HEROES: Week 1 – “Jeff-Who?”

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Jeff-Who?

This past week we kicked off our new series titled “Heroes”.  If you happened to miss last week’s sermon you can find it here (HEROES – Week 1).  Similar to the Hall of Fame that the NFL has in Canton, Ohio, there is also a “Hall of Faith” that is described in Hebrews 11.  There we find the names of individuals who were placed in the “Hall” based on the hope and confidence they had in the Lord.  There are names that many of us easily recognize such as Abraham, Jacob, Moses, and David and many other names that are not as easily recognizable. We focused on Jephthah (jeff-ta) in the message this past week as he portrayed the following traits that can be considered heroic:

  • Forgiveness: Despite being shipped out of town by his family and forced to fend for himself, Jephthah came to the rescue of the same people that abandoned him when asked.  We all have people in our lives that we can extend forgiveness to; family members, friends, people at work, people at church.  Maybe they said or did something to us that cause us to treat them differently.  Forgiving them and loving them is one way we can truly be “heroic” and allowing others to see Christ through us.
  • Integrity: Despite making a vow to the Lord that causes Jephthah to sacrifice something he loves most, he does not waver in his commitment.  Many times we make vows to God that we will change our behavior, change our thoughts, etc., if He will only rescue us from a situation.  If you’re like me, following through on that commitment rarely occurs.  Integrity means, “being a person of character”.  In our world today it is hard to find someone with integrity.  If we can people of our word and exhibit strong character we will stand out for Christ to others.

Join us over the upcoming weeks to learn about more heroic characteristics that all of us can exhibit daily.  I found a great quote on heroism that I think wraps it all up nicely,

“Heroes are made by the paths they choose, not the powers they are graced with.”

Have a blessed week,

Michael Bergstrom

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Heroes Intro – Week 2

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A message from Pastor Andrew about this coming weekend. Check it out…

“We grow up with heroes in our lives, men and women that stand out above the crowd because of some super-human strengths or incredible abilities, strengths and abilities that are used to help and save others.

What are the characteristics of a hero? Where are heroes found? Do real life heroes exist? How about you? Are you capable of being a hero?

In our series, HEROES, we are going to examine the lives of some men and women that stood out above the rest; people that God used in significant ways to help or save others just like you and me. We’re also going to look at what we can learn from these biblical heroes and how we can apply their experiences and characteristics in our lives today.

You, too, have a hero inside of you!”

HEROES – Week 1

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We grow up with heroes in our lives, men and women that stand out above the crowd because of some super-human strengths or incredible abilities, strengths and abilities that are used to help and save others.
What are the characteristics of a hero? Where are heroes found? Do real life heroes exist? How about you? Are you capable of being a hero?
In our series, HEROES, we are going to examine the lives of some men and women that stood out above the rest; people that God used in significant ways to help or save others just like you and me. We’re also going to look at what we can learn from these biblical heroes and how we can apply their experiences and characteristics in our lives today.
You, too, have a hero inside of you!

HEROES: A look at what’s coming…

Video

HEROES: We grow up with heroes in our lives, men and women that stand out above the crowd because of some super-human strengths or incredible abilities, strengths and abilities that are used to help and save others.

What are the characteristics of a hero? Where are heroes found? Do real life heroes exist? How about you? Are you capable of being a hero?

In our series, HEROES, we are going to examine the lives of some men and women that stood out above the rest; people that God used in significant ways to help or save others just like you and me. We’re also going to look at what we can learn from these biblical heroes and how we can apply their experiences and characteristics in our lives today.

You, too, have a hero inside of you!

“Obedience Is Our Success”

Epic Fail: Complete and total failure when success should have been reasonably easy to attain.Image

Have you ever experienced one of those “epic fail” moments in life where something that seemed so easy and should have been attainable fell apart?  Of course you have!  We all have.  Everyone of us has failed at something, sometime, somewhere in our life.

Failure
What is failure?  In order to really answer this accurately you have to know where your standard of success comes from, right?

What is your standard of success – at work, financially, in your home, with your relationships, at your church, in philanthropy, etc.?  If you’re like most, your standard of success has been developed over the years according to the expectations of this world.  In order to be considered successful you have to make a certain amount of money or be in a specific type of relationship, you have to have a lifestyle that meets these standards through the vehicles you drive, the toys you have, the square footage and location of your home(s), etc. The list for what we have come to understand as success is exhaustive and exhausting.

It stands to reason then that “failure” is a lack of accomplishing or meeting the standards for success that we and others have superimposed on society in our country and around the world.

If that’s the case, my understanding of success, where do you fall?  Where do I fall?  Are we successful in some things or at all?

New Standard
Paul, in his letter to the church in Rome said of the standards of this world:

“Do not conform to the pattern (standards) of this world, but be transformed (new standards) by the renewing of your mind.” – Romans 12:2 | NIV

If this is how we are called to live our lives, a process of redefining and living according to a new set of standards for success this side of heaven, what keeps us from success according to the word of God?

At Illumination Church
Within church circles around the globe there have been standards of success set up for the local church: how many “members” do you have, what is your average attendance, what’s your annual budget, how many staff members do you have, how many new salvations/conversion have you experienced within your church, baptism, sanctifications, and on and on and on…  I’m exhausted even typing up these questions that we, as Pastors and leaders, are asked and ask others in reference to success.  And these are just some of the questions that we face.

Please don’t get me wrong.  Numbers and statistics matter…WHEN USED APPROPRIATELY!  I’m a numbers guy and I do care about large numbers.  Sounds contradictory right?  It’s not!  What I mean by “I’m a numbers guy” is this: every NUMBER has a NAME and every NAME matters to God.  The more we have an opportunity to interact and engage with people, the more we get to share the gospel (good news) message of Christ and that matters!  The more we baptize; the more people are taking a stand for God and going public with their faith and that matters!  I could go on and on, but you get the idea.

I don’t want to be about numbers to have the “largest” church for personal gain or independent pride.  That’s not what this is about.  That’s NOT the standard of success that I have for Illumination Church.

Inside Illumination Church, obedience is our success.  Obedience is our success!

We will not be guided by a set of standards according to the world, however well-intentioned they may be.  As a church, we’re not interested in gauging our success based on the latest statistical reports from church experts or based on the bias’ of this world.  No!  Instead, we are a church that is committed to a standard that says, obedience is our success – obedience to God, to His word, to his commands and commissions.  These will form our standard of success.  Obedience is our success.

In Your Life
What is keeping you from success in your life?  It’s probably the same thing(s) that keeps me from feeling like I’ve somehow arrived or have achieved or reached or whatever word you want to use to describe your level of success.  Screwed up standards.

Last week at our Celebration Service at Illumination Church I shared a message that addresses these concerns: (Click here to watch the message).  If you missed the message, I want to encourage you to check it out as I believe that God will speak to you through what He did on Sunday morning.

What I Want You To Know
What I want you to know is that obedience to God needs to be our standard for success as individuals and as a church.  We can’t live according to the standards for success of this world and believe that this is honoring God.  I believe what we must do is shift our thinking and begin living in a way that expresses obedience as our success in life (finances, family, faith, fitness, etc.) and in our church.

What I Believe We Need To Do
What I believe we need to do is get into God’s word; I mean really dig in, and discover what His standards for success are.  We need to reprogram our minds and arrange our idea of success based on that which honors God, his Word, his commands and his commissions.  Now this will take some time and intentionality, but if we were dedicated to honoring God and believing that obedience is our success, things will never look or be the same again.

How We Do It
I’d love to give some profound insight as to how we go about re-arranging our thinking and setting up a new standard for success.  That said, I really can’t.  It’s too simple for that, and as simple as it is, we are always tempted to make it much harder than it needs to be.  How do we do it?  We put one foot in front of the other and we live it out.  That’s it.  Start with prayer.  Begin reading your Bible.  Highlight, circle, underline and bookmark everywhere and every time God sets up a standard for success throughout the Bible, specifically the New Testament (a theological discussion for another blog).  Write these standards for success down on a sheet of paper and live them out.  Become obedient to the word and the will of God.  That’s success!  It doesn’t matter what this world, which we can’t take any of with us, tells us.  Obedience to God is our success!

Andrew Anderson
Illumination Church | Lead Pastor

What If? – Vision

What If? – Vision (click to watch the video)

We finished up our “What If?” series this past Sunday, and what an incredible time together as God shared the power of living out a vision.

The question that was posed Sunday was this: “Have you ever believed a lie, lived a lie or sold a lie?”

Too often we accept the lies of this world, which ultimately become something that we live out and eventually can turn into something that we sell to those around us.  This is common in nearly every area of our lives and is something that we have to intentionally wrestle against.

One of the lies that we, as individuals and as a church, have come to believe is the lie that tells you and me, “You can’t make a difference.”  What’s crazy is that the more we hear this crap, the more we believe it and the more we live it out.  We actually become so accustomed to believing this lie that we begin to sell it to others and justify why we can’t make a difference, making excuses like “If people only knew my past” or “I don’t have the skill set to make an impact” or “I don’t have the time” or “I don’t have the money” or “I don’t have the experience” and on and on and on.  It’s awful, these lies that we listen to, believe, accept, live out and recreate to others.  It’s just awful, and it couldn’t be further from the truth.

Let’s take it to Scripture for a minute.

There are many significant figures throughout the Bible, that nearly goes without saying, and no where do I find a more significant man when it comes to living out a vision than that  of Ananias.  In the book of Acts, Luke shares a testimony about a vision that Jesus gives to this man, Ananias, as well as his response and the power of obedience in living out a vision.

10 Now there was a believer in Damascus named Ananias. The Lord spoke to him in a vision, calling, “Ananias!”

“Yes, Lord!” he replied.

11 The Lord said, “Go over to Straight Street, to the house of Judas. When you get there, ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul. He is praying to me right now. 12 I have shown him a vision of a man named Ananias coming in and laying hands on him so he can see again.”

13 “But Lord,” exclaimed Ananias, “I’ve heard many people talk about the terrible things this man has done to the believers in Jerusalem! 14 And he is authorized by the leading priests to arrest everyone who calls upon your name.”

15 But the Lord said, “Go, for Saul is my chosen instrument to take my message to the Gentiles and to kings, as well as to the people of Israel. 16 And I will show him how much he must suffer for my name’s sake.”

17 So Ananias went and found Saul. He laid his hands on him and said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road, has sent me so that you might regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18 Instantly something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he got up and was baptized. 19 Afterward he ate some food and regained his strength.
(Acts 9:10-19 | NLT)

Here’s what I think is so significant about Ananias obedience in living out the vision that Christ gave him and a question that we need to consider.  Because of Ananias’ choice to actively pursue the vision that God gave him in spite of the circumstances of this world, his obedience literally changed the trajectory of the Christian faith…literally!  Now, the question.  If Ananias had not been obedient to the call of God in his life by way of the vision that Christ gave him, would our faith be nothing more than antiquates; a faith that is talked about as a novelty?

So if God could use someone like Ananias: a man without a PHD or a MBA, a man without a ton of experience or all of the skills necessary to make a difference; if God could use his simple act of obedience in living out the vision that God gave him, what can God do through you?  What can God do through us, the church?

Let me take out all of the guess work for you and just tell you…God can do more than you or I could ever imagine in our obedience and in living out the vision that Christ gives us.

You don’t believe that.  Check out what Jesus tells his disciples: a group of misfit teenage guys who are trying to figure out this whole life and ministry thing by the minute:

Jesus: 12 “I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with the Father.” (John 14:12 | NLT)

Let me give an example for you to chew on.  Jesus, after he kicked death in the teeth and conquered the grave, went and showed himself to his disciples and followers; 120 in all (Acts 1), and commands them to go and take their ministry to Jerusalem, to Judea, to Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.  120 men and women; guys and girls without the power of social media (Twitter, Facebook, Skype, Instagram, Snapchat, you get the point), and to share their lives and faith with a world in need.  There were no cars.  There were no trains.  There were no planes.  They didn’t even have the latest in foot fashion (Nike, Adidas, Reebok, TOMS, etc.).  What they had was a vision from Jesus to change the way people view God.

Here’s the thing, within a few hundred years, better than half of the Roman nation were Christians because of the disciples commitment to living out their vision.  Did you get that?  Men and women gave up everything in pursuit of the vision that Jesus gave them and literally walked thousands of miles into hundreds if not thousands of communities to share their lives and faith with others.  And it changed a nation; the most powerful nation on earth in that era.

If God did all of that with a group of 120 people who were simply willing to live out their vision, what could/would God do through you, through me, through Illumination Church today if we were committed to the call and cause of Christ today, tomorrow and into the future?

What if you lived out your vision?

What if we, as a church, lived out our vision?

Obedience is our success and I believe that God is calling us to share and to live out our vision in our community: Shakopee, Savage, Prior Lake, Burnsville, Jordan, Bloomington and beyond.

Buckle up!  It’s gonna be quite a ride!!

– Pastor Andrew