Thursday, May 17, 2018

Try it on for size this summer


In our worship services, we often talk about being an outward-focused kind of church body. What do we mean by ‘outward-focused?’ Many things are included, but let me mention a couple of them.

First, an outward-focused church thinks about people who are far from God. We all have people in our spheres of life who do not know Jesus. They are far from God. God wants to use us to build meaningful relationships with them. As we build meaningful relationships with people far from God, we pray for open doors to share Jesus’ love with them. We recognize God is the one who ‘saves’ people from their sin, but He wants us to invite them to receive Him.

Second, being an outward-focused church has a Lincoln community presence. By this, I mean that our church would be missed if it wasn’t here because our involvement in our community through acts of service make a difference. We want to love our city, pray for our city, and make our city a better place to live. That is why we do things like our ‘Day of Service’ each April and community projects throughout the year.

The third thing we mean by outward-focused lies within the first point. We want people to share their faith in Christ without feeling awkward, uncomfortable, or unnatural. We want sharing the Good News to come naturally, just as you would feel talking about your favorite topic. We are developing people to discover how to share the life-changing story of Jesus on the golf course, over coffee, in the gym, taking a walk, and anywhere and everywhere else.

We have received some guidance to help us as a church from a book written by Pastor Kevin G. Harney, entitled Organic Outreach. Here is one simple idea I want to encourage you to try as you begin your journey with us on being a church of everyday outreach, or an outward-focused church. The author likes to ask servers in restaurants if they have any needs he can pray about. He says, ‘Hey when we get our food, we’re going to have a short prayer. If you think of anything we can pray about for you, just let us know when the food gets here.’

He said it’s amazing how many servers come back with a need. If they don’t, he doesn’t bring it up again. He saw even unbelievers wanting prayer. He says this little thing has opened doors for great conversations, friendships, authentic sharing, and presentations of the Gospel. The prayers aren’t forced or manipulated, just a natural part of the relationship.1

So try it! I am. Tell me what you discover.

Blessings,
Pastor Mark "The Bru" Brunott
P.S. Being a wife today is more confusing than ever. You’ve got TV shows, movies, magazine articles, and social media telling you how to look better, cook better, and be better as a wife. There’s got to be better advice out there.  There is!  Join us Sunday at 9 and 10:30 am to learn what the Bible says is important about being a godly wife.

1. Excerpts taken from Organic Outreach by Kevin G Harney. 117-118. 

Thursday, May 10, 2018

A Great Summer Idea

With summer around the corner, I realize for many of us our schedules and routines change. School is out, vacations are awaiting, we stay up later because the sun sets later, and there are sports activities to fill our days and nights. Because of the change in routine and calendar changes, Life Groups usually take a break and Children’s Ministry and Student Ministries have more trips than their normal Wednesday activities. It’s easy to believe that summertime is one big vacation time and fall prey to what I call the ‘summer slump.’

But God doesn’t take a vacation. He never slumbers or sleeps. He is always with us. He never takes a break. He never experiences a summer slump.

To combat the summer slump spiritually, I want to share with you an idea my Life Group leader shared with our Life Group before breaking for the summer. If you’re in a Life Group and still meeting, I highly suggest you try this. If you are not in a Life Group, connect with 2-3 friends and try it. You can do it by yourself, but it’s far more effective if you try it with at least one other person.

Everybody needs a piece of paper (8.5 x 11), a pen, and a 3 x 5 note card. On the 8.5 x 11 paper, you write down everybody’s responses to the following question: “How do people grow spiritually?” My Life Group came up with about 20 ways. Here were some of the responses we had:
  • Read the Bible
  • Memorize Scripture
  • Journal your daily thoughts
  • Meditate on a passage and look for God’s characteristics
  • Take a walk in nature and enjoy creation
  • Pray consistently
  • Listen to Praise Music
  • Serve others
Our leader then directed us to look over the entire list and put a check mark by 3 or 4 of them that you think are the most important to you. Next, take the 3 x 5 note card and on the top of one side, put your name. Now write the 3 or 4 items you checked as a SMART Goal (Specific – Measurable – Achievable – Realistic – Time-sensitive). For example, I wanted to memorize scripture over the summer. Putting that into a SMART Goal would be: Memorize 2 verses a week, starting May 1 through August 31st, for a total of 34 verses.

You would come up with a SMART Goal for each of the items you checked. On the back side of the card, you would write three personal prayer requests for yourself to see God work in your life over the summer.

Then, exchange your card with another person. Hold them accountable to those things and pray for them over the summer. Try this idea and I believe you will not experience the spiritual summer slump that is so easy to fall prey to.


Blessings,
Pastor Mark "The Bru" Brunott

P.S. What is a Family Hack? Is it a shortcut? No! Is it a trick of some kind? No. By ‘hack’ we mean skill. We’re going to talk about skills needed to ‘do’ family in God’s way. Come at 9:00 or 10:30 AM on Sunday to discover some of these skills.


Sunday, May 6, 2018

The Power of Prayer to Transform a Life


I heard a powerful story this week from a friend of mine about his daughter. We had lunch just to get caught up on life (we have been friends for over 40 years). I had been praying for him and his wife for years over the challenges they had with their adoptive daughter.

She was adopted as a young child. At the time, no one realized she had Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD). It’s likely she received negligent care and wasn't able to form a healthy emotional attachment to her birth mother. This carried over into the lives of my friend, his wife, and their family.

The child-rearing years were difficult. The teenage years were a living nightmare. She was always in trouble at school and home. She struggled with her peers and rebelled at every level. She drank, did drugs, and ran into trouble with the law. Even as a young adult, her life was lived in rebellion and it was hard. Her first marriage ended in divorce.

My friend said there were times when he and his wife didn’t want to get up and face the day. Other times when they wanted to pull their hair out. Some days it felt as though nothing could surprise them anymore. They tried so many different things, but nothing seemed to help. They just prayed and continued to pray. There were times when they felt like giving up, but they kept praying and asking God to get a hold of her life.

A few months ago, I met with my friend for coffee (actually, a diet coke for me. I don’t like coffee.) And asked how it was going. “Oh, we are still praying,” he said. And this week when I asked him he said, “You’ll never believe what is happening.

Last week she called and told us amazing things. She is a car detailer and had her business cards made up with a verse on it: Philippians 4:13 ‘For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.’

She had air fresheners made up to put in the cars after detailed with that verse painted on them. She heard her pastor say, you don’t have to do big things for God, even the small things matter. So she sits in her customer's car after she has finished the detailing and prays for them before they pick the car up.”

She remarried and has three kids. Wow! You talk about life change. I asked my friend, ‘what triggered the change?’ He replied, ‘Prayer.’

I shouldn’t be surprised. The Bible reminds us that the effective prayer of a righteous man accomplishes much (James 5:16). I hope this story encourages you to never give up on praying for those who seem like lost causes or those who are so far from God, it appears like they will never believe. Keep praying. God has the power to change anyone from the inside out.

Blessings,
Pastor Mark "The Bru" Brunott

Monday, April 23, 2018

Day of Service

This Freshly Bru’d is dedicated to our Day of Service (DoS).  These questions were asked of our Local Outreach Pastor, Nat Crawford.

 
Q1: What do you see as the primary objective of the Day of Service?
The objective of DoS is to show the city that we are #4Lincoln in love and in hope. We want to show the city a picture of Christ’s love through our serving the non-profits and individuals of Lincoln. We want to share hope through the relationships we form in these projects with gospel intentionality.


Q2: When you talk about the church being ‘outward focused’ what does that really mean?
How are we doing as a church in being outward focused? It means as the Church we are to gather and then scatter. We are to come together in the various options to study God’s word, Worship Him, encourage each other, and then go out to the people in our spheres of influence and invest in their lives. By serving them, listening to them, and doing so with prayer to share the gospel when God opens a door.  How are we doing? We are gradually becoming more outward focused. We’re not yet a missional people – people who daily look for everyday outreach moments and capitalize on those God-ordained outreach moments. I think we’ll know we’re “there” when the stories fill the boards, our inboxes, and social media about our time with people who are far from God and the stories of God saving souls and changing lives.

Q3: How many places are we trying to serve in Lincoln?  How many volunteers are needed?
We have more projects and service opportunities this year! We have 25 projects and 401 volunteer slots. As of today, we have 142 spots available.Currently, we have 9 sites with zero or only 1 person signed up. One of these projects is this Saturday, April 21st at Maxey Elementary School.  The others with the greatest needs on April 28th are below:

**Lincoln Parks & Rec: 17 Spots Left**
**Car Wash: 14 Spots Left**
**Lincoln Children’s Zoo: 13 Spots Left**
**Christian Heritage (Afternoon Slot) 12 Spots Left**
**Yard Project: 12 Spots Left**
**Salvation Army: 9 Spots Left**
**Crisis Pregnancy Center: 8 Spots Left**
**Home Improvement Project: 3 spots Left**
**Yard Clean-Up: 3 Spots Available**

Q4: If someone still wanted to volunteer, how could they sign up?
You can sign up for a project at: http://firstfreelincoln.org/day-of-service/

Q 5: How are we connecting our service on that day to our local church? Are we inviting people to church or just telling them we love them?  Are we leaving information or just hoping for the best?
Every encounter we have we want to approach with gospel intentionality and a culture of invitation. We are #4Lincoln in Community. We want people to feel welcome to check out First Free. So as you serve at your sights look for God-sized openings to share the stories of God’s faithfulness in your life and offer the opportunity to check us out.


 
Q 6: Describe the prayer time on Wednesday night April 25th from 6:30 to 7:15 p.m. for the Day of Service.
This is a time to come before God in prayer to bless our Day of Service, to provide opportunities to invite them to our church and to engage in meaningful conversation about Jesus. And then we’ll worship God in gratitude for the opportunity to serve Him by serving the city.


Thursday, April 12, 2018

Taxes and Friends Day


I got the phone call today I always dread this time of year. ‘Your taxes are ready.’ The reason I dread it is because no matter how much I pay quarterly, I always have the privilege of paying a few thousand more. It’s one of the joys of being self-employed.

Nobody likes to pay taxes, and I've noticed that the resentment of the IRS has increased over their misuse of power. Yet, we don’t have it nearly as bad as people did in Jesus’ day. Back then, the tax collectors could collect more than a person owed and pocket the difference.

Jewish tax collectors were seen as traitors to their own people since they collected from Jews for Rome. Tax collectors were despised. While in Capernaum, Jesus walked over to this despised tax collector named Matthew. Jesus asked Matthew to be one of His followers.  Can you image how appalled the people were?

No one was more shocked than Matthew! He was not welcome in the Synagogue and was despised by his fellow Jews, but contrary to what he knew about himself, Matthew was chosen by Jesus as one of the original apostles.

What followed was a big reception for Jesus at Matthew’s house where he invited other tax collectors and his sinful friends (see Luke 5:27-32). Why would he do this? Well, Matthew was so moved that Christ had called him to be a follower, he wanted his friends to meet Jesus and recognize how this Jesus could change their lives too. So, he invited them all to his party to meet Jesus.

As Christ followers, I know you and I have friends far from God that we want to meet Jesus. One way that we can get them to hear how Jesus transforms people’s lives is to invite them to church. This Sunday is Friends Day. A time when we put a little more emphasis than every other week on inviting friends to church.

We begin a new series called ‘First Free Goes to Broadway.’ We will focus on salvation and redemption through stories found in the creative arts. This would be a great series to invite friends to hear the transforming power of the Gospel message.

When the religious leaders saw what Matthew did, they were appalled. They thought it was ridiculous that this man Jesus, who called Himself a Man of God, would mingle with sinners like that. Jesus responded, ‘It is not those who are well who need a physician, but those who are sick.  I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.’

Do you have some friends in need of the Savior? Invite them to join you this Sunday so they can hear how God loves them, how Jesus died for them, then conquered sin and death by being raised from the dead, and how they can be transformed by Him from the inside out.

Blessings,
Pastor Mark "The Bru" Brunott

Monday, April 9, 2018

Smooth Sailing


There’s an African proverb that goes like this: ‘Smooth seas do not make skillful sailors.’ Have you ever thought of life that way?

All of us would love things to go our way all the time. But if they did, we would never learn to trust God for we would never have to trust God.

Well, we all know that life isn’t ‘smooth seas’ all the time. Hard times come. In fact, sometimes the waves of hard times capsize us. Relationships are damaged, financial worries plague us, and there are even times that threaten war. We are overwhelmed with fear and worry.

The clouds and the storms really do come.

Jesus reminded His followers, ‘In this world, you will have trouble.’ But the good news is He didn’t stop there! He also said, ‘Take heart, I have overcome the world.’

Yes, trouble is a fact of life. In fact, if you look at your past week, you probably can think of some trouble. Trouble at work, trouble at home, trouble in a relationship, trouble with money, trouble with schedules, trouble with a personality, trouble with a friend, etc.

But Jesus has given us a means of finding victory- the real victory- even in the hard times. And with each hard time as you learn to trust Him, you become more skillful in living your life.

Will you allow Him to provide all you need to face the good times and the bad? Will you allow Him to use the difficult moments of life to develop you with greater skill in living life?

He is willing and able to provide triumph, even when things look the darkest. It is usually through the storms of life that we learn our most valuable lessons. Put your trust in Christ Jesus.

James, the half-brother of Jesus, said it well: ‘The testing of your faith produces perseverance.’


Blessings,
Pastor Mark "The Bru" Brunott

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Does the "when" matter?

I was reading from the Gospel of Mark this week and came across this verse, ‘In the early morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house, and went away to a secluded place and was praying.’ (Mark 1:35)

Is the point of the verse when we pray? I don’t think so. I’m not a morning person. In fact, I loathe early mornings. And of course, there are those in the church who love them. And when you serve with them on a committee they love to meet at 6:30 A.M.

That means I have to get up at 5:30 A.M. For me, that’s the middle of the night. Maybe it’s because I have a sleeping disorder that makes it doubly hard for me to wake up so early. Who knows the reasons?

But I don’t think the verse is emphasizing the ‘when’ as much as it is the regularity. Jesus spent a lot of time alone with God. Why? Jesus needed to stay connected to the Father in order to be refreshed and recharged after the pressures of his life and ministry.

Knowing His ultimate purpose on earth was to go to the cross for our sins, Jesus also needed strength to continue walking in God’s will.

Even though our most intense pressures and stress pale in comparison to what Jesus faced at the cross, we too need God’s refreshment, strength, and encouragement in the face of life’s demands and anxiety.

For Jesus, it was early in the morning. For me, it’s later in the day. The issue isn’t the ‘when’ but the ‘are you.’ Are you regularly spending time alone with God to get recharged? Let me give you a couple tips that have helped me.
1.        Remove distractions. Jesus went to a secluded place. Silence your cell phone, close your laptop, turn off the T.V., get away from others, and ask God for a desire to know Him.
2.       Be vulnerable. As Jesus prayed I’m sure he poured out His heart to God. And so should you. Christ teaches us in other places that prayer should consist of praising, thanking, and confessing sin, as well as meeting our needs and praying for His will in our lives. It’s about 100% vulnerability with God.
3.       Read God’s Word. God speaks, teaches, encourages, and directs us through His Word. We need to listen to Him because we love Him. It’s His way of revealing Himself to each of us.
4.       Have a regular habit. I believe this verse emphasizes that this was a habit of Jesus. We should make it a habit of ours.
The more time you spend with God, the more you will understand the power of God’s love that brings joy, fulfillment, and purpose to life. Ask God to help you prioritize time with Him today. Just do it. And remember, it’s not the ‘when’ but the fact that you want to be with Him.
Blessings,
Pastor Mark "The Bru" Brunott


P.S. As a Christian, do you feel that science and faith are constantly in tension? Is God anti-science? Are there reasons to believe in God?  Join us this Sunday at 9:00 and 10:30 A.M. as we begin answering these questions and looking at the evidence for God’s existence.