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.  

 

  

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

“HEROES” – Week 2

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“Chasing Lions” – Sunday, November 17th, 2013

This past Sunday we picked up week 2 of our series, HEROES, an intentional look into some of the qualities and characteristics of a hero.  And while we understand and could all agree that a hero is readily defined as, “an ordinary person capable of extraordinary feats for the betterment of others”, there are some very specific attributes, which contribute to better understanding who or rather, what a hero is.

One key component of a hero is a lion chaser; someone who is willing to face their lions (fears) head on – not only face their lions, but chase them down into a pit and go to battle with their lions.

Check out the message, “Chasing Your Lions”, here…

There are really 2 main ideas that we need to remember when it comes to heroic attributes in terms of chasing and facing our lions:

#1 – Lion Chasers Acknowledge Their Lions
While most people are good with running from lions, even avoiding them all together, lion chasers are intentional about acknowledging the lions in their lives.  In this case lions are representative of the fears we have in life: fear of finances, fear of failure, fear of relationships, fear of faith, etc. and while it’s sensible for people to run in the opposite direction from man-eating lions, one of the characteristics of a hero is someone who is willing to face their lions head on, acknowledge their fear and be intentional about dealing with them, one at time.

What’s keeping you from acknowledging the lions in your life?

#2 – Lion Chasers Are Risk Takers
It makes sense that coming across a lion in the wilderness short of an intentional safari or without the confines of a cage inside some zoo, that coming face-to-face with a lion could be considered pretty unlucky.  Think about it.  Lions in their natural habitat are called “king of the beasts” for a reason.  Now insert man into the king of the beasts stomping grounds and it’s understandable how one might think this type of scenario to be pretty crappy.

Not lion chasers.  No!  Instead, they lock eyes with the lion (fear) and actively chase it down.  Granted, this is a huge risk, right?  But what’s a greater risk: chasing down the lion and doing battle with it or remaining paralyzed for much of your existence due to the fear that holds you captive?  I’ll take my chances with facing my fears any day.  Yes.  Chasing lions is risky business, but in Christ all things are possible and we are not called to live in fear outside of the fear of the Lord.  All other fears are unnatural and learned behaviors.

God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but one of courage and love and sound mind.  It’s up to us to live in the fear of the Lord and the freedom that comes from knowing and living for Him.

What’s keeping you from actively taking a risk in the Lord?

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

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…

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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!

“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

“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