2019 A YEAR OF BUILDING

Are you ready for the year 2019?

The number 19 in Hebrew denotes two things: hearing and faith.

Luke 17:5-10 (NASB)

The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” 

Jesus uses a parable to address the apostle’s desire for increased faith.

And the Lord said, “If you had faith like a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and be planted in the sea’, andit would obey you.

My natural bent toward faith has been that it is a power we exercise. However, I’m learning that faith is more of an expression of dependence and reliance on Him. 

So what is Jesus saying here? How much faith do we need to depend on Him? If you had faith the size of a mustardseed? JUST A LITTLE BIT! That’s all!

 “Which of you, having a slave plowing or tending sheep, will say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come immediately and sit down to eat’? But will he not say to him, ‘Prepare something for me to eat, and properly clothe yourself and serve me while I eat and drink, and afterward you may eat and drink’?  So you too, when you do all the things which are commanded you, say, ‘We are unworthy slaves; we have done only that which we ought to have done.’”

Did you hear what you are supposedto say? We have only done that which we ought to have done. 

Can faith be that simple? Yes. Simply hearing and doing—and while you are doing—expressing dependence and reliance on God. 

These passages fall in line with the number 19: HEARING AND FAITH! 

For Freedom Church, it is going to be a year of building. In order for us to build it will take HEARING AND FAITH! 

I’m not just speaking about our new home at 304 East Butler Road. That will definitely take “a little bit” of faith. 

I’m speaking as well about building people.

Matthew 28:19 (NASB)

Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.

To be honest, we’ve not been called to build buildings, but to build people. 

Our leadership team has been very intentional about how we teach on Sunday mornings. For the past two years, we have taught books of the Bible as opposed to teaching themes. We believe this encourages our Freedom Family to read scripture well.

Another way of making disciples occurs through The River Upstate. The River offers classes that will encourage us to read Scripture well.

I would like to strongly encourage you to prayerfully consider some of the classes offered through The River. Below you will see a description of some of the classes with links to register. All are free.

2019 IS GOING TO BE A YEAR OF BUILDING FOR FREEDOM CHURCH. It is going to be exciting when we begin seeing the parking lot paved, HVAC installed, sheetrock going up, walls painted, doors installed, ceilings added, carpet laid, a stage built, etc. It will be easy to place our focus on the physical.

But the leadership of Freedom Church is committed to keeping the spiritual building as the NUMBER ONE priority, and the physical building of our new home as secondary. We invite you to exercise mustard seed faith as we walk together, listening to Him individually and corporately.

Will you take seriously the importance of taking time to build YOUR spiritual building in 2019?

 Classes at the River:

EXPERIENCING THE PRESENCE OF THE SPIRIT (6 weeks starting Tuesday, January 8th)

Our relationship with the promised Spirit is essential to living out life in Jesus. The Holy Spirit remains unknown for many Christians. To the extent this is true, their experience of life with Jesus is hampered. Although the Spirit is to be experienced in life, the Scriptures provide the only appropriate framework for understanding the new life the Spirit provides, the empowerment He brings, the fruit He produces, and the gifting He provides every believer.

http://www.theriverupstate.org/course/experiencing-the-presence-of-the-spirit/

MARRIAGE: GOD’S DESIGN FOR THE FOUNDATION (Thursday & Friday, February 7th & 8th)

This two-evening intensive will explore the Biblical picture for a God-designed marriage. Whether you’ve been married for a long time, considering entering into marriage, or have just begun the journey, clarity about God’s design for the foundation for marriage is critical. Even with great tools for building the relationship, if the foundation for the marriage is not secure building well will be an ever-increasing challenge.

If you have already attended this class we encourage you to invite another couple to attend with you.

https://www.theriverupstate.org/course/marriage-gods-design-for-the-foundation/

READING SCRIPTURE (6 weeks starting Tuesday, February 26th)

This is a sixweek course to enrich your ability to read and understand the Bible. Rather than starting with what you don’t know about reading the Bible–which is where many Bible study books begin–this course starts with what you already know about reading and applies it to reading Scripture. Coupled with “lab time” where you will experience the joy of personal discovery in reading Scripture, this course will forever change the way you read the Bible. 

https://www.theriverupstate.org/course/reading-scripture/

WISE MEN STILL SEEK HIM?

Wise people behold HIM..png

Our Christmas series at Freedom is called A NON-Traditional Christmas so I would like to share some NON-Traditional passages that I hope will make this Christmas much more special.

The passages come out of Luke 17:11-21. Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem when he is approached by 10 lepers. They stood off at a distance and raised their voices to him and said, “Have mercy on us!” 

Notice what Jesus doesn’t do. He doesn’t go over and lay his hands on them.

He doesn’t say, “Be healed!” He tells them to go show themselves to the priest. Being a leper and going to show yourself to the priest was protocol in order to be proclaimed clean. 

As they were on their way, they realized they were healed. One of the lepers returned to Jesus, fell at his feet, thanked him and GLORIFIED God. 

Before we continue with this passage let’s backtrack into Luke’s writings. Follow the momentum that Luke carries throughout this book. Luke keeps highlighting the Kingdom of God. 

  •   Jesus sends out 12 disciples to proclaim the Kingdom of God and heal the sick. 

  • Jesus sends out 72 of his disciples to heal the sick and say the Kingdom of God is near you.

  • Jesus teaches them to pray, “Your Kingdom Come!” 

  •   Jesus says to seek first the Kingdom.

  •  Jesus says it is the Father’s PLEASURE to give you the Kingdom.

People getting healed is one way that indicates God’s kingdom is near. Heaven is actually breaking into this earth when someone is healed.

Let’s get back to the lepers. One leper returns to Jesus after being healed. He falls at Jesus' feet. He thanks Jesus. And he glorifies God. The Pharisees are present during all of this. They have seen time and time again God’s Kingdom breaking in--but look at what they ask Jesus.

Luke 17:20 Now having been questioned by the Pharisees as to when the kingdom of God was coming,

Wow! After seeing others healed and demons being cast out they still ask Jesus when the Kingdom of God is coming.

A friend recently explained it like this. The Pharisees are looking for the wrong thing, so they don’t see the right thing!

Listen to what Jesus says. 

Luke 17:21 “For BEHOLD, the kingdom of God is in your midst.”

Is it possible that the Pharisees saw the kingdom of God, but didn’t see the kingdom of God? 

Is it possible that we see the kingdom of God, but we don’t see the kingdom of God? 

I think this is a culmination of Jesus bringing to a conclusion of what the kingdom of God ultimately looks like. It’s not only about someone getting healed, but the person getting healed responding to God.

THE LEPER’S RESPONSE TO THE EVIDENCE OF THE KINGDOM WAS TO GLORIFY GOD!

Ten lepers that were healed, but only one responded. Jesus said, “BEHOLD THE KINGDOM OF GOD IS IN YOUR MIDST!” 

SO… this Christmas as you look at a manger scene do you REALLY SEE? When you look at the manger scene do you SEE or do you BEHOLD? Do you BEHOLD the glory of God? 

You see…WISE MEN DON’T SEEK HIM, BUT WISE MEN BEHOLD HIM!

This Christmas I’m going to take a moment to be intentional. While activity is going on around me I’m going to STOP, SIT BACK and be a FLY ON THE WALL just for a moment!

  • I’m going to watch my children and my grandchildren.

  • I’m going to cherish the personalities that God has already formed in Elise & Charley.

  • I’m going to remind myself of the times God has redeemed my family.

  • I’m going to think about how blessed I am as a husband.

I’M SIMPLY GOING TO PAUSE AND TAKE A MINUTE OR TWO TO BEHOLD THE KINGDOM OF GOD THAT IS WORK IN MY FAMILY. WHAT WILL MY RESPONSE TO THAT BE?

My encouragement to everyone is to take time this Christmas to do some BEHOLDING! Allow the Spirit of God to point out the kingdom that is at work in your loved ones.

HAVE A VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS!

** Kudos to the Tuesday morning Bible Study on the book of Luke and The River Upstate for the content of this blog

WHO DO YOU SAY THAT I AM?

One day when Jesus and the disciples were in Caesarea Philippi, he asked them “Who do people say the Son of Man is? “Their reply was “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others Jeremiah or one of the other prophets.” 

Over 2,000 years ago, people were wrestling with answering this question. And people are wrestling with this question today. Not just unbelievers, but believers as well. 

I love what Jesus does next. Jesus gets to the heart of the matter.

Matthew 16: 15 (NIV) “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”

That’s the question we all must answer, “Who do you say that I am?”

THE STRUGGLE IS REAL

The struggle is real, but the real question is do we recognize how real the struggle is? Sometimes without really knowing it, we can have bad definitions of God. These bad definitions can come through life experiences or bad doctrine. It can happen to the best of us. 

·       The Children of Israel thought God had brought them out into the desert to kill them. (Deut 1:27)

·       Gideon thought God had abandoned them. (Judges 6:13)

Maybe you have never had the thought that God was trying to kill you, but for many, there have been the thoughts of “God, where are you?”  “Don’t you care?”

Bad definitions of God! The struggle is real.

THE STRUGGLE IS ALSO INTENTIONAL

The struggle is intentional on two fronts. Front one…

Did you ever stop to think about the first encounter Eve had with the serpent? 

God tells Eve not to eat from the tree in the middle of the garden or you will die. Satan comes along and tells Eve that if she eats from the tree she won’t die. What are the implications of that statement? God’s not being truthful with you. Bad definition of God.

The serpent didn’t stop there. He tells Eve that God knows that if she eats from it then her eyes will be open and she will be like God. What are the implications from that statement? God is not being a very good God. He’s just trying to withhold something from you that is good for you. Bad definition of God! 

This causes Eve to see God differently, think about God differently and respond to God differently.

Front two…

Jesus’ time here on earth is winding down. He tells the disciples to go to the villages and heal the sick and say to the people, “The Kingdom of Heaven has come near you!” He tells them not to take their staff, money, food or a change of clothes.” Later on he does the same thing when he sends out the seventy-two. Don’t take your staff, money, food or a change of clothes. 

That’s pretty risky if I must say. Imagine going to a town where you don’t know anyone and you are instructed not to take any money with you. Talk about really learning to trust God.

What was Jesus’ purpose? His purpose is the disciples need to TOTALLY be dependent on God.

You see knowing who God is intentional on two fronts.

The struggle is real. The struggle is intentional.

THE STRUGGLE IS ALSO TOUGH

“THE REALITY OF OUR KNOWING GOD ALWAYS RISES TO THE SURFACE IN THE MIDDLE OF…”

In the middle of what? In the middle of the…. STORM!

Jesus tells the disciples to get in the boat because they are going to the other side. They get in the boat. Jesus falls asleep in the back of the boat. A storm comes up and the disciples are in fear for their life. What is the first thing they say to Jesus?

DON’T…. YOU…. CARE?

Don’t you care that we are getting ready to die? Have you ever felt like God didn’t care? That’s a bad definition of God. 

Jesus calms the storm. And what comes out of the disciple’ s mouth? WHO…. IS…. THIS… MAN? They are learning who this Jesus is the hard way!

The reality of our knowing God always rises to the surface in the middle of….

·       …in the middle of the storm

·       …in the middle of tragedy

·       …in the middle of unanswered prayer

·       …in the middle of lack

·       …in the middle of feeling like you lost the battle

·       …in the middle of someone else’s prayer being answered, but your’s is not

·       …in the middle of your battle being more difficult than someone else’s

·       …in the middle of your best friend dying

·       …in the middle of your reputation being drug through the mud

·       …in the middle of (you fill in the blank)

The reality of our knowing God always rises to the surface in the middle of…

SO HOW DO WE KNOW IF WE HAVE A BAD DEFINITION OF GOD?

Have you ever been discouraged? Have you ever been frustrated? Discouragement and frustration are like the warning lights on the dashboard of our car. They are warning you that you really don’t know God.

If we really knew who God was then we would never be discouraged. I know you may be thinking that is impossible, but if we really, really, really, really knew that all things work together to those who love God and are called according to His purpose then there would be no reason to be discouraged. 

Our struggle is real. Our struggle is intentional. Our struggle is tough. 

OUR STRUGGLE ONLY BECOMES POWERLESS THROUGH REVELATION!

When Jesus asks the disciples, “Who do you say that I am?” Peter responds by saying, “You are the Messiah! The Son of the living God.” Then Jesus says…

Matthew 16: 17 (NIV)“Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven.

You can’t get it by reading a book. You can’t get it by someone telling you that God is good! You have to get it for yourself.

My son Nate had a basketball injury his junior year in high school. His desire was to play basketball in college. During that time the junior year was important in the recruiting process. He finds out that this injury was going to keep him from playing possibly the whole season. He was discouraged to say the least. He shared his discouragement with his mother one evening. He proceeded to go into his room after the conversation. My wife Lisa’s heart was breaking for him. She wanted to follow him into the room to give him some encouragement and as she put her hand on the doorknob God said, “He’s mine!” She slowly took her hand off the doorknob and backed away. Nate pick up his guitar and began playing and singing some worship songs. The next morning when Nate came out of his bedroom he had a smile on his face and said, “I met God!” 

Peter had a revelation of who God was. Nate had his own revelation of God. You and I need a revelation too! 

The struggle only become powerless through our own personal experience of God revealing Himself to us. 

At Freedom Church we have four core values!

·       KNOWING GOD

·       EXPERIENCING FREEDOM

·       DISCOVERING PURPOSE

·       MAKING A DIFFERENCE

Knowing God is the most important one because it drives all the others. At Freedom Church we place a high value on Knowing God. Bad definitions of God causes us to respond to Him in unhealthy ways. It is our prayer at Freedom Church that each of us have an experience where God reveals himself to us in REAL way!

We hope that by reading our blog or listening to our messages on our Core Values that you would begin to experience God in a special way!



FROM SPIN CYCLE TO RINSE CYCLE

Have you ever said or heard someone say, "I need a vacation from my vacation."

That tells us one thing.  We don't know how to rest well! 

I don't think as believers we truly understand the concept of REST and the Sabbath!  In Genesis 2:2-3 it said that God completed His work in six days and He rested on the seventh day.

God did not rest as one who is weary, but as one who was well pleased.

Archibald Hart in his book on Adrenaline and Stress made this statement.  

" People in a hurry don't allow time for their complex minds to become revitalized.  So they accelerate the wear and tear on their bodies.  THERE IS NO TIME FOR CONTEMPLATION!

Since God didn't rest as one who was weary what did He do?  He contemplated.  He saw what he created and He was well pleased.  But God didn't just contemplate on the seventh day. He contemplated on the second day, third day, fourth day, fifth day.  On each day after creating something God SAW that IT WAS GOOD!  On the sixth day He SAW that it was VERY GOOD!

Then He SAW something that wasn't good.  He SAW that Adam was alone. So He brought the animals to Adam to SEE what he would call them.  Then he SAW that among the animals there was not a helpmate suitable for Adam.

God had a regular rhythm of contemplation.  In fact when He told His people to work six days and rest on the seventh day He told them to CONTEMPLATE on the seventh day!  

Deuteronomy 5:13-15  Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your ox, your donkey or any of your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns, so that your male and female servants may rest, as you do. 

Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the Lord your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. 

Therefore the Lord your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day.

Rest involves the mental as much as it does the physical.  

Our struggle as believers is that we constantly have UNHEALTHY contemplation.  All you have to do is drive on Woodruff Road for some UNHEALTHY contemplation. 

SO WHAT DOES HEALTHY CONTEMPLATION LOOK LIKE?

The best way to have HEALTHY CONTEMPLATION is to think God's thoughts. Ask yourself these questions?

  • What does God think about my spouse?
  • What does God think about my boss?
  • What does God think about my co-worker?
  • What does God think about my circumstance?
  • What does God think about my spiritual development?

The only way to think GOD THOUGHTS is to think about what GOD THINKS!

Philippians 2:5 Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.

Rest is not just physical. It is mental as well. That's why...

  • Even when we do take a day of rest we still find ourselves stressed at the end of the day.
  • Even when we do take a day of rest we still are full of anxiety at the end of the day.
  • Even when we do take a day of rest we are still discouraged at the end of the day.
  • Even when we do take a vacation we need a vacation from our vacation.

Why?  Because rest is all about the mental as well as the physical.  The only way to get mental rest is to be sure we are thinking what God thinks.  

  • Do you want to have peace instead of anxiety?
  • Do you have joy instead of discouragement?

The only way to have peace and joy is to think what God thinks.  Isaiah 26:3-4 puts it best.  

You will keep him or her in PERFECT PEACE whose MIND is STAYED on THEE!

Our mind is in a constant spin cycle thinking all kinds of thoughts.  The problem is most of those thoughts are not God thoughts.

My encouragement to all of us is do develop a healthy rhythm of contemplation. Intentionally think God thoughts. Wake up a little earlier each day and spend fifteen minutes thinking God thoughts.  When you go to bed spend another fifteen minutes thinking God thoughts. And on your Sabbath day spend more time thinking God thoughts. 

Before you know it you'll find yourself going from the SPIN CYCLE to the RINSE CYCLE! 

The key to rest is developing a healthy habit of thinking God thoughts as you rest physically and that must be a daily habit.

 

IT'S LAB TIME

Websters dictionary defines laboratory as any place, situation, set of conditions, or the like, conducive to experimentation, investigation, observation, etc.

In the book of Luke we see Jesus saying things to the disciples and as soon as he tells them the disciples find themselves in situations or conditions where they have to live well into their faith. In other words they immediately find themselves in a LAB!

In Luke 9:1  Jesus gave the Twelve power and authority over demons and to cure diseases. Then he told them to go announce and preach the kingdom of God and to bring healing.

In Luke 9:3 Jesus tells them when they go out not to take anything with them.  I mean nothing.  Don't take your walking stick, your wallet.  Don't take any food.  Don't even take any extra clothes.

In Luke 9:5 he tells them whenever they go anywhere to preach the gospel and people do not receive, don't welcome you to shake off the dust from their feet.  In other words just move onto the next village. 

As soon as Jesus tells them these things they find themselves in a lab. 

FIRST THING JESUS SAYS IS GO PREACH AND HEAL. 

LAB #1 They went out and preached and came back and reported to Jesus all the things that they had experienced. Whoo hoo! How exciting is that? This experience had to build up their confidence.

LAB #2 Jesus comes down from having a conversation with Elijah and Moses and is approached by a father who has a son that is possessed by a devil. He convulses and foams at the mouth. He says to Jesus, "I implored your disciples to drive it out AND THEY COULD NOT."  Jesus rebukes the unclean spirit and the boy is healed.

LAB #3 Jesus and the disciples go to Bethsaida.  The crowds follow them, Jesus welcomed them, talked to them about the kingdom of God and healed those who need restoration and health.  While this is occurring the disciples are observing.

SECOND THING JESUS TELLS THEM WHEN THEY GO OUT IS NOT TO TAKE ANYTHING WITH THEM.  

LAB #4   While they are in Bethsaida the disciples bring to Jesus' attention that the people needed to be sent away so they could eat and find lodging for the night.  Jesus said, "You feed them."  All they had were 5 loaves and two fish.  By the time Jesus blesses the food, feeds over 5,000 people they have 12 shrimp baskets left over. Hmm! 12 shrimp baskets. Who do you think the 12 shrimp baskets were for?  Can you say lab? Sure, Jesus provided a miracle for the people, but I think this was a lab for the disciples.  I think it was Jesus' way of teaching them while you are going from village to village I want you totally dependent on me for your provision.

THIRD THING JESUS TELLS THEM TO DO IS WHEN THEY GO TO A VILLAGE AND THEY AREN'T WELCOME TO MOVE ONTO THE NEXT VILLAGE

LAB #5 Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem for it was time for the Son of man to be delivered into the hands of men.  I love this!  He sent some of the disciples ahead of him to a Samaritan village to make arrangements to spend the night.  Believe it or not the people did not welcome them! The Amplified bible says the people would not welcome, receive or accept them.  Can you say lab? What did Jesus say earlier?  When you walk into a village and they do not receive you shake the dust off your feet and move onto the next village.  Look what James and John some of his closest disciples say, "Jesus, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to consume them." They totally missed an opportunity to live well into their faith. Jesus responds to them, "You do not know what spirit you are."  Then it says, and they went to another village!

We are finishing up a series on the book of James.  James tells us to count it all joy in VARIOUS KINDS OF TRIALS. Many of our people are gong through their own personal trials.  it doesn't seem to be any different for us a a church. Can you say lab? 

This past week I received a call from one of the employees at the Ray.  She notified me that the people installing the new gym floor were being sent home.  The reason was that there was water under the gym floor and they had to get that problem solved before they could install the floor. The challenging thing is they have no timeline as to when the problem will be solved. This means we will have our services upstairs and moving our Freedom kids to a different location in the building.  That was a little unsettling for our kids last week. 

When the disciples could not heal the boy they had an opportunity to live well into their faith.  When Jesus tells the disciples to go from village to village and not to take any money or food with them they had an opportunity to live well into their faith.  When they were not received at the Samaritan village they had an opportunity to live well into their faith.  Some times they lived well and  some times they didn't.

We find ourselves as a church at a place where we have an opportunity to live well into our faith.  We find ourselves at a place where we choose to live totally dependent on God to meet our needs.  

What we are experiencing is just a "blip" in the journey of life.  Let's totally rely on God, count it all joy in our trials and live well into our faith.