Wednesday, December 19, 2012

A Christmas Story Part 2

This week I continued our Christmas series entitled, “A Christmas Story.” We started in Luke 2 noting some things about the story.  Mary took a tough journey to make it to Bethlehem because of the census requirements that Joseph return to his home tribe of the line of David.  An angel appears to shepherds.  Why shepherds?  Jesus is the shepherd (pastors help the shepherd but are not the shepherd).  His job is to keep the Word out there and keep the sheep straying into darkness.  These particular shepherds in this particular hill just outside of Bethlehem kept the flocks that were used as sacrificial lambs in the temple.  This was kind of like their notice that they would be out of a job soon. 

In light of the events in Connecticut last Friday, I included some additional thoughts to the sermon I planned.   Whether we are asking ourselves the question or are being asked the question by others, when things like this happen we attempt to reconcile the “why?” I saw a friend post on Facebook that he understands that God created us with free will, but shouldn’t He reserve the right to do something to stop things like this from happening?  At Living Word we, without a doubt, believe that God is ALWAYS a good God. So, then how do we explain something like this?

The Christmas story itself helps us understand a little bit about how God has established His interaction with man and the earth. As I was praying in preparation to teach the Lord showed me something about His character that literally brought tears to my eyes. That gut-wrenching feeling we have over senseless loss; He has felt that EVERY time any man suffers, dies, is devastated, is sick, or lives hungry and in poverty. It is just as senseless to Him.    When God created this earth and put man here, He gave man dominion and authority. He knew what would happen when Adam and Eve chose to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. But mankind chose it.

 God is bound by His own Word. Look at every time that God needed something big to happen on earth. He has always had to find a man willing to be obedient to His Word – because that is how things operate on earth.  It was that care and concern that God has for us that drove Him to do what HAD to be done to begin to fix what man broke. He came to earth as a MAN to set things straight. Could God just have thrown Satan in the fiery pit and been done with it? Yes, He has to power to do it. But He would have acted in opposition to His Word in doing so. His Word is the very power that holds the universe together. His Word is Who He is.  He is bound to His Word or nothing He says is true.

 The good news is that the enemy has the same limitation. You know that Satan cannot not simply kill anyone he desires. If he could none of us would be here. He also works through man like God.   There are two kingdoms at work on this earth and all of mankind is empowering one or the other with every thought, word, and action. Whatever we do in agreement with God’s Word will empower His kingdom. Whatever we do that is contrary to His Word will build the enemy’s kingdom. The main things that empower the enemy’s kingdom are fear and lies.  It is as simple as that.

 We must also settle on the idea that God had nothing, and I mean nothing, to do with what happened in Connecticut. It wasn’t part of His perfect plan and He didn’t need a few more angels in heaven (that’s not how it works anyway). The enemy’s victories become greater when we take what he does and attribute it to the One Great God.  God will redeem and use everything Satan does for good, but God would never take people’s children or “take someone because He needed them in heaven.”  These statements may make us feel better, but really they build misconceptions about God as a doer of evil.  He cried even before it happened because He knew it would before it was ever conceived. 

 Until the day that Jesus comes back and the enemy is thrown into the lake of fire, horrible things will continue to happen on this earth. But God is not the one doing the destroying. He is full of light and life. Jesus was sent to be a light in this world – to push back the darkness. Darkness cannot exist where there is light and it cannot drive back light.  Darkness is simply an absence of light (like cold is an absence of heat).  The ONLY thing that will push back this darkness in our world is more light shining through God’s people – not more religion, judgment and condemnation, but more light, grace and love.

 In Luke 2, the Angels speak to the shepherd in the fields about a great and joyous light that had entered the world.  Their first words were “do not be afraid.”  Joshua 1 echoes this same charge.  John 1 tells us why meditating on the Word was important, as well as being strong and courageous.  The good news was that the advancement of the enemy’s kingdom could be halted. This Christmas, take hold of that light and let it shine through you and to a world in darkness.


To listen to the entire sermon go to and click on online media. To learn more about Living Word Ahwatukee, visit

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

A Christmas Story Part 1

Last Sunday we began a three-part Christmas series called, "A Christmas Story." If we truly know and understand the story of just what happened on that first noel, we can have peace and joy all the time.  A 19th century skeptic once said that every church in the world should have three words engraved above its entrance – Important if True. That is a very true statement. If what we believe about Christmas and the Word as a whole is true, then it is very important. But, if we do not really believe it, it is all a bunch of religious pageantry — which is how much of the world views Christianity. 


Isaiah 9:2-7 tells us about what was coming to humanity when God's Son, Jesus, arrived.  The “land of the shadow of death refers to Psalm 23, which is a prophetic passage.  Before Christ, we lived in the shadow of death, but now with Christ we can go through it.  A side note, for all the prophecies simply surrounding the birth of Jesus to come true, the probability of that happening would be about the same as winning the powerball 18 times in a row.  This scripture says that Satan is not our oppressor any longer and that we can rejoice like the victorious Israelites when they divided the plunder of the people God defeated before them.   This passage also says that God’s kingdom is always increasing and always working to give us Shalom peace (nothing missing, nothing broken) with no end, in a kingdom that lasts forever.  When we choose to step out of the kingdom, bad things can happen.  But we can always go right back in.


When the angel speaks to Mary in Luke 1:31-33, that promise is fulfilled.  Another side note, Jesus is Yeshua—the Lord almighty saves.  Yet, many Christians have not allowed the Christmas story to truly change their lives the way it was intended. 


A poll done by World magazine in 2003 said that 26% of professed Christians believed all religions were basically equal, 35% did not believe Jesus actually rose from the dead and 45% didn't believe Satan really existed. These are foundational things that they did not believe.  If we do not take what is in the Bible as truth, it does not change us.  It is no surprise that Christmas (when it is even allowed to be called that) has been dumbed down to a commercialized fictional man in a red suit who delivers toys. We can get mad at what the world has done to Christmas, but if we believers knew and lived what the Christmas story was all about, no one would care about a commercialized holiday.


It begins with us as parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles. We make a feigned effort to "remind" the kids of the real meaning of Christmas by forcing them to listen to us read the nativity story. We hold their presents hostage until we read it. So, we end up actually making them hate the story because it only delays them opening the presents :)  Instead of mentioning the story on Christmas day alone, perhaps we need to instead really meditate on this all season and share it with our children throughout the season.   Now, I'm not entirely down on Santa or whatever traditions we all participate in during this season. There are a lot of "non-religious" aspects of Christmas that are great because they bring family together and build memories. But, let's take the time to learn what it is about Christmas that sent shepherds rejoicing and brought kings bearing priceless gifts to pay honor to a child king – the King of Kings!


We looked at Psalm 8 and Hebrews 2:6-8.  Adam and Eve were given authority over the earth but then gave it to the enemy.  Jesus had to come to take it back.  This passage seems to say that Jesus was a little lower than the angels, which does not make sense.  In the New Testament, the Greek word for “little lower” means to be made lower in terms of dignity.  That makes more sense for Jesus.  In the Old Testament, this “little lower” in Hebrew means to be lacking in relation to, which certainly applies to man because we are not in God’s presence like them.  We and Jesus are not lower in authority.  We are lower in glory, and Jesus is lower in dignity. 


Here are some reasons Christmas was the only way

1.      Jesus had to become like us in nature in order to become Immanuel, God with us. 

2.      He had to overcome the power of death by suffering the penalty of sin while sinless in order to give us life.

3.      He had to come in the form of man to take back the dominion and authority man had given the enemy.

4.      He uses man’s sin to defeat the enemy. God took what the enemy planned for evil and turned it to good.  He uses the mistakes of ours to defeat our enemy.  Remember, God uses bad things to cause good things to happen, but He does not cause those bad things to happen.  God does not do things like the enemy, but He uses what the enemy does for His glory. 

Ways that God used our sin to defeat the enemy:

1. Mary had to risk her life to accept the call (she could have been stoned to death for being pregnant out of wedlock.

2. An emperor had to institute an oppressive tax (as a result of the census).  The census allowed Jesus to be born in Bethlehem and fulfill prophecy.

3. A king had to demand the murder of babies.  Jesus had to go to Egypt in order to fulfill some of the prophecies.

4. A friend had to betray Him for greed.

5.  A very close friend had to deny Him.

6.  Nine more of His close friends had to abandon Him.

7.  The very people he came to save, as well as the religious leaders of His day had to hate Him so much they wanted Him killed.

8.  A murderer would have to go free to ensure His death.


We can see that the Christmas story even shows that despite the mistakes we make, God can use those things to defeat the enemy in our lives.  This will make our life all year more meaningful.



To listen to the entire sermon go to and click on online media. To learn more about Living Word Ahwatukee, visit

Thursday, December 6, 2012

prayer and unforgiveness

This is a one-part series before I start a 3-part Christmas series.  Last Sunday we discussed one of the major hinderances to answered prayer — unforgiveness. I think it is also a major hindrance to Christmas joy.  Mark 11:25 tells us that when we stand praying that we must forgive anything we hold against one another so that we will be forgiven ourselves. I do not believe this is talking about salvation because other scriptures related to receiving salvation do not add this stipulation. When we ask God to forgive, He is faithful and just to forgive.  However, if we do not forgive others, we walk around this world AS someone unforgiven. Our eternity may be changed already, but our life on earth will be like someone who is not forgiven.   Being right before God does not give us more favor with God, but it does give us faith to receive from Him.  It’s hard to go before someone to whom we owe money and ask them for something with any hope that they will say yes.


A note on the statement that we should forgive 70x7 times.  The number 7 in the Bible indicates perfection, which means we should forgive to perfection, until they no longer need to be forgiven.


We looked also at a parable Jesus tells in Matthew 18. There is a servant forgiven of a debt of 10,000 talents. A talent was made up of about 3000 shekels of silver. A shekel was worth about $0.50. So 3000 would be about $1500. Then he owed 10,000 talents — about $15 million. That is a huge, insurmountable debt (just like our sin).  In the Bible, servants were to work for the lender (them and their family) until the debt is paid back. 


After he pleads with his master the debt is completely forgiven. Then he turns and immediately finds a man who owed him about 100 dinari. A dinari was worth about $0.15. So the man owed him about $15. He demands the man pay and, when he cannot, has him thrown into jail. Now this course of action was perfectly legal. But the picture we see is that we CAN choose to live by the law or we can choose to live by grace.


When word gets to the man's master he is called back to face him. The master was angry and had him turned over to the jailer to be tortured. The jailer can be a picture of the enemy, but I also believe it is the results we deal with when we carry around bitterness and unforgiveness. 


Many physical and psychological studies have shown the terrible effects on the human mind and body related to hatred and bitterness.  Our body is prevented by our unforgiveness from being able to heal ourselves and fight disease.  Proverbs 17:22 reiterates this as well.  The bone marrow is where the white blood cells, which fight disease, are produced.  There was a study that had people think about something someone had done against them.  Within minutes, their blood pressure increased and chemicals known to cause pain and disease were being produced.  Proverbs 18:14 echoes this as well.  Philippians 3:13 emphasizes that if we are to fulfill God’s purpose, we must forget what is behind and press on toward the things of God.  God is not saying the things that occurred in our lives are not important, but we should not continue to let those things rule us or dictate how we behave.  Ephesians 4:26-27 tells us to not let the sun go down on our anger. How many of us have let MANY suns go down on our anger? When we sleep, the subconscious continues to dwell on those thoughts! 


The Bible also says that this gives the enemy a foothold in our lives. Footholds will eventually become strongholds! We may be putting on the full armor of God every day and fighting the good fight of faith, but we continue to fail because we've actually allowed the enemy a base IN our camp — our hearts and minds!


Remember also we should refrain from picking up the offenses of others.  2 Corinthians 2:10-11 includes a command to the Corinthians from Paul to forgive since he has already forgiven them.   He was referring back to a person from 1 Corinthians 15 who was causing problems in the church.


In order to supernaturally forgive, there are three important steps (since there ARE things that will require supernatural forgiveness. We just can't do it on our own). First, choose to forgive. That is the hardest part. We aren't willing to give it to God because we're afraid He won't give them what they REALLY deserve. That is probably true. He doesn't do that with you (Remember the story in Matthew 18?). He actually desired to fix whatever it is in them that causes them to hurt others. We have to be OK with however God deals with it.  Remember that forgiving does not mean we allow them back in so they can hurt us again, but that we leave the situation to God to handle and stop letting it hinder us.  I would encourage you to read the story in 2 Kings 5 about a girl who was hurt but then is the means by which her master is healed of leprosy by Elisha.


Remember that the forgiveness is mostly for us, but also when we keep the offense to ourselves, God cannot act however He wants to toward that person (the debt is owed to us until we give it over).  BUT we have to give it not expecting Him to “get them” but knowing that God may instead just fix the root problem so they will not do it again.  Romans 10:14 tells us to bless (speak well of) our enemies).   We rely on God to fix us because the person who wronged us can’t fix us


The next step is to allow the Holy Spirit to do the work and help us. John 16:7 and 16:13 and 1 John 1:5 talk about the Holy Spirit being our helper and teacher.   God tells us to do many things that are impossible in the natural but none that are impossible in the Spirit.  He will do what you are incapable of doing. You can't forgive and forget, but He can. 


Last, remain obedient to do what you know to do. Pray for your enemy. Speak blessing over them. This will keep you from falling back into the trap of offense. James 1:12 speaks what happens when we hold evil desires in our heart.  Evil desires will always result in action or frustration, neither of which we want.  Romans 12:17-21  talks about praying for and blessing our enemies.  Heaping hot coals may sound nice, but in the day people put hot coals on their heads in order to keep warm, so it actually means that their needs will be tended to.



To listen to the entire sermon go to and click on online media. To learn more about Living Word Ahwatukee, visit

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Thanksgiving Message

For Thanksgiving, we talked about what it means to be thankful in all things. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 says it is God’s will for us to do so. It does not say that we are thankful FOR all things, but IN all things. He shows us throughout the Word HOW we can do that. 

In Leviticus chapters 1-7, there are instructions given on how and what to present in five types of offerings. These offerings, what they represent, and the order in which they were to be presented give us the picture of what it is we are truly thankful for.  The five offerings were the burnt, grain, peace, sin and guilt offerings.  Below is a summary of the offerings with details on their purpose, etc.

·         Burnt—bull, ram, certain types of birds—act of worship (voluntary act of worship) and sign of devotion and surrender to God

·         Grain—similar to burnt offering, similar to tithing, returning to God out of the thankfulness for the goodness of what He has provided (bringing a portion of crops)

·         Fellowship and Peace—lots of animals acceptable (perfect and flawless animals only), thanksgiving offering

·         Sin offering—different animal for each situation, sacrifice for sin, cleansing and atonement (usually made once a year)

·         Guilt offering—also called trespass offering, for unintentional sin and the guilt of sin (guilty conscience attached to sin

If there was more than one offering, there was an order to be followed.  The Sin and guilt offerings were always done first. They atoned for sin –sin had to be dealt with first. The next would be burnt offerings, which related to our devotion to God. Last would be peace and grain offerings. These related to fellowship and communion with God and with each other.

 The peace offering had two parts, fellowship and thanksgiving. Strangely enough, the thanksgiving offering was to be eaten together with all the “church” family. It was a communal offering.  The fatty portion belonged to God in this setting.  God takes the part that is most delicious, but it is also the part that is not good for us.  In this offering, God took the part that wasn’t good and left us with what was good and nourishing for us.  So, we are thankful for the following, in order of importance:

1.       God deals with our sin (what separated us from Him and brought death and destruction to our lives)

2.       God made a way for us to fellowship with Him

3.       God has made available to us His power, blessing and provision

In the Old Testament, these were obtained through the Law and the offerings. For us, they are purchased eternally through Christ Jesus – the final and greatest sacrifice. That is something to be thankful for! When we get focused on being thankful for the right things, in the right order, we will see all of them begin to operate in our lives.  We should always be thankful for the tangible things in life, but those things come and go. Living a lifestyle of thankfulness IN all things requires knowing what you are thankful for.

Philippians 4:6 is the instruction on how to pray, and the emphasis is to do it with thanksgiving.  We are not trying to by thankfulness manipulate God but thank Him for what has already been done but that which you have not seen.  The thankfulness changes the way we ask, with confidence that He did it, rather than begging or pleading.  2 Corinthians 3:13 and forward says that as more grace goes out and more people connect to and receive that grace, then more people will truly by thankful people. Colossians 2:6 speaks again that if we get rooted in God’s power and who Christ is, we will overflow with thankfulness

 In Luke 17:11-19, Jesus has an encounter with 10 lepers. They call out to Him and He tells them to go to the priests to show them they are healed. This is how God operates. He didn’t just tell them they were healed, but told them to do something and, as they did it, they were healed. This was a very risky thing for these men to do as lepers for they would have been banished from the town as unclean. Anyone who touched them would also be considered unclean, so going into town around many people showing themselves to the priests (who by being near them would become unclean) was also an issue.

 It says that all 10 were healed as they went, yet only one of them came back and thanked Jesus. Jesus makes a point that the other nine were healed, but only this one was thankful. He tells the man that his faith has made him well. I believe Jesus was talking about more than just the leprosy. For all the men had already been healed of that. I believe He is talking about the idea that his thankful heart would not only make him well, but serve him well his entire life. A thankful heart is the will of God (remember 1 Thess 5:18).

 Finally, the most important part of thankfulness is receiving the gift. If someone gives you a gift and you never even open it,that is the epitome of ungratefulness. In Philippians 4:6 we are told to be anxious for nothing, but with thanksgiving and prayer we make our requests knows and then we receive peace from God. God gives us the gift of peace in all situations, but we can choose not to open to gift and stay in fear and anxiety.

 At its core, thankfulness is an act of faith. Praying with thankfulness is not to manipulate God into doing something. You see, He has already done it all. So, being thankful for those things we are praying for is connecting to the spiritual realm where the promise already exists.


To listen to the entire sermon go to and click on online media. To learn more about Living Word Ahwatukee, visit

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Burst of Power—Unwrapping the Gifts of the Spirit—last part, part 5



This is the wrap-up of my series on the Gifts of the Spirit. Hopefully we broke down some misconception and misunderstandings about the gift of tongues and interpretation. Remember, in 1 Corinthians 12:1, Paul began this discussion by stating his desire that we not be ignorant about these things.  We started with public speaking in tongues but mostly talked about the power of praying in the Spirit.


We found in 1 Corinthians 14:2 that public speaking in tongues is spoken to God, not men. The purpose of it is not for someone to interpret what God is trying to say to the people present. Instead (as was the case in Acts 2:11), the message is to bring glory to or worship God. When it is interpreted it reveals something great about God that draws those who hear it to God.  That is how we will know whether the interpretation is accurate.  In Acts the apostles spoke in tongues and the people heard in their own tongue.  I experienced this when I was in India.  People came up to pray and I decided that since I could not speak their language that I would pray in tongues.  Many of them wanted to talk back to me or showed through their eyes that they understood something God was telling them.  I know my prayer language is not Hindi, so I know God was helping them hear in their tongue like in Acts.


I know that is not what I have experienced in many church settings. The prayer in tongues may have been correct, but the interpretation was an admonition or was condemning of the people present — “turn or burn.”  According to what Paul said, that is not what the message of tongues is for.  That is more like the gift of prophesy — which would normally be delivered without a "tongues" version first.  Prophecy also would never be condemning and never be in conflict with the Word in any way. The prophetic message is never an addition to the Word, but an amplification.  It is meant to exhort,


We spent most of our time though talking about the importance of praying in tongues. We may or may not ever give a public tongue or interpretation, but praying in the Spirit is a tremendous benefit to all believers. It is a powerful tool that many do not use because they don't understand it.


1 Corinthians 14:2 also said that when we speak in tongues we utter "mysteries." In the Greek, that word mean "secrets between friends" and "information available only to the initiated." There are secrets about God that He only reveals to we "friends of God" that allow us to know Him more deeply and intimately.  When we pray in the Spirit, we disconnect our flesh and our soul (mind, will and emotions) and allow the Spirit to pray a pure prayer — unaltered by our own perceptions, beliefs and experiences.  We can pray a powerful prayer for someone else by praying in the Spirit for them as opposed to from our flesh.   It is also the way God creates through us. Once He gave man authority on this earth, He then "rested" and ceased directly creating. When we allow the Spirit to speak through us, we give Him permission to create in this world through us.  It is also a way we can “pray it forward.” You and I do not know what tomorrow or even the next minute holds, but God does. Make it a habit to begin every day with prayer in the Spirit. You'll be praying the prayer that will prepare the way for the day that God already knows is coming. It will help you avoid many stressful situations.


To listen to the entire sermon go to and click on online media. To learn more about Living Word Ahwatukee, visit

I want to Believe part 2

We continued talking about the gift of faith. We looked deeper at the faith of Abraham as accounted in Genesis 17. God speaks to him after 13 years of silence. At 86 years of age, he had Ishmael by the maidservant Hagar. He may have thought at the time that he had received the promise God had made of a child, but he had not yet received it.  Now, at 99 years old and his body (as well as Sarah’s) no longer capable of creating a child, God speaks to him again about the promise as yet unfulfilled— which means Ishmael was NOT the promise.  Note that He does not mention Abraham’s prior failings but just reiterates that His promise still stands and will be fulfilled.


In Genesis 17:1, God introduces Himself to Abraham with a new name, God Almighty or El Shadday (aka Shaddai) in Hebrew (LORD in all capitals in your Bible always means this name). Understand that names are very important in Hebrew — names of God and names of people. So, let's look at the meaning of El Shadday. El means "God" and is made up of the letters Aleph (picture of strength and power) and Lamed (picture of a shepherd's staff or leader). Shadday (spelled Shin [picture of two front teeth meaning structure], Dalet [door or entryway], Yod [arm or closed hand signifying man’s work] in Hebrew) means almighty and most powerful, the God of ability. 


The name El Shaddai is used to describe God as One who has the power to overrule, speed up, slow down or suspend any NATURAL law in order to fulfill a Spiritual promise. God’s word has higher authority than natural law.   The truth of His Word is always more powerful than the natural laws. He never changes His Word, but natural laws are subject to His Word and promises. If a natural law is in the way of God's promise, He will overcome it if we will believe.  This is what Abraham was going to need to have a child at this point in his life. It was physically impossible for he and Sarah to have a child. They needed El Shadday to make it happen.


Next, God tells him to walk before Him and be perfect or blameless. Until we look at the original Hebrew for this word, we don't get the complete picture.  God is telling Him to walk where God was and follow Him in all we do.  The rudder, which steers the boat, is in the back.  So we walk with God directing us as we go.  Abraham lived prior to the institution of the law. God was not telling him to keep the law or to be sinless. The Hebrew word here for blameless or perfect is tamiym. What it means is "complete, whole, entire, healthy, unimpaired and innocent." The picture here is that God needed Abraham to walk before Him seeing himself as God sees him — complete, healthy and whole.  It takes faith to see yourself as God sees you when everything in the natural tells a different story. Then, to emphasize His point, God changes Abraham's name. His name was Abram which meant exalted father. God renames him Abraham which means father of many nations. He changes Sarah's name as well, from Sarai to Sarah.


Now, when they speak to each other, they are speaking what God sees! Not only that, the same Hebrew letter was added to both of their names — Hay, the fifth letter in the Hebrew alphabet (alephbet). Among other things, this fifth letter is related to grace. Grace was being added to Abraham and Sarah. It takes faith to believe that, by the grace of God, He sees you as whole, complete and innocent.  When all of these changes happened and Abraham did as God told him — the work attached to his faith—he received the promise.  The promise includes circumcision, a picture that we produce together with God, and we believe God is who He says He is.


We are all given a measure of faith.  What we do with it is up to us.  Faith is a powerful thing, but no faith is more powerful than that which is in God's Word! The supernatural gift of faith comes by the Holy Spirit and frequently is used to believe for someone else's miracle, not necessarily ours (isn't that just how God would work?!)



To listen to the entire sermon go to and click on online media. To learn more about Living Word Ahwatukee, visit