Wednesday, September 25, 2013

West Side Story Part 3

This week, we continued the “West Side Story” series where we are learning about Promised Land living – how we take and keep the territory. In this part, we discussed the trap that the Promised Land itself can become. You see, as we begin to see the fruit of blessing flow in our lives, it is very easy to fall into the trap of the “deceitfulness of wealth.”   Jesus talked about in this in the parable of the sower in Mark 4:19. Jesus did not say to avoid wealth but the deceitfulness of wealth. When we have wealth, we can have a false sense of security or hope in our wealth. We can forget to rely on God.  We can think that we are the source of our own blessing.   When things fall apart, THEN we come back to God. Thankfully, He will never turn you away. But He desires that you not live your life on a rollercoaster of ups and downs. Problems come, but our lives should be generally on a slow, steady upswing as we grow in Him.

What is deceitfulness of wealth?  This is when blessing starts flowing (boom here in 2003-4 is a great example), and we believe that this was blessing flowing (and probably were right).  But then they decide they don’t need God and slowly drift away from the church.  Then all of a sudden we find ourselves having trouble and then become angry with God (as I saw many people do in 2007-2008 when the crash came).

 When Jesus makes this warning, it is to Jews who would read more into it than we might. Hebrew people were very familiar with the history of the Israelites and their journey into the Promised Land. The entire book of Judges shows this cycle the Israelites followed:

1)      God would bless His people

2)      they would eventually fall for the deceitfulness of that wealth and leave Him to serve other gods

3)      they become enslaved by another nation and finally cry out to God

4)      every time He answered with a Godly leader to lead them back to freedom.

5)      Then the cycle would repeat.

This same cycle goes on in our lives. When we begin experiencing blessing, we can fall for the deception that we no longer need God. We stop praying, stop studying the Word, stop going to church, etc.  The promises themselves become our trap – or the enemy uses them as a trap very successfully.  You notice that God still never quits leading us to blessing. He still wants to bless you. But He also wants you to learn WHY He wants you blessed (come back next week for this one).

We looked at Deuteronomy 31:16 and following….We also looked at 32:13 and following.  The blessing can become a counterfeit for trust in God.  I have seen people truly blessed by God, and they thrive in ANY season.  That is what God wants for us.

 In the story of the prodigal son, we find a child who goes to his father to ask for his inheritance. He subsequently squanders that inheritance on worldly lifestyle. When he has lost everything, he gets a job feeding pigs and ends up finally wishing he could even have what the pigs eat. Jesus uses this image for a reason. Again, these were Jews He was speaking to. The imagery of feeding pigs is akin to working for the world (the unclean world). He then desires to eat what the unclean eat. Finally, he comes to his senses and goes back to his father – where he is received and given another inheritance. One thing we can get is that God’s grace and mercy receives us back when we blow it. But the other is that the father never wanted the son to have to go through all that pain to learn that lesson. He never wants us to fall for the deceitfulness of wealth.

 The older brother in the story is akin to the law. The law judged the younger brother, but the father did not. You may not have seen this before, but when you read Luke 15:12 carefully, you find that the older brother got his inheritance as well (just a thought that changes the dynamic of the story a little).

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Wednesday, September 18, 2013

West Side Story Part 2

This week, we continued the “West  Side Story” series – examining Promised Land living on the west of the Jordan. We examined the importance of driving out the “ites” from our hearts (where the Promised Land is for us). The ites represent sin and sinful ways that have been rooted in us that limit us from being productive in the Kingdom.  Numbers 33:55 says that, if we do not drive out all of the inhabitants, they will become barbs in our eyes (causing “vision” problems) and thorns in our sides.

We discussed three examples from the Word of this instruction in practice. The first was with Joshua himself leading God’s people into Canaan. After the victories at Jericho and Ai, Joshua is approached by the Gibeonites, but they didn’t present themselves as Gibeonites. Instead they made themselves appear to be a people from far away who wanted to make a treaty with Israel.  Their story appears to check out so, and this is important, Joshua does not “inquire of the Lord” (Joshua 9:14). We can do that sometimes. We can get overconfident and not stop to ask God for His opinion. Then we make a mistake that can cost us. Remember, God is not leading us to defeat to teach us a lesson. We find defeat by our own weakness and mistakes.

Exodus 34:15 specifically stated that God’s people were not to make treaties with anyone in the Promised Land. If Joshua had asked God, the deception would have been revealed. The Gibeonites end up being an issue for the Israelites on numerous occasions. Joshua might have thought he fixed the problem by making the Gibeonites work for them. That is simply making a deal with and accepting sin.  We can tend to do that. We may have a sin in our hearts that we make a deal with – perhaps even delude ourselves into thinking it is actually a good thing in our lives. Maybe we declare that our anger problem is actually a motivator for us. Maybe we think our gossip problem is not gossip – it’s being helpful in warning people about others. This is a dangerous place to be.


We listed the ites in the Promised Land and what they represent for us:

1)      Hittites—fear and worry—this stops us from stepping out and risking for God

2)      Canaanites—perversion and lust

3)      Amorites—selfish ambition, jealousy, envy, gossip

4)      Perrizzites/Hivites—poverty and lack

5)      Jebusites—worthlessness and low self image

Remember these things aren’t sinful unless we accept them in our lives as how we’re supposed to live.

We also looked at the story of Samson. Samson had a problem with women. Eventually, it cost him dearly. But his problem was not a one-time thing. You see, Samson was a Nazarite. As such, there were three things he was not to do – cut his hair, consume wine or grapes and be near dead things. When we read his story in Judges chapters 14-16 we find he does all three.   He even thought he was getting away with it because nothing bad was happening to him. This is how the enemy likes to operate. You see, God is not punishing you for your sin. But, when we don’t feel like we were punished we can think it was all “ok.” The enemy is the one who comes to collect on your sin. He is not always going to come right away. He likes to wait until the worst possible moment. He likes to wait until you are about to hit a new level in your Christian walk or until you reach a level of great influence. He wants the most bang for the buck.  This is what happened to Samson. Finally, the enemy came to collect. His un-dealt-with sin finally produced after what had been sown. The haircut was not the cause of him losing his power, but merely the final straw.

Finally, we looked at Paul who in 2 Corinthians 12 talks about a thorn in his side (sound familiar – Numbers 33:55???). Many have theorized what his thorn was. Some believe he had a sickness or physical handicap. However, I believe the thorn was a sin. What, Paul struggled with sin? Um, yeah, we all do.  Paul was a student of the law. He knew exactly what he was saying when he called it a thorn in his side. Then he says he asked God three times to take it away. You can’t ask God to take away the sinful desires you have. He is definitely always faithful to take away the penalty of your sin when you ask. But he needs you to do something to remove the desire yourself. The answer is in God’s reply to Paul.

God’s response is “my grace is sufficient.” To me, this proves it was a sin issue. Grace is the prescription for sin. It is not the prescription for sickness or disease--Healing is. Grace is what we need to overcome sin. Let’s not confuse the way we like to use biblical terms with their actual meaning. Some may think God was saying He would give Paul the grace to deal with the ailment.  But, Biblically, grace applies to sin. Titus 2:11-12 says that grace is what teaches us to say no to ungodliness. That is what Paul needed (as so do we). God’s grace would be sufficient to cover his sin and to teach him to sin no more.   Get hold of that grace to help you drive the sin out of your heart.

Three things we need to do to overcome ites
1) Remove the temptation
2) Fast
3) Keep eating Daily Bread (the word)--that way we can replace the problem with the truth

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

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

West Side Story Part 1

This week, we began a new series called “West Side Story.” It is the next section in our spiritual growth process from the captivity of Egypt (sin) to entering God’s rest in the Promised Land. So, we’ve crossed over to the west side of the Jordan River into Canaan and it is time to start taking territory.  Remember that, for us, the territory being taken is our hearts. There are enemies in our heart that need to be driven out so that we will flourish in God’s ways.

 The first enemy to conquer is Jericho. In Joshua 5:13-14, just before God instructs Joshua on how to overcome Jericho, Joshua encounters a mysterious man with a drawn sword. This is the commander of God’s army. Joshua asks him if he is “for us or against us.” The man/angel replies, “neither.” Neither? I thought this was God’s chosen people being led into His promises?  That “sword” is a picture of the Word. The Word of God is neither for you or against you. I know that sounds strange. What about “if God is for me, who can be against me?” Notice that begins with an IF. How do we determine whether God is for us? Actually our thoughts and actions determine it. If we are in agreement with and obedience to His Word, He is for us. He is ALWAYS FOR His will, not yours. When we choose to come into agreement with His Word, He is for us and NONE can be against us!

 Joshua chooses wisely and seeks to know what God’s plan is (and follows it) – making God for him and thereby making him undefeatable. This is why God begins His instruction in Joshua 6:2 by saying “SEE, I HAVE given…” God’s plan will lead us to victory. And actually, through Christ, it already HAS.

 Now, as we have been learning along the way, God’s plan often makes no logical sense. And Jericho is no different. How is marching around a wall going to do anything? Joshua and his fighting men must have had to resist the urge to “help” God with this. After they give full obedience, the wall falls down and Israel is triumphant.

But that is not the giant that had to be defeated. Joshua identified that one. He declares in Joshua 6:17-18 that none of the spoil from Jericho was to be kept. He declared it devoted to God. I’ve read this passage many times and never noticed that it was not God who commanded Joshua to devote Jericho to Him. However, back in Joshua 1:8, as he is taking command of Israel, God instructed Joshua to meditate on the Law day and night so that he would be careful to do all that is in it – thereby making his way prosperous and successful.  God didn’t remind Joshua what the Law said about first fruits. His study of the Law prompted him to know what to do. He knew he wanted the conquering of Canaan to be successful, so he declared Jericho to be first fruits devoted to God.

Then there is the issue of Achan. Achan kept some of the spoils for himself. In the end, he and his family paid the price. But there is an important lesson for us to learn. Before Joshua knew what Achan had done and full of confidence from the routing of Jericho, he sent men to Ai and they were defeated.  It is very easy to focus on the fact that they were defeated because of what Achan had done. But that was not God’s will or Him teaching them a lesson. If you read carefully, God did not send them to Ai, Joshua did. Sometimes we get out ahead of God and fail. God will never send you to defeat. We find it on our own when we step outside His will and He will use our mistakes to teach us. But he will not set you up to lose!

After the issue with Achan was settled, God told Joshua to go to Ai.  He actually used what happened the first time to their advantage and they won easily.   Giving to God is about our heart, not about how much or how often.  It is about us putting God first in our heart.  Then God can provide all kinds of other blessings, once we trust and do it His way.

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