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Consider these Bible facts:  Jesus traveled and taught for three years.  There are about 110 pages in the Bible dedicated to His ministry and message.  We have approximately 25,000 words that Jesus spoke recorded in the Bible.  Of those 25,000 words, Jesus taught about the Father in Heaven at least 181 times.

This means 1 out of every 140 words, Jesus was speaking about His Father.  His central message and purpose was to restore us to a relationship with our Daddy in Heaven. 

The following is a compilation of my ten favorite verses about our Father in Heaven.  All but two of them are spoken directly by Jesus Himself.  May you experience His love as you read the truth about your Abba.

10.  Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?  –Matthew 6:26 

9.  “What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off?  And if he finds it, I tell you the truth, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off.  In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should be lost.  –Matthew 18:12-14 

8.  But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.  Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.  –Luke 6:35-36 

7.  “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.  –Luke 12:32 

6.  “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you.”  –John 14:1-2 

5.  “No, the Father himself loves you because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God.  — John 16:27 

4.  For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship.  And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.  — Romans 8:15-16 

3.  “Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!”  — Matthew 7:9-11 

2.  How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!  –1 John 3:1

And what is the message all of these verses are hammering into our hearts?

  • You have a daddy who loves you.
  • He is strong enough to protect you.
  • He is engaged enough to teach you.
  • He is tender enough to hug you.
  • He is alive enough to play with you.

And the Number One verse regarding the love of the Father is this amazing truth–  no matter how far you have wondered, you can still come home!  Regarding the prodigal son, Jesus tells us:

1.  “When he came to his senses, he said…I will set out and go back to my father”  –Luke 15:17

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Click to view the Father’s Love Letter

Podcast

You can find Pastor Eric’s message, “The Love of the Father,” on the Emmanuel Fellowship Church web site.  Click to listen

Links

Fathered By God by John Eldredge

Healing the Father Wound by H. Norman Wright

Groovy Giveaway — Peter Lopez is giving away videos of the new series from the creators of Veggie Tales, “What’s in the Bible?”  Head over to www.BeautyoftheBible.com to enter to win. 

Quotes

“Father! – to God Himself we cannot give a holier name.”  –William Wordsworth

On the Radar

Kingdom Principles for Raising Children second session tonight, March 8, at 7:00 pm.  Childcare is provided.

Lifegroups meet this Wednesday at 7:00 pm.  Click here for more Life in Sweetwater information.

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.

Be in prayer for our Youth Mission Trip as they head to Mission Arlington over Spring Break.

Our Nursery is taking applications for a consistent Sunday morning Nursery Worker.  If you or anyone you know are interested in filling this position, please contact the church office at 325-236-9200.

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” by Jesus Culture
  2. “Your Love is Everything” by Jesus Culture
  3. “Freedom Reigns” by Jason Upton
  4. “Mighty to Save” by Hillsong

Sunday Preview

Next Sunday, March 14, 2010, we begin to turn our hearts toward the amazing sacrifice of our King upon the cross.  “Vantage Points” is our four week series leading up to Easter.  Each week will offer a dramatic presentation of a witness to the crucifixion.

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* All Scripture quoted from The Holy Bible : New International Version. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996, c1984.
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FWIS cover 2 - Onesimus jpgWho is Christianity for, anyway?  Who do its rules apply to?  Who do its promises apply to?

Are there those in this world who are above the Christian faith?  Above laws, consequences, and accountability?  Are there those in this world who are beneath the Christian faith?  Those who are too dirty?  Those who are too broken?  Those who are too shameful?

Are there those in this world who have already used up all of their grace?  Those who have squandered their last chance?  How many times can a man be forgiven before he is unforgivable?  How many bridges can you burn before there is absolutely no way to get back home?  How useless can one life become?

His name was Onesimus, and if he were standing before you today, these are the questions he would be asking.

He is the kind of guy who, when you spend fifteen minutes with him, suddenly your life doesn’t seem so bad.  Suddenly your marriage doesn’t seem so crappy.  Suddenly you are proud your children didn’t turn out like him.

Do you know people like that?  People who make you think your life isn’t as bad as it could be?  Do you feel like you are one of those people, like you give everyone else hope because at least they are not you?

Colossae mapOnesimus was a slave in the city of Colossae during the first century.  While Jesus was preaching and teaching in the village towns around the Sea of Galilee, Onesimus was miles away crying himself to sleep every night after a day of back breaking labor.

We can only speculate as to how Onesimus became a slave.  It is very likely he was born a slave and lived his entire life as the property of another man.  Maybe he was captured in war through no fault of his own and brought to Colossae to live his life in slavery.  Maybe he was a prisoner, sentenced to a life of slavery as a result of his own foolish choices.

I can’t tell you the “how come” of this man’s life, just as I can’t fully explain the “how come” of your life.

I just know who he was when I was introduced to him.  He was a slave.  And you know what else is said about him?  He was a useless slave.  Does it get any worse?  It is bad enough to be a slave, but you are at the bottom of the barrel when you are a useless slave.  This was Onesimus.

For those of you who grew up on the farm, he was the chicken that didn’t have any tail feathers.  Even among the simplest of animals on a farm there is a pecking order.  And even among the chickens, there is a chicken that eats last, and when she goes for the leftovers, all of the other chickens attack her.

Onesimus was like a young man I once met at a gas station.  As I visited with him about his life, I discovered he was in the local high school marching band.  When I ask him what he played, he looked down, grinned and said, “The air tuba.”

The what?

Apparently he couldn’t play the tuba, but they needed more people in order to look like they had a band.  So, they handed him this bulky instrument and told him to march around on the field, but not, under any circumstances, was he to blow into that thing.

Do you know what it’s like to play the air tuba?  Hands full.  Lots of activity.  No purpose.  No music in your life.  All dressed up — with no horn to blow.

Believe it or not, Onesimus is a man we find in the pages of the Bible.  We discover part of his story in the book of Philemon.  There we read Onesimus is a useless slave, but his story gets even worse.

Apparently, Onesimus becomes fed up with his life as a useless slave, steals from his owner, and runs away.  A useless, runaway, thieving slave.  I know what you’re thinking, “I’d rather play the air tuba than live a life like that.”

But, as is the case with great Bible stories, that is not all there is to Onesimus’ life.  Just as this is not all there is to your life.  His story continues, and so does yours.

Onesimus stole from his master and fled as far away as possible.  Evidence points to the likelihood he made his way to Rome.  He wanted to go where no one could ever find him.

But, you just can’t hide from God.  Somehow, somewhere, in the great metropolis of Rome, Onesimus met a man we refer to as the Apostle Paul.  Paul was a prisoner in Rome at the time, and Onesimus, as a runaway slave, must have found it very difficult to make a living in this capital of the world.  He eventually made his way to working among prisoners just to find enough food to survive each day.  And there, as a servant to prisoners, Onesimus, the useless thief and slave, found his freedom.  In a prison in Rome, Onesimus met Jesus.

And everything changed when Onesimus met Jesus.  Everything can change when you meet Him as well.

So, what are the life lessons we can glean from the remarkable story of this useless thieving slave who met Jesus?

The first lesson we learn is:

Life Is Not Fairtop 10 percent

And the truth is, you don’t want it to be.

The average American makes approximately $26,000 a year.  Do you know where that puts them in the scope of our world? 

According to this Global Rich List, the average American is the 569, 942,529th richest person in the world.  The average American is among the top 10% of the richest people on earth.

In the United States, you are considered at poverty level if you are a single person with an income of $11,000 a year.  Do you know where you fit on a world wide scale?  You would be in the top 13% of the World’s richest people. 

87% of the world’s population lives below U.S. poverty standards.top 13 percent

Life is not fair.

I am not fair with my children.  I don’t give to each of my children equally, and I’m sure my sons are very glad, because I don’t think they would have wanted to wear a cheerleader outfit to school last Friday like my daughter did.

I love all of my children, but I do not give them all the same of everything.  No, I give them what they need.

My friends, you have been crying out, frustrated and angry, because you feel like life has given you a raw deal.

  • Why did I have to be born into this family?
  • Why did my parents have to be the ones to get a divorce?
  • Why did I have to be given this body?
  • Why was I the one who got abused?
  • Why was I the one who got addicted?
  • Why was I the one who caught the disease?

Life is not fair, but the beginning of your story does not have to be the end.  Life is not fair, but you are not alone. Life is not fair, but life can be very, very good.

Life is not fair, but it is not God’s fault.  He is not to blame.  God loves you, and God is for you, not against you.  He can turn your lump of coal into a diamond, if you will choose not to collapse under the pressure.

Every day I live my life in the company of heroes.  Sometimes the greatest hero in the room is the person who mustered the courage to get out of bed that morning; the one who battled past depression, pain, or disappointment to face a new day.

Many of you are heroes because you have managed to stay alive this long.  You are heroes because of the way you have raised your children with little or no support.  You have made it this far, but your story is not over, and it gets better from here.  It is time to raise our goals from survival to victory!

The next observation I want to make from the life of Onesimus is:

There Are Some Bridges You Just Can’t Burn

The key we must understand here is that sometimes the first step forward is a step back.

Onesimus had it made, he had escaped.  He had left behind the life of a useless slave.  He had met Paul.  He discovered Jesus.  Finally, everything was going well for this young man, and then his newfound father in the faith said those horrifying words.

“Onesimus, it is time for you to go back.”

This is the reason the book of Philemon is in the Bible.  It is a letter Paul gave to Onesimus as he sent him BACK to his owner.

Sometimes the road forward leads us back through familiar territory, but here is the key.  Though we may head back into the same place, we are not the same!  We have changed.  We will bring life to any circumstance God calls us to walk through or minister in.

In Paul’s letter to Philemon, we read:

…yet I appeal to you on the basis of love. I then, as Paul—an old man and now also a prisoner of Christ Jesus— I appeal to you for my son Onesimus, who became my son while I was in chains.  Formerly he was useless to you, but now he has become useful both to you and to me.  I am sending him—who is my very heart—back to you.  I would have liked to keep him with me so that he could take your place in helping me while I am in chains for the gospel.  But I did not want to do anything without your consent, so that any favor you do will be spontaneous and not forced.  Perhaps the reason he was separated from you for a little while was that you might have him back for good— no longer as a slave, but better than a slave, as a dear brother. He is very dear to me but even dearer to you, both as a man and as a brother in the Lord.  — Philemon verses 9-16

You can’t keep running from your past.  The more you run from your past, the more your past becomes your future.  Jesus died on a cross so you could make peace with your past, not run from it.

It is possible the next step of healing in your life may feel very much like a step back, but it is the step back that will lead you forward.

History tells us Philemon received Onesimus back into his house.  He obeyed Paul’s instruction, accepted Onesimus as a brother, and even granted Onesimus his freedom.  When Onesimus deserved death because of his actions, Philemon gave him his freedom.

Onesimus pic jpgAnd there is even more to the story.  Let me introduce you to someone church history refers to as Saint Onesimus.

In this picture, Onesimus is holding a letter in his left hand.  That letter wasn’t his death sentence as he headed back to his master.  It was the beginning of his new life.

Church history records another disciple of Paul named Timothy became the bishop of the church in Ephesus and led the church of Asia from that great city about 100 miles from Colossae.

There is a list of the Bishops who followed in line after Timothy; and the next name listed is Onesimus.

Onesimus, Bishop of Ephesus, who sat upon the Episcopal throne where he oversaw the Body of Christ.

Onesimus?  The slave Onesimus?  Leading the church of Asia?

This is the Beauty of the Bible.  This is the glory of Christianity– that, whoever you are, the story of the Jesus is for you.  The story of healing, hope, opportunity, and restoration.  The story of victory is for you.

My friend, what will you do with the days you have been given?  How will you respond to the marvelous grace of Jesus Christ?  I invite you to rise above your circumstances and live in the potential God has established for your life.  You don’t have to be the Bishop of Asia for your life to be counted a success.  No, our Lord measures by a different standard.  But, your life can be eternally significant if you follow with courage the invitation of God.

Rise up.  Let your story be told.

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