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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Allow me to elaborate for just a minute…

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

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

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

Judges 6:11-16

New Living Translation (NLT)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here we go…

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

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

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

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

Judges 7:1-22

New Living Translation (NLT)

Gideon Defeats the Midianites

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

2. Who gets the glories in your victories?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3. What does your outlook look like?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Finally:

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

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

~ Pastor Andrew

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

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

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

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

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

Debt – (according to: NerdWallet Finance)

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

Obesity – (according to the Center for Disease Control)

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

Education – (according to DoSomething.org)

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

Crime – (according to FBI.gov)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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