“Living Life as an Underdog”

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This last weekend, God revealed to us the value there is in living life as an underdog.  If you weren’t able to be join us for our Celebration Service, I want to invite you to be a part of the message.  You can check it out online (here) or by going to https://vimeo.com/77942246.

UNDERDOG

I don’t know about you, but when I was a kid, one of the things that I looked forward to at the park was hitting the swing sets and having someone give me an underdog.  You know, someone getting behind you, loading up and running all the way through and under you while pushing you to great heights.  Man, that was an awesome feeling as a kid!

One of the cool things about being a dad is sharing experiences with my kids that I enjoyed as a youngster.  Just the other day my daughter, Tailyn, was sitting on a swing and called out to me, “Dad!  Can you come give me an underdog?!”  Man, that is an awesome feeling as an adult!

If I were to sum up an underdog beyond the act it would be helping someone achieve something that they otherwise wouldn’t be able to accomplish on their own.

Did you catch that?  Attaining something that we couldn’t otherwise reach on our own.  Sure, there are those that are skilled enough on a swing to pump their feet and to reach great heights on a swing in time, but never an underdog on their own; the speed, the velocity, the height, and all within a short period of time.  No.  An underdog is only achieved when someone helps us get where we couldn’t otherwise get on our own.

GIDEON, THE UNDERDOG

One of my favorite stories in the Old Testament of the Bible is of a guy named Gideon; an Israelite who had learned to live in fear of the Midianties and Amalekites because of their barbaric treatment of his people and the subsequent power that these powers from the east possessed.  If you’ve never read the story, it’s a doozy.  You can check it out in the book of (Judges 7).

The long and short of the story of Gideon is this – God took Gideon and the Israelites to heights that they otherwise wouldn’t have been able to achieve on their own.  It was through Gideon that God spared the Israelites yet again.

Through the story of Gideon there are at least 5 lessons that we can learn.

LESSONS FROM GIDEON AND GOD

Lesson #1 – Direction
Throughout Gideon’s encounters with God, he was receiving direction from the LORD.  It wasn’t Gideon wandering through the desert trying to figure things out on his own.  Instead, God was specific with Gideon on what He had in store for him; what He expected from Gideon and was calling him to do.  What’s more is that Gideon was open to the LORD’s leading and receiving direction from God.  He wasn’t concerned about the inconvenience or the cost or the work that was required to follow God’s leading.  Instead, Gideon wanted to be certain that he knew God’s direction and asked God for a sign; three signs in fact, as a way of being sure of the direction that God was leading Gideon.

In our lives, we need to know God in order to know His direction.  If we don’t know God, how can we ever know or understand His direction let alone follow His direction?  Some of the best ways to know God include reading the Bible, mediation, prayer, living in community with other believers, and actively living out our faith.

What’s keeping you from knowing God and understanding His direction for you in your life?

Lesson #2 – Worship
In light of Gideon’s encounter with God and at God’s faithfulness, he had but one response; to worship.  Gideon fell prostrate or flat on his face before God; a position of humility and respect.  It was a natural response for Gideon to worship God in light of their relationship and his understanding of the LORD in his life.

As far as body language and personal position, there is no lower position a person can take than flat on their face or prostrate.  This is an incredible display of the acknowledgment that someone (God) or something (God) is significantly greater than you are.  It’s a humble position, and yet, one of the most powerful positions a person can take.  It’s an attitude and application of worship and recognition that God is God and I am not; that He alone is great and worthy to be praised.  Falling on your face is an act of worship and display of love and humble fear.  We are called to worship like Gideon

What’s keeping you from worshiping God?

Lesson #3 – Strategy
After Gideon experiences worship to God, his next step in line with what God was calling him to was to develop a strategy in order to live out God’s commission in his life.  Gideon was a skilled man with a creative ability to make things happen; evident in how he separated the chaff from the wheat in an unnatural place and position.  His commission from God to take out the Midianites and Amalekites was no different.  Instead of barging in to the enemies camp with only 300 men verse their tens of thousands of men, Gideon knew that he needed to be strategic about how he would accomplish what God was calling him to.

While some in circles might suggest that strategizing is a lack of dependence on God, I couldn’t disagree more.  God has given us an intellect and experiences that we are to use in our daily living.  We need to be strategic – strategic about life, about our relationship with God and more.  If we are not strategic about accomplishing the things that God is calling us to or strategic about how we are growing in our walk with God, how does that honor God?  Let me tell you.  It doesn’t!  Instead, we must be intentional as well as strategic in an effort to honor God and live out his commission and calling on our lives.

What’s keeping you from being strategic about God in your life and the things that He has/is calling you to?

Lesson #4 – Obedience
Okay, so once Gideon has developed a strategy for how he is going accomplish what God was calling him to, his next natural response was to be obedient to God.  This is where the rubber met the road for Gideon and his army of 300 men.  The time for strategizing was no more and the time was upon them to do all that God had called and commissioned them to do.  The only thing left; to act in obedience and live it out.  And that’s exactly what Gideon and his army did – they lived out their strategy in an effort to honor God.

In our lives, we are usually pretty good about most things leading up to this point, but it’s when we are faced with the reality of action that we tend to stumble, back pedal or even run the other direction.  What good are all of the other steps if we aren’t willing to live out what God has/is calling us to?  We need to be willing to walk in obedience, to be intentional about living out that which God has commissioned in our lives.  It’s up to us to obey and we leave the rest of up to Him.

What’s keeping you from being obedient to the things that God has/is calling you to?

Lesson #5 – Commitment
Commitment.  This might be the toughest for Gideon yet.  He executes his strategy and God’s calling and commission in his life; he’s in the enemy camp with tens of thousands of soldiers drawing their swords and running around in complete chaos.  It must have been incredibly intimidating to know that at any moment the worst of what you thought imaginable could be happening to you.  The noise.  The panic.  The people.  The animals.  The campfires.  All of it must have been sensory stimuli to the max, yet in the midst of all of what was going on, when it would have been easier to cut bait and leave maybe watching from a distance, Gideon and his army STOOD THEIR GROUND and were committed to that which God had called them to.  It was that commitment that brought them ultimate victory over the armies that had kept the Israelites captive for the last 7 years and living in fear for their lives.

Commitment is something that mankind is greatly lacking, isn’t it?  It’s always great to get into something, but sticking with it in the heat of the battle can be exhausting, taxing, frightening and so much more.  How difficult it is to stand our ground in the midst of the battles that rage around us.  Yet that is exactly what God would have you and I do; stand our ground and stay committed.  It’s through the battles and the subsequent victories on the other side that we will experience the fullness of that which the LORD intends for us.

What’s stopping you from honoring your commitment to God and to the things that He has for you?

I pray that we may experience the direction of God like never before, that we would worship Him as a way of life, that you and I might become more and more strategic about how we execute what God is calling us to, that we would be obedient to the LORD’s commission in our lives, and that when the battle is being waged, that you and I might stand our ground as we trust and obey.

Until all hear,

Pastor Andrew

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In Everything…

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”

-Phil 4:8

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This is one of my favorite encouragements throughout all of the Bible…

The Apostle Paul is writing to a church that he dearly loves during a tumultuous time; a time where his friends and fellow followers of The Way are being challenged in their faith and in their lives.  The church in Philippi is having to confront the difficulties of this world – you know ‘em – finances, relationships, work, priorities, health, what to believe, and more.

Instead of focusing on all of the negativity surrounding the early church, Paul admonishes his friends to change their perspectives.  Instead of focusing on the crapy things this side of heaven, people are encouraged to re-align their thinking and place a focal emphasis on the good in things.

What about the church today?

What about you?  Which perspective do you come at things from?

Don’t get me wrong…I’m not suggesting that we all throw reality to the wind and live in a fanciful world of irrational thoughts and unrealistic expectations.  On the contrary.  What I am suggesting is that we begin to shift our way of thinking about the things of this life and seek the positive in each position.

For example:

Are you working through financial strain?  Consider the fact that what you “don’t have” is likely greater than what most of the rest of world has.  Make sense?  Okay…let me elaborate.  What I’m getting at is that we, in western civilization, have freedom, access to food, clean water, quality education and are able to seek out most anything that we want in life, in relationships, in finances and more.  Yet what we often focus on is not what we have; instead, we look at what others have and with envy, we focus on the subsequent negatives of what we feel entitled to or wish we had.  Considering most of the rest of the world experiences absolute poverty each and every day, it leads me to believe that what most of what we don’t have is more than they’ll ever have.  We ought to consider how blessed we are to have the things that we have and should consider ways in which we can share what we have with others.

What about church?  Do you ever find yourself sitting in church frustrated that the “music” isn’t traditional enough or contemporary enough or fast enough or slow enough or…or…or…?  And let’s not forget the pastor.  If he/she would only preach more old school, you know…good ‘ol fashioned Bible teaching and not all of the fluff and stuff, church would be much better.  What’s worse is when people who come to church and sit in my seat.  Rude!

What would church look like if we sought the good in it; that it is the Bride of Christ, not a building and that the church service IS NOT ABOUT YOU!  What?  Don’t be silly!  If church isn’t about me, my spiritual growth and “getting fed”, than what’s it all about?

Considering Paul’s words in Philippians 4:8, I would suggest to you that we recognize that we are free to worship God without fear of arrest or persecution in a free country.  I would love for people to see that beauty in the tapestry of each person in the church, created in the image of God, and the fact that God loves each one just as we are but isn’t willing to leave us that way.  Praise God for the opportunity and ability to use music as an expression of worship.  Praise God for the gift of preaching used to instruct, correct and encourage.  Praise God for that person sitting in your seat.  Praise God church isn’t about you or me, but that it’s about the body of Christ coming together to love God, love people and light the world.

These thoughts really aren’t about your finances or your perspective of your church.  I simply apply them as a means to help understand the shift in thinking that we’re called to.  It applies at your place of employment, in your marriage, with your kiddos, during yard work, serving your neighbor and in everything that you do and experience.

“Finally…”

Paul gives the church a lot to think about and brings it full circle by encouraging his disciples to consider how they are internally processing their circumstances and situations.

“In everything…”

I wonder how much different our world’s would be if we changed our way of looking at things, took God’s Word literaly and found the good in the things that we face each day?