Thursday, September 15, 2016

Influence

Did you know that you have influence? Every one of us influences someone. And God expects us to be good stewards of that influence for His Kingdom and for His Glory.

You may think ‘I don’t have influence in somebody’s life.’ If you are a parent, employer, employee, friend, neighbor, classmate, teacher, student, peer, child, spouse, human being… you have influence.

What you do with the influence you currently have will determine whether or not your influence grows more. You influence people every day through a smile or frown, with your conversation, and with your silence. You can influence with email, text, and a host of other actions.

In order to understand what influence is, it’s helpful to understand what influence is not. Influence is not necessarily authority, fame, or wealth. You can have these things and not have influence for the kingdom of God.

When God gives you influence, it isn’t for the purpose of making you rich or famous, especially for your own pleasure. He gives us influence because He wants people to help other people. It’s about others. And the blessings of your influence are not for you to consume, but for you to share.

The question God will ask every human being in His judgement is ‘What did you do with my Son, Jesus?’ God will ask everyone who is a member of His family, ‘What did you do with the time, resources, talents, gifts, and influence that I gave you?’

Are you influencing for God’s glory? Are you influencing people in your family, at work, in the neighborhood, in the classroom, or at play? Are you influencing children and youth in the church? Are you influencing the fatherless, the isolated, the poor, and the oppressed?

We are all called to be influences for God’s kingdom and for God’s glory!

Blessings,
Mark "The Bru" Brunott

P.S. Do you ever feel like you’re drifting away from God? Are you mad at God for allowing something to happen in your life that you can’t understand? Do you feel like giving up the faith and you would be living a better life without God? If you can identify with these feelings, I want to encourage you to be at church this Sunday at 9:15 or 11:00.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Life Groups: The Place for Authenticity

Life Groups start this coming week! Whether you’re returning to your group or trying a new one, get the most out of your Life Group by doing life together. One of the key ingredients to doing life together effectively is authenticity.

The truth of the matter is we often fake the real us because we are scared to uncover what is really in us. We pretend to know more than we know. We act like we are better than we are. We share only the presentable parts of our lives and feign a perfection that we do not possess. We cover and deny our sin with the hope that we might actually succeed spiritually. We conceal our struggles. We cover our inadequacies behind a mask of perfection.

It would be better for you and your Life Group to admit:
  • I am broken, but I also am being transformed into the image of Christ.
  • I am weak, but He is strong. His power never fails.
  • I am not perfect, but I am loved. Nothing can change His unfailing love towards me.
  • I limp and stumble, but God never gives up on me.
We are in this journey together. We need each other. We are to stimulate, urge, and encourage others to love and do good deeds. You can’t do that well if you are not transparent.

Everyone struggles with pride, fear of rejection, and “What would others think if they knew the real me?” Life Group is the safe place where I can be the real me, and I don’t need to fear those doing life with me.

Why do we insist on pretending to be something we are not? Why do we waste so much energy on propping up a false image of ourselves? It’s okay to be authentic. It is good to be honest. It’s always best to be real.


Blessings,
Pastor Mark "The Bru" Brunott

P.S. When life throws you a curveball how do you respond? What is the most important question I can ask myself when I encounter a curveball? Join us this Sunday at 9:15 and 11:00 as we continue learning how to find hope when life throws curveballs.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Dark Days and Stormy Nights

You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to understand we live in troubling times. Prices are rising while incomes are falling. We’re hearing endless reports of senseless violence, natural catastrophes, and uncertainty in what the future holds. It doesn’t matter which news feed you prefer, the world sees little hope for the future.
But we can be encouraged because God is never caught off-guard or surprised. The Psalmist declares “He will not let you stumble; the one who watches over you will not slumber. Indeed, he who watches over Israel never slumbers or sleeps. The Lord Himself watches over you! The Lord stands beside you as your protective shade (Psalm 121:3-5).”
God knows the future. He knows that in life you will be faced by dark days and sleepless nights. He has promised to walk beside us during those dark days and sleepless nights. He will give you the ability to keep going despite the setbacks you experience in life when we trust in Him.
As Christ followers we need to understand we may not be given the explanation for the dark days and sleepless nights, but we have been given His promises. Promises like:
  • The Lord keeps watch over you as you come and go, both now and forever (Psalm 121:8).
  • I will never fail you. I will never abandon you (Hebrews 13:5b).
  • The Lord is for me, so I will have no fear. What can mere people do to me (Psalm 118:6)?
  • And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose for them (Romans 8:28).
Trust in God and trust in His unfailing promises. They will carry you through the dark days and sleepless nights with a joyful spirit, free from bitterness and complaining. Remember whatever happens today: job loss, economic disaster, natural disasters, relationship struggles, rebellious children, health issues, etc. God is at work. He is in control; yes even in the viciousness of the presidential race. God doesn’t sleep so you can. He is light and in Him is no darkness.
Do you believe God’s promises and the Psalmist’s words? "I am counting on the Lord; yes, I am counting on Him. I have put my hope in His word (Psalm 130:5)."

Blessings,
Mark "The Bru" Brunott

P.S. Have you ever felt like throwing in the towel because life has thrown you a curve ball? Are you discouraged about the way life is going for you? If you answered yes to these questions, you will not want to miss Sunday at 9:15 and 11:00 as we begin a new series: Finding Hope When Life Throws You a Curve ball.


Thursday, August 25, 2016

What is a Life Group?

What is a Life Group? A Life Group is an intentional gathering of people who agree to share life together, meeting on a regular basis for the purpose of fulfilling God’s mission for the church and for making Disciples of Christ.
What do you do in a Life Group? You do many things in a Life Group, here are 4 reoccurring points:
1.       Come together with others in love for encouragement and spiritual growth accountability. Groups are a place where people can find help with their spiritual needs.
2.      Pray and care for each other. (Read Hebrews 10:24-25)
3.      Study God’s Word. Each week a group of writers meets together and comes up with a Bible Study guide based on the Sunday sermon. This enables us to dig deeper into the subject of the sermon and keep everybody in the church on the same page of what we are learning.
4.      Reach out to the world around us, which is a vital part of serving Christ and the mission of the church. A Life Group encourages every believer to do something to contribute to the broader ministry and mission of the church. Serving makes for a wonderful marriage between groups and the centralized church- both on and off the campus. People in Life Groups grow in appreciation for each other when they serve the community as an entire group.
How do you get involved in a Life Group? The best way to learn about the Life Group ministry is to sign up for the introductory to Life Group session beginning on September 11th. To get your name on the list, visit our website at this link: http://firstfreelincoln.org/introductory-life-group/ 
What if I don’t like a particular Life Group? Don’t give up. Sometimes it takes up to 3 attempts before you find the group suited for you. Remember you need the spiritual growth accountability for your journey. Finding the right Life Group will be worth it.

It is not possible for church staff and pastors to personally minister to everyone. Healthy Life Groups help us to equip one another to bear the burden of ministry. Please sign-up for a Life Group today and become a part of a community that is growing together.

Blessings,
Mark "The Bru" Brunott

P.S. We hear about missionaries in other countries “building cultural bridges” to share Christ. How do we build those bridges in our own backyard? Join me this week at 9:15 and 11:00 as we explore how we can create a culture of invitation.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

It's Life Group Time!

It’s that time of the year when I’m get excited about meeting with my Life Group friends. It’s so hard to coordinate regular meetings in the summer, so I haven’t seen my Life Group friends for a couple of months. I miss them. I love the accountability we provide for each other in the group. I love the spiritual direction that is discovered when we meet. I love the laughter and fun the group shares in together. I love the prayer support we give to each other. Doing life together is truly a blessed endeavor.
When Jesus was talking to his disciples on one occasion he told them ‘I have come that you might have life, and have life to the fullest.’ (John 10:10) If that was one of Jesus’ goal while he was on earth, I think that should be a goal for the church.
Most people aren’t necessarily living life to the fullest. Oh, they have full lives. They’re traveling from one place to another, one event to another, one accomplishment to another, and even one relationship to another. Most people schedules are full, but that is a far cry from living life to the fullest.
Living life to the fullest starts with Jesus. You cannot have a full life without him. Salvation is the starting point to a life fulfilled but it’s not the end. May I suggest to you, even challenge you to discover that being in a Life Group helps you experience the ‘fullness of life’ Jesus was talking about.
I believe this because everyone wants to know they’re not alone. We were created for relationship. But our world has created so many factors that are causing us to be more alone. Pastor Rick Warren mentions four major causes in his blog:
  • Urbanization- the majority of us live in the city and we don’t even know our neighbor’s name.
  • Specialization- we increasingly separate people into different boxes- further isolating ourselves.
  • Family Breakdown- in just a few generations, we’ve gone from the extended family, to the nuclear family, to the single parent family.
  • Materialism- things have become more important than people.
A Life Group can provide the support you and I need. I want to be with a group of people who encourage me, support me, love me, challenge me spiritually, are devoted to me, lovingly correct me when I get off course, laugh at my silly jokes, pray for me, and honestly accept me for who I am.
Do you have that kind of support in your life? Do you have someone who spurs you on spiritually? God designed the church to be a family. (Ephesians 2:19) Don’t go through another season in your life without the support you need and can find in a Life Group.
The next Life Group session begins September 11th. Make an effort today to be an active participant in one. Register online at http://firstfreelincoln.org/introductory-life-group/

Blessings,
Pastor Mark 
"The  Bru"


P.S. Understanding today’s culture is challenging. Knowing what God would have us do in today’s culture it the goal. Join me this week at 9:15 and 11:00 as we explore understanding the culture today and living life in light of that understanding.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Peace

I’m back. What a vacation! It was relaxing, refreshing, and replenishing. There were times when I would go out on my pontoon and see eagles in abundance, loons, deer on the shore, pelicans, seagulls, ducks, Canadian geese. Sometimes I would turn off the motor of the boat and sit in the calm water and read, reflect and experience peace.

I want to thank the church for allowing my family and me this privilege of getting away. A special thanks to the staff team who didn’t miss a beat in my absence. A special thanks to Nat Crawford for using his preaching gift.
I thought a lot about peace in my serene setting in Northern Minnesota. Many people long for peace, and even though a few minutes of silence may sooth our minds, the Bible teaches that real lasting peace comes from Jesus. Jesus said in John 14:27, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you, not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”
These verses remind me that Jesus brings peace with our Heavenly Father: ‘Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ’ (Romans 5:1). Without Christ, we are enemies of God because of our sin. Jesus’ sacrifice reconciled us to God and ends hostility that existed between us.
Not only does Jesus bring peace with God but He brings peace in our relationships. For He Himself is our peace, just as He made both Jews and Gentiles one (Ephesians 2:13-14), Jesus is able to remove the barriers, the walls that exist in our relationships.
Not only does Jesus bring peace with God and peace in relationships, He brings peace in anxious moments. The Bible says ‘Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God, and the peace of God which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus’ (Philippians 4:6-7).
Having peace with God does not ensure problem-free living. However it does steady us during difficult times. Anxious about going to school, the political scene, finances, your job, your health, the future? Jesus told His followers ‘In the world you will have tribulations. But He also said, ‘In me you will have peace.’ Christ, the true peace of God, can fill our hearts (Colossians 3:15).
Do you have peace with God? Have you placed your trust in His death and resurrection? How are you in your relationships? Do you need to confess a wrong you have committed to a friend, neighbor, or coworker? What are you anxious about? Place the worry, fear and anxious thoughts into His strong and powerful arms.
   

P.S. Do you understand today’s culture? What makes people think and act the way they do? How do we communicate in today’s culture which has become so secular it gives very little, if any, thought about God and His truth? Join us this Sunday at 9:15 and 11:00 as we begin to know our times and what God would have us do.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Let's talk about worship

When we talk about worship, we are talking about something only believers can do. Worship is from believers to God. We magnify God’s name in worship by expressing our love and commitment to Him.
Worship is expressing our love to God for who He is, what He’s said, and what He’s doing. We express our love to God by praying, obeying, trusting, singing, giving, testifying, listening, responding to His word, and thanking. God, not us, is the focus of our worship. Unbelievers simply cannot do this.
God’s presence must be sensed in the worship experience. When unbelievers watch genuine worship, it becomes a powerful witness (Read Acts 2). There is an intimate connection between worship and evangelism. The goal of evangelism is to produce worshipers of God (John 4:23). Worship should provide the motivation for evangelism (Isaiah 6:1-8).
We must be willing to adjust our worship practices when unbelievers are present. Making a service ‘comfortable’ for the unchurched doesn’t mean changing your theology. It means changing the environment: how you greet, style of music, what Bible translation you preach from, and the kind of announcements you make.
The message must be understandable to unbelievers, but not watered down (Acts 2:11). A clear message, coupled with genuine worship, will not only welcome the unchurched people, it will open their hearts to the power of the gospel.
As we worship, let’s worship with heart, soul, mind, and emotion, so that we may show others the presence of the living God.

Blessings,  
Mark

P.S. Are you worried about something? Do you fret about the economy, terrorism, job, health, family, relationship, presidential election, or the question: What happens to you after you die? If so, you will not want to miss this week’s worship experience at 9:15 and 11:00. Bring a friend with you and discover hope instead of worry.