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.

 

 

IS YOUR HAIR ON FIRE?

Seems like everybody's hair is on fire these days. People are becoming angrier and angrier.  Not just outside the church, but inside the church. Not just unbelievers, but believers. What are we as believers suppose to do with anger? We are taught how to manage our anger, but scripture tells us to put anger away. 

This past Sunday we invited Brian Onken of The River Upstate to Freedom Church to speak on the topic of anger. If you did not make it then you missed the best message I have ever heard on how to put away anger.   Here are some of the quotes from his message.

Rejoicing in the midst of trials is an indicator that we are living well into our faith.

There is one indicator that James weaves throughout his letter that is an indicator that you are not vigorously living well into your faith as well as you could - anger.

But I don't have full blown anger, I'm just a little peeved, frustrated, upset.

There are books in the Christian world on managing your anger.  There are churches that hold anger management classes.  That would be like having an adultery management class.  As long as we find the right way to manage and express those urges it will be ok. 

Anger is evidence that you’re living naturally.  Anger is suppose to be put away yet we try to manage anger thinking that this is a healthy thing. 

James writes, "What’s the cause of quarrels and what’s the cause of fights among you?"  Wouldn’t it be great to know that answer?

It’s like the dashboard light that comes on in your car. You’re driving in your car and the light comes on.  That’s not just a random event.  The light is calling your attention to something.  You shouldn’t tape over the brake light if it bothers you.  You should be going, “Oh, that’s an indicator that something is out of wack.”

When anger comes up in your soul even if it is a low level anger that is an indicator that something isn’t right. You’ve got a goal. Someone gets in the way of your goal.  The source is in you.  We take our anger out on that person who gets in your way of our goal. 

Anger is an indicator that I’m living for a goal that Christ doesn’t necessarily guarantee me to achieve. 

James says it is the passions in us.  What he is trying to tell us is that maybe our problem is what we want, what’s in you, what you desire, what you are going after. 

I tend to go for things that I think I need, the things that I desire, the things that I want.  I’m not looking for the Father to provide them. I’m looking for you to either help me get there or for you to get out of the way so I can get there. 

If I'm going after something that God intends for me and God wants for me then no one can get in the way of it. 

My anger, your anger is the emotional warning light that comes into our souls that indicates that I’m living for my own desires.

My goal is not to get Chris (Brian's son) in the bed by 8:00. My goal is to help Chris understand how life happens.  My goal is to teach you rather than trying to get you to do what I want you to do. 

Ask for goal replacement therapy. 

When you realize you there is anger, that my anger has everything to do with me then I must be living for something that God doesn't guarantee for me. I’m not dependent on the Father.  I’m dependent on somebody else and they are not falling in line. 

Lord there must be a different goal that you have in mind for me

Again, this is probably the best message I've ever heard on the topic of anger.

  • My encouragement to those who heard the message. Listen to it over and over again!
  • My encouragement to those who didn't hear the message. Listen to the message by clicking the link below.
  • My encouragement to those who know of someone who has some anger issues. Send them this blog post.
  • My encouragement for those who want to attend Brian's class on the topic of anger scheduled for Thursday, July 12th from 6:30 - 8:30  Go to https://www.theriverupstate.org/course/dont-manage-your-anger/ to sign up for the class.
  • My encouragement to those who sign up for the class.  Take someone with you.

Want to be set free from anger?  Scripture says if you know the truth then the truth will set you free!

A MOTHER'S DAY MESSAGE FOR EVERYONE

Imagine for a moment that you are Moses and God has just informed you that you will not be going into the Promise Land.  You are standing before the people and this is your last opportunity to speak to them.  What would you say?

There are four pivotal elements that Moses gives to the people that enable them to possess the land God is giving them.

Deuteronomy 4:1-2  Now, Israel, hear the decrees and laws I am about to teach YOU. Follow them so that YOU MAY LIVE and YOU MAY GO IN and YOU MAY TAKE POSSESSION of the land the Lord, The God of your ancestors is giving YOU.

PIVOTAL ELEMENT #1  - God has a path for your life.

As parents, as grandparents and as church leaders we have to be sure our children, our grandchildren and the next generation know that God has a path for their life.   It is something we need to be sure we emphasize over and over again.

Deuteronomy 4:3 You saw with your eyes what the Lord did at Baal Peor.  The Lord your God destroyed from among you everyone who followed the Baal of Peor, but all of you who HELD FAST TO THE LORD YOUR GOD are still alive today.

PIVOTAL ELEMENT #2 - Hold Fast To The Lord

What is Moses communicating here?  "Hey, some of the people that started out with you didn't make it this far.  There were some of your friends who were on the same path with you, but when times got tough they didn't hold fast to the Lord."

We must prepare our children, grandchildren and the next generation as we are on the path that God has for us there will be right turns, left turns and U-turns.  There will be times that we take one step forward and two steps back.  It is during those times that we must be sure that our faith is in God. We have to know that we know that although it doesn't seem like you are making progress God will take you to your destination.  It may mean going around the mountain just one more time. 

Deuteronomy 4:5-6 See, I have taught you decrees and laws as the Lord my God commanded me, so that YOU may follow them in the land YOU are entering to take possession of it. YOU OBSERVE THEM CAREFULLY, for this will show your wisdom and understanding to the nations. 

PIVOITAL ELEMENT #3 - Observe Carefully The Things You Have Been Taught

When they went into the land God had given them they still had to take possession.  They still had to do the things they were taught. Notice that Moses said it will show your wisdom.  Wisdom is the application of the things you are taught.

When our kids were growing up we would give them instructions.  Whenever they wouldn't follow the instructions we would ask them a question.  Is that a wise decision or a foolish decision? They must have heard that question a million times.  Our goal was that when they became older this question would echo in their hearts.  It would be a guiding force for them living a life of wisdom.

We must encourage our children, grandchildren and the next generation to carefully observe the things they are taught.

Deuteronomy 4:7 Only be careful, and watch  yourselves closely so that  you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live.

PIVOTAL ELEMENT #4 - Don't Forget The Things You Have Seen God Do

The people had seen God do some incredible things.  He fed them manna supernaturally.  He fed them quail supernaturally.  He led them in a cloud by day and a fire by night.  He parted the Red Sea when their backs were up against the wall.  God told them to always tell their kids all the things that God had done for them.

We must teach our children, grandchildren and the next generation to remember the times God shows up and shows out when life takes the right turns, left turns and u-turns.

When David and his men returned to Ziklag after war they find that their wives and children had been taken.  The city was burned down.  It said David and his men cried until they could cry no more. Then David encouraged himself in the Lord.  My guess is that David reminded himself of all the times God showed up and showed out.  He got up, took some men with him and got their wives and children back.

Deuteronomy 4:10-13 Remember the day you stood before the Lord your God at Horeb, when He said to me, "Assemble the people before me to hear my words so that THEY may learn to revere me.  YOU came near and YOU stood at the foot of the mountain while it blazed with fire to the very heavens, with back clouds and deep darkness.  Then the Lord spoke to YOU out of the fire. YOU heard the sound of words, but saw no form; there was only a voice. He declared to YOU His covenant.

PIVOTAL ELEMENT #5 - Teach Them To Hear God's Voice For Themselves

There was a time when the people were so afraid of God they told Moses to listen to God and then come and tell them what He said.  Once Moses told them what God said they would obey Him.  How many of us know that didn't work at all.  They often found themselves doing the opposite of what God told Moses.

One of the greatest things we can do as parents, grandparents and church leaders is to teach our children, grandchildren and our church family how to hear God for themselves.

I think Moses knew this was his last opportunity.  He knew in order for the people to go possess the territory that God had given to them that these were five elements  he wanted them to remember. 

Our children are grown and now have families of their own.  Their spouses have a heart to love God and serve God just as they do.  They did very well in choosing their spouse. We are blessed beyond measure.

As I look back these are the five elements that have played a part in them possessing the territory the God is giving them.

I encourage you to keep these five elements before you. If you are a parent, grandparent or church leader they are critical in their ability to go possess the land God has given them.

Deuteronomy 6:6-9  And these words that I command YOU today shall be on YOUR heart.  YOU shall teach them diligently to YOUR children.