Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Is This It? Part 5

We again continued in our “Is This It?” series. What we looked at this week was the next important lesson that must be learned in the wilderness to equip us for Promised Land living. We have to learn to live within God’s boundaries.   I know you thought we were one of those “living by grace” churches (and we are), but grace does not eliminate the Law. It merely ensures that we are no longer justified before God by our ability to keep all the rules.

In Exodus 20, about 90 days after leaving Egypt, God begins giving Moses the Law for His people to live by. This starts with the 10 Commandments. The first three directly relate to our relationship with God. The fourth is about keeping the Sabbath (entering His rest), and the remaining six instruct us on our relationship with others.   

We can line this pattern up with Jesus’ response in Matthew 22:36-40 when He is asked which is the greatest commandment in the Law. He says that the most important thing is to love God with all your heart (commandments 1-3) and follows up by  saying the second command is like the first – to love others (commands 5-10).  You see, in the Old Testament, without the cross, man needed a list (a long one at that) of rules to tell him how to love God and love others. Now, we have the Holy Spirit to lead us into all truth. All we need to do now is to love God and love others.

 But there is a reason God brings the rules and boundaries to His people then and wants us to live in them (the two Jesus mentioned) still today. He does this to differentiate us from the world – to set us apart. If you live by loving God and loving others, you will stand out in this world quickly. In John 13:35, Jesus says that the world will know we are His disciples not by our squeaky-clean image and living by all the rules, but by our lifestyle of loving God and loving others.  1 Peter 2:9 says that we are supposed to be a peculiar people. That doesn’t mean we’re supposed to be weird and fruity. It means we live by love. Look around the world today. Living by love is quite a peculiar thing indeed.

 In all of this there is also a trap that the enemy likes to set. He likes us to, in our desire to do what is right and see others do so as well, get us to create our own rules. Jesus fulfilled ALL of the Mosaic Law, but had no regard for the man-made rules. When the religious leaders confronted Him about His disciples not properly washing their hands, He pointed out that it is the inside that needs to be cleaned. The hand washing rules were man’s rules.  I am not talking about the rules of the land or rules of the road when I say man-made rules. I mean things like how long your hair can be, how long a skirt must be, who can come into your church, etc… These are rules we’ve come up with to try and “help” people be more “holy.” They are oppressive and miss the point. Love God! We don’t need a list to tell us how to do it. Love others without a list of rules. Let the Holy Spirit lead you, and others, to truth.



 To listen to the entire sermon go to  To learn more about Living Word Ahwatukee, visit

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Is This It? Part 4

This week, we continued the series, “Is This It?”. In this part we discussed another of the wilderness traps we need to learn to avoid. This trap has to do with having the correct priorities for our lives.
Most of us would easily name the top priority (our relationship with God), but we get into a trap when the enemy convinces us  to include things in that top priority that do not belong. He also likes to trap us into miscategorizing other priorities – or simply getting them completely out of order.
Matthew 6:33 tells us to “seek first His kingdom.” When we have the priority right, we can then expect “all these things” to also flow in our lives. Notice that it also does not say seek ONLY His kingdom. There are dreams and desires in your heart that are okay to pursue and work toward, but do not let them become what you seek FIRST. The reality is that those true heart’s desires you have are likely to have been placed there by God anyway. When you seek Him first, He’ll come along side you and help you achieve those things.
So, the first priority is our relationship with God. What is the second? It is family and life obligations. After that comes ministry and purpose/dreams. One of the traps I alluded to earlier was that sometimes we confuse and combine relationship with God and ministry. They are not the same thing.
We cannot adopt an attitude that if we get immersed in doing God’s work that He’ll just take care of all our responsibilities – like our families. God has equipped you to do both! Moses learns this lesson in Exodus 18.
In Exodus 18:2-3 we read that Moses sends his wife and two children to go stay with her father, Jethro. This is presumably because he is so busy with attending to the needs of the people that he has no time to care for his family.
A few verses later we read that Jethro brings them back. He is essentially saying, “No way. This is YOUR responsibility, not mine. I already raised her. Now she’s yours.” But what is Moses supposed to do? He has millions of people looking to him for direction and for him to speak for God.
Jethro takes a look at how Moses is doing things. He asks Moses why he is doing everything alone while all these other people are just standing around all day. He goes on to give Moses a lesson in leadership and delegation. Jethro recognizes that if Moses continues to act as he is, he will fail his mission and his family.
Moses takes Jethro’s advice and organizes, delegates, and sets up structure and a chain of command. Then Jethro goes home – without Moses’ wife and kids. Mission accomplished.
Now, there is an interesting thing to understand about Jethro. He is not an Israelite. In fact, he is a Midianite high priest. He sacrifices to idols. Why would Moses receive any guidance from a wicked idol worshipper? Why? Because he was right!
God can use all kinds of sources to bring truth to our lives. Certainly the Bible is our first source, but not our only one. There are a lot of people and books out there who have a lot of knowledge that can help us. As long as that knowledge is not in conflict with the Word in any way, it is good. Understand also that Moses did not ask for or receive any spiritual counsel from Jethro. That would be an area in which Jethro’s knowledge would not be true wisdom. Moses demonstrated a humble, teachable spirit.
Another thing to keep in mind is that when we either become first born again or when we hit new, exciting levels in our Christian walk, there is a zeal that drives us to the bigger things that God has for us. You should never  allow the enemy to use that zeal against you – to get you to neglect what you’ve already been given to do.
Luke 9:61-62 illustrates this. Many have ready this passage and believed that Jesus was telling this man that, to follow Christ you must be willing to leave your family without even saying goodbye. Jesus was actually saying quite the opposite. You see, when Jesus uses the example of a plow and a field, he does so intentionally. These are images and symbols in the Word for your family – the field you have sown into and continue to work.
What Jesus is actually saying is that you are not worthy to come follow Him if you would walk away from the field you’ve been given the responsibility to take care of. You already have a field to plow – your family. Don’t walk away from them in your zeal. Jesus is telling the man that he does not have the freedom to just walk away and join Jesus’ ministry. Maybe you don’t have a family to care for, but maybe you do have responsibilities that it is not okay to walk away from just because you are excited about what God has for you in the future. Be faithful with what you have now, and God will add other things when it is time and you are ready.
To listen to the entire sermon go to  To learn more about Living Word Ahwatukee, visit

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Is This It? Part 3

We continued this week in our series, “Is This It?” where we have been discussing the wilderness lessons that must be learned in order to be prepared for life in the Promised Land.
Before we got into this week’s lesson we pointed out a couple traps that are common for us to fall into while in the wilderness. The first is grumbling and bitterness. Three days into the process, the Israelites began grumbling and complaining. The word used in Exodus 15:24 to describe their grumbling was the Hebrew word, luwn. It means to grumble and complain, but it also means to dwell and abide.
We all speak out of frustration sometimes. But do not fall into the trap of becoming one who dwells and abides in grumbling and complaining. The solution that God gave was to have Moses throw a piece of wood (representing the cross) into the bitter water at Marah (meaning bitter) to make it sweet so that the people could drink and stop complaining.
We can see the bitter water as other people – even in the church. What we must do is apply the cross, or grace, to others so that we learn to see them as God sees them. If we become grumblers and complainers about the problems in others in the church, it will drive us out instead of in. Sometimes we need to remember that if everything around us stinks, we need to remember the common denominator – us! Maybe we need to change our outlook.
The next trap was the relapse. When we left Egypt (became born again) we left the life of sin. However, that doesn’t mean we no longer sin. Out nature changed, but our flesh still needs work. After we become followers of Christ and leave the sin life we will still sin – sometimes big time. Are you then just a hopeless sinner?
The answer to that question comes from the fact that you even ask it. You see, the way you know you ARE different is that you now feel this thing called guilt. Before you were saved, there was no guilt when you sinned. Guilt can be good. It is designed to give us that bad feeling that we would like to not experience again – thereby driving us further from the sin in the future.
Guilt can malfunction. When it does, it drives us away from God. We step away from His grace and feel unworthy. This will cause us to either live a lowly, condemned Christian life or simply give up and go back to sin. Instead we need to use it to inspire us to overcome.
Now, the lesson… This one is related to the manna that God provided to the Israelites in the wilderness. There were certain rules associated with the handling and consumption of the manna. One is that , except for the Sabbath, it could not be kept overnight. It could not be stored up. There was fresh manna every day. We need fresh Word every day.
You see, the Word is our bread. Jesus is the Word become flesh (John 1:14). He tells us that He is the bread of life. In Matthew 4:4, when tempted in the WILDERNESS, he quotes Deuteronomy 8:3 in saying that we do not live by physical bread alone, but by every Word that proceeds from the mouth of God. You need Word every day! Just Sunday or every other Sunday or… well, you know, is not enough. You don’t have to be a Bible scholar. Just a couple minutes in the Word every day will bring tremendous spiritual nourishment to you.
The second part of this lesson is that you need a shepherd. You see the word manna, in Hebrew, means “what is this?”. You need the shepherd to tell you what it is. You need a teacher. Of course Jesus is THE shepherd. By the Holy Spirit He will reveal all truth about the Word. We realize that just knowing WHAT the Bible says is not enough and can lead to a lot of misunderstanding. We need teachers to help us learn and divine the Word rightly.
This does not mean every teacher, even the really good ones, are always right. You still must have the Holy Spirit help you sort it all out. But the church pastor has a job given by God to do the best he or she can to teach the truth of AND about the Word. The pastors are not the actual shepherds. They just work for him. This is another reason to get and stay connected to a good church.
 To listen to the entire sermon go to  To learn more about Living Word Ahwatukee, visit