You have heard it asked before, “What's in a name?” Last week at a girls' softball game I overheard one of the girls saying “It's hilarious, you look like your name.” It reminded me of the recent emphasis I have been sharing of the importance of identity. When our identity is secure in Christ and growing more fully in that understanding, we are in a healthy place to move forward into our world and His assignments for us. Jacob looked like his name as the story of his life of scheming, supplanting, deceiving and manipulating unfolded in his early years. When he met the messenger of the Lord and struggled with him until daybreak, he confessed his true identity and in that instant, the angel of the Lord said, “your name shall no longer be Jacob, but Israel”...a prince having power with God.
On Sunday, October 6, I shared regarding the direction of a name change. For the past three years, I have sensed that our name, Valley Harvest Church, needed to be changed to better reflect the growing identity we have been experiencing, identifying and building. Since this is a very significant step in the life of a church, I have not been in a hurry. I am not a first born, and I tend to weigh things out for awhile before acting.
Over three years ago, I had a conversation with Dutch Sheets about possibly using their name Freedom Church, because the dynamic of freedom is so powerful, comprehensive and expressive, that it carries a lot of life with it. He said, “go for it.” Well, that was three years ago. Since then the elders and I have discussed it without any sense of critical timing....other priorities were before us like launching “Freedom Kids,” paying off the church mortgage – financial freedom, and having our leaders become trained in Sozo, a ministry that is focused on personal freedom.
In the fall of 2012 Dr. Hope Taylor was ministering here on Sunday morning. As we were driving to lunch he said, “I almost gave a word to the church that I felt that a name change was coming and that it had to do with freedom.” All of us in the car just smiled and looked at each other and confirmed that we were sensing the same thing. In a recent conversation he recalls thinking then that a name change with “freedom” would be a more accurate identity and more contemporary.
On March 17 this spring a small group of our leaders were in Zanesville for a Sunday night county-wide prayer event with Dr. Tim Sheets. I have assisted in a number of these over the past years. As we were in worship, I believe the Lord stirred the thought of “gate” in my mind as a significant and possible part of our growing identity. In 2008 there was an abundant emphasis on gates...I am sure I could resurrect a number of sermons with that theme. It was an election year and the church in the nation would play a pivotal role on who would govern at the gates of our nation and in our states. Unfortunately, much of the church in America checked out. I believe it was in that year also that an intercessor, Kim Patterson, gave me five gates. I recently brought them from our mantle at home to the fireplace mantle in the lobby. During that year and in the ensuing years, Marian has led our intercessory team to strategic gate places in our city, our adjoining counties, and places in the state. We have also joined national leaders in this type of intercession. As a body, we have been walking in an increasing revelation of gates.
When Nehemiah discovered that the walls of his city were torn down and the gates were burned with fire, he went from being a cup bearer to the king to a governor/builder in Jerusalem. The first work was the restoration by the priesthood of the sheep-gate. The sheep-gate gave access for the sheep and lambs used for sacrifice....worship. In essence, they first restored the gate that fueled their worship. I really like that! That's who we are and what we do...worship the Lamb who is enthroned as King as first priority.
Another important point that I shared on Sunday has to do with plateaus. A plateau is a level place that extends for awhile. When I have climbed Mt. Katahdin in my home State of Maine, it is always refreshing to get to the plateau they call Chimney Pond. I still remember taking my “girlfriend” Stephanie there in 1984. We sat on a boulder on the shore of this pristine spring fed mountain oasis as we considered the future. At a plateau there is refreshing from the climb, an incredible view, and a few moments to savor the accomplishment. In business, a plateau is a place to develop what has been gained by hard work, research and development and a time to build resources. It is also a time to prepare to go to the next level. I believe it is the same in the Kingdom and in the church.
On September 1st Pastor Rick Jolliff said to me during Sunday service, “Something has shifted here.” He went on to speak over us that “this place will see all kinds of healings, physical and emotional...this church will be paramount and will be used by God especially during worship.”
Five Freedom Gates
This year I have been sharing out of Luke 3 & 4 what I understand as five steps that Jesus walked through. 1. He was identified by the Father at His baptism, “this is my beloved Son.” 2. He was affirmed by the Father....”in whom I am well pleased.” 3. He went directly into the wilderness andcontended with the devil. 4. Jesus later goes to Nazareth, enters the synagogue, picks up the scroll of Isaiah, reads the prophet's words in chapter 61 about His assignment and confirms that He was the fulfillment of that passage. 5. Jesus goes on into full activation of His ministry.
I would like to submit to you from observation that this five fold pattern released freedom at every step and provided the grace and strength for Jesus to advance into full activation of His calling. It is a process of growth that is ongoing and a healthy cycle of repetition. There is more to be said here in the future.
I believe that as a church, we have the audacity, the confidence, and the resolve that we can not only lead others to Christ, but through a freedom journey that propels them into their destiny and into the culture. They will be equipped, anointed and empowered to change their world. This is a biblical discipleship process and it is currently in development in our leadership. I am excited to see a model emerge that is intentional, spiritually dynamic, and produces freedom. This is a discipleship mandate that we are calling “Last Command” in this year's upcoming missions conference.
Jacob had a God encounter early in life as he was running from home. He had a spiritual dream and the Lord spoke a powerful promise to him. Jacob declares, “This is the house of God, the gate of heaven.” The process of change began in this gate place. Like many people today, there was a long season of delay in Jacob's spiritual growth. But it was reaffirmed and reignited when he returned to the gate place in his life.
Jacob got a new identity, affirmed by a new name, because he was willing to contend with his own nature...(that was the angel's job..wear him out till he got to the truth). Jacob crossed the river and confirmed his transformation when he said to Esau “I see your face as one who sees the face of God.” This began a new chapter of activation of his legacy.
It is interesting that we have just recently entered the Hebrew year 5774. Ayin Dalet. The Hebrew numbers also have a picture associated with them. Ayin is eye and Dalet is the door or flap of a tent. Abraham went through the door (gate) of his tent and looked out at the vastness of the stars as the Lord spoke to him to look to the heavens. It was there again that God reaffirmed his covenant with Abraham. (Gen. 15)
As we advance into this new season, I believe this: we will see the gates the Lord is opening to us, the gates He is calling us to possess and govern, and the gates He wants closed and new levels of freedom and growth for the body and the region.
We haven't posted any signs by the road yet or changed our tiny little ad in the yellow pages...but as a body we are endeavoring to discern the heart of our Father....so we can declare together “it seemed good to us and the Holy Spirit.” We want to apprehend all that we have been apprehended for!
At the end of the message on Sunday, there were four or five that came forward to share some level of confirmation of what I had shared. We will get that to you in another email.