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What Our World Needs Right Now

Editor’s Note: If you’ve found yourself discouraged by the inroads the enemy is making in our world, on many fronts, you are not alone. Today’s post, from Lina AbuJamra’s blog helped recalibrate my perspective with God’s truth; and all Truth is God’s truth.  Below is an excerpt from Lina’s post. If you’d like to read it in its entirety, please go to this link:  LINA

“When I was growing up in Beirut, my pastor used to give us the same illustration over and over again. He would ask us if we knew how the Department of Treasury recognized a fake dollar. He would then pause for a minute and deliver the punch line. The secret that the Department of Treasury had to identify a fake dollar, he would say, was simple: they made it their mission to study the real thing. Then when they saw the fake, they easily recognized it.

They could tell the fake because they knew the real deal. 

When it comes to our relationship with God, many of us claim to be Christians, followers of Jesus Christ. But are we really the real thing? And if we are, why are our lives so weak?

  • We say we believe God, but we live in constant fear.
  • We say we love people, but we can’t seem to stand the church.
  • We say that giving is essential, but few of us do it while people all around us suffer.
  • We say we believe in eternity, but our lives are focused on our plans for today.
  • We say that Jesus is the Lord of our lives, but our hands are hurting from holding on to our stuff so dearly.
  • We say that fullness of joy is ours, yet we walk around with glum and worried faces.
  • We say that hope is alive, but we look like the walking dead.

In a world that’s shaking, we’ve forgotten that Jesus is solid.

In a world that’s hurting, we’ve forgotten that Jesus is our healer.

In a world full of fakes, we’ve forgotten what is real…

…Over the past few months we’ve watched our country torn apart with the craziest political atmosphere imaginable.

We’ve seen a steady moral decline in our nation. We’ve witnessed a global crisis of mammoth proportions expand before our very eyes with millions of people now looking for home.

It’s time for us who call ourselves Christians to wake up.

It’s time for us to resolve to live what we say we believe.

Our God is a God of resolve. He has resolved to love us without limit, to stay with us no matter what, and to give us everything we need to live an abundant life.

You and I have the real deal. We know the truth. We are the light in this world. It’s time to get serious about it.

Let’s not waste our time focused on all the fakes out there and why they’re not the real deal. Let’s instead make it our mission to resolve to be real.

Life is not as complicated as we make it out to be. Jesus died for us and He lives for us. Now it’s time we wake up and live for Him with everything we’ve got.”


ORIGINAL Conference

By Elaine Drake

April 21-23 were some very exciting days for our women. This past weekend included solid spiritual wisdom and encouragement for the nearly 50 First Free women who attended the “ORIGINAL” Conference across the street at Rockford First.

This year’s event was the 10th “ORIGINAL” weekend conference and ran from Thursday evening, all day Friday, and Saturday morning, April 21-23 on the campus of Rockford First. Renowned speakers including Charlotte Gambill, Andi Andrew, and Nancy Alcorn flew into Rockford to give encouragement and hope to the 3,000 attendees. Local leaders Jen DeWeerdt and Lisa Seaton rounded out the list of outstanding speakers.

In addition to the conference sessions, First Free women and friends had the opportunity for group fellowship and relaxation time. On Friday there was a break in the program schedule from 3:00 p.m. until 6:00 p.m. During this time, we dined as a group at Fresco restaurant inside Anderson Japanese Gardens. The weather was beautiful and a great time was had by all 43 who attended! Most of the women took advantage of the beautiful, sunny day to walk and explore the renowned gardens. The group enjoyed a delicious, gourmet dinner created by the Fresco master chef.

The weekend was a powerful time of worship, prayer, and learning about our God. We have already committed to attend the ORIGINAL 2017 conference at the BMO Harris Bank Center on April 27-29, 2017.  Put it on your calendar now so you can experience it, too. Hope you can join us! Original Conference 2017


Easter Thoughts

Compiled by Kathy Holliday

This past weekend, Christ-followers in every time zone, zip code, and social stratum celebrated Resurrection Sunday, commemorating the spiritual pivot of human history.

It is because our Savior won the definitive victory to cancel our debt of sin and restore us to right relationship with the Father that we “have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure,” [Hebrews 6:19].

On this side of heaven, none of us can fully grasp the transcendent reality of the Crucifixion and Resurrection. That must await our translation into our heavenly bodies, where we will be in the Lord’s presence and “know as we are known.”

Until that time, we can benefit from the observations and affirmations of others. Following are a few perspectives that have brought insight and encouragement to me and, I hope, for you:

  • “The Cross was a superb triumph in which the foundations of hell were shaken. There is nothing more certain in Time or Eternity than what Jesus Christ did on the Cross: He switched the whole of the human race back into a right relationship with God. He made Redemption the basis of human life; that is, He made a way for every son of man to get into communion with God….The Cross is the center of Time and Eternity, the answer to the enigmas of both.” ~Oswald Chambers, excerpted from the April 6th entry of, My Utmost for His Highest: Selections for the Year, Discovery House Publishers.
  • In his introduction to the edition referenced above, the late Richard C. Halverson, former chaplain of the U.S. Senate, noted the strength of My Utmost… “lies in its stubborn insistence on the objective reality of Redemption as the only secure foundation….the ground of faith and experience is the person of Jesus Christ.”
  • “He has forced open a door that has been locked since the death of the first man. He has met, fought, and beaten the King of Death. Everything is different because He has done so.” ~C.S. Lewis in Chapter 16, Miracles
  • Finally, I am indebted to a friend who forwarded to me an internet link containing the following poem by late American author, John Updike, penned in 1960:

Seven Stanzas at Easter

Make no mistake: if He rose at all
it was as His body;
if the cells’ dissolution did not reverse, the molecules
reknit, the amino acids rekindle,
the Church will fall.

It was not as the flowers,
each soft Spring recurrent;
it was not as His Spirit in the mouths and fuddled
eyes of the eleven apostles; it was as His flesh: ours.

The same hinged thumbs and toes,
the same valved heart
that–pierced–died, withered, paused, and then
regathered out of enduring Might new strength to enclose.

Let us not mock God with metaphor,
analogy, sidestepping, transcendence;
making of the event a parable,
a sign painted in the faded credulity of earlier ages:
let us walk through the door.

The stone is rolled back,
not papier-mâché, not a stone in a story,
but the vast rock of materiality that in the slow
grinding of time will eclipse for each of us
the wide light of day.

And if we will have an angel at the tomb,
make it a real angel, weighty with Max Planck’s quanta, vivid with hair,
opaque in the dawn light, robed in real linen
spun on a definite loom.

Let us not seek to make it less monstrous,
for our own convenience, our own sense of beauty,
lest, awakened in one unthinkable hour, we are
embarrassed by the miracle,
and crushed by remonstrance.

Fleeting Days, Eternal Tomorrows

By Rebekah Anderson

We had lunch with my grandma after church today. While we were there my uncle stopped in with my grandma’s former neighbor. I remembered Mr. D from years ago when we would visit my grandparents in Rockford. They were next-door neighbors. But he held no recognition of me. He suffers from some form of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. He doesn’t really even know my grandma any longer. So, when he arrived, he was agitated and even a little cantankerous.

But something sweet happened when he came face-to-face with this little darling. He began smiling and cooing to our daughter, Eliza. I thought it to be a bittersweet meeting – one life just beginning, poised to accumulate a lifetime of memories; the other in his sunset, relinquishing the memories of a life long-lived. Looking for some way to communicate his delight with his new little friend, Mr. D reached into his pocket and pulled out a handful of quarters and tried to give them to the baby. I offered to keep them for her and put them in her piggy bank.

It blessed me to see a child of mine bless the heart of an old friend. I know Mr. D had been good to my grandma when my grandpa was, himself, suffering from Alzheimer’s. Those memories are probably gone from Mr. D’s mind. But as he left, he turned to my grandma and, maybe in a brief moment of clarity and remembering, told her to call him if she needed anything. She smiled knowingly and told him she would.

Our visit with my grandma concluded shortly after Mr. D left. As she said her goodbyes, she lingered for a moment with Eliza.

“She won’t have any memory of knowing me,” my grandma said. I started to protest, that maybe grandma would…

“Stop,” she said. “I don’t want to live to be that old.”

I think 95 years have given my grandma plenty of good memories. And, blessedly, she has been allowed to keep them. Not all of us have been or will be given that gift.

It is a cruel reality this side of eternity. We spend years going and doing and seeing and loving and at the end, we risk a blank page. Even the great Ronald Reagan was not immune. One of the greatest changers of history eventually succumbed to Alzheimer’s.

His wife, Nancy, died today. I am trusting that God, in His great goodness, reunited the two and restored to them the years of memories they shared. What was lost on earth was preserved in safekeeping in the heavenly history books. I trust that the faithful servant and his faithful wife are now glorying together in the presence of their savior, Jesus. I trust the same for my grandma when she is reunited with my grandpa.

And I pray Mr. D trusts the same. Even if he doesn’t remember.

Dependency: Reliance and Trust

By Lindsay Solava

Ed. Note: We’re delighted to share today’s post from Lindsay Solava, wife of Troy, First Free’s Director of Student Ministries. Lindsay and Troy were married two years ago, shortly after Troy joined our ministry team. Lindsay has lived in Rockford for two years and is employed as an RN, in addition to her involvement in Student Ministries and co-leading the freshman girls’ Life Group.

It all started in December of 2013. I graduated college, two weeks later married my high school sweetheart, and a week after that moved nine hours away to Rockford, Illinois. My poor parents, right? Before I knew what happened, I was sitting in our apartment thinking, “what do I do now?”

I was waiting to sit for my nursing board exams while simultaneously searching for a job. It was January and freezing outside. I barely knew how to get to the grocery store, much less knowing about five people at this point! This threw me into a season of real dependency upon God. You see, I had my life planned out to a tee for the last couple months. I knew exactly how everything was going to work out, and then I found myself without many answers to some pretty big questions like, “Where am I going to work?”, “What does a godly wife actually look like in the day to day?”, and “Where is my place in this thing called ministry?”

Jesus calls us to depend on Him.  “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.” Matthew 22:37 Wow! I don’t know about you, but most days I’m pretty dependent upon myself. I’m pretty reliant upon my job to provide for my needs/wants. I trust in my own abilities to accomplish tasks. But the Lord has been reminding me how sweet it is to depend on Him. When I recognize my need for Him, that’s when I grow the most!

As a newlywed, without a job, and not many friends, I depended on Him to provide all of this to teach me, and He did! He is faithful to His people! He is our good Father who knows how to give good gifts (Matthew 7:11).

So why don’t we love Him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength? For me, it’s because I feel the need to be in control of things. So when I need answers, I find them for myself. When I need a tangible item, I work hard to get it myself, completely ignoring the promises He has given me.

So I asked myself, “Would my life look any different without Jesus?” I want you to ask yourself this same question. I know we each desire a life dependent on Christ, but do our actions show it? Are we placing ourselves in situations where we know we cannot be successful on our own and that we will need to depend upon Christ to provide the power/resources/finances/etc.?

2 Corinthians 12:9 says, “But He said to me, ‘my grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness…” We know this to be true, but the way we live our lives can be the opposite! Instead of really depending on Him, we work hard for OUR money, we work hard for OUR reputation; but the truth is the Lord is enough. He is trustworthy.

My challenge for myself and for you is to pray that God would make you dependent upon Him, no matter what. I’ll be the first to admit that this is a scary prayer! Especially if you’re anything like me and need to have a little bit of a handle on things! But the Lord is gracious; He will be with you every step of the way! God desires for us to become more like His Son, which means we require a lot of pruning. Pruning is uncomfortable, but necessary.

So what does dependency tangibly look like? For me it’s consistent prayer, obedience to the Spirit’s leading, and an attitude of gratefulness. I’ve found that if I’m consistently in prayer for dependency, God will provide opportunities in my life to be dependent! Funny how that works, huh? This is why it’s so very important for me to be in the Word and in prayer because when I am walking in the Spirit, when opportunities arise I am sensitive to His leading and can respond in obedience (John 10:27).

And lastly, if I am serious about depending upon God, then I will be grateful for the opportunities to be more like Him. Is it always easy, never awkward, or tough? Absolutely not, but it is worth it!

We serve a powerful God who loves us and desires for us to experience the full life He offers! Oh, how I pray we join Him!

Women’s Spring Event


Original Women

We are so excited to announce our spring event! For nine years, our neighbors at Rockford First have been hosting an awesome women’s conference called Original Women, April 21—23, 2016.  This is their tenth year and we are going to take advantage of the fact that such a great event is literally right across the street from us. We are going to partner with them by offering our parking lot and shuttle service to and from the conference. Please join us as we support them and learn from such a great line up of women.

The conference kicks off on Thursday evening with a session at 7:00pm. There are three sessions throughout the day on Friday and one in the evening as well. The weekend closes with two morning sessions on Saturday. When you register with our group we will have reserved seating.


frescoRockfordFriday @Fresco

We are also excited about Friday during the break between the afternoon and evening sessions. We have booked Fresco at Anderson Gardens from 3:00pm-6:00pm to hang out, drink coffee together, walk the gardens (weather permitting) and enjoy a buffet dinner just for First Free Women. Tickets will be available at the First Free Event Desk in April.



Early Bird Group Rate: $75 until April 1 [after April 1 $125]

To register with our group and get in on the Early Bird Group Rate before it ends on April 1st go to

  1. Click the button to REGISTER
  2. Click the button JOIN A GROUP
  3. In the JOIN A TEAM box enter: firstfreewomen [lowercase, no spaces]
  4. Enter PASSWORD: firstfreewomen
  5. Complete payment information and purchase tickets.

Once you are registered, we will contact you about gathering times throughout the weekend. We hope you will join us!


How to Find Your Purpose in Parenting

By Susan Merrill, Founder of

I know many of you can’t picture this day, but it will come. The day you drop your child off at college. When we dropped off my oldest child at her dorm and drove away, my husband was in tears. I couldn’t cry because I was thinking of the 500 things I wanted to make sure she knew! I kept asking myself, is she ready to stand on her own?

That day changed my thinking in how I would parent the children I still had at home. It made me zero in on my purpose in parenting, to help my children develop a solid faith that would enable them to make wise choices.

What is the purpose for your parenting? If you don’t know, we want to show you how to find your purpose… and believe me, having a clear purpose will help you with so many aspects of your job as a mom.

To get started, you’ll need to answer these three questions: What are your core beliefs? What is your goal for your children? What is your purpose as a mother and how will you work it to reach your goal? Every mom will answer these questions differently. For me, the answers to those questions started with a passion, purpose, and plan—that was the core from which all of my parenting decisions came. Having that clarity helped me define my purpose in parenting.

Here is how I described the process in my book, The Passionate Mom.

As a mom, if you are passionate about your children, then you must have a purpose for your parenting. What core values would you like to instill in your child? What goal would you like to reach as a parent? If you can answer these questions, you can define your purpose—the reason you exist as a parent—and you can determine to fulfill it.

Ed.Note: To read the rest of Susan’s article click here: Read more

Intentional Appropriation

Perhaps, like me, you find yourself entering the new year with a tired heart. It can be hard to admit, and even harder to deny.

The “big ball” dropped in Times Square to herald the arrival of 2016, as thousands of revelers cheered. But a quick scan of the headlines shows that nothing is really “new” yet.  The prince of this world continues to sow mayhem, to lie, to steal, and to destroy. What’s happening out in the world can weigh heavily on our inner life, as well.

It can be hard to remember that, above and around us, there exists a spiritual realm (more real than the one we inhabit now) out of which, one day, the Savior will again enter human history in visible form. For now, He continues to intercede for us “at the right hand of God,” [Romans 8:33-34, Hebrews 4:14-15].

No power can nullify God’s completed, supernaturally inspired Word to us. Scripture, authoritative and authentic, continues to be published for many, smuggled to others, and translated for the yet unreached.

Many who are reading this blog post have heard the Gospel, repented, and surrendered to Christ in saving faith; we are aliens and pilgrims progressing toward the eternal city “whose architect and builder is God[Hebrews 11:10].

All of this is true and beyond the reach of our enemy.

So, why does the victorious, abundant life that Jesus promises –“I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly” — [John 10:10] so often seem to elude us? Too often, I feel more tired than victorious.

It isn’t only a matter of living in a fallen world. In Christ, we are new creatures [2 Cor. 5:17], “…rescued …from the dominion of darkness and brought … into the kingdom of the Son he loves,” [Col.1:13 NIV].

In my case, and perhaps in yours, I think it’s because I know life-changing truth, but I don’t consistently live out of it. I haven’t been mindful to regularly seek the Holy Spirit’s help to actively APPROPRIATE what is mine in Christ.

What do I mean?

To appropriate is to take to or for oneself, to take possession of an object or quality in such a way as to make it part of who we are and, thus, be changed by it. Those who appropriate a new identity no longer know or are known as they once were. There has been a change, not just in status or category, but in how one understands and proceeds with life.

The transformation that occurs when we put off the old self and take on the nature of Christ, through the indwelling of His Holy Spirit, has the power to make a difference that not only is undeniable but also easy to see: “…they realized that they had been with Jesus,”  [Acts 4:13].

Is it reasonable to assume that, when saved, we should live sinless lives in a fallen world or that we should despair when we fall short of God’s standard of perfection? No; while it’s true that we are sealed in Him — “having believed, you were sealed with His Spirit,” [Ephes. 1:13] — we continue to inhabit our “earthly tents” until God takes us out of this world, through death or Christ’s return.

We continue to build His kingdom and to serve as examples of what it looks like to have the Holy Spirit as the controlling reality of a person’s life. To do this requires power we can only access from the Holy Spirit, and Satan opposes us as we do so.

This is where actively appropriating truth comes in. No matter the details of our daily lives, those who are in Christ are eternally secure in Him:

“And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My and. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand.” [John 10:28-29].

If I am growing in consistently living God’s truth, what might this look like in my life?

  • For one thing, I would more consistently have God’s perspective on what’s happening around me and on my own shortcomings. No, this isn’t heaven, but that is my destination. As I learn over and over that the Rock I stand on is immovable, His presence in my life will become more noticeable.
  • When I’m discouraged at my own lack of discipline, what’s the truth about this? Yesterday is over, but “His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning;” [Lam.3:22-23], When I am weak, His power rests on me so that, with Paul, I can say, “when I am weak, I am strong,” [2 Cor. 12:10 NIV]. I can acknowledge my need for His help, request it, and carry on in confidence of His covenant relationship with me.
  • When I’m moved to lift my hands in praise, all alone in my bedroom, because an awareness of His goodness washes over me, I know He sees that and is pleased that I am growing in my knowledge of Him which, in turn, enriches my testimony to others.
  • When I’m frustrated by yet another family discussion that reveals how one of our young adults continues to straddle the fence of competing truth claims, I can tell myself the truth: my assignment is to continually press on in prayer and leave with Him the burden that is not meant for me to carry.
  • When I’m aghast upon reading that a professor at a trusted evangelical institution is teaching falsehood, I can register my dismay and then stay actively anchored on the Truth that no lies can alter. Our God, alone, is the Rock. This deluded instructor does damage, but she cannot undo Truth; in His own way and in His own timing, God will hold her accountable.

“You are my witnesses. Is there any God besides me? No, there is no other Rock; I know not one.” [Isaiah 44:8 NIV; N.B. 1 Sam. 2:2; Isaiah 43:11; Isaiah 45:5; Exo. 8:10; Ps. 18:31, etc.]

  • When my testimony is scoffed at, I can recognize this as [mild] persecution, which I should expect, and recall God’s track record in my life, which is unassailable.

Keep in mind that in this life, we reside in enemy territory. Before each of us came to be, God’s perfect design for creation had already been corrupted. God’s holiness is immutable. Our ability to be close enough to Him to sense His presence, as Adam and Eve did* was not immutable. In fact, it was devastated by original sin.

* Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid [Gen. 3:8 NIV]

Since the world we occupy is not as it was meant to be, it should not surprise us that living in relationship with God, in Christ, is “unnatural”. Rather, it requires His supernatural redemption. Miraculously, this is available to us.

After salvation, we are restored creatures living in an inverted world. While we won’t be made perfect on this side of eternity, we can sink our roots deep into the soil of His truth and grow to be more like Him, as we were originally meant to be. Christlikeness is a potent witness to others.

Scripture tells us that His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him… 2 Peter 1:3 NIV].  A key element, I believe, is to consistently ask the Lord to give us the mind of Christ – which is amazing, when you think about it.

“…who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct Him?”  But we have the mind of Christ. [1 Cor 2:16]

This helps us to see and understand, to think and act, as He does. It helps us to appropriate truth, of which He is the only source.

Written by Kathy Holliday



Read a Good Book Lately?

Here on the First Free Women’s Blog, we’re interested in posting content that is encouraging, informative, thought-provoking, and Christ-honoring. Since First Free is blessed with a great library, bookstore, and Bible studies, not to mention our own Book Club, we know there are engaged readers here!

Have you recently read a Christian book [fiction or non-fiction] that brought you new insight or challenge? One that memorably transported you to another place or time? Maybe a study or devotional that helped you make a significant step in your spiritual walk?

If so, we’d like you to consider writing a 1-2 paragraph summary or review and submitting it to us for possible posting on our blog. All submissions are appreciated, all will be subject to minor editing, and we cannot guarantee that all will be posted within a certain time frame, but we value your voice.  We reserve the right to determine which reviews will and won’t be posted to our blog. All book summary or review content that is posted will include the name of the reviewer who submitted it.  Book Club titles are welcome as well.

Please send any submissions to Kathy Holliday; electronic files may be attached to an e-mail and sent to Hard copy [paper] files may be sent to Kathy’s attention at First Free Church, 2223 N. Mulford Rd., Rockford, IL 61107.

We look forward to hearing from you!

Unwrapping the Greatest Gift

“See how everyone everywhere is putting up Christmas trees…? And when you open up God’s love letter to us, the Bible, do you know what you find? You find the family tree of Jesus…And you go all the way back to the very beginning — to our beginning. And when you’re tracing that family tree of Jesus, guess what you find? People who were big cheaters, bad liars, weaselly sneakers, battling brothers, fighting families, and all the beaten up and brokenhearted… God doesn’t cut off all the big cheaters, bad liars, weaselly sneakers, battling brothers, fighting families, and brokenhearted from His family tree — He makes families just like these perfectly His! He adopts all the messy and broken and imperfect people into His tree and His story and His heart, and He gives us His family name. He gives us His absolute perfectness and makes us alive and fully free. Jesus comes right to your Christmas tree and looks at your family tree and says, ‘I am your Rescuer, and I will set you free from all the brokenness and sinfulness and sadness. I’ll be the Gift, and I’ll take you. Will you take Me?'”

Ann Voskamp, Unwrapping the Greatest Gift, A Family Celebration of Christmas