Extraordinary things can happen when you place your trust in God.

Pastor Linn
Oct 15, 2017    35m
In this sermon Pastor Linn Winter discusses becoming a warrior for God, and allowing Him to take your ordinary life and make it extraordinary. He suggests that in doing so things may get harder first, but if persevere through the hard times, you and others will recognize that it was the Lord that allowed the extraordinary happenings to occur. He goes on to challenge his congregation to strive to be extraordinary in their roles in life and trust in God. Video recorded at Chandler, Arizona.


trust  faith 

messageRegarding Grammar:

This is a transcription of the sermon. People speak differently than they write, and there are common colloquialisms in this transcript that sound good when spoken, and look like bad grammar when written.

Pastor Linn: 00:04 -video playing-

Pastor Linn: 01:09 Hey, Cornerstone. How are you doing?

Pastor Linn: 01:15 Hey, we're ending a series that we've been talking about, "Right In Their Own Eyes", and it's just been a series about really the darkest moments in the history of Israel and the thing that got them so off track is they begin to watch everybody else. They put their eyes on the culture around them, and the behaviors of people that did not know God, and they found themselves emulating those behaviors and it, literally, just takes Israel into the darkest moments of their history. So, we've been saying to ourselves, "What does it mean to be different than that?" Just say, "Look, culture is never going to be the barometer for how I live my life, and I put my eyes instead on Jesus Christ. Look, that's what I measure everything by, not what's cool or popular for everybody else." So, we're going to land that conversation today. Before we do though, I just want to do a shout out to everybody at San Tan and, and at our, uh, Scottsdale campus, everybody over in the venue and then, our 5:00 PM. I'm just glad that you're part of the conversation. Glad you're part of cornerstone.

Pastor Linn: 02:16 Let me ask you a question. What kind of a life do you want to live? What do you want to be known for or remembered for? What do you want people to say about you when you leave the room? Because you know, they say something, right? You leave the room and the others say, "Man, that guy just always takes the conversation in a ditch. Man, she is always so angry. Or they say, man, every time they're a contributor, every time they're in the room, I mean, they're just so helpful everybody. I mean, they say something when you leave the room. What do you want people to say at your funeral about you? And, here's the interesting thing. We don't get to choose the circumstances of our life for the most part. We don't get to choose our family of origin. We may find ourselves right now in a marriage that we go, "Wow, you know, I may have chosen it, but this wasn't what I expected. Uh, we may be struggling with kids who are in rebellion right now. Our finances may be way south." And, an awful lot of that we don't get to choose. But, what we get to do is decide how we're gonna respond to it, how we're gonna live through it. And what if, what if there was a way for you and I just to be exceptional, extraordinary, with how we live our lives. To be an extraordinary parent. To be a remarkable employee that everyone just goes, "Man, I wish I had 10 more of him. I wish I had 20 more of her." What would it be like to be a remarkable spouse? Just to be extraordinary, and for all the wives in the room to go, "Man, if I had a husband like him." The men just say, "If I had a wife like her."

Pastor Linn: 04:04 What does it mean to live an extraordinary life? And, the reason I'm going to ask you that is because the story that we're landing today in the book of Judges. Despite the fact that almost everything we've talked about so far has been how people fail. Today is an exception. Today is a remarkable, extraordinary story about you, are you ready for this, an ordinary person who ended up living an extraordinary life, and you and I are going to get a chance to peek in and say, "How does that happen to somebody like me?"

Pastor Linn: 04:38 So grab your bibles and go with me to the book of Judges. If you're not familiar again this morning, if you simply go to your left and then start working to the right. Actually, go to the front cover and work to the right. You're going to find this book of Judges. Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges.

Pastor Linn: 05:04 Judges, Chapter 6. Let me set up a what's happening. It's during the time of the Judges, Israel has done what they've been doing. They've gotten their eyes off God. They began to watch the cultures and the behaviors of the people around them, and in this particular moment, it's a group of people called the Midianites, who are a pagan group of people who live in proximity there to Israel. And, they begin to say, "Well, hey, wait a minute. How come their crops are better than our crops? And, how come they're women are better looking than our women." And, you know, whatever that is. And so, they began to say, "Well, you know, maybe their gods are better than our gods." And so, they had begun to drift in that direction. To which God responds by simply saying, "Well, hey, if you like their lifestyle so much, if you like their God so much, then I'll just give you over to them. And for the past seven years, every time it comes to harvest, the Midianites come and invade Israel, so that they can then just take all the proceeds of the harvest. They can loot and rape. It's kind of spring break for the Midianites. Okay? And, uh, they come and then they just leave Israel decimated. And, Scripture says that during this period of time, people were living in cracks and crannies, and crags in caves, and any little thing just to hide out while the Midianites invaded on them. In this moment, you and I come across a guy, an absolutely ordinary guy by the name of Gideon. And when we come across him, he's actually, uh, trying to sift his wheat down in a wine press. And, in that moment, God has a conversation about ordinary people who become extraordinary people.

Pastor Linn: 06:46 Here we go. It's a Judges, Chapter 6, starting in Verse 14. Here's what it says, the angel of the Lord came and sat down under the oak at Ofra, not Oprah. She's later in the Bible. This is Ofra, okay? Uh, that belonged to Joash the Abiezrite. Where his son Gideon was threshing wheat in a wine press to keep it from the Midianites. And when the angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon, he said, "The Lord is with you, mighty warrior. Now, you need to catch this moment. First off, it's interesting, because it starts off by saying, "The angel of the Lord came to talk to Gideon." Almost every Bible scholar agrees this is probably Jesus come to talk to Gideon. It's what we call the Theophany. It's Jesus appearing before his incarnation, before he comes to earth, born in a manger and lives. And, the reason they get there is because if you'll watch in the rest of the context, it suddenly switches and begins to call this messenger from the Lord actually the Lord, capital L, capital O, capital R, capital D. So, this is actually Jesus coming to have a conversation with this ordinary guy named Gideon. The other thing that's unique in this beginning is that Gideon is down in a wine press. Now, you and I don't catch that in the in the moment. Every Jew hearing the story would have immediately said, "That's crazy." Here's why. When you did your harvest, and you were trying to separate your wheat from the stock, from the chaff, the kind of the lighter part of the wheat. What you would do is you would wait for a day when there was a good breeze, you would then take what you had harvested, and you would toss it in the air. The kernels of wheat, because they were heavy, would fall back straight down, but the chaff, the excess stuff that was more lightweight and fluffy, would be blown away by the wind. So, you would never, never, never, never sift your wheat down in a wine press, because that's a hole in the ground. It's out of the wind. Gideon's doing this because he's afraid. He's doing this because of the Midianites have all sorts of patrols going on, and so here he is with his harvest down in a hole and he's flipping the wheat and going [Pastor makes blowing sounds here]. And every Israeli hearing this story has a smile on their face right now to say, "That guy's scared out of his head."

Pastor Linn: 09:31 Back to the passage, Verse 13. Pardon me, my Lord. It's so cool. Gideon is so polite in this story. "Pardon me, my Lord," Gideon replied. But, if the Lord, capital L, capital O, capital R, capital D is with us, why has all this happened to us? And, where are all his wonders that our ancestors told us about before, when they said, "Did not the Lord bring us up out of Egypt, but now the Lord has abandoned us and given us into the hands of Midian." So, here's the moment he goes, "Look, look, look, look, if God's with us, then how come the Midianites are running roughshod over us? I mean, how can that possibly be happening if God's with us? And, it's a good question, because you've asked the same question, "Hey, if God's with me, then how come I don't have a job right now? I mean, if God's with me, how come my finances are in the hole? If God's with me, how come I haven't had a date in a year and a half? If God's with, if God's with me, how come the doctor gave such a dark report? Why are my kids rebelling? If God is with me." We've asked the same question. And then, I love where he goes next. He goes, "You know the Lord that all of our old people talk about, you know, the Lord who is supposed to have taken them out of Egypt and delivered them from the hand of the Pharaoh, and some sort of a story about water standing on the end, to walking across on dry ground. And he goes, "Well, look, look, look, sounds like a bunch of fairy tales to me. I'm just telling you, those bible stories seem really dusty, because all I can tell you is I haven't seen any miracles lately." And, you and I have felt exactly the same way, sometimes, as our friend Gideon.

Pastor Linn: 11:23 Verse 14. But Lord, capital L, capital O, capital R, capital D, turned to him and said, "Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian's hand. Am I not sending you?" To which if you're Gideon you go, "Wait, wait, wait, have you not been listening to anything I said to you? I'm terrified. You found me in a wine press, blowing on my wheat. What do you mean "go in the strength you have?" I don't have any strength. And Jesus says, "No, no, no, go in that strength." "Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait a minute. I just told you. I'm doubting. I'm the one that made fun of the Old Bible stories and said, "I don't see God doing anything like and I'm a doubter." Jesus says, "No, no, no, that's enough strength. Go in the strength you have, because I'll be with you. Whatever you have is enough, as long as you got me."

Pastor Linn: 12:35 Verse 15. "Pardon me Lord." He's being polite. Have you ever been that polite when you argued with God? I am just not, but apparently, Gideon is. "Pardon me, Lord," Gideon replied, "But, how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family. He's saying, "Look, look, you don't get this. Of the 12 tribes of Israel, my tribe, my tribe is the one when everyone gets to the end they go, "There's another one, right?" What is that? And then, the little smart kid at the back goes, "Manasseh." And they go, "Oh, that's right. I'm, I'm, I'm from the least of all the tribes." And, he says, "You don't understand. In my family, my family is the ones that live in the rickety, old house on the wrong side of the tracks. I'm like the loser in the family. You don't get it." You guys ready? Which is code for I didn't get any scholarships to college. I was a walk-on on the team. I still have student loans. My one girlfriend just broke up with me." Are you kidding?

Pastor Linn: 13:57 Verse 16. Oh, then, never mind, wrong House. That is not what Jesus said. It's what we think he should have said, but that's not what Jesus said. Verse 16 actually says. The Lord answered, "I will be with you, and you will strike down all the Midianites, leaving none alive." And something extraordinary happens, and scripture doesn't fill in the blanks for us. But, somewhere in the midst of this conversation, Gideon apparently thinks to himself and says, "What do I got to lose? I mean, why not?" And so, he fist bumps Jesus and says, "Let's do it. I'm in." Gideon ops in to God's plan. He says, "Okay, I've already told you I'm just an ordinary guy. I don't bring a lot to the table. I'm scared out of my mind. I've got all sorts of doubts and fears, but if you think you can use an ordinary guy, okay." Here's what you got to get. If Gideon had stayed in the wine press, his life would've stayed ordinary, because what's about to happen is extraordinary. But, if he stays in the wine press, if he just says, "Look, I know I can't get it, and I'm just going to keep doing what I've been doing." If he stays in the wine press, his life stays ordinary, which is a big deal, because if you and I stay in the wine press, we'll stay ordinary.

Pastor Linn: 15:07 A month or two ago, Lisa and I went out on a date, and we went to one of those kind of boutique-y places where you go in and they've got an artist. And then, they give you a canvas, and the artist, you know, paints, and then you do your best to paint like the artist. And so, I just said, "Hey, man, I am going to do this really good." I mean, we're going to sell my painting when I'm done on the deal. I went through, and I watched like an eagle everything that she did, and I painted my heart out, and here's what I got. Somebody on the front row went, "Aw, that's us. That's not so bad." Thanks. Here's been the interesting thing about it though, and you know, I, okay, it's not horrifying. Probably belongs in a garage sale, or something, but it's not horrifying. It's been sitting on a ledge in our house for the last two months. You know why? Because we put so much effort into it and heart, you know, we can't quite throw it away, but that things too ugly to hang in your house. So, you know, what are we going to do with it? And so, there it sat until I brought it here this morning. Interesting thing, give the same brush and the same paint to somebody who knows what they're doing, and you end up with something like that. Put the brush in the hands of a guy like van Gogh. Uh, that painting, you ready for this? That painting sold for 100,000,000 dollars. We were very lucky the museum loaned it to us today. Hundred million dollars. Which, only goes to illustrate that if you and I stay in the wine press and never join God, we stay ordinary. You and you and I keep the brush of our lives in our hand. I'm not telling you you're not telling you your life turns out crummy. I'm just telling you, it turns out less. And, in the same way that if you would put that same brush and those same paints in the hand of van Gogh, and he would've painted you a masterpiece. When you and I place our brush in the hands of God, ordinary becomes exceptional, ordinary becomes extraordinary, and if Gideon had stayed in the wine press, he would've stayed ordinary. So, let me ask you a question. Who's hand is holding your brush today? Who's painting the painting of your life? It makes a difference.

Pastor Linn: 18:36 Second thing that I think's interesting in this moment, you get that God delights in using ordinary people. My guess is this. In all of Israel, there had to be somebody more qualified than Gideon, and yet, God chooses an absolutely average, ordinary person to do something extraordinary. Why? Because when ordinary people do the extraordinary, everybody in the room knows that wasn't them. That had to be Jesus. That had to be God in them, because that was extraordinary. I preached at a funeral yesterday in this room. It was for a man by the name of Dave Helton. Dave, when he was a young boy, had a really rough home life. His parents were incredibly hard on him. Every time he made a mistake, they filled him with criticism. His self-confidence was just through the floor. He grew up to be an angry, angry young man, but he had a desire in his heart to be a major league ball player, and the end of that was he wanted to be in the hall of fame. And so, he pursued that. He pursued it, he pursued it, and it was fueled by the anger, and he actually made it to the majors. He ended up being playing for the Padres for a couple years. He then got traded to Toronto. That didn't quite work out. He ended up going and playing in the Japanese league for several years. He came back. He was in several minor league teams, and then he was done. It was a hard moment for Dave, because he would have said, "Hey, everything I wanted to do, and the thing that I thought was going to make my life exceptional, is now gone, and I never achieved that thing. I'm going always be the guy who kind of got there, but didn't get there." Almost as an afterthought, he went into personal coaching. He would, uh, he coached some teams, and then he would also bring a young men and women in for private lessons. He ended up with several of the kids actually going pro when it was all done. As I said at his funeral yesterday, person after person after person said, "You know what made David different? He was so gentle with us as a coach, so encouraging, and if he ever thought that you were lacking confidence or you made a mistake, he was saying, 'Come on, and thatta boy. Come on, you're going to get it the next time.' And, he was just so different than any other coach we've ever had. He changed my life." It was interesting, because I sat in front of the room and an awful lot of them who did not know Jesus. And, here's what I was able to say to the, "You realize that's not how Dave started. He started an angry, bitter young man, but then Jesus touched him. And, isn't it interesting that the thing that has touched you the most is not his major league career? It's the kindness and grace and gentleness with which he coached, and what you need to know is that was the finger of Jesus on him. Everything that was amazing about him was his brokenness in the hands of God." Guys, who's holding your brush? And, you understand that God delights in taking ordinary people, filled with brokenness, filled with disadvantage, and using that to be the very best part of their lives. The place where people most clearly see Jesus is when ordinary people do extraordinary things by the power of God.

Pastor Linn: 22:43 It's interesting to me in the passage that God says to Gideon, "Oh, mighty warrior." And you know, Gideon's going, "Are you kidding? That's crazy." But, it's not crazy. You know why? Because God is seeing Gideon not for where he is, but for where he is going to be when he's done with him. And there's this wonderful thing that's called Omniscience. If you don't know that, it's just a big bible term. It just means this. God knows everything before everything happens, and that God, literally, as he's having that conversation with Gideon, that moment, sees Gideon for the man that he's gonna make Gideon. And so, he is able to turn to a man who was filled with fear and struggling with doubt and say, "Mighty warrior." I wonder how God sees you. I wonder if you and he were having the conversation right now, how would he address to you? Not for where you are today, but for the person that he plans to take you to be, an amazing mother, unbelievable supervisor, unfailing Christian. How would he call you? Because he sees you for who you can be, which is extraordinary.

Pastor Linn: 24:21 Here's something you got to get, though. On the way to remarkable, things tend to get harder, and they don't just get harder because life gets harder, or circumstances happen. It's actually God who very often makes it harder on the way to extraordinary. Some of you that know the story of Gideon, you already know where this is going. Then God says to Gideon, "Okay, so we're in and we're going to do this, gather the armies of Israel. Thirty-two Thousand men gather together for Israel to fight the Midianites. On first blush, you and I go, "Oh, well, hey, that's a pretty good group." Until you realize that scripture says the Midianites were so prolific, there were so many of them, that they were beyond counting. The scripture says, "The best way we can describe this to you is it looks like a field with a plague of locusts on it. That everywhere you look, you can't see the shafts of wheat. All you see is the moving bodies of grasshoppers. And he says, "That's what Israel looked like when the Midianites were there. Thirty-two Thousand is a drop compared to them. And, God says to Gideon, "Hey, uh, you've got too many men. If you were to go forward and fight right now, someone would think you were just an amazing general Gideon. So, here's the deal, go out in front of the army and tell them, "Hey, everybody who's afraid, they can go home." Now, I don't know about you, but if I'm having that conversation with my men, I'm saying, "Hey, God said anyone who's afraid can go home, but I know all of you are really men's men and none of you are afraid, right? Let's eat some meat." Twenty-two Thousand walk away. Now, he's down to ten. God says, "No, no, no, no, no, Gideon, way, way, way, way too much." He says, "Here's what I'm going to do. I want you do this little experiment. They're going to go the water. All of them need to put their faces down in the water. You put them in one pile. All of them that lap it up like a dog, you put them in another pile. 9,700 put their faces down to drink. 300 lap it up with their hands. Anyone want to guess which group God picks? The group of 300. And God says, "Just right." If you're Gideon aren't you saying to God, "Well, wait a minute. I decided to follow you. Why are you making it harder?" "Gideon, so that when this is done, everybody will know that it was me and that it wasn't you, and maybe, most importantly, Gideon, you'll know." And then, God says, "Okay, I've got this great battle plan. Here's what we're going to do, you'll love this one, Gideon. Here's what we're going to do. You're going to take torches, and you're going to put them underneath pots so no one can see the light from them, and then you're going to surround the camp of the Midianites, and when I say, 'now,' you're going to break the pots." To which I'm sure Gideon goes, "Oh, what's the rest of the plan?" "No, no, no, Gideon, that's the plan, and think about this for a second. If you're holding the pot in one hand and a torch underneath the other, you don't even have a hand to hold your sword." This is not a well thought out plan. Here goes Gideon, and the moment comes, and they break the pots, and the torches light, and all the armies of Gideon, seeing all those churches around them, believe in that moment that the armies of Israel are descending upon them, and they began to flee in absolute terror. And because in those days there were no uniforms, they simply begin to hack at anybody who seems to have a sword in their hand, and the armies of Midian destroy themselves without the army of Gideon ever lifting of sword. God always does exceptional on the other side of hard, so don't be surprised when following God gets harder.

Pastor Linn: 28:37 It's interesting, because with the building thing going on right now. Every once in a while, I'll have someone come up to me and they go, "Hey, you know, with the loan not going through, and all of that going on, you know, what do you think God's telling us?" And I go, "What? No, you know, the loans not going through. We thought we're supposed to build a building, and it's getting harder. What do you think God is telling us?" "Um." And then, it occurred to me, "Oh, in your theology, if you follow God, then things get easier. Oh, I get it. I get it. But, the problem is that's not what the Bible does. Do you realize that the by every story you and I love telling our children, the moment someone decides to follow God, it usually gets harder than they thought, just ask Daniel. And, he's there, and they say, "Okay, you've got to bow down and pray to that idol of Nebuchadnezzar." And, Daniel says, "Well, no, I can't do that. I'm going to honor my God." And the next thing that happens is, he gets to go to a lion's den. Just ask Joseph, who's living in Potiphar's house, and Potiphar's wife starts making passes him, and he says, "No, no, no, how could I ever do that to my Lord?" And, he flees out of the room, and the next thing that happens, he's thrown in prison, and obeying took him to harder. Just ask Abraham, who waited and waited and waited and waited and waited. And finally, when he was an old man of 100, he has a boy. The boy begins to grow up, and God says, "Let's go take your son and sacrifice him." Guys, guys, guys, I'm just telling you that one of the things you've gotta be prepared for when you say, "Okay, God, I'm in. Let's do this." Don't be surprised when it gets harder, because God wants you to know on the other side of hard that it was not you, it was him. Here's what I'm just guessing. I'm guessing that when Gideon was an old man, his grandchildren came up to him, beside the fire, and said, "Granddaddy, tell us about the time you beat the Midianites." And, I guarantee that Gideon said, "I didn't beat the Midianites. God beat the Midianites. I had a pot with a torch."

Pastor Linn: 30:55 God does incredible on the other side of hard, and on the other side of hard, lions refused to eat, old men birthed nations. On the other side of hard, rocks zing through the air and find the perfect spot in the forehead of giants. And, on the other side of hard, armies of 300 beat armies of multitudes on the other side of hard. I don't know, I don't know what's going on in your life right now, but my guess is it's probably hard. And, you're saying, "Hey, wait, wait, wait, wait, if God is with us, then how come, how come my kids are in rebellion right now? How come my marriage is so hard right now? How come finances seem to just fall out from under us time after time after time." But, isn't the better question, I wonder what God would do with ordinary you. If you let him take you to the other side of the hard. If you got up out of the wine press. If you handed a brush and just said, "I'm in. I'm in. You can reduce the armies. You can come up with the battle plans. I'm in, because I'm waiting for you to take a very ordinary person and do something extraordinary here."

Pastor Linn: 32:55 Here's my challenge today. What if for the next 14 days you lived outside the wine press? What if for the next 14 days, you just said, "I'm going to live like an ordinary person who expects God to do extraordinary things with them. I'm going to live that way with my spouse. I'm just going to be as best I can, an extraordinary husband, an extraordinary wife. I'm going to go to work the next 14 days, and, man, they're going to see God all over me. I'm going to be the best employee. I'm just telling you, I'm doing my very best for an ordinary person to be an extraordinary employee." Your kids would freak out if you became an extraordinary parent for 14 days. They might even start believing in God. What would God do with ordinary you, outside the wine press?

Pastor Linn: 33:56 Let's pray. Hey, dear Lord Jesus, we, uh, we come to you in this moment. Man, the story of Gideon just resonates with our heart. We've had so many moments that we just want to say, hey, if God is with me, then how come? How come? How, how can this be happening? If God is with me, and it just feels like all those bible stories are fables and dusty, because I'm not seeing any miracles in my life. But, if we're honest, we've been down in our wine press, blowing on our wheat. We've been just kind of trying to do the best we can do with what we've got to do with. And, this morning you whispered in our ears and we heard you say, "Come with me, mighty warrior." And, for just a moment, we heard a glimpse of not who we are today, but of who we could be, if we put an ordinary life in the hands of an extraordinary God. So, God, this is our fist bump. We're in, and even if it gets harder, even if you start cutting the numbers of our army, we're in. Because the desperate prayer of our heart is to someday be sitting around a fire with our grandchildren and say, "Oh, guys, that wasn't me. That was God. This we pray in Jesus' name, Amen.

Recorded in Chandler, Arizona.
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Cornerstone Church
1595 S Alma School Road
Chandler, Arizona 85286