Thursday, December 18, 2014

The ABC's of Christmas

Have you seen or heard about the Christmas ABC book? Each letter of the alphabet connects with the Biblical story in a little rhyme. For instance, A is for Angel; an angel was the first to tell that Christ had come on earth to dwell. D is for Donkey; a donkey followed Joseph’s track and carried Mary on his back.

Some of them are a stretch, like O is for Oxen; ox and donkey’s wondered why so many people knelt nearby. All in all, it’s a great book to help children know the ABC’s of Christmas.

2 Corinthians 8:9 says “For you know the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich.” This verse gives us the ABC’s of Christmas and sums up the great truth behind our Savior’s birth.

A) He was rich. Rich in His person – He is the eternal son of God who has always existed. (Isaiah 9:6)     Rich in His position – He sits on the throne of the universe. Rich in His power. (Colossians 1:16-17) Rich in His possessions. If you take the 10 most powerful rulers who ever ruled, the 10 wisest men, the 10 mightiest generals who ever went into battle, the 10 strongest athletes, the 10 most memorizing orators, or political leaders or any other 10 greatest men left on earth, calculated their accumulated wealth, power, influence, skill, genius, wisdom, insight and ability – whatever the vast sum comes to, Jesus had more in heaven. (Hebrews 1:3) No one comes close.
B) He became poor. What does that mean? He was rich in eternity. He became poor in time. He left heaven to be born in a manger (that is, a feeding trough), live in a remote village in a foreign province and join a despised race.
 Notice a very important thing in 2 Corinthians 8:9: the verb says He became poor, not He was made poor. He voluntarily gave up the riches of heaven for the poverty of earth. He did this of His own free will, something we would not do. The richest person in the universe, of His own free will, became poorer than the poor. This is called the incarnation – God became flesh. (John 1:1,14) God entered the human race in the form of a man.

C) That we might become rich. Here is the purpose of Christmas. He came so that we who were poor might become rich. How does that happen? Grace. All the grace of God is available to me by virtue of my relationship with Jesus Christ.

Think of it. All the riches, all the power, all the prestige of His good name are mine. You might say, “I don’t deserve that.” Indeed, you don’t. That’s the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. If I deserved it, I wouldn’t need Jesus. But through my association with Jesus Christ, suddenly, I am a rich man.

This concept is called imputation. He takes my sin and I take His righteousness. I don’t earn it, it is imputed to me. It is credited to my account the moment I trust in Jesus as my Savior.

There you have it. The ABC’s of Christmas. There is only one question to ask: Have you placed your trust in Him and what He did for you? (Born to die in the place of your sin and was raised from the dead).

Merry Christmas!

Freshly Bru’d will be on vacation until January 7, 2015.

P.S. Don’t miss Sunday services. We will look at how to get along with relatives and people that are difficult without robbing us of keeping Christ in Christmas. Don’t forget your sack of groceries to give to Lincoln’s Food Distribution Center – Just leave it by your car as you come to church. 

Thursday, December 11, 2014

So let it be written; so let it be done

With Christmas day just two weeks away, I thought I would commit the next two Freshly Bru’ds to the subject of Jesus’ Birth. One of the things that has always been impressed on me are the hundreds of prophecies foretelling the birth, life and death of Jesus hundreds of years before that historic night in Bethlehem.

Each prophecy reminds us that God is trustworthy. He does not and cannot lie. He always tells the truth (Theologians call this the veracity of the scriptures). The truth is always accurate, dependable and will come true.

Here are twelve of my favorite prophecies about Jesus. There is one for each of the twelve days of Christmas: these are prophecies fulfilled in the coming of Jesus.

1. From the seed of the woman would come Jesus who would destroy the Devil.
Prophecy: Genesis 3:15 – Fulfilled: 1 John 3:8

2. Jesus will come from the line of Abraham.
Prophecy: Genesis 12:3 – Fulfilled: Matthew 1:1

3. Jesus will be a member of the tribe of Judah.
Prophecy: Genesis 49:10 – Fulfilled: Luke 3:33

4. Jesus will be a descendant of Isaac and Jacob.
Prophecy: Genesis 17:19 and Numbers 24:17 – Fulfilled: Matthew 1:2

5. Jesus will be born in the family of Jesse.
Prophecy: Isaiah 11:1 – Fulfilled: Luke 3:32

6. Jesus’ mother will be a virgin.
Prophecy: Isaiah 7:17 – Fulfilled: Matthew 1:18-23

7. Jesus will be born in the town of Bethlehem.
Prophecy: Micah 5:2 – Fulfilled: Luke 2:1-7

8. Jesus will reign on David’s throne.
Prophecy: 2 Samuel 7:14-16 and Jeremiah 23:5 – Fulfilled: Luke 1:30-35 and Matthew 1:6

9. Jesus will be called out of Egypt.
Prophecy: Hosea 11:1 – Fulfilled: Matthew 2:13-15

10. Jesus’ birth will be accompanied with great suffering and sorrow.
Prophecy: Jeremiah 31:15 – Fulfilled: Matthew 2:16

11. Jesus will enter the temple. This is important because the temple was destroyed in AD 70 and was never rebuilt.
Prophecy: Malachi 3:1 – Fulfilled: Luke 2:25-27

12. Jesus will live a perfect life, die by crucifixion, resurrect from death, ascend into heaven and sit down at the right hand of God.
Prophecies: Psalm 22:16, Psalm 16:10, Isaiah 53:10-11, Psalm 68:18 and Psalm 110:1 – Fulfilled: 1 Peter 2:21-22, Luke 23:33, Acts 2:25-32, Acts 1:9 and Hebrews 1:3

What are some of your favorite prophecies? Take one prophecy each day until Christmas and thank God for sending Jesus as the fulfillment of them. Enjoy!

P.S. Ever wonder why we put angels on top of Christmas trees? Or candles in the window? Or the history and significance of the candy cane? Come Sunday and discover how to keep Christ in your celebrating. 

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Time for some self-evaluation

Every December I begin an internal evaluation of my life. Since there is only one month left in the year I evaluate how my life had been lived. Did I grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus? (2 Peter 3:18) Was I more conformed to the image of His Son than last year? (Romans 8:29)

Did I share Christ with people who have not trusted in Him? How was my marriage? Did I nurture that relationship as I should? How was my influence upon my children and grandchildren? Did I pastor First Free with integrity? You get the point.

But there is something else I do in my evaluation; I ask myself “If this was my last month to live would I finish well?” Would I be able to say as Paul said “I have fought the good fight, I have kept the faith, I have finished the course.” (2 Timothy 4:7)

I want to talk with you about finishing well. To help you understand this week’s Freshly Bru’d you need to read two stories in the Bible. One is about King Uzziah who had a great start (2 Chronicles 26:4) but ended up as a leper (2 Chronicles 26:21). Read the entire chapter to see why Uzziah didn’t finish well.

In contrast to Uzziah is the story of Joseph of Arimathea who had a late start but finished well. (John 19:38-42; Matthew 27:57-61; Mark 15:42-47; Luke 23:50-54) Contrasting these two stories presents four principles we must never forget to finish well.

1. A great start is no guarantee of a happy ending. (Consider Uzziah and these passages: Matthew 13:1-9; 1 Peter 5:9; 1 Corinthians 10:1-13)

2. A late start is better than no start. (Consider Joseph of Arimathea and these passages: Matthew 21:25-32; 1 Timothy 1:12-16)

3. Only a fool stops fearing God. (Proverbs 1:7, 16:18, 19:27; 2 Timothy 2:5; 1 Samuel 15:22)

4. If you've stumbled and fallen, get up and run again. (Proverbs 24:16; Deuteronomy 4:25-29; Revelation 12:10; 1 John 2:1-2; Matthew 21:28-32)

So, this December why not do some internal, honest soul evaluation and make a commitment to finish well; not just this year, but the rest of your life.


P.S. This Sunday concludes our series “Bittersweet: The Story of Ruth.” The ending of the story will help prepare you for the significance of Christmas. Come and discover how. 

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Lying (is not a ) Game

By the age of four, 90% of children have grasped the concept of lying; and it gets worse from there. 60% of adults can’t have a 10 minute conversation without lying at least once. (The average was 3 lies in 10 minutes!)

Here is how America breaks down the whole concept of lying. 86% have lied to parents; 75% to siblings; 69% to their spouse; 40% on resumes; 90% lie about their profile on an internet dating site.

What does the Bible say about lying and telling the truth? Let me give you some food for thought. There are three reasons why we lie. We lie to make ourselves look better (read Acts 5:1-11). We lie for personal gain (read 2 Kings 5:1-27). And we lie to avoid negative consequences (read Exodus 32:19-24).

There are at least three Biblical reasons why we shouldn’t lie even if we live in a culture that thinks its ok. First, God hates it (Proverbs 6:16-19 and 12:17-22). Second, it’s an indicator of who we are following (John 8:31-47 and Ephesians 4:25). I used to tell my children we are closest to being like Satan when we lie. Third, we become slaves to it and it robs us of our freedom (Proverbs 19:5, James 3:3-12 and John 8:32).

Here’s the bottom line: you really can’t put a price on your integrity and obedience. Honesty at home, work, church, and play is always godly. No one can afford the costs and consequences of being labeled a liar. Let’s strive to be honest, truthful, and to think before we speak.

P.S. What is the test of one’s character? Have you ever been manipulated by someone for their benefit? Would you prefer to do the easy thing or the right thing if it was extremely costly? Don’t miss our Sunday series “Bittersweet” as we delve into these questions. 

Thursday, November 13, 2014

What is your attitude toward your job?

What is your attitude toward your job? Boring? A drag? A necessary evil? A delight? A privilege? I read a book some time ago by an Evangelical Free Church pastor entitled “Work Matters.”

In this excellent book, Tom Nelson, the author, reminds you that work is really an extension of our worship of God. In other words, the experience between Sunday and Monday should not be that big of a difference. After all, God ordained us to work. Adam and Eve worked in the Garden of Eden.

Colossians 3:17 says “Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.” The “whatever” includes your work.

There are a couple of principles to always remember relating to your work. First, you don’t have a job, you have a ministry assignment. Just a little adjustment like this in perspective toward work enriches your life. God wants to use you to influence others for Him where you have been assigned to work.

Second, the path to greatness is found in the path of service. (cf. Mark 10:42-45) View your job as a way to serve others, help others, encourage others and contribute to others.

Right now you may not like your job. Maybe it’s a dead end job or is unfulfilling. Maybe your boss is a real jerk or the company you work for is corrupt. You’re asking yourself “What am I supposed to do with this?”

Here are some verses to consider:

- There is no such thing as a perfect job. Every job has its ups and downs, good and bad. (Genesis 3:17-19)
- If you can’t find a better job, this must be the best job. That was the perspective of Daniel when he found himself in a place that was less than ideal but could not be changed.

- If you can’t respect your boss, respect the position. (Titus 3:1-2)

- God is in control of who’s in control. (Romans 13:1-2)

- If you want to have influence where you work, become an invaluable worker. (Colossians 3:22-24)

Do you need a change in perspective about work? Your job? Remember, God will use you there (at work) if you allow Him to. Enjoy work!

P.S. What do we do when something is hard? Life, relationships, a job, calculus, reconciliation, being single, conflict resolution, communication? – and the list goes on and on. This week we will discover the answers to this question. See you this Sunday at 9:00am or 10:30am. 


Thursday, November 6, 2014

The Top Ten Ways Churches Drive Away First-Time Guests

When I come across an article of interest I want to pass it on to you. I just read an article from Thom Rainer who serves as president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. The article is entitle “The Top Ten Ways Churches Drive Away First-Time Guests.” He admits that he did a twitter poll to ask first-time guests why they chose not to return to a particular church. While not a scientific poll, what he discovered was fascinating.

I am listing his ten reasons to remind us as regular attenders that every once in while it’s good to evaluate things we do in the church through an outsider’s vantage point. Thanks to Thom Rainer for helping us see things through the eyes of guests by providing the following list. My personal comments are in brackets.

1. Having a stand up and greet one another time in the worship service. This was the most frequent response.

2. Unfriendly church members. [Hopefully, this is not true of us]

3. Unsafe and unclean children’s area. [How do you think we are doing here?]

4. No place to get information. [Have you noticed the “Just Ask” signs? Thanks Julie for overseeing places to get information]

5. Bad church website.

6. Poor signage. We may forget about signs because we know where rooms, bathrooms etc… are. Guests do not.

7. Insider church language. Thom’s favorite example: “The WMU will meet in the CLC in the room where the GA’s usually meet.”

8. Boring or bad service. Thom Rainer was surprised that this was not ranked higher.

9. Members telling guests that they were in their seats. [Please assure me that no one at First Free has ever done this.]

10. Dirty facilities. Comments were: “No trash cans.” “Restrooms were worse than a bad truck stop.” “Pews had more stains than a Tide commercial.”

If you have any additions or insights, let me know.

P.S. You come to a fork in the road, do you go to the left or right? One road is expedient! The other road is costly. Which one should you take? Sunday’s message at the 9:00 and 10:30 worship services will provide guidance to these questions in our Bittersweet: The Story of Ruth series. 

Thursday, October 30, 2014

It is a universal fact:  Every person faces hard times, obstacles, disappointments and some degree of emotional pain throughout his or her life.  Such things simply cannot be avoided.

I don’t know about you but it helps me to know that I am not alone in such circumstances.  King David, the Apostle Paul and Jesus all had moments of despair, anguish, suffering and heartache. (Read Psalm 38:6; II Corinthians 1:8; Matthew 26:38)

Just as it was feasible for them to find victory through such things, so it can be for you.  Let me share with you how to triumph through hard times and the emotional agony you experience in those hard times.
  1. Examine your mind (Psalm 26:2-3).  If the messages you play repeatedly in your mind do not line up with God’s Word, they are false and must be replaced.  You can’t control emotions; however, you can control thinking.  Controlled thinking enables you to choose a healthy response.
  2. Engage the Holy Spirit.  He exposes the false messages that drive us in the midst of hardship.  When He unearths the falseness of those false beliefs, He then replaces them with truth and makes us whole.
  3. Envelope yourself in God’s Word.  This will enable you to change the way you see things and gives you His perspective of your situation.  The Word will reveal the conditions that trigger your damaged emotions and how to respond in a manner that builds you up.
  4. Exercise the power of prayer.  Ask for His help.  Listen to Him as you cry out.  He will help you and lift you up if you seek His help. (I Peter 5:5-6)

Victory over hardships is possible.  God wants to restore you.  He desires that you trust Him.  He promises to give us victory over the damaged emotions we have because of hardship.  Trust Him to do what He said.  (Exodus 15:26; II Kings 20:5; Psalm 34:18-19; Psalm 107:19-20; Psalm 147:2-3; Isaiah 53:5; Isaiah 57:18-19; Jeremiah 30:17; John 14:27).


P.S. Is life hard for you right now?  Are you overwhelmed with how difficult it is? Do you need a boost of hope or a reminder that God has not deserted you? Join us Sunday as we begin a new series Bittersweet: The Story of Ruth.  A story of redemption, hope, faith and love.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Let it go

I am not a trained counselor nor do I claim to be.  However, because I am a pastor I have had plenty of opportunity to function in the role of a counselor.

It has been my observation that people with certain problems (we all have problems and issues), never move forward because they cling to the past.  Now, I don’t have a problem delving into the past for understanding.  It’s when we are stuck to the past and are unwilling to create change to move forward and into the future.

Understanding the past is perfectly admissible if your issue is accepting the past.  But if your issue is changing the future, understanding the past alone will not take you there.  Some people when you say, “If you want to change, do this,” are simply unwilling.

They often choose the path of least resistance and thus stay stuck where they are.  Like a perfectionist who says, “My parents never said I was good enough.”  This is why I am the way I am.  Or the person who believes he can operate above the rules and feels he can do no wrong, because his parents doted on him and inflated his importance.

Or you freeze around authority figures because you had a controlling mother, and so on.

We can’t do anything about the past.  We can’t change it, rewrite it or make excuses for it.  All we really can do is accept it and move on.  When we cling to the past it is also easy to blame someone else for anything that’s gone wrong in our lives.  This stems from the result of the fall of Adam and Eve (read Genesis 3:12-19)

When we make excuses, or blame someone else, or something else beyond our control as the reason for the issues we have, we will not move forward in a healthy positive way.

If you no longer want to cling to the past, why not try this: 1) Stop blaming others for the way you are. 2) Own the necessary changes you need to make to move forward. 3) Accept the outcome of the choices you have made in the past to equip you for better changes in the future.  Remember what Paul said, “When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child, when I became a man, I did away with childish things.”  Don’t cling to the past, move forward.

P.S. How can your lifestyle: behaviors, actions, reactions, decisions, speech, etc. reflect Jesus in the world we live in?  We will look at this question in our Worship Services this Sunday at 9:00 and 10:30 a.m.  Hope to see you there!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014


Is there someone in your life you need to forgive?  Someone who hurt you deeply? Abused you? Gossiped about you?  Tried to destroy your reputation?  Tried to make your life a living hell?  Disappointed you?

If there is such a person, have you forgiven them?  You might think I could never do that.  They hurt me so much it has left deep scars.  I’m not ready for that – to forgive them.

If that is what you are thinking, may I remind you of a couple of things.  First, forgiveness is not an option. It is a requirement for the Christ follower.  In what is commonly called The Lord’s Prayer (not a magic prayer to recite but a pattern to follow) it says, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us (Matthew 6:12).  But if you read verses 14-15, it says, “For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.  But if you don’t forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.” OUCH!

Forgiveness always starts with a look in the mirror (Read Matthew 18:21-35).  God tells us forgiving others is a very big deal.

What does it mean to forgive?  Eternally it means we have a clean slate?  But in the earthly realm it is a little different.  Forgiveness is not pretending that nothing happened.  You can’t forget it.  What it does mean is you don’t hold it against the person.

When we sin against God the Bible says, “He remembers them no more.” (Hebrews 8:12).  That doesn't mean God has Alzheimer’s.  It means He doesn't respond to you in light of it.  He remembers what you did – He simply doesn't hold it against you.  And He wants us to do the same with those who have wronged us.

You don’t act as if it never happened – you no longer hold onto it.  Forgiveness doesn't mean the removing of all consequences.  King David had all kinds of consequences following his sin with Bathsheba (2 Samuel 12:13-14).

When you forgive that person for whatever they did, it doesn't mean you pick up where you left off.  They have to earn the right to be trusted.  They may be given a second chance, but everything is not always back where it once was.

Mark, I don’t think I ever can forgive this person.  I’m not ready.  When will you be ready?  Ask God to help you want to be ready to forgive.  Until you do, you live your life in the world’s worse prison – unforgiveness.


P.S.  Do you want more joy, more fulfillment, more blessing, more value, more significance added to your life?  Come this Sunday at 9:00 and 10:30 and discover the answer.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

When someone makes you angry

All of us have people in our lives who drive us crazy, whom we dislike with a passion.  Come on – be honest!  You have at least one of these people in your life!  You probably have spent countless hours reliving the moments when this person was unfair, unappreciative, or inconsiderate of you.  Even when you think of that person it bumps up your blood pressure.

The best course of action when dealing with this kind of person is to not let them make you angry.  Getting angry doesn't improve the situation, and as I have discovered the hard way, life’s too short to waste getting angry.

Getting angry at someone for being who they are makes as much sense as getting mad at your desk for being a desk.  If we had that persons genes, background, experience, we would be that person. More often than not, we might as well be him because we really are angry at ourselves.

Now, anger is a God-given emotion.  But it also is a secondary emotion.  Something else triggers it: hurt, embarrassment, a blocked goal, being misunderstood, etc.  Anger is an emotion that can take control of you if you don’t let the Holy Spirit control it.

The Bible says it over and over: Be slow to anger (James 1:18).  The anger of a man cannot achieve the righteousness of God (James 1:19).  Don’t let the sun go down on your anger.  If you do, it overcomes you (Ephesians 4:26-27).

Nothing will destroy your reputation more than being a hothead.  Bobby Knight won three NCAA titles while at Indiana University and is only one of two coaches in college history with 800 or more victories.  By any measure, he’s one of the greatest coaches of all time.  But when people think of Bobby Knight, their first thought is his volcanic temper, not his win-loss record.

So, how does one stop getting angry? Let me suggest a couple of things. (1) Stop speaking when angry.  Just stop it: (Proverbs 26:4; Proverbs 10:19; Proverbs 29:20; Proverbs 18:2; Proverbs 21:23; Proverbs 13:3). (2) Keep an anger log: When did you get angry? Why? What were the triggers? Then you can address triggers and deal with them. (3) Pray that the Spirit of God be in control of your emotions, thoughts, words and actions (Ephesians 5:18). (4) Memorize James 1:18-19 and apply it to your life.  These things will help you with anger.  I know. I am a recovering hot head.

P.S.  What’s the big deal about the church? Do I really need it? Does the church need me? Join me for worship this Sunday at 9:00 or 10:30 to discover the Bible’s answer to these questions.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Is anybody listening?

I have a confession to make: I am not a good listener.  I find myself mentally (more so than literally) drumming my fingers while someone else is talking.  I find myself becoming bored, distracted and busy composing what I want to say.  Not listening is really a silent, invisible activity.  People rarely notice you doing it.  They don’t necessarily know if you’re bored, distracted or as my wife likes to say “In La La Land.”

You may be thinking, ‘Mark, thanks for the confession but what’s your point?’  My point is that the Bible puts a great deal of importance on the subject of listening.  Learning to listen has relational benefits both vertically and horizontally.  And if I’m not listening or striving to be a listener, I’m not obeying what the Scripture says. (Proverbs 2; James 1:18-19; Psalm 119 and Deuteronomy 6).  When you fail to listen to someone you are sending out an army of negative messages.  You really are saying; ‘I don’t care about you – I don’t understand you – I think you are wrong – You’re stupid – You’re wasting my time.’  It’s no wonder people never talk to you if that’s the attitude that comes across in your listening.

People will tolerate all sorts of rudeness, but the inability to pay attention to them holds a special place in their hearts.

If you are not listening, displaying extreme impatience, wanting people to hurry up and get to the point, displaying body language and facial expressions contrary to being interested in what they are saying, they will notice that and rarely think better of you for it.

All of us should be able to listen.  After all, what’s it take to keep our eyes open, our eyes looking at whoever is talking, and our mouths shut?  Sounds easy doesn’t it?

My challenge to myself and to those out there like me who are not listening, 'STOP IT!'  Stop interrupting or thinking ‘boring,’ and invest with those you communicate with.  To borrow the words of Scripture, ‘Be quick to hear (listen) slow to speak and slow to anger.’


P.S. Do you believe you’re growing spiritually?  How do you know?  What is your measurement of spiritual growth?  Do you feel you’re at a standstill spiritually?  That you are not as close to God as you once were?  Join us Sunday at 9:00 & 10:30 to probe these questions.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Power Source

I know that you, as I do, desire to live an authentic empowered life.  When we look at the Scriptures it tells us to be careful how you walk with God (my emphasis) (Ephesians 5:15).
In other words, to live an authentic empowered life, we have to pay attention.  Be careful to listen to His word.  Be careful to pray.  Be careful to seek His help.  Be careful because we are being observed by others.
So how can we live with His empowerment, His enablement, His power?  I think Ephesians 5:18 gives us a clue ‘Do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit.’
The verse begins with a negative command, ‘Don’t let anything like wine cause you to be hopelessly out of control.’  But a positive command follows, ‘Be filled with the Spirit or be controlled by the Spirit.’
Notice with me four things about this filling: First, it is a command, not a suggestion.  It is not a casual option, I play a part in this command.  I cannot be filled (controlled) with the Spirit while being controlled by something else (living by the flesh, unconfessed sin, resisting the will of God, relying on my own strength).  Second, the command is for every believer.  You all, as believers, have the Spirit – let Him control you.
Third, the expression ‘being filled’ is in the passive voice.  That means something is done to us.  You have to be filled (let the Spirit fill your life).  But you have to ask Him.
Fourth, the command is in the present tense.  Literally, keep on being filled.  It’s not once in a lifetime or once every year, it’s every so often.  Asking God to fill you with His Spirit is an essential part of walking by faith and not by sight.
Try this prayer every day – honestly several times throughout the day:
This is you day Lord, I want to be at your disposal.  I’m yours Lord.  Help me to: lean on You; to draw strength from You; and to have You fill my mind and my thoughts.  Take control of my senses and my circumstances.  Help me to be filled with Your presence and empowered by Your energy.  I want to be Your tool and Your vessel today.  Lord, fill me with Your Spirit right now.  Customize this prayer to your own details depending on what may be the needs of that particular day.
This is how we walk the Christian walk.  We need the Spirit to take our eyes, tongues, emotions, wills and use us because we want to operate under His control on a continuing basis.

P.S. God wants to use you, resource you, to advance His Kingdom.  Come this Sunday and discover how God does these things in us.  See you soon.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Does First Free need to go on a diet?

Most churches – more than eight out of ten – are busy, too busy.  These churches need to slim down their plethora of programs, activities, and ministries.  They need to go on a ‘busyness diet.’  How about First Free?  Do you think we need to go on a ‘busyness diet?’
Too many of us equate activities (and I’m talking about good activities) in the church with godliness or ministry fruitfulness.  Did you realize that some of the busiest churches actually diminish discipleship fruitfulness?
Studies report that the average church attender will give to their church two slots of time a week.  Yet so many churches ask for 6-10 slots a week.  Now, of course there are always exceptions.  Stay at home moms and retired folks will give you three slots.  Ministry fanatics will give you four or more, but the average attender will give you two slots.
How many slots do you believe First Free requires of you each week?  If you answered over two slots, then maybe it’s time for us to pursue the ‘busyness diet.’
Reasons for the ‘busyness diet’ are many, but here are a few I will share with you.  First, excessive activities can actually preclude members from growing spiritually. (They are so busy, they don’t have time to read the Bible.)
 Second, a church that is too busy rarely evaluates the effectiveness of its activities.
Third, activity-focused churches are often not in "world" focus. (Is First Free getting out into our community?)
Fourth, a busy church can hurt families.  (We have too many activities for children, students and adults; therefore, the family has no time left to be together.)
Fifth, activity-focused churches can cause member burnout.  Burnout usually leads to dropout.
Sixth, it is difficult to do a few things well when a church does too many things. (we have got to narrow the focus.)
Seventh, busy churches often lack vision clarity. (Too many directions leave members with confusion about priority.)
Let me know what you think.  Does First Free need to go on a ‘busyness diet?’ Diets are usually not pleasant but necessary for health.


P.S. God changes us from the inside out.  This week we will witness and hear how He did this in the lives of three individuals.  We will also discover some ways to get God’s Truth in our lives.  See you at 9:00 & 10:30 a.m. worship.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Developing a "Sticky Faith" in your kids

It is estimated that 40 to 50 percent of the freshmen starting college this Fall will abandon their faith by the time they receive their diplomas.  These are the same kids who actively participated in church youth groups in high school, and when polled the year before college, 80 percent had every intention of sticking with their faith.

Drs. Kara Powell and Chad Clark, faculty members of Fuller Seminary, studied 500 youth group members following high school graduation and their journey in college.  Their research results are reported in their book: STICKY FAITH: Everyday Ideas to Build Lasting Faith in Your Kids.

Here are a few broad and fundamental concepts for all parents: (1) Their faith will reflect your faith.  Their prayer patterns, attendance patterns, bible study patterns, involvement will be the same as their parents. (2) Most kids have been taught sin management-not relationship.  We need to teach them how Christ changes us from the inside out and we obey Him because we love Him. (3) Strong community builds long-lasting faith.  We all need a network of caring supporters who aid in the spiritual development process and hold us accountable to staying connected to the faith.

Here are some recommended suggestions for parents and their children: For pre-school and elementary kids – spend time everyday debriefing their day and saying prayers at bedtime as well as other healthy rituals.  Middle school kids – listen and ask questions.  Talk about your faith - its ups and downs, and then encourage them to talk about theirs.  High school kids – two million go on mission trips annually.  Five out of six report that these trips have little impact on their lives.  For service to stick, find causes that hit close to home.  Make service a family affair.  Those who serve younger children are more likely to develop stickier faith. College bounds – talk about life after high school before they graduate from high school.  Discuss issues like managing money and time.  Help them plan a schedule including church attendance.

Let’s continue to encourage, help and pray for all parents.

P.S. If you want to be effective in your spiritual journey, you must talk to God.  If you find this a struggle, you will appreciate our services this Sunday at 9:00 and 10:30 a.m.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

I'm an "SJ." How about you?

I am going to give you a little insight into my personality type. I am, according to the Meyers/Brigg personality indicator, an extrovert, a sensor when taking information. In other words, I take information through my five senses. Some people take it in intuitively. I am a feeler more than a thinker. In other words, I go with my heart more than my mind. I also have judging life type, meaning I like structure and perimeters more than just “go with the flow.”

Since I am an SJ I like to know how things are to be done and how things work. Here is where the rub comes in for me spiritually. The Bible is clear on the “what” you do; love God, love others, tell others about Jesus, love your bride like Jesus did, be patient, be kind and you can fill in the blank of a host of other commands.

These are things we must do. These are the non-negotiable, not up for debate commands of the Bible. The Bible also has a host of “This is what must happen things.” Those things we must take responsibility for: you must make followers of Jesus, you must raise your kids to fear God, you must respect your husband, you must present your wife spotless.

Ok. So we have the things we must do and a few things that must happen the questions for me is always how?

The Bible doesn't answer the question how? There is a reason for that. We are all different and the Bible was written to transcend time, age, education, culture and context. Our how must come from God. We must pay the price to hear from God how we should carry out His commands. Like husbands love your wives as Christ loved the church. That is a “must do” but how are you supposed to do that?

How you love your spouse is certainly not how I love mine! And how I love her now is not the same as it was 30, 20 or even one year ago. The how must come from God and there is a price for the how – you must listen to Him. It is certainly worth it! It is just a little more challenging if your personality makeup is an SJ like mine.


P.S. Our sermon based Life Group series begins this week. It’s not too late to join a group. If you want to be effective in your Christian walk, come and discover the traits needed to Walk This Way. 

Thursday, August 28, 2014

What Should We Say to our Children?

Just a reminder to everyone who reads Freshly Bru’d that this blog reflects my response to what I am currently reading and ideas that are in my mind during the given week. It is not a devotional blog, although there will be times when I will encourage you to look at verses from the Bible.

This week I was reading about children back in school, colleges beginning their semester, the emotions that children have as they start kindergarten and the difficulties mom have sending their child off to school the very first day.

That sparked an idea in my mind of the things we should habitually speak to our children whether they are 2 or 60. Some of the following things might be suited for children older than 2, others may not work if you are a single parent, but most need to be said over and over again.

I love you. I will always love you. No matter what you do, you’ll always be my child. I love you, but I’m still going to discipline you. Yes, I’ll forgive you. Will you forgive me? I messed up. You’re so valuable to me. Let’s go to church. Yes, I’ll drop what I’m doing to play.

No, I’m not too busy. You drew that? Amazing! I’m proud of you. You slipped up, but you’re still precious to me. Can we talk? Let’s hang out. You don’t have a choice here, you’re two years old. You’re safe with me. Yes, I’ll help. Honoring God is always the right choice.

Learning to obey mom and dad is important. Let’s go on a date (mom to son, dad to daughter). Let’s pray. Love those that nobody else loves. Love others more than you love yourself. Love and respect those who don’t love or respect you. Serve others like your life depends on it. Learn to respect those in authority over you (life will be much easier if you do).

There is no problem so big that you can’t come to me. You’ll never do anything to lose my love. You have so many gifts and talents (can I help you use them?). It’s okay to mess up, I mess up too. Be a good friend. It’s okay to be upset. You can never do anything so bad that God would desert you.

Do you have any you would like to add? Send them to me.

P.S. This week we conclude our series “Psalms: A Playlist for Life.” We will celebrate together with a Communion service and discover how to praise God at all times both good and bad.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

The Stretch Principle

This last week I was reminded of a very important principle that I am going to call “The Stretch Principle.” To illustrate the principle, imagine holding a rubber band in your hand. That rubber band has all kinds of potential-holding a stack of papers together, shooting paper clips at others (just kidding!), putting it around your wrist to remind you of something or snapping it on your wrist as you reach for a candy bar to remind yourself “no, you don’t need that chocolate.”

But a rubber band also reminds us of a life principle. You can only stretch it so far before it breaks or snaps in two. In other words, there is a limit to the stretch.

The same is true for us. We can contribute many great things with our life, but there is a limit to our contributions. Our contributions also carry with them “stress” baggage. Our lives can only tolerate so much stress, so we all must learn our stretch point.

As a pastor, I sometimes forget the stretch principles in the lives of church members. Most church leaders plan church schedules to the max. I forget that people have a limited number of hours to contribute to the church. When I violate this management principle it creates tired, burned out congregants.

There was a time when churches asked people to attend church service, Sunday school, discipleship classes, visitation meetings, committee meetings, men’s meetings, women’s meetings and minister in the community.

I learned last week that something has to give. You do not have to be a skilled mathematician to calculate the issue. It’s not that people are uncommitted as I once thought, but one can only stretch so far.

As a pastor, I need to plan with a “big picture” view in mind. My goal is to help our church distinguish those things that are urgent and important from those that are urgent and not important. Pray for me and in the meantime, remember the stretch principle.


P.S. Who is leading your life? Would you answer that question myself, culture, things, certain people, money, etc...? If i told you there is something far greater than these things to lead your life would you be interested? Join me this Sunday at worship at 9:00 am or 10:30 am and interact with "who is leading my life." 

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Studies show that the average person wastes what amounts to two hours a day sitting at a traffic light, surfing the internet, daydreaming, etc… One minute doesn’t sound like a lot of time, but what if we put just one of those wasted minutes a day to use praying for America?

Our country needs our prayers more than ever. Since this is independence week, I can’t think of a better time to start praying for our country throughout the year.

You may ask “What should I pray for concerning the United States?” I can think of many things, but I will limit it to three. First, religion. Pray for America’s Christian heritage to be preserved. (Read 2 Timothy 4:3-4) By elevating relativism and multiculturalism, the idea that all cultures and religions are equal and no belief system is superior to another, the United States has subtly created a new national religion where tolerance trumps spiritual integrity.

Second, family. Pray for Americans to embrace a Biblical understanding of marriage. (Read Exodus 20:12) Although the Bible defines marriage as a binding partnership between one man and one women, America’s marriages increasingly fail. Pray as America tries to redefine marriage to include same-sex marriage; should the Bible define marriage or should our federal courts?

Third, government. (Read Proverbs 3:5) Pray for American government leaders not to be deceived by political philosophies that could easily undermine Biblical truth, the role of the church and family and the values set in place in our Christian heritage.

So, enjoy Independence Day. Celebrate it. Give God thanks for our freedom and for those preserving our freedom. But let’s all pray every day for our nation.


P.S. Who you hang with has a tremendous effect on you. Who should I hang with? How does the crowd affect me? How do I stay on the right course? These questions will be answered this week as we begin our new series, Psalms: A Playlist For Life.

Make Disciples! (Yes, I'll say it, again!)

You often hear me say that First Free needs to make disciples who make disciples. That is the nature of a disciple maker. They are committed to multiplying generations of disciples makers.

Jesus was a disciple maker. If you want to make disciples, follow Jesus and do what He did. He spent time with His disciples. He trained them. He showed them how to pray, trust, serve, meet needs, teach and so much more.

There are so many things a disciple maker needs to do but four things that are essential. First, you need to follow Jesus (and train others to follow Jesus). You can’t train someone to follow Jesus if you are not. Paul invited others to follow Jesus just like he followed Jesus.

Second, you need to be Jesus to others. Being Jesus requires that you embody the mission and message of Jesus. No one today can see Jesus, but they can see you being Jesus. Be the hands, the feet, and the voice of Jesus to those around you.

Third, you need to teach others to obey Jesus. Knowing Jesus’ commands are not enough. You must obey them. You commit your life to doing what He says and teaching others to do the same. “Trust and obey, for there is no other way, to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.”

Fourth, you need to daily feed yourself spiritually. Sermons are great, books are great but you need to go to the source of spiritual food yourself-the Word of God. You must get into the Word every day.

Start with these four and you’re on your way to being a disciple maker.


P.S. A good heart with a bad compass will lead you to the wrong place every time. What is the right compass you need to prosper in living? Join us this Sunday at 9:00 am or 10:30 am to discover the answer.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

What do they need?

Did you know that everyone visiting First Free for the first time has five unspoken needs? Did you know that God wants to use you to help meet those unspoken needs?

The first unspoken need that guests want met is acceptance. They come asking, “Will I be accepted at this church?” Everyone needs a niche. Our life groups play a crucial role in meeting this need. Your job is to show our guests there is a place for them.

The second unspoken need is friendship. Guests of First Free come asking, “Will I find friends at this church?” People are looking for opportunities to develop relationships. They are not looking for a friendly church as much as they are looking for friends. Be a friend. Become a friend to our guests.

The third need guests want met is significance. “How will I make a difference at this church?” People want their lives to count. When we show people their gifts, talents, involvement and influence matter they will want to be part of that. First Free must be a creative place where all sorts of talents and abilities are expressed.

The forth unspoken need that guests are asking is, “How will I benefit from joining this church?” People will never grow spiritually without a commitment to live out what the Bible teaches in relationship with others. There are Biblical, practical and personal reasons for partnerships (membership). Do you know them?

The last unspoken need is in the area of expectation. “What will be expected of me at this church?” People have the right to know this before joining in. To worship, to pray, to use their gifts, to be generous, to serve the community, to spiritually reproduce themselves in others; whatever the expectation, the church must make it known.

Will you help First Free meet these needs for those who come?


P.S. Should I take this job? Should I marry this person? Where should I live? What does God want from me? If you have ever asked such questions you won’t want to miss this Sunday’s message – God’s Will: It’s simpler than you think!

Thursday, June 19, 2014


Ten years ago nobody was talking about churches and brands. That doesn’t mean churches didn’t have brands or that branding didn’t exist; it simply means times have changed. Branding didn’t matter back then to the degree it does today.

I know the arguments: “We shouldn’t have to ‘market’ God” or “It’s not marketing God so much as doing our due diligence to make sure the love of Jesus is properly presented in our communities.”

To me, the bottom line is this: let’s make sure our “brand” doesn’t get in the way of reaching others with God’s love and truth.

All churches have brands. Yes, even First Free. By brand, I am not talking about a logo, a design or a given stated purpose. A brand is simply the experience someone has of our church.

If you tell your friends about First Free, what do you say about it? Do you say “it’s pretty boring, my wife makes me go” or “ I always feel welcome the minute I walk in the door” or “I like it but don’t understand the name” or “I tried to find it once, but couldn’t.” These kinds of experiences are the brand.

Every church provides an experience, whether good or bad, to those who visit. This experience is the brand! Do you think First Free needs a brand adjustment?

By that question, I don’t mean a new logo, fancier slides for sermons or more expensive brochures. I mean do we need to work to provide a better experience for those who are involved in their church and for those who could potentially be involved in the church?

I think the answer is yes and that every one of us should be part of the solution. There is a large coffee chain that trains their baristas by having them do a “go see.” A “go see” is when you go in front of the store and try to look at it through the customer’s eyes.

This “go see” improves the customer experience. Why not try a “go see” this Sunday. Come looking at the experience of our church through the eyes of a guest. Were you greeted? Was the facility appealing and clean? Could you park easily? Were there signs to show where classrooms, restrooms and the auditorium are? Would you know where to drop off and pick up your kids? Would you feel safe leaving them there? Did you feel welcomed by the pastor? Was the message relevant to a need in your life? Did you connect with others? Were you told why we do things the way we do them?

Let’s all work hard at creating experiences that will draw others to Jesus.


P.S. Help! I’m drowning in debt! What’s my next step? More money should make me happy shouldn’t it? God loves rich people more than poor people doesn’t He? Join me this Sunday at 9:00am or 10:30am to get the Bible’s view of financial contentment.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Since It's Father's Day...

Since it is Father’s Day this coming weekend, I wanted to commit this issue of the Freshly Bru’d to all the dads out there. If you are not a dad, don’t think “this issue isn’t for me.” There is something for all of us to glean.

The following are excerpts from Mark Merrill’s All Pro Dad book:

1.  Love is not a feeling; it is a decision. Love is an act of the will to be patient, kind, gentle, humble, sincere, compassionate, giving, faithful, trusting, forgiving, uniting and persevering.

2. Image is how we think others view us… identity is who we really are.

3. Children need to know we love them for who they are, not for what they do.

4. Your job as a dad is not that of a general contractor… your job is that of a CEO in your home.

5. People often say “time is money.” I say, “time is love.”

6. If you are married, the very best thing you can do for your children is to love their mother.

7. Everybody can be great, because anyone can serve. – Martin Luther King Jr.

8. Don’t ask yourself what the world needs, ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that because that’s what the world needs, people who come alive. – Howard Thurman

9. You must be forever expanding your capacity to love in order to expand your capacity to lead in your home.

10. Leading a family is the hardest job a man can ever have. – Dave Ramsey

Pastor Mark
P.S. Dad’s Day is this Sunday! Be there! Invite your dad to join you. Take him to lunch afterwards. Tell him how much he means to you. If you want to learn how to be successful in life don’t miss the service. To be great, you have to be_________. What word do you believe should go in the blank?

Thursday, June 5, 2014

A Dramatically Different Christianity is Just a Short Step Away

The more I read about the post-Christian era in the west, the more I am convinced that a dramatically different kind of Christianity is just a short step away. The well-worn path of how we have approached and measured following Christ, attending church using the church building, meeting in life groups, etc. will have to change if we want to be responsible Christ followers in reaching the world.

Let me share with you some things that are changing in many of our communities and churches. I will be the first to say “I don’t like the change” and “I wish it were not so.” However, these changes are upon us. The question for us is how will we adopt and adapt for ministry effectiveness.

The following are just observations however, if I were a “betting” man I would say that we should begin to prepare ourselves for their actuality.
  1. The speed of change is accelerating. Gone are the days when a change is followed by a decade of the status quo. More often than not, the pace of change on the outside is greater than the pace of change on the inside of the church. This leads to a perilous disconnect.
  2. Every Biblical reference is obscure to almost everyone. A lot of people in the church today have no point of reference. Concepts like communion, Jesus’s death, burial and resurrection are a complete mystery to many. We must not assume an “everybody knows that” philosophy.
  3. It will become increasingly harder to say “come with me to church” and easier to say “meet me at Starbucks.” We need to discover and build a “meet me” philosophy of ministry.
  4. Leader development and encouragement will be decentralized. The pace of life is making centralized gatherings more difficult and less productive to implement. Living rooms and coffee shops are becoming more productive.
  5. Leader training will be accessed on a “need to know” basis and distributed on a “just in time” basis. Advances in training preparation is becoming obsolete. Now we have 24/7 delivery made possible on the internet.
With such changes, how will the church respond?

P.S. Have you ever felt you can’t measure up to the characters in the Bible? Have you ever thought that God is out to get you? Have you ever felt that He has abandoned you? If you have, you won’t want to miss this Sunday’s worship as we wrestle with these questions.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Top 20 Worriers

Have you ever found yourself worrying? Of course you have. Benenden Health surveyed 2,000 American adults to get a pulse on the 20 biggest worries of American adults. Here are the results:
  1. My stomach/being overweight
  2. Getting old in general
  3. Savings/financial future
  4. Debt
  5. Energy levels
  6. Credit card debt
  7. Paying rent/mortgage
  8. Job security
  9. My diet
  10. Keeping the house clean
  11. Finding a new job
  12. Sex life
  13. General happiness
  14. Wrinkles
  15. Whether not I’m attractive
  16. Physique
  17. Meeting work targets/goals
  18. Whether or not my partner still loves me
  19. Whether my current partner is the right one or if I’ll ever find the right partner
  20. What happens after death
It’s hard for many of us to get out of the worry mindset. Christian psychologist Dr. Henry Cloud states “when your mental map says that nothing you do matters, you stop focusing on the things that you do have control over, things that actually do matter and that can make a difference. When you regain control of yourself, strong results can be obtained, even in crummy environments.”

So how do I get out of the worry mindset? First, take your worry to God. He is the only One who has the power and wisdom to deal with every issue perfectly. He works in our best interest.

Second, memorize Philippians 4:6-7. When you find yourself worrying say “stop” and then recite the verse. If you have a hard time memorizing, take a notecard and write the word “stop” on one side and Philippians 4:6-7 on the other side; keep this notecard handy so that you can pull it out when you start worrying.

Third, replace the worry with something you could be doing the place of worry. Here is a list of things; let me know what you would add to it: smiling, taking a shower, calling up a friend to talk, exercising, doing a random act of kindness, making the bed, reading the Bible, cleaning the kitchen, sweeping the floor, going for a walk, praying, taking a few deep breaths, going to see your doctor, meditating on scripture, organizing the closet.

As the old song says “don’t worry, be happy.”
Pastor Mark
P.S. If love is so natural, why is it so hard? Have you ever been confused, frustrated, blind-sided or otherwise backed up against the wall when it comes to love? If so, you’re in good company. Join us this Sunday at 9:00am or 10:30am as we probe the subject that has confounded philosophers, scientists, poets and pretty much all of us at one point or another.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Anticipation... It's Making Me Wait

Do you anticipate going to church each weekend? I mean, when you consider “getting ready to go to church” this Sunday, what emotions does that phrase evoke in your family? In your heart? In your mind?

Psalm 84:1-2 tells us how the Psalmist longed for the next time he could be in God’s house, worshipping with God’s people. He actually couldn’t wait he was so excited.

May I remind you of a couple of things that will help you to get ready for church? First, get to bed at a descent hour on Saturday night. Second, bring your Bible. God’s Word is to be looked into intently. It is called “the sword of the Spirit.” Who would want to leave home without that?

Third, begin to get spiritually prepared. Spend a few minutes before the service in prayer. That means you have to arrive a few minutes before the service. Ask God to forgive you of any known sins (1 John 1:9). Ask God to use the volunteers who will be serving to bring glory to Him. Ask God to give you the desire to bring your best worship and service to Him. Pray for the worship team. Pray for the pastor to speak clearly and accurately God’s truth.

Forth and finally, connect with others. After all, worship has a corporate aspect to it. The church is to come together and worship. Pray for that person sitting next to you. Pray God will bring people who are disconnected from Christ and the church to First Free. Pray for your friends who need to give Jesus and the church one more try. Invite them to join you.
It’s time to meet with God in His dwelling place. Are you ready?
Mark "The Bru" Brunott

P.S. Have you ever felt alone? Have you ever questioned if you can walk the Christian walk with the strong anti-Christian lures around you? Do you ever feel weak in your faith? If you answered yes to any of these questions join me Sunday at 9:00am or 10:30am for some needed encouragement.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Thoughts on Mother's Day

This Sunday is the day in which we recognize our mothers and their contributions to our personal lives and our society. Years ago Erma Bombeck wrote one of the most meaningful tributes to mothers. I have enclosed it for your enjoyment.

When God Created Mothers
Erma Bombeck

When the Good Lord was creating mothers, He was into His sixth day of "overtime" when the angel appeared and said. "You're doing a lot of fiddling around on this one."

And God said, "Have you read the specs on this order? She has to be completely washable, but not plastic. Have 180 moveable parts...all replaceable. Run on black coffee and leftovers. Have a lap that disappears when she stands up. A kiss that can cure anything from a broken leg to a disappointed love affair. And six pairs of hands."

The angel shook her head slowly and said. "Six pairs of hands.... no way."

“It's not the hands that are causing me problems," God remarked, "it's the three pairs of eyes that mothers have to have."

“That's on the standard model?" asked the angel. God nodded.

“One pair that sees through closed doors when she asks, 'What are you kids doing in there?' when she already knows. Another here in the back of her head that sees what she shouldn't but what she has to know, and of course the ones here in front that can look at a child when he goofs up and say. 'I understand and I love you' without so much as uttering a word."

“God," said the angel touching his sleeve gently, "Get some rest tomorrow...."

“I can't," said God, "I'm so close to creating something so close to myself. Already I have one who heals herself when she is sick...can feed a family of six on one pound of hamburger...and can get a nine year old to stand under a shower."

The angel circled the model of a mother very slowly. "It's too soft," she sighed.

“But tough!" said God excitedly. "You can imagine what this mother can do or endure."

“Can it think?"

“Not only can it think, but it can reason and compromise," said the Creator.

Finally, the angel bent over and ran her finger across the cheek.

“There's a leak," she pronounced. "I told You that You were trying to put too much into this model."

“It's not a leak," said the Lord, "It's a tear."

“What's it for?"

“It's for joy, sadness, disappointment, pain, loneliness, and pride."

“You are a genius,” said the angel.

Somberly, God said, "I didn't put it there.”

Lord, help us never to be too busy for mom. If you could take time and great effort for her on the cross in your death, help us to love her while we have her in our life.
P.S.  Have you ever felt manipulated into doing something out of “compassion?” I bet it didn’t feel very loving did it? Join us on Sunday at 9:00am and 10:30am as we dive in and look at the biblical boundaries of compassion. You also won’t want to miss this special Sunday as we honor those amazing women we call mothers.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

How Should You Respond?

Have you ever felt like your life is spinning out of control? Do you ever think the world is spinning out of control? Does it seem like you’re going from one major crisis to the next to the next? Ever say “I wish the world or my life would slow down so I could at least catch my breath?”
How should we respond in the midst of crisis? Distress? The short answer is, no surprise: by praying. More than any other writings, the Hebrew and Christian hymn book, the Psalms show us how. From beginning to end you will see the Psalmist actively and fervently praying to God in various difficult and dire circumstances.
How many are my foes! Give me relief from my distress! Listen to my cry for help! Away from me all who do evil! Save and deliver me from all who pursue me! (Sampling from selected Psalms)

Often the Psalmist prays for physical salvation, thanking God for sparing his life, reminding himself of the results of living righteously in contrast to evil doers, and reminding himself of God’s faithfulness and support because of the scriptures.

Let me list 12 things you can do to turn to God in times of trouble and distress. I hope you will look up each reference.

1. Call out to the Lord (Psalm 61:1)
2. Ask for help! (Psalm 70:1)
3. Tell God about your troubles (Psalm 79:4)
4. Admit if you feel abandoned or forsaken (Psalm 89:46-47)
5. Describe what you want God to do (Psalm 90:15)
6. Explain why He should act on your behalf (Psalm 102:18-20)
7. Give a candid appraisal of your enemy (Psalm 109:3)
8. Ask God to put that foe in his place (Psalm 109:6-7)
9. Honestly evaluate your guilt or innocence (Psalm 119:30-31)
10. Confess any sins (Psalm 119:176)
11. Affirm your implicit trust in the Lord (Psalm 121:1-2)
12. Praise God for His deliverance (Psalm 124:6-8)
P.S. Do you struggle with control? Is it hard to allow God to be in the driver’s seat of your life? Join us this Sunday at 9:00am or 10:30am as we probe the subject of surrendering our lives to God.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Can we trust Him in all circumstances?

Have you noticed how when something good happens to us we call it “a God thing” or we say “God was at work in my circumstances.” However, if the lab report comes back positive for cancer, the job offer didn’t come to fruition, the house offer fell through, or the school didn’t accept the application, we are silent. Is God not at work in those kinds of things? Is God at work only in my circumstances when things go the way I want them to?
The Bible says “your ears will hear him. Right behind you a voice will say: ‘this is the way you should go, whether to the right or to the left.’” Isaiah 30:21

In faith we know this to be true. He makes my paths straight as I lean on Him and acknowledge Him. (Proverbs 3:5-6) God says He is the only one capable of interpreting circumstances, both the good and the bad. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways…as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than yours and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:9

“God works in all things (good and bad) together for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28

When I see the circumstances the way God does, He says “you will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the tress of the field will clap their hands.” Isaiah 55:12

Will you trust Him with the details of your life? Will you surrender to His sovereign control of all things? Praise God! “Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?” Romans 11:34

He is interested in directing your steps. Will you allow Him? He sees the path before us and calls us forth in faith (read Genesis 22:12), showing us there are no coincidences in His design, only God managed circumstances (both the good and what may appear to us as bad).

P.S. You don’t want to miss the Easter Offering celebration presented to three local agencies as well as a new series kickoff call Mind Games: Attitudes that will change your life. Join us and bring a friend Sunday at 9:00am or 10:30am.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

The Miracles of Easter

In preparation for Easter, I have been reading from the gospel accounts those events that transpired during Jesus’ last week leading up to the resurrection.
I had forgotten many of those miracles that occurred during his crucifixion and resurrection. Since I had forgotten them, I thought maybe you have too. I am listing six miracles, the scripture references, and the significance of each one. My encouragement to you is to spend some time this week interacting with each miracle and growing in appreciation for what they represent to your own anticipated resurrection.

The Miracle: The miraculous darkness
The Scripture: Luke 23:44-45
The Significance: Symbolizes the inconceivable suffering of Jesus. God is light, sin is darkness and Jesus is paying for our darkness.

The Miracle: The tearing of the temple curtain
The Scripture: Matthew 27:51
The Significance: Jesus was torn completely so that through His sacrifice we might come immediately into God’s presence.

The Miracle: The miraculous earthquake
The Scripture: Matthew 27:51
The Significance: It is the reaction of physical creation to the work of redemption. Creation had been effected by His victory.

The Miracle: The miracle of the open graves
The Scripture: Matthew 27:52
The Significance: His death destroyed the power of death.

The Miracle: The undisturbed grave clothes of Christ
The Scripture: John 20:6-8
The Significance: Jesus’ body was gone but it was not removed by human intervention.

The Miracle: Revivals to life in the graveyard
The Scripture: Matthew 27:52-53
The Significance: Jesus’ resurrection assures the saints' resurrection into life.

Enjoy the miracles of Easter!

P.S. Have you ever doubted the reality of something? Have you ever questioned if something is really true? Thomas, one of the disciples did. His doubt led him to faith. Come and join us on Easter morning at 9:00am or 10:30am to discover how doubts can lead us to faith. Bring a friend with you!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Easter is coming. Are you prepared?

Most of us do a good job preparing for Christmas. Signs go up telling us something special is going to happen. We hang wreaths, light candles, trim the tree, wrap gifts and string lights. But how do you prepare for Easter?
For Easter, many of us as Christ followers do nothing more than dye a few eggs, buy a new outfit and BAM! You’re done. All set. Finito. And yet Easter is the most important day of the year…or it should be. It’s the day we celebrate the central event of history, the day Jesus rose from the dead, the event that validates the cross of Jesus. How do we prepare ourselves for this glorious day?

This coming Sunday is Palm Sunday. Starting on that day, commit your whole week to preparing yourself for Easter. Read Luke 19:28-44 and Matthew 21:1-11. Apply three things from this story. First, do what Jesus says. He told two disciples to go get a donkey at a village. They obeyed. Is He asking you to forgive someone? To give something? To take something? To say yes to something? To say no to something? Whatever he says to you, do it.

Second, feel what Jesus feels. As He approached Jerusalem, He wept over the city because they did not recognize the time of God’s coming to them. His heart was broken because of the people. Will you let your heart be broken for those who are hurting, those who are wandering, those who are searching and those who don’t know they are searching? You know who they are; your neighbor, coworker, roommate, brother, sister, mom, dad, close friend, casual acquaintance, those who haven’t experienced peace, deliverance and freedom through faith in Christ.

Third, tell who Jesus is. As He entered Jerusalem on the donkey, people asked, “Who is this?” This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee. To prepare for Easter lets start on Palm Sunday by telling our coworkers, friends, family, classmates, and so on who Jesus is. Tell them He is risen, He is risen indeed.

P.S. There are certain things that make changes come about, but there is one thing that changes everything. Want to know what it is? Come worship with us Sunday at 9:00 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. to find out.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Disappointments: Has God failed you?

Disappointments come in all shapes and sizes. You know the disappointment of not making the team or a musical group. Some know the disappointment of not being hired for a certain job. Others have had a dream shattered or plans changed.
I’m sure Abraham was disappointed in the behavior of his nephew Lot. Joseph was disappointed in the treatment he received from his brothers. The heart of Moses surely was broken again and again because of the sins of the nation of Israel. King David had great plans for his family, yet some of his sons were so sinful they almost wrecked the nation. Paul had disappointments when some of his helpers failed him and deserted him.

Jeremiah knew a lifelong list of disappointments, suffering, unanswered prayers, rejection by people, family turned against him, overrun by his enemies. You talk about disappointment and a broken heart-Jeremiah is the poster child for such things.

He wrote in Jeremiah 10:19 “Woe is me, because of my injury! My wound is incurable. But I said truly this is a sickness and I must bear it.” This verse teaches us a couple of very important principles. First, expect disappointments. Life is not always going to be sunny and clear. There will be days and perhaps weeks when life is stormy and dark. Everyone will have their share of disappointments. The Lord never promises us an easy life, so expect disappointments.

Second, our disappointments are in the hands of God. God knows what is happening. God is in control and He was ruling over Jeremiah’s life and is ruling over your life.

When disappointments come (and they will) don’t let the enemy say “God has failed you.” Disappointments are His appointments. It takes faith to believe and rest upon that truth, but it is true-God is still on the throne and He is going to accomplish His wonderful purpose in our lives-if we let Him.

If you fight circumstances and become bitter, then God cannot accomplish in us and through us all that He has in mind. If we yield and trust Him to do what is best, then all things will work together for your good. (Read Romans 8:28)

Jeremiah did not blame God, try to pass the buck, fight circumstances, or try to change God’s mind. He accepted by faith the burden of his grief, and he trusted God to work out His perfect will. And so should you. Yield to God today and let him do His perfect work in you.

P.S. Have you ever been stressed? Overwhelmed? Have you been late for a meeting? Overcommitted to your schedule? Do you ever feel there is no time to relax? To unwind? If you answered yes to any of these questions-join us on Sunday at 9:00am and 10:30am to discover how to build margins in your life. And bring a friend with you!