YOU ASKED FOR IT: Satan’s presence and power…

What kind of power does Satan have over me and in this world?  Can Satan make me do bad things?

Here’s the foundation that this response will be based on: Satan does currently roam the Earth, and he and his forces are in a constant battle against God for our souls. Where our eternity is spent all depends on our decision to follow, or walk away from, Christ.

The foundation for Satan having dominion over the Earth comes from a number of places, but here are 3 main points in scripture that point to this being the case:

1) Satan (as the serpent) was present in the garden of Eden, working to tempt Eve into sin.

2) Revelation 12:9-11 describes satan being cast out of heaven:  [9] And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. [10] And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. [11] And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death.  (Revelation 12:9-11 ESV)

3) The story of Job, which is where we will focus on the question “can Satan make me do bad things”?

The beginning of the story of Job:

[6] Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them. [7] The LORD said to Satan, “From where have you come?” Satan answered the LORD and said, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.” [8] And the LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?” [9] Then Satan answered the LORD and said, “Does Job fear God for no reason? [10] Have you not put a hedge around him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. [11] But stretch out your hand and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face.” [12] And the LORD said to Satan, “Behold, all that he has is in your hand. Only against him do not stretch out your hand.” So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD. (Job 1:6-12 ESV)

In the beginning of this story we find that satan is in fact roaming the Earth. To think that he is here in Job’s time, and not the present day, would be extra-biblical. We also see that satan has NO power of his own to force us to do bad things. Satan has to go to God to ask about testing Job. Some would argue that since God allows this, God is the one responsible for all the bad things about to happen to Job. The differentiation that needs to be made is this: God tests, satan tempts. Satan HAS NO POWER OF HIS OWN, except to tempt people into sin. We can make a free-will choice to give into that temptation (much like Eve had every opportunity to say “no” to the serpent in the garden of Eden), and Satan can choose to tempt us however and whenever he likes. Testing, on the other hand, is something that God allows in our lives to build faith and character. The story of Job illustrates how God is willing to allow tests/trials in our lives in order for our character, strength, and faith to be strengthened. Job was not tempted by God, but God did allow him to be tested.

Satan lures people into sin- he cannot actually force us into it. Likewise, God would never tempt someone to sin (it is completely against his nature) but will put people through tests to strengthen character or faith.

One final thought to remember is that Satan is referred to as the “angel of light,” and the “great deceiver.” He is relentless in his efforts to make sin appear good, in hopes that we will choose his path instead of God’s. One phrase I use often with our youth group is this: Satan does not come as all the things we hate (or that are ugly- things we know must be sinful), but as all the things that look good, but aren’t of God.

Jason Reynolds
Illumination Church | Youth Pastor

Week 2: WEiRD…Because Normal Isn’t Working – “Leadership”

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As a church, we started an incredible series two weeks ago that we’re calling “WEiRD…Because Normal Isn’t Working!”  The reason for the series is really two-fold:

  1. We’re doing this series because “normal” isn’t working!
  2. We’re doing this series because God calls us to live in a way that will be considered as “weird” by the world around us.

Do any investigation and it won’t take you too long to discover that “weird” in its simplest form simply means: outside the norm.  What the world has determined is “normal” isn’t working in any way, shape, form or facet.  You don’t believe that?  Go ahead and turn on any television or open up any newspaper and you’ll quickly come to understand what I’m talking about.  Our world as we know it is or what’s become “normal”, is a reckless way of life that leaves a wake of death and destruction in so many ways: physically, emotionally, spiritually, financially, and more.

Last Sunday we focused on a topic that I believe with every fiber of my being is necessary in changing the normative systems of our world today, and that is leadership!  If you missed the message, you can check it out by clicking (here).

In order for us to change the trajectory of the societal norms around us, it will absolutely require incredible bravery, obedience and yes, leadership, from you and I in every arena of our lives.

The whole crucible of the message on Sunday can be summed up into one sentence: “God can use the most unlikely people who are willing to be “weird” to lead like never before.”  

Allow me to elaborate for just a minute…

There’s a story in the book of Judges (a collection of appointed individuals chosen by God to lead the Israelites) of a man by the name of Gideon.  A simple farmer who had seen the plight of his people as a result of their direct and deliberate disobedience to God and their love of idol worship for countless decades, Gideon and his people (the Israelites) were living in a constant state of fear from their oppressors, the Midianites.  At the hands of the power Midianites and their allies, the Amalekites, Gideon and his people could be found camped out in mountainsides, along caverns and caves, and in various other precarious places, all in hopes of avoiding these eastern powers and their persecution.  

One afternoon Gideon is threshing wheat (separating the chaff from the wheat to produce edible food) when the angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon and placed a call and mandate on his life.  In short, God was going to use this scared, bitter, confused farmer named Gideon, to take victory over the armies of the Midianites and Amalekites and deliver his people (the Israelites) from their constant state of living in fear.  

Here is the dialogue between Gideon and the angel of the Lord…

Judges 6:11-16

New Living Translation (NLT)

11 Then the angel of the Lord came and sat beneath the great tree at Ophrah, which belonged to Joash of the clan of Abiezer. Gideon son of Joash was threshing wheat at the bottom of a winepress to hide the grain from the Midianites. 12 The angel of the Lord appeared to him and said, “Mighty hero, the Lord is with you!”

13 “Sir,” Gideon replied, “if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us? And where are all the miracles our ancestors told us about? Didn’t they say, ‘The Lord brought us up out of Egypt’? But now the Lord has abandoned us and handed us over to the Midianites.”

14 Then the Lord turned to him and said, “Go with the strength you have, and rescue Israel from the Midianites. I am sending you!”

15 “But Lord,” Gideon replied, “how can I rescue Israel? My clan is the weakest in the whole tribe of Manasseh, and I am the least in my entire family!”

16 The Lord said to him, “I will be with you. And you will destroy the Midianites as if you were fighting against one man.”

In light of all that we processed together through God’s Word on Sunday and from what we learn from Gideon’s encounters and experience with God, there are four questions that I believe every one of us must ask and wrestle with.  

Here we go…

1. What excuses are keeping you from God’s best? 

Like Gideon who was full of excuses of why God couldn’t possibly use him: “My clan is the weakest…I’m the least (youngest) of my clan…God hasn’t been visible for generations…blah…blah…blah…”, all too often you and I allow the excuses of life to keep us from God’s best.  If we are to experience God’s best for us as individuals, as a community, as a society and beyond, we need to arrive at a place in which we acknowledge the useless excuses that have kept us from God’s best to date and be willing to address these things head on.

From Gideon’s initial conversation with the angel of the Lord, he then goes on to ask for 3 different signs before he is completely bought in and sold out to the call on his life from God.

Here’s a bit of how the rest of the story plays out. 

Judges 7:1-22

New Living Translation (NLT)

Gideon Defeats the Midianites

So Jerub-baal (that is, Gideon) and his army got up early and went as far as the spring of Harod. The armies of Midian were camped north of them in the valley near the hill of Moreh.The Lord said to Gideon, “You have too many warriors with you. If I let all of you fight the Midianites, the Israelites will boast to me that they saved themselves by their own strength.

2. Who gets the glories in your victories?

This is the second question that we absolutely MUST address in order for us to live out weird leadership in our lives.  Who gets the glories for the victories in our lives?

Far too much we are great at calling, even crying out to God when things aren’t going well for us.  That said, when things are running right along as we had planned or desired and things are going well, it’s funny how we lose sight of God’s provision and are so willing to accept the accolades for what went right.  Unfortunately, God doesn’t operate this way.  No!  In fact, I believe that there are victories in life that we have yet to experience because of our pride and our unwillingness to give God the credit.  Instead, we choose to accept the praise for all of the good in our lives.  In light of what Gideon experience, I can’t help but wonder what victories you and I are missing out on because God knows that we would brag about what we did at our own hands.  Crazy to think about, huh?!

Therefore, tell the people, ‘Whoever is timid or afraid may leave this mountain[a] and go home.’” So 22,000 of them went home, leaving only 10,000 who were willing to fight.

But the Lord told Gideon, “There are still too many! Bring them down to the spring, and I will test them to determine who will go with you and who will not.” When Gideon took his warriors down to the water, the Lord told him, “Divide the men into two groups. In one group put all those who cup water in their hands and lap it up with their tongues like dogs. In the other group put all those who kneel down and drink with their mouths in the stream.” Only 300 of the men drank from their hands. All the others got down on their knees and drank with their mouths in the stream.

The Lord told Gideon, “With these 300 men I will rescue you and give you victory over the Midianites. Send all the others home.” So Gideon collected the provisions and rams’ horns of the other warriors and sent them home. But he kept the 300 men with him.

The Midianite camp was in the valley just below Gideon. That night the Lord said, “Get up! Go down into the Midianite camp, for I have given you victory over them! 10 But if you are afraid to attack, go down to the camp with your servant Purah. 11 Listen to what the Midianites are saying, and you will be greatly encouraged. Then you will be eager to attack.”

So Gideon took Purah and went down to the edge of the enemy camp. 12 The armies of Midian, Amalek, and the people of the east had settled in the valley like a swarm of locusts. Their camels were like grains of sand on the seashore—too many to count! 13 Gideon crept up just as a man was telling his companion about a dream. The man said, “I had this dream, and in my dream a loaf of barley bread came tumbling down into the Midianite camp. It hit a tent, turned it over, and knocked it flat!”

14 His companion answered, “Your dream can mean only one thing—God has given Gideon son of Joash, the Israelite, victory over Midian and all its allies!”

15 When Gideon heard the dream and its interpretation, he bowed in worship before the Lord.[b]Then he returned to the Israelite camp and shouted, “Get up! For the Lord has given you victory over the Midianite hordes!” 16 He divided the 300 men into three groups and gave each man a ram’s horn and a clay jar with a torch in it.

3. What does your outlook look like?

The third question that I think you and I need to wrestle with is this…what does your (our) outlook look like?

Gideon had every reason in the world to continue to focus on all of the reasons why what God had asked him to do was crazy and why it wouldn’t work and why it was a death sentence and why it was weird, and so on and so forth.  But he didn’t.  No!  Instead, once Gideon took the time to listen to God, he had no choice to but to change his outlook on his circumstances and situation.  As a direct result, Gideon falls flat on his face and worships God.  What’s more is that after he is finished worshiping God, he runs back to his camp of 300 men and tells them to get up and get ready for the victory was already theirs.

In life, if we’re being honest, it’s soooooooo easy for you and I to focus on all of the negative things affecting you and I every day, isn’t it?  It makes sense given how much turmoil we are surrounded with.  Fortunately for us, God has something different for us by way of our outlook on life.

Check out what the Apostle Paul says about our outlook on life:

 And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.

Did you catch that?  We are called to focus on the things that are of God.  We must address our outlook on life and choose to dwell on the things of God.  Amen and amen!

 17 Then he said to them, “Keep your eyes on me. When I come to the edge of the camp, do just as I do. 18 As soon as I and those with me blow the rams’ horns, blow your horns, too, all around the entire camp, and shout, ‘For the Lord and for Gideon!’”

4. Do you know the way, go the way and show the way?

Here it is; the fourth question that we must wrestle with, and it’s a quote from leadership expert, John Maxwell, on leadership.  Do you know the way to go; in other words, are you in tune with God and able to discern God’s direction for your life?  Are you willing to “go” where God calls you to go?  Finally, are you intentional about showing others the way that God wants you and I to live our lives?  If not, why not?  If so, then you are fast on your way to understanding and implementing weird leadership; the kind of leadership that will change the world one life at a time.

19 It was just after midnight,[c] after the changing of the guard, when Gideon and the 100 men with him reached the edge of the Midianite camp. Suddenly, they blew the rams’ horns and broke their clay jars. 20 Then all three groups blew their horns and broke their jars. They held the blazing torches in their left hands and the horns in their right hands, and they all shouted, “A sword for the Lord and for Gideon!”

21 Each man stood at his position around the camp and watched as all the Midianites rushed around in a panic, shouting as they ran to escape. 22 When the 300 Israelites blew their rams’ horns, the Lord caused the warriors in the camp to fight against each other with their swords. Those who were not killed fled to places as far away as Beth-shittah near Zererah and to the border of Abel-meholah near Tab bath.

Finally:

  • What victories in your life are waiting on your surrender and obedience to God?
  • Are you willing to step out amongst all of life’s circumstances, regardless of how weird it may appear to others, and lead the way in all things?

I can’t wait to hear the testimonies of how God uses you in your willingness to implement and practice weird leadership in your life, in your home, amongst your family, throughout your community and beyond.

~ Pastor Andrew

Week 1: Weird…Because Normal Isn’t Working!

Print This last weekend we kicked off an incredible new series we’re calling, “Weird…Because Normal Isn’t Working!” Why a series like this, one might ask?  Well because we pulled some stats that, according to the standards and culture all around us, are considered to be pretty normal.  What you’ll find after looking over these stats is that normal isn’t working; not at all.  What’s more is that I believe that God has, is and will continue to call us to live as those who are “weird” (different, unique, strange, etc.) in comparison to the standard norm of the world around us. Check out these fast facts: “Normal”, by definition: (Oxford New English)

  • Conform to a standard; usual, typical
  • The usual, average, or typical state or condition

“Normal”, by statistics: Marriage –  (according to: McKinley Irving, Family law)

  • 41% of first-time marriages end in divorce
  • 60% of second-time marriages end in divorce
  • 73% of third-time marriages end in divorce

Debt – (according to: NerdWallet Finance)

  • Average credit card debt per household in the U.S. is $15,191 with a majority of credit card holders occupying 3 or more credit cards at one time
  • Average mortgage debt per household in the U.S. is $154,365 to date, with an average median household income of only $28,051 nationwide
  • Average student loans for college graduates in the U.S. is $33,607 while the average a college graduate from the class of 2013 will make is only $45,327.  After taxes, that’s $2,448 net income, which means that a student would have to work 13 months, 3 weeks in order to pay off their college debt, not including interest or other fixed expenses.  Most graduating seniors will pay off their student loans somewhere between 10 to 25 years after graduation
  • As of April, 2014, the total consumer debt within the U.S. is estimated at more than $11.68 trillion dollars

Obesity – (according to the Center for Disease Control)

  • More than 1/3 or 34.9% of U.S. adults (over 19) are obese
  • More than ½ or 69% of U.S. adults (over 19) are overweight
  • The percentage of children aged 6 – 11 years in the U.S. who are obese has increased from 7% in 1980 to nearly 18% in 2012.  Similarly, the percentage of adolescents aged 12 – 19 years of age has increased from 5% to 21%.

Education – (according to DoSomething.org)

  • Every year, over 1.2 million students drop out of high school in the U.S. alone.  That’s 1 student every 26 seconds – or 7,000 every day
  • The U.S., which had some of the highest graduation rates of any developed country, now ranks 22nd out of 27 developed countries

Crime – (according to FBI.gov)

  • In 2012, there were at estimated 1,214,462 violent crimes (murder, rape, fights, etc.) reported in the U.S.
  • In 2012, an estimated 8,975,438 property crimes took place across the nation
  • The FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) estimated that agencies made approximately 12.2 million arrests, excluding traffic violations, in 2012
  • These crime rates have increased by 15% for violent crimes and 12% for property crimes each of the last 2 years

Alright, so I think that we can all agree that “normal” isn’t working, right?! So if “normal” isn’t working, what’s the alternative?  It’s seems obvious enough, yet somehow or another so many of us mess it so often.  The opposite of “normal” is “weird”, and that’s exactly what we’re called to: a weird life; a weird way of doing life and ministry. This past week we looked at what’s necessary for us to take a stand for God in living as one who is weird by all of the standards of the world.  It begins and ends with taking a stand for God in the face of adversity.  When no one else is willing to step up and step out, God calls us to conquer the GIANTS of normalcy in our lives, similar to how a teenage boy, David, stepped out and stepped up against a giant champion named Goliath from a community called, Gath.  Daily, for forty days, twice a day, this dude would come out and defy the army of Israel as well as the God whom they served.  While it had become normal for this to take place and for no one to do anything about it, David wasn’t willing to accept normal and so became weird in his attitude, approach and actions.  It was awesome and is one of my most favorite stories throughout the Bible. If you want to read more about the story of David and Goliath, check out 1 Samuel 17 or click here.

There are 3 different lessons that we learn from David’s encounter with Goliath about what is necessary if we are going to take a stand for God and live as those who are called by God and considered weird based on the bias’ of the world we’re living in.  Here they are:

  1. The ways of the world should feel uncomfortable to us (as Christians).   In the story of David gearing up to take on Goliath, we learn that King Saul tries to outfit David, nothing more than a young teenage boy, with the armor of a grown man.  David had never worn anything like this before nor was he well versed with a sword or spear.  As he walked around in the armor a bit, it became painfully obvious that the gear was uncomfortable and wasn’t going to work.
    o   Like David, when we try the strategies and approaches of the world, they should feel foreign and uncomfortable to us.
    o   As the Spirit of the LORD is within us, is leading us and directing us, the normal ways of the world will feel less and less “normal” to us.
  2. Living for God, we should expect opposition. Is anyone surprise at the giant, Goliath’s, response when he sees David come to the battle line?  Here is a kid and he’s calling out a dude that’s over 9′ tall, who’s body armor likely weighs more than the boy in front of him.  Wow!  Goliath opposes David, calls him all kinds of names and yells out murderous threats at the kid.
    o   The Bible never tells us that living for God, which will always be perceived as “weird” by the world’s standards, will be easy…
    Matthew 10:22 (NIV) – Jesus said: “You will be hated by everyone because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.
    o   Winston Churchill once said, “You have enemies?  Good.  That means that you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life.”
    o   When we live to please God, we will be grossly misunderstood and judged.  The world will always perceive us as “weird”.
  3. We are called to take a stand for God in the face of normalcy. Against common sense and man’s better judgement, the things that are to be considered relatively normal by the standards of the world, David had no business going to battle against Goliath.  That didn’t matter!  Instead, David recognized that God had a call on his life and he was willing to take a stand for God in the face of normalcy, regardless of what people were going to think and say of him as well as the obvious risks to his health.
    o   If we are going to follow God; His ways, His directives, His desire, His will for our lives – we must defy the standards of the world and take a stand for God
    o   Every day we have to come against and conquer the GIANTS that present themselves as pretty “normal” things in our world, things like:

    • Alcoholism
    • Divorce
    • Sex outside of marriage (before marriage, extra-marital affairs)
    • Pornography
    • Gossip
    • Apathy
    • Etc.
    • Etc.
    • Etc.

When you and I learn to live our lives for Jesus, we will become “weird” to the world.  We have to come to the place where we recognize that being weird is not only better than the alternative, “normal”, but that it’s an honor to answer the call to take a stand for God in the face of what this world considers normal. I asked the question yesterday in light of the word that we received from God, “what giant’s have you allowed to keep you from taking a stand for God in your life?” Here are some practical applications that we can make this week in taking a stand for God and in going to battle with our giants:

  • Ask God to reveal the GIANTS you’re facing in your life; the “normalcy” of this world
  • Be quiet and be available; allowing God to show you these things
  • Make a list (write them out)
  • Surrender them to God through prayer
  • Look at your least every day this week and choose to stand against these GIANTS – surrendering each and every one as often as you need to, allowing God to move in your life in standing up to and in overcoming these GIANTS

I pray that you will find freedom from your giants today and that you will exercise the courage you’ll need to step up and step out in order to live the weird kind of life that God calls you to this week! ~Pastor Andrew

The Power of One Dollar

 

Are you a generous giver? 

I had the awesome pleasure of being part of the teaching team at Illumination Church (Burnsville, MN) this weekend and completing The Power of One Series. It was truly an honor to speak on the subject of biblical generosity.  

You can find a recap of the message below.   

We also have a special video that you don’t want to miss from Miss Paisley Irene (Age 3) talking about giving in the church.  Check it out (The Power of Giving). 

Our primary focus this weekend was: 2 Corinthians 9:6-15(NIV)

Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. As it is written:

“They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor;    a]

 10 Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. 11 You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.

12 This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. 13 Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, others will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else.14 And in their prayers for you their hearts will go out to you, because of the surpassing grace God has given you. 15 Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!

As we worked through the word, we talked about five different ways to identify a generous giver:

  1. Generous givers are eternally focused.  When we enter into a personal relationship with God, we’re called to walk in a way that is different than the world.  Our focus changes to those things that God cares about vs. what the world cares about. 
  2. Generous givers are joyful.  Those who have a heart that is transformed into a heart of generosity give without hesitation and with gladness from their hearts. 
  3. Generous givers recognize that God owns everything.  Everything we have is a direct gift given from God.  God gives us absolutely everything we need and his expectation is that we will be generous. As we invest the resources he provides us, he gives us more so that we’re able to give more.     
  4. Generous givers prefer giving over getting.   The heart of a generous giver is to continuously give.  It’s not about what they will receive, in fact, they would prefer giving over receiving.
  5. Generous givers offers gifts as an act of worship.  When we are eternally focused, we know that there are lives that need to be saved and we connect with the fact that by and through our generosity; our father’s name will be praised.  We give in order to honor and worship our heavenly father.  

We continued to discuss how God measures giving and were reminded that he is not impressed with big numbers, but with the condition of our hearts.  As we face the week ahead and consider what it means to be a generous giver; we were charged to remember the greatest commandment from Jesus:

Matthew 22:36-40 (NIV)

“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment of the law?” Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it:  ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.”   All the Law and the Prophets hand on these two commandments. 

Action items from this message for the week ahead:

1) Assess where you’re at in generous giving based on the description.  Pray and think about it.  

2) If you’re not already, determine where you might get involved at IC.  Where in your life do you need to increase your giving of your time, your treasure or your talents? 

 

If you’re interested in connecting at Illumination Church in Burnsville, we’d love to hear from you.  Contact us at info@illuminationchurch.com or visit us on Sunday as we kick off an all new series!

Illumination Church is a faith community located in Burnsville, MN with celebration services held at 9:30AM every Sunday at 12156 Nicollet Avenue, Burnsville, MN.  

 

  

The Power of One Prayer

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Have you experienced the power of one prayer, which has the ability to transform your life?

That was the question that I posed to everyone at Illumination Church this past weekend, and for many reasons.

Unfortunately and all too often people will approach prayer like they do with brushing their teeth: they’ll go through the motions once or twice a day without really giving much thought to what they’re doing, why they’re doing it or the rewards of such an activity in their lives.  It’s just what they’ve grown up doing, but don’t really put much thought or intentionality into it.  Learned behavior?  Necessity? Whatever the case may be, prayer if and when it takes place is often just what it is, something that we do.

There’s good news in all of this!

Your prayer life doesn’t have to be like this.  No!  Instead, you can experience the power of one prayer that Jesus prayed, which radically transforms how you and I can approach prayer and in how we come to God.

 

Matthew 6:5-13 | NIV

“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others.  truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.  But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen.  Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words.  Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

This, then, is how you should pray:

‘Our FATHER in heaven, hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come, your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.  
Give us today our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts, as we 
also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.”

Four questions from this weekend:

There are four questions from this weekend that I think is imperative that we address in our lives, specifically as it relates to our faith and how we view prayer.

1. What motivates you?

Jesus addresses the issue of motivation with prayer before he ever teaches us how to pray.  Jesus is incredibly clear on the things that we’re not to do when it comes to praying: “do not by the like the hypocrites…”
You see, the Pharisees were infamous for being dramatic in their public prayer life for their own benefit and personal gain.  Their motivation was on what others would think of them and what it could do for their political gain and personal power.  It had nothing to do with honoring God nor focusing on a right-relationship with Him.

In light of Jesus’ warning about how we ought not pray based on motivation, we must then ask ourselves and address this question in our personal prayer life – “what motivates me?”

If our motivation for prayer is anything other than growing in our relationship with God, honoring Him through obedience in worship through prayer and fixing our eyes on Him, we need to address matters of motivation and set our priorities straight.

2. Are you intentional in your prayer life?

The pagan practice of Jesus’ day was incredible – thousands and thousands of gods whom would receive useless babbling as “prayers” – people saying the same phrases over and over again in an attempt to somehow gain an advantage in their personal prayer life.  Heck, even the Pharisees were ridiculous in that they would keep a running record of who prayed, how long they prayed, what words they used, how the words were used, if they prayed the right way, etc.

This approach to prayer isn’t intentional at all.  In fact, it seems that it’s just the opposite.  Useless rambling that amounts to very little other than wasted breath and empty hope.

When we come to God in prayer, Jesus calls us to be ever-intentional about how we come to God; that we pray on purpose, with a purpose and for a purpose.

 

3. Are you into religion or a relationship with God?

According to Miriam-Webster’s Dictionary, religion is: an organized system of beliefs, ceremonies, and rules used to worship a god or a group of gods.  All too often people confuse the practice of “religion” with a relationship with God.  We ought not make any mistake about it.  These two (religion and relationship) are worlds apart from one another.

Jesus was concerned with people who were just going through the motions of the ritualistic prayers and religious practices of the day, when he completely flipped the way people view prayer and can approach God in what I consider the power of one prayer.  You see, Jesus, when he taught his disciples how to pray, started off by addressing God as Father.  In Aramaic, which was the language Jesus would have used, the literal word used here is “Abba”, which when translated means, Daddy.  Only 14 times throughout all 39 books of the Old Testament was this term used (Hebrew: pater) for Father and it was only ever used in a National sense, never as an individual addressing God as Father.  In the New Testament, Jesus uses this type off address in prayer to God on 60 different occasions and in all but one of his prayers.  While this may not mean much at first glance, the significance of what Jesus’ did here is incredible.  He took something like prayer that was a part of religion and he made it personal, an opportunity to experience intimacy with God on our own as our Father; no longer needing to approach God through rights and rituals, through Levites and Priests.

In light of what Jesus did for us through the power of one prayer, we must be all the more intentional about how we come to God – as a relationship and not merely something we do as a part of our religion.

 

4. Is prayer a part of everything in your life?

In Paul’s first letter to the church in Thessalonica, he calls us to pray at all times or to pray without ceasing (1 Thes. 5:17).  Jesus’ teaching on prayer includes 6 petitions as part of the way we are called to pray along with many other components.

Consider this: “Our Father”, takes religion out of prayer and places the emphasis on a relationship

Consider this: “Hallowed be your name”, places the focus on how hallowed or holy our God is, that He is worthy of praise and adoration in all things

Consider this: “your kingdom come”, encourages us to keep our eyes fixed on the things not of this world (money, job, cars, etc.), the things that we are tempted and often consumed by in our lives, but to place our treasures in heaven and our thinking on the things of God, which are eternal

Consider this: “give us today our daily bread”, takes the pressure off of focusing on the things of tomorrow and equips us to worry about the things that we have in front of us, here and now, today

These are just a few samples of some of the ways that Jesus calls us to make prayer a part of our everyday/all day life.  He shows us how to pray and include God in the good things that are going on as well as the petitions for what we need.  What’s more is that Jesus’ prayer and instruction for us teaches us to draw near to God in all things.

Prayer is NOT about religion.  It’s about a relationship with God and relationships only grow when we intentionally and purposefully invest in them, spend time with them and make them a priority in our lives.

I pray that you and I might experience the power of one prayer this week in our lives.

To help us put prayer into practice, might I suggest one or more of the following:

  • Set aside a designated time daily for you to get alone with God (put it in your calendar and make it happen)
  • Keep a prayer journal
  • Read through various prayers throughout the Bible (start with Psalms)
  • Share your prayers with others
  • Be intentional about praying in every situation…make it a habit…a lifestyle

~ Pastor Andrew

 

 

Monday Morning Mind Dump – 5.19.2014

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This past week was phenomenal in so many ways!  It’s hard to believe that it’s over as fast as it came, but our church was able to host the first-ever Mobilized2Action ministry conference.  It was both humbling and incredible; so many pastors and people gathered together under one roof for a time of intentional growth through critical and creative thinking.  I’m thrilled that we were able to be a home for such an amazing event!

We had an incredible Celebration Service yesterday with Pastor Jeff Maness brining the message.  God moved through Pastor Jeff and in the life of our church in a challenge to consider the power of one invitation.  I’m so grateful to be able to do life and ministry with an amazing person, pastor and leader like Jeff.  

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I loved getting to pray over the names of the individuals that God laid on your heart to invite to Illumination Church.  We’re looking forward to praying over those cards again at our staff meeting this week.  We’re trusting God to move in mighty ways through you as you step out in faith and invite your friends to join you at Illumination Church – “The Power of One Invitation!”

I’m reminded week in and week out what an incredible church I am a part of.  I love doing life and ministry with you here at Illumination Church!  I absolutely love it!!  What’s more is that I’m so proud of how you continue to step up as a church to further reach after seeing the mission and vision of Illumination Church (change the way people view God | real and relevant in reaching people with the light of Christ) fulfilled here in our community.  Keep it up, church!  The best is yet to come…

-Pastor Andrew

Exciting news – New Hours!!!

Great news, church!  Summer is fast approaching, which means both better weather in addition to a change in our service times here at Illumination.  
 
We are kicking off our new service time this weekend.  Instead of 2 celebration serviceson Sunday morning, we’re going to move to 1 service at 9:30AM.  In the works is the possibility of a second service on Thursday nights kicking off some time in June.  We’ll absolutely give you more details as they become available.
 
Some of you might be asking, “Why the change?” and that’s a great question.  As a church committed to changing the way people view God and being real and relevant in reaching people with the light of Christ, we are working hard to reach our community for Christ.  We recognize that many, many people take off over the weekend’s for cabins or sporting events and more.  As a church, we want to be really intentional about meeting people where they’re at in and around our community.  It’s with this in mind that we have decided to move forward with a 9:30AM service on Sunday’s beginning this weekend in addition to working through the details of what a Thursday night service might look like.  We’re thrilled at the possibilities of reaching people for Christ who otherwise might not come due to scheduling conflicts on the weekends.  We are also pumped to continue to gather as a community on Sunday mornings for an incredible time of live music, refreshments, a life-giving, relevant, biblical message, our IC Kid’s ministry, our Jr. High gathering and so much more.
 
We look forward to the opportunity to worship with you and to experience life and ministry with you this weekend at 9:30AM!

Pastor Dan

There’s Power in One Step!

Image            You’ve likely heard it said, “The road to a mile begins with one step.”  This is a simple yet profound truth that has the ability to change everything.  

            In life there are many times an opportunity for you to walk a mile in some arena of your life; perhaps it’s college or a wedding or a new job.  Whatever the mile may be in front of you, it always begins with one step.  But how many miles have you and I simply dreamed of or stared at from a distance because of that first step and a seemingly inability to fall forward and catch ourselves with our feet, which creates our first step?  This is the paradox truth that we are each faced with, the opportunities of life that seem so desirable yet appear to be so far away and despite dreams and desires, there always seems to be something that prohibits us from doing what we long and oft feel called to do.

            There’s an experience in which a young man named Peter has a “mile encounter” with Jesus.  It’s an incredibly profound encounter that speaks to the potential of each one of our miles that lie in front of us as much as it does the simple yet complex carnality that keeps us from pursuing our miles.

22 Immediately after this, Jesus insisted that his disciples get back into the boat and cross to the other side of the lake, while he sent the people home. 23 After sending them home, he went up into the hills by himself to pray. Night fell while he was there alone.

24 Meanwhile, the disciples were in trouble far away from land, for a strong wind had risen, and they were fighting heavy waves. 25 About three o’clock in the morningJesus came toward them, walking on the water. 26 When the disciples saw him walking on the water, they were terrified. In their fear, they cried out, “It’s a ghost!”

27 But Jesus spoke to them at once. “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “Take courage. I am here!”

28 Then Peter called to him, “Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you, walking on the water.”

29 “Yes, come,” Jesus said.

So Peter went over the side of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the strong wind and the waves, he was terrified and began to sink. “Save me, Lord!” he shouted.

31 Jesus immediately reached out and grabbed him. “You have so little faith,” Jesus said. “Why did you doubt me?”

32 When they climbed back into the boat, the wind stopped. 33 Then the disciples worshiped him. “You really are the Son of God!” they exclaimed

(Matthew 14:22-33 | NLT)

            What an incredible testimony of a man who saw an opportunity in front of him and took it.  It’s a story that speaks to the adventure and daringness of man’s heart, willing to take the first step to achieve a mile that otherwise might go un-walked.  Yet at the same time it’s a story of struggle, of the storms of life raging around us, distracting us and keeping us from taking that next step.  It’s a story of both triumph and tragedy, of hope and hopelessness and a story that exudes the need for faith in our lives in order to accomplish the greater things that God might be calling us toward. 

This expression of faith or lack thereof begs two questions be considered.  First, what are the miles (opportunities) in front of us and secondly, what keeps us from experiencing these miles in our lives? 

            Is it a lack of imagination?  Maybe it’s a lack of faith in the opportunity, in the circumstances or perhaps a lack of faith in you?  Whatever the case may be I am certain that God has incredible miles in front of us that if we would only make the choice to take that first step, we would experience the kind of life or opportunities that we couldn’t possibly have imagined for ourselves and for others.

            Let me attempt to bring this a little clarity. 

            Martin Luther King, Albert Einstein, Rosa Parks, Mike Krzyewski, Nelson Mandela, Billy Graham: though seemingly different in nearly every way, each one of these individuals in recognized and known for doing something that none other before them or there time has ever done.  These people represent the best of every mile beginning with one step in every sense of the word.  They have each walked a mile that none other had walked and created a path by which any who would dare to dream and take the first step might be able to believe for themselves and achieve possibilities that otherwise not have been possible.

            Imagine, for a moment, if these icons we speak of had not taken that first step.  What would their lives have looked like?  Would we know who they are today?  Is there a possibility that our world would be the same?

            Now think what your life and mine or our world would like if each one of us stepped out in faith and took the first step toward the things that God is calling us to?  What could happen?  What would God do both in and through you and me?

            Could we find a cure for cancer or perhaps bring a resolution to global hunger?  Would we be able to create clean drinking water for everyone or erase illiteracy?  One thing is for certain; these are just some of the miles that remain to be walked, each one beginning with just one step.  That’s the power of one step.

            What will you do today, right now, in this moment to take one step closer to walking the mile in front of you?

Hello! My name is Sarcasm

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Hello!  My name is Sarcasm
This issue has been on my mind for the last two weeks. Today it wrecked me!
I’ve been identified as funny, quick-witted, and sarcastic for the majority of my adult life. I’ve taken great pride in bringing people to tears with laughter. I’ve especially enjoyed occasionally catching someone off-guard after taking a drink of something and resulting in spraying the contents of their mouth EVERYWHERE. Classic.
Wikipedia defines Sarcasm as “a sharp, bitter, or cutting expression or remark, a bitter gibe or taunt”.
Speechless!
This is what I’ve been proud of?! A tool of destruction, now a characteristic making up what others call “me”. Is this the ME I’ve wanted to be? Is this the ME I’ve been called to be? This response was followed by frantically trying to remember any time my words may have hurt or caused insecurity in someone. I was pretty successful, but as the minutes went by I realized something. Even if I had the ability to remember each instance and reach out to them and apologize, how many were able to mask their wounds until they escaped my presence? How many?
I immediately went to Ephesians 4 where I found the following verses.
“Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.” (Ephesians 4:29)
“Obscene stories, foolish talk, and coarse jokes–these are not for you. Instead, let there be thankfulness to God.” (Ephesians 5:4)
Read them again and ask yourself where you think sarcasm fits into your life. How about your ministry? How about your relationships? I’m sure you’ve figured it out by now. It DOESNT! We know by these passages that our words are to be used to encourage others. The opposite is, as 5:4 states, “..not for you”. 
Now stay with me here.
 I AM THE WORST OFFENDER!
I have been in ministry for 7 years now. A worship leader, youth volunteer, and now a worship pastor. I have been sarcastic with students, adults, pastors; you name it. It brings me to tears to think that students may be afraid to confide in me because of my “humor”. To be apart of a ministry that promotes a welcoming and loving environment and then act the way I have, leaves me full of shame and regret, but here is the beauty in all of this. GRACE. I have the opportunity to be the change I seek; to stand and fight the social parasite I helped create.
Jesus did not come to earth to condemn us, but to save us. This truth and the love that we see through it applies to this situation as well. He used a tragedy (used, not caused) to open my eyes to an area of my life that needs to be brought to light and to be battled for change.
I have contacted many friends who I love and respect asking them to hold me accountable and to also partner with me in eradicating sarcasm from our ministries and from our lives.
Will you partner with me?
Will you too choose to stand and fight for change?
-Pastor Brian

Polar Plunge for a Purpose

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On Tuesday, April 29th, our staff was nominated by Pastor Edgar Rodriguez of New Hope Church in Moville, IA to take “the plunge”. The challenge was for our team to jump into Prior Lake (38′ at best), participating in a polar plunge. While seemingly crazy…AND IT WAS, the purpose behind the plunge wasn’t crazy in the least.

Through our simple act of jumping into Prior Lake, looking like a bunch of goofs and screaming like some pre-teen girls on a roller coaster ride, we had pledged to raise awareness and money toward cancer research.

As a staff, we are able to both sit back and laugh at how crazy we were/are as well as really consider why we did what we did. It was an amazing experience and worth every bit of what we did if we are able to raise awareness toward the fight over cancer as well as raise financial support in helping research possible cures for this illness that is above any socio-economic barriers, color lines, age, race, country, creed or gender.

This polar plunge experience has inspired creativity in us as a team to come up with other ways in which we can contribute both individually as well as corporately toward doing something in the fight against cancer.

We ask that you join us in praying for and thinking about ways that you might get involved in changing a community affected by cancer one life at a time.

-IC Staff