Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Soul Communication

In premarital counseling, I always spend a session with the couple on the importance of communication within their relationship. I talk about the five levels of communication.
Level 1 is cliché communication like, ‘How are you?’ ‘Fine!’ 
Level 2 is like reporting the news: ‘What did you do today?’ ‘I went to work, I came home.’ 
Level 3 communication is sharing an opinion. ‘In my opinion, turnips are absolutely delicious.’ 
It’s just the person’s opinion and that’s all. T
hose three levels of communication are not deep enough to sustain a healthy, deep relationship. Although each level goes a little deeper, they do not go deep enough for a deep, satisfying relationship.

When we begin to communicate at Level 4- the sharing of a conviction- one begins to share more of him/herself. You are sharing a part of you. ‘It is my conviction that children should be loved unconditionally by their parents.’ If you disagree with my conviction- a part of me is being rejected by you.

Of course, Level 5- the deepest of all the levels- is the most open, the most vulnerable, and the most ‘out of the soul’ kind of communication. I tell the couple that they need this kind of communication if they hope to grow in their love, become soul mates, and have a deep, intimate, satisfying, and enriching marriage. I then tell them that to get to this level, you need at least 3 things and these 3 things you really have to work at.
  • First, you have to minimize external distractions. You can’t get to Level 5 Communication amidst a crowd, with screaming kids around, cell phones ringing, televisions on, in front of the computer, etc.
  • Second, you need time. Soul talk with anyone cannot happen if you’re always running off to your next thing or in a few minutes. You need chunks of time.
  • Third, have patience. You don’t get to Level 5 Communication the first week of marriage. In fact, after 42 years of marriage, we still have to work at it.
Why am I boring you with this information? Because if we want to have a deep, intimate, soul-satisfying, authentic relationship with God, we need to communicate with Him at  Level 5 Communication. In order to get to that kind of genuine soul talk with God- which we call prayer- it requires hard work. It requires silence. How much of your life is lived in silence, removed from activity, noise, and distraction?
Second, authentic prayer requires time. It cannot happen in a few minutes, in your car driving to the next appointment. When was the last time you had a block of time- I mean an hour or two or three- just to commune with God?

Third, it takes patience. You have to work at this for a lifetime. It doesn’t happen instantly. So don’t give up- don’t be impatient but strive to have a conversation with God at a soul level.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

What kind of older person do you want to be?

What kind of older person do you want to be?

The question is not designed to describe where you want to live in your older years or how much money you have in your account.  Rather, the question has to do with your character, your personality, and your style of being as you see your life moving forward.

If I were to choose a biblical character who I would love to model in my older years, it would be Caleb.  He was one of twelve men entrusted by Moses with the responsibility of exploring Canaan, in anticipation of a Hebrew invasion.  Ten said, ‘No, we can’t take back the land.’  Joshua and Caleb said, ‘Yes, we can!’

When we read about Caleb again in Joshua 14:6-14, he is in his mid-eighties.  Most of the younger Israelites were being intimidated by the enemy’s fighting ability.  Not Caleb!  He stepped forward to take on the challenge, to fight and take the mountain. (Read Joshua 14)

Three times in this chapter the word ‘wholeheartedly’ is used to describe him.  Everything he did, he did with his whole heart.  This is the kind of man he became.  His enthusiasm, faith, and toughness were not by accident.  Whatever he has done, he has done it wholeheartedly with nothing held back.

It takes a disciple, a determination to live life like that.  I have known a few people like Caleb in my lifetime—and I have to be honest – they are rare.  He was always a man who had strong convictions and lived by them.  He was a man who loved challenges and preferred the toughest of all.  He was a man who had unlimited faith that the God of his youth is the God of his old age.  When others were fearful, he wasn’t.

How many men or women do you know like that- let alone 85-year-olds?  What kind of older person do you want to be?

Here are some of the characteristics I hope to have in my toolbox from the older people I have admired through the years.  I’m confident they were in Caleb’s.
1.        An attitude of gratitude.  This means having a spirit of thankfulness, rather than ‘the world owes me’ attitude.
2.       A mind that is sharp and agile.  I don’t want to quit learning.  I want to revel in new things and new ideas.  If my eyes can’t read anymore, I’ll find someone to read to me.
3.       “I never want to retire.”  Now, that doesn’t mean walk away from a job or a position.  I mean never retire from a life mission of becoming more like Jesus, using your gifts and talents to influence others to Jesus.  Your income production may change but your value production need not change.
4.       Pave the way for the next generation. Let's take an enthusiastic interest in the accomplishments of the younger generation, making them successful whenever possible. 
5.        Don’t be afraid of death.  We should strive to have the attitude of Paul when he writes in Philippians 1:21-24: “For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better.  But if I live, I can do more fruitful work for Christ. So I really don’t know which is better.  I’m torn between two desires: I long to go and be with Christ, which would be far better for me.  But for your sakes, it is better that I continue to live.”
What characteristics would you add to the list?  We all are growing older, so what kind of older person do you want to be?  Respond to me with your answers.

Monday, July 2, 2018

Your Personal Mission

This week I want to write to you about a mission. Not the church’s mission, although that is very important. The mission I want to talk about is your personal life mission.
What do I mean by ‘mission?’ It is the foundational intention that provides meaning and direction to all of your life. If you have a well-defined mission, it provides the grounds for guidance, the choices you make, and the values you live by throughout your life.
Bill O’Brien, CEO of Hanover Insurance, talks about how people enter business as bright, well-educated, high energy people, with the desire to make a difference. Often as people grow older, they lose the commitment, sense of mission, and the excitement they had when they started. When asked what they want in life, they state what they’d like to get rid of. We ought to live our lives with a mission – one that clarifies the things that really matter to us and living our lives in the service of our highest aspirations.1
When you look at the men and women of the Bible, they show us the evidence of personal mastery of mission-driven living.  Some examples include:
  • Moses and his role in the liberation of the Hebrews. 
  • Paul who spent his life preaching Christ and teaching every person in all wisdom, that we might present every person as complete in Christ-likeness (Colossians 1:28).
  • Jesus seeking and saving the lost (Luke 19:10)
Perhaps my favorite is the priest Ezra. ‘This was because Ezra had determined to study and obey the Law of the Lord and to teach those decrees and regulations to the people of Israel.’ (Ezra 7:10) I see a couple of principles from Ezra’s mission statement that each of us should apply to our personal mission statement.First, a mission should include one’s devotion to God. His deepest desire was to please and honor His God.
Second, it should involve a commitment to God’s redemptive work, such as the proclamation of the Good News of the Gospel. Now, for Ezra, this was done primarily through teaching God’s word. But if you’re not a teacher, God still uses you and desires to use your wiring to proclaim Him to your friends and those you know who are far from a personal relationship with Him.
Third, we are called, given the mandate, to serve our own generation. Ezra returned with the exiles from Babylon and taught them the word, modeled the word, obeyed the word before them, not a previous generation. Whether we like our current culture or not, God has placed us here now to serve it- to point people to the redemptive power of Jesus.
Fourth, your mission should take into account a life of holiness that reflects the honor and character of God. Christ-likeness means we often will think, and act, counter-culturally. Obedience is the goal, not becoming the same as the culture (read Romans 12:1-2).
Your mission can be developed by communing with God through worship and praise and obeying His will. Your mission should follow and honor Jesus in your values, choices, gifts, abilities, and organize your life according to Biblical perspectives. Have you written out your personal mission statement? If so, would you mind sending it to me? I’d love to see it!
Pastor Mark "The Bru" Brunott

1. Senge, Peter. (1990). The Fifth Discipline. Pp. 129-162

Monday, June 4, 2018

Spirituality or Spiritual Experience

My daughter and son-in-law are healthy eaters. They have lost 40-50 lbs. each and kept the weight off. I asked them their secret, and they said, ‘Eating healthy is like having a second full-time job.’

I responded, ‘What do you mean?’

‘Well, you have to learn about food and nutrition, and that takes time. Then you have to know how the digestive system works and what foods are good for certain digestive enzymes. Again, that takes time. And then you have to discipline yourself not to eat certain things.’

They don’t eat processed foods, sugar, bread, fruit (except some berries), red meat, or many carbohydrates. Everything has to be fresh- that means more trips to the store. This takes time. Then the food has to be prepared properly. More time. They take classes and read books on how to cook, prepare good tasting foods, and how to keep the nutrients in the food. Then you have to have the cooking tools to prepare the food. On and on it goes; by the time they explained everything to me, I understood what they meant by ‘it’s like having a second full-time job.’

I would have a bowl of Honey Nut Cheerios (which are full of sugar) with milk for breakfast and feel really satisfied- you know, like a sugar high. They would eat protein in some form. Guess who would be hungry in about an hour and a half? Me. They could go hours before needing their next meal.

I use this illustration to compare the difference between spirituality and spiritual experience. Spirituality takes time. It takes discipline and sacrifice. It’s a full-time job of being filled with the Spirit, living victoriously and abundantly.

Spirituality is not knowing more Bible stories, memorizing more Bible verses, or being involved in more church activities. These may be noble ventures but often become religious busyness more than soul purposefulness.

Spirituality is the journey in which God is permitted to guide the way, provide the strength for the journey. It’s learning to take one’s cues from the Holy Spirit, not from the world around us, having heavenly discernment, conviction, and decision. It is evident that the Spirit of God has been invited to dwell in your life (see Ephesians 5:18 and Colossians 3:16).

Spiritual experience is different. It is like eating Cheerios for breakfast: the contentment doesn’t last very long. Spiritual experiences require little discipline of the soul and are usually prompted by an external stimulus (music, persuasive speaking, or intense feelings). Spiritual experiences can happen at any time and are regularly a matter of emotion more than anything else.

Spiritual experiences often bring honor to the musician, speaker, or event instead of honor to God Himself. In a world where the intensity of an experience is of great value, we are easily duped into thinking that a momentary religious experience that leaves us amazed is far more genuine and satisfying than the hard work of developing spirituality. Let’s not settle for that.

Pastor Mark "The Bru" Brunott

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Make Today Awesome!

Cindy and I spent a week with our daughter and son-in-law at their home in Westfield, Indiana as we celebrated our 42nd Anniversary. In the kitchen of their home is a plaque that says, ‘Make today awesome.’ It’s the first thing you see when you walk into the kitchen. It’s really a great mantra to remember.

The Bible would say it this way: ‘This is the day the Lord has made. I will rejoice and be glad in it’ (Psalm 118:24). Shouldn’t we start every day remembering it’s the Lord who gives us this day?

Shouldn’t we live each day to the fullest? Jesus said it well: ‘The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.’ In other words, a life that counts. How do you live a life that counts? By making today awesome! But how do you do that? Here are a couple suggestions:

First, start your day rejoicing as Psalm 118:24 declares. Think about three things you are thankful for.

Second, live like today is your last. James 4:14 declares, ‘How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog- it’s here a little while, then it’s gone.’ So if today was your last- how would you live it? Hopefully, you’d say, ‘No different than how I am living it!’

Third, make the most of every opportunity. Paul says that we should be careful how we live, not foolishly but as people who are wise. Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days. Don’t act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do (Ephesians 5:15-17).

Everything we do should be done with eternity in mind. Everything you do today should be done with a ‘Would Jesus be pleased?’ attitude. Everything you do today should be controlled by the Spirit, not by your flesh.

Fourth, never stop praying (see 1 Thessalonians 5:17). Throughout your day be in an attitude of prayer. I often call this ‘arrow praying.’ Like shooting an arrow into the sky. I pray, ‘Lord, help me today. Lord, give me wisdom in this situation. Lord, forgive me for that attitude. Lord, protect me. Lord, thanks for watching over me.’ You get the idea.

These are just a few ways to ‘make today awesome.’ What would you add to the list? Email me your suggestions.

Pastor Mark "The Bru" Brunott

P.S. Let’s be honest: Parenting isn’t for wimps. We’ve all got questions about parenting young kids, maturing kids, adult kids, and grand kids. Where can you turn for some answers? Join us on Sunday at 9 and 10:30 AM for Biblical insight into some of your most pressing questions.

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.

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.

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.