Thursday, July 13, 2017

Change & Church

Change and growth go hand in hand. When I talk about change among Christians, I often hear three responses.
  • “But change for the sake of change isn’t good.” Okay, I confess. I said that recently to a Spectrum representative trying to figure out my new cable box.
  • “Change might be inevitable, but we should take it slowly and carefully.” Nothing could be more life threatening to the church than that attitude.
  • “We shouldn’t change if we’re going to leave people behind.”
A study was done by Lifeway Research on fast-growing and slow-growing churches. The conclusion was that churches who were fast-growing and reaching the next generation had three common traits: Faster decision-making (accessible through clear lines of authority), fluidity, and flexibility. There was less resistance to change, or to put it another way: the leadership was willing to embrace the pain of change for the win of seeing more people meet Jesus.

What does this mean for First Free? First, change for the sake of change can be good, if it forces us out of our comfort zones into re-evaluation and revival mode. Second, when we change too slowly, the culture around us moves on without us, leaving empty and outdated church buildings in the wake. That’s when you leave people behind, broken by disunity and disheartened.

The bottom line is, at First Free, our goal is not comfortability or safety in terms of our faith. It is learning how to be a missionary in Lincoln, redeeming a lost culture for God’s glory. That matters more than anything!

We might say it this way: Don’t mess with God’s truth. His principles never change. Do mess with any system, structure, or strategy that becomes ineffective in carrying out the mission.

If a program is dead, we’re going to bury it. If something is broken and we can’t fix it, we’re going to scrap it and replace it. If it’s not growing, diagnose it. If it’s comfortable, challenge it. Change! Now! The souls of men and women depend on it.

Blessings,
Pastor Mark "The Bru" Brunott


P.S. Shouldn’t we accept the body God gave us without enhancing it? They burned the body in pagan worship, why would anybody want to be cremated? A Christian shouldn’t mark up his/her body, should he/she? Join me at 9:15 and 11:00 this Sunday as we address the question: Is it okay for a Christian to get a tattoo, have cosmetic surgery, or be cremated?

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Three Thoughts in One

I have three separate thoughts I want to bring together as one.  First, quick – What is the most important outreach ministry in the life of First Free?  If you hesitated for even one second before answering ‘Children’s Ministry’ then you need to keep reading.

You can drop the ball in the service but ace it with the kids and still have a chance that a family will return.  But no matter how good the service is, if the children’s ministry is bad, families won’t come back.

If First Free wants to reach the next generation, and we do, we have to provide an experience that will have children begging to come back – and we are providing such an experience.

Second, we want our children to experience even a greater love for Jesus, a greater sense of serving, a greater sense of fun, and a greater depth of friendships from what they already are getting exposed to in Children’s Ministry.  This week and in the weeks to follow make sure you visit the ‘Say Yes’ board in the foyer.  I am asking you to prayerfully ‘say yes’ to how you can make Children’s Ministry an extra special intentional spiritual blast for our kids.  We need you.

Third, God formed every creature on this planet with an area of expertise.  Some animals run, some hop, some swim, some burrow, some fly.  Each has a role to play based on the way God ‘shaped’ it.  The Bible says, ‘we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works.’ We get the English word ‘poem’ from that word ‘workmanship.’ You are God’s hand crafted work of art.

Putting these three thoughts together, my challenge to you would be: if you have never tried serving Him in Children’s Ministry go to the ‘Say Yes’ board in the foyer this week and sign up.  Give it a try, regardless of your age.  How will you know if you have a heart for Children’s Ministry if you’ve never tried serving in that area?  You will know soon enough if you’re serving from your heart.  You will love doing it, and you will be effective in doing it.

Figure out, what you love to do and then do it for His glory.  If it’s not Children’s Ministry then try something else.  I’m just suggesting you start here because it is the greatest outreach ministry the church has.

Blessings,

P.S. Have you ever wondered about yoga? Is it more than an exercise, a breathing technique? It is ok to empty my mind and relax using the techniques it teaches? Come Sunday at 9:15 and 11:00 as we probe the subject: Is it okay for a Christian to do yoga?

Summer Heart Check-Up

The first day of summer has arrived and the temperature feels like it too. With summer schedule changes, vacations, out-of-school activities, etc., I thought it would be a good time for a heart check-up, a spiritual heart check-up. Here are a few suggested guidelines to use in your personal evaluation.
 
1.        When was the list time I’ve spent an extended period of time in prayer and reading God’s word? Has it been a while? Why?
2.       Does your calendar align with what you say is most important to you?
3.       Is there an activity (outside activities, sports, or work things) you need to say ‘no’ to for the sake of your family?
4.       Do you actively seek out feedback about how you come across? For example, if you are married, ask your spouse ‘How am I doing as a spouse?’ If you are a parent ask your spouse, ‘How am I doing as a parent?’ Ask those around you how you come across at work or at play. If you are not seeking out feedback, it reveals something unhealthy about your heart.
5.        When was the last time you were wrong about something and admitted it to others? If you read this and say, ‘I’m never wrong,’ call me immediately at (402) 483-7635.
6.       Look at your personal finances. This will show you what you really value. How’s your debt? Are you giving generously? Are you saving? Are you living within your means? Are you investing?

It is helpful to pause occasionally to take an inventory of our hearts. It is important to ask God to reveal any unhealthy motives in our hearts and to reveal anything that is unhealthy so we can make the necessary changes. He knows we are all a work-in-progress and is faithful to provide wisdom to those who seek it out. Keep your heart healthy to ensure your actions and choices remain aligned with how God is leading you. Amen!

Blessings,
Pastor Mark "The Bru" Brunott

Is Your Faith ALIVE this Summer?

Do you want to keep your faith alive and full of vitality this summer? You probably are thinking, ‘Duh, of course I do. What a silly question!’ As you look for practical ways to keep your faith alive, let me invite you to take 10 minutes and read the New Testament book of James by James, the half-brother of Jesus.
James shares very practical advice (some call this book the Proverbs of the New Testament) on how our works save us, not in terms of salvation, but in terms of being saved from temporal judgement through the exercise of good works. In other words- our good works keep our faith alive, vital, and growing. It keeps our faith from becoming dead.
Some of the works that keeps our faith alive are:
  • Have a positive attitude in troubled times (James 1:2)
  • Resist temptation (James 1:12)
  • Be good listeners (James 1:19)
  • Take care of orphans and widows (James 1:27)
  • Give honor to the poor (James 2:5-6)
  • Provide food and clothing for the needy (James 2:15-16)
  • Control and restrain the tongue (James 3:1-12)
  • Don’t speak evil of others (James 4:11)
  • Don’t grumble about others (James 5:9)
  • Show concern for the sick (James 5:14)
  • Pray fervently (James 5:17)
Christians have changed the world by living out this kind of faith. The world around us can’t see our inner faith, but it can see the good works that flow from our faith. Jesus said it beautifully: ‘Let your light so shine before me that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven’ (Matthew 5:16).

Do you know any orphans? If not, is there a child you do know that might need some extra attention? Do you have a neighbor who needs her lawn mowed? Has someone near you lost their home to a fire or storm? Does our crisis pregnancy center need counselors? Is there a single mom or dad in our church who could use an invitation to dinner?

Is there a group of people in your neighborhood awaiting you to invite them over for a movie night? How about hosting a block party for your neighbors? How about getting a couple of other Christians and inviting some non-Christian people over for a BBQ? We are working to show how alive our faith is as a church through our
Summer Lovin’
program. Follow the link to sign up for your very own Block Party Kit or Movie Night Kit.

Let’s all ask ourselves right now, this summer: what am I doing for others that reveals the presence of God in my life?

Blessings,
Pastor Mark "The Bru" Brunott

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Live Your Life in Balance

When I was in college, I worked with a Christian youth organization called Youth for Christ/Campus Life. Back in those days we had a theme verse we taught the students about living a balanced life. The verse was Luke 2:52, ‘And Jesus grew in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and all the people.’

Jesus gives us a clear framework for personal growth in four distinct areas.
1.        Personal growth means growing in wisdom. Remember the phrase, ‘A mind is a terrible thing to waste?’ Growing your mind isn’t something that stops with graduation. It’s a lifelong pursuit. Do you want a stronger mind? Live life and pay attention along the way: read, listen, ask questions, go places, see things, take on projects and challenges, or take a course in something. Never stop learning and applying what you learn.
2.       Personal growth means improving our physical health. Luke was writing about Jesus when He was an adolescent growing into a man and perhaps just talking about that natural process of growth. But I believe there is an application here: If a mind is a terrible thing to waste, so is a body. We should eat well, sleep well, exercise well, and live well. After all, our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit.
3.       Personal growth means growing up spiritually. Jesus grew spiritually; He grew ‘in favor with God.’ It’s an amazing thought, since He was God but He was also human. So often I see people around me who have never experienced spiritual growth. You may ask: Why aren’t they experiencing growth? My answer: It takes time, energy, desire, and effort just like any other area. To grow in any area, there is a cost; many are unwilling to pay the price. Jesus disciplined Himself to grow spiritually.
4.       Personal growth means growing socially and relationally. John Donne in 1624 said, ‘No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.’ God created us for relationship. With family. With friends. With Him. It’s in His design for us. Jesus came to serve others- to relate to others- to touch others. He gave of His time. He helped the hurting and the helpless. He protected the defenseless. He wants us to do the same. You can’t influence the world in isolation. You need people.
I want to challenge you to live a balanced life. A life like Jesus lived. A life of personal growth and development intellectually, physically, spiritually, and socially. Live life to the fullest in Christ!

Blessings,
Mark "the Bru" Brunott


P.S. Is it okay for me to watch Game of Thrones? Can I watch something that is Rated R? How do I decide if I should or shouldn’t watch something with violence and sexual innuendos? Come this week at 9:15 and 11:00 to see what the Bible has to say about these questions. Bring a friend with you.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Grace Experienced

This last week I read a great book entitled ‘Grace is Greater,’ written by Kyle Idleman. I highly recommend this book because the focus is on God’s plan to overcome your past, redeem your pain, and rewrite your story.
Idleman states that “Grace is compelling when explained, but irresistible when experienced.” I love that concept highlighting grace as an ‘experience.’ Sometimes we forget how great God’s grace is because we have missed the reality and the depth of our sin. We haven’t applied grace in our experiences in life. So often we miss out on the grace of God because we think ‘I’m not that bad,’ ‘I’m not as bad as so and so.’ When we think like this, grace will never seem that good.
Idleman points out that grace is always greater than anything experienced in life. Consider the following:
  • Grace is powerful enough to erase your guilt.
  • Grace is big enough to cover your shame.
  • Grace is real enough to heal your relationships.
  • Grace is strong enough to hold you up when you’re weak.
  • Grace is sweet enough to cure your bitterness.
  • Grace is satisfying enough to deal with your disappointment.
  • Grace is beautiful enough to redeem your brokenness.
  • Grace is greater than your mistakes.
  • Grace is greater than your hurts.
Think about your experiences in this: some have been great, some haven’t, some have been delightful, some have been painful, some have been hopeful, and some have been disappointing. Whatever your circumstances, grace is always greater. The truth of God’s grace is this: No matter what you have done, no matter what has been done to you, you need to know that grace is greater.

Explaining God’s grace is necessary, but grace experienced is essential. Have you brought God’s grace into your experiences?

I Can't Remember Their Names

It happens to me all the time. I bump into somebody at Target, the hospital, in an elevator, at church, at an activity and they say, “Hey Mark, how’s it going,” and I freeze. I recognize them, but the name escapes me. I do a quick assessment. Do I know this person? Have I talked to this person before? When did we last talk? Where were we when we met? Why can’t I remember his/her name?

Instead of saying, ‘I’m sorry, your name is escaping me,’ I make matters worse. I talk with the person like I’ve known them all my life- trying somehow to get them to say their name in the conversation. Does this scenario sound familiar?

The truth is remembering names is hard; remembering people’s names is also important. You may try to excuse yourself saying, “I’m not good at remembering names.” But I don’t buy that. You probably know your families’ names, your street address, your phone number, and your social security number.

Name memory is not a spiritual gift or some kind of genetic trait that you inherit. People who are good at remembering names simply try harder and place a higher value on remembering names than others. You can do this!

Let me give you five simple things to help you remember names:
1.        Repeat names. Repetition builds memory. The more you repeat a person’s name, the better chance you will have of remembering it later. When you meet a person for the first time, say their name as much as possible. “Cool, Bill. Glad to see you Bill. It was nice meeting you, Bill.” The more you say it, the more it will stick.
2.       Read names. In your mind, visualize it. Spell it in your head, ask them to spell it. This may seem weird, but it works. Have you noticed how some people can tell you every football players’ name, stats, years they played on the Nebraska Cornhusker team? Chances are they read those names on the sports channel, programs, etc.
3.       Record names. If you want to remember the names, write them down on a piece of paper, put them into your phone, or take their picture with your cell phone and put their name by it.
4.       Relate names. Our brains remember images, not words. Turn their name into an image is the best way to recall it. Regan into ‘ray gun,’ Bakers into ‘bakers,’ and Brunott into ‘brew not coffee’.

5.        Remember to remember names. Make a conscious effort to hear the name, associate the name with something, listen to the name and make an effort to store it away.