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Jesus Plus?

Mahatma Gandhi was the leader of India's independence movement. He was a pacifist. Before the movement, he trained to become a lawyer. He went to South Africa to get his education. He was there during the time of apartheid and came across a bunch of legalistic, racist, bigoted Christians. Upon returning to India, Gandhi said, "I like their Christ, but I do not like their C...

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A Journey to the Cross

Back in the year 2000, the National Gallery in London decided that the most appropriate way to celebrate the arrival of the new millennium was to mount an exhibition of art on "the Image of Christ". It was presented in the belief that even secular audiences could engage with the different artist's portrayals of the life and death of Jesus. Near the end of the exhibition, t...

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The King's Strategy

In Matthew's gospel Jesus gives a parable that describes the process of building the kingdom. Jesus chooses his words carefully and deliberately. The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gavea wedding feast for his son, andsent his servantsto call those who were invited to the wedding feast, but they would not come. Again he sent other servants, saying, "Tell...

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Promise of Better Days Ahead

Early this past fall, as my wife was cleaning out our son's closet, she came across his North Face winter coat. Our son, Jacob, had not taken it to college, because the zipper was broken. But then my wife remembered North Face's promise, their lifetime guarantee behind defects in all materials and workmanship. So we decided to test their promise. We sent the coat back to ...

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Essential Prayer

"Prayer is one of the most important aspects of building disciples. If one is to help men grow in the knowledge of Jesus Christ, he must pray. Indeed, if he does everything else right in terms of building disciples, yet fails to pray, nothing significant will happen." (Carl Wilson) As I am preaching through Philippians, once again I am reminded of the importance of prayer...

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Three-Legged Stool

Have you ever tried to sit on a one-legged stool? Or a stool with just two legs? Hard to do, isn't it? Stools with one or two legs will never hold you up for long. What you need is a three-legged stool. Just as three legs are required to sit on a stool, three essential ingredients are required to live and grow in our Christian journey. The first ingredient is the Holy Spi...

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Killing Giants

Giants are tough. Even though they might be a long way off, you can hear them coming, can't you? You might be able to run, but you cannot hide. You might as well come out and fight. They cast a long shadow over everything we aspire to do, every dream we hope to pursue, every new land we seek to inhabit. Today we would call them bullies, but they are the same old giants....

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A Passion for the Lost

There are a lot of titles that Jesus uses to describe himself: Bridegroom, Bread of Life, Cornerstone, Good Shepherd. But there is another one that stands out as completely different than all the rest: "friend of sinners" (Luke 7:34). Jesus loved lost people. He loved spending time with them. He went to their parties and enjoyed their company. From the Gospels it appears ...

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Working the Father's Blueprint

Have you noticed? It is much easier to make a case for a commitment to Christ than a commitment to the church. Christ is awesome, majestic, compelling. But the church seems so human, so ordinary and too many times downright dull. Christ is pure, the church is deeply and tragically stained. In Paul's letter to the church of Ephesus, he lists three important opinions of the...

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Thankful in Every Circumstance

Bert and John Jacobs are brothers who cofounded the $100 million "Life Is Good" T-shirt company. They grew up the youngest of six children in a lower middle-class family in Boston. When the brothers were in elementary school, their parents were in a near-death car accident from which their mother managed to escape with just a few broken bones, but their father lost the use...

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Above All

I love the the Acts of the Apostles. Once again I have been reading this New Testament story and I have been caught up in the expectant and vibrant faith of the early church. Their zest for Christ and for sharing His good news, their sacrifice, and their ministry all draw me up short. The power of the Holy Spirit displayed every day in the lives of those first disciples a...

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Ask for the Holy Spirit

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control; against such things there is no law." (Galatians 5:22-23; ESV) On Sunday mornings, we have been studying the fruit of the Spirit. Some have asked, how can this fruit be ours? How can we develop these qualities in our lives? It is simple. We need to ...

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Ears Open, Hearts Ready

Dr. Jerry Root, Professor of Evangelism at Wheaton College, shared the following story about a time when his flight was delayed and he had a conversation with a woman in the Vienna airport: "She was wearing a lanyard with a name tag and carrying a clipboard and obviously taking a survey for the airport. When she came to me I asked what her name was. "Allegra," she replied...

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Full of the Spirit

"Be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ." (Ephesians 5:18-21) "Fake News" has become all the rage. Facebook, Pope F...

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How to Deal with Our Scribbled Lives

Imagine a Christian sitting down with a blank page and pen. He begins to write out his perfectly scripted life, explaining how he would love others, how he would structure his prayer life, or how he would build a beautiful Christian family. But indwelling sin and Satan crouch at his elbow, disrupting every pen stroke and messing up every word and sentence as our Christian ...

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How to Pray for the Elections

I have been struggling recently in my prayer life. Not with praying per se, but with how to pray. Specifically, how to pray for the upcoming elections. So what did I do? I went to Scripture. And I found some answers. In Paul's great teaching on prayer from 1 Timothy 2:1-3 one of his major points is that we ought to pray for rulers and "all who are in high positions". Acc...

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Kingdom Ambassadors

Jesus talks a lot about the kingdom. He announced the kingdom in his first public words. The first prayer request that He taught His disciples was, "Thy kingdom come". The top priority of the believer is to seek "first the kingdom of God." The word "kingdom" is mentioned 152 times in the New Testament, 116 of those times in the Gospels. So what is God's kingdom? A kingdom...

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Risk Running the Race

I am worn out. Not from too busy of a summer. Not from chasing the dog around the block. But from watching the Olympics. Hasn't it been an exciting two weeks? What these amazing athletes can do takes my breath away. The Olympics always remind me of 1 Corinthians 9, where the Apostle Paul says, "Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives...

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Up Close & Personal

Howard Hendricks, the longtime professor at Dallas Seminary once said, "You can impress people at a distance; you can only impact them up close". People usually don't trust those they don't know. Add to that, in our day and our culture there is a general mistrust of organized religion. So how do you get the message of the gospel out? Put yourself in the shoes of the unchu...

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They Matter To God

Take a look around your neighborhood. Or around youroffice. Or school. Or park. Do you see them? They live in the houses next door, they get up every Sundaymorning, have a cup of coffee, and read the Star Tribune.But they don't go to church and they don't know Christand they probably don't even have a relationship with aChristian they respect. If you believe what the Bib...

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Here Am I! Send Me!

Isaiah worshipped! His was a fourfold experience of worship. He saw something. He heard something. He felt something. And he did something. Isaiah saw something. "I saw the Lord seated on the throne, high and exalted" (Isaiah 6:1). John, in his gospel, tells us that Isaiah saw Jesus Christ (John 12:41). For Isaiah, the invisible became visible and the spiritual becam...

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Lamppost Highlight

Lammpost Highlight with Marlene Maloney We had the opportunity to catch up with Marlene Maloney, who headed up the Community Emergency Services Food Drive this Fall. Here is our conversation about living in community at First Free and talking about what the Food Drive looked like this year. 1. What made you want to head up the food drive*?The name of our small group is S...

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Generous Living

When I was younger, one time I forgot to turn off the faucet. Now that would not have been such a big problem if I had not also put the stopper down. The end result was the sink filled up and overflowed. Romans 5:5 says, "God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us". Before you dismiss this as just Paul giving us some theolo...

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I Love The Fall

I love the fall. Although the weather turns cooler and the days start to become shorter, the leaves turn into vibrant kaleidoscopes of color. Browns. Yellows. Reds. Orange. God's creativity once again in full bloom. The fall is also harvest time. Apples to be picked. Crops to be brought in and stored away. It is a time to reap what has been sown. In the New Testament, Je...

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Good Deeds

When Peter explained the gospel for the first time to a group of non-Jewish people, he summarized Jesus' ministry with these words found in Acts 10:36-38, "As for the word of that he sent to Israel, preaching good news of peace through Jesus Christ (he is Lord of all), . . . . how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good ...

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Becoming Pray-ers

Fourteen years ago, when I came to First Free as your Sr. Pastor, the task appeared huge. Daunting. Impossible. So I prayed. And others prayed. That is what we tend to do when things in front of us seem impossible; we pray. But when everything is going well and the road in front appears to be smooth, we don't pray like we should. Our vision at First Free is to be a commu...

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The Prayers of Pray-ers

The Bible is all about God, and that is why the practice of prayer is so pervasive throughout its pages. In Genesis we see every one of the patriarchsAbraham, Isaac, and Jacobpraying with familiarity and directness. Abraham's doggedly insistent prayer for God's mercy on the pagan cities of Sodom and Gomorrah is remarkable (Gen 18:23ff). In Exodus, prayer was the way Moses...

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Nevertheless, There is Reason to Hope

One of the commencement traditions at Harvard University is Senior Class Chapel. On the morning of their graduation, seniors gather in Memorial Church to hear the minister offer words of solace and encouragement as they leave "the Yard" to take their places in the world. The 1998 senior class heard the unvarnished truth from the Rev. Peter Gomes, minister at Harvard. In h...

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A Love Test

A Love Test by Pastor Joel How about a love test today? The Associated Press tells the story of such a test. . . for dogs. An instructor from a dog training workshop in Salt Lake City noted that a dog's disposition can be tested by the owner. If the owner will fall down and pretend to be hurt, a dog with a bad temper will tend to bite him. But a good dog will show con...

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Be Careful To Not Walk On By

Who are the people God wants to use you to reach for Him? Think about them for a moment. Who are they? Where do you meet them? Do you know who they are? They may live next door, in your building, or down the street. They may have children in the same school or classroom as your children. They may be co-workers who you share stories with on Monday mornings. They may be th...

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A Church Renewal

As I have been reading the book of Acts again, I have been caught up in the expectant and vibrant faith of the early church. Their zest for Christ and for sharing His good news, their sacrifice and their ministry -- all draw me up short. The power of the Holy Spirit seemingly displayed every day in the lives of those first disciples amaze me. And I come away asking if this...

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Holy Employed

During this month of November, I want to think with you about a Christian view of work in our new sermon series, "Holy Employed". We want to explore questions like these: - How does my faith and my work relate to one another? - What does God say about my ordinary Monday through Friday work week? - Isn't work really just a curse? - Does my work really matter? Shouldn'...

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Gracious & Salty Speech

When was the last conversation you had with your neighbor? Becky and I love to connect with ourneighbors. Years ago, in our former neighborhood, we joined forces with several of our friends to hold a "Welcome to Spring" BBQ every May. Then in October we would have a "Fall festival"complete with a fire pit, apple cider and smores. It was always a lot of fun. Our goal was to...

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Prayer

Let's join together as disciples of Christ and ask, "Master, teach me how to pray."...

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Friendships

What is it that made their friendships so alive? And if we sit in the shadows and watch and listen, maybe we can learn how God uses friendship in our lives....

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Easter Identity

Easter Identity At Easter, Christ gave us a new identity. Paul writes, "I have beencrucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me."(Galatians 2:20). Our new identity involves two realities. First, through faith inJesus Christ, we have been united with Christ in his death.Which means I am dead. If I am dead, my achievements nolonger distinguish me. A...

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Our Values

Our values effect everything we do at First Free. They hold us together because we know what we stand for. They filter our decision making. They are our "die-fors", "those things we are ready and willing to die on the hill for. They are our make up of our DNA. They describe the First Free experience....

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Everyday Mission

"All authority in heaven and on earth has been given tome. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizingthem in the name of the Father and of the Son and of theHoly Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I havecommanded you. And surely I am with you always, to thevery end of the age." (Matthew 28:18-20) Ah, the Great Commission! Jesus' monumental procl...

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My Backyard

Everybody's life mission is unique, and only you can fulfill yourlife mission. The moment you become a believer, the moment youstep across the line and give your life to Jesus Christ, God has anassignment for you.Many of the parts of your life mission are unique, but there is onepart of your life mission that we all have in common. It's this: God wants you to tell other...

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Christ-Centered; Christ-Sent

Today as I am writing this article I am looking out the window of my office, watching a snowstorm taking place outside. Of the billions and billions of snowflakes in this one single storm, no one single flake is identical to another. Isn't that incredible? What an amazingly creative God we have.Have you ever sat on a beach somewhere and watched a sunset? Again, no two suns...

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Songs of Christmas

"When words fail, music speaks." -Hans Christian Anderson...

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Where is God Taking Us?

God gave Nehemiah a vision. ...

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