Therefore vs. Nevertheless

As we study verse by verse through the Bible at Awaken, we often take a few moments to focus in on just 1 word or phrase that sheds new light on the passage.

Therefore…

One word that has come up a lot recently is the word “therefore.” Therefore is a foundational word that builds what is about to be said on the foundation of what’s already been said. We’ve seen it in Joshua, James, and Romans recently. In each case, the author/speaker used God’s faithfulness and goodness as the foundation by which to command obedience. “God has done all of this, therefore…

Nevertheless…

On Sunday, I taught a follow-up message to our study through Joshua. I called it “Prone To Wander,” based off that famous line from Come Thou Fount. The idea was that although Joshua ended on a high note of commanding and committing to faithfulness, Israel quickly began a downward spiral into sin and compromise.

“Nevertheless” works differently than “therefore.” Nevertheless starts from scratch and completely bypasses the sinful behavior that was mentioned.

The difference between the 2 words played out perfectly in Judges 2…

So are you a “Therefore” or a “Nevertheless”?

Meet Bella

I had the incredible privilege last weekend to teach in place of my pastor, Skip Heitzig, at Calvary of Albuquerque. It was my home church for many years, the place where I got my first job in ministry, where I learned what it meant to be a pastor, and where I grew to love coffee…so it obviously holds a dear place in my heart.

I taught a message from Joshua 6 about Israel as they marched around Jericho, called “When A Battle Isn’t A Battle.” The driving point was simple: a battle isn’t a battle when God has already determined the outcome. That’s exactly what He had done with Israel and its exactly what He’s done with us. The cross and the empty tomb stand as perpetual reminders that we fight from victory, not for victory!

In the final 2 services, I felt a heavy desire from the Lord to give an invitation to those who needed to commit their lives to Jesus. Calvary is a huge campus, so in addition to the 2,000+ people jammed in the sanctuary, there were hundreds of people in the overflow building behind us, plus many in the courtyard outside, in the balcony, as well as watching online and listening on the radio. I called people to come from wherever they were to join us in the sanctuary to publicly commit their lives to Jesus. People streamed down the aisles at both services, and some even came in the back doors as pastors ushered them in from elsewhere. It was an incredible sight.

This is where Bella comes in…

Apparently a lady who had been in the courtyard at the 11:15 service had also brought her dog, Bella. When I gave the invitation to come forward, she was so impacted by God’s pull on her heart, that she found the nearest pastor (in this case, Jesse Lusko), and requested a quick dog-sitting favor. Bella’s master wanted to meet her Master!

So of course Jesse obliged, and hung out with Bella, while her owner (I don’t know her name) walked into the main building, in tears, to commit her life to Christ!

Bella’s owner was just 1 of 35 people that weekend that made decisions to follow Jesus! It was incredible! I loved seeing people of all ages and ethnicities stream down the aisles. There was even a whole family that came forward. I later got a Facebook message from a girl who had brought a friend with her that she had been sharing the Gospel with for a long time. It was his first time to come to church with her, and it will hopefully be the first of many. There he was, covered in tattoos, with tears running down his cheeks. There’s something so great about tough guys crying as they realize their need for salvation!

Over all, it was an incredible weekend. I got to hang out with my dad a lot, which was great. I saw lots of old friends, and as always, was highly encouraged to see many of my former middle school students who are now serving the Lord, leading small groups, leading worship, and much more. I can truly echo John’s words when he said, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth” (3 John 4).

If you want to watch the message, click HERE.

Also, as a little bonus, a good friend of mine, Pastor Chris Norman, from Kingsfield Church, taught for me at Awaken. You’ll definitely want to watch his message by clicking HERE.

Confidence vs. Arrogance

We’re 19 weeks into our study through Joshua so far. It’s been amazing. I was praying that by the end of our study, we’d have to split to 2 services. That happened before we got to Chapter 6! The book has been an amazing glimpse at what a strong leader and a united army can do as they take bold steps of faith together. Although Israel had its downfalls throughout the book (Ai & Gibeon), over all, they’ve remained united, dealt swiftly with sin, and trusted God for the impossible.

The book has been inspiring to the whole church on many levels, but it’s also been inspiring to me as a leader. Joshua was an amazing man of faith. His trust in God’s faithfulness and ability to provide and protect inspire me to greater faith as a leader. His flock was 1.5 million and mine is about 150, so what I do is on a bit of a smaller scale, but very practical nonetheless.

One thing that has stood out to me throughout our study thus far is that Joshua wasn’t arrogant, he was confident. There’s a big difference. Arrogance is pride, but Joshua’s confidence came from faith.

Joshua didn’t march into battle priding himself on what a great military leader he was (although he was an amazing leader), he marched into battle knowing that he served a great God! He didn’t trust in swords, but in his Savior. I think David’s words in Psalm 20 sum up Joshua’s M.O. quite well…

“Some trust in chariots, and some in horses; but we will remember the name of the Lord our God.” – Psalm 20:7

Although the enemy was huge and the odds seemed impossible, Joshua had confidence in the God of the impossible. That confidence enabled him to lead his people across the flooding Jordan River, around the walled city of Jericho, against armies with an innumerable number of soldiers, and even to pray that God would make the sun stand still in the sky.

Arrogance in yourself doesn’t pause the sun, but confidence in the Lord did. There’s a big difference.

We have to be careful to discern between arrogance and confidence in our own lives. As we march forward and encounter obstacles and enemies along the way, who and what are we trusting in? Are we marching forward because we’re good at what we do, a strong leader with great ideas, have a big budget or a big following, etc., or is it because of a mandate from the Lord?

If God is for us, who can be against us?

However, the reverse is true as well. If God is against us, it doesn’t matter who is for us!

1 Peter 5 says that “God opposes the proud.” Arrogance will turn God against you, but confidence in Him and His plan is the way to go.

Compromise elsewhere?

You may have seen this commercial for Boar’s Head turkey lunch meat…

Did you catch the last line of the commercial? “Boar’s Head Oven Gold Turkey: Compromise Elsewhere.

It is a funny commercial, and they certainly have a point – nobody wants to eat turkey meat with fat and seaweed extract in it. The irony, however,  is that we live in a culture where a commercial promoting uncompromising purity in lunch meat may air right before a commercial for Desperate Housewives or on the same channel as a company promoting pornography.

Although Boar’s Head didn’t set out to encourage infidelity in marriage, the commercial highlights our misaligned priorities.

Where along the way did we begin to think that it’s ok to compromise in marriage and sexual morality, but not when it comes to lunch meat? I’d say if we needed to pick an area of compromise, it would obviously be the lunch meat (although I’m not recommending seaweed turkey).

In the last week at Awaken Church, the topic of spiritual battles and Satan’s clever schemes has come up a lot. Whether it’s through his lies and trickery (Joshua 9) or his constant bombardment of temptation through any means possible (James 1:12-18), Satan is on the prowl, and we need to be prepared.

If a faithful walk with Christ had a slogan, it could be summed up well by saying, “Compromise NOWHERE.”

Remember this: The best possible life you can live is a life of complete surrender to Jesus Christ.

Compromise and complacency always lead to regret and guilt. As Warren Wiersbe put it, “Satan never gives any gifts, because you end up paying for them dearly.”

If there’s an issue that is causing compromise in your life, TODAY is the day to deal with it. Don’t let it go on a day longer. God has provided a way of escape from every temptation and right now is the time to say, “NO!”

Compromise NOWHERE.

Call it what it is!

I ate at a Chinese buffet a few days ago – I love Chinese food. As I browsed the buffet, I filled up my plate with some fried rice, an egg roll, some honey chicken, then I came to the next dish. It looked like some sort of chicken on a stick, but I didn’t know for sure what it was. So I checked the label on the glass and found that they had created a very clever title for the unknown dish. They called it: “Chicken On A Stick.” Clever, right? No need to disguise it or fancy it up – it’s chicken, and it’s on a stick. There’s no need to call it anything else!

One thing that I love about the Bible is its brutal honesty. It’s not afraid to call sin, “SIN,” even when no one else will. We’ve come up with all these clever, politically correct terms to disguise sin: “sexual orientation,” “disease,” “generational curse,” and so on. The Bible looks at each of those cleverly disguised issues and calls them “SIN.” There’s no need to call it anything else.

We need that honesty from Scripture. Too many people are on a hunt for a feel-good, pat-on-the-back mini-sermon from the Bible, and although you will find endless encouragement from God’s Word, it will also convict, direct, and confront. And that can get a little uncomfortable.

On Sunday, we took an unapologetic look at Scripture’s blatant honesty as Joshua and Israel stood in the wilderness reading out a list of blessings and curses that would come as a result of obedience or disobedience. I refuse to apologize for Scripture’s honesty. In fact, I told the church that if they were looking for a candy-coated, watered-down, non-offensive version of the Bible, they’d have to pull out a Yellow Pages and find a new church. That’s not what Awaken is all about.

God’s Word is the primary tool that He uses for spiritual renewal. I refuse to dilute its potency based on whether or not someone will get offended. The truth is that God’s Word is offensive. Get over it.

In our own lives, we need to get used to calling sin what it is. Don’t come up with a clever disguise or excuse for it. It’s sin and it is the reason that Jesus went to the cross. Recognize God’s hatred of it and your need to get rid of it!

And if you’re wondering how long you should wait to begin obeying, here’s the answer: not one more second. Obey RIGHT NOW.

 

If you missed Sunday’s message or you’d like to watch again, here it is…

Score One for the Bible

Yesterday at Awaken, we finished up Joshua 6 – the “battle” of Jericho. It was an exciting morning as we recognized God’s power over the impossible enemies and obstacles in our lives. The very walls that once prevented Israel from entering Jericho eventually enabled them to climb the hill and take the city!

Below is the video of the message if you’d like to watch.

Also, in the 11am service, I mentioned a news article from TIME magazine, written in 1990, that pointed to the archaeological proof behind the fall of Jericho. Any time a secular source admits that the Bible is true, pay attention and tell somebody! If you’re interested in reading the article, click here: Score One for the Bible.

When preaching gets a little awkward

Last Sunday we had a full house at Awaken and quite a few new faces…then I told them what I was teaching on: circumcision. I was trying to think what it would be like to show up to a church for the first time and repeatedly hear the words “circumcise,” “circumcised,” “circumcision,” and “foreskins.” One word kept coming to mind: awkward.

If you think it’s awkward to hear it, try teaching it. It’s not exactly the most comfortable of topics.

One thing that marks Awaken Church is expositional Bible teaching. I teach a series every once in a while (even then, I teach expositionally through the text), but I prefer to take a book of the Bible and teach straight through it, verse by verse. It allows God’s Word to really come alive in a unique way and speak exactly what needs to be spoken when we need to hear it. It also forces me to teach texts that I probably wouldn’t normally choose to teach.

Last Sunday was one of those days as we came to the topic of circumcision in the book of Joshua.

So Joshua made flint knives for himself, and circumcised the sons of Israel at the hill of the foreskins. – Joshua 5:3

I’ve taught about a lot of memorable hills/mountains in the Bible: Mt. Ararat, where the ark came to rest; Mt. Sinai, where God met with Moses in the wilderness; Mt. Carmel, where the epic battle between Elijah and the prophets of Baal took place, but I’d never (until Sunday) taught about the “hill of the foreskins.

Although the words and the topic can potentially be a little awkward, there was also deep spiritual truth and application as well. Circumcision was an outward sign that this generation of men were ALL IN – committed to serving the Lord. Even though some would shy away from the topic, we embraced the spiritual application of it and I even called people to make their own stand for Christ.

My take-away from the message: I’d teach about circumcision again. I’m not scared. It’s God’s Word.

Because that generation of men stood for the Lord and were willing to go through some pain to prove it, and because I taught the text even though it was a little awkward, and because people stuck around to hear the message…

1 girl gave her life to the Lord for the first time,

2 women rededicated their lives to Christ,

About 80 Christians stood to their feet at their chairs as a visual sign that they are ALL IN!

I’d say it was worth the awkwardness.

Here’s the message from Joshua 5 called “Under the Knife”