Thursday, August 10, 2017

Don't Put it Off

Do you have anything in your life that you’ve been putting off? You know, something you keep saying to yourself, “Someday I’ll get to it”? It can be as simple as cleaning out your garage, washing the car, or giving away the clothes that no longer fit. It can also be as serious as getting your finances in order or securing a last will and testament.

In my conversations with many Christians, one of the things I often hear is, “Baptism, oh yeah. I’ll get around to it one of these days.”

I encourage you not to wait any longer. Be baptized at our next baptism on Sunday, October 8th. It begins by contacting my assistant, Kylie, at the church office.

Below are some helpful things to remember about water baptism. Remember, Jesus said it was part of the mission of the church in terms of making disciples.

“Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”   --Matthew 28:19-20 (NLT)

What is baptism? Baptism is an act of obedience to God that publically professes the new life that is given to a person when they trust in Christ as their Savior. Through baptism, being immersed in water is symbolic of being identified with Christ’s death (and putting to death what the Bible calls the “old nature”). When a person is raised up from the water, this is symbolic of being identified with the “new life” that is found in having a personal relationship with Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Why should I be baptized? Most importantly, a believer should be baptized out of obedience to God’s command. Baptism is also the means through which a believer publicly professes that he/she is now a follower of Christ. Through baptism, the believer is also following Christ’s example. In Mark 1:9, we read “… Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan.”

Is baptism necessary for salvation? Baptism does not make you a follower of Christ, nor does it guarantee your eternal destiny in heaven. Baptism is like a wedding ring- it is the outward symbol of an inward commitment that you have made.

Don’t let baptism fall prey to the “I’ll get around to it someday” trap. Act today and call the church office.

Blessings,


Mark "The Bru" Brunott


P.S. Come this Sunday at 9:15 or 11:00 as we walk through that last topic of the series ‘Is it okay for a Christian to…?’ This Sunday will be one of the harder topics in our series, ‘Is it okay for a Christian to attend a gay wedding?’

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.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

What do you think?

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

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

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

Blessings,
Pastor Mark "The Bru" Brunott

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

Thursday, May 11, 2017

An Interesting Proposal

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

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

Thursday, May 4, 2017

25 Things People want from Church


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

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

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

Blessings,

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

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Forgiveness

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

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

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

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

Blessings,
Mark "The Bru" Brunott


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

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Keeping the Momentum

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

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

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

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Letting Go of Lonliness

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

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

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


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

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Take a Personal Inventory

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

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

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

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

Blessings,


Mark "The Bru" Brunott


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