“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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“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