Monday, November 02, 2009

Recent Cedarbrook Photos

Here are a few recent pics. Three from the World Hunger fundraiser at Pizza Hut and one of our flooded auditorium! For more photos go to our Facebook page.

Monday, October 26, 2009

New Tagline: Connect, Grow, Serve

I asked for input a few weeks back about a new tagline. I got some good input. People offered a number of creative ideas. One I liked the best was, Cedarbrook Church...know God, no guilt. I think that reflects well the spirit of who we are which is the purpose of a tagline.

After thinking about many options we settled on something more functional...Cedarbrook Church...connect, grow, serve. We had already decided that we would use these three words in brochures and on the website to help show movement within the church. We want people to understand that Cedarbrook is not about a Sunday meeting. People who want to engage at Cedarbrook should move beyond Sunday to connect with other people, grow deeper spiritually and start to serve others.
  • Connect: initially through Cedarbrook 101
  • Grow: primarily by joining a small group
  • Serve: in church ministries, Lend-a-Hand outreach and missions

Since we had already agreed to use these three words to show movement we decided it was best to simply use these words as our tagline...reinforcing the idea of movement rather than introducing a new idea altogether. We want to keep the messages simple and memorable so people know what step to take next to grow in God.

Thanks to those of you who shot me your ideas! It all went into the mix of decision making.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Book Review: Fearless

Fearless, by Max Lucado, is a word spoken in season. As he closes his book, Lucado notes that a British researcher counted the use of the term “at risk” in British newspapers. In 1994 the term was used 2037 times. By the year 2000 the term was used 18,000. Had the world really become nine times riskier in just six years? Sometimes it feels that way.

Lucado takes on the variety of fears that we all experience (the fear of being insignificant, the fear of running out, the fear of disappointing God, the fear of not protecting my kids, etc.) relying on well known New Testament stories to give us perspective. But the chapter that struck me the most was the very first as he sharply defined the nature of fear…

Fear creates a form of spiritual amnesia. It dulls our miracle memory. It makes us forget what Jesus has done and how good God is. The fear-filled cannot love deeply. Love is risky. They cannot give to the poor. Benevolence has no guarantee of return. The fear-filled cannot dream wildly. What if their dreams sputter and fall from the sky? The worship of safety emasculates greatness. No wonder Jesus wages such a war against fear. Page 10.

Lucado’s book moves swiftly, an easy read. But don’t let that fool you. His words are rooted in truth and will encourage you to face what ever is currently staring you in the face. It’s well worth your time to equip yourself for the threats that face us every day.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Sermon Input Welcome

I'm starting a new series soon (this Sunday or next, depending on whether or not Brian Hartz can speak on Sunday).

I'm thinking it would be nice to get your input. I'll let you know what I'm looking for and you can provide me with a story, a thought, a video, a song or whatever. I'll take appropriate jokes too!

Now... the upside on this is that my sermons should be more interesting. I think we'd all like that!

The downside is that I can't possibly include everything that everyone suggests. fear is that I'll hurt feelings. So, here's the deal - if you offer an idea, etc. you have to offer it with no expectations of it being used. Sorry! But...the truth is I factor in everything I even though I may not use what you gave me...I WILL consider it and it will impact my thinking...keep me balanced and all that.

With that said, my next series is on the letter of 2 Peter (Something's Missing...a final word from Peter). I'll be laying out the background to the letter which involves Peter's anger at how false teachers have led the church astray and into immorality. I'd be interested in hearing some stories about how that may have happened in your church history...where a leader misled you or your church and immorality resulted.


Monday, September 28, 2009

Help us with a tagline

At Cedarbrook we are working at repositioning ourselves in the community with a new tagline. Up to now, our tagline has been...Cedarbrook Church...come and be refreshed. That was a good descriptor of what we were trying to achieve in the early people see church as a GOOD place to come...a place that was approachable and accepting vs. a place that crammed religion down your throat and handed you a list of harsh rules.

We still want people to come and be refreshed but we also want to communicate that Cedarbrook is a place where you can experience change...a place to find your purpose...a place that will impact you for good in some way.

So we are looking for a new tagline. At a staff/LEAD retreat recently we considered over 50 taglines and narrowed it down to one or two but I'd love to get more input. If you'd like to contribute some ideas that would be great. Keep these things in mind;

1. The tagline should relate to finding purpose, experiencing life change or connecting with God and others.

2. It should be five words or less (preferred).

3. The audience the tagline is speaking to is primarily people OUTSIDE of Cedarbrook and OUTSIDE of the church. It's targeted at people who might consider Cedarbrook so the tagline should help this person get a glimpse into who Cedarbrook is and how Cedarbrook might impact their life. For example, General Electric's tagline has been...GE...we bring good things to life. But, the tagline will also serve as a reminder to INSIDER's of who we are.

Other popular taglines...
  • Verizon...can you hear me now?
  • Subway...five dollar foot long
  • Las Vegas...what happens here, stays here (good tagline. Bad thought)
  • gives you wings
These taglines illustrate the point well...with one short phrase you GET the essence of who they are and what they offer.

You can post your idea here or email me directly. Thanks. I'm not sure how I'll process them. But I hope to at least share the ones that stand out and get more feedback.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

A Look at Fear

I just agreed to review books for Thomas Nelson Publishers in exchange for a free book. The first book I got was FEARLESS by Max Lucado. I'm not ready to review it but his first chapter is captivating. Here's a taste...

Oversized and rude, fear is unwilling to share the heart with happiness. Happiness complies and leaves. Do you ever see the two together? Can one be happy and afraid at the same time? Clear thinking and afraid? Confident and afraid? Merciful and afraid? No. Fear is the big bully in the high school hallway: brash, loud, and unproductive. Fear never wrote a symphony or poem, negotiated a peace treaty, or cured a disease. Fear never pulled a family out of poverty or a country out of bigotry. Fear never saved a marriage or a business. Courage did that. Faith did that. People who refused to consult or cower to their intimidities did that. But fear itself? Fear herds us into a prison and slams the door.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Open Sourcing my life

The big thing over the past few years is open source materials. That means that rather than charging for everything, people, companies, churches, etc. put there stuff out there on line for free. Download it, modify it, upgrade it and use it for your own benefit.

That idea got me thinking about living an open-sourced life. It's a bit of a pendulum swing. The opposite is where someone has so many boundaries and layers in place that they've protected themselves from every possible intrusion. It's very efficient...allowing no interruptions or messiness. If your life is in chaos...this might be where you need to go to get some balance and margin in your life.

But I'd like my pendulum to swing the other way a little. So I'm thinking of ways that I can crack open my life and get more people in. I've always been quick to meet with people that seek me out. That's good. But I've thought of two new ways that seem fairly effortless. One is just to open facebook whenever I'm online. That way people can chat with me about big or little things.

Another way is to have a regular open house. Lisa and I did our first one last night...a mix of neighborhood friends, staff, and newcomers to Cedarbrook. We are thinking of doing this every two weeks on Friday. Super casual with the goal of getting to know Cedarbrookers better as well as quickly incorporating newcomers to Cedarbrook into the flow of relationships.

I'm often so busy managing Cedarbrook that I feel like I miss the heart of what we should be about; relationships. I'd be interested in hearing some other ideas you might have about living an open sourced life...

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Finding peace

I read something else from Nouwen the other day about when you feel unsettled during the day...
How can we stay in solitude when we feel that deep urge to be distracted by people and events? The most simple way is to focus our minds and hearts on a word or picture that reminds us of God. By repeating quietly: "The Lord is my shepherd, there is nothing I shall want," ...we can bring our restless minds to some rest and experience a gentle divine presence.

Oswald Chambers said something very similar in his devotional for today...
Whenever anything begins to disintegrate your life with Jesus Christ, turn to Him at once and ask Him to establish rest. Never allow anything to remain which is making the dis-peace. Take every element of disintegration as something to wrestle against, and not to suffer.

God wants to resolve your unrest but you have to bring it to him to allow that to happen. Go to him now and ask for his presence to calm your heart. Good day.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Spiritual Dryness

My last post got me feeling guilty about not blogging. So many inspiring things cross my desk (or computer screen) every day. It doesn't take much to pass along the blessing. So, I thought I'd pass on some things from a Henri Nouwen devotional that I get emailed to me everyday.

Sometimes we experience a terrible dryness in our spiritual life. We feel no desire to pray, don't experience God's presence, get bored with worship services, and even think that everything we ever believed about God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit is little more than a childhood fairy tale.

Then it is important to realise that most of these feelings and thoughts are just feelings and thoughts, and that the Spirit of God dwells beyond our feelings and thoughts. It is a great grace to be able to experience God's presence in our feelings and thoughts, but when we don't, it does not mean that God is absent. It often means that God is calling us to a greater faithfulness. It is precisely in times of spiritual dryness that we must hold on to our spiritual discipline so that we can grow into new intimacy with God.

I like what he said here about being "just feelings and thoughts". I apply the same reasoning to any bad thoughts that go through my brain. Rather than feel guilty, I just tell myself that they are just thoughts. Everyone has passing thoughts that are not appropriate. The question is...what will you do with the thoughts? Dwell on them? Act on them? Beat yourself up for having them? Or pray for God to rid you of them and actively turn your thoughts to something positive. I'm amazed how quickly these thoughts leave when I am proactive about them and not passive.

I hope you'll sign up for Henri's devotional. It's worth the sixty seconds it takes to read it.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Summer Break

Summer is always a bad time for blogging. The best I can do is a few lines here and there on Twitter or Facebook...mostly updates on our building project. Catch me there!

My Twitter posts are in the margin below...

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Twitter me FRemy

Okay, I'm succumbing to peer pressure and trying to do something now rather than waiting until later. I'm finally on Twitter. Follow me here.

At first I didn't get it. I thought it was, telling you every time I burped or ate a cookie, and ...WHO CARES!

But I'm realizing that it is a new medium for rapid communication and I think as I use it and incorporate it into the church that it will be another way to build community.

Rather than silly comments on my boring life I'll be passing along breaking news on our building and church ministries, along with prayer concerns (the biggies) and an occasional insight that I think might motivate or inspire you.

I hope you'll join me at

Monday, May 18, 2009

Leever's, Land and finding God's will

In his heart a person plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps. Proverbs 16:9

I talked about our decision to build on our land yesterday. You can download the
Rooted to Reach Update. I took the full 30 minutes because it was more than an announcement. It was a case study in finding God's will. Finding God's will is not an efficient, tidy effort. It can be grueling, as was our process to determine where our home should be. But we need to be willing to do whatever it is we have to do to make sure we are on the right path.

"What" was never in question. We knew that we should move out of the mall. But the "Where" became a question when a number of people suggested buying Leever's. Suddenly it seemed like this might be a "God idea" and that made us pause and seriously consider it. We were willing to abandon our desire and go wherever God wanted, even if it didn't seem like the best place. We could see many good things about Leever's, primarily the location that would make us very present to this community. So, we pursued the ideas until "the wheels fell off" as we came to say.

Now that the wheels have fallen off, we are free to return to our original idea of building on our land. Some would say it was a waste of time to consider Leever's. Not me. Given the same situation I'd do it again. Once we move, we will be there for a LONG time. We couldn't afford to make the wrong move. And so if that required slowing down a bit to check out Leever's then that's what we had to do. I think it was a God honoring exercise. And God honors those that want to please him and do his will. I was confident that our motives were pure and God would ultimately make his will clear. I'm very proud of our LEAD Team and the many people from the congregation that we pulled into the process. There were countless meetings but it all paid off.

I say this because if you are seeking God's will in regard to a big issue in life I want to encourage you to do whatever you need to do to make sure you are honoring God. It's worth the time and effort. God will honor your hard work. He's looking for a people that seek him above all else.

If you have any specific questions about finding God's will I'd be happy to talk about it via email, facebook or in person.


Welcome Tevis West

Tevis West has recently accepted our offer to be our new worship leader. Tevis and his wife Melissa are currently in Madison, Indiana.

Tevis will be joining Cedarbrook on the weekend of May 31st for a visit while he is up here looking for both housing and part time work. He hopes to move up here in June if possible.

You can find Tevis and Melissa on Facebook in the Eau Claire network. I hope you'll give them a big welcome!

Monday, April 20, 2009

The Shack and Judging Others

Yesterday I opened my series called Finding God in The Shack. You can download the message by clicking on the link.

I addressed some of the criticism that The Shack has had thrown at it. We unfortunately see the dark side of the church when people feel like they have to be "fruit inspectors" for everyone else. I believe it is important to judge right from wrong and good from bad. It's important to identify true heresy. But how we go about doing that is very important. Plus, there are times that we too quickly jump to conclusions. What might look like rotten fruit may just be undeveloped fruit or maybe an unknown fruit. So we should be "quick to listen and slow to speak" when commenting on many things.

I like what Paul said to the Corinthian church.
My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men's hearts. At that time each will receive his praise from God.1 Corinthians 4:4,5

Did you catch what he said at first? His conscience is clear...but that didn't necessarily mean that he was innocent. Humility caused him to hold out the possibility of being wrong. And he was willing to let Jesus point that out when he returns. He was in no rush to judgment.

I don't always hear that kind of humility in the voice of church critics. They are often convinced of how right they are and how wrong others are. They see things in very narrow terms. And they have an urgency to let their concerns be known. Sadly they don't realize how "wrong" they are by insisting on being "right". They make both the church and God look bad, causing many to steer clear of the church.

Whether it is in critiquing The Shack or anything/one else let's be careful with our words. Let's think the best. Hope the best. Believe the best. I think this honors God.

The Shack is not a perfect model of God but it helps. Let's learn from it what we can and forgive it's weaknesses. I think that's good advice for dealing with each other as well.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Saving Your Parents

I got a good question from someone at Cedarbrook who is struggling with the difference between their faith and the faith of their parents who are part of a very very traditional church with a strong ethnic background. Their parents are aging and they felt the burden of "saving" them before they die. They were looking to me for some advice. After reading my tips, they wrote back that it helped so I pass them on to you as well. This is what I wrote ...

I appreciate your concerns. Unfortunately, I don't have any great thoughts or solutions. Here are some things I'll share though...
- don't assume that they aren't saved. They may not see God the way you do but thankfully we aren't saved by our great theology but by the grace of God in Christ.
- try to appreciate the strong cultural pull that they are under. It goes back centuries. Try to honor that as much as you can without compromising what you believe.
- love your parents for who they are. Don't fight with them. Go out of your way to respect and honor them. Show interest in their traditions and rituals even though you don't want to follow them.
- when appropriate...and if they will listen...share about your faith from your perspective without making them feel like they are wrong or that you are trying to change them. Let them know how much you respect what they believe and how much you love God, even though it's not expressed in their traditional ways.

I think parents from strong cultures tend to fear two things...
1. WE are the ones going to hell
2. we have rejected THEM

So, with that in mind, try to let them know that you haven't rejected either God or them.

I hope this helps. I wish there was something more concrete I could tell you.


Monday, March 23, 2009

Receiving God's Abundance

Yesterday I spoke about Jesus filling Peter's boat with fish. That happened right after a total "bust" of a night where he had caught nothing. This story is so pregnant with spiritual truth. It's worth taking time to "go deeper".

First, why did Peter have to experience the pain of working all night for nothing first?
I've seen that in my own life a lot; when I was in business, in ministry, in my personal life, etc. It just seems like God wants us to realize how fruitless we really are without his hand of blessing...not to punish us but to simply keep us humble...keep us aware that without him we truly are nothing...and we need to cling to him every moment.

Second, when you finally "get it" and start to cling to him every moment...suddenly you stop caring if you are "catching fish" or not.
You are so aware of God's presence with you that it doesn't matter as much whether you are "abounding or abasing" (as I think the Bible quotes Paul in the King James Version), that is, whether you are rich or poor, lots of friends or no friends, it's a sunny day or rainy day, etc. God is with you and that's all that seems to matter.

Third, as we work our way through a tough economy, it's good to see God's record in the Bible of caring for his people.
There's the story of Joseph and the famine in the book of God provided for his people through Joseph's wisdom. Then there is the story of the woman with Elijah. She's down to her last meal (notice again how God comes through at the last second) but God uses Elijah to miraculously provide for them both. There are the stories of Jesus feeding both the 5,000 and the 7,000 and each time there was food leftover. I'm probably forgetting a few, but you get the point; God takes care of his own. So don't hang your head right now if you are hurting financially because you might miss out on God's provision! Expect God to do something amazing. It might not be what you are looking for but he'll give you what you need to make it through.

Finally, God's abundance almost always is linked to our obedience.
Our action seems to release God's provision. Peter had to let down his nets. Joseph had to store the corn. The widow had to share with Elijah. The people with Jesus had to share what little they had. So, let me ask you, if you are in need right now what is it that God might be asking you to do to release his provision? That's been a tough question for me to wrestle with because I'm a "doer" by nature. I tend to try and "make things happen" on my own power. So, that's not what I'm talking about here. The opposite problem is when we do nothing and expect God to bless us. There's a balance in there some place. I hope you can find it!

If you missed the sermon I think it's worth downloading it. I personally got a lot out of the story and I got some good feedback as well.

Note: This is from my "Going Deeper" thoughts. I send these out on Mondays as a reflection on my Sunday sermon. If you'd like to get this emailed out to you drop me a note and I'll add you to the list.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

What if I don't agree?

I got a great letter from someone at church recently. As our capital campaign draws to an end they decided that they could not contribute. They prayed and thought about it a lot but just didn't feel like it was something that God wanted them to participate in at this time. I could tell from the tone of their note that they felt bad about their decision and hoped I'd understand.

I thought it would be helpful to share my response (with a few clarifying additions) in case there are other people who feel the same way...

Thanks for your note about the campaign. Your decision is not a problem with me. I knew that the idea has been a struggle for you from the beginning and I respect your thoughtfulness and prayerfulness about the matter. I much rather have you prayerfully decline than give out of a sense of obligation and duty.
People are often confused when they can't agree with the majority - they feel like someone must be wrong - but I think God allows disagreement among us so we will work at respecting one another. That's the true meaning of unity. Unity isn't when everyone thinks alike. Unity is when people stick together even though they see things differently. (It's unrealistic to think that everyone will see things the same way - God created us all different!)
Thanks for your honesty and openness. You absolutely have my respect with your decision. I'm proud of you for standing by what you believe to be true.


Saturday, February 21, 2009

Where's the Altar Call?

Cedarbrook attracts a wide variety of people from diverse church backgrounds. You'll find a smorgasbord of experiences from Catholic to Pentecostal to Lutheran to New Age and who knows what else! It's that way by design. We want to be inclusive but people with strong church backgrounds always wonder why we don't do what they are used to doing. Like in the early days we got a lot of people asking why we never said The Lord's Prayer. (Short Answer: Jesus didn't give us the prayer as a ritual for church services. He gave it as a model for prayer.)

Someone just asked me why I never invite people to "accept Christ" at the end of the service or provide an "altar call" (inviting people to come forward as a sign of their commitment to Christ, ala Billy Graham). That is very common in evangelical churches (churches whose mission is to tell others about Jesus. I consider Cedarbrook evangelical) and something that was done all the time at the church I attended way back. This is what I wrote back...

Great question! I never do an "altar call" type invitation. I have nothing against it. For some church cultures it's very appropriate. Occassionally I'll call people to make a commitment to follow Christ. I've asked people to pray a prayer of commitment now and then. I could probably do this more often. What I'm trying to avoid is getting people to prematurely make a "decision" for Christ that only gives them some kind of false assurance of connecting to God. A disciple is someone who follows Jesus every day, not someone who prays a prayer once to relieve their guilty conscience. So I stay away from anything that implies salvation is an event and lean toward things that communicate that it is a 24/7 lifestyle. I think my messages regularly challenge people to deny themselves and put God first. If my ministry encourages people to develop this kind of lifestyle then I feel pretty good about the results.

Having said this, I do think that for many people there is a moment in time when a decision is made to follow Christ. I don't want to diminish this in any way. For some it's a gradual awakening. That's what happened in my life. For others it all gels in a moment and they pray and tell God that "from this moment on I'm yours".

I hope this helps. I'm happy to answer other questions. Fire away.

Monday, February 02, 2009

How to achieve the impossible

On Sunday I talked about how to achieve the impossible. My three points were that achieving the impossible...
1. starts with a sense of calling from God.
2. is a gift from God.
3. requires preparation.

When God calls you to something (point 1) he gives you what you need to make it happen (point two). I didn't have a chance to share what Moses told Joshua before he died...

The Lord your God himself will cross over ahead of you. He will destroy these nations before you, and you will take possession of their land. … And the Lord … will deliver them to you,…Deuteronomy 31:3-5

Moses understood how the impossible happens...he had seen it enough. Moses realized that miracles don't depend on the leader but on the leader's God. God is ahead of us fighting our battles for us and clearing a path. In fact, God appeared to Joshua as the "commander of the Lord's army" in Joshua five, revealing that God is actively involved with our concerns.

13 Now when Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in his hand. Joshua went up to him and asked, "Are you for us or for our enemies?" 14 "Neither," he replied, "but as commander of the army of the Lord I have now come."Joshua 5

As you go about your day/week, remember that you are not alone in your struggles. God is fighting for you, clearing a path for your success. Don't give up. Continue on and you'll achieve whatever you sense that God has called you to do.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Rooted to Reach logo

I want to thank Andy Christiansen for creating the logo that we will be using throughout our capital campaign. Andy often plays drums for the band on Sunday's. Stop and thank him for his great work!

Monday, January 12, 2009

New Year Movie Reviews

I noted a couple of movies in my last post. I think "Seven Pounds" is still the winner so far. I had a chance to see two new releases and one on dvd since then. What's this got to do with church? Well, a lot of us watch movies and if you are like me, I don't like wasting my time on bad ones. I thought you might appreciate hearing what I think. Hopefully you invite a friend over and use the movie to build community!

If you don't know the story of Hitler's failed assassination attempt (oops, I gave it away) then this might be more compelling than it was for me. I've read a bit about Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German pastor who was actively involved in this same attempt and so I knew the story from a different side. (For a fascinating historical fictional account of this read the book "The Cup of Wrath" by Mary Glazener.) Valkryie is well acted. It's not the action movie that the trailer makes it look like. I'm sure most people will find it more engaging than I did. I recommend it. But it's more documentary than it is thriller.

Gran Torino: Wow, this is a tough one to recommend. If you like Clint Eastwood, you'll definitely want to see it. He does an award winning job of acting. Kind of the "Archie Bunker" of 2009, which (for you young folks) means that he plays a very bigoted man (warning: much cussing and derogatory remarks) whose heart is softened in a dramatic way by the end of the story. Eastwood plays an army vet who is widowed and is surrounded by an increasingly Hmong population in his neighborhood. It's definitely a movie that will help you understand that culture better with many "teaching moments" that instruct the audience. The Hmong actors left a bit to be desired. They literally hired these kids off the streets...with no acting experience (the lead character is from Minnesota) and you can tell. So, Clint and the story are good. The other actors and the language are bad. Some of you will like it. I did.

Dan in Real Life:
I had no idea what to expect from this movie. Lisa and I passed on it for many weeks because we were afraid that the humor would be too silly. But again, the trailers didn't do it justice. It is a romantic comedy where Steve Carrell plays a widower with three girls. The hook is that he falls in love with his brother's girlfriend at a family renunion. It's light and fun. I enjoyed it. I can't remember if there are inappropriate parts (language, etc.). I know it's PG-13. I give it a thumbs up. It's not going to rock your world or inspire any deep thoughts but it's entertaining! There are a couple of plot reversals that keep it interesting plus it's well acted. The 14 year old daughter is a stitch with her over the top attitude toward her dad (she calls him a "Murderer of Love").