Thursday, February 16, 2017

Every Christian's Responsibility to our Leaders

Did you know that as Christians we are to pray for all those who are in civil authority (1 Timothy 2:2)? They might not be godly men or women, but still we are to pray for them. They might not be who we voted for, but still we are to pray for them. We may not like their policies, but still we are to pray for them.

Paul wrote these words to Timothy, a pastor in Ephesus when the Emperor was Nero. One of the cruelest Roman Emperors, Nero had already launched a bitter persecution against the Christians. Yet when Paul wrote to Timothy he said don’t forget to pray for the Emperor, for Nero.

This reminds us that all forms of government come from God’s hand. This is why rebellion against government itself is always wrong. We may need to use the powers that are given to us in politics to change governments, but government itself comes from God. So these men and women in public office need our prayers.

We need to be careful how we pray as well. Some can pray in a way that wants absolute success for officials we like and total defeat for those we oppose. That’s not the way Christians are to pray. Consistently, no matter who is in office, we are to pray for success. That he or she would carry out an agenda that leads to the flourishing of the rest of society.

Pastor Charles Stanley has stated several things we should pray for our leaders, especially the President.

1.            Realize their positions of authority were obtained either by God’s choice or His permissive will.
2.            Recognize their personal inadequacy for the task of governing our country and look to the Lord for wisdom, knowledge, and courage to succeed.
3.            Readily forsake their political careers and personal ambitions if it is necessary to do so for the best interest of the country.
4.            Restore dignity, honor, trustworthiness, and righteousness to the office of the Presidency, to the Senate, and to the House of Representatives.
5.            Respect, honor, and obey the Constitution of the United States, the protector of our freedoms.
6.            Reject all council that weakens our defenses against aggressors or endorses agreements that would do so in the future.
7.            Refuse to promote a way of life in which citizens of our nation become increasingly dependent on the government for their needs, thus surrendering their freedom to prosper.
8.            Reverse the destructive trends of humanism and atheism which attempt to dethrone God and deify humanity, because they ultimately result in an ungodly society.
9.            Remember their accountability to the almighty God for their attitudes, motives, behaviors, and decisions that affect our nation.

Let us pray for our leaders so we may live a peaceful and tranquil life (1 Timothy 2:2b).

Blessings,
Pastor Mark "the Bru" Brunott


P.S. Do you want to excel in your education? Are you still learning and growing even though you’re out of school? How do I thrive when I live in a secularized society? Join me this Sunday at 9:15 and 11:00 as we explore these questions. 

Thursday, February 9, 2017

An Interesting Fact about the Bible

When it comes to the Bible today, we have the luxury of saying something like this: ‘Ok everybody, open your Bible to John 3:16.’ And everybody can find their way to that text. But did you know it wasn’t always this way? Can you imagine how we got along without these markers? We cite Psalm 23 and we know how to find it even if we have to use the table of contents. But it hasn’t always been so.

When John or Paul wrote their letters, when David wrote down scripture, when the prophets’ words were recorded, they wrote down those words without markers, without chapters, without numbering. Those markers were added centuries later. They are not inspired by God as the very words of Scripture are. They are not without error like the rest of scripture is without error in the original autographs.

To make a long story short, biblical scholars were making divisions of one sort or another in the centuries following the books’ original composition, but it was not until the early 1200’s that we got our current chapter set up, thanks to Archbishop of Canterbury, Stephen Langton.

As for the verses, Jewish scribes had already done work on the Old Testament around the year 900, and their work was wedded to Langton’s. But the church had to wait another 300 years for the New Testament’s breakdown, performed by a French-born printer, Robert Estienne.

Estienne was a protestant refugee in Geneva who constructed a Greek New Testament, but found his divisions A, B, C, D to be unwieldly. So, he inserted verse numbers and the product was an overnight success.

Can you imagine reading the Bible without chapter and verse numbering? When Jesus referred to Exodus 3:6 in Mark 12:26, he simply located it in ‘the passage about the burning bush.’ Neither the “12:26” nor the “3:6” were yet in place. Wow!

Though the Bible’s original writings were free from error, the same inerrancy did not extend to Langton and Estienne, as useful as their work has proven to be. Some of their chapter divisions and verse numberings have been criticized by scholars, but I’m glad we have it. It makes it easier to read and memorize.

Blessings,Pastor Mark "the Bru" Brunott
P.S. Have you ever felt the pressure to conform? Have you ever been asked to participate in something contrary to your convictions? Have you ever been tempted to compromise? If so, you will want to hear the message from the book of Daniel this week. Join me and bring an unchurched friend with you this Sunday at 9:15 or 11:00.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Living Life With No Regret

Have you ever looked back on some of the foolish things you have done? Have you ever thought, ‘I wasted so much time and energy on a wrong attitude or hurt I inflicted on others?’ Have you looked back on the good things you have left undone?

If you said ‘yes’ to any of those questions, then you know the pain of regret. Bronnie Ware was an Australian nurse who cared for patients in their last days. She wrote a book titled, ‘The Top Five Regrets of Dying.’ Here is her list:
1.        “I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.” This was the most common regret of all. When your life is almost over and you look back, it’s easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled due to choices they had made or not made.
2.       “I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.” Many missed their children’s youth and partner’s companionship because of their work existence.
3.       “I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.” Some developed illnesses from bitterness, resentment, keeping silent, or just trying to ‘keep the peace’ with others.
4.       “I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.” Many got so caught up in their own lives they let friendships slip by. It all comes down to love and relationships in the end- not money, things, or accomplishments.
5.        “I wish I had let myself be happier.” Ware says that many willingly remained in bondage of patterns and habits that were familiar rather than choosing happiness and contentment because they would have to ‘change.’
Take a moment and look at your life. Now imagine you are at the end of your life. Would you have regrets? Are there relationships you need to renew or reconcile? Are there patterns and habits that need to be changed? Are you working at the neglect of your family? Are you living towards your dream?

I’d like to add three more statements that I believe many Christians would list if they were at the end of their lives:
  • ‘I wish I had spent more time serving God and people and less time serving myself.’
  • ‘I wish I had told a lot more people about Jesus- and helped other believers to do so.’ Nothing else comes higher on Jesus’ priority list than this (Matthew 28:19-20).
  • ‘I wish I would have thought a lot more about heaven than I did about earth’ (Colossians 3:1-2).
What are your regrets? If you’re still alive and reading this, you can change the habits and patterns that caused them. We are all dying. Some of us have fewer days left than others. Let’s make every day count for Christ.

Blessings,

Pastor Mark "The Bru'" Brunott

Thursday, January 26, 2017

What is Your Worldview?

Our culture shows obvious signs that we live with a confusing hodge-podge of world views.  Let’s consider some of them:
  • Materialism -     The idea that all there is to this world is what we can see and touch.
  • Hedonism -         The pursuit of pleasure is higher than every other pursuit.
  • Pragmatism -     The idea of whatever works for you is all that matters.
 The culture context itself - Dr. James Emery White describes this as the second fall.  The first fall (Genesis) led to God’s expulsion of the human beings from the Garden of Eden.  The second fall was when we returned the favor.  We kicked God, or the idea of a transcendent God, out of science, commerce, education, politics and our personal lives.  This is a secular mindset gone wild.

There are many more world views we could list but the thought I have for us today is how do we strengthen our Biblical view of the world with such a confusing mix of viewpoints?  I want you to consider three ways to strengthen a biblical world view…

First, learn the truth.  God’s Word is truth.  (John 17:17) Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life… (John 14:6).  God does not lie (Numbers 23:15).  Perhaps you remember the story of two different men who built houses, one on a shaky foundation the other on a solid foundation.  When the storms of life came the one built on the solid foundation stood the test of time (Matthew 7:24-27).

You’re going to have plenty of storms in this life: financial storms, spiritual storms, health storms, relational storms, moral storms, career storms, marital storms, single parent storms, etc.  If your foundation is not solidly built on truth, that doesn’t change, you’re going to crumble.

The more we can do to get into God’s Word and to get God’s Word into us, the better.  Our lives will be built on the solid foundation.

Second, discern what is false.  The Message paraphrase of 1 John 4:1 says, “Carefully weigh and examine what people tell you.”  Not everyone who talks about God comes from God.  There are a lot of lying preachers loose in the world.

Those who catch counterfeits who are making counterfeit money don’t examine the counterfeit money; they make a careful study of real money so they can spot counterfeit money easily.  We need to hear God’s Word, read God’s Word, study God’s Word, memorize God’s Word, meditate on God’s Word, and apply God’s Word so we can easily spot falsehood and error (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

Third, turn from the world to the Word (Romans 12:1-2).  The renewing of your mind has to do with changing your world view, your belief system.  Proverbs 15:14 says, “A wise person is hungry for the truth while the fool feeds on trash.”

Are you feeding your mind on truth or trash?  That is a question we all should ask ourselves.  The pathway to joy is choosing to see everything from God’s truth and keep growing in spiritual maturity.

Blessings,

P.S. 
Do you know what the secret is to becoming physically fit? It’s answering one simple question. Join us Sunday at 9:15 or 11 am to discover this question. 

Monday, January 23, 2017

5 Things We Must Do for the Next Decade - Pt. 1

A couple of my favorite blogs prompted me to write the following Freshly Bru’d. Even though we live in challenging times morally, spiritually, and every other area of decline- God’s mission has not changed.

To help face the next ten years there are at least five things we must do in the church. Did you notice, I said ‘we?’ God’s mission isn’t just for the professional ministers. It’s for all of us. These five things must be at the forefront of every Christ follower.

First, a clear understanding of the Gospel. The gospel isn’t something you do, earn, or deserve; it’s what Jesus has done. People don’t need to be taught to turn over a new leaf- they need to receive the Savior and live out a new life. That new life comes from Jesus’ death on the cross for our sin and in our place and His being raised from the dead. That is the message that needs to be preached rather than some moralistic therapeutic deism- “being good” message. In too many places the message of “being good” makes you a better person and makes the “man upstairs” happy.

Second, a stronger focus on discipleship. God shapes congregations through the shaping of individual lives. But this doesn’t just happen by accident or as a by-product. God grows us when we are in a position to receive that growth. This can only happen through intentional awareness and leadership on the part of both leaders and church members.

The word disciple means ‘learner.’ This puts the action firmly in the lap of the one doing the learning. The point is that you, as a disciple, are to be actively learning. It is your responsibility to take up the mantle of spiritual self-development. Yes, a teacher is involved, but discipleship is not about a passive process of being fed. Growing in faith is something that can be served by others, but ultimately must be owned personally.

In many of our churches, too many followers of Christ view discipleship as something done to them and for them- akin to a personal enrichment program. (Take a moment here to read Hebrews 5:11-13.)

We must face the challenges of our culture as the church has had to do since Jesus established the church. The challenges are different with every generation. Therefore, as the church continues to navigate an increasingly post-Christian culture, we have to ask ourselves if we are willing to face some truths and change some behaviors, programs, or strategies to reach the world with the message of the gospel.

Watch for next week’s Freshly Bru’d where I will share the remaining three things we can do for the next decade.

Blessings,
Pastor Mark "TheBru" Brunott

5 Things We Need to Do for the Next Decade - Pt. 2

In last week’s Freshly Bru’d, I mentioned two things that we (members of Jesus’ Church) must do to thrive for the next decade. If you missed last week’s note, I would encourage you to read it here. I mentioned first – a clear understanding of the Gospel and second, a stronger focus on discipleship.

The third thing we need to do is have a greater passion for mission. We need to stand up against the perception (and in some cases, the practice) to look at those who are professional ministers and say ‘they are the ones who are called to mission’ while the people in the seats are merely consumers of religious goods and services.

We need to see all of God’s people engaged in God’s mission- introducing others to Jesus and developing them into fully devoted followers. This begins in our respective neighborhoods, work places, and schools, all the way to the nations of the world. You are just as important and necessary to the mission as I am. We all must engage. The fourth thing is strongly linked to the third thing.

The fourth thing we must do is focus our energy to finding new ways to reach out to our neighbors. Culture now is so different than past decades; today, there is little, if any, religious knowledge, background, or memory. If people aren’t attracted to church, the church must go out and attract them to act. That is why we began our #4Lincoln campaign. Such things have to be an ongoing and every day kind of evangelism, Being-Doing-Telling the Good News where we live and work.

Fifth and finally we develop new thinking in our practices. God often uses tools for His means- think of the bus ministry of the 70’s or radio ministry of the 50’s. That is still true today. As believers, we can and must be good stewards of our ministry and utilize tools wisely- like multisite churches, viral church planting, and finding new ways to serve those who are hurting and in need.

What are some behaviors you think First Free needs to change in order to reach our city with the message of the Gospel? Remember- Jesus wins. I want us all to be a part of what Jesus is doing until He returns.

Blessings,
Pastor Mark "TheBru" Brunott

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Distractions

Have you ever wondered why you’re not as far as you’d like to be spiritually? Do you feel spiritually the same in 2017 as you did at the start of 2016? Have you ever blamed children, church, career, complex sermons, business for being the reason you are not growing spiritually? If you are like me, you have asked these questions or made excuses for why you’re not growing spiritually.

I think the reason many don’t feel they are growing spiritually is because they are distracted. Do a small-scale case study on yourself and count the number of times you’re interrupted during the day- all phone calls, emails, Facebook alerts, Twitter notifications, people at work, etc.

It’s hard to remain focused on the work in front of you- especially when it’s something that requires commitment and all your attention. When I’m distracted, I lose my train of thought and can’t get any work done. That is why I stay home every Tuesday to study, research, and prepare messages. I have no interruptions.

Dr. Gloria Mark, a University of California Associate Professor, found that workers are interrupted every 3 minutes, or 23 times per hour! And when you’re interrupted, it takes 23 minutes to get back into the groove.

When it comes to spiritual habits, I believe the same concept of this study above affects us. We get distracted and lose our effectiveness. Simplify your life by minimizing the distractions. What would this look like spiritually?

First, be prepared. Take care of any physical need before you spend time alone with God. Grab your Bible and notepad, decide what you’re going to do with your electronic devices, and if you want drinks or snacks. Have everything you need within reach so you don’t have to keep getting up to get it.

Second, pray. Before you begin your time with God, it’s important to prepare your heart, mind, and soul. Otherwise your mind will stray and you start to think about other matters. Pray: ‘Lord, help me to focus on You for the next few minutes.’

Third, go off-grid. Turn off email alerts, set your phone to go straight to voicemail, create an auto response to text messages you receive saying ‘in the middle of something; I’ll get back to your later.’ Block out the time on your calendar; for some that might be early in the morning, for others late at night.

Eliminating distractions is like any other skill-- the more you practice it, the better you get. Stick with it and you will improve. You will.

Blessings,
 Pastor Mark


P.S. Want to be spiritually fit for life? Desire to be more godly? Want some practical helps to become more spiritual? If so, come this Sunday at 9:15 or 11:00. Bring a friend with you.