Monday, January 15, 2018

Throw a Party in 2018

One of the things I love most about Jesus is His love for all people, even those people many of us as Christ followers don’t want to be around. One of those people was Jesus’ disciple Matthew. He later became one of Jesus’ biographers.

Matthew was one of the last guys you’d want on your team if you were trying to impress good religious folks. He was a crook. He ran with a bad crowd. He was a party animal and participated in those things that party animal implies.

But in spite of all that, or maybe I should say especially in light of those things, Jesus reached out to him and asked him to join His team. As a result, Matthew followed Him (Matthew 9:9).

Matthew was so excited, he threw a party for all his wild and notorious friends, just so they could meet Jesus. And they all had a great time.

But of course, the Pharisees (the religious crowd) were appalled. They asked the disciples ‘Why does your teacher eat with such scum?’ (Matthew 9:11 NLT) They thought, ‘If Jesus is supposed to be so holy, why would he run with such a rough crowd?

Jesus’ answer is masterfully stated, ‘Healthy people don’t need a doctor- sick people do. For I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners’ (Matthew 9:12-13).

I love this story for two reasons. First, if you are a Matthew or like Matthew, never forget that Jesus loves you. He demonstrated that love for you by dying on a cross, the substitute for your sin and was raised from the dead. Anyone who believes in Him has eternal life.

Second, Matthew threw a party for his friends, not caring what the religious crowd thought. I wish we, as Christ followers, would be more like Matthew. Hang out with people who are far from God, yes people whose lifestyles we would not approve of or participate in. Love them and invite them into our homes to have fun- wholesome, clean fun.

Who are you hanging out with that is far from God; a neighbor, classmate, or coworker? Why not throw a party for them and some of their other friends who are far from God?

Pray that God would use that party to begin a relationship, a connection with them that would lead to other times of connection. Throw a party! This year, let’s intentionally invest in people who are far from God and ask God to open doors for us to influence them and point them to the cross of Jesus. Remember our mission: inviting people to trust in Jesus, developing them into fully devoted followers, and equipping them (and us) to reach our city.

Pastor Mark "The Bru" Brunott

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Getting Off to a Fresh Start

How are your New Year’s resolutions working? Researchers tell us about 1/3 of Americans make them each year. It’s human nature to want to do better. But, it’s also human nature to fail. Research tells us most resolutions last about three days to three weeks and by February we are back in the old patterns we had promised ourselves we’d leave behind. Only 10% of us succeed in our resolutions. We often fail because we underestimate how difficult it is to change.

Did you know the month January was named after the Roman god Janus? Janus is depicted as having two faces- one looking back at the old year with regret and the other face looking forward to the New Year with hope. The Romans understood that at the start of a New Year, we can’t help but be hopeful of improvement.

Are you looking back on 2017 with sadness or see failure in the old year? As you start 2018, do you have a desire to do things differently? May I suggest three things you should do when you get a fresh start this New Year? This comes from the Apostle Paul, writing to the Philippians in chapter 3, verses 8-14.

First, if you want a new start, you must forget the things which are behind (read Philippians 3:13). Forget about your failures. Don’t obsess over them, confess them (1 John 1:9), and learn from them. Don’t let past failures define you, let God’s grace define you.

But past failures are not all we need to forget. We need to forget past successes, too. Sometimes success leads to being content, lazy, and becoming useless rather than useful. Give God your very best in 2018. Learn from your past; don’t yearn for the past.

Second, if you want a new start, you’ve got to focus on the things before you (read Philippians 3:13b-14). You run the race at hand. Not last year’s race. That one is over. The race demands your whole self. The race demands your very best. Never be satisfied with less than your best.

You run the race with the goal in mind. What is the goal? To receive the crown. In this case, it’s living my life becoming more Christ-like so when the race is over, I will hear the words, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant.’

To be like Jesus. That’s the goal. That’s the prize. For me, that means I’m going to pray and study the word of God more. I’m going to be more intentional about reaching my neighbors with the gospel. I’m going to confront debilitating patterns of sin. I’m going to work hard to build community at First Free. I’m going to make sure my grandkids are in church on a regular basis. I’m going to quit comparing myself to others. My list could go on and on.

Third, if you want a new start for a New Year, you need to fulfill those things that are beyond us (Philippians 3:12). No one would have found fault with Paul had he reached this place in his life and said, ‘You know, I think I’m gonna retire… I’ve worked hard. I’ve served the Lord faithfully all these years. I’ve put myself out there. It’s time to do a little something for me.’

But he didn’t say that- instead, he said, ‘I haven’t attained what I want to attain. I have not reached the place I want to be. I’m not finished yet. Paul would not be satisfied until he took his last breath giving his all to Jesus. He did a work beyond him, paying a price few would be willing to pay- to serve the Lord.

Are you sold out, utterly committed to Jesus? It’s a great time to start. It’s a New Year, choose to make it a great one.

Pastor Mark "The Bru" Brunott

P.S. Have you ever been left out of a secret? Have you ever been the focus of a secret? How did it make you feel? This Sunday at 9:00 and 10:30, we will discover God’s most important secret which He has revealed.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Don't Miss Christmas This Christmas

December 15, 2016, Max Lucado captured the heart of the story of Christmas on when he wrote:
Perhaps our world, and your life, resembles a Bethlehem stable. Crude in some spots, smelly in others. Not much glamour. Not always neat. People in your circle remind you of stable animals: grazing like sheep, stubborn like donkeys, and that cow in the corner looks a lot like the fellow next door.
The moment Mary touched God’s face is the moment God made his case: There is no place he will not go. If he is willing to be born in a barnyard, then expect him to be at work anywhere: bars, bedrooms, boardrooms, and brothels. No place is too common. No person is too hardened. No distance is too far. There is no person he cannot reach. There is no limit to his love. When Christ was born, so was our hope.
Actually, I think we need Christmas more than ever this year.
We could use a season that is dedicated to giving, not receiving; to caring, not critiquing. Put away our differences. Put up the Christmas tree. Take comfort in the familiar story and the ancient carols. Our world, like that of Bethlehem, is difficult and crowded. Our days can feel as cold and uncertain as that midnight manger. Yet in the midst of it all, let’s do what Mary did. Let’s invite the source of peace to enter our world. Let’s find hope, once more, in the infant King.
God became one of us so we could become one with him. That is the promise of Bethlehem.

Let’s not waste the opportunity this Christmas to invite someone to hear the Christmas story. Many of you will be with family, and that’s important. But let’s go out of our way to ask the neighbor family who doesn’t attend church to sit with us at the Christmas Eve service. It doesn’t have to interfere with your Christmas plans. Perhaps you know someone who is all alone this Christmas. Or an international student who has no place to attend this Christmas. Is there a business associate going through a tough time or someone you are aware of is experiencing a loss this Christmas? Everyone needs to be at a Christmas Eve service at 2:00, 3:30, or 5:00 pm to be reminded of the hope we have in the infant King.
Pastor Mark
P.S. Are you anxious, overwhelmed, or depressed? Do you feel like your life lacks purpose and meaning? Join me this Sunday at 9:00 and 10:30 as we discover how life can have meaning and purpose all because Jesus came at Christmastime.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Some Things Never Change

In a world of constant change and a culture of rapid change, isn’t it reassuring to have some constants- some things that never change, no matter how fast everything around you does? Here is a list of things you can always bank on, know never change, and give you a sense of security in an ever changing culture:
1.        The Bible is still the Word of God.  ‘The grass withers and the flowers fade, but the Word of our God stands forever’ (Isaiah 40:8).
2.       The Gospel still changes lives. ‘Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said. He was buried, and He was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said.’ (I Corinthians 15:3-4). ‘For this is how God loved the world: He gave His one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life’ (John 3:16). God still changes people from the inside out through the Gospel.
3.       Life Groups are vital. Meeting with others in community for prayer, Bible study, accountability, service, and growth is invaluable. ‘They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity- all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people’ (Acts 2:46-47).
4.       The Mission Field still needs workers. ‘The harvest is great, but the workers are few. So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask Him to send more workers into His fields’ (Matthew 9:37-38). Your mission field is outside your front door. You don’t have to travel far to find it.
5.        Prayer is still powerful. ‘The earnest prayer of a righteous man has great power and produces wonderful results’ (James 5:16).
6.       Hurting people still need ministering to. ‘Brothers and sisters, we urge you to warn those who are lazy. Encourage those who are timid. Take tender care of those who are weak. Be patient with everyone. See that no one pays back evil for evil, but always try to do good to each other and to all people’ (1 Thessalonians 5:14-15).
7.        God is still in control. ‘Furthermore, because we are united with Christ, we have received an inheritance from God, for He chose us in advance, and He makes everything work out according to His plan’ (Ephesians 1:11).
The next time you feel overwhelmed with rapid changes and you can’t keep up, remember some things never change. God never changes. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

Mark Brunott

P.S. If we’re honest, the holidays can really be hard. We know that Jesus cares about us. But what difference does that make? Join us this Sunday at 9 or 10:30 AM to find out.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Have a positive outlook

Our world sure does have its troubles doesn’t it? Violence, war, crime, breakups, disease, prisons, terrorism, economic breakdowns… And yet, we are not to be a negative people. There is nothing worse in this world than a negative Christian!

In fact, the Apostle Paul tells us to be a rejoicing people. The process of becoming a rejoicing people and the process of becoming a positive influence in our world means we focus on positive thoughts. We concentrate on things that are true, honest, just, pure, and lovely, of good report, have virtue, and are worthy of praise. (Read Philippians 4:8-9.)

Sadly, not all Christians are positive. You don’t have to go far to find negative Christians. Honestly, this is an area I struggle with. That’s one of the reasons I’m writing this Freshly Bru’d. So, how do we keep ourselves from becoming negative?

First, respond to God’s love. His love is revealed to us on a daily basis. You see it in spite of circumstances, through answered prayer, through the work of Jesus on the cross, in creation, and in the Bible. These things should help with focus.

Second, reprogram the way you think. This is harder to do in our day of instant awareness of what’s happening. But we are to transform our minds daily with God’s word, we are to think or meditate on praise worthy things. You are not only what you eat, but what you think.

Third, you have to recognize the best in others. Remember, no one is perfect. There are no perfect people, churches, jobs, parents, children, or spouses. The things we remember about others and the things we pass on about others stem from our thoughts about them. Think positive thoughts of them and you will speak positive words of them.

Fourth, to be positive in our negative world you’ve got to reach out to the lost and hurting people. Winning people to faith and seeing them develop in their faith will always bring positive joy into anyone’s life. Be positive!
Pastor Mark "The Bru" Brunott

P.S. Are you overwhelmed this Christmas? Are you having the time of your life this Christmas? Are you joyful? Are you sad? Is it a wonderful time for you or a difficult time of the year? This week we begin our Christmas series, “The Most Wonderful Time…Really?” Join us at 9:00 and 10:30 on Sunday as we discover how to make it the most wonderful time of year, for real. This Sunday we also welcome guest harpist, Katie Wychulis, as she enhances the start of our Christmas celebration.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Where is God when it hurts?

We all have been trying to make sense out of the mass shooting that killed 26 people, including children, during a worship service in Sutherland Springs, Texas. When these kinds of thing happen we sometimes wonder where is God when it hurts, when bad things happen, and tragedy strikes. I believe He is right in the middle of it.

We don’t stand alone in the midst of helpless rage at life’s injustice. We don’t grieve privately. Jesus shares in our grief, weeping with us. I say this because my Bible reminds me it is so. Did you know Jesus wept on three occasions (at least three times were recorded in the Bible)? He wept over an individual (Lazarus) in John 11:35. He wept over a nation (Israel) in Luke 19:41. He wept over humanity as a whole (in the garden of Gethsemane) found in Mark 14:33.

We find Jesus weeping beside our tombs. He snorted with anger and wept with grief; anger at what sin has done to the human race; anger at what sin had done to blind the eyes of God’s chosen people. The Bible says, ‘We have a chief priest who is able to sympathize with our weaknesses’ (Hebrew 4:15). Jesus understands our pain. He knows every fear, every scrape, every scar, and every surgery. He knows every heartbreak and heartache.

But Jesus does more than weep, He comforts with promises of Hope.
  • All who believe in Him have everlasting life.
  • All who believe will rise from the grave.
  • All who believe will escape the second death.
Promises of Hope that one day everything really will be made right. Biblical Hope is not a mere aspiration, it is certainty coupled with glad anticipation. We can be certain because Jesus has the power to keep those promises.

So whatever struggles you personally face, whatever senseless tragedies we are exposed to, whatever sorrows and pains we face, remember we do not weep alone. You have Jesus.

Pastor Mark "The Bru" Brunott

P.S. We tend to complicate, well, everything. The same is true for Jesus Christ and His gospel. Join us Sunday at 9:00 or 10:30 AM to simplify Jesus and His Gospel. 

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Get Your Bounce Back

What a week I’ve had... I was getting ready for family to come in to celebrate my mother’s 90th Birthday when two people died within 24 hours of each other. So I was planning two funerals the same weekend as the Birthday celebration. Then I officiated the two funerals while nursing the ongoing problem with sciatica and wobbly legs. Now, I’m not writing this for any kind of sympathy or for you to feel sorry for me. I know we all have these kinds of weeks from time to time.

But when I add to the list the tragedy of what took place at the Baptist Church in Texas, I will admit, I got a little discouraged. And I know that when we get discouraged, it opens the door for our adversary to come into our lives and try to defeat us.

I was reading one of my favorite blogs by Rick Warren and he was talking about four things to do when you find yourself being discouraged. He actually was writing about what Nehemiah did from the fourth chapter of Nehemiah.

The first thing to do is rest your body. That’s what Nehemiah did, and that is what I’m going to do as soon as I finish this blog. Sometimes the most spiritual thing you can do in a moment of exhaustion and discouragement is to go to sleep. (Psalm 127:2) It is useless for you to work so hard from early morning until late at night, anxiously working for food to eat; for God gives rest to his loved ones.

Second, reorganize your work. Nehemiah did that for the families. He gave them new assignments and tasks. Tomorrow, I have cancelled some regular scheduled meetings and activities and am going to read about a new approach to accomplishing tasks.

Third, Warren says you must remember the Lord. His point is that when we get discouraged, we sometimes choose to think discouraging thoughts. What I am going to do is read Philippians 4:4-8, focusing on verse eight and then write out my prayer using the following acronym: ACTS
  • Adoration- focusing on God’s attributes and works
  • Confession- confessing my sin and discouragement
  • Thanksgiving- listing as many things I can think of that I’m thankful for
  • Supplication- praying for the specific needs I am aware of
Fourth, resist the enemy. James 4:7 states ‘Resist the devil.’ I know he wants to discourage me, defeat me, but greater is He (the Holy Spirit) who is in me than he (the Devil) who is in the world.

And when we resist him, he flees. Victory is ours because of Jesus Christ. So when you’re feeling down or discouraged, these four things can help you bounce back.

Pastor Mark "The Bru" Brunott

P.S. God’s will is simpler to know and understand than you may realize. It’s not about what job to take, where to live, who to marry. If it’s not about those kinds of things, what is it all about? Join me at 9:00 and 10:30 and discover the answer. Why not bring a friend with you who might have some questions about knowing God’s will?