Back to School: Change Your World (Stories from the Bench)

We started a series called “Back to School” at Gateway Church in Austin.

As school is set to start, let’s go back to the basics. In this series, we discover what it looks like to explore God and be rooted in the fundamentals of the Christian faith. When we begin to discover who God made us to be, and then use our unique identity to love both God and others, we can change the world.

Digging Deeper

Work through the following questions and scriptures on your own, and get together with your running partner, life group, or friends and family to talk through what you are learning. 

Digging Deeper Questions

I shared a message called “Change Your World.”

Video of the Message:

Message Notes from Ricky Echeona and Eric Bryant:

When I was kid my Dad coached my baseball team. That was definitely one of the ways my Dad expressed his love for me because he wasn’t into sports at all. That was my Mom. Now back then, all the parents thought for sure their kid would make it to the pros so they invested lots of time and money into our athletic endeavors.

Actually I’m totally kidding!
I’m a Gen Xer! 

Most parents of kids my age just wanted their kids out of the house until dark. There were even commercials to remind parents not to forget about their kids! 

And we loved playing outside, staying out riding our bikes, playing baseball, or whatever sport matched the season.

That’s what made my Dad so unique. He actually wanted to be with us. 

Now my Dad was always incredibly fair. He never showed favoritism.
Growing up, my brother and I would have to open our presents at the same time because we almost always got the same time. So we would find the matching boxes and race to open ours first. Even the last few years of his life, Scott and I who live 6 hours apart, the person who was going to celebrate with our parents second would call the other to find out what he received to know what we were going to get. 

In many ways that was noble, but when your Dad was the coach you didn’t want to spend the same amount of time on the bench as every one else!

When I was a kid, all the kids thought we were going to grow up and turn pro.
It’s reversed now. I went back and looked to see how many professional athletes came out of my school district from the years I was attending high school and there were 2 that made the NFL, one Olympian, and one NFL coach..

  • ​​Cary Blanchard NFL placekicker 
  • Tommy Maddox UCLA and pro quarterback
  • Adam Setliff Olympian; discus champion and state record holder
  • Dennis Allen Head Coach of New Orleans Saints

Honorable mentions include Eileen Vanisi who is still my facebook friend and holds multiple shot put records at UT and though not athletes,
I discovered the lead singer for Skid Row is from my district a bit before my time but Layzie Bone from Bone Thugs-n-Harmony is from my high school, and a year younger than me.

So sitting on the bench when you expect to go pro one day is very frustrating – even moreso when it was your Dad who is telling you to sit on the bench. Now one of those professional athletes and I squared off in the league championship baseball game. Tommy Maddox was probably 6ft tall as an 8th grader. I was still hoping for 6ft but was about 8 inches away in 7th grade but I was taller than my Mom at that point (of course she is only 4’11” tall. But I got a hit off of him! And if I remember correctly, even after getting that hit, later in the game I was put on the bench. My Dad was no longer coaching me. I had played beyond his capacity to coach. I have to admit my dreams of going pro were starting to fade a bit as I sat on the bench. I finally retired after 9th grade.

I don’t care who you are at some point you have or WILL experience the bench of life. Sometimes it looks like:

  • Being overlooked
  • We gave it our all and failed, and failed again, and we didn’t want to taste defeat anymore so being out of the game was easier than losing
  • Shame and guilt have made you sideline yourself to a sub-par existence
  • Sometimes we’ve gotten so busy criticizing that we’ve stopped creating, and dreaming

The bench can look different for all of us. But it can creep into so many areas of our lives. We want to be people that impact the world.
We want to make and do beautiful things but the difficulty of our dreams scare us into submission at times.
And either by choice, by fear, or by shame we resign ourselves to being ‘sideline spectators’.
Sitting on the bench of life.

The Last key concept we are unpacking today in conjunction with our kids team is this- Change Your World.
But I know when I say this so many tune out and label this a pipe dream, a childhood fantasy. Especially when it feels like you’re on the bench.

And I know in a room this size there are some that for some reason you feel like you’re on the bench and you don’t know why.
Like you are not even a starter in your own life.
For some of us we feel like we are living God’s ‘plan B’ for our life.
So Change Your World is WAY too lofty.
When you want to just change where you are.
Can I tell you you’re not alone?
And you don’t have to stay there.
I don’t know what has happened to you that makes you feel paralyzed, afraid, ambivalent, or unworthy. But you have to hear me, IT IS TIME TO GET UP! 

Because In order to change your world, you have to get off the bench. 

For those that are in that season or have been there, what is it that has you stuck? Spiritually, emotionally, or relationally? Is it:

  • Comparison– well I’ll never be as good as them so why try? They got into the school and I didn’t so maybe I deserve the bench
  • The feeling of shame or unworthiness because of decisions or circumstances– a criminal mistake, a divorce, a habitual destructive pattern?
  • The fear of failure– What if I try and I screw it up? What if I don’t get the job? What if I’m not smart enough?
  • Too Busy – or maybe in many ways you are in a really good place in life. You are not living God’s plan B but you are in your sweet spot, but now that you have all that you have longed for in your relationships and in your career, maybe there are things you want to do, but you just don’t know how you can add anything else to your life right now. And the things of God have taken a back seat.

But at some point you will come to a crossroads where God is in front of you shaking you awake saying,
“It’s time to get in the game. Stop watching your life go by, and get in it.”

The text we’re in today we find somebody who’s been on the bench for 40 years.
And some of you thought these last 4 months have been hard.
We’re going to be in Exodus 3-4 today talking about Moses.
And many of us think we know the whole story Burning bush – Let my people go – 10 plagues – Parting the Red Sea – Deliverance out of slavery Prince of Egypt version.
But we miss the front end and the reality of Moses’ life.

Recap of Exodus 1-2

  • Israelites multiply and are hated as foreigners, they are oppressed and enslaved
  • Pharaoh tries to have all the baby boys killed. A diabolical and evil plan Moses is the adopted son of Pharaoh daughter because his mother and sister put him in a basket along the banks of the Nile to make sure he has a better chance of surviving. This isn’t the float-him-down-the-river-and-hope Disney version
  • He grows up among nobility. He is surely educated in administration, military power, leadership, and governance
  • But He never forgets who he is as a Hebrew. He remembers the evil done to his people. He sees a Jewish man being beaten and kills the Egyptian slave master.
  • He goes on the run. Pharaoh tries to kill him, for reasons we can infer being If I let this fly, with his skill and background, Moses will lead a revolution against me.

We pick up this story and it’s been approximately 40 years since that fateful act of murder in defense of an Israelite being beaten to death. He’s in the wilderness. Tending sheep. Can you imagine the guilt, regret, shame, and false Identity he’s been living in?
Maybe Moses stuffed all those feelings down, relegating them to a past life.
He got busy doing something good, but we can see it was the purpose of his life.

And yet so many of us struggle with the exact same identity crises because of our past, our trauma, or our poor choices. Perhaps you find yourself busy with good, but deep down you know God is inviting you to something great! But you were created to change your world.
In order to change your world, you have to get off the bench.

For the rest of our time I want to give you this simple formula for change.
Current location + opportunity + action = Change or let’s put in in modern text language. In fact text the person you last texted with this and no context.
Hopefully it opens a convo for some📍+🚪+ 🎬= 🦋 

Moses and every other hero of faith, and every noble integral hero of life in some shape or fashion has answered the call to crack this simple equation. 

Let’s dive in to Exodus 3
3 Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, (also known as Mt. Sinai)  the mountain of God. 2 There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. 3 So Moses thought, “I will go over and see this strange sight—why the bush does not burn up.”
4 When the Lord saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, “Moses! Moses!”
And Moses said, “Here I am.”
5 “Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” 6 Then he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God.

Moses is going about his life the same way he has for the last x number of decades. And one day everything changes. He sees this bush that is on fire but does not burn. And in the midst of this scene God calls him. This is absurd – now the bush is talking to him?! And here’s what I want us to focus on:
5 “Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” 

Moses has been on the run. He disappears from his old life. He’s been on the bench! And God says, “it’s go time!” And when God wants to use you, you know where he starts? Right…where…you…are. 

current location + _________ + __________= ___________

Your Current Location📍

He tells Moses. Right where you are that’s Holy Ground

Not because of Moses but because of the presence of God. And this is such a unique moment in all of time that we want God to almost recreate it. 

I know I’ve been guilty of it- “I’m just waiting on a clear sign God! I won’t move until you show me God. I’m waiting for that burning bush.” 

And oftentimes you know what I hear back from God? 

I have this thought pop into my mind: “Here’s your sign- I’m with you. Wherever you go I’m already there. And if I’m there it’s Holy. Now get off the bench and GO.”

You want to get off the bench? 
You want God to use you? 
You want to lead a life of significance? 

Start where you are! 

What if we stopped watching life go by and instead said:

  • God I don’t like these coworkers, and it’s rough with my boss. But as a Christ follower I know that wherever I go you are with me.
    So this Panera Bread is Holy Ground.
    This cubicle is Holy Ground.
    This classroom is Holy Ground
  • This season of parenting, marriage, and work feels impossible. They didn’t give me a manual for handling career and Pre-k pickup. There’s no life hack for temper tantrums and Project management. But I know that you are with me.
    So I will not walk away, wish away, or waste away this moment.
    Right here, right now, this is Holy Ground.

Do me a favor in your notes app or on your notepad, can you write your address down. I’ll tell you why in a second. 

We get so enamored thinking it’s the big and the flashy and the momentous occasion where the stars align, someone anonymously wants to invest 2 million dollars in your idea, you fall hit your head and you have the book idea of a lifetime. 

We think change is always OUT THERE in the ether somewhere. 

Now, under your address write this, “It starts here.” 

If you want to change your world, start with who you live with and around, startloving your kids, your spouse, your roommate, your neighbors, YOURSELF.

Where are you at right now? Start there. 

7 The Lord said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. 8 So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey—the home of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. 9 And now the cry of the Israelites has reached me, and I have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them. 10 So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.” 

We said it starts with current location + Opportunity + _______________ = ___________

Next part of the equation of getting off the bench is God will provide you with an 

Opportunity🚪

God says I’ve had enough of the abuse, I’ve had enough of the injustice, I’ve had enough of the slavery and oppression. And I’m going to do something about it.
And I want to use you!
God will open the doors of opportunity for you to make a change, for you to bring healing, love, justice, goodness, peace, and transformation into this fractured world.

Oftentimes people who don’t follow Jesus, and maybe you’re at that place today.
We love that you are here journeying with us, will say something like I can’t believe in a God who would allow ________ to happen.
But here’s the kicker he created you and I to find him, discover his love and transformation, and DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT.

Jesus taught us to pray that “God’s Kingdom come and His will be done” because often He uses us to do just that. As followers of Jesus, we are to bring His love, His joy, His peace everywhere we go. We can bring more of heaven to our part of the world!

God will open the doors of opportunity. As Ted Beasely said weeks ago God will often let something tick you off to get you to move.

someone using their little resources or position to make a change

We lost one of our church family about 10 days ago. If you have been coming any amount of time, you will remember Krista.

She worked at Dollar General when I first met her. She didn’t have a car. She lived with her brother and his wife. She walked to church to serve with our greeting team. Friends with all the businesses in the shopping center. A big smile!

He will open the doors of opportunity for you to get off the bench. But it’s up to you to get up. Can I tell you the dangers of being on the bench- you get jaded, more critical than you are caring, and you are louder than you are loving, and often you assume the worst of those actually in the game. It happened to me- “Bro he shouldn’t even be starting he’s trash…Ok that was one good hit…but he can’t do it again.” Instead of cheering people on knowing we’re on the same team.

 It sounds like this:

  • Why is that church doing x,y,&z? What they should really be doing is…
    (You know you’re riding the bench when you have high criticism and low engagement or low empathy)
  • Or man if I had that amount of money I would… (and yet you don’t even donate to the causes you’re so loud about)

See don’t bark from the bench, get up off the sidelines and do something about it. Don’t tell me you’re passionate about abortion laws, or broken homes, or neglected children. Show me by volunteering time in a clinic, speaking into kids and teenagers here at Gateway, fostering or adopting. 

God is a God of opportunity.

He gives Moses this grand opportunity. Out of obscurity and into history. And you know what Moses does? What a lot of us do. He makes excuses. One after the other.

11 But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?”

12 And God said, “I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain.”

His identity is so shot by his past that he cannot see his future. “God I’m a nobody”. “God I don’t have a degree” or “God I’ve never run a business” and God is like, “I ain’t ask you all that.”

Moses says ok but like who am I going to say sent me because this whole bush thing is out of pocket?

13 Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?”

14 God said to Moses, “I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I am has sent me to you.’”

15 God also said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites, ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob—has sent me to you.’

Moses is like “there’s a lot of gods people worship. Are you the rain god, tree god, Taylor Swift god. I mean people worshiping everything out here in Egypt.

And God says tell them ‘I AM’ sent you. We should spend a whole message just nn those 2 words. But he says in essence “Moses I am one of one. I’m him. I am existence itself. You are because I am.” Come on that better make the hairs on your arm stand up.

Moses does not stop with the excuses. And some of you, if you’re like me, are getting frustrated with Mo. His name should be Mo Problems. The excuses and self-deprecation don’t stop. 

Exodus 4 in the opening verses Moses is like “what if they don’t believe me?” God says, “What you got in your hand?” Moses says “A staff” God goes cool “Ima use that”

10 Moses said to the Lord, “Pardon your servant, Lord. I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue.”

11 The Lord said to him, “Who gave human beings their mouths? Who makes them deaf or mute? Who gives them sight or makes them blind? Is it not I, the Lord? 12 Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.”

13 But Moses said, “Pardon your servant, Lord. Please send someone else.”

So often all we see are the Obstacles and not the Opportunities. Like Moses we focus on the problems and not the promises.

But you know what, when we’re busy making excuses, God is busy making a way. But he will not violate your free will. He won’t force you to stand up and wipe the bench cobwebs off. He won’t push you into the battlefield. But there’s something about His presence, when you’ve really experienced Him. His glory compels you into the last part we play in the equation Current location + opportunity + Action = ____________ [Show action line blank and then filled in]

Action 🎬

Moses eventually decides, “I can’t stay here anymore.” I was made for more. There’s nothing wrong with leading sheep but God was calling him to lead a nation out of bondage.

Exodus 4:20 So Moses took his wife and sons, put them on a donkey and started back to Egypt. And he took the staff of God in his hand.

Such an overlooked verse. In fact I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone ever preach on this verse. But I think based on his encounter with God. This was the hardest thing for Moses. Not the ten plagues. Not the Red Sea. It was right here. Just getting started.

And for so many of us with so much noise outside of us and so much noise inside of us sometimes the hardest part is just starting. Just taking action.

Can I remind you or tell you for the first time, Moses is around 80 in this moment! He had 40 years in the desert, 40 year of regret, 40 years of wondering why did I waste my shot. 40 years on th bench.

But God wastes nothing. Even when it takes longer than it should have. Acts 7 shows us that young Moses was on a mission he had a plan. Acts 7:23 “When Moses was forty years old, he decided to visit his own people, the Israelites. 24 He saw one of them being mistreated by an Egyptian, so he went to his defense and avenged him by killing the Egyptian. 25 Moses thought that his own people would realize that God was using him to rescue them, but they did not.

40 year old Moses was powerful, but he was weak. He had position but he hadn’t experienced the presence of God. He tried in his own strength. The point is, even though he was old, even though he had this messy past, even though people didn’t see his vision, Moses still chose to act on what God put in front of him.

What are the barriers you have allowed to slow you down from what God wants you to do?

80 year old Moses was weak, but He was powerful. He reached a place where He knew I can’t do it by myself or from my own strength. In fact it was in his weakness and his eventual trust and dependence on Yahweh, that he is used mightily.

And once again no matter what you’ve done, been through, or experienced that has you feeling like the bench is life. I’m here to tell you that God wastes nothing. He uses it all. It doesn’t mean it was his will, It just means that NOTHING can stop his plan.

For 40 years Moses learned leadership at the highest level, governance, administration, military organization, you name it. The next 40 years he learned desert surviving skills. And the next 40 years God would use it all to lead a nation in the wilderness and into the promised land.

Where are you today? Are you on the bench? Maybe like Moses it was failure in your own strength that made you not want to try anymore. I believe God is saying to many of us today, it’s time.

Current location + opportunity + Action = Change

Change 🦋

📍 +🚪+ 🎬= 🦋

We know the rest of the story. God does amazing things through Moses to rescue his people and shutdown Pharaoh. It’s God who brings Change. Our job is to stay faithful to the call. Not the bench. We stay faithful and God brings the fruitful.

That is how you change your world. You may not change the world. But you will change your world. That’s all that ministry is God’s infinite resources meeting human need. For a lot of you that just cleared a hurdle and allowed you to do ministry.

  • Start where you with what you have, with the people in front of you.
  • Allow God to open your the eyes of your heart to see the opportunity all around you, and not simply the obstacles
  • And lastly, just Go. Take Action. Get started

Today we’re not saying the ONLY way to change your world is to join a serve group and serve in some capacity at our campus. But we are saying it is the best place to get started. 

As you serve you’ll experience life enriching relationships, you’ll find healing if you are open, and you’ll find how God has wired you and what he wants to do in you and through you in your sphere of influence. But it starts in the context of community. Never in isolation. God had to bring Moses back around his people to bring the change. And he desires to change the world life by life through you and I.

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