Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Is This It? Part 2

This week, we continued our series, “Is This It?”. Now that we have left Egypt behind, we need to get to learning our wilderness lessons so that we will be ready to enter the Promised Land.  As we’ve previously discussed, how long we live in the wilderness is entirely up to us. The vast majority of Christians never go beyond the wilderness – even if they think they did.

We looked first at attributes of wilderness dwellers:

1)      Blames God for all their problems

2)      Lacks resource to help others (not just finance, but love, health, joy, etc)

3)      Live crisis to crisis

4)      Continually switches focus

5)      Judgment toward others

6)      May understand purpose but lacks resource and focus to realize it

We know that the Israelites spent 40 years in the wilderness. Is that how long it is going to take us? Actually the Israelites had an opportunity to cross over into the promised land after a few days less than 1 year and 3 months – or roughly 445 days. Unfortunately they were not ready and spent the next 38 plus years getting ready (by having the “unbelieving” generation pass).

There are six lessons or areas of growth that we must develop in during our wilderness time. This is not about making God happy so He’ll let us into the Promised Land. If we do not learn these lessons we will not succeed in the Promised Land.  The first generation of Israelites who could not go in because of their unbelief had the same God and the same power available to them to overcome the giants in the Promised Land that Joshua’s generation did – they just simply did not believe.

 The first lesson we must learn is the importance of the Word. This is illustrated in the Israelite’s story by the need for water (for the Word is a spring of living water). The first instance is in Exodus 15. Three days of travel and searching and they have not found any water. When they finally do, the water is bitter and undrinkable. The people grumble and complain, but God provides.  He instructs Moses to throw a piece of wood (symbolic of the cross) into the bitter water (the world and our old ways). The water becomes sweet and drinkable. Ironically we see that they find 12 springs of water in a place called Elim just a short time later. This was only about seven miles from where they nearly gave up and chose to either die of thirst or go back to Egypt. Did God know water was only seven miles away? Of course He did. But He meets the people where they are. They have been slaves for ten generations and know nothing of trusting God. So, He provides (we’ll see that He begins to expect more of them as they go).


The next time was in Horeb (which is also the place where God spoke to Moses in the burning bush). This time God tells Moses to strike a rock and water flowed from the rock. The rock is a picture of Jesus – THE rock. The water that flowed is a picture of the church. You see, water is good and there are a lot of places you can get water. But this truly vital water flows from the church. 

In Genesis 2:21, we see that Adam’s bride was taken from his side. Jesus is the second Adam and when He was on the cross and His side was pierced, the blood and water flowed that was the birth of His bride, the church.  Water flows from Him to His bride – us. But we need to be connected to His church to get this vital water. Again, there are a lot of great places to get good Word. You can watch a teacher on TV, read a book, read your Bible at home, etc… I see those things as “long distance relationship.” You can have a long distance relationship that is good and beneficial. Many military families will have a spouse away for months at a time and still manage a good relationship.   However, it is impossible for that couple to “produce fruit” (if you know what I mean) unless they are together. Unless you come to His house it is hard to produce the kind of fruit He wants to produce in you.

 You see, YOU are not His bride. The CHURCH is His bride. Unless you get connected to the church you will not be able to produce His fruit. I know you can argue with me that people do a lot of great things for God outside of church. But, until you get connected and produce fruit right from the source, you won’t know how much GREATER that fruit could have been.  The church is not the SOURCE of the living water. It is, however, the distributor of the water. It is where it is flowing from. Get connected to it!



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

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Is This It? Part 1

This week, we  began a new series called, “Is This It?”.  Now that we have left the captivity of Egypt we enter the wilderness. Wait a minute, I thought God promised milk and honey? He didn’t say anything about desert.


Isn’t that how God works sometimes?  He shows us the picture of where He wants to take us but seems to leave out everything in between. That time in between is the wilderness, and it is an important part of the process. But before we enter the wilderness, there is a transitional time. In the story of the Israelites, that transition as the crossing of the Red Sea.


We talked quite a bit about this in the last part of the Freedom series, but there is still more we need to see. The times of transition are important in that they prepare us for the next season.  Success in the new season requires us to leave the old season behind. The crossing of the Red Sea was symbolic of leaving the sin and slavery mentality behind. Those ways of doing things will not serve you well in the next and other future seasons.  You will not succeed in the Promised Land with sin mentality. This doesn’t mean that you never sin again. It is about a changing of your heart. You must grasp and accept the grace of God or risk falling back into Egypt every time you mess up. And the enemy will be all too happy to help you forget about grace and fall into condemnation.


Paul covers this in Romans 7:15-20. He describes the separation that must take place in the believer. Are you still going to sin? Yes. But you must not identify with sin. That is your flesh. But, when you are born-again, you are actually a spirit being who lives in a fleshly body that also has a soul. The sin comes from the soul and body fulfilling its desires. But you are now spirit and are continually learning how to live as such. Identifying yourself as a sinner will keep you in Egypt – where sinners “belong.”


Now, the wilderness is an important part of the growth process. In Matthew 4, after Jesus is baptized, the Spirit leads Jesus to the wilderness to be tempted by the enemy. Yes, the Spirit led Him. The temptation does not come from God, but from the enemy. The Israelites were also led to the wilderness by a pillar of cloud and pillar of fire (both symbols of the Holy Spirit in the New Testament).  Why does God lead us to the wilderness? It is a time of learning to trust in Him. Until we learn to do so, we will not succeed in the Promised Land. If we cannot trust in God, the enemies in the Promised Land will overpower us.


First, we need to rewind back to the crossing of the Red Sea – that is a symbol of the Jewish Feast of Atonement (as the exodus was a picture of the Passover Feast). In Leviticus 23:29, God says that those who, during the Feast of Atonement refuse to deny themselves would be cut off. The King James version says to be afflicted of soul (mind, will, emotions). You have to deny the soul what it wants to do in order to truly trust in God.  Jesus, upon entry to the wilderness, fasted for 40 days (denied self). He goes on to say in Matthew 16:24, that we must deny self and take up our cross and follow Him. Keep in mind, He hadn’t gone to the cross and those around Him wouldn’t have had the same image that we do. But the cross is about purpose. It is not our purpose to go to the cross. But we all do have a God-ordained purpose that we must deny ourselves, trust in Him (as Jesus had to do) and pursue with all diligence. That requires a denying of self.


From all of these images we can see that, on the surface, the wilderness can appear to be a place where God is leading us to defeat. But nothing is further from the truth. Denying self and remaining obedient during our time there ensures complete and total victory!

Freedom! Part 3

This week, we wrapped up our “Freedom!” series. We’ve finally left the captivity of Egypt – or so we think we have.  It is actually difficult to leave the slavery of Egypt. You would think that the Israelites would have RUN out of Egypt when the opportunity arose, but there is a reason they didn’t. They had been enslaved for 430 years, and it had been many generations since any of their ancestors had known anything but captivity. It may not have been a pleasant life, but it was safe and secure. It was a known commodity. Fleeing was a step into the unknown and into uncertainty.

God had Moses inspire them with the image of the Promised Land – a land flowing with milk and honey. That may not sound appealing to us. As a parent of small children, I could use a little less milk and honey in my house. But there is a bigger picture. The word for milk in Hebrew was chalab. It literally meant to suck the milk of nations. That is quite an image. Think of a nursing baby. Has that baby had to do anything to enjoy its nourishment? No, mom has. The baby simply eats. Deuteronomy 6:10-11 talks about enjoying cities we did not build and wells we did not dig.  This doesn’t mean we don’t work, but we follow God’s way diligently, and then things we didn’t even put in the work for will be given to us.  We seek God, and we are given more.  This is not money falling from the sky, but labor multiplied through God’s blessing.

Honey represents the delicacies of nature. In other words, the good things of this life – sensual pleasures, even! (Wait a minute! We Christians aren’t supposed to have those things or even admit we want them, right?) Actually, God wants you to have those things – just so long as we have them HIS way. For example, sex is not a bad thing and we should desire it – with our spouse alone and with no one else. Food is good for nourishment and even pleasurable at times, yet we should not abuse it or make a habit of eating poorly.  There are sensual pleasures there for us to enjoy (food, sex, etc), which if we do it God’s way we will truly enjoy them and all their benefits, blessings, and results.  We also need to develop character to prepare us to handle the blessings God sends properly.

Next, notice that God did not tell them about the wilderness and the many battles facing them in the Promised Land. Why? Well, for one, who would have left what they knew for a promise that was going to require a lot of danger and work to obtain? It is also true that, when we truly know God and His character, that the obstacles between us and His promises are irrelevant. If God promised it, then He is going to help us get over any obstacles in the way.  That’s really all we need to know. 

So, you finally decide to leave Egypt. For us that means leaving the old, sinful nature behind. That can be hard because it has been all we know. But even when we make the decision to leave it behind, it’s not over. Just like with the Israelites, Pharaoh is going to chase you. Your sinful past is going to try and pull you back in and it is so easy to just go back.  As an example, make a decision to leave lust behind and suddenly every person of the opposite sex is flirting with you (or, so you think anyway). Decide to stop the partying lifestyle and you will get invited to the party of the century – as the guest of honor. Pharaoh is not going to let go easily.  Sometimes we try to leave but we end up there still.  We will be tempted to go back to slavery.  Some never leave Egypt and many keep trying to go back.  Sometimes the work we have before us seems to hard, but remember it’s not our job to do it but God’s.  We have to keep remembering why we want to move forward and trust God to take us where He wants us to go. 

When God had the Israelites leave Egypt He took them in what seemed to be the wrong direction, but He had a plan. He then had them pop a u-ey (U-turn) making it look to Pharaoh like they were lost. That was part of the plan too. Then, they found themselves pinned – a mountain on one side, the Red Sea on the other and Pharaoh and the Egyptians bearing down on them.  It looked bleak. The Israelites were angry with God and angry with Moses. They believed they might be better off back in Egypt as slaves than dying here. But God answered their cry in an interesting way. He reminded Moses that he already has the authority to win in this situation. God has given him the special staff. That staff was his authority. God, basically tells him to stop crying and use the authority he has been given. Now authority only goes so far. The authority is not what will save you. It is the power that you have the authority to use – and that power is the power of God.

 We see in Exodus 14 that, if we take that authority to use the power we can literally destroy that power of sin that is chasing us down so that we “never see it again.” We may not have the power to do the things God gives us to do, but we DO have the authority.

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

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Freedom! Part 2

This week, we continued the series on Freedom. In this series we are talking about being set free from the bondage of sin just as the Israelites were set free from the slavery of Egypt.  When God delivered them He was taking to a place He had promised to them 17 generations earlier through Noah and again just 7 generations earlier to Abraham.
Then how did Israel end up as slaves in Egypt? To understand this, we need to know a little history. Abraham had his promised son, Isaac. Isaac then had a son named Jacob, whom God renamed Israel. From Jacob came 12 sons and each was the father of one of the 12 tribes of Israel. Of course, we know that those sons sold one brother, Joseph, into slavery – ultimately to Egypt.  Eventually Joseph rose to second in command of all of Egypt. When the famine that he foretold when interpreting Pharaoh’s dream came to pass, he reconciled with his family and brought them from where they lived, Canaan (the land that was promised), and into Egypt, where there was food at the time.
Two generations and a different Pharaoh later, the Israelites were slaves to Egypt.  This slavery continued for 430 years until Exodus 3, when God spoke to Moses in a burning bush. He told Moses that the time has come and that He has heard the cries of the Israelites.
 Why did it take 430 years? Why did God wait so long? The question might be more accurately posed as the following: why did the Israelites wait so long? Based on 2 Chronicles 7:14, we know that when God’s people humble themselves and cry out to Him, He promises to answer them. There is a tremendous amount of evidence that shows that the tendency of the Israelites, when times were hard, was to call God out instead of calling out to God. They grumbled and complained and accused Him of wanting to destroy them. Perhaps it took nearly 10 generations before they finally humbled themselves and cried out (and ten kings/Gods over Egypt, all corresponding to the 10 plagues in number).
 God saw their situation, but did not move until they asked Him to. That is the character of God that you can see in the Word, cover to cover.  So, how does He deliver them? In Exodus 12, after 9 other plagues (in which God always the Egyptians a way out, mind you), the 10th and final plague comes. This is the plague of the firstborn. The firstborn of all men and livestock would be wiped out by this plague. But God made a way for His people.  He told them to sacrifice a perfect and spotless lamb and wipe the blood on their doorposts. This would make the plague “pass over” their home. This is where the term comes from, the first Passover.
God told Moses in Exodus 12:14 that this day was to be a memorial feast passed on for generations to come. And it has been passed all the way to us – for we celebrate Easter on that very same day (according to the Hebrew calendar).  Hopefully you can see the picture God paints for us. The Passover protected God’s people from the plague and it ultimately bought their freedom from Egypt. The blood of Jesus (the perfect lamb who was slain on the Passover!) protects us from the death and destruction of the sin of this world and it buys us freedom. Hallelujah!
However, freedom is just the first step. As believers in Christ, we are all free. But how many of us are still sitting in a prison cell with an open door? Stepping out of captivity seems like the goal, but its uncertainty and risk can seem daunting. Captivity is difficult, but at least we know what to expect. Stepping out into freedom is a risk – but one that God has promised to strengthen us to do.
 To listen to the entire sermon go to http://ahwatukeechurch.com/ and click on online media.  To learn more about Living Word Ahwatukee, visit http://ahwatukeechurch.com/.