Thursday, May 18, 2017

What do you think?

This week I was reading a post from my favorite blog written by James Emery White. In the post, he points to an article written by Morgan Lee, “Many Practicing Christians Agree with Marxism (and Other Competing World Views)” in Christianity Today.

The article reveals the study of self-identified Christians, who attend church at least once every month, and say their faith is very important to their lives.

They were asked to rate their agreement or disagreement with various statements. As I share some of the results of the survey, I want you to ask yourself ‘what do I really think’ about this. Do you agree or disagree with the results? Why or why not?
  • Nearly 1 in 3 practicing Christians agreed with the idea that “if you do good, you will receive good, and if you do bad, you will receive bad.” In other words, the idea of karma.
  • 28% believe that “all people pray to the same god or spirit, no matter what name they use for that spiritual being.” Welcome to New Age thinking. 
  • 27% believe that “meaning and purpose come from becoming one with all that is.” Can you say Hinduism?
Wait… it gets worse. 
  • 1 in 5 believe that “meaning and purpose come from working hard to earn as much as possible so you can make the most of life.” Can there be a clearer statement espousing raw materialism? 
  • 23% believe that “what is morally right or wrong depends on what an individual believes.” Yes, that is raw postmodern relativism. 
Overall, the study conducted by Barna Group and Summit Ministries claims:
  • 61% agree with ideas rooted in New Spirituality
  • 54% resonate with postmodernist views
  • 36% accept ideas associated with Marxism
  • 29% believe ideas based on secularism
Do you believe you have a firmly developed Christian Biblical world view? Is your world view consistent with your faith practice? Is your faith practice consistent with the Bible’s teachings?

Blessings,
Pastor Mark "The Bru" Brunott

P.S. Why is it we spend so much time leveling up in our games? In Candy Crush, you strive to make it just one level higher. In Clash of Clans, clan hopping allows you to level-up faster. God has called us to level-up our own game when it comes to outreach. Join us this Sunday at 9:15 and 11:00 AM to learn how!

Thursday, May 11, 2017

An Interesting Proposal

Due to my bad back, bad knees, and bulbous belly, I haven’t backpacked in years. One of the things I miss about the great outdoors in the back country of the Colorado Rockies is the serenity. Except for the occasional call of a bull elk or the melodic chatter of the birds, the silence was golden. Those quiet times refueled my soul.
Believe it or not, I am an extrovert. I love people. I love to engage the crowds with smiles and conversations. That’s why, all the more, it’s hard work for me to pursue solitude. But I need it. We all need it.
Interestingly, many people are uncomfortable with silence. I know people who must have the radio, cd, or T.V. playing in the background all the time. I’m one of those people. But, with all the white noise, heads full of information, news, opinions, we’ve forgotten how to reflect, meditate, and think on our own.
We all must learn to take the time just to sit, think, and be quiet before God. We need to do this on a regular basis. It will do more good for us than the swirl of data we’re jamming into our heads. (Psalm 46:10, 37:7)
So here’s what I propose. Are you ready for this? I know you can do it.
  • Turn off the electronics for at least 30 minutes a day. (Yes, that means your smart phone.)
  • Take a walk some place other than main streets or the mall.
  • Clear some space in your closet if you must, crawl in there and close the door for 20 minutes.
  • Turn the radio, CD player off on the way home from work and think, ‘What did I learn today?’ and ‘What am I thankful for in my life?’
I am grateful for modern technology. I use it; I like it. But I will not let it rob me of what I need most: moments alone- quiet time with God to ponder, contemplate, and meditate on Him. Don’t wait for time alone to happen. Make it happen.

Blessings,
Mark "The Bru" Brunott
P.S. This Sunday we celebrate moms- past, present, and future moms. I can think of no better way to celebrate them, than joining them at church. See you this Sunday at 9:15 and 11:00 AM.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

25 Things People want from Church


In this edition of Freshly Bru’d, I am listing 25 things people want from their church services. Would you take the time to read all 25 and see if you agree? These 25 come from surveys and conversations of hundreds of Sunday church attendees. These things should remind you of how much effort, planning, and prayer goes into the execution of our worship services.

  1. I want to leave a church service with a sense of awe, which only comes from not knowing what God will do next.
  2. I want to remember key details of the message the following Thursday. (This is why we provide sermon notes and utilize The You Version Bible app.)
  3. I want to experience something supernatural.
  4. I want my emotions moved.
  5. I want to experience joy.
  6. I want to be moved to tears.
  7. I want to be inspired.
  8. I want to be surprised.
  9. I want to be challenged.
  10. I want to be motivated.
  11. I want to walk away with a sense of hope.
  12. I want to feel energy from those on the platform.
  13. I want to walk away with something applicable, a key point.
  14. I want to meet some nice people.
  15. I want content that engages my mind and makes me think.
  16. I want to give my church my time and money. I really do.
  17. I want a sense of community.
  18. I want a musical experience that is engaging, powerful, and Christ-centered.
  19. I want to emulate the lives of those on the platform.
  20. I want opportunities presented in the service to serve after the service.
  21. I want to be convicted to repent.
  22. I want to laugh.
  23. I want to celebrate what God is doing in my life and the lives of others.
  24. I want excellence.
  25. I want to feel like I am part of a movement.
I’d like to add another one for good measure: I want to be changed. I want to walk out different from when I walked in.

What do you think? Do you have some of your own wants to add to the list?

Blessings,

P.S. What comes to mind when you read the word “love”? Is it thoughts of romance? A thought of safety? A thought of family? Join us Sunday at 9:15 am or 11 am to find out God’s definition of love and how it will lead you on an adventure unlike any other.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Forgiveness

Forgiveness is everything. Seriously, everything. Especially when you realize how much you and I need it. I have lived about 23,500 days. Let’s say I only sin five times a day (it’s probably more like 30 times a day, but I can’t add up that many.) That means I have missed the mark of God’s perfection about 117,000 times in my life.
Missing the mark of God’s perfection is called sin. The Bible tells us we are all sinners. That is why we all need a Savior. Any time I miss the mark of perfection that qualifies as a sin in God’s eyes.
  • I think something that God never would think. Sin.
  • I look at something that God would never look at. Sin
  • I say something God would never say. Sin.
  • I don’t do or say something God would do or say. Sin.
  • I look at a person in a way God would never view a person. Sin.
  • I pretend to be something I’m not. Sin.
  • I react in fear rather than respond in faith. Sin.
  • I act selfishly. Sin.
  • I lie. Sin.
  • I treat my wife, children, grandchildren, family, or friends in an uncaring or thoughtless way. Sin.
Wow. Maybe I sin over 100 times a day. Four or five a day would be a good day.
Now, this sounds negative, doesn’t it? You might even be thinking, ‘I don’t like this blog. I should quit reading.’ Wait! Keep reading.
The good news is our sin(s) isn’t a secret to God, and it has never stopped Him from loving you and me. He sees everything you and I do. “Nothing in all of creation is hidden from God. Everything is naked and exposed before His eyes.” (Hebrews 4:13)
Mind blowing to think He loves me, forgives me, no matter what. Why? Because of me? 
No. 
It’s because of Jesus- who is perfect and became the substitute for my sin when he died on the cross and was raised from the dead.
Now, because of Jesus’ work on the cross, my heavenly Father says…
  • He’s broken, but I can work with that since I’m bigger than his defects.
  • He’s failed me, but he’s forgiven because of my Son.
  • He’s not perfect (yet), but he’s still in progress, and I’ll never give up on him.
  • He’s a mess sometimes, but he’s my mess and my child and the apple of my eye.
I’m His. Period. End of story.

My fellowship with God can be hindered if I don’t confess my sin. That is why every day I spend time confessing my sin. (Read 1 John 1:9.) My union with God through Christ and His work is sealed. I’m personally forgiven because of Jesus. My communion, however, can be diminished if I don’t confess my sin.

Don’t’ you find it a joy knowing that nothing you do can separate you from God and His love? No thing, sin, imperfection, or person- not even myself- can separate us from God’s love! We’ll never earn it or be worthy of it, and we’ll never stop needing it.

The wonder of the cross is the mystery of God’s mercy and grace poured out on you and me every day.

Blessings,
Mark "The Bru" Brunott


P.S. I want to leave a positive mark on this world when I leave it. I believe you do too. How do you leave a legacy that lives on after you die? Come this Sunday and discover as we continue our series on Adventure: How to Make Life Thrilling Again.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Keeping the Momentum

Did you know 85% of churches are plateaued or declining? Churches that were once flourishing aren’t now. The question is why? How does a church lose its momentum? How can we keep this from happening at First Free?

Here are 5 things that cause the church to lose momentum. Would you take the time to evaluate these things relative to First Free? If you’re willing to share, I would enjoy hearing your findings.
1.        The vision is unclear. Slowly and quietly, a church forgets why it is doing what it is doing. Can you state First Free’s vision and mission? Do you know why we do what we do? Do you know why we do it the way we do it? If not, ask someone who knows.
2.       Gravitational pull takes over. The gravitational pull in churches is always inward. A church will tend to design its services, ministries, and programs for those who currently attend rather than for those that aren’t yet convinced. Does First Free struggle with gravitational pull? Do we think more of the insiders or more of the people we are trying to reach?
3.       Energy and enthusiasm decrease. When we forget why we do what we do, we eventually lose our passion. Do we spur each other on to love and good deeds? How would you measure First Free's passion for the lost people?
4.       Two front doors are neglected. Today, people check out a church on the website before attending the service. Is our web presence desirable for someone searching? Does it convey a positive, hopeful, first impression? The second front door is the service itself. To maximize the hopes that more people might give Jesus and the church one more shot, is our service conducive to the people we want to reach?
5.        The leader stops growing. A congregation never grows beyond the growth of its leader. The number one mistake pastors make is isolation. Praise God the church allows me a coach to help me continue growing.

Blessings,
Pastor Mark "The Bru" Brunott
P.S. Don’t forget it’s Invite a Friend Day at First Free this Sunday! Any friend you bring will identify with and appreciate our new series: Adventure: Making Life Thrilling Again. See you at 9:15 and 11:00 for the start of an adventure!

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Letting Go of Lonliness

Last week I spoke with several people who had one thing in common: loneliness. Each person had their own reason for the loneliness. Loneliness can result from the death of a spouse, feeling like you have no friends, or comparing yourself to other people who don’t appear to be lonely.

Sometimes loneliness has to do with the season of the year. Holidays, while enjoyable for so many, are a time of painful memories, depression, and loneliness to others. At times we choose to isolate ourselves from others, or we may face loneliness through no fault of our own. Whatever the reason, at some time or another we all will experience some level of loneliness.

So, how do you deal with it or better yet- how do you let go of it? Here are some suggestions:
1.        Utilize your time well. Make the most of what you’ve got. Think of creative ways to take advantage of the situation. Be a good steward of the time you spend alone. ‘When life hands you lemons, make lemonade.’ We tend to become discouraged and bored if we don’t use time in a purposeful way.
2.       Minimize the hurt. Don’t ignore it, but don’t rehearse it either. Deal with your hurt in bold and honest ways and shift your focus to helping and serving others.
3.       Recognize God’s presence. There is no place that you are that God is not. (Read Psalm 139.) Jesus said, ‘I am with you always. I will never leave you or forsake you.’ God’s presence is with you in the loneliness.
4.       Emphasize the needs of others. Focus outwardly. Get your eyes off yourself. Love is the antidote to loneliness. Serving and helping others has a way of putting everything in perspective. Consider joining First Free’s Day of Service on April 29th; for more information and to sign-up visit: http://firstfreelincoln.org/day-of-service/  
Blessings,
Mark "The Bru" Brunott


P.S. Do you feel like you’ve done something that can’t be forgiven? Does your past have a hold on you? Have you thought, ‘How can I forgive myself?’ If you have ever struggled with these questions, you won’t want to miss this week’s sermon “Finished!” Join me and bring a friend at 9:15 or 11:00 am on Sunday to experience God’s unconditional love and forgiveness.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Take a Personal Inventory

Every once in a while, I like to take an inventory of my life. I started doing this years ago when I was in youth ministry. I often quoted to the students Luke 2:52 ‘Jesus grew in wisdom (mental) and in stature (physical) and in favor with God (spiritual) and all the people (social).’ This is called the balanced life. Alongside of these four parts- mental, physical, spiritual, and social- I add the emotional part of life as well.

I would then challenge myself, as well as the students, to take a personal checkup of these things by asking 5 questions:
1.        Mental: Am I mentally sharper than I was a year ago? If not, what am I going to do about the regression?
2.       Physical: Do I frequently complain of a lack of energy?  Why (maybe poor diet, lack of sleep, exercise, or activity)?
3.       Spiritual: Am I regularly spending time talking to God and reading His Word?
4.       Social: Who can I count on as a genuine friend? Who can count on me?
5.        Emotional: Do I worry a lot, am I moody or easily depressed? If so, what am I going to do about it?
The second thing I do in the personal evaluation is write down a plan of action in the areas where I believe I’m not measuring up. A life of balance is marked by good habits. The plan should reflect successful habits in all areas of one’s life. For example, if I have a lack of energy, I put it in my plan to exercise regularly, eat healthy, and make sure I’m out of bed at an early hour.

The third thing I do is make sure my relationship with God is central to my life. Why? Because I don’t, nor do you, have the power to create a balanced life on my own. We need God’s help. When we put Christ at the center of our lives, the power that comes through Him flows to every part of our lives. This gives us balance. That’s why the Bible says, ‘Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness…’ (Matthew 6:33.)

If it has been a while since you’ve done an inventory about your life, do one today. I try to do this at least 4 times a year. Try it- you’ll like it.

Blessings,


Mark "The Bru" Brunott


P.S. What comes to mind when you read the word “substitute”? Maybe the first word you think of is “fake” or “Second-string”. But what if God’s gift of a substitute is the better than the original thing? Join us Sunday at 9:15 or 11:00 AM to find out more.