Thursday, December 17, 2015


Dartmouth Medical School did a study concluding that children’s brains are “hardwired to connect”. The report states that “more kids than ever suffer from depression, anxiety, and attention deficit and conduct disorders”. The report went on to say that “the lack of connectedness in society” is partially to blame.
I believe the same is true for adults. Without close relationships in our lives, stress and anxiety levels are more likely to increase. Yet, in our technological society, close relationships are becoming harder and harder to maintain. We smile when we see people sitting at the same table buried in their iPhones rather than talking; then we realize that sometimes we do the same thing.
Meaningful and balanced relationships are essential to living a healthy life. When these relationships are broken, the impact on everyone is enormous. God created us for relationships; we are created for a relationship with God and relationships with others.
While we all appreciate the tremendous advances in our technological society, one of the down sides is that human touch and relationships may suffer. It is a must, especially in our hectic-paced world, that we take time, quantity and quality, to speak to each other face-to-face, pray together, play together, have meals together, and serve with each other.
Apart from your family, Life Groups provide you a positive relational connection. Simply put, we need each other. People to talk to face-to-face, serve together, interact with about life and faith, pray together, have fun together. Our Savior came into the world of failures, dysfunction, and loneliness so that we could know and love God but also love one another.
In our high-tech world we need to be in high-touch. Relationships are first learned and then modeled in the home. Are you struggling in your relationships? If you are I want to encourage you to do three things.
First, be honest about your relationships. Do you have a support base of those you talk with, share with, serve with, and have fun with? Remember, be honest with yourself.
Second, ask God to give you the power to strengthen your relationships beyond your family. Let others know how much you appreciate them, plan to spend time with them beyond texting. Remember, be in high-touch.
Third, get involved in a Life Group. In January 2016 there is another opportunity for you to join a Life Group. You may have to try several before you really connect with people, but you must try. Your goal is to have relationships which are mutually joyful and enriching, and which don’t depend on an iPhone. Remember, Life Group sign-up is in January. Let’s fulfill what God created us for- relationships.

P.S. Why did Jesus come to earth? What we think Jesus’ purpose was and what it really was might be a little different. Join us Sunday at 9:15 or 11:00 to consider 4 reasons Jesus came that you might not have thought about before. Bring a friend with you!

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Do you need a tech diet?

Someone changed the words to the familiar “Jingle Bells” to fit our modern day culture. Here are the new words:

                           Dashing though the snow with a high-def touchscreen display;
                           O’er the fields we go, tweeting and texting all the way.
                           Bells on smartphones ring, making bandwidth bright,
                           What fun it is to stare and cling to a virtual world tonight

We have replaced tinsel and mistletoe with smartphones, tablets, computers, and social media. My two year old granddaughter knows how to turn on my iPhone (Yes, I have one- Jesus would too if he lived on earth today.) and play games on it.

72% of children ages 8 and younger have used a mobile device with 17% using the device daily. Technology itself is not dangerous, and can be an important tool for our children’s education. But my concern is when we allow technology to get in between our parenting and relationships; then there will be problems.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) released a statement saying children are “spending more time with media than they are in school… more time with media than any activity other than sleeping… media has taken over the primary role of teaching kids from schools and parents.”

The AAP says the average 8-10 year old nearly spends 8 hours a day with a variety of different media. They go on to note that excessive media use has been associated with obesity, lack of sleep, school problems, aggression, and other behavior issues.

Let me pause to emphasize: I am not knocking down the value of technology in education, parenting, or in business. I am not saying we shouldn’t use the technology available to us. What I am saying is: watch your media diet, especially this time of year.

What might that diet look like? First, plan ahead for family time. Instead of hours of phones, tablets, and computers, do things as a family. You can decorate the tree, take a hike, prepare a meal together, play a game, do a puzzle, or shop and wrap gifts- turn the equipment off for a while.

Second, plan ahead for tech time. I am not asking you to go on a starvation diet, just limit your time on the computer. Don’t let technology replace your presence with family and friends.

Third, reach out and touch someone, literally. Touch is a vital human need. Talk to your children, friends, spouse with eyeball to eyeball, uninterrupted (no technology) communication. Talk about life, Jesus, Christmas, family issues, school, or work.

Time, touch, and talk; let’s implement these things this Christmas.


P.S. Christmas is a joyful, fun, and celebrative time for many, but a depressing, lonely, and sad time for others. How can you discover the balance of Christmas? Join us this week and discover “The How.” Worship with us at 9:15 or 11:00. Bring a friend- it’s Christmastime!

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Last Friday, I watched in horror the terrorist attacks on Paris. I had flashbacks to the horror of 14 years ago when terrorists attacked our own nation- America. I think it’s hard to disagree that this will be a decades-long struggle with radical Islamists.

I am not looking to give you some political ideology or what I believe would be a great military strategy in the fight against terrorism. Rather, I want to give you some Biblical advice on how we, as Christ-followers, respond in the midst of painful times.

The things I am sharing have come from a blog I read last weekend from someone I respect highly. His name is Ed Stetzer, and his advice on a Christian response to terrorism is spot-on. Specifically, as it relates to what took place in Paris, he says:

     1) Pray. Pray for families. Pray for Paris (which we did on Sunday in our church services).
         He then adds: Pray for Muslims. Pray for our enemies. It is not easy, but it is our

     2) Love the hurting. Even where we sit, we can love the French and “weep with those who
         weep” (Romans 12:15). It was the French newspaper, Le Monde, that said in the
         aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, “We are all Americans now.” Well, today, we are all

     3) Love our enemies. This is what makes the Christian faith unique. President Obama
         said it well, “This is an attack on all of humanity.” When you let that sink in, you would
         have to admit that love is not our natural feeling, but love is what we are called to
         anyway. (Read and contemplate Matthew 5:43-45.)

     After the events of last weekend, when a ‘love your enemies’ response is hard to come by
     or when memories of 14 years ago resurface, we have to do more than give lip service to
     the things I’ve listed above. We have to make a commitment to resist certain things.
     There are three things we should not do as Christians:

     1) We should not hate. Our human nature wants to hate those who destroy so many lives.
         We feel an anger towards an evil we cannot control. But the truth is, we are people who
         live with hope and live with a mission. We cannot hate a people and reach a people at
         the same time. Pray that your heart is protected from hate.

     2) We should not take out anger on refugees. The immigrants streaming across Europe
         are trying to escape radical Islamists; they are not the enemy. Of course, we need better
         security knowing that terrorists may very well try to infiltrate such refugees, but most
         refugees want to protect their families. Don’t start placing blame or drawing
         conclusions on innocent people who need protection.

     3) We should not call for war with Islam. What do I mean? I do not think that interfaith
         cooperation is helpful, but multi-faith understanding can be. I do not believe Muslims
         and Christians pray to the same God, but all people need Jesus including Hindus,
         Muslims, and Atheists. That is the part that makes us Evangelicals.

I want to see Muslims come to Christ (just as they want to win me to Islam), and we can’t do that by going to war with a billion people. The vast majority of Muslims are not terrorists. As I said at the beginning- I’m not writing about the appropriate government response- I’m writing about the Christ-followers’ response.

Let’s make sure the responses have been tempered by the fruit of the Spirit instead of human emotion. Don’t get caught up in debates and anger. Let us remember that ‘God is in control’.


P.S. Are you content? Why? Why not? What would make you content? More money? A better job? How can I be content and happy? Answers to these questions and much, much more are headed your way this Sunday at 9:15 and 11:00.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

A Story of Rabbit Hunting

Thirty plus years ago a man named Carlos Montoya was out rabbit hunting in order to provide his family with some extra food. As he was walking around the rocky hillside close to his home, he began to pray. He asked God to give him a vision for the city of Ensenada. He continued to pray daily that God would work so a greater kingdom work occured in his town of 30,000 people. He prayed and waited. And he prayed some more.  
Prayer submits to the source of all power: Christ alone. That is why we typically end our prayers with the words, “In Jesus name.” This reminds us that He is the all-powerful God and works everything after the counsel of His good pleasure.
However, just because we say the words does not mean we have submitted to Christ’s authority. Effective, life-transforming ministry never comes through the power of man, but through the power of God. Man is simply a conduit through which God works.
Prayer- robust prayer – is a tool by which we keep the conduit free of obstruction and full of faith. Author and Pastor E.M. Bounds once wrote, “Prayer puts God’s work in His hands- and keeps it there.”

Truly, you have no ministry if your ministry has no prayer. Did God answer Pastor Montoya’s prayers? Did God honor the prayers of a man while rabbit hunting?

Two churches are still thriving from those prayers. A school to train people to go out and make Disciples is growing. Each year the school trains 80-90 students. They never advertise, and yet people come from all over Mexico to be trained. A weekly T.V. ministry preaches the Good News to the people of Ensenada. A group of pastors gather together weekly to pray for their city (now 750,000 people).

God is at work. Lives are being transformed. Addictions are being healed. Marriages are being restored. And even when there appears to be very little of this world’s goods- God supplies.

Yes- God honored the prayers of Carlos Montoya. What are you asking Him to do through you? Great things He will do when we ask Him. I had the opportunity to witness firsthand how God answered the prayers of Carlos. Pastor Robb and I spent the week there teaching in the school. All I can say is to God be the glory great things He has done! And it all started with prayer.


P.S. Does some worry have you captured? Are you so stressed that you are overwhelmed? Do you feel trapped and you don’t see any way out? You must come to church this week and bring a friend to discover how to live worry-free and stress-free. See you at 9:15 and 11:00.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Hey, Brother!

It’s happening to me more and more.  Everybody tells me it just goes with growing older.  I hope that is not an easy excuse for it.  What am I talking about?  Remembering someone’s name.

I talk to many people in church weekly, perhaps I talk to you every week and then it happens.  We bump into each other at the grocery store and panic hits.  I can’t remember your name.  I act like I know your name, know you well, but my mind is blank.

So what can one do to get better with remembering names?  Well, the good news is that you don’t have to be a genius.  Everyone can remember names if they work at it.  Most of us just don’t know how.  So here are some tips I’ve learned along the way.  Remember, you have to work at these.

Step One:  Repeat names.  Repetition builds memory.  When you meet someone for the first time say their name as much as possible.

Step Two:  Read names.  Read a person’s name in your mind.  Visualize it.  Spell it in your head.

Step Three:  Record names.  Write new names down as soon as possible.  Add a note by the name like, “tall, blonde, salesman, works at…”  Keep a database or application with people’s names in it.  Review it occasionally.

Step Four:  Relate names.  Our minds remember images, not words.  Turning a person’s name into an image is the best way to instantly recall it.  Let’s say you meet John Baker – imagine an actual baker in a kitchen putting a toilet (a john) in the oven.  It may sound bizarre but it works.

Step Five:  Remember to remember names.  I know what you’re saying, “Duh!”  Most often, the reason we don’t remember names is simply because we do not consciously make an effort.  We hear the name, but we are too busy thinking about what we are going to say next.

If you think you can’t do all five steps at least concentrate on step four.  If all else fails just honestly say, “I’m sorry, my mind is having a relapse, I forgot your name.”  When they say it, go through the steps.  You only get to use that line one per person.  Have fun remembering names.


P.S. Ever lied and gotten away with it?  Ever been overlooked by others?  Need to extend some forgiveness to someone who has wronged you?  Would your friends say of you, “She is a person of integrity”?  We will be addressing some of these questions this Sunday at 9:15 and 11:00.  Bring a friend and discover how to be a person everybody trusts.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

I read a blog this week from Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church located in California.  He stated that people who have made the greatest impact on this world, for good or bad, are those who had the deepest convictions.  Influencers are not necessarily, the brightest, most educated, wealthiest or most famous, but people of conviction.

This him to say if you’re going to build conviction in your life, you need to build on something that lasts.  Fads change, technology changes, textbooks change as we learn more and more, etc., but the one thing that never changes is the truth of God.  (Take a moment and read Isaiah 40:8)

The church needs to be built on God’s eternal Word.  Here are six convictions of Saddleback Church that are the same convictions we have at First Free.
1.        It’s all about God.  Not you. Not me.  But God.  It’s not about profit, policies or anything else.  Romans 11 reminds us “For everything comes from God alone.  Everything lives by His power.  And everything is intended for His glory.”  He desires to be loved and worshiped above everything else.
2.        Only His church will last forever.  No business, government, nation can claim that.  Jesus said, “I will build my church and all the powers of hell will not conquer it.”  (Matthew 16:18)  The church is worth giving our time – our treasures – our talents – our entire life to.
3.        God expects me to love everybody else, too.  Mark 12 says, “Love your neighbor as yourself;” that means the unlovely, the difficult, the dangerous, the different, even our enemies. (Luke 6:35)
4.        The whole world needs Jesus.  If the world needs Jesus let’s not keep the Good News about Him secret.  We have the cure for the most dreaded disease of all - sin.  Christ came to die for sinners.  This truth ought to change our priorities – not living for myself – but living for Jesus.  (Read Romans 5:8)
5.        Everything is possible with God. (Read Matthew 19:6) Stop saying, “I can’t.” With God at work in you – you can do amazing things.  God gets the most glory when we trust Him for the impossible.
6.        History’s conclusion is inevitable.  One day, hopefully soon, God’s going to wrap it all up here on earth and He’s going to take His children who’ve trusted in Him to heaven forever and ever.  Knowing this we ought to desire to get everybody we can into the kingdom of heaven, where they are going to be for eternity.

May these six convictions compel us all at First Free. Through living out these convictions God gets the glory.


P.S. Work for a horrible boss?  Is your workplace corrupt?  What are you to do if you are in that kind of situation?  Don’t miss Sunday 9:15 or 11:00 as we uncover and discover the answer to these questions.  Communion will be served.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Is your "hot button" an essential or a non-essential?

There is a phrase that is commonly attributed to Augustine that goes like this:  In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity (love).  I wish this simple little statement would be put into practice for all Christ followers.

Rick Warren pastor of Saddleback church and author of The Purpose Drive Life states it a little differently.  He says that every church needs to identify its absolutes, convictions, and preferences.

Absolutes (essentials) are those things that we will die for no matter the cost such as, the deity of Christ, the virgin birth, the substitutionary atonement of Jesus, the trinity and the inspiration of Scripture.

Convictions are those things that devoted followers have disagreed on for 2,000 years: When does the rapture occur (pre-tribulation, mid-tribulation, post tribulation or pre-wrath)?  Is speaking in tongues necessary in todays’ church, or Calvinism vs. Arminianism?  Honestly, at First Free we have people in all the aforementioned.  Here is where we must be advocates for liberty.

Preferences: style of music, what clothes to wear to church, lighting (bright or darker), can I have a glass of wine at dinner or not, loudness of music, colors, symbols, cross, communion table, podium or pulpit, candles, etc.

Here is my observation of what happens in most churches.  Somebody want to make essentials – non-essentials, and non-essentials, essentials.

Then, we want to fight about it.  I have never had anybody in my 38 years of ministry fight with me over the deity of Christ, the substitutionary atonement or the trinity.  But I have had more that I can count of people picking a fight with me over musical style, colors, and loudness of music, lighting, pulpits, dress and other preferences.

I am reminding all of us there is an absolute (essential) bucket we must submit to and make our guiding compass.  At the same time our personal life choices and desires should not be made into the guiding compass which often is the case.

Love in all things strengthens the church.  No matter what we may believe, there is no excuse for lovelessness toward one another.

Have you identified the essentials? The non-essentials? “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.”


P.S. How can I have influence in my job (assignment) when I am not the CEO?  How do you lead from the middle?  Don’t miss the answer to these questions this Sunday at 9:45 or 11:00.  Bring a friend and join us.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

The Procrastination Excuse

This weeks’ Freshly Bru’d is committed to those of us who wait until the last minute to accomplish something.  (Like writing this blog.)  In other words, I want to talk about procrastination.  And for those of you who say, “I work best under pressure” you are just excusing what in reality is procrastination.

Most of us know what we need to do, we just put it off.  The problem with procrastination is that it becomes a way of life.  The more you do it, the better you become at it.  Some are actually professional procrastinators.

‘I know the things I ought to do, and I don’t do them.’  Why?  Indecision causes procrastination.  Indecision causes you to postpone buying a car, choosing a college, getting married, buying new clothes, ordering off the menu at a restaurant (read James 1:8).

‘If you wait for perfect conditions, you’ll never get anything done.’  Why?  Perfectionism causes procrastination.  Remember you don’t have the time or the money for things to be perfect.

‘When you are afraid you tend to put things off.’  Why?  Fear causes procrastination.  Ever postponed going to the dentist, having a surgery, sharing your faith.  Ask yourself, “What am I afraid of?”

So if I struggle with procrastination how do I stop it?  Let me share three helpful things.  First, stop making excuses especially the one that goes like this, ‘I’ll get to it when things settle down.’  They are never going to settle down.  We live in a rat race society.

Second, start today.  Not tomorrow, next week, next year (read Proverbs 21:1).  Since we are not guaranteed a tomorrow you need to say, “I’ll do it today.”  Start right now.

Third, create a schedule and stick to it.  Write on the calendar the things you need to accomplish and when they need to be accomplished.  Don’t divert from the schedule.  Git er done!  If you fail to plan, you’re planning to fail (read Proverbs 13: 16 and Galatians 6:9).  Concentrate on how good you’re going to feel once you’ve finished the task.  Look at the gain not the pain.


P.S. Invite a friend day is here!  Ask a friend to join you this Sunday as we look at the secret to finding more meaning in your work.  Everybody has a job, not a vocation, but a job.  Don’t miss, Beyond 9 to 5: Transforming the Way You Work.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Have you ever been in a crowded room and felt all alone?  Have you experienced that loneliness even in a church setting?

Just like Nebraska has four seasons there are many seasons in life.  Everybody at one time or another will experience a season of loneliness.  Ask any leader of a company, a pastor, a student who stood for something he/she believes in.  We all will face loneliness at some point in life.

What causes loneliness?  A lack of relationship with another person can be one reason.  The very first thing that God said is not right about the earth is loneliness.  (Read Genesis 2:18)

Change can cause loneliness.  Life is a series of transitions some good, some bad, some ugly and these can cause isolation.  With every change, and the culture is in constant change, you’re letting go of something.  Letting go of routine, what you like can cause loneliness.

Opposition can cause loneliness.  My five year old granddaughter felt lonely when one of her friends wouldn’t play with her on the playground.  Being ganged up on, called names, not being understood hurts.  And during those times you experience loneliness.

It also is true of rejection.  Ever been betrayed by a spouse or friend?  Been abandoned by others for a decision you made?  Forsaken?  God designed us with a deep emotional need to be accepted.  When people we thought were loyal are not, or people we thought we could count on we can’t, it hurts.

So what do you do when loneliness strikes?  Remember, God feels it to.  He sees it, He cares about the heartache in your heart.  He cares about how you feel.  Jesus felt all alone in the garden and on the cross.  He can identify with our pain.  (Read Hebrews 4:15-16)

Not only can we remember God understands, but we can make the best of a bad situation.  Resist the temptation to do nothing.  Take some action.  Discover a hobby, learn a new skill, join a life group, travel or find a new friend.  Any action is better than not action.

Last of all when loneliness strikes you, rest in God’s presence.  When you’re lonely it’s natural to ask, “Where’s God?”  He’s where He’s always been, right beside you.  He is with you even if you do not feel it. (Read John 14:18)


P.S. Have you ever felt that you don’t measure up to everybody else’s standards or expectations?  Ever feel like you’re stuck in a spiritual rut?  These things just drain you of any happiness or joy.  What can you do to reach the next level of joy in your life?  Come Sunday 9:15 or 11:00 and discover how to experience joy in your life’s journey.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

1 + 1 + 1 Initiative

Invite a Friend Day has been scheduled for Sunday, October 11th. We are asking everybody who regularly attends First Free to spend time, beginning now until October 11th involving themselves in the one plus one plus one initiative. You simply pray for one minute (in the shower, in the car, at lunch, on a coffee break, watching a sports event, etc…) for one of your unchurched friends (maybe a family member, classmate, neighbor, employer, employee, anybody who doesn’t attend a church) once a day (you choose the best time in your schedule).

At some point between now and October 11th we want you to invite the friend or friends you have been praying for to join you at church. After the service, go to brunch or lunch or have them over to your house. Two out of three unchurched people say they would go to church with a friend if they were invited.

I know every Sunday could be considered an invite a friend day, but I also realize that expecting everyone to do that 52 times a year is unrealistic. But two or three times a year is very realistic.

When you invite your friend they will hear some great music, a message about something they can relate to and have an enjoyable experience. October 11th begins a new series entitled “Beyond 9:00 to 5:00: Transforming the way you work.” Everybody wants more meaning in their work regardless if they are retired, a stay at home mom, or in the beginning, middle or end of their career. We will talk about how to discover that meaning. Hope to see you on Invite a Friend Day! Until then, take a minute, once a day, to pray for one of your unchurched friends. 

P.S. Want people to see you as reliable, trustworthy and loyal? Would others say you are a team player and enjoyable to be around? Are others encouraged when they have spent time with you? You may think, “What do these questions have to do with finding joy in my journey?” Come this Sunday at 9:15am or 11:00am and discover the answer. Bring a friend with you. 





Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Facts are our Friends

Facts are our friends, and what one does with the facts really shows if he understands a particular situation.  Let me give you some facts about the unchurched and those who are not familiar with the context of the church.
  • 73% of unchurched 20-29 year old Americans consider themselves ‘spiritual’ because they want to know more about ‘God or a higher supreme being.’
  • 89% of unchurched young adults say they would listen to what someone believes about Christianity.
  • 63% of young adults said they would attend church if it presented truth to them in an understandable way ‘that relates to my life now.’
  • 58% of 20 somethings would be more likely to attend if people at the church ‘cared for them as a person.’
One of the most interesting facts to me is 77% of those young people who are self-identified as unchurched think that believing in Jesus makes a positive difference in a person’s life, yet they seem to be staying away from the church.  Why is this?

Because of perception.  67% believe the church is full of hypocrites.  39% believe that their lifestyles would not be accepted by most Christian churches.  90% think they can have a good relationship with God without the church.

Adding to the facts the reality that 61% are willing to study the Bible with a friend and 46% are willing to join a small group to learn more about the Bible and Jesus.

So what do these statistics show us? 
  • We live on a mission field.
  • We need a mission force.  Christianity influence is on the wane even though the unchurched are interested and open.
  • Current church goers aren’t investing in the unchurched and are not sharing the gospel.  61% of Christians have not shared the gospel in the last six months while 79% know it is their responsibility.
Therefore, might we have the courage to invest in the unchurched, share the gospel and fulfill our mission: To introduce people to Jesus Christ, develop them into fully devoted followers of Jesus, and equip them to reach their city and world?

P.S. You will not want to miss this Sunday at 9:15 or 11:00 A.M.  Bring a friend as we discover how to heal a broken heart and experience some happiness again.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

The Nones Among Us.

A couple of years ago, Cathy Lynn Grossman, writing for USA Today, did an article on religion in America.  Her research led her to conclude that Protestants in America are declining and people with no religion, ‘nones’, are rising in number.
Protestants are less than half of Americans, while ‘nones’ are one in five.  What this means is that there are now more ‘nones’ in the United States than any other denomination.
Warren Bird from Leadership Network writes, “More that 1 out of every 3 adults, 33% in America is unchurched.  This means they haven’t attended a religious service of any type during the past year.  This represents some 125 million Americans.  That number alone would be the 10th largest country in the world.”
What do all of these statistics mean?  That America is a mission field.  Of course, it always has been.  Reaching people with the gospel always starts in your own neighborhood and moves outward (Acts 1). You don’t have to get on a plane, learn a new language, new cultural setting to be on the mission field.  You are living on a mission field!
This doesn’t mean that the people in other countries are less important than the people in Nebraska.  It just means that the church is missing its easiest target – our neighbors, friends, classmates and co-workers.
Don’t you love living in a place where you’re needed?  I like being a missionary 24/7.  Hopefully, you see yourself as a missionary, at least always thinking like one.  Salt does no good in the shaker.
Luke 10:2 tells us, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.  Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into the harvest field.”
It’s great to ask the Lord to send workers.  We should keep doing that.  But we should also remember that each one of us is to be counted among those workers.  So be one of the workers by looking around every day and reaching out to the ‘nones’ in your own backyard.

P.S. Discouraged? Tempted? Worried? Fearful? Insurmountable problems? Can’t cope another day? Everyone against you? If you can relate to any of these you won’t want to miss our services this week at 9:15 and 11:00 and discover the pathway to happiness.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

The Mindset of College Freshmen

Ron Nief, Tom McBride and Charles Westerberg are the creators of the Beloit College Mindset List.  The first mindset list was published for the graduating class of 2002 putting the first list at 1997.
The purpose of the mindset list was designed to help educators and counselors understand the upcoming generation and become a basis for one on one chats, classroom discussions and even personal essays.
Students heading into their first year of college this year are mostly 18 and were born in 1997.  Among those who have never been alive in their lifetimes are Princess Diana, Notorious B.I.G., Jacques Cousteau, and Mother Teresa.
Joining them in the world the year they were born were Dolly the sheep, the McCaughey septuplets, and Michael “Prince” Jackson, Jr.
Since they have been on the planet: (I have chosen 10 out of 50 descriptors from the list)
 (1) Hybrid automobiles have always been mass produced. 
(2) Google has always been there, in its founding words ’to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible.’
 (3) They have never licked a postage stamp. 
(4) Hong Kong has always been under Chinese rule.
 (5) They have grown up treating WI-FI as an entitlement. 
(6) Their parents have gone from encouraging them to use the internet to begging them to get off it. 
(7) The Lion King has always been on Broadway. 
(8) TV has always been in such high definition that they could see the pores of actors and grimaces of quarterbacks. 
(9) Mr. Jones and Mr. Smith have always been “Men in Black”, not their next door neighbors. 
(10) Surgeons have always used ‘super glue’ in the operating room.
To test your knowledge of the 2015 Freshmen Class or the 2019 list, see if you know these expressions used by them:
Redneck Teleprompter
Smartphone Shuffles

I hope this review will enable you to understand the next generation a little better and encourage you to remember we live in constant cultural change.


P.S. Do you struggle with comparing yourself to others, obsessing about how you look, consuming to much media, buying stuff you don’t need? These things actually can rob you of joy.  Join me this week at 9:15 and 11:00 to discover how to find joy in the journey.  Bring a friend.  You won’t want to miss this week.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Currently Trending

Most of you know by now that I am a trends guy. I read a lot of articles and stats about trends in America, especially those having to do with church. I appreciate those people out there keeping the pulse of our culture. People like Ed Stetzer of Lifeway Research, George Barna of the Barna Institute, Thomas Rainer, Will Mancini and others.

These trend evaluators present some very thought provoking considerations. This issue of Freshly Bru’d will present 3 trends that may happen in the next ten years. Think about them and see if you agree as you look out on America’s church landscape. These trends come from Ed Stetzer of Lifeway Research.

Trend number one: The hemorrhaging of mainline Protestantism. Mainline churches are in trouble numerically, especially the United Methodist church, Evangelical Lutheran church in America, Episcopal church, Presbyterian church (USA), American Baptist church, United Church of Christ (UCC) and the Christian church (Disciples of Christ). There is a substantive decline of these churches and the numbers of people they are losing and connections does not look promising.

Trend number two: Continued growth of Pentecostalism and the Charismatic movement. They have won the spiritual gift debate concerning cessationsim, have tamed down their practice of certain gifts and are moving toward a Spirit filled and Spirit led experience. They also have won the worship war debate.

Trend number three: Networks will explode in number and influence. Denominations still matter but networks are growing in influence and impact. Some are becoming their own denominations. (Like Vineyard, Calvary Chapel).

All of these trends have implications – some good, and some not so good. What good implications or bad implications do you see in the future relating to these three trends?


P.S. Ever wish you knew more about the Bible? I’m not talking facts about it but the “How to’s” of it. How to read it, interpret it, apply it, how it’s put together and most of all, how to believe it. If you are interested in such things come this Sunday at 9:15am or 11:00am and bring a friend. 

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Relationship is paramount

This post of Freshly Bru’d is committed to a very important reminder. The reminder is: only a very few people hear the gospel or show up at church without first being in relationship. In other words, most people who come to trust in Christ are invited to do so by a person they know.

That means God calls all of us not just pastors, to evangelize our families, friends, neighbors, co-workers, etc… Personal relationships are the best way to reach out to people with the gospel.

Every Christ follower is to be on board with investing their lives in others. This investment will provide opportunities for those you are investing in to hear the gospel and see the gospel lived out in you, their friend.

As a pastor in the church it is true to say “I don’t know your friends” but you do. I can’t invest in your friends – you can. I can’t invite your friends to church – you can. What I can do is to make sure the gospel is presented well, over and over again and teach it well, but only you can invest and invite your friends who need the gospel.

There isn’t a person who gets through this broken world unbroken. As you live your life each day, week in and week out, connect with broken people as broken people who have met the One who restores. Invest in people’s lives. When the time is right offer restoration of the brokenness through Christ. That is evangelism. God has reconciled us to Himself through Christ to be sent out to reconcile others to Him. That is what I wanted to remind all of us.


P.S. Need the courage to say “No” to something? Going along with the crowd? Some temptation? Some addiction? Filthy language? Drinking? Can I have the courage to say “No” to something that will ultimately cause me pain and sorrow in the long run? Yes, you can. Come and discover it this Sunday at 9:15am or 11:00am.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

One and Done?

We all have heard of the “nones,” the fastest growing segment of our population who have no church background, affiliation or understanding of church life. But there is also a growing number of “dones.” Those who do have church backgrounds, affiliations and understanding of church life but are done with it all.

The top reasons:

The church is judgmental. Yes, it is, but as humans we are judgmental at every level: work, social class, race, etc…

The church is full of hypocrites. Guilty again. But leaving the church won’t make it better. Being authentic, transparent and helping others will.

The church is too institutional. It is possible to be too institutional instead of taking a loosely-organized organic community. But being anti-institutional isn’t good either. A happy medium is needed in the church.

The church is too political. True. But the good news is that God is not a Democrat, Republican or Independent. There is a whole new generation moving up (Praise God) who are tired of political bullying. They want meaningful conversations.

The church complicates my life. Too many events interfere with my life. Thankfully, God is raising up a generation of church leaders who are driven by God’s eternal purpose for the church rather than by programs, events and schedules.

The church is too dogmatic. Maybe. But truth is truth. And if we leave no room for dialogue or conversation then we can appear dogmatic. Let’s leave room for real discussion.

The church just wants my money. This is a tough one because Jesus and the Bible talk more about this subject than any other. Generosity and giving is a spiritual issue, not a financial issue. When we give, we reflect God’s nature, our faith grows and the world is ultimately impacted. We’ve got to talk about it.

The church doesn’t care about issues that matter. What matters to you may not matter to me. The single most important issue is the gospel and proclamation. I am impressed that the church is waking up to problems of poverty, education, environment, human trafficking, civil rights, etc… We shouldn’t be afraid to address these things.

The church let me down. No one church can meet everyone’s need, solve everyone’s problem, connect with everybody. So, what if nobody bailed? What if everyone decided to stay and work out their issues and be part of the solution?

Don’t say “I’m done,” rather “I’m done with my part in the problems I see, but I’m going to be part of the solution.”


P.S. Facing a terminal illness? A child of divorce? Struggling as a single mom to raise your family? Choosing purity over promiscuity? All these things take courage. How courageous are you as a person? This Sunday at 9:15am and 11:00am we begin a three week journey on courage: standing strong during trying times. 

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Stopping Leakage

Ok, it’s time again to refresh with you the mission of First Free. Why? Because vision and mission leaks, and therefore we have to be reminded of these things over and over again. To stop the leakage, we review our vision and mission to get us back to “why.” Usually we begin to feel lost in the “what” the church is doing. We must get back to the “why!” Nothing matters more than “why” we do what we do!

Why do we worship, preach, teach, encourage Life Group participation and getting you involved in the community? Why do we also talk about you investing in your neighborhood, workplace and school? Why are we asking you to invite your unchurched friends? Why do we want you volunteering for agencies in our community? Why do we want you serving in the church?

Why are we constantly changing the systems, structures, processes, policies and programs? Why? Because of our mission. 
Our mission at First Free is this: to introduce people to a personal relationship with Jesus, develop them into fully devoted disciples (followers) and equip them to reach their community and world. 
 This is “why” we do what we do.
 It’s easy for us to forget the main thing. It’s easy to view all of our processes and structures through the lens of the believer rather than through the lens of the lost. It’s easy for the church to become a cruise ship rather than a battle ship. It’s easy to forget that it’s all about changed lives – transformed lives through Jesus.

Churches grow numerically and spiritually when their people are inviting. People invite when lives are changing. Lives change when we stay focused on changed lives – the mission.

Every ministry in the church has its own miniature version of the mission. We must make sure they are aligned properly to the mission.

Misalignment in the church, whether it is a person or a program, causes the same symptoms as a car when it is misaligned: it’s harder to steer, it moves off course easily, it takes more energy to move forward and eventually, it burns out (like volunteers in the church).

So, review the mission of First Free. It’s stated above. Proper alignment to it increases forward momentum, energized you and the ministries you are involved in. Remember the “why!”


P.S. Remember Ferguson, Missouri? Baltimore? What was your reaction? Ever think that the Caucasian race is superior to all others? Ever judge someone because of the color of their skin? This week’s Hot Potato is racism. Join me at 9:15am or 11:00am as we address this important subject. Don’t forget the free breakfast for anyone from 8:00am-10:30am in the Multipurpose Room.





Thursday, June 11, 2015

How is your memory?

Sorry to say I almost forgot my 39th Anniversary day. It wasn’t until the actual day that I remembered. Not one of my better moves. How is your memory? The older I am getting, the more it seems to be slipping. Cindy can call me at the office five minutes before I am to drive home, tell me to pick up a loaf of bread and I forget to do it. How about your car keys? Every day I waste five minutes of time searching for my car keys. I thought I’d taken them out of my pockets to place them where the keys are to be placed only to discover I forgot to – they’re still in my pocket.

Now, any doctor will tell you the big seven lifestyle based ways to improve your memory. Eat right (celery, cauliflower, walnuts, broccoli, omega 3, fresh vegetables), exercise, stop multitasking, get a good night’s sleep, play brain games, master a new skill (I think I am going to take up knitting.), and try mnemonic devices (like acronyms, rhymes, visualization).

I would like to add an eighth. It probably fits under the brain game skill but it has a dual purpose. It is memorizing Scripture. Not only does it help improve memory, it internalizes God’s truth in your life for all time. The Psalmist declared “How can a young man keep his way pure? By keeping it according to Your Word. With all my heart I have sought You; do not let me wander from Your commandments. Your Word I have treasured in my heart that I many not sin against You.” (Psalm 119:9-11)

Let me give you some tips for memorizing Scripture in hopes to improve your memory and to help you be continually conscious of God’s Word as you go through your daily routine.

1. Choose a verse to memorize that speaks to something in your life right now.

2. Start small. (John 11:35 says “Jesus wept.” There’s your first verse memorized.)

3. Write the verse down.

4. Say the verse out loud.

5. Incorporate the verse in your prayers.

6. Put the verse everywhere: bathroom mirror, refrigerator, computer, pocket, textbooks, etc…

7. Use music to help. (Sing it or find songs to put to Scripture.)

8. Make it a fun game. (Have someone quiz you or fill in the blank with missing words from the verse.)

9. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

Get started today. You will be surprised how Bible memorization will help your memory! Well, unless it’s your 39th anniversary.


P.S. The second “Hot Potato” topic will explore what the Bible says about same-sex marriage. Don’t miss it. See you this Sunday, June 14th at 9:15am or 11:00am.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

"This is the Best Church EVER!" Until it's not.

Many of you know that I meet monthly with 8 other Bible teaching churches in our community. This of course is of great encouragement to me and others I meet with. We learn from each other, challenge each other and pray for each other’s ministries.

The one thing besides Jesus that we have in common is the understanding that there are times when church ministry is painful. We as a group have experienced similar pains in each of our ministries. One pain we have in common is the hurt when someone leaves your church. The very people who say “It’s my church home. I will never go anywhere else!” But they do. And every time, it hurts.

We all have heard the reasons: “I’m not getting fed any longer.” “We feel called to support a new pastor in town.” “We don’t sing my favorite songs enough and the music is too loud.” “I’m having some issues with ________ and feel it best to just move on.” “It seems like you’re all about numbers and reaching new people, what about me?”

Every one of us in my pastor group have heard each one of these reasons. Of course, there are a hundred other reasons given, but these are the most common.

I read an interesting article by Kurt Bubna concerning this very issue. Pastor Bubna says people leave because of one reason and it always boils down to this: they don’t love you anymore or at least not as much as they used to. Let’s face it, people rarely leave what they truly love: they don’t leave a dream job that they love, a spouse whom they love, a church that they love. It just doesn’t happen.

So how do you handle this reality? Many of you have had close friends who have left the church you love and you know the hurt I’m talking about.

The first thing we need to do is accept it. People are people and our emotions are fickle. That is why someone can say “This is the best church ever!” until it’s not.

The second thing we must do is get over it. Rather than fixating on the ones who leave, let’s focus on the thousands in our community who have no relationship with Christ or His church. The harvest is still ripe, and we still have a job to do.

The third thing we must do is learn from it. Jesus had people who followed Him because of His miracles but many of them left Him. (Read John 2:23-25)

Love people, serve people, but if they leave, stay the course and reach others. Entrust your life to the One who promises never to leave or forsake you.


P.S. Have you ever felt that Christianity is nothing more than a bunch of do’s and don’ts? Have you ever felt another Christian imposes his rules on you? If so, come and discover what the single greatest impediment to being graceful is and what you can do to combat it. See you Sunday at 9:15am or 11:00am! 

Thursday, May 14, 2015


Sometimes I get irritated with myself because I know something is true with my head but I don’t act as if it’s true with my heart. Have you been there?

Take discouragement. I know in my head it is one of the enemy’s most effective tools against the people of God. I know if he can get us discouraged, experiencing defeat is right around the corner.

I also know in my head that everyone experiences discouragement. How many children’s teachers, youth leaders, adult life group leaders have dreams of seeing spiritual growth among those they teach and lead only to become discouraged and quit? How many pastors have I met that get involved in a power struggle within their churches who become discouraged and lose heart? (A lot of them)

How many men and women enter the world of business with big goals and high expectations but end up experiencing discouragement? How many singles are discouraged in their relationships? How many people enter a marriage but soon become discouraged with each other and marriage itself?

So, if I know discouragement is the enemy’s tool and everyone experiences it, then why do I succumb to it so easily? Why do I allow my heart to be overwhelmed with discouragement when I know in my mind these things about how discouragement works?

I think the answer is forgetfulness. I forget that God is faithful to provide encouragement. I forget that discouragement makes me feel detached from God and it’s at that moment I must chase after God. (Read Psalm 42:1-2, 6)

I also forget that God gives me hope. The Psalmist says “The Lord will send His faithful love by day, His song will be with me in the night – a prayer to the God of my life.” (Psalm 42:8) Putting hope in God reminds us of His presence even in the valley of the shadow of death. (Psalm 23)

I also let discouragement overwhelm me when I forget His grace is sufficient for me today, right now and every day. (Take a moment and read 2 Corinthians 12:9)

Brennan Manning, one of my favorite authors writes “Suffering failure, loneliness, sorrow, discouragement and death will be part of your journey, but the kingdom of God will conquer all these horrors. No evil can resist grace forever.”

The hard work is to remember what we forget. Fill your mind with the encouragement of God and it will transfer down to your heart. Don’t forget!


P.S If you have ever had someone judge you, misunderstand you, shun you, condemn you, blame you, reject you, you will not want to miss out on this Sunday’s message “To judge or not to judge? That is the question.”  Join me at 9:15am or 11:00am and discover how to be graceful; being a person everyone wants and needs.





Monday, May 11, 2015

The Big 5

There are five very important core values we are committed to at First Free.  A core value is like the buoy makers you see in a water channel.  The captain sees the markers and knows how to guide the boat through the channel successfully.

Our five values are speed, excellence, generosity, creativity, and positivity.  In this issue of Freshly Bru’d, I want to focus on generosity.  One thing God’s people are to be is generous.  Let me share with you four things about generosity.

First, it’s a different way to live.  God invites us to be generous every day of the year and in every part of our lives.  Whether we are talking about our money, our time, our love, or our talents we are to live generously.

Second, generosity is contagious.  Have you ever had someone at a drive thru who is ahead of you – pay for your meal?  If so, you know you then want to show the same generosity to the customer behind you.  It’s heartwarming to have someone pay for your coffee, but even more heartwarming for you to turn around and do the same for someone else.  It is contagious.

Third, generosity is counter cultural.  Most people today don’t feel like they have enough.  So we spend most of our time trying to accumulate, and the rest of our time trying to figure out how to keep what we have.  Giving away what we have, which is really God’s not ours, is directly opposed to how to cultivate acts and things.  That is why generosity is so powerful.

And last of all generosity reproduces itself.  The economy of God doesn’t work the way ours does.  When we give away what we have, when we are faithful with it instead of holding onto it, God reproduces what we have.

Nobody has ever starved because they tithed too much.  God just doesn’t work that way.  When we trust God with the money He has entrusted to us, He goes above and beyond what we gave to Him.

Generosity has never been about money, time or talent; it always has been about faith.  Faith to trust God and see Him bless.  Be generous!


Thursday, April 23, 2015

Questions from Non-Attenders

For most of us receiving and reading Freshly Bru’d each week, we feel very comfortable in church. It’s been such a part of our weekly routine and custom that it’s easy to conclude that everybody else feels as comfortable as we do in the church environment. But that is not true for those who didn’t grow up in the church environment. There is an incredible anxiety most of them feel as they walk through the church doors. The more we become an outward focused church and introduce people to Jesus, we need to enter into their anxiety about church.

Those who are far from God but are searching for the answer to life feel like a fish out of water. Brian Moss, a pastor of Oak Ridge Church in Salisbury, MD shares some of the questions going through their minds.

1. Am I going to get struck by lightning? This grows out of their feelings that their current lifestyle doesn’t match what God wants for them. Since they have no background to spiritual things they often believe God is probably ticked at them.

2. Is anyone going to acknowledge me? Not in an “all eyes on me” way, but just recognize that their guests/visitors are just like them.

3. Are my kids going to be safe? They are being asked to trust people they don’t know with their children. In a day of growing pedophiles, this is just scary.

4. Is the message going to be boring or confusing? Those with no church background (those are the people we want to reach) believe the Bible is an outdated, irrelevant book.

5. Am I going to be dressed right? We can understand this one because we all have attended an event either overdressed or underdressed.

6. Will I know where to go? Clear signage and ushers/greeters escorting them can be a life saver.

7. Who can I ask a question? Have you noticed the information counters are now called “Just Ask” counters?

8. Are they going to do anything weird? Someone who has no church context feels like they are visiting a foreign country. Not knowing what is going to happen can be terrifying.

9. Am I going to have to have sing or clap? How many environments does the average American go to that they’re asked to sing out loud and clap along with? It’s funny that we like to measure worship by crowd participation, but then we neglect to measure our outreach effectiveness by the lack of crowd participation.

10. Is there any hope? They are hoping that God can fix their broken hearts, homes and lives.

Since we are wanting to reach the unchurched of Lincoln, let’s be aware of their questions and strive to ease their anxiety.


P.S. Ever feel like a phony? A fake? Do you fear what people would think about you if they knew the real you? Authenticity is one of the skills we need to develop if we hope to untangle our relationships with others and experience relational health. Join us this week at 9:15 and 11:00 as we peel off our masks. 

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Have you ever been asked questions about your spiritual life? Questions like “Are you growing and maturing in your spiritual walk?” “Have you ever been discipled to help you with your spiritual development?” Or “What do you think you need to help develop yourself spiritually?”

If you have never been asked these kind of questions, consider them now. How would you answer them? Let me share a couple of principles relating to growing or maturing spiritually.

First, spiritual growth is not accidental. You must intend to grow. You must make a choice to grow. Now the church can come alongside of you and assist, but you have to own this one and yield to the Holy Spirit to help you grow.

Second, spiritual growth is incremental. We grow physically through developmental stages. It is no different spiritually.

Third, spiritual growth is personal. The word disciple means “learner.” Since we are all different, we all learn differently. Find your best way to grow and develop it.

Forth, spiritual growth is practical. What I mean is in the end, we will become whatever we habitually do. Reading God’s Truth takes practice, praying is a spiritual habit. Giving and attending a life group are other practical ways to develop spiritually.

Fifth, spiritual growth is relational. There are 50 “one anothers” in the Bible. God created us to relate with others. Take a minute and read Hebrews 10:24-25 to reinforce this principle in your mind.

Sixth, spiritual growth is seasonal. You will relieve a lot of guilt when we understand this. Nobody grows at a constant pace all the time. Plants, trees, shrubs, grow in spring and summer and then are dormant in the fall and winter. The same is true in your life. Ever said “I just don’t feel like I’m growing much right now, even though I’m doing the right things to grow.”  That’s ok. Maybe it’s winter for you, but spring is around the corner.

Spiritual growth is incarnational. It is not about what you accomplish, rather, it’s about the person of Jesus living in you. (Galatians 2:20) Our goal is to be like Jesus. (Romans 8:29)

So, how are you doing spiritually? Are you growing?


P.S. This Sunday at 9:15am and 11:00am we continue our series Untangled. We are examining your three most important relationships and the most important unifying skill needed to enhance them.


Thursday, April 9, 2015

The World Changes; The Word of God Doesn't. What does that mean for church?

I have talked about this a number of times but it is one of those principles we need to hear over and over again. Here it is: The world changes but the Word of God doesn’t. Our message must never change, but the way we deliver that message must be constantly adapted to reach each new generation.

For First Free to be effective to our mission (introducing people to a relationship with Jesus, equipping them to be fully devoted followers of Jesus and equipping them to reach their city and world with the message of Jesus) we must learn to live with the tension between these two. The changing world and the unchanging truth.

What would be some changes in our methodology (not the message) that would enhance our effectiveness in reaching the current culture of Lincoln?

1. Learning to communicate the truth in ways that the non-believer understands.

2. Realizing that what is contemporary (the word literally means temporariness) is never meant to last forever. Whatever is in style now will inevitably be out of style soon and the cycles of change are getting shorter and shorter. New styles and preferences, like fashion, are always emerging.

3. Staying relevant to the times. (Acts 13:36) This means we are anchored to the unchanging truth of the Word of God and His eternal purposes but are willing to continually adapt how you communicate those truths and purposes. This is not watering down the Gospel, but it’s communicating it in ways the non-believer understands.

4. Requiring mature believers to unselfishly limit their own preferences of what they think a church should look like in order to reach lost people for Christ. (Luke 5:38)

5. Looking at the church as a family not an institution.

I’m a baby boomer. Boomers tend to see the church as an organization but the emerging generations are looking for community. That is why we promote and encourage life groups at First Free. Boomers focus exclusively on intellect, but the upcoming generations are focused on the experiential. We not only want people to know God but to encounter God.

My prayer for First Free is that we be sensitive to those seeking like Jesus was, willing to meet them on their own turf and speak to them in ways they understand and provide for them a clear, practical looking and timeless message in a contemporary fashion.


P.S. Struggling with a relationship? Husband, wife, boss, co-worker, sister, brother, friend, neighbor, mom, dad, teacher, classmate, daughter, teammate… Relationships can become a tangled web of confusion. In this new series we will be learning some significant skills to help us keep our sanity and health in our relational world. Join us Sundays at 9:15am and 11:00am.