Tuesday, October 21, 2014

DETOX: Flint Knives and Foreskins


We are in week #5 of DETOX
In week one, we taught you about the value of truth in your life.
Sometimes we need an intervention to wake us up and bring healing
in our lives by turning to God.
In week 2, we saw that being aware of the truth is only half the battle…
It’s application of the truth that sets us free.
On week 3, we spoke about the value of detoxifying our hearts, by giving
our time, talent and treasure fully to Him.
Last week, we learned how our minds can help us overcome the toxic
culture around us.

Blessing comes when you accept responsibility for the truth God reveals! Curses are the result of ignoring the truth.

This is the last installment of our DETOX message series as we follow the story of the children of Israel in the wilderness!!

Turn to Joshua 3…

The children of Israel have been delivered from Egypt to the bank of the Jordan River after 40 years in the wilderness.

Early the next morning Joshua and all the Israelites left Acacia Grove and arrived at the banks of the Jordan River, where they camped before crossing. Three days later the Israelite officers went through the camp, giving these instructions to the people: “When you see the Levitical priests carrying the Ark of the Covenant of the LORD your God, move out from your positions and follow them. Since you have never traveled this way before, they will guide you. Stay about a half mile behind them, keeping a clear distance between you and the Ark. Make sure you don’t come any closer.” Then Joshua told the people, “Purify yourselves, for tomorrow the LORD will do great wonders among you.” (Joshua 3:1-5 NLT)


Today I want to give you three phases on the road to recovery.

Phase #1- Leave your Shittim Behind!
The name of the Acacia Grove was "Shittim"

Turn to Philippians, chapter 3...
12 I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. 13 No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.
Philippians 3:12-14

If we never leave where we are, we will never go where He leads.
They might have sat there forever overwhelmed
by what was in front of them.

“The first step toward success is taken when you refuse to be a captive of the environment in which you first find yourself.”
~Mark Caine

Confession and repentance is a first step to your best days!

The beginning of the final step of purification started when they left their Shittim behind…

Now turn a couple pages to chapter 5 as we pick the story up again on the other side of the Jordan.

FAST FORWARD the story through the crossing of the Jordan and the memorial stones to the re-establishment of the covenant and circumcision.

At that time the LORD told Joshua, “Make flint knives and circumcise this second generation of Israelites. ” So Joshua made flint knives and circumcised the entire male population of Israel at Gibeath-haaraloth. Joshua had to circumcise them because all the men who were old enough to fight in battle when they left Egypt had died in the wilderness. Those who left Egypt had all been circumcised, but none of those born after the Exodus, during the years in the wilderness, had been circumcised. The Israelites had traveled in the wilderness for forty years until all the men who were old enough to fight in battle when they left Egypt had died. For they had disobeyed the LORD, and the LORD vowed he would not let them enter the land he had sworn to give us—a land flowing with milk and honey. So Joshua circumcised their sons—those who had grown up to take their fathers’ places—for they had not been circumcised on the way to the Promised Land. After all the males had been circumcised, they rested in the camp until they were healed. Then the LORD said to Joshua, “Today I have rolled away the shame of your slavery in Egypt.” So that place has been called Gilgal to this day. While the Israelites were camped at Gilgal on the plains of Jericho, they celebrated Passover on the evening of the fourteenth day of the first month. (Joshua 5:2-10 NLT)

Phase #2- Flint Knives and Foreskins
This is where the obedience factor comes into play.

Things didn't get easier for them when they crossed over to their promised land, they got harder, but God was re-establishing relationship with a whole new generation of Israelites who didn't know what it meant to be set apart, holy and detoxified when it comes to the world around them!

Follow-through with the things God says to you, even if they are painful!

We aren't required to circumcise our physical bodies because of Christ's new Covenant, but our hearts must be "circumcised" to God's purposes, just the same.

What do you need to follow through on? What has God asked you to do that is still undone?

Phase #3- Say goodbye to Shame

Then the LORD said to Joshua, “Today I have rolled away the shame of your slavery in Egypt.” So that place has been called Gilgal to this day. (Joshua 5:9 NLT)
Galal means "to roll upon God..."

It's not enough just to roll our shame away, we need to roll our shame onto Christ, the Lamb of God.

When they obeyed God in this final phase, He rolled away their old, shameful identity as slaves and identified them as His own.

Where are you still identifying yourself as a slave, when God has made you free?

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Walking Out a Miracle: The Power of Prayer

On August 25th, I set out with a group of church planters and bikers on an exciting 7,000 mile, church planting road trip that would take us from Pennsylvania to Seattle and back again. We set off with the goal to encourage church planters all around the nation to make the leap into starting a new, local church. Two days later, on August 27th, our goals became very different as we found ourselves praying for God to spare the life of our friend and pastor, Gerry Stoltzfoos. A semi-truck had pulled out in front of him across three lanes of traffic leaving him in the ER of a Chicago area hospital.

The morning of the accident, we had split up (as any Scooby Doo gang would) to complete some repairs on one of the other bikes that was having trouble. Gerry had gone to the local motorcycle dealership to pick up a part that we need to finish the repairs, but as we waited for Gerry to meet up at the agreed upon rendezvous, we began to be concerned. We began tracing any possible route Gerry might have taken because we had no idea where he might have gone and with God's help, we came upon an intersection filled with police cars where we found his bike, lodged under a tractor trailer. Gerry had already been taken by ambulance to the hospital and we were given very little hope for him.

But we serve an amazing, miracle-working God who began doing miracles left and right as His people began praying!!

The night before his accident, I felt impressed to snap a picture of each of the riders that were on the trek with us. In Chicago’s setting sun, I snapped a picture of each bike and rider. I managed to capture an epic picture of Gerry riding his signature Harley with his finger pointing directly at the camera. Little did I know that that picture would become a flash point for so much prayer in the days and weeks of recovery that laid before him.

I recall that my very first discernible prayer was “Please God, don’t let that picture be the last picture of Gerry on earth!” I believe God took that prayer very seriously as those first few moments passed. Within minutes, family and church staff were notified of the accident and in a very short matter of time, people all across the country began to lift Gerry up in prayer with great passion and precision!
Julie, his wife hurriedly joined us in Chico and kept a constant prayer vigil at his hospital bedside. His immediate family quickly followed Julie and the remainder of what came to be called, “The Furious Five” stayed on to assist Julie and the Stoltzfoos family with encouragement and care. I cannot adequately describe the intense reality of living under the prayer covering all of you were producing in those days directly after the accident, but each of us knew that God was restoring Gerry with miracle after miracle. Each day brought encouraging news in spite of the possibility of long term brain injury.
The picture I had snapped quickly made its rounds on Facebook as people posted and reposted it as a reminder to pray for complete healing. Many churches in Gettysburg prayed together for Gerry the following Sunday morning and his own church family and network, Freedom Valley, organized an overnight prayer vigil to cry out for the completion of Gerry’s healing and restoration, physically, spiritually and mentally.
I am pleased to report that as of the end of September, Gerry received a clean bill of health from his physicians and is back in the pulpit, teaching God’s Word with passion and integrity! It is my conviction that without the prayers of God’s people, the outcome could have been very different.
James 5:16 assures us that, “The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.” I had the privilege of having a front row seat for a spectacular show of God’s power that came through the earnest prayer of all you righteous people out there and I will never stop thanking God for the wonderful results those prayers produced. 

On behalf of Gerry, the Stoltzfoos family and every Freedom Valley Network pastor and partner, allow me to say thank you from the bottom of our hearts! 

Monday, October 6, 2014

DETOX: The Heart

This is week #3 of DETOX
In week one, we taught you about the value of truth in your life.
Sometimes we need an intervention to wake us up and bring healing
in our lives by turning to God.
Last week we saw that being aware of the truth is only half the battle…
It’s application of the truth that sets us free.

Blessing comes when you accept responsibility for the truth God reveals! Curses are the result of ignoring the truth.

Today, we want to use that truth as a jumping off point for today’s lesson…

If blessing comes when we accept responsibility for the truth God reveals, why is it so hard to apply the truth to ourselves?

Scripture says that it has everything to do with the condition of our hearts.

9 “The human heart is the most deceitful of all things,
   and desperately wicked.
   Who really knows how bad it is?”
Jeremiah 17:9

MAIN THOUGHT: We must learn to lead our hearts, not be lead by them.

So how do we train and lead our hearts towards health and God’s purposes for our life?
It actually happens in a very interesting way...

“Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.”
Matthew 6:21

In other words, Jesus is saying that you can tell a lot about a your heart by looking at how you spend the commodities of your life!

The Time-Talent-Treasure Dashboard
When we drive we react to what our dashboard is telling us about the car we are driving.

There’s a gauge for fuel, speed, RPM, etc…

Our heart has a dashboard as well and it measures how we use our time, talent and treasure!

Time is the only thing we can never get back.
Talent is what we spend our energy on.
Treasure is our wealth or means.

In the same way, we can look at the dashboard in our heart and make the necessary adjustments to the way we drive our lives.

Generosity should be the driver of our hearts and we can detoxify our hearts by leading it to giving as God prescribed.

POINT #1- Start by contributing 10%
You must set aside a tithe of your crops—
one-tenth of all the crops you harvest each year.   V. 22

Honor God with the first 10% and you can trust God with the other 90%

God gives it a number so that we can be clear about it.
God doesn't say, "if there is enough left over". Do it first.

10 Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so there will be enough food in my Temple. If you do,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, “I will open the windows of heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great you won’t have enough room to take it in! Try it! Put me to the test!
Malachi 3:10

POINT #2- Contribute to the God-community He places you in
23 Bring this tithe to the designated place of worship—the place the Lord your God chooses for his name to be honored—and eat it there in his presence. This applies to your tithes of grain, new wine, olive oil, and the firstborn males of your flocks and herds.
Deuteronomy 14:23

The first part of your generosity should go to the place you worship God.
It should be shared in community with others!

Consumer or Contributor?
God established the tithe so we could understand the value of moving
from a consumer to a contributor and that change starts in the
God-community He places you in!

This is why many of us have a hard time fitting in. We are consumers everywhere we go...including our church.

God imagined His house as a place where everyone would be a contributor, not just a consumer!

Giving either works or it doesn’t!
Tithing is like training wheels. It helps us see that giving works!

POINT #3- Contribute to the highest value
Doing this will teach you always to fear the Lord your God.
Deuteronomy 14:23b

The tithe trains our heart to trust God and not worry. When we give God control of our finances, it becomes His responsibility, not mine!

The highest value is not greater wealth, it’s knowing God more closely.

The highest value in our lives determines what we spend our time talent and treasure.

What is the highest value in your life?

The bottom line is actually determined by the top line...consider tithing.