Thursday, December 8, 2016

One humorist took the song Jingle Bells and rewrote the verses to be culturally relevant: “Dashing through the snow, with a high-def. touchscreen display, o’er the fields we go, tweeting and texting all the way! Bells on smartphones ring, making bandwidth bright, what fun it is to stare and cling to a virtual world tonight!”

In other words, silver bells, tinsel, and mistletoe are being replaced with smartphones, tablets, computers, and social media. Our tendency is to pay more attention to screens than people.

May I suggest something to all of us this Christmas season? What I’m about to suggest is going to sound like I’m Ebenezer Scrooge to many, but I hope you will heed what I say.

Go on a diet! Not a food kind of diet but a media diet. Jesus spent time with loved ones; He prayed for and touched the untouchable. I’m not saying Jesus wouldn’t use the technology available today- He would. I am simply saying He wouldn’t be so absorbed in it that He neglected the personal touch.

Here’s what your media diet might look like:
  • Plan ahead for people time. Meet with family and friends without cell phones, computers, iPads, or other electronics. “Quality time” comes from quality time. Play a game, eat together, or wrap gifts together, without all the techno stuff.
  • Plan ahead for tech time. What? Doesn’t this contradict what I just said? Not if you use the technology to be together. Don’t let technology replace your presence. Put on a Christmas movie with others, and actually watch it. Watch a Christmas service online. Google ‘the meaning of Christmas’ to see what it says. You get the idea.
  • Reach out and touch someone. Literally. Allow #4Lincoln to become part of your Christmas living.
  • Talk. Conversations connect people. What we say matters. I said ‘what we say’ not ‘what we text.’ Texting is less personal and you really can’t understand what the person means. You can’t hear the tone of voice or the non-verbal expressions which is 93% of the communication message.
Try the diet and then let me know what you discovered. I look forward to hearing from you.

Blessings,
Pastor Mark "The Bru" Brunott

P.S. How can a person be joyful when faced with trouble, difficulty, fractured relationships, or discouraging circumstances? There is a way! Come Sunday at 9:15 or 11:00 to discover how to be joyful always, and bring a friend with you.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Christmas Advice from the Pastor

Christmas is just around the corner and I’d like to share some pastoral advice to help you experience God’s love during this special season of the year. These are three things I am trying to do personally and I hope we do at First Free.

First, keep it simple. Make sure all your activities focus on Christmas. Small and personal is better than large and impersonal. Talk to each other, help each other, and serve each other. Love and Community are two things we are trying to cultivate through our #4Lincoln campaign.

Simple is powerful. Don’t cram your days full of activities and don’t make everything big and complicated. Keep the holiday simple, so you are free to serve those in need and celebrate with those you love.

Second, be there. Tell your family and friends that you love them by giving them your focused attention. Communicate ‘I value you enough to give you my most precious asset- my time.’ You can always make more money, but you cannot make more time. Schedules that are full and hectic do not communicate focused attention to those we love.

Jesus showed His love to others by being there. He gave people time and focused His attention on them when they needed His help, His comfort, and His protection. Show up in the lives of those you love- that includes your church family.

Third, give with delight. God uses giving as an antidote for materialism. He loves when we give with a cheerful heart (2 Corinthians 9:7). Jesus knew there was more happiness in giving than receiving.

We’ve replaced true, heartfelt, delightful giving with a hollow materialism that keeps us all overspending during the holidays. Instead, we should give from our hearts. As your pastor, I’d like to see you expand your definition of giving beyond the financial. How could you bless others if you also shared your time and talents?

When we learn generosity in giving, it builds our faith as we look to be generous with the world. The essence of Christmas is that we simply and humbly give of ourselves, just as God gave generously and sacrificially to us through His Son, Jesus Christ.

There you have it. Three things to make your holiday season a blessed one.

Blessings,


P.S. Don’t let the hectic pace of the season hinder you. Experience the peace, joy, and love that Christmas brings. Invite a friend to join us this Sunday at 9:15 or 11:00 and discover a peace that surpasses our comprehension- yes- especially at Christmas time.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Let's Change Together

read an article this week that hit me between the eyes. It was written by Tim Parsons, an executive Pastor at First Assembly Community Church. I would like to attempt to summarize what he was writing about.
He started by saying change is a function of growth. Churches, organizations, things, people cannot grow unless they change. The reason this hit me between the eyes is: I like consistency. I’m prone to just keep doing the things the same way I’ve been doing. Can’t we grow as a church without change? As much as I wish we could- we cannot.
Why is change so hard for us? Parsons suggests 5 things:
1.        I don’t want to. It may be because we’re obstinate or don’t agree with change. But we cannot grow without a willingness to change.
2.       I don’t see the value. To see the value we have to see the bigger picture of what God wants to accomplish through us.
3.       I’m comfortable. We all know how much hard work is involved in changing anything. To help us break through this resistance to change, we must see ‘there’ is better than ‘here.’ That makes it easier to leave my place of comfort and move to that place.
4.       We’ve tired that before. Sometimes what didn’t work in the past may work now because the culture is constantly changing. Perhaps something was missing back then that is not missing now. It is worth the risk of change to determine if that ‘something’ was missing in the past.
5.        It’s too much work. This is similar to our comfort zones mentioned in number 3. Change does demand us to work harder because change brings with it new systems, new processes, new personalities, and a new focus.
I so desire for us to learn and grow and change together. I want us to do whatever change is necessary to accomplish the mission. The soul of men and women, boys and girls, are at stake. We must see people introduced to Christ and have their lives changed from the inside-out. Their eternities hang in the balance. I can’t be comfortable with where we are. I hope you can’t be comfortable either.

I desire disciples to be fully devoted and obedient to Christ. Growing in the grace and knowledge of Jesus is a far better ‘there’ than ‘here.’

I desire to see First Free be a greater light in the community of Lincoln, as a church that would be missed if we weren‘t a part of our city.

These desires of mine cannot be realized without your help in fulfilling our mission. Change is directly tied to our mission and if we don’t change, it means that we will not be fulfilling our mission and could, in a worst-case scenario, become extinct.

Let’s change together!

Thursday, November 10, 2016

A Presidential Prayer

The day before the Presidential election I received my favorite blog by James Emery White, Pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC. The title of his blog caught my attention: A Presidential Prayer. I would like to pass on some highlights from James Emery White’s prayer. He reminds us that this is how we should pray for our president, regardless if they were our person of choice or not.

To the President:
  • I want you to know that I will be praying for you. Not praying against you or about you, but for you.
  • I will be praying for you from my position as a father and grandfather that you have the foresight to think through what your decisions will mean for future generations.
  • I will be praying as a citizen of the U.S., that you will seek wisdom from God and humbly submit yourself to His leadership as you lead our nation through economic turbulence, domestic divides, and cultural diversities.
  • I will be praying for you as a mentor of the global population, that you will work with other well-intentioned leaders from around the world as we face environmental dangers, wars, rumors of wars, and humanitarian crisis.
  • I will be praying for you as a follower of Christ, that you will encourage faith in God to flourish and never allow deeply held spiritual convictions to become a matter of ridicule, but instead encourage everyone to grant them a respectful hearing, even if they go against the political policy of your party.
  • It is my pledge and my obligation as a follower of Christ to pray for you.

(1 Timothy 2:1-2) I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity.

Blessings,
Pastor Mark "The Bru" Brunott

PS- Do you ever think about the future? What will it look like? Where will you be? Does God really hold the future in His hands? Are you sure? This Sunday at 9:15 and 11:00 we will be talking about Jesus’ coming to earth again. Is it really going to happen? See you Sunday, and bring a friend!

Thursday, November 3, 2016

World Views Pt. 2

Last week I reviewed four basic worldviews that most people are party to, including Christians: Materialism, Hedonism, Individualism, and Collectivism (socialism). Today, I want to focus on a view of the culture, a view of the world, framed by scripture. My goal in this article is to challenge us all to see the world through this lens. God revealed the truth to us, giving us a picture of Himself, humanity, and eternity.
A Biblical worldview usually doesn’t upset anyone when you talk about helping the poor, caring for the sick, telling the truth and being fair, respecting and loving everyone, and taking care of the environment. But there are three aspects of the Biblical worldview that are hated by this world. And most Christ followers clam up because we’re afraid to stand up in the areas that are controversial. These three areas are:

 
1.        The sanctity of life. God has a purpose for every unborn baby. God planned your life before you were born. Your parents lives before they were born. A Biblical worldview informs us that before God created the universe, He thought of you. There are accidental parents, but there are no accidental babies. There are illegitimate parents, but there are no illegitimate babies. God is bigger than human sin.
 We are to speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves. The people in our culture least capable to speak up for themselves are the unborn- the 60 million Americans who would be here if they hadn’t been aborted. Every life is precious.
 
2.       The sanctity of sex. Sex isn’t bad. Sex isn’t dirty. Sex isn’t wrong. Sex is holy. Sex is God’s idea but it was created for marriage. To bond a husband and wife together and to be a model between Christ and the church.
 Hebrews 13:4 “Give honor to marriage, and remain faithful to one another in marriage. God will surely judge people who are immoral and those who commit adultery.”
 God’s instructions have never changed. Premarital sex is unacceptable to God. Living together without getting married and the commitment of marriage and the blessing of God is unacceptable. Adultery is unacceptable to God. Pornography and the objectification of a man’s or woman’s body is unacceptable to God. Same sex sex is unacceptable to God. These things have always been unacceptable to God and always will be.
 If you are guilty of any of these sins, the church is for you because we are all forgiven sinners. You can find forgiveness through a relationship with Jesus and healing in the context of a loving and accepting church family.
 
3.       The sanctity of marriage. The Bible is very clear that marriage is the union of one man and one woman for life. That is God’s intended, original design. Here again maybe you have violated God’s intent. He forgives you and will set you on the right pathway if you allow Him to.

There are many issues in life where people of goodwill disagree. There is no health plan in the Bible so we can disagree on an issue like that. There is no economic recovery plan for a nation, so we can disagree on that. There may be Biblical guidelines to follow in those kinds of issues, and we should strive to do so. But when it comes to the sanctity of life, marriage, and sex- these are non-negotiable. We are called by God to stand up for these things. God’s world is to be our first and final authority; it is the lens by which you view the culture. Will you stand for truth even when it is unpopular and is met with disapproval? John 7:13 states ‘No one had the courage to speak favorably about Jesus in public.’ Will you?

Blessings,
Pastor Mark "The Bru" Brunott

PS- Does your current environment and circumstances have its grip on you? How do you overcome living or working in a negative environment? Our environment can be an obstacle that trips us up. The Bible gives some helpful insights of dealing with your environment. Join me and bring a friend as we explore these things related to one’s environment. See you at 9:15 and 11:00 this Sunday!

Thursday, October 27, 2016

What is your world view?

We are twelve days away from the presidential election and I want to encourage you to fulfill your civil responsibility and cast an informed vote. By an “informed vote” I mean: Do you know the key issues facing our nation and where each candidate stands on these issues?

I am not telling you who to vote for. I have friends in our church who are democrats and friends who are republicans, and I am for my friends. I want to minister to both sides of the aisle.

I am calling you to adopt a Biblical worldview as you consider your vote. Everyone thinks about the world through a particular lens or filter. This is a ‘worldview.’ Believe it or not, most Christians have a non-Christian worldview.

Today, I want to focus on 4 worldviews.
1.        Materialism. All that matters is the physical, material world. Therefore, what matters most is money and the acquiring of possessions. Economics trumps everything else. But the Bible says ‘a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.’ In other words, your valuables don’t determine your value.
2.       Hedonism. The philosophy that whatever feels good must be good. Proverbs 21:17 says ‘the pursuit of pleasure is never satisfied.’ There is more to life than having fun and being comfortable. These are the byproducts of living the purposeful life for which you were created. They are not the goal of life.
3.       Individualism. It’s a ‘me-first’ view. America was built on individualism. But God didn’t create you to live for you. You were made for something far bigger than yourself. Read Philippians 2:4-5. Individualism destroys marriages, relationships, and makes us selfish to the point of making destructive decisions.
4.       Collectivism. Collectivism is also called socialism. This worldview says government is god. It basically says government should control everything.
Jesus explained the limited role of government in Matthew 22:21 when he said ‘Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, but give to God what belongs to God.’ I should give my government my respect, my taxes, and obey the law of the land.

But who is ‘Caesar’ in a democracy? It’s the people, the voters. The power in America is not to reside with the judicial, legislative, or the executive branches. It is to reside with the people who elect politicians.

As Christians, we need to know the Bible teaches a difference between God and government. A Biblical worldview rebukes any belief that God and country are equally important. So what is the Biblical worldview? Tune in next week as I attempt to answer that question and give three areas that are hated by this world.

Blessings,

Pastor Mark "The Bru" Brunott
PS- I have struggled with fear, anxiety, and depression throughout most of my adult life. Come this Sunday as I will share my journey using the life of a man just like us named Elijah. Bring a friend with you who might be struggling with fear, anxiety, and depression. See you at 9:15 and 11:00 this Sunday.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Are You Hiding?

After Adam and Eve rebelled and disobeyed God, the first thing they did was to cover themselves and hide from the Lord (Genesis 3:7-8). Since then we all hide and cover up the real us. We live behind a veil of secrecy. We pretend to know more than we know. We act like we are better than we are. We present to others only the presentable parts of our lives.

It’s in our nature to cover, deny, and fake it with the hope that we might eventually succeed. We conceal our struggles. We cover our inadequacies behind a mask of perfection. We are too proud to admit our defects, too egotistical to acknowledge our shortcomings, and too afraid of rejection. Besides the pride and fear, sadly, we sometimes hide because we find sordid and bizarre pleasure within the shadows. As a result our love of self and our delight in the hiding becomes the fruit of putting our needs and our desires above the needs of others and a desire for God.

Is there any value in living a humble and transparent life? Yes, there is. Transparency is humbling but comforting because you find that you are not alone in the struggle. For the record, being transparent with others doesn’t hinder your relationships, it enhances them. Transparency is challenging but as you confess your sins and struggles, great things happen and God begins to heal your soul (Psalm 51:17). Transparency is where your freedom is found. Walking in the light is liberating (1 John 1:5).

If transparency is good (and it is) and if we fail at it (and we do), then why hide? Why do we waste so much energy on pretending to be something we are not? Why do we attempt to cover up our physical, emotional, and spiritual illnesses?

Are you hiding? Are you covering up? If so, may I suggest “Stop it.” The more we know who we are in Christ and the deeper we understand His unquenchable love for us, the freer we are to admit to one another how puny we are and how great God is. The only way to become the man or woman God wants you to become is to stop hiding, be authentic, and be transparent. It’s worth it.

Blessings,
Mark "The Bru" Brunott
P.S. Bad habits are hard to break- and they’re even harder when we don’t even realize we’ve created a habit out of something. Join us this Sunday at 9:15 or 11:00 as we learn about the danger of one habit that causes us to sin every time: procrastination. Come learn how to beat procrastination before it beats you!