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Posts Tagged ‘Sermon’

It seems pretty often that I catch a news headline about a chain reaction of generosity breaking out at a Starbucks.  It’s amazing how one act of kindness can lead to a morning filled with bright smiles and warm hearts as customers pay forward the blessing of a free cup of coffee.

Every chain reaction has to start with a catalyst.  It has to begin with a person who decides to purchase not only their morning caffeine fix, but an extra hit for the car behind them. 

In the life of David, King of Israel, we see a catalytic moment that pays forward for generations.

It began in the field of Araunah the Jebusite when David made an extravagant offering to the Lord on behalf of the nation.

But King David replied to Araunah, “No, I insist on paying the full price. I will not take for the Lord what is yours, or sacrifice a burnt offering that costs me nothing.”  –1 Chronicles 21:24 (NIV)

Somehow through this encounter with the Lord, David discerned that at the very place of this sacrificial offering, the Temple of the Lord should be established.

Then David said, “The house of the Lord God is to be here, and also the altar of burnt offering for Israel.”  –1 Chronicles 22:1 (NIV)

For the building of the Temple, on the very ground of his initial offering, David makes the most sacrificial offering ever recorded in human history.  The staggering wealth of his offering is recorded in 1 Chronicles 22.

Then he called for his son Solomon and charged him to build a house for the Lord, the God of Israel. David said to Solomon: “My son, I had it in my heart to build a house for the Name of the Lord my God . . .“Now, my son, the Lord be with you, and may you have success and build the house of the Lord your God, as he said you would . . . “I have taken great pains to provide for the temple of the Lord a hundred thousand talents of gold, a million talents of silver, quantities of bronze and iron too great to be weighed, and wood and stone. And you may add to them. You have many workmen: stonecutters, masons and carpenters, as well as men skilled in every kind of work in gold and silver, bronze and iron—craftsmen beyond number. Now begin the work, and the Lord be with you.”  –1 Chronicles 22:6-16 (NIV)

And, just like a happy morning at Starbucks, David’s generosity becomes a catalyst that ignites a nation to give toward the glorious vision of establishing a house for God to be worshipped on the earth.

Then the leaders of families, the officers of the tribes of Israel, the commanders of thousands and commanders of hundreds, and the officials in charge of the king’s work gave willingly. They gave toward the work on the temple of God five thousand talents and ten thousand darics of gold, ten thousand talents of silver, eighteen thousand talents of bronze and a hundred thousand talents of iron. Any who had precious stones gave them to the treasury of the temple of the Lord in the custody of Jehiel the Gershonite. The people rejoiced at the willing response of their leaders, for they had given freely and wholeheartedly to the Lord. David the king also rejoiced greatly.  –1 Chronicles 29:6-9 (NIV)

The story of this threshing floor turned Temple of the Lord is concluded by a verse in 2 Chronicles that ties all of the pieces together.

Then Solomon began to build the temple of the Lord in Jerusalem on Mount Moriah, where the Lord had appeared to his father David. It was on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite, the place provided by David.  –2 Chronicles 3:1 (NIV)

Now, there is more to the background of this property and the purpose of God in this story, but what we see so clearly in this little sliver of history is the impact of sacrifice and extravagant generosity on the story of human history.

When a person makes a large purchase on their own behalf, a common question they may encounter is, “How much did that set you back?” 

When an extravagant sacrifice is made on behalf of the Kingdom of God, the question that only eternity will be able to answer is, “How much did that set you forward?”

I wonder if Jesus was thinking about this field David purchased from Araunah when he told us this story about the Kingdom of God.

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.  –Matthew 13:44 (NIV)

Podcast

Click here to listen to Pastor Eric’s message “The Sacrifice of Generosity.”

On the Radar – Church Holiday Schedule

  • Wednesday, December 2 – Lifegroup / Children / Youth at 7:00pm
  • Sunday, December 6 – Second Sunday of Advent
  • Wednesday, December 9 – Lifegroup Christmas Party / Youth Christmas Party
  • Sunday, December 13 – Third Sunday of Advent
  • Wednesday, December 16 – Hayride, Caroling, & Chiminea Christmas Party
  • 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

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.

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. Happy Day” by Tim Hughes
  2. Your Love Never Fails” by Jesus Culture
  3. Healer” Kari Jobe version
  4. Wonderful Maker” Chris Tomlin version

Sunday Preview

Next Sunday, December 6, is the second Sunday of Advent.  We will continue our series on Sacrifice with a look at walking in Sacrifice in our relationships.

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Gdanks, Poland

Gdansk, Poland

Wow! There’s a lot to talk about this morning. Pastor Eric is in Poland (soon to be in Croatia), Pastor Mindy, Pastor Lolo and Jay Neal got set on fire at Global Awakening’s School of Healing, it was Missions Sunday, and it’s the harvest season.

Has there ever been a better time to be at EFC? Well, the Cowboys did lose, so maybe next week will be even better.

Courage

Courage is a curious thing. And as we learned from Pastor Mindy, courage can also look like a crazy thing. But, when God is on your side, it can also be a pretty cool thing. Just like Jonathan’s plan to take on the Philistines single-handedly seemed crazy, we should start coming up with some crazy plans of our own, and trust that the same God who delivered the Philistines into Jonathan’s hands, will deliver our enemies into our hands. Courage, after all, is a lot easier to command when your trust is in God.

You can read this part of Jonathan’s story at 1 Samuel 14.

Missions Sunday

Appropriately, yesterday was EFC’s Missions Sunday. For anyone who stumbles upon this post or who is relatively new to EFC, the third Sunday of every month at EFC is designated specifically for giving to mission organizations. Here are just a few of the opportunities to support missions work at Emmanuel Fellowship Church:

Prepare International – Pastor Eric and Keegan are currently traveling with a team from Prepare International, and EFC members frequently support and accompany Prepare International mission teams.

Mission Brazil – Part of the reason Pastor Mindy and Pastor Lolo attended the Global Awakening School of Healing and Impartation was because it is a prerequisite to travel with a Global Awakening team to Brazil, which they will be doing in 2010. If you are interested in going to Brazil with the team, please contact Pastor Mindy for more information.

Tents of Mercy – Tents of Mercy is a Messianic Jewish organization spreading the gospel in Israel.  Tents of Mercy currently has five congregations throughout Israel, and EFC currently supports the Katzir Asher (Harvest of Asher) congregation in Akko.

World Bible Translation Center – Help translate the Bible into new languages for distribution throughout the world.

Sweetwater Prayer Center – Help support our very own Sweetwater Prayer Center.

Harvest Season

It’s the harvest season, and all the seed you have sown over the year – whether financial, in ministry, or at home – is ready to be harvested. The key, however, is to harvest because the crop doesn’t gather itself. So go and gather your financial harvest. Go and gather your spiritual harvest. Go and gather the harvest of souls you have worked on all year. They are ripe for the harvest.

I’m not sure where exactly that came from, but I hope it’s a good word for somebody, or a lot of somebodies.

You Heard it at EFC

The just-for-Bryant Wilkinson version (which includes his favorite song):

On the Radar

Advent Choir – The Advent Choir is a new and exciting adventure for EFC and is open to anyone who would like to participate. The choir will sing throughout the holiday season. Practice begins tonight November 16, 2009 @ 7pm at EFC.

WorldChangers – The EFC children’s ministry, a.k.a WorldChangers, has a new website where parents can keep up with weekly lessons and everything else going on with their little world changers.

Revelation Bible Study – The Revelation Bible Study meets weekly on Tuesdays @ noon at EFC. It’s not too late – it’s never too late. Come join in this in depth study verse-by-verse through the book of Revelation led by EFC’s very own Curtis Ward, who is blogging about the study on his blog The Watchman’s Gaze. Check it out.

Last Word

All the reports I’ve heard from Pastor Eric have been good, so keep praying for the wondeful work being done in Eastern Europe by Pastor Eric, Keegan and the whole Prepare International team.

I think I will also be writing next week’s Monday Morning Review, so if you have any news or info that you want included, please email me or leave me a comment below. Have a great week.

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Is Jesus first place in your life?  The initial response for a Christian would be a resounding, “Yes!”  And it would seem very much like the right answer.

But, Jesus did not come only to be first place in your life.

I believe many of us have prioritized Jesus out of our lives by making Him first.  We give Him the first 15 minutes of our day.  We may even give him the last 15 minutes of our day.

But, what do we do with all of the hours in between?  Where is Jesus as 10, 2, and 4?  I want to suggest to you that first isn’t necessarily bad, it’s just not all there is.

Jesus number 1 jpgHere is a picture of first:

Do you see any problems brewing with only placing Jesus first in your life?  Second is pretty happy.  It gets to hang out right next to Jesus.  But, what about third?  And look how far fourth is away from Jesus.  Whoever or whatever fifth is doesn’t get much contact with Jesus at all.

Let me propose a different configuration.  When you allow Jesus to take up residence in the center of your life, He is able to influence every aspect of who you are and what you do.  Just like the hub of a wheel, it is the hub of your heart that provides support to every area of your life.

Christianity is an invasive force.  Jesus wants to invade your business.  He wants to invade your marriage.  Jesus wants to invade your Friday nights and Monday mornings.

Four Spokes of LifeThere are four key spokes to the wheel of our lives:

  • Personal life – who I am and the basic choices I make
  • Social life – how I relate to others
  • Business life – what I do to generate income
  • Political life – how I view the world around me

It is very possible to claim Jesus to be first in your life and allow Him little or no impact on these key areas.

What happens when Jesus is not the center of our life?  We become the center of our life.  And when we are the center, our faith becomes just another spoke on the wheel.  It’s a good spoke, but it’s just a spoke.

When faith becomes a spoke, rather than a hub, it doesn’t influence the other spokes.  Truth be told, we begin to influence it more than it influences us.

me center jpgWe become the filter that processes life.  We tell everything where to line up.  And we determine how much influence each spoke has on us.

How well do you think we hold up to that pressure?  We don’t.

What happens to a wheel that loses its hub?  It collapses.

There was a time in my life when Jesus was just another spoke on the wheel, a time when I was the center of my own life.  Eventually, I came to realize there is all the difference in the world between knowing Jesus as a good guy and receiving Him as your Lord and Savior.

Where is Jesus in your life?

He could be in a good place.  You could even say He is first.

But, is He the center?

Links

Click HERE to view the story of Laura, a 10 minute glimpse at establishing Jesus as the center of your life.

Parents, Click HERE to access this week’s Family Connect page.  It’s another opportunity to bring what happens on Sunday morning to the kitchen table on Monday night!

On the Radar

We are looking forward to EFC’s first choir leading us in worship during the Christmas season.  Contact Pastor Mindy if you are interested in joining the choir.  No experience necessary.  Our first choir rehearsal will be Monday, November 16th!

Pastor Eric and his son, Keegan, leave Thursday on a mission trip to Eastern Europe.  They will be traveling to Croatia and Poland as Pastor Eric teaches in several church leadership schools and preaches in local churches with Prepare International.  Keegan will be getting his feet wet on the mission field and being an “armor bearer” for his dad.  Please pray for this trip and these two travelers as they help bring the Kingdom of Heaven to Europe!

Brazil Mission Trip — Pastor Mindy and Pastor Lorin leave in December for a mission trip to Brazil!  They will each need to raise over $3,000 for trip costs.  For more info and to find out how you can support their trip, click HERE.

Revelation Bible study this Tuesday from 12:00 – 1:00 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.

You Heard it at EFC

Been trying to remember one of those awesome songs we sang?  Here is our worship list from yesterday.  You can usually find them for purchase on itunes.  Click highlighted songs to hear on youtube. 

  1. “Arise, King of Kings”
  2. “Grace Like Rain” by Todd Agnew
  3. New This Week — “I Adore You” by Jesus Culture 
  4. “You Won’t Relent” by Misty Edwards 

Sunday Preview

Next Sunday, November 15, is our Missions Sunday.  Pastor Mindy will be bringing the message!

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Emotional BankingIn yesterday’s message, we took an honest look at the question of what right Paul had to speak into Philemon’s life and his business dealings with his slave, Onesimus.

One of the key principles Paul leaned on to defend Onesimus, his spiritual son, was the equity that had been built between Paul and Philemon.

Equity is the relationship developed through love and over time.

Equity is like a checking account, and every relationship begins with a small deposit.  What we do with that initial deposit determines how long the relationship will last.

Time, love, and sharing experiences such as victories and heartaches build equity in a relationship.

Disappointment, frustration, and unresolved conflict make withdrawals in a relationship, and you can only be overdrawn for so long before your account gets closed and the relationship gets broken.

You have gone through life opening and closing accounts and maintaining old lines of credit without even realizing it.  You just called it friendship all along the way.

Paul was in an equity crisis with Philemon through this letter and he was drawing on every ounce of shared vision and experience the two of them had together.  He was zeroing out the account in this request for Onesimus’ life, and he was hoping he didn’t find himself overdrawn.

I handle our family finances, and I mange our money with an organizational system that works the best for me at this time in life.  But, I don’t handle our money with precision as much as close approximations. 

I am usually aware that I could be off by a little on my balance, and I compensate for what I know is a weakness in my system by intentionally placing a cushion in our checking account.  I deposited 200 dollars into the account and never wrote it in the register. 

Grace CushionIt’s my grace cushion.  It gives me the chance to be off a little bit, and not be penalized.

Would you determine today to put a grace cushion in your relationship accounts?  It is very possible a friend could be off one week or one month.  It is very possible someone could miss an important moment.  It is even possible that one day a conversation won’t go so well between you, and that friend is going to need a little extra equity in that moment.  If you would pad the account with grace today, it may save a relationship tomorrow.

People are the only eternal thing we come in contact with on a daily basis, and our relationships with those God has placed in our lives have the potential to last forever.

Podcast

Click HERE to listen to Pastor Eric’s complete message of Paul’s Letter to Philemon.  (Podcast will be available late Monday afternoon.)

Links

We have a new blogger in our congregation.  Oasis of Praise is a beautiful sight dedicated to maintaining a heart of praise even in the “Calgon” moments of life.

Parents, we have another opportunity for Kitchen Table Discipleship by checking out the latest family connection page at our children’s Wordchangers blog.

Check out this amazing video of a fiery 3 year old bedtime prayer!  Talk about discipleship!

On the Radar

ALL CHURCH NIGHT OF WORSHIP this Wednesday, 7 pm, at EFC!  For more info, check out our website at www.efcsweetwater.com!

Pastor Eric and his son, Keegan, leave in just 10 days on a mission trip to Eastern Europe.  They will be traveling to Croatia and Poland as Pastor Eric teaches in several church leadership schools and preaches in local churches with Prepare International.  Keegan will be getting his feet wet on the mission field and being an “armor bearer” for his dad.  Please pray for this trip and these two travelers as they help bring the Kingdom of Heaven to Europe!

Brazil Mission Trip — Pastor Mindy and Pastor Lorin leave in December for a mission trip to Brazil!  They will each need to raise over $3,000 for trip costs.  For more info and to find out how you can support their trip, click HERE.

Revelation Bible study this Tuesday from 12:00 – 1:00 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.

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. “Jesus Forever” by Anthony Skinner
  2. I Have Found” by Kim Walker
  3. “Breathe” by Kathryn Scott
  4. “Inside Out” by Hillsong

Sunday Preview

Next Sunday, November 8, we will conclude our exploration of the book of Philemon by examining Philemon’s perspective as he received the Apostle Paul’s profound letter.

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The Story of OnesimusProverbs 16:9 tells us, “In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.”  Nowhere do we see this truth more clearly illustrated than in the life of Onesimus.  Click HERE to read Pastor Eric’s account of the remarkable story of this slave who dared to allow the Lord to direct his steps.  It’s a good one!

Podcast

Hear the complete message of The Story of Onesimus by clicking HERE.

Links

We are excited to introduce our new Children’s Ministry weblog, where you can access weekly family pages and find the latest worldchangers news.  Its another great opportunity to connect church and home! 

In yesterday’s message, Pastor Eric referenced the Global Rich List.  You can find a link to the list embedded in his blog post, The Story of Onesimus.

On the Radar

Brazil Mission Trip — Pastor Mindy and Pastor Lorin leave in December for a mission trip to Brazil!  They will each need to raise over $3,000 for trip costs.  For more info and to find out how you can support their trip, click HERE.

We have a new Lunchtime Bible study coming this week!  Beginning this Tuesday, October 20, we will dive into a lunch time study of the book of Revelation.  The study will run every Tuesday from 12:00 – 1:00 in my office.  Everyone is welcome to join in, just bring your Bible and a lunch box.

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. Friend of God
  2. Forever and a Day by Anthony Skinner
  3. I Surrender by Kim Walker
  4. Revelation Song, Kari Jobe version

Sunday Preview

Next Sunday, November 1, we will continue our exploration of the book of Philemon by considering Paul’s perspective as he penned this dangerous letter.

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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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1 John 5 so that you may know jpg“Because it was Jesus who came to us from eternity, to prepare us for eternity and He is our greatest insight into discovering how to embrace eternity.” – Pastor Tom Mullins, Christ Fellowship

A dear friend of mine in college loved to work out and loved to play football.  I remember eating lunch with Jason one afternoon as he said, “I just want to test my body, to see how strong I get, to see how much I can take.”

Unfortunately, neither he, nor the two girls he was traveling with were strong enough to take the impact of a head on collision with a semi truck.  The loss of those three precious lives devastated all of us at Hardin-Simmons that year.

All of us have our limits, and life has an expiration date. 

It is absolutely essential that, in the midst of our journey through life, we prepare ourselves for eternity by embracing Jesus as our Lord and Savior.

“And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.  He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.  I write these things to you who believe in the Name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.”  — 1 John 5:11-13

Do you know that you have eternal life?  It doesn’t have to be a mystery.

I encourage you click on the Podcast link and take a few minutes to listen to “Embrace Eternity,” our message from yesterday.  It could be the best investment you ever make into eternity.

You can also find a great article on embracing eternity at the EFC website. 

May the grace of God fill your life as you discover peace with Him through the cross of Jesus Christ.

Podcast

Embrace Eternity with confidence!  Click HERE to follow along with Pastor Eric’s message.

Links

“Will my pet be in Heaven?” seems to be the number one question people have about the after life.  Click HERE for Pastor Eric’s blog post on this perplexing subject.

Randy Alcorn is one of the pioneers of modern thought concerning Heaven.  You can purchase his book, appropriately titled “Heaven” directly from his website by clicking HERE

On the Radar

Brazil Mission Trip — Pastor Mindy and Pastor Lorin leave in December for a mission trip to Brazil!  They will each need to raise over $3,000 for trip costs.  For more info and to find out how you can support their trip, click HERE

This coming Sunday is Missions Sunday, and our church will have an opportunity to give towards this trip.  Ask the Lord before you come if you are to bring a special gift to invest in the people of Brazil.

The Freedom Weekend is quickly approaching.  Have you signed up?  Make plans to join us November 6 – 7 for an amazing weekend of discovering the healing and joy found in Christ Jesus.   Space will be limited, so sign up early!  For more information, a schedule, and registration information, click HERE

We have a new Lunchtime Bible study coming soon.  Beginning Tuesday, October 20, we will dive into a study of the book of Revelation.  The study will run every Tuesday from 12:00 – 1:00 in my office.  Everyone is welcome to join in, just bring your Bible and a lunch box.

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. “Mighty To Save” Hillsong version
  2. “Wonderful Maker” Chris Tomlin version
  3. “Healer” Kari Jobe version
  4. “In Christ Alone” Rita Springer version

Sunday Preview

Next Sunday, October 18, Mindy will be preaching on being whole in your body, soul, and spirit.  Come ready to be blessed with an impartation of Jesus’ perfect peace.

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Speak Sweeter!

Speak Sweeter!

Our tongues travel on a continuous tightrope of what to say and what not to say.  Most of us have been trained that we should keep the reigns tight and “hold our tongue.”

With the realization that in a given year most people will speak enough words to fill fifty books that are each 1,000 pages long, and when we tally the word count of a single day to be between twenty and thirty thousand words, it seems easy to draw the conclusion that we should all speak fewer words and we would be much better off for it.

But, I do not believe the answer to taming the tongue lies in speaking fewer words as much as in learning to speak the right words.  When each of us reach the point of looking back on a long and fulfilling life, we may regret some of the words we spoke, but the deeper regret may be the words we neglected to speak.

Did we speak:

  • Words of Affirmation to our children?
  • Words of Endearment to our spouse?
  • Words of Appreciation to our parents and everyone else who ever influenced our life?
  • Words of Support for what we believe in?
  • Words of Life to those in search of truth?
  • Words of Apology to those we hurt?

As we embrace this week with a determination to speak sweeter, I encourage you to leave nothing unsaid to those who need to hear from you.

“The tongue has the power of life …”  –Proverbs 18:21

Podcast

Did you miss this week’s message?  Do you need to grab a quick refresher of what was said?  Click here to listen to “Speak Sweeter” the second sermon in the Live Like You Were Dying Series.  

Links

While preparing for yesterday’s message, I stumbled upon a great song that has become my new favorite.  Take a minute to reflect on “100 Years” by Five For Fighting.

You can find a great follow up to Sunday’s message in the sermon archive online.  Scroll down on the sermon player to 1/18/09 to hear a message on prayer and discover how one brown crayon can change a life forever.

On the Radar

Last night Peter Lopez kicked off our “Beauty of the Bible” discipleship series with a fantastic teaching from Genesis 1:1.  I encourage you to join us next Sunday at 6:00 p.m. as Peter leads us through an exploration of the treasures in God’s Word.

We have a Freedom Retreat coming November 6 – 7 at EFC.  If you have not attended a Freedom Weekend yet, prayerfully consider joining us for this remarkable weekend .  For more information, a schedule, and registration information, click here. 

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. “My Redeemer Lives”
  2. “Open Up Heaven” by Kim Walker
  3. “Where You Go, I’ll Go” by Brian and Jenn Johnson

Sunday Preview

My friends, next Sunday is going to be a very remarkable time for us as a congregation.  We have the amazing privilege of hosting a special guest who is doing a wonderful work in some of the most difficult to reach countries in the world.  I hope you will make it your plan to come Sunday expecting a blessing and expecting to be a blessing as well.

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My King - Now I See Cover jpgThe healing of the man who was blind from birth is an amazing story found in the Scriptures.  As we studied together yesterday, I was acutely aware of the need to handle the Word of God with integrity and precision.  I have included a Bonus Post of study notes from John 9 with this week’s review to allow you to continue to dig into the truth of the healing power and purpose of our King.  Dig deep!

Podcast

Click here to listen to the full version of Pastor Eric’s message from John 9.

Links

Our beloved Pastor Lolo was featured in the Sweetwater Reporter last week.  You can read the full article by clicking here!

I recently discovered a great new version of the “That’s My King Video” on Youtube.  It’s longer and sassier and packs quite a punch.  Go check it out.

On the Radar

This week, our Lifegroups will join together with our Youth Group and Children’s Ministry, all under one roof!  We will have an all-church Night of Worship this Wednesday evening at 7 pm in the EFC sanctuary.  A nursery will be provided, but our older children will join us in worshipping King Jesus. 

Kid’s Church begins this Sunday for children ages 4 years – 5th grade!  For more information, see our children’s ministry page on the church website.

Our Discipleship Training Series “Beauty of the Bible,” with Peter Lopez facilitating, will begin Sunday, September 13th and run for the rest of the month on Sunday evenings.  This class will begin at 6 pm and last approximately one hour.  The class is free of charge, and a nursery will be provided.

Our ladies will be attending a great women’s conference hosted by Church on the Rock in Lubbock, Texas on the weekend of September 18-19.  Save the date for this refreshing time, gals!  Registrations must be made through EFC by Sunday, September 13thFor more information or to register, click here.

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. “Sing to the King”
  2. “I Asked You For Life” by Kim Walker
  3. “Your Love Is Like” by Rick Pino
  4. “Mighty To Save” by Hillsong

Sunday Preview

Take the chance...September is going to be a remarkable month as we explore the spiritual truth found in Tim McGraws’s hit song “Live Like You Were Dying.”  I look forward to sharing the adventure with you!

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plowed-field“What do you see?” was the foundational question of the prophet Jeremiah’s ministry.  Over and again, Jeremiah’s life would be filled with visions that he would in turn communicate to nations and kings, and what he saw would be the key to the message he delivered.

That same principle of vision is an essential factor in the ministry God has given each of us.  What you see determines what you say, what you do, and how you live.

As Mindy shared with us yesterday in her message, “Jeremiah: Faith for the Unseen,” the vision test for Jeremiah was the dormant branch that stood before him.  Jeremiah saw its identity and its potential. “I see an almond branch,” he said.  The young prophet could see what it was and the fruit it would produce.

What do you see today?  What do you see in your home, at work, and in the mirror?  What do you see for your future and how do you see your past?  What season of life are you in and where will you go from here?

The key to living in the grace of God is the capacity to see what God is doing around you and partner with Him in that activity.  This is the vision which brings hope, purpose, fulfillment, and fruit to life.

As we were closing the service yesterday, I saw a plowed field with rows and rows of uncut diamonds planted in the furrows.  It was as if the Lord was showing me there was an untapped harvest here in West-Texas.  God sees the beauty and the value that remains undiscovered in your life — and the soil of West Texas is the perfect place for your life to yield a harvest.  Can you see it?

Podcast

Follow the link to access Pastor Mindy’s message “Faith for the Unseen” from the life of the prophet Jeremiah.

Links

As Mindy shared yesterday, the song “You Have Redeemed My Soul” from the Enter the Worship Circle project kept coming to my mind.  Here’s a tribute video I found on youtube.

On the Radar

All youth and parents are invited to join us for a BBQ at Pastor Eric and Mindy’s house this Wednesday, July 1 at 7:00 pm.  We will eat, meet, play, and discuss upcoming plans for the youth ministry of EFC.  New 6th graders are invited to attend, as we will be welcoming them into the youth group!

Fountain Gate Fellowship in Abilene is hosting a Worship Training Seminar on Saturday, July 11, from 10:00 am to 2:30 pm for worship team members and those who just love to worship!  More information is available on their website at www.fountaingatefellowship.org

Our first Kids’ School of Worship will be held at Emmanuel Fellowship July 28-31.  This amazing event will follow the format of a VBS with the emphasis of instructing children (and adults) in the privilege of worshipping our King.

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 find them for purchase on itunes.com.

  1. “See His Love” by Tim  Hughes
  2. “You Gave Your Life Away” by Paul Baloche and Kathryn Scott
  3. “I Repent” by Barry and Michelle Patterson
  4. “Revelation Song” by Jennie Lee Riddle

Sunday Preview

For the months of July and August, we will take a summer tour through the life of our Lord Jesus as told in the book of John.  I invite you to join us this Sunday for our first message in the series “That’s My King!”

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