with fluid.  A man at the breaking point of suffering and mental and physical exhaustion.

That man hung on the cross because you are not alone, because you are not the architect of your own rescue, because you can’t depend upon yourself in this world.

No matter what you have believed in this world, the truth is you have a hero.  You have a rescuer, and His name is Jesus.

And as He hung on that cross, on the brink of death, he somehow mustered the strength to push against those nails in his feet, to pull himself up by the nails in His wrists.  Through the excruciating pain he drew enough air into his lungs to utter one last word before He died.

“Tetelestai!”  It is finished.  Paid in full.

When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.  John 19:30 (NIV)

There is a precious song I remember that describes this event perfectly.

He paid a debt, He did not owe.

I owed a debt, I could not pay.

I needed someone to wash my sins away.

And now I sing a brand new song,

Amazing grace, all day long.

Christ Jesus paid a debt that I could never pay.

But what is the little boy in the pool still trying to do?  He is still trying to rescue himself, still scrambling, still grasping for air.  He is still living in a world filled with fear and impossibilities, because it all depends on him, and he just isn’t enough.

My friends, before you come to understand that truly nothing is impossible, you must come to peace with the finished work of Christ.

When Jesus paid your debt, it left you with nothing to pay.  When Jesus covered your shame, it left you with no reason to hide.  When Jesus forgave your sin, it left you with no need to earn your forgiveness before God.

All there is left to do is believe it is true and receive it for yourself.

Consider Paul’s introductory words to the Corinthian church.

Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth.  But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.  He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him.  It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.  1 Corinthians 1:26-30 (NIV)

I love the way verse 30 reads in the NASB

But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption… 1 Corinthians 1:30 (NASB95)

When you were drowning in this world, overwhelmed by sin and its devastating consequences, when you could not save yourself, He became your rescue!

And once you embrace this fact, once you embrace the astounding reality  that you may have gotten yourself out of some tight situations in life, but the truth is you have no capacity to save yourself, then nothing will be impossible for you.

Because it will no longer depend on you, but on the God of your salvation.

Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”   Matthew 19:26 (NIV)

Let me conclude with a quote from evangelist Reinhard Bonnke:

God is our secret. He raises the threshold of our ability so that we can do His will. He doesn’t come just to make us famous or great, but only great enough to do what He wants us to do. True greatness is to do what God says.

God never asks us to do anything without Him, and with Him we can do anything, He says. God and I can do literally anything together!

The Africans have a story about an elephant that crossed a bridge with an ant sitting behind its ear. When they reached the other side, the ant said, “My, didn’t we make that bridge shake!”

Imagine: Jesus and YOU in 2012 will “make the bridge swing.” REINHARD BONNKE

God and I can do literally anything together!

What impossible bridges are you and God going shake this year?

Nothing is impossible,

Pastor Eric

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

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

Theadore Roosevelt

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

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

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

Links

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

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

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Super Size, Value Size, Whata Size.  It has become the nature of American consumer that when we place an order, we want to go big with it.  We all want to get the most bang for our buck.

But, real life is much more complicated than ordering off of a fast food menu.  How do I go big on the menu of everyday living?

Jesus may not have frequented fast food establishments (though He was the originator of the super-sized happy meal), but He understood the principles that can make life much bigger and more full than the smallness we often relegate ourselves to.  In Luke 6, He tells us:

“Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.  Give and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”  — Luke 6:37-38 (NIV)

Jesus says you are the determining factor of the size of your life.  When you measure generously toward others, you measure generously toward yourself.

I pray you find freedom in this remarkable teaching from our Lord Jesus.  As you walk in forgiveness and generosity toward others, may it lead you to experience the fullness of life our Lord desires to pour into your lap.

May you experience the joy of a King-Sized life today!

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My apologies that the Monday Morning Review has lagged to the Tuesday Evening Review, perhaps even the Wednesday Morning Review. I hope everyone was able to satisfy their Monday morning cravings in other ways.

If you missed Sunday morning, I want to echo Pastor Loran’s advice to find a Haiti mission team member or members and pick their brains. I think you will be pleasantly surprised. The testimonies and reports shared during Sunday’s services were absolutely incredible. I want to take a moment to thank all of the Haiti team members for all their hard work, not just during the mission trip, but also in the fund raising and other preparations in the months leading up to the trip. Also, thank you to all of the EFC members who helped to make the trip possible. And last, but certainly not least, to the other Pastor Loran for putting together such an awesome team and trip. I know lives were changed in Haiti and right here in Sweetwater.

Podcast

I don’t know if the Haiti testimonies and/or Pastor Loran’s sermon will be available in this week’s podcast, but if it is, you can click here to listen.

On the Radar

EFC Volleyball @ Sonic.  Wednesday, July 27, come join us at Sonic for food, fun and volleyball from 7-9pm.

Kids School of Worship (Jammin’ with Jesus) is right around the corner. Sunday, July 31-Wednesday, August 3. The theme this year is “Fruits of the Spirit,” and we still need volunteers to help out with supplies, snacks and manpower. For more information or to volunteer, contact Pastor Lolo.

EFC Fantasy Football League. Yes, it’s that time of year again, and if you missed out last year on the First Annual EFC Fantasy Football League, now’s your chance to get in on all the fun. You can contact league commissioner Curtis Ward to find out how to play.

Discipleship Training: How to Study the Bible. Coming August 7 & 14, 6pm at EFC.

Mother’s Day Out information is available online!  Emmanuel Fellowship Church is excited to host a Mother’s Day Out program beginning Fall 2011 for children ages 1-5.  There are only a few spaces remaining for the Fall semester.  More information and downloadable registration forms are available by clicking HERE.

Links

Follow EFC on facebook. If you don’t already, you’re missing out on the daily EFC dish.

In keeping with the Discipleship Training theme How to Study the Bible, here are a few very helpful online Bible tools:

And, as always, a shamless plug for my very own Bible blog, Beauty of the Bible.

Family Connection

Check out these resources to connect with our ministry to children and youth.

You Heard it at EFC

    •  “Friend of God” by Israel Houghton
    • “You’ll Come” by Hillsong United
    • “Higher” by Worth Dying For
  • “Saviour King” Hillsong

 Sunday Preview

Next Sunday, July 24, we continue our summer sermon series entitled, “Prayers that Shook the World,” with Jim Cargile.

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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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