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NO CHURCH SERVICE TODAY

I did not know how incredible it would be to be a grandparent.  The other day I stopped what I was doing to give my full attention to Elise.  She was watching a video of herself when she was just beginning to walk and talk on Lisa’s phone.  She would watch it and then she has this special way of taking her little finger to touch the white arrow to play it all over again.  Each time she watched it her facial expression was different.  The first time her she had a serious look.  The next time a smile would come over her face and the next time she would throw her head back and laugh.

 

Then there is Charley.  He has this little laugh that is contagious. He actually thinks he is funny.  Actually, he really is funny.

 

Hang with me a second and I will come back to this. First, I have a few questions to ask.  As believers, do we really know how to rest?  Do we really know how to take a Sabbath?  Do we even know what a Sabbath looks like?

 

I recently read a book by Peter Scazzero that talked about the Sabbath.  It made a distinction between a secular Sabbath which consists of physical rest and a Biblical Sabbath. It gave four elements of a Biblical Sabbath.  I”m going to tweak these down to three elements.  I hope this will help us because I’m not sure as believers we know how to rest well.

 

STOP WHAT YOU ARE DOING

 

The first thing to do is stop whatever you are doing.  Stop thinking!  Stop planning!  Stop cleaning!  Stop working! Stop doing your “to do” list.  Stop grocery shopping.  Stop watching tv. Stop cooking!  Stop folding the clothes! Stop shopping for groceries!  Stop, stop, stop whatever you are doing!

 

START DELIGHTING

 

I believe this is what we see God doing in the book of Genesis.  God sets out creating the earth and on day three it says that He saw that it was good.  Then He created some more and on day four He saw that it was good.  And after He finished creating everything He looked and saw that it was VERY good!  God was delighting!

 

That’s what I have found myself doing with my grandkids.  I find myself stopping what I am doing and delighting as I watch simple expressions on Elise’s face or listen to a joyful chuckle from Charley.

 

I find myself watching Lisa from a distance without her knowing it.

 

I find myself after cutting and trimming the yard and delighting how wonderful it looks.  I’ll even get in my truck, ride down to the other end of the neighborhood just to drive by slowly and look at my yard.  I wonder if this is how God felt when he was in the garden.

 

I will even stop in the grocery store and observe people.

 

I am attempting in my own life to do more delighting.  I believe delighting should become a discipline.  The discipline of delighting.

 

GO FROM DELIGHTING TO CONTEMPLATION

 

Contemplation is the final and key element of a Biblical Sabbath. Thinking about the love of God. Thinking of the times you experienced God’s goodness. Taking a scripture and just thinking about what it really means.

 

Last week I began meditating on Psalm 91.  I didn’t get past the first verse.

 

                       “He that dwells in the secret place of the most high shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty!”

 

In order to dwell in the secret place I have to be intentional.  Intentional about solitude and silence. Solitude means the practice of pulling away from people and things.  Silence is the practice of quieting the inner and outer voices.  God speaks to us in silence.

 

STOP | DELIGHT | CONTEMPLATION

 

These are key elements to a Biblical Sabbath. I have been on a quest for the last two months to be more disciplined in this area. I’m not talking about once-a-week Sabbath.  I’m talking about mini-Sabbaths. I’m talking about finding several times through the course of my day to stop, delight and contemplate.  It only takes 10 minutes or even as little as 5 minutes.

 

Freedom Church is not having a service today.  We have chosen to give our Dream Teams a well-deserved summer break. A Sabbath!

 

I encourage you to make today a true Biblical Sabbath.  Yes, take a secular rest for your physical body!  There is nothing wrong with that, but more than anything I encourage you to take a Biblical Sabbath.  In fact, I encourage you to take the challenge of developing a discipline of Sabbath everyday.

 

I have found this to be extremely challenging. Old habits are difficult to break and new habits are difficult to begin.

 

Here is what is happening to me by developing this discipline.

 

– I find myself longing to spend time with God throughout my day. (mini-Sabbaths)

– I find myself beginning to be more peaceful even in intense situations.

 

This is something that doesn’t happen in a couple of months.  I realize I have such a long way to go. I’ve been fairly consistent in the morning when I get up and at night before I fall asleep.  Some days are better than others.  I can’t tell you how many times my mind wonders away from giving my full attention to God. Overall I realize this is going to take years not weeks or months.

 

I hope this has helped you to understand the elements of a  true Biblical Sabbath.  Let’s begin this journey together as we develop the discipline of giving our full attention to God “mini” times each day.

 

Stop just for 5 or 10 minutes and give your full attention to God!

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!

 

You can go to “Our Passion” page to listen to our messages on our Core Values by clicking here!

 

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/

Happy New Year 2018!

In Luke 2:27 Simeon came in the Spirit into the temple, Mary and Joseph bring baby Jesus to Simeon, he holds the baby Jesus in his arms, blesses God and as he looks at baby Jesus he says, “for my eyes have seen his salvation.”

Let those words sink in! “FOR MY EYES HAVE SEEN HIS SALVATION”

Here is Simeon seeing salvation and Jesus is just a baby. Jesus hasn’t gone to the cross yet. How do you see salvation when the cross hasn’t happened yet?

That was the very work of God’s Spirit!

That was not something Simeon made happen on his own. Let me say that again! That was not something Simeon made happen on his own.

It is God’s Spirit that enables us to SEE salvation before salvation has actually occurred.

I believe that 2018 is going to be a year full of moments where His Spirit does a work in us and we begin to see His salvation even though our circumstances remain unchanged.

So for 2018….hang onto your seats and enjoy the journey!