Thursday, October 19, 2017

A Study in Contrasts

Let me give you a brief study in contrasts. The first part sounds negative, horrible, and comes across as a downer. Yet, it is our reality; it also makes the second part all the more wonderful and marvelous.

The first part of the contrast comes from Hebrews 4:13. ‘Nothing in all creation is hidden from God. Everything is naked and exposed before God’s eyes.’ Included in the ‘nothing’ is our sin. The Bible defines sin as “missing the mark.” Anytime we miss the mark of God’s perfection that qualifies as a sin in God’s eyes.

Let me break that down in terms we can understand:
  • We think something that God would never think. Sin.
  • We look at something God would never look at. Sin.
  • We say something God would never say. Sin.
  • We don’t do or say something God would do or say. Sin.
  • We look at a person in a way God would never view a person. Sin.
  • We treat our spouse, children, grandchildren, and friends in an uncaring or unloving way. Sin.
  • We act like somebody we’re not. Sin.
  • We react in fear instead of trust. Sin.
  • We lie, cheat, or steal. Sin.
  • We act selfishly. Sin.
Depressing isn’t it? Honestly, if I were God, and I’m glad I’m not, I would be fed up with me. I would say, “Mark is a mess. He just keeps on sinning and sinning. What am I going to do with this guy?” Well, let’s get the second part, the best part of the contrast. This contrast is taken from Psalm 94:18 “When I said, ‘My foot is slipping,’ your unfailing love, Lord, you supported me.”

Our Savior says:
  • They’re broken, but I can work with that since I’m bigger than their defects.
  • They failed me, but they’re forgiven.
  • They’ve got a long way to grow, but I will never give up on them.
  • They are a mess sometimes, but they are my mess and my children, and the apple of my eye.
  • They are forgiven because they trusted in my final work on the cross and resurrection, and will never be more forgiven than they are right now.
  • They are already loved, and will never be more loved than I love them at this very moment.
Wow! Isn’t that great? Doesn’t that fill your heart with joy? It does mine. I still need to grow. I still need to change. Becoming more like Jesus is always the goal; saying no to sin should always be my desire. But how great to know that nothing separates me from God and His love!

“And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today or our worries about tomorrow- not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below- indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Blessings,
Pastor Mark "The Bru" Brunott


P.S. In today’s culture, we are surrounded with opportunities to be alone. But is this what Christ desires for us? Join us Sunday at 9:15 or 11 AM to discover why we should pursue real community.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

A Personal Longing

Do you ever long for heaven? This was one of those weeks when I have. I came back from a beautiful week in Northern Minnesota with the fall colors thinking this must be what heaven looks like. I can’t wait.

I then went to church to be with the community of people I love. We sang praises to God, heard God’s word preached by Pastor Brian, and I thought: This is but a taste of what heaven will be like around the throne of God. Voices of people from every tongue, nation, and tribe will be praising God.

After church, I experienced the pain of this world. I met with a family at a funeral home, making arrangements for their 18 year old son who has died. Oh how I long for heaven.

Then I talked to a good friend who told me about one of his clients who has a 12 year old daughter with bone cancer. Oh how I long for heaven.

I woke up Monday morning to hear about 58 killed and 500 injured in Las Vegas at a concert in the largest mass-killing in U.S. history. Oh how I long for heaven.

Added to that, I spoke with one of our dear brothers who is in hospice care at Monarch, living out his last days. Oh how I long for heaven.

I also called another dear friend who has some unidentified infection and has to be flown to Mayo Clinic in hopes to determine what it is. Oh how I long for heaven.

Then to see the devastation of the hurricanes most recently in Puerto Rico, I once again said: ‘Oh how I long for heaven.’

Added to the above, very minor in comparison, I’m experiencing the aches and pains of my body approaching 65. Oh how I long for heaven.

I took some time out of it all to read the following words. First the words of Jesus from John 14:1-6. “Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am. And you know the way to where I am going.” “No, we don’t know, Lord,” Thomas said. “We have no idea where you are going, so how can we know the way?” Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.”

Second, the words of Revelation 21:3-5. I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. 4 He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.” 5 And the one sitting on the throne said, “Look, I am making everything new!” And then he said to me, “Write this down, for what I tell you is trustworthy and true.”


Blessings,
Pastor Mark "The Bru" Brunott

P.S. What does the word “commitment” mean? Is commitment over-rated? How does it relate to our spiritual lives? How do I know if I am really committed? Join me this Sunday at 9:15 and 11:00 to discover the answers to these questions.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Success in God's Eyes

I looked up how many titles have “success” in them on Amazon books and came up with over 6,000 titles. In contrast, titles with “failure” in terms of ‘how to’ were 9. It suggests to me how we tend to overrate success in our culture and underrate failure. Does God look at success and failure the same way we do? I think not.

For example, we usually measure success by how much money or how many things you have accumulated over the years. But in God’s economy, success is measured by faithful obedience. Jesus said, ‘Well done my good and faithful servant’ to both the servants who received differing amounts of silver (Matthew 25).

‘Now, a person who is put in charge as a manager must be faithful’ (1 Corinthians 4:2).

In man’s kingdom, success is measured by things like independence, personal strength, and survival of the fittest. But in God’s kingdom, success involves embracing dependence upon God and understanding that when we are weak, He is strong.

In John 15 we are reminded that Jesus is the vine and we are the branches. The closer the connection between the two, the better; we become stronger in our weaknesses. The last part of verse 5 says, ‘For apart from me, you can do nothing.’ Paul, the Great Apostle who wrote much of our New Testament, performed miracles, endured all kinds of trials, hardships, and tests concluded, ‘For when I am weak, then I am strong,’ (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).

I have one last thought on success as measured by God instead of how the world measures it. With God, success is measured by our resiliency- the ability to become strong or successful after something bad happened, to recover after the wind has been knocked out of you, to get up when the chips are down, to keep our eyes on the prize. Success, no matter what the hardship, difficulty, problem, burden, or pain, is being able to say what Paul said at the end of his life. ‘I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have remained faithful’ (2 Timothy 4:7).

Are you successful the way God measures success? If so, what do you need to keep doing to continue being successful? If not, what changes do you need to make so you can finish the race well and hear the words, ‘Well done my good and faithful servant’?

Blessings,
Mark "The Bru" Brunott


P.S. If I were to ask you, “Are you a grace-filled person?” How would you answer? How can you tell? For that matter, what is grace? Join us this Sunday morning at 9:15 or 11:00 AM to discover what the Bible has to say about being a grace-filled person.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Broken Relationships - Is Restoration Possible?

You have often heard me say that we were made for relationships. First and foremost, we were made to have a relationship with God through His one and only Son, Jesus, and second a relationship with each other. That is why I am such a supporter and participant in Life Group Ministry. It’s for building relationships with others; learning, serving, laughing, helping, praying, and supporting each other. Did you know that there are about 50 ‘one another’ statements in the Bible? Every statement was designed to show us how to relate to each other.

But what happens when a relationship breaks down for some reason? Is there a way to restore the relationship? Of course there is. Isn’t that what the cross of Jesus is all about? Reconciling a broken relationship (God with man because of man’s sin) through the cross of Jesus is one of the purposes of the cross of Jesus. And it offers the same kind of hope of reconciliation to us in our human relationships.

In Philippians 2:6-8, we are told that in order for us to be reconciled to God, Jesus had to humble Himself. Paul says we ought to have the same attitude toward others: Thinking about others more than yourself. One of the reasons why so many relationships fall apart is because so many people are unwilling to do the serious work that humility requires. Yet, the Bible commands us to ‘clothe yourselves with humility toward one another’ (1 Peter 5:5) and ‘God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble’ (James 4:6).
Grace is the power to change. Grace is the power to heal a relationship. Grace is the power to receive forgiveness and offer forgiveness. Grace is the power to restore what you thought was dead.

Let me give you a couple of practical tips which demand humility that can help you if you are experiencing a broken relationship.
1.        Ask God to help you be reconciled to that person.
2.       Affirm their value as a person. Romans 12:10 says, ‘Have a profound respect for each other.’ Tell them that you value them.
3.       Acknowledge your part of the problem. Not their part, but YOUR PART. Where you blew it, where you were wrong. Ask them to forgive you for the part you played in the fracture.
4.       Accept what the future holds for the relationship. It may be reconciled completely. It may not be. If you have done your part- you must leave the rest up to the Lord.

Blessings,
Mark "The Bru" Brunott


P.S. If I were to say to you: You are creative. You are gifted. You have a talent. What would your response be? Join me this week at 9:15 or 11:00 as we discover what the Bible has to say about creativity.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Are You Easily Distracted?

Sometimes I look at my spiritual development and say, ‘I should be further ahead’ or ‘I’m not as spiritually mature as I should be.’ And then I begin to come up with all my reasonably good and noble reasons why this is so, some of my reasons are:
Church ministry is so demanding. It wears a pastor out emotionally. Life is just too busy. There just isn’t enough time in the day. It’s the enemy. Satan doesn’t want me to have any intimacy with the Heavenly Father so he diverts me any way he can. Grandchildren. They demand so much time. Oh, they’re a blast to be around, but it is very time consuming. Church business. I get so busy putting out fires- going from this event to that event- who has time for spiritual growth and development?
But honestly, the reason I’m not developing spiritually is not because of the enemy, church busy-ness, the time it takes to prepare a sermon, or my grandchildren. It’s because I’m too easily distracted. If I were a betting man, and I’m not, I would bet you struggle with the same problem- distractions. Distractions hamper productivity, and most of us don’t realize how it affects our spiritual growth.
Why not try a little experiment on yourself? Count the number of times you get ‘interrupted’ during a day. I am defining an interruption as any media notification. One study concluded that workers are interrupted every 3 minutes at their job and it takes 25 more minutes to get back into the groove. If we would apply that to our spiritual development, is there any question if we are growing or not?
What’s the solution? Well, you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to answer that one. Minimize the distractions! That’s right. But the better question is: How do I minimize the distractions so I can have uninterrupted time with God?
I suggest three things:
1.        Go off the grid. No phones, emails, kids, spouses, coworkers, TV, or any other kind of electronics. Find a private, secluded spot. You may have to get up earlier in the morning or you may have to wait until everyone at home is in bed and find a secluded spot.
2.       Pray that God would speak to you in the quiet, uninterrupted moments. Don’t be disappointed if it always doesn’t appear as if He is. Stay at it. Try something different; read the prayers of others, write out your prayers, and say your prayers out loud.
3.       Listen to God as you read His word. Here again, you don’t have to have a reading program. You can use a devotion. Whatever helps you listen- use that.
The whole point of all of this is to minimize the distractions of life so we can grow spiritually and be more like Jesus.

Blessings,
Mark "The Bru" Brunott


P.S. Do you ever regret not taking a certain job or not taking the risk on a financial investment? Do you ever regret not spending enough time with your kids when they were growing up or regret a missed opportunity? What can be done to refocus on the future? Join me this Sunday at 9:15 or 11:00 to learn how we can reset and live abundantly after missing a promising opportunity.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Who Do You Hang Out With?

It is a very natural thing for us as believers to want to hang out with other believers. One of the expressions that was first discovered in the early church and continues today is ‘fellowship’ (see Acts 2:42). It means ‘to have in common.’ Believers have in common a love for God and His word.

But what about those who are far from God? What about those around you who are not like-minded when it comes to spiritual things, the church, etc. Are any of those people on your friends list? Do you spend time with them? If not, why not?

One of the common criticisms Jesus faced was that He spent too much time with sinners. He associated with the unwelcomed and unappreciated of society. Are we not to be like Jesus? How many of us could be accused of spending too much time with the ‘down and outers’ of our culture?

I read somewhere that once a person becomes a believer, he distances himself from his unbelieving friends within 18 month. That’s tragic. If we hope to have any kind of lasting influence and impact for eternity in the lives of our unbelieving friends, we have to have contact. In order to have contact, we must begin by spending time and investing energy in being with them. No contact- no impact.

Jesus talked about His own ministry in two ways. First, Jesus came to serve. Jesus showed kindness to those who were hurting- the widows, the blind, the broken, and the needy (Luke 4:18). Second, Jesus came to save the lost (Luke 19:10). Serving and saving were the marks of Jesus’ life on earth and they should be the marks of each of us as well (John 20:21).

Who are you hanging out with? One wise sage put it this way: A church without the broken is a broken church.

Are you engaging with the hurting and broken around you? Can you name your neighbors by their first name? Do you find yourself caring about the hurting- showing the love of Christ to the lost?

Blessings,
Pastor Mark "The Bru" Brunott


P.S. Need a reset? Not because you have been wronged or are hurting or in pain, but because you have done the wrong to somebody else. You have deeply hurt another. You have inflicted pain onto someone else. What do you do when WE are the ones inflicting the pain? The broken promise, the unfulfilled vows? Join me this Sunday at 9:15 and 11:00 to discover biblical truth to these questions.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

What does being Grace-Filled mean?

At First Free we often talk about our Mission: To introduce people to Jesus and develop them in to fully devoted followers and to equip them to reach their city and world. Rarely do we talk about our Vision: To be a grace-filled, outward-focused church, full of joyful people who are deeply committed to one another. For just a moment, I want to focus on the phrase ‘to be a grace-filled church.’

What exactly does that phrase mean? It means we are to be a channel of God’s love and grace, corporately and individually. God’s work within us is to clear a channel for His love and grace to flow through me into the lives of anyone and everyone we meet.

Stop for a moment and ask yourself, ‘Who can benefit from God’s love and grace through me right now?’ The answer might be a coworker, a neighbor, a spouse, a child, a grandchild, a fellow student, a stranger, the waitress that waited my table, the grocer who checked me out, or the person next to me at the gym. You don’t have to look very far to find someone in your pathway that needs a touch of love, a gracious word, or a moment of encouragement. God is full of love and grace, and He fills us with His love and grace to pass on to others.

Let these verses encourage you as you learn to live a grace-filled life:
  • 2 Corinthians 3:14 But the people’s minds were hardened, and to this day whenever the old covenant is being read, the same veil covers their minds so they cannot understand the truth. And this veil can be removed only by believing in Christ.
  • 2 Corinthians 9:8 And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others.
  • Numbers 6:24-26 May the Lord bless you and protect you. May the Lord smile on you and be gracious to you. May the Lord show you his favor and give you his peace.
  • 1 Corinthians 16:23 May the grace of the Lord Jesus be with you.
  • 2 Peter 3:18 Rather, you must grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. All glory to him, both now and forever! Amen.

Second, it means that our words will build up, and not tear down. We will be slow to speak and anger, but quick to hear. We will not be judgmental. We will seek to understand before being understood. We will show compassion. We will promote obedience to the truth and forgiveness when it is disobeyed. We will balance grace and truth.

We do all things to the glory of God, and we believe all people matter to God, therefore must matter to us. So let’s not forget our Vision… to be a grace-filled church.

Blessings,

Mark "The Bru" Brunott

P.S. What is the condition of your heart? Is it hardened because of a past hurt or because you’re disappointed in God? Maybe you have experienced a spiritual dry-spell or a spiritual setback due to your circumstances. What can you do to reset and get your life back on track? Join me this Sunday at 9:15 or 11:00 and discover what God’s word has to say about resetting your heart.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Keeping It Intentional

In my reading this week of a church journal, an article caught my eye about the importance of being intentional. Any business or church that coasts or gets lazy in terms of its mission is comparable to walking on thin ice. Eventually, the ice will break and disaster will result, sometimes leading to death.

In order for any institution to thrive, it has to remain intentional about its mission. Just in case you may not know or have forgotten, our mission at First Free is to introduce people to Jesus Christ, develop them into fully devoted followers, and equip them to reach their city and world.

Of course, we cannot fulfill this mission in our own strength and power. We need the power of the Holy Spirit to work in and through each one of us. We must remember that a church that is effective in reaching and changing their surrounding culture does not do so by accident. It is done through intentionality.

Churches will always have a natural drift away from mission into autopilot mode. It’s just the nature of things. We go back to doing church the easiest way we know how, rather than intentionally working (which is always harder) to be the kind of church we need to be.

Look at it this way. If we fail to intentionally be the church, we will just do church (gather on Sunday mornings). If we fail to intentionally make disciples, we will just make fans. If we fail to be authentic, we’ll just perform. If we fail to embrace all people, we will consume everything for ourselves.

So, would you join me, help me, pray with me, hold me accountable, and let me hold you accountable to some intentionality in our mission? Let’s remind ourselves of the mission often, keep Jesus at the center of all we do, and do these things with a sense of desperation. He is coming back soon.

Blessings,
Mark "The Bru" Brunott

P.S. Has someone told lies about you? Have you ever been rejected, betrayed, made the victim of abuse, or hurt from a broken promise? Are you struggling to overcome a regret of the past? Do you wish your life had a ‘reset’ button so you could get a fresh start? Join me this Sunday at 9:15 and 11:00 and we will discover how to spiritually ‘reset’ our lives.

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!