Thursday, November 21, 2013

Truly Transformational

Eric Geiger and Michael Kelley have written a book entitled, Transformational Discipleship: How People Really Grow. This book came out of a research project launched by Lifeway in 2010 that surveyed believers regarding their spiritual lives and level of maturity. Specifically, they wanted to discover what kind of discipleship is truly transformational. Their focus of research revealed the major areas of life where spiritual maturity takes place.

Here are the eight attributes of discipleship that point to spiritual health; Bible factors that consistently show up in the life of a maturing believer:

  1. Bible engagement
  2. Obeying God and denying self
  3. Serving God and others
  4. Sharing Christ
  5. Exercising faith
  6. Seeking God
  7. Building relationships
  8. Unashamed

The framework that makes authentic disciples is more than Bible knowledge and moral behavior. It is the ongoing renewal of the heart which is a critical component.

How would you evaluate yourself on these eight Biblical factors?
Just some food for thought.



P.S. This Sunday, I will be sharing my personal journey of becoming a generous person - it will be more of a personal testimonial than it is a sermon. Join me Sunday at 9:00am or 10:30am!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

A few challenging thoughts

This week's Freshly Bru'd is going to challenge you, I hope. It is also going to cause some of you to question my spirituality. 
I have observed over the years of ministry that many Christians are thrilled about Bible study, but less thrilled about fellow believers, reaching the lost, and even prayer. It causes me to ask an honest question, "Can Bible study actually become a diversion to spiritual growth?" Now, before you write me off, let me remind you "knowledge puffs up, but love builds up." (1 Corinthians 8:1)
Is it possible to be so prideful about what I am learning in my Bible study that it becomes more important than practicing what I am learning? I think so.
How do I know when Bible study has become spiritually diverting to my walk? Here are a few thoughts to get you thinking...

*I am more interested in Bible study than in my fellow believers and living in community with them. I'm not suggesting you neglect Bible study, but rather evaluate it to see if study is causing you to neglect other things.

*I feel like prayer requests and sharing life wastes precious Bible study time. Remember our knowledge of the Bible should deepen our love for God and for each other!

*I can recite passages I never intend to obey. One of my professors used to say "Most Christians are already educated beyond their level of obedience."

*I substitute Bible knowledge for faith. Often our excuse for not acting is that we don't know enough. "I can't witness to my neighbor. I don't know enough answers." Yet, we know Jesus, isn't He our answer? Salvation is by grace through faith - not how much knowledge a person has.

*Do I love God's word more than I actually love God? We can learn His commands, yet not obey them. We can memorize verses, yet do we go to those lengths to help others? Yes, we should turn to God's word for comfort. But more importantly, we should turn to God. The word of God is active, not passive. Our worship belongs to God, not to His word.
Just some food for thought.
P.S. This week is the 1st Annual Q&A message with the Pastors and Directors of First Free Church. We will answer your Bible questions and have some fun along the way. Worship is at 9:00 & 10:30am.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

The Final Exam is Coming

When I was a student in college I hated to take final exams. Especially comprehensive exams in which you had to remember everything you were taught throughout the semester. Who can remember what they did last week let alone a whole semester ago? I have a hard time remembering when the War of 1812 was fought.
Anyway, I seemed to squeal my way through those exams. I have one more final exam to take and so do you. It's the exam you will take as you stand before God and He is going to look at eight different aspects of your life and reward you based on how faithful, how interested you were in developing these areas of your life.
Let me give you a sneak preview of what will be on this exam...
  1. Did you possess the right values? A faithful person knows what's important in life and what isn't. He knows how to invest his life. He makes his life count for eternity.
  2. Did you care for the interests of others? It's not my needs, my ambitions, my desires, my values, my profit, my benefit. Faithfulness is others-centered.
  3. Did you live with integrity before an unbelieving world? How was your reputation? Was it above reproach before unbelievers?
  4. Did you keep your promises? (Read Proverbs 20:25) Was it easier to get into debt instead of out of it? To fill up your schedule rather than fulfill it? The number one cause of resentment is unfulfilled promises.
  5. Did you develop your God-given talents? (Read 1 Peter 4:10) Faithfulness is based on what we do with what we have or I really should say what God has given to us.
  6. Did you obey God's commands? Disobedience disqualifies us from being seen as faithful.
  7. Did you pass on what you learned? (Read 2 Timothy 2:2) If God teaches you a spiritual truth, it's your duty to pass it on to others.
Well, how would you do if you had to take the final today? Remember to study hard; the final may be sooner than you think.
P.S. What are you afraid of? What has you worried as you read this? If you want to discover how to build a fear and worry free life, don't miss this Sunday celebration at 9:00am or 10:30am!

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Bucket List from a Different Perspective

I read a blog this week that is so good I have to pass it on to each of you. It is the blog of James Emery White, Founding and Senior Pastor of Meckleburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC.

He read a book entitled, "The Before You're Forty Bucket List." This book is about the things you want to do before you "kick the bucket." The book prompted him to come up with a bucket list for followers of Christ. This bucket list matters because of the eternal value.

I was so moved by his list that I am going to implement these things in my life before I "kick the bucket." Would you be willing to join the adventure with me?

1. Build a relationship with a non-Christian and share your faith in Christ.

2. Trust God financially in terms of giving.

3. Take at least one bungee-jump of faith related to obedience.

4. Love someone to the point of sacrifice.

5. Discover your spiritual gift(s) and serve accordingly.

6. Make one spiritual pilgrimage (see A Traveler's Guide to the Kingdom, InterVarsity Press, for some ideas).

7. Read the Bible in its entirety.

8. Mentor someone new to the faith.

9. Find a church home and invest yourself in its community and mission.

10. Serve the poorest of the poor.

James Emery White concludes "if I can have those ten things crossed would have been a good and God-honoring life."

P.S. Have you ever been sideswiped, hit with a crisis out of the blue? If you have ever had things blow up before your eyes in terms of living your life, you won't want to miss Sunday's message at 9:00am or 10:30am!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Practical, Fun Outreach Ideas

Cindy and I are making a more concerted effort to build relationships with our neighbors. We decided to have several of them over to our house for dinner and games. We then want to do acts of kindness for them and genuinely let them know they are important to us.

I came across a recent article by Mark Howell on ten ways to connect with your neighbors. May I encourage you to implement several of these as you reach out to your neighbors and invest in them:

  1. Movie night outside for kids and families. Pick the right movie, circle up in lawn chairs, and bring the popcorn.
  2. Drop in for waffles and bacon on a Saturday morning. Borrow some waffle irons, add some blueberries and make it fun.
  3. Invite neighbors over for a potluck theme dinner night (Italian, Mexican, etc.). Go all out with music, decorations, and even attire.
  4. Garage sale for a local cause. Be ready to talk about why you are doing it.
  5. Pull a fire pit onto your driveway. Bring out the patio furniture and offer warm cider and s'mores to neighbors passing by. If your neighborhood is like mine, have plenty of doggie treats for the pets.
  6. Chili cook-off. No better time to host a chili cook-off complete with judges (I'll volunteer to judge), prizes and Tums.
  7. Block party cookout. Roll the grills into the cul de sac and bring the lawn chairs. Do it right and it can become an annual event.
  8. The big game on the big screen. Plan a party for those who don't have season tickets. Make it fun for the whole family.
  9. Game night with Pizazz, Banco, Bridge, Pictionary, etc. There's a way to do this that's even more fun - think tournament. Have goofy prizes for the winners. Oh, and Mr. Microphone adds another level of enthusiasm.
  10. Since it's Halloween, join in the fun. Safe Halloween fun. No tracts please! Just the best candy and friendliest people on the block.
Have fun and get to know your neighbors!


P.S. Have you been in a conflict lately? How did you respond? Was it resolved? If you want to learn some practical skills concerning conflict, don't miss this Sunday!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Just say "no."

I have some very close friends who are tired, physically worn out, overwhelmed and over-committed. One reason they have become like this is because they haven't learned how to say "no".
The word "no" is a hard word for many of us. If we want to excel in life, ministry, grace, likeability, influence - we must learn to create healthy boundaries. Part of a healthy boundary involves learning to say "no".
Here's the tension we often experience: hearing "no" can be demoralizing, but we can't increase our effectiveness without it. So how can we learn to be better with "no"?
First, know who you are. Know your limitations. Be honest about who you are and what you want. Once you understand who you are it becomes a road map for the things to say "yes" to, and the things you must say "no" to. "No" isn't about being mean, but rather being honest about who you are.
Second, the power of re-direction. When you must say "no," give an alternative. "No, I can't go this week but I can go in a couple of weeks." "No, I can't help you right now but maybe so and so can." "No, but what I could do for you is this."
Third, create space for the right things. Creating space in your life will enable you to become the best version of you. When you say "no" to taking on extra projects at work, you have more time to spend with your family. When you say "no" to managing other people's emotional baggage and problems, you have room to focus on developing yourself. Saying "no" to everyone else's schedule will free up time for you to develop your spiritual life.
When you say "no" to something, you have the ability to say "yes" to something else. And when you have room to say "yes" to the things that really matter to you, you become more likeable.
P.S. This Sunday, I will help us sift through how to make good decisions while keeping our commitments! We will continue our journey through Joshua and will cover chapters 9 & 10. See you Sunday morning!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Silver Bullet

Silver bullet - any straight forward solution perceived to have extreme effectiveness. The expectation of the phrase appears with an expectation that a particular practice will cure a major prevailing problem.

What is the "silver bullet" for fulfilling Christ's command to go and make disciples? Here it is: the most effective evangelism, by far, occurs through meaningful relationships between Christians and non-Christians.

Did you know that over twice as many non-Christians come to Christ through relationships with Christian friends or relatives than all other reasons combined?

Jesus modeled this disciple-making silver bullet (cf. Mark 5:19, Luke 19:9, Mark 2:14-15). The word for "household" in the New Testament refers to a person's close friends as well as their work associates. It referred to servant's families who lived there (cf. Acts 16:31). The early Christians knew that when the message of faith was heard and demonstrated by friends and family who were known and trusted...receptivity to the Gospel increased tremendously.

There is one essential requirement for reaching our friends and neighbors: we must be close enough to unbelievers for Christ to be observed and experienced through us. And there's the rub. The longer we are in the church, the fewer friends we have outside the church. Most of us have very few close friends who are non-Christians.

One reason that 85% of today's churches are not growing is that the social networks of people in the church are almost entirely within the church. Some churches even encourage relational isolation.

Here's the solution to this problem: we have to enter the non-Christian's world and be like Jesus to them. You cannot be Christ-like to them if you don't know any nonbelievers. You must have contact to have impact.

We need friends who are tax collectors and sinners (Matthew 11:19) like Jesus had. We need to be friends with non-Christians. We need to hang out with the riff-raff of the world. Jesus did. So must we.

This week we all (especially me) must be friends, make friends, and invest in the non-Christian. How can Christ's missional task "make disciples" be accomplished if we aren't investing our lives with the people in the world? Who will you be friends with this week?

God Bless,

P.S. This Sunday, our Pastor of Young Adults and Families, Brian Abbott, will be preaching! You'll want to be there! Invite a friend and we'll see you at 9:00 or 10:30am.

Thursday, October 3, 2013


Most of us as Christ followers know that it's important to engage those in the culture around us with the message of the cross, but we don't know how to start. Let's be honest with each other, it seems a bit intimidating to hang out with those who aren't followers of Jesus. It's so much more comfortable to do things together with our Christian friends.

But it's time that we begin to overcome our fears, complacency and discomfort. I have shared the following "engage the culture" steps before in a Freshly Bru'd and since two people asked me this week how to be more engaging I thought I would remind us all of what we need to make this happen.

-Start conversations: talk to people living next to you, the person pumping gas next to you, the person ordering coffee in front of you, etc. Just talk to people; it all starts with conversation.

-Hang out with people who enjoy the same things you do: local sport leagues, PTA, book clubs, service organizations, music clubs, etc. You get the idea! We have a lot in common with the unchurched and we can connect with them in these kinds of things.

-Tell stories: about your life, your faith, other faith stories you've heard of from the world of sports, politics, education, etc.

-Volunteer somewhere: coach a youth sports team, serve meals at the mission, tutor kids at school, etc. Be consistent in serving.

-Invite other Christians to join you as you engage the culture so you don't have to go it alone.

-Pray with others: ask a non-Christian in your life what challenges they are facing and offer to pray for and with them. Be sure to follow-up by asking how it is going with the challenge you prayed for.

-Address the physical and spiritual needs around you; just meet needs.

Remember as you begin to engage the culture you live in that greater is He who is in you (God's spirit) than he who is in the world (Satan).


God Bless,

P.S. If you feel stuck where you are spiritually, you will not want to miss Sunday's message "Moving to the Next Level". Several on-ramps, suggestions and helps will be shared. See you at either 9:00 or 10:30am!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Is Busyness the Same as Effectiveness?

Freshly Bru'd is designed to let you know what I am thinking, reading or questioning during the week. This week is one of those questioning times.

I really have two questions. First of all: when it comes to discipleship, does busyness equal effectiveness? I think not. If that is the case, why is church so busy? We love to boast about what we are doing. We are proud of "all we offer". I heard of one church who has 152 ministries for you and your family. I'm exhausted just thinking about that.

But do these offerings lead to where the people need to be spiritually? Do they move or advance us or just maintain where we already are?

Before you know it, if a church is not careful, to meet the needs of people, it will have its calendar stuffed with dozens of programs offered every day of the week. If we're honest, many of us would believe if this program or that program was making a big difference in the world. Instead of programs, maybe we should think in terms of steps. Maybe we should ask, "How do I move to where I need to be spiritually?"

My second question is: could church busyness actually be hindering the movement of God in our world? Is not the essence of following Jesus leaving the church and going out into the world and being a 'friend of sinners'?

When Jesus said "Go" he added "into the world". He didn't say "Go to the church". How can we make disciples of all peoples if we're down at the church building every day surrounded by other Christians?

Maybe we need to rethink what we think discipleship means. It's not church busyness rather "going" into our sphere of influence and proclaiming, living, and challenging people to follow Jesus.

God Bless,

P.S. We continue on with our new series "Getting from Here to There" this Sunday and will learn "When Walls Need to Fall." Our focus will primarily be in Joshua 6; see you at either our 9am or 10:30am service!

Thursday, September 19, 2013


Change. We resist it. It scares us. Change feels like things we cherish are being taken away from us. Change happens too fast. It causes pain. It is emotional.
In the local church - environments change, roles change, strategies/approaches change, systems change, and styles change. But among the constant change of these types of things there are some constants. These constants are good reminders of what really matters in the church.

(1) The Bible is still the word of God; it always has been, always will be.

(2) The Gospel still changes lives - it is the power of God unto salvation - it transforms people from the inside out.

(3) Prayer is still powerful. God still uses praying churches.

(4) God is still in control. Change may confuse us and disorient us while suffering may make us wonder if there is any hope. Remember God is sovereign; always has been, always will be. He is there for you.

(5) Community groups are still vital. In the early church they met in homes. It is the place where relationships are established and deep truths of Scripture are taught. Small groups, life groups, cell groups, shepherd groups, and S.S. groups are just a few of the names we have given them. Whatever the name - community, fellowship, learning, and prayer are all vital to the church.

(6) The mission field still needs workers. Whether it's your backyard or the furthest ends of the earth, God uses us to be his missionaries in our sphere of influence.

(7) Hurting people still need ministry. A church that sees people through the eyes of Jesus will always be effective.

God Bless,

 P.S. Related to the people of Colorado who have been faced with a raging flood in life, this Sunday's theme is responding to the question, "How do you face life's floods?" Don't miss Sunday worship at 9:00am and 10:30am!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

The need for encouragement

This last week I found myself in need of some encouragement. As I thought of my need I came to realize there are so many others with the very same need - to be encouraged. God knew that his children would be discouraged at times and feel defeated. That's why he gave a command to his church - to encourage each other and build each other up. (1 Thessalonians 5:11) I need to become a better encourager.

Most people get far more jeers than cheers, far more pokes than strokes. So many people are put down, criticized and maligned. Jesus wants his church to do the exact opposite. He wants us to become and be encouragers.

What steps can you take to become and be an encourager? First, we need to value people. He wants us to value everyone. He wants us to remember that everyone matters to him - that is why he sent his Son to die for them. Second, we need to affirm people. When you appreciate people you raise their value. A few suggestions to affirm people are: notice them, listen to them, applaud their contributions, be interested in their life, include them in your life, pray for them, use positive words and compliment them.

Here are some scriptures that I hope to put into practice that I may be an encourager.

Share each other's troubles and problems, and in this way obey the law of Christ. (Galatians 6:2) Genuinely listening to people shows that you care.

Speak only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. (Ephesians 4:29) Our words are to be people builders not people users.

You are helping us by praying for us. (2 Corinthians 1:11) Make a prayer list of the people in your life. Pray for them and see what God does.

Lord, who can I encourage this week?

God Bless,

P.S. A new series begins this Sunday entitled, "Getting from Here to There: How to get unstuck when facing life's harsh realities." You won't want to miss it!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Some Interesting (Yes, Interesting) Statistics

For the next two weeks, I'd like to share with you some interesting statistics (yes - statistics can be interesting) related to cultural and religious research. As I looked at the different stats, several questions went through my mind. I want to share some of the research with you as well as the questions that went through my mind as I was reading. My questions will be bold.
World population is over 7 billion people and growing at over 80 million per year (Population Media Center)
Will all of those people be reached or have a chance to hear the Gospel before Christ's return?
Facebook has 1 billion monthly active users (Facebook)
Don't these users see this creates loneliness and isolation?
If the world were 100 people... (
33 Christians, 22 Muslims, 14 Hindus, 7 Buddists
77 people would have a place to shelter them from the wind & rain, but 23 would not
1 would be dying of starvation, 15 would be undernourished, 21 would be overweight
48 would live on less than $2 USD per day
Should I not thank God for my job?
87 would have access to safe drinking water, 13 would use improved water
Over 1 million abortions each year (
What does this sanctity of life mean to most Americans today?
Finance (
Average household debt in the US has now reached a level of 136% of average household income
Over the last decade, the number of Americans without health insurance has risen from about 38 million to about 52 million
Total US credit card debt is more than 8 times larger than it was 30 years ago
Americans now owe more than $904 billion on student loans, which is a new all-time record high
1.5 million Americans filed for bankruptcy in 2010
Am I stiving to be a trustworthy steward?
Highest incarceration rate and the largest total prison population
Highest divorce rate in the world
Highest teen pregnancy rate
Most obese
More school shootings
Highest child abuse death rate
Produces more pornography
Gets more plastic surgery
What has happened to the values we once were willing to die for?
How do these statistics make you feel? What part do you think the church plays in these things?
God bless you,
P.S. Last week I wrote about the things no visitor wants to hear from a church. I asked you to send me your ideas to share with others and here they are:
Why are you in church if you don't believe in God?
How could you not believe in God?
I'm so sorry, but you're going to hell!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

The Old Adage is True: Think Before You Speak

At some point in our lives we have been a church visitor. Remember the experience? For some of you it was a positive one. You were greeted by friendly people, knew where to park, there were signs directed you to classrooms, restrooms and the worship center.
Yet, for others, you felt lost. You weren't greeted, didn't feel welcomed, didn't know where the restrooms were, etc. Whatever your experience was, good or bad, there are certain statements a church visitor (we call them guests at First Free) never want to hear right off the bat. Some I have heard personally, others I read from an article by Ben Reed, a small groups pastor from Clarksville, TN.

  1. Our Pastor isn't normally this ____ (loud, obnoxious, long winded, etc.).
  2. We're full, sorry. (We need to be willing to find a group for them and have a backup plan if classes or the worship service is full.)
  3. What are you doing here? (It implies that God couldn't really love someone like them)
  4. You can't serve've got to be a member first. (Why would someone want to be a member if they've never had a chance to serve?)
  5. We don't believe in serving coffee on Sunday mornings.
  6. What's your address? I didn't catch it on the first 6 forms I had you fill out.
  7. You want to join a small group? You'll have to wait until next Fall. (If a person has to wait more than a month they will go to another church.)
  8. Here we just care about the Truth. If you don't like it, you can leave. (Love people and love Truth, but not one or the other.)
  9. Here are the 38 things we do each week as a church. (Simplifying is the key, otherwise we give people decision paralysis.)
  10. Next time, could you make sure to wear _____ (Fill that in with "something nicer, something that's clean". Creating a "come as you are" culture should be First Free's aim, not a "come as I am" culture.)

Got any to add? Send me them this week and I will share them with other Freshly Bru'd readers.

P.S. Don't miss communion this Sunday. This celebration of Jesus' death, resurrection, and return is one of the most meaningful memorials that deserves our presence.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Living on Mission

First, I wanted to say thank you for allowing me to take a little break from the weekly editions of Freshly Bru'd. I had a wonderful vacation and am excited to be back writing to you each week.

I came across a good read recently, although the book was published in 2011. It is titled, "Barefoot Church: Serving the Least in a Consumer Culture." It is written by a Pastor in Texas named Brandon Hatmaker.

Here is a quote from the book: "When we say we are to live incarnationally, we mean we are to 'put on' Jesus and represent Him by focusing on being His hands and feet to our world. To live on mission. This includes but is not limited to serving the least. It might be reaching out to your neighbor or a complete stranger in need. Either way, the focus is essentially on the church becoming missionaries to our culture." (p. 26)

That's it - becoming missionaries to our culture! This week's missional challenge: Put on Jesus - focus on being His hands and feet in your community!

In case you don't know what I mean by missional, it's being a missionary everywhere you are. It is being Jesus to everyone everywhere.


P.S. MOVE Sunday is this week, August 18th. There is only 1 service at 10:00am with a meal following. You will discover the next step you need to take to MOVE yourself forward spiritually! I hope to see you there!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Laughter is, indeed, good medicine.

Those who know me well, know that I love to laugh. Laughter is an involuntary reaction to certain external or internal stimuli. It can arise from such activities as being tickled or from humorous stories or thoughts.

When was the last time you had a good hearty laugh? Children are known to laugh a great deal more than adults. The average baby laughs around 300 times a day compared to the average adult who laughs around 20 times a day.

Sometimes I think we take the things that happen at church a bit too seriously. Do you know what I mean? No, I'm not talking about things like sin or theology or repentance or anything like that. Those things should always be taken quite seriously.

But I'm talking about the lighter things that happen in and around your church. Like the things that appear in a Sunday morning bulletin.

Consider the following ten bloopers - enjoy them - laugh at them and share them with someone at church who needs a good laugh. Remember, laughter is good medicine for the soul.

  1. Bertha Belch, a missionary from Africa, will be speaking today. Come hear Bertha Belch all the way from Africa.
  2. The Rev. Merriweather spoke briefly, much to the delight of the audience.
  3. The Pastor will preach his farewell message, after which the choir will sing, "Break Fourth in Joy."
  4. Barbara remains in the hospital and needs blood donors for more transfusions. She is also having trouble sleeping and requests tapes of Pastor Nelson's sermons.
  5. During the absence of our pastor, we enjoyed the rare privilege of hearing a good sermon when J.F. Stubbs supplied our pulpit.
  6. Irving Benson and Jessie Carter were married on October 24th. So ends a friendship that began in their school days.
  7. Low self-esteem group will meet Thursday 7-8:30pm. Please use the back door.
  8. The choir invites any member of the congregation who enjoys sinning to join the choir.
  9. Ushers will eat late comers.
  10. Weight watchers will meet at 7pm. Please use large double door at the side entrance.


P.S. Ever feel like giving up? Quitting? Throwing in the towel? Ever think faith in God really isn't working all that well? Come and join us Sunday at 9:00 or 10:30am to discover what to do when life doesn't seem to be working.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

What To Do & Say When There Just Aren't Any Words...

"Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle." Scottish preacher, Ian Maclaren, said that in the 1890's and it still rings true today. During the Civil War a preacher by the name of Joseph Parker said "Preach to the suffering, and you will never lack a congregation. There is a broken heart in every pew."

The Apostle Paul in the first century expressed the same sentiment this way, "Be kind to one another, tender hearted, forgiving each other, even as God also in Christ forgave you." (Ephesians 4:30)

Every day we meet people who are hurting: going through a divorce, lonely because of a loss, a loved one in hospice care, dealing with Alzheimer's or cancer, loss of job, terminal illness, rebellious child, financial distress, anxiety, worry, fear and on and on.

Some people are at a loss of what to say or do when someone is hurting. My hope is that the list below will help you when you encounter someone who is hurting.

-Well-spoken words. Please no spiritual platitudes like "everything is going to be alright." In a crisis, discussing theology is ill-timed. Speak in a calm, reassuring voice of love, not theology. Listening goes a long way at the beginning of a crisis. Our words can be helpful, but at times silence might be even more powerful.

-Show love. Bring a meal to their house. Mow the lawn. Help with chores. Appropriate touch can minister to them as well.

-Be ready for the "why" question. This question may not come at first but when it comes, don't assume you know the answer. Listen. Admit you don't know why. Affirm that it's OK to ask that question and don't make them feel it is wrong to ask it.

 -Pray. Praying together and out loud is powerful. Call on God for His grace, comfort, mercy and peace. Prayer puts the focus back on God.

-Share a scripture. God's word is powerful and alive (Hebrews 4:12). It is like a soothing salve on a deep wound.

Here are some of my favorites:

Psalm 34:7

Isaiah 40:11; 28-31; 41:10, 13

Philippians 4:6-7

2 Thessalonians 3:16

John 14:27

-Follow up. Check in on them every few days. Ask them if there is anything they need.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Here's an interesting stat for you...

I read an interesting research tidbit from Rainer Research this week. The research stated that only 5% of the unchurched in America are likely to be highly resistant to the Gospel, antagonistic toward Christians, or belligerent in their conversations with and about Christians.

At 5%, Sam Rainer says these "hardcore unchurched" account for about 8 million people, but the other 152 million who are unchurched are far more open to hearing the Gospel.

That being the case, we're more likely to find people open to the Gospel than not. So why are we so afraid to share our faith story and the Gospel?

One reason I believe is that the enemy doesn't want us to share our faith, and so he fights us with fear (read Ephesians 6:12). A second reason we don't share our faith story or the Gospel is that we fail to develop relationships with those outside the church (the unchurched).

When the religious leaders expressed a concern that Jesus was making friends with the unchurched, Jesus said, "Healthy people don't need a doctor, sick people do...for I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners." (Matthew 9:12-13)

During your prayer time each day ask God to reveal to you two people He wants you to talk about Jesus with. Ask Him to prepare their hearts for hearing the Gospel and ask Him to prepare your heart for talking to them.

Then, in faith, step past your fears and believe Jesus is already at work creating "a divine appointment" for you to talk to them. Then watch for the way He answers your prayers. May God anoint each of us this week to share our faith!


Thursday, June 20, 2013

Do you know what you should know?

James Emery White, Founding and Senior Pastor of Mecklenbury Community Church in Charlotte, NC puts out a weekly Church and Culture blog. This week's blog was entitled "What Every Christian Should Know How To Do." Picking up on articles written on what every driver should know how to do and what every parent should know how to do, he added his own category - what someone hoping to follow Christ should know how to do.

Just as every driver should know how to fill up a gas tank, check the oil, change a tire, etc., he wrote on what every follower of Christ should be able to do.

Since his list fits perfectly with what we desire to train those of us here at First Free how to do, I wanted to share it with you. Keep in mind these are not simply what we should do, think about doing or want to do - but actually trained to be able to do before they become a lost art.

(1) Read the Bible. Do you know how to read the Bible? Where to start? How to interpret it? How to apply it?

(2) Pray. Not just in a crisis but moving through Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication. This is a need skill.

(3) Share your faith. Can you tell your story of how you came to trust in Christ? Could you take someone through the essentials of believing in Christ?

(4) Manage your resources. Manage your time, talent, treasures, material assets, skills and spiritual gifts.

(5) Worship. Worship is more than singing a song. It is bringing to God a prepared heart and mind, engaging in prayer and God's word. How do you worship in spirit and truth?

Obviously, there is more than these five things we should know how to do. But as James Emery White challenged me...don't you think we all ought to know how to do at the very least these five?


P.S. Our very own, Gina Boe, will be leading our worship time this Sunday with Kids Corps! It's going to be great and you won't want to miss it. I'll be wrapping up our UNLEASHED series with a message entitled, "What to do when you haven't a clue!" See you at our 9:00 or 10:30am service!

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Disciples Are Us

I don't know about you but I need to be reminded about certain things on a regular basis, things such as: drink more water, exercise regularly, take my probiotics and vitamins, eat properly.
The same is true in my spiritual life. I need to know and remember certain things like; prayer is important, obeying God's word is crucial, daily submitting my life to the Lordship of Christ is necessary.
 There are certain things we need to know and remember about discipleship. Since "making disciples" is our mission as a church let me share with you some things you need to know.
  1. It takes a disciple to make a disciple (Ephesians 4:11-12)
  2. Real disciples make disciples which means if you're not actively making disciples, you probably aren't a disciple.
  3. You don't have to arrive spiritually before you begin making disciples (Philippians 3:12-14). The early church made disciples before they had a New Testament.
  4. You don't have to have a printed curriculum to make disciples. You need a willing heart and the openness to say and ask "this is what God is showing me and teaching me from His Word...what about you?"
  5. Completing a course doesn't make you a disciple maker. Actually making disciples makes you a disciple maker.
  6. Disciple making takes time. You can't hurry the process. We are constantly encouraging others and ourselves to become more like Jesus.
  7. Making disciples was Jesus' final command. It was His marching orders. It isn't optional or reserved for the pros. It is a command for all of us.
If you would like to become a disciple maker and discover the joy of investing in others but don't know where to start, call me. I'll help you be a disciple maker starting today.
P.S. You won't want to miss the "surprise" in the message from Acts 23-24-25 that Pastor Mark will bring to life this Sunday! See you there!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

You Need To Ask Yourself...

You probably have heard that the American Evangelical Church is in a rather desperate condition. Church researchers George Barna and Thom Rainer claim that fewer people are attending church than we realize. We are planting one fourth the number of new churches needed to keep pace with the American current population growth and rate of decline in existing churches.

One of the things this means for First Free and other churches is that we must change and adapt if we want to remain relevant to the culture and hope to see growth. Let me clarify what I mean by change and adapt. God's word, the Gospel, Jesus and the church as Jesus intended it to be, have always been, are now, and always will be relevant without our help. These must never change.

But we often hold on to extra-biblical traditions and ideas that severely limit our ability to communicate with a young generation. Satan's goal is to blind the minds of those who don't know Christ or the Gospel, and may I be so bold as to say we often help by handing out our blinders such as inauthenticity, traditionalism, and political struggles within the church driven by fear and selfishness. Today's churches must change in these kinds of things.

God's desire is to enlarge his family. (2 Peter 3:9) This matters to him and it should matter to us. If people who are lost forever without the Gospel matter...and if the church of the future matters...we must embrace the pain of change for the win of more people seeing Jesus.

Change impacts us emotionally. Change is hard on us. That is why we resist it so much. Would you help me reach our current culture - which is shaped by its technology and entertainment more than its religious and historical roots - by accepting some changes?

Would you ask yourself the following questions as I had to ask myself:

Will I place any need to control, which is based on fear, on the altar of sacrifice and rely on the Holy Spirit? Will I trust the undersheperds of the church without the red tape of 'this is the way it has always been done'?

Will I be willing to take risks, spend money, change names, reconstitute, relaunch, venture into new fields of ministry by faith, rather than remaining safe and comfortable in my holy huddle?

Will I get over my demand for my own preferences to be met? Will I welcome newcomers with love and wisdom and listen and learn from them rather than leaving the responsibility of adaptation to them?

Will I change to reach the current culture knowing I will have to change again in the methods of ministry?

P.S. This Sunday, Pastor Brian Abbott, will be preaching as we move along in the series Unleashed! Come and listen to his message, Strengthening the Church!

A place where God & community come together.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

When Tragedy Strikes

Yesterday, I officiated the funeral of Kristi Perrotto. She was 46 years old and died of cancer. As I stood before her husband and three children ages 14, 12 and 10, I couldn't help but think of how difficult life will become for them without a wife and growing up without a mom.

For many, her death seems like a tragedy. Of course, for Kristi, it's a victory. She is with Jesus. But when death, tragedy and loss occurs, what should we do? Let me share five things that we should focus on in any tragedy.

First, release your grief. Why? Because death, tragedy and loss can create strong emotions. Deal with those emotions. Don't push them down, deny them, repress them or rehearse them. Release your true feelings about the tragedy to God. (Read Matthew 5:4)

Second, receive from others. To make it through a crisis you need others' support, encouragement and presence. (Read Galatians 6:2)

Third, refuse to be bitter. Happiness is always a choice. To prevent the tragedy from making you bitter remember - you must accept what you cannot change. You focus on what remains, not what's lost.

Fourth, remember what is important. Your relationship with God, your relationship with your family, your relationship with others - these things can never be taken from you. Even in death you have the memories of the person. Possessions, careers, health - all can be lost but not our relationship with God. (Read Romans 8:38-39)

Last of all, rely on Christ. He is our rock, shelter, shepherd, hiding place, stabilizer and so much more. Even in our darkest hours, rely on Him. (Read Psalms 23:4)


P.S. This Sunday we will be talking about ways to keep love alive! We are in Acts 19 this week - you won't want to miss it! See you then!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Mother's Day is Coming!

There is not a more influential or powerful role on earth than a mother. As significant as political, military, educational, or religious public figures may be, none can compare to the impact made by mothers. Their words are never fully forgotten, their touch leaves a treasured impression, and the memory of their presence lasts a lifetime. I ask you, who else is anywhere near that influential?

If you were blessed with a good mother as I was, you will reap the benefits the rest of your days. The words of Abraham Lincoln ring true: "No one is poor who had a good mother."

Mothers, Grandmothers, Expectant mothers, Great Grandmothers - On behalf of all of us at First Free, we salute you. I hope you have a very happy Mother's Day.

Searching through the Scripture I came up with several things we should be thankful for relating to all a mother does. Spend some time with your mother this Sunday and talk about these things. Look up the passages together and at the end of the list say, "Mom, thanks for all you do and have done, I love you."

A mother conceives - John 16:2

A mother cooks - 1 Kings 17:2

A mother clothes - 1 Samuel 2:18-19

A mother coaches - Proverbs 6:20

A mother covers - Matthew 23:37

A mother consecrates - 1 Samuel 1:9-11

A mother converts - 2 Timothy 1:5

A mother considers - Luke 2:18-19

A mother cares - Isaiah 49:15

A mother comforts - Isaiah 66:13


P.S. Mothers, we have a couple of surprises this Sunday to honor you at our 9:00 & 10:30 worship services. You won't want to miss it!