Thursday, September 21, 2017

Success in God's Eyes

I looked up how many titles have “success” in them on Amazon books and came up with over 6,000 titles. In contrast, titles with “failure” in terms of ‘how to’ were 9. It suggests to me how we tend to overrate success in our culture and underrate failure. Does God look at success and failure the same way we do? I think not.

For example, we usually measure success by how much money or how many things you have accumulated over the years. But in God’s economy, success is measured by faithful obedience. Jesus said, ‘Well done my good and faithful servant’ to both the servants who received differing amounts of silver (Matthew 25).

‘Now, a person who is put in charge as a manager must be faithful’ (1 Corinthians 4:2).

In man’s kingdom, success is measured by things like independence, personal strength, and survival of the fittest. But in God’s kingdom, success involves embracing dependence upon God and understanding that when we are weak, He is strong.

In John 15 we are reminded that Jesus is the vine and we are the branches. The closer the connection between the two, the better; we become stronger in our weaknesses. The last part of verse 5 says, ‘For apart from me, you can do nothing.’ Paul, the Great Apostle who wrote much of our New Testament, performed miracles, endured all kinds of trials, hardships, and tests concluded, ‘For when I am weak, then I am strong,’ (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).

I have one last thought on success as measured by God instead of how the world measures it. With God, success is measured by our resiliency- the ability to become strong or successful after something bad happened, to recover after the wind has been knocked out of you, to get up when the chips are down, to keep our eyes on the prize. Success, no matter what the hardship, difficulty, problem, burden, or pain, is being able to say what Paul said at the end of his life. ‘I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have remained faithful’ (2 Timothy 4:7).

Are you successful the way God measures success? If so, what do you need to keep doing to continue being successful? If not, what changes do you need to make so you can finish the race well and hear the words, ‘Well done my good and faithful servant’?

Blessings,
Mark "The Bru" Brunott


P.S. If I were to ask you, “Are you a grace-filled person?” How would you answer? How can you tell? For that matter, what is grace? Join us this Sunday morning at 9:15 or 11:00 AM to discover what the Bible has to say about being a grace-filled person.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Broken Relationships - Is Restoration Possible?

You have often heard me say that we were made for relationships. First and foremost, we were made to have a relationship with God through His one and only Son, Jesus, and second a relationship with each other. That is why I am such a supporter and participant in Life Group Ministry. It’s for building relationships with others; learning, serving, laughing, helping, praying, and supporting each other. Did you know that there are about 50 ‘one another’ statements in the Bible? Every statement was designed to show us how to relate to each other.

But what happens when a relationship breaks down for some reason? Is there a way to restore the relationship? Of course there is. Isn’t that what the cross of Jesus is all about? Reconciling a broken relationship (God with man because of man’s sin) through the cross of Jesus is one of the purposes of the cross of Jesus. And it offers the same kind of hope of reconciliation to us in our human relationships.

In Philippians 2:6-8, we are told that in order for us to be reconciled to God, Jesus had to humble Himself. Paul says we ought to have the same attitude toward others: Thinking about others more than yourself. One of the reasons why so many relationships fall apart is because so many people are unwilling to do the serious work that humility requires. Yet, the Bible commands us to ‘clothe yourselves with humility toward one another’ (1 Peter 5:5) and ‘God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble’ (James 4:6).
Grace is the power to change. Grace is the power to heal a relationship. Grace is the power to receive forgiveness and offer forgiveness. Grace is the power to restore what you thought was dead.

Let me give you a couple of practical tips which demand humility that can help you if you are experiencing a broken relationship.
1.        Ask God to help you be reconciled to that person.
2.       Affirm their value as a person. Romans 12:10 says, ‘Have a profound respect for each other.’ Tell them that you value them.
3.       Acknowledge your part of the problem. Not their part, but YOUR PART. Where you blew it, where you were wrong. Ask them to forgive you for the part you played in the fracture.
4.       Accept what the future holds for the relationship. It may be reconciled completely. It may not be. If you have done your part- you must leave the rest up to the Lord.

Blessings,
Mark "The Bru" Brunott


P.S. If I were to say to you: You are creative. You are gifted. You have a talent. What would your response be? Join me this week at 9:15 or 11:00 as we discover what the Bible has to say about creativity.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Are You Easily Distracted?

Sometimes I look at my spiritual development and say, ‘I should be further ahead’ or ‘I’m not as spiritually mature as I should be.’ And then I begin to come up with all my reasonably good and noble reasons why this is so, some of my reasons are:
Church ministry is so demanding. It wears a pastor out emotionally. Life is just too busy. There just isn’t enough time in the day. It’s the enemy. Satan doesn’t want me to have any intimacy with the Heavenly Father so he diverts me any way he can. Grandchildren. They demand so much time. Oh, they’re a blast to be around, but it is very time consuming. Church business. I get so busy putting out fires- going from this event to that event- who has time for spiritual growth and development?
But honestly, the reason I’m not developing spiritually is not because of the enemy, church busy-ness, the time it takes to prepare a sermon, or my grandchildren. It’s because I’m too easily distracted. If I were a betting man, and I’m not, I would bet you struggle with the same problem- distractions. Distractions hamper productivity, and most of us don’t realize how it affects our spiritual growth.
Why not try a little experiment on yourself? Count the number of times you get ‘interrupted’ during a day. I am defining an interruption as any media notification. One study concluded that workers are interrupted every 3 minutes at their job and it takes 25 more minutes to get back into the groove. If we would apply that to our spiritual development, is there any question if we are growing or not?
What’s the solution? Well, you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to answer that one. Minimize the distractions! That’s right. But the better question is: How do I minimize the distractions so I can have uninterrupted time with God?
I suggest three things:
1.        Go off the grid. No phones, emails, kids, spouses, coworkers, TV, or any other kind of electronics. Find a private, secluded spot. You may have to get up earlier in the morning or you may have to wait until everyone at home is in bed and find a secluded spot.
2.       Pray that God would speak to you in the quiet, uninterrupted moments. Don’t be disappointed if it always doesn’t appear as if He is. Stay at it. Try something different; read the prayers of others, write out your prayers, and say your prayers out loud.
3.       Listen to God as you read His word. Here again, you don’t have to have a reading program. You can use a devotion. Whatever helps you listen- use that.
The whole point of all of this is to minimize the distractions of life so we can grow spiritually and be more like Jesus.

Blessings,
Mark "The Bru" Brunott


P.S. Do you ever regret not taking a certain job or not taking the risk on a financial investment? Do you ever regret not spending enough time with your kids when they were growing up or regret a missed opportunity? What can be done to refocus on the future? Join me this Sunday at 9:15 or 11:00 to learn how we can reset and live abundantly after missing a promising opportunity.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Who Do You Hang Out With?

It is a very natural thing for us as believers to want to hang out with other believers. One of the expressions that was first discovered in the early church and continues today is ‘fellowship’ (see Acts 2:42). It means ‘to have in common.’ Believers have in common a love for God and His word.

But what about those who are far from God? What about those around you who are not like-minded when it comes to spiritual things, the church, etc. Are any of those people on your friends list? Do you spend time with them? If not, why not?

One of the common criticisms Jesus faced was that He spent too much time with sinners. He associated with the unwelcomed and unappreciated of society. Are we not to be like Jesus? How many of us could be accused of spending too much time with the ‘down and outers’ of our culture?

I read somewhere that once a person becomes a believer, he distances himself from his unbelieving friends within 18 month. That’s tragic. If we hope to have any kind of lasting influence and impact for eternity in the lives of our unbelieving friends, we have to have contact. In order to have contact, we must begin by spending time and investing energy in being with them. No contact- no impact.

Jesus talked about His own ministry in two ways. First, Jesus came to serve. Jesus showed kindness to those who were hurting- the widows, the blind, the broken, and the needy (Luke 4:18). Second, Jesus came to save the lost (Luke 19:10). Serving and saving were the marks of Jesus’ life on earth and they should be the marks of each of us as well (John 20:21).

Who are you hanging out with? One wise sage put it this way: A church without the broken is a broken church.

Are you engaging with the hurting and broken around you? Can you name your neighbors by their first name? Do you find yourself caring about the hurting- showing the love of Christ to the lost?

Blessings,
Pastor Mark "The Bru" Brunott


P.S. Need a reset? Not because you have been wronged or are hurting or in pain, but because you have done the wrong to somebody else. You have deeply hurt another. You have inflicted pain onto someone else. What do you do when WE are the ones inflicting the pain? The broken promise, the unfulfilled vows? Join me this Sunday at 9:15 and 11:00 to discover biblical truth to these questions.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

What does being Grace-Filled mean?

At First Free we often talk about our Mission: To introduce people to Jesus and develop them in to fully devoted followers and to equip them to reach their city and world. Rarely do we talk about our Vision: To be a grace-filled, outward-focused church, full of joyful people who are deeply committed to one another. For just a moment, I want to focus on the phrase ‘to be a grace-filled church.’

What exactly does that phrase mean? It means we are to be a channel of God’s love and grace, corporately and individually. God’s work within us is to clear a channel for His love and grace to flow through me into the lives of anyone and everyone we meet.

Stop for a moment and ask yourself, ‘Who can benefit from God’s love and grace through me right now?’ The answer might be a coworker, a neighbor, a spouse, a child, a grandchild, a fellow student, a stranger, the waitress that waited my table, the grocer who checked me out, or the person next to me at the gym. You don’t have to look very far to find someone in your pathway that needs a touch of love, a gracious word, or a moment of encouragement. God is full of love and grace, and He fills us with His love and grace to pass on to others.

Let these verses encourage you as you learn to live a grace-filled life:
  • 2 Corinthians 3:14 But the people’s minds were hardened, and to this day whenever the old covenant is being read, the same veil covers their minds so they cannot understand the truth. And this veil can be removed only by believing in Christ.
  • 2 Corinthians 9:8 And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others.
  • Numbers 6:24-26 May the Lord bless you and protect you. May the Lord smile on you and be gracious to you. May the Lord show you his favor and give you his peace.
  • 1 Corinthians 16:23 May the grace of the Lord Jesus be with you.
  • 2 Peter 3:18 Rather, you must grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. All glory to him, both now and forever! Amen.

Second, it means that our words will build up, and not tear down. We will be slow to speak and anger, but quick to hear. We will not be judgmental. We will seek to understand before being understood. We will show compassion. We will promote obedience to the truth and forgiveness when it is disobeyed. We will balance grace and truth.

We do all things to the glory of God, and we believe all people matter to God, therefore must matter to us. So let’s not forget our Vision… to be a grace-filled church.

Blessings,

Mark "The Bru" Brunott

P.S. What is the condition of your heart? Is it hardened because of a past hurt or because you’re disappointed in God? Maybe you have experienced a spiritual dry-spell or a spiritual setback due to your circumstances. What can you do to reset and get your life back on track? Join me this Sunday at 9:15 or 11:00 and discover what God’s word has to say about resetting your heart.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Keeping It Intentional

In my reading this week of a church journal, an article caught my eye about the importance of being intentional. Any business or church that coasts or gets lazy in terms of its mission is comparable to walking on thin ice. Eventually, the ice will break and disaster will result, sometimes leading to death.

In order for any institution to thrive, it has to remain intentional about its mission. Just in case you may not know or have forgotten, our mission at First Free is to introduce people to Jesus Christ, develop them into fully devoted followers, and equip them to reach their city and world.

Of course, we cannot fulfill this mission in our own strength and power. We need the power of the Holy Spirit to work in and through each one of us. We must remember that a church that is effective in reaching and changing their surrounding culture does not do so by accident. It is done through intentionality.

Churches will always have a natural drift away from mission into autopilot mode. It’s just the nature of things. We go back to doing church the easiest way we know how, rather than intentionally working (which is always harder) to be the kind of church we need to be.

Look at it this way. If we fail to intentionally be the church, we will just do church (gather on Sunday mornings). If we fail to intentionally make disciples, we will just make fans. If we fail to be authentic, we’ll just perform. If we fail to embrace all people, we will consume everything for ourselves.

So, would you join me, help me, pray with me, hold me accountable, and let me hold you accountable to some intentionality in our mission? Let’s remind ourselves of the mission often, keep Jesus at the center of all we do, and do these things with a sense of desperation. He is coming back soon.

Blessings,
Mark "The Bru" Brunott

P.S. Has someone told lies about you? Have you ever been rejected, betrayed, made the victim of abuse, or hurt from a broken promise? Are you struggling to overcome a regret of the past? Do you wish your life had a ‘reset’ button so you could get a fresh start? Join me this Sunday at 9:15 and 11:00 and we will discover how to spiritually ‘reset’ our lives.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Don't Put it Off

Do you have anything in your life that you’ve been putting off? You know, something you keep saying to yourself, “Someday I’ll get to it”? It can be as simple as cleaning out your garage, washing the car, or giving away the clothes that no longer fit. It can also be as serious as getting your finances in order or securing a last will and testament.

In my conversations with many Christians, one of the things I often hear is, “Baptism, oh yeah. I’ll get around to it one of these days.”

I encourage you not to wait any longer. Be baptized at our next baptism on Sunday, October 8th. It begins by contacting my assistant, Kylie, at the church office.

Below are some helpful things to remember about water baptism. Remember, Jesus said it was part of the mission of the church in terms of making disciples.

“Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”   --Matthew 28:19-20 (NLT)

What is baptism? Baptism is an act of obedience to God that publically professes the new life that is given to a person when they trust in Christ as their Savior. Through baptism, being immersed in water is symbolic of being identified with Christ’s death (and putting to death what the Bible calls the “old nature”). When a person is raised up from the water, this is symbolic of being identified with the “new life” that is found in having a personal relationship with Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Why should I be baptized? Most importantly, a believer should be baptized out of obedience to God’s command. Baptism is also the means through which a believer publicly professes that he/she is now a follower of Christ. Through baptism, the believer is also following Christ’s example. In Mark 1:9, we read “… Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan.”

Is baptism necessary for salvation? Baptism does not make you a follower of Christ, nor does it guarantee your eternal destiny in heaven. Baptism is like a wedding ring- it is the outward symbol of an inward commitment that you have made.

Don’t let baptism fall prey to the “I’ll get around to it someday” trap. Act today and call the church office.

Blessings,


Mark "The Bru" Brunott


P.S. Come this Sunday at 9:15 or 11:00 as we walk through that last topic of the series ‘Is it okay for a Christian to…?’ This Sunday will be one of the harder topics in our series, ‘Is it okay for a Christian to attend a gay wedding?’