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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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Every Sunday morning, about three songs into worship, just before we receive Communion, I stand before my friends at church and invite them to experience the healing grace of our Lord Jesus.

I usually have a list in my hand, filled with words of knowledge from our ministry team.  As they pray for the service each Sunday morning, they take time to listen to the invitation of the Holy Spirit to speak to specific physical and emotional needs of people attending our worship service.

I often find myself saying something to the effect of, “When Jesus died on the cross, He made a way for your sins to be forgiven and your body to be healed.”  And every Sunday I watch in awe as people respond to the call for ministry and receive the healing Jesus purchased for them.  I’ve seen it over a hundred times and it is beautiful every time.

But, this Sunday was different.  This Sunday I was the one in need.  A few years back, I became aware of a painful spot in my left shoulder while I was lifting weights.  I didn’t give it much thought, changed my workout routine so as not to aggravate it, and moved on.  Recently that “catch” in my shoulder has resurfaced.  I felt it in the gym, I felt it wrestling with my sons, I felt it laying down to sleep, I even felt its sharp reminder when I would cross my arms.

The usual battery of fear began to run through my mind as I considered living a lifetime struggling with shoulder pain.  I found myself contemplating the possibility of shoulder surgery to heal the damage.  And then I remembered Sunday morning.  Every Sunday morning I invite people to experience God’s healing.  Why not accept my own invitation?

So last Sunday, I was the first one to the healing line!  I went to the first person in the line, explained the situation and received prayer for healing.  It was a simple and sincere prayer.  I didn’t feel anything or hear anything while being prayed for, but at the end of the prayer I started testing my shoulder and I was pain free!

It amazes me how I am still amazed by answered prayers.  I truly expected my shoulder to be healed and then I was stunned when it was.  Then, I began to wonder if it was really going to last.  We often program ourselves for disappointment in such a way that we have trouble receiving good gifts from God.  I still find myself being careful with my left shoulder, expecting a sharp pain when I move in a certain way.  But, the pain is gone!  And it’s not coming back!

I know many of you have been whispering fragile prayers and holding on to fading hope.  Hope for healing.  Hope for freedom.  Hope for reconciliation.

God answers prayers, my friends.  Psalm 103 tells us He forgives, heals, redeems, crowns, and satisfies.  I encourage you to stretch out and ask God to bring healing to your situation.  I encourage you to let a friend pray with you at church this Sunday.

And don’t be too surprised when God answers your prayer.

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“And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others.”  –2 Timothy 2:2

Here it is.  In one verse Paul describes the Christian faith.  A chain of grace, linked together by love and designed for living relationally generational.

It is a verse that demonstrates honoring your fathers and loving your children and grandchildren enough to leave a legacy of faith to those who will follow after you.

2 Timothy 2:2 identifies four people in this faith legacy — Paul, Timothy, reliable men, and others.  These are the people we must have in mind in the development of our spiritual life.  We must take the viewpoint of Timothy in this verse.  From those lenses, it is essential that we identify who fills the role of Paul as a mentor in our life and who fills the role of “reliable men” as the ones we are actively discipling.  And we must disciple those reliable men in such a way that they will be able to teach others.  In essence, we are loving those we may never know through the way we train those who will lead them.

This amazing verse in the book of 2 Timothy paints a picture of very deep and significant relationships.  Relationships which are not to be taken lightly, but must be given prayerful consideration and intentional development.

It is my sincere prayer that you may know where you fit in the chain of grace.  May you know those whom God has placed in your life to coach you along the way.  And may you know and develop those God has placed in your life to receive from the wisdom you have to offer.

May your children’s children be blessed and may they receive an inheritance from your life of faith.  Amen.

 

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Happy Mother's Day

If you missed this Sunday, let me wish you a belated happy Mother’s Day. I hope your special day was indeed a special one.

I also want to publicly express a very heartfelt thank you and congratulations to the other Pastor Loran (I feel like we are living a Newhart episode) for running the show Sunday and doing a fabulous job.

I want to encourage everyone to let Pastor Eric and Pastor Mindy know they left the Church in very capable hands.

A quick recap of Sunday’s message: (1) there’s a little Rahab in all of us (and what a relief it is to learn that!), (2) God wants to use you anyway, and (3) you can rewrite your own faith Hall of Fame memorial. So, hats off to Rahab and all the mothers out there.

Podcast

Check back soon to listen to Pastor Loran’s message on Rahab Answering the Call of God.

Links

A quick reminder that the Daily Devotions for the “Ringtone” sermon series are available online. This week we will explore the life of Paul.

Find out what your mom’s salary should be and print her a check demonstrating her value like Pastor Loran printed out for Tiffany.

Speaking of moms, make sure you let the special mothers in your life know about EFC’s Mother’s Day Out coming in the fall for children ages 1-5. Space is limited and registration is going on now.

I can’t let these opportunities go without plugging my own blog, Beauty of the Bible. Check it out.

On the Radar

EFC Family Campout is this weekend, and it is going to be a blast! Check out the EFC website for more info or directions to the campsite.

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.  More info and downloadable registration forms are available online.

Identity Weekend. May 13-15 at Camp Butman. Learn your identity and authority in Christ and how to walk in freedom. For more information contact Curtis Ward.

Study the Feasts of the Lord with us Tuesdays over lunch at Emmanuel Fellowship.

Family Connection

Connect with our children’s and youth ministry.

You Heard it at EFC

    1. “You’ll Come” – Hillsong United.
    2. “Counting on God” – Desperation Band.
    3. “Healer” – Kari Job.
    4. “What I Want”The City Harmonic.

Sunday Preview

Next Sunday Pastor Eric continues the sermon series “Ringtone: Answering the Call of God” with a look at Paul. You won’t want to miss it.

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This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: “Go down to the potter’s house, and there I will give you my message.” So I went down to the potter’s house, and I saw him working at the wheel. But the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands; so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him.

Then the word of the Lord came to me: “O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter does?” declares the Lord. “Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel.  — Jeremiah 18:1-6 (NIV)

“Can I not do with you as the potter does?” declares the Lord.

“Yes, Lord, you can,” I reply.

How about you?

 

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Everyone dreams of living an extraordinary life, of being an extraordinary person.  But, when the moment comes to put on those extraordinary shoes and walk that extraordinary path, we often find ourselves shrinking back.

We second guess.  We self-examine.  We sell ourselves short.

The greatest enemy of the extraordinary is fear.  We fear the cost of the extraordinary life.  We doubt whether or not we are the right person for the extraordinary job.  We wonder if God will pull through for us if we really step out on that extraordinary limb.

In Hebrews chapter 11, we see a beautiful picture of the courage necessary to embrace the extraordinary.

By faith Moses’ parents hid him for three months after he was born, because they saw he was no ordinary child, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict.  — Hebrews 11:23 (NIV)

It is my sincere prayer that you will find the grace to see the extraordinary in your life and pursue it unafraid.  God is doing the extraordinary all around you, and He is inviting you to participate with Him.

  • In your church.
  • In your spouse.
  • In your children.
  • Through your gifts.
  • Through your passions.
  • Through your prayers.
  • At your workplace.
  • In You.

May you see by faith that you are living no ordinary life, and may you be not afraid.

Amen.

 

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In the midst of all of the loud music, bright lights, and excitement of yesterday’s worship service and evening concert with The City Harmonic, one testimony brought the entire day’s activities into perspective.

A young man caught me after the concert and said, “Pastor Eric, this was a breakthrough day for me.”  He then went on to describe the freedom he experienced to lift his hands and celebrate as a worshipper.

“This was a breakthrough day for me.”  Amen. Amen. Amen!

Those are the words a minister lives to hear.  All of the planning, all of the prayer, all of the work is focused toward this one beautiful goal — spiritual breakthrough and growth in the lives of the ones we love.

I believe this young man’s personal observations were an accurate assessment of what we experienced as a church body yesterday.  It was a day of breakthrough as we were stretched in many areas.  From attendance, to sound quality, to lighting effects (I didn’t know our lights could do the things they did!), to the teamwork it took to make it all come together, we were stretched to reach out to new levels of breakthrough.

As pastor of Emmanuel Fellowship Church, I am blessed and overjoyed by where God has brought us as a congregation, and days like yesterday invite me to dream of where God is taking us as we continue to follow Him in this grand adventure.

As I laid my happy/sleepy head down on my pillow last night, I found myself in agreement with the words of my friend, “This was a breakthrough day for me.”

I pray it was for you as well.

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