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Transformed by the Spirit

There is a great deal in scripture that we immediately recognize to be complex, mysterious or even foreign to our experience, but if there is one thing we as good 21st century Americans know, it's freedom. And so when we run across Galatians 5:1, "It is for freedom that Christ has set us free," it is tempting to relax and assume that Paul is finally speaking our language....

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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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Living the Gospel

The desire for heroes seems to be deeply and perhaps universally human. As far back as we can find literature, we find literary heroes. The ancient Greeks certainly loved them and produced them memorably and in staggering quantity: Perseus, Heracles, Achilles, Jason, Odysseus, Socrates and many more besides. It says something about the power and importance of heroes that t...

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Our Mission In Exile

Many generations had passed since the old glory days of King David. Jerusalem had been sacked by the Babylonian king named Nebuchadnezzar. The bodies of the dead Israelites were stacked and burned in the Valley of Hinnom. This was the same place that previous wayward kings of Israel (or more specifically the kings of southern kingdom of Judah) allowed God's people to sacri...

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Love Your Enemies

We recently began a new sermon series titled, "Road Map For Relationships: Loving Like Jesus." As I began doing some background research, my thoughts naturally gravitated to my most significant and prominent relationships: my wife, my children, my in-laws, parents, coworkers, and friends. I would suggest this is natural, after all these people are important to me. I want t...

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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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Something's Not Right

In December of 2009, my youngest brother was diagnosed with cancer. Among the many thoughts careening through my mind, one that often floated to the surface was simply, "this isn't right." He was young, only 22. He was vibrant, active and good. He loved nature, and would frequently take inner city kids on camping trips out into the Georgia wilderness. He loved people, love...

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Something's Not Right

In December of 2009, my youngest brother was diagnosed with cancer. Among the many thoughts careening through my mind, one that often floated to the surface was simply, "this isn't right." He was young, only 22. He was vibrant, active and good. He loved nature, and would frequently take inner city kids on camping trips out into the Georgia wilderness. He loved people, love...

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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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More Than Faithful

Genesis 12; 2 Sam 7; Mt. 28 Back when Abraham was still Abram, back when he was a nomad, when he travelled wherever he could find good grazing, Yahweh, the God of all creation broke suddenly into his life. Yahweh gave Abram a new identity, and many spectacular promises. Though Abraham had no children, Yahweh promised to give him so many descendants that their number woul...

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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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Taking on the Giants

But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus (Ph. 3.13b-14, NIV). Fighting giants is, by definition, hard work. We don't call them giants for nothing. The giants of fear and anger, bitterness and temptation are more likely to present ...

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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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Faith Rooted in Fact

We are nearly 2000 years removed from Jesus' resurrection. Given that significant gap in time and culture, it can be easy to lose touch with what it was like for early believers. We live in a world and culture where Jesus' bodily resurrection is celebrated annually, where even those who don't believe it are at least used to the idea. Jesus' resurrection has even, in wester...

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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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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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You Are What You Celebrate

As I prepared to "be" Gideon for VBC, and then to preach about Gideon, my initial response to the story was the same as it has been for years: I was staggered by the foolishness of the Israelites, by their capacity to forget and abandon God. When you think about their history from Egypt up until the time of the Judges, it seems almost impossible to comprehend. Surely they ...

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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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Finishing the Story

When we think of the gospel, our minds tend to gravitate toward the surprising and dramatic reversal of the cross and resurrection. This is perhaps only natural, as together those two events represent the great turning point of the story, where the apparent defeat of Jesus by crucifixion is revealed to be the very means by which God wins His decisive victory over the power...

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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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God Works the Night Shift

After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, "Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb! (Rv. 7.9-10, ESV) One o...

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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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Changing My Thinking

It can be so easy to follow and copy the customs and ways of this world. Even as Christians we might want to fit in, be liked and even not stand out. We might want to go with the flow or be thought of as progressive and modern. We are creatures of conformity....

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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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Living In God's Reality

Living In God's Reality One of my favorite things about the Apostle Paul is his ability to weavetogether theology with a call to practical applications. It's an abilitythat I appreciate more and more as I grow in my own vocation as apastor. Paul's theology, while often breathtaking, is never theology forits own sake. For Paul, there is always a real-world pastoral concern...

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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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True Worship

"Jesus said true worship must be 'face to face' with God. Worship is not religion or ritual; worship is an intimate and vital encounter with a Person. True worship includes the full recognition of who God is: holy, sovereign, almighty, loving, merciful......

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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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God on the Ground

"He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature." (Hebrews 1:3) During the Exodus, when the descendants of Jacob were brought out of Egypt, out of captivity and slavery, their God went with them and led them. As a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night, and God was with them. God's people witnessed His glory and power, a power tha...

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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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Join Connections Today!

New Connections Group starts this October!...

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All-Church Concert of Prayer

Join Us for the Upcoming All-Church Concert of Prayer! If you have been with us at all this summer, you know that we are in the middle of a preaching series on prayer. Prayer has been integral to the Christian life since the very beginning, with rich, deep roots penetrating all the way back through the Old Testament to Adam and Eve's conversations with God in the Garden o...

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Serve Minneapolis

Thank you to all who went out in the community last year and serveddisplaying being Christ-centered and Christ-sent together! In preparation for Serve Minneapolis this year, here's some feedback from those who stepped out last year to serve in the community: 1. Where did you serve? Dorothy Young: Jerry and I served at the Emergency Services on Franklin Avenue. Kathie ...

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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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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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First Free worship playlists on Spotify!

First Free's worship music playlists are now on Spotify!...

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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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Sincerely Seeking

"Anyone who wants to come to God must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who sincerely seek Him." ~ Hebrews 11:6b (emphasis added) Are you brave enough to answer the question, "Am I sincerely seeking God?" What would your answer be? Be aware that sincerely seeking God and appearing as though you're sincerely seeking God are two separate things. The first-...

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Rest

How do we find rest?...

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