Thursday, December 14, 2017

Don't Miss Christmas This Christmas

December 15, 2016, Max Lucado captured the heart of the story of Christmas on when he wrote:
Perhaps our world, and your life, resembles a Bethlehem stable. Crude in some spots, smelly in others. Not much glamour. Not always neat. People in your circle remind you of stable animals: grazing like sheep, stubborn like donkeys, and that cow in the corner looks a lot like the fellow next door.
The moment Mary touched God’s face is the moment God made his case: There is no place he will not go. If he is willing to be born in a barnyard, then expect him to be at work anywhere: bars, bedrooms, boardrooms, and brothels. No place is too common. No person is too hardened. No distance is too far. There is no person he cannot reach. There is no limit to his love. When Christ was born, so was our hope.
Actually, I think we need Christmas more than ever this year.
We could use a season that is dedicated to giving, not receiving; to caring, not critiquing. Put away our differences. Put up the Christmas tree. Take comfort in the familiar story and the ancient carols. Our world, like that of Bethlehem, is difficult and crowded. Our days can feel as cold and uncertain as that midnight manger. Yet in the midst of it all, let’s do what Mary did. Let’s invite the source of peace to enter our world. Let’s find hope, once more, in the infant King.
God became one of us so we could become one with him. That is the promise of Bethlehem.

Let’s not waste the opportunity this Christmas to invite someone to hear the Christmas story. Many of you will be with family, and that’s important. But let’s go out of our way to ask the neighbor family who doesn’t attend church to sit with us at the Christmas Eve service. It doesn’t have to interfere with your Christmas plans. Perhaps you know someone who is all alone this Christmas. Or an international student who has no place to attend this Christmas. Is there a business associate going through a tough time or someone you are aware of is experiencing a loss this Christmas? Everyone needs to be at a Christmas Eve service at 2:00, 3:30, or 5:00 pm to be reminded of the hope we have in the infant King.
Pastor Mark
P.S. Are you anxious, overwhelmed, or depressed? Do you feel like your life lacks purpose and meaning? Join me this Sunday at 9:00 and 10:30 as we discover how life can have meaning and purpose all because Jesus came at Christmastime.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Some Things Never Change

In a world of constant change and a culture of rapid change, isn’t it reassuring to have some constants- some things that never change, no matter how fast everything around you does? Here is a list of things you can always bank on, know never change, and give you a sense of security in an ever changing culture:
1.        The Bible is still the Word of God.  ‘The grass withers and the flowers fade, but the Word of our God stands forever’ (Isaiah 40:8).
2.       The Gospel still changes lives. ‘Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said. He was buried, and He was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said.’ (I Corinthians 15:3-4). ‘For this is how God loved the world: He gave His one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life’ (John 3:16). God still changes people from the inside out through the Gospel.
3.       Life Groups are vital. Meeting with others in community for prayer, Bible study, accountability, service, and growth is invaluable. ‘They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity- all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people’ (Acts 2:46-47).
4.       The Mission Field still needs workers. ‘The harvest is great, but the workers are few. So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask Him to send more workers into His fields’ (Matthew 9:37-38). Your mission field is outside your front door. You don’t have to travel far to find it.
5.        Prayer is still powerful. ‘The earnest prayer of a righteous man has great power and produces wonderful results’ (James 5:16).
6.       Hurting people still need ministering to. ‘Brothers and sisters, we urge you to warn those who are lazy. Encourage those who are timid. Take tender care of those who are weak. Be patient with everyone. See that no one pays back evil for evil, but always try to do good to each other and to all people’ (1 Thessalonians 5:14-15).
7.        God is still in control. ‘Furthermore, because we are united with Christ, we have received an inheritance from God, for He chose us in advance, and He makes everything work out according to His plan’ (Ephesians 1:11).
The next time you feel overwhelmed with rapid changes and you can’t keep up, remember some things never change. God never changes. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

Mark Brunott

P.S. If we’re honest, the holidays can really be hard. We know that Jesus cares about us. But what difference does that make? Join us this Sunday at 9 or 10:30 AM to find out.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Have a positive outlook

Our world sure does have its troubles doesn’t it? Violence, war, crime, breakups, disease, prisons, terrorism, economic breakdowns… And yet, we are not to be a negative people. There is nothing worse in this world than a negative Christian!

In fact, the Apostle Paul tells us to be a rejoicing people. The process of becoming a rejoicing people and the process of becoming a positive influence in our world means we focus on positive thoughts. We concentrate on things that are true, honest, just, pure, and lovely, of good report, have virtue, and are worthy of praise. (Read Philippians 4:8-9.)

Sadly, not all Christians are positive. You don’t have to go far to find negative Christians. Honestly, this is an area I struggle with. That’s one of the reasons I’m writing this Freshly Bru’d. So, how do we keep ourselves from becoming negative?

First, respond to God’s love. His love is revealed to us on a daily basis. You see it in spite of circumstances, through answered prayer, through the work of Jesus on the cross, in creation, and in the Bible. These things should help with focus.

Second, reprogram the way you think. This is harder to do in our day of instant awareness of what’s happening. But we are to transform our minds daily with God’s word, we are to think or meditate on praise worthy things. You are not only what you eat, but what you think.

Third, you have to recognize the best in others. Remember, no one is perfect. There are no perfect people, churches, jobs, parents, children, or spouses. The things we remember about others and the things we pass on about others stem from our thoughts about them. Think positive thoughts of them and you will speak positive words of them.

Fourth, to be positive in our negative world you’ve got to reach out to the lost and hurting people. Winning people to faith and seeing them develop in their faith will always bring positive joy into anyone’s life. Be positive!
Pastor Mark "The Bru" Brunott

P.S. Are you overwhelmed this Christmas? Are you having the time of your life this Christmas? Are you joyful? Are you sad? Is it a wonderful time for you or a difficult time of the year? This week we begin our Christmas series, “The Most Wonderful Time…Really?” Join us at 9:00 and 10:30 on Sunday as we discover how to make it the most wonderful time of year, for real. This Sunday we also welcome guest harpist, Katie Wychulis, as she enhances the start of our Christmas celebration.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Where is God when it hurts?

We all have been trying to make sense out of the mass shooting that killed 26 people, including children, during a worship service in Sutherland Springs, Texas. When these kinds of thing happen we sometimes wonder where is God when it hurts, when bad things happen, and tragedy strikes. I believe He is right in the middle of it.

We don’t stand alone in the midst of helpless rage at life’s injustice. We don’t grieve privately. Jesus shares in our grief, weeping with us. I say this because my Bible reminds me it is so. Did you know Jesus wept on three occasions (at least three times were recorded in the Bible)? He wept over an individual (Lazarus) in John 11:35. He wept over a nation (Israel) in Luke 19:41. He wept over humanity as a whole (in the garden of Gethsemane) found in Mark 14:33.

We find Jesus weeping beside our tombs. He snorted with anger and wept with grief; anger at what sin has done to the human race; anger at what sin had done to blind the eyes of God’s chosen people. The Bible says, ‘We have a chief priest who is able to sympathize with our weaknesses’ (Hebrew 4:15). Jesus understands our pain. He knows every fear, every scrape, every scar, and every surgery. He knows every heartbreak and heartache.

But Jesus does more than weep, He comforts with promises of Hope.
  • All who believe in Him have everlasting life.
  • All who believe will rise from the grave.
  • All who believe will escape the second death.
Promises of Hope that one day everything really will be made right. Biblical Hope is not a mere aspiration, it is certainty coupled with glad anticipation. We can be certain because Jesus has the power to keep those promises.

So whatever struggles you personally face, whatever senseless tragedies we are exposed to, whatever sorrows and pains we face, remember we do not weep alone. You have Jesus.

Pastor Mark "The Bru" Brunott

P.S. We tend to complicate, well, everything. The same is true for Jesus Christ and His gospel. Join us Sunday at 9:00 or 10:30 AM to simplify Jesus and His Gospel. 

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Get Your Bounce Back

What a week I’ve had... I was getting ready for family to come in to celebrate my mother’s 90th Birthday when two people died within 24 hours of each other. So I was planning two funerals the same weekend as the Birthday celebration. Then I officiated the two funerals while nursing the ongoing problem with sciatica and wobbly legs. Now, I’m not writing this for any kind of sympathy or for you to feel sorry for me. I know we all have these kinds of weeks from time to time.

But when I add to the list the tragedy of what took place at the Baptist Church in Texas, I will admit, I got a little discouraged. And I know that when we get discouraged, it opens the door for our adversary to come into our lives and try to defeat us.

I was reading one of my favorite blogs by Rick Warren and he was talking about four things to do when you find yourself being discouraged. He actually was writing about what Nehemiah did from the fourth chapter of Nehemiah.

The first thing to do is rest your body. That’s what Nehemiah did, and that is what I’m going to do as soon as I finish this blog. Sometimes the most spiritual thing you can do in a moment of exhaustion and discouragement is to go to sleep. (Psalm 127:2) It is useless for you to work so hard from early morning until late at night, anxiously working for food to eat; for God gives rest to his loved ones.

Second, reorganize your work. Nehemiah did that for the families. He gave them new assignments and tasks. Tomorrow, I have cancelled some regular scheduled meetings and activities and am going to read about a new approach to accomplishing tasks.

Third, Warren says you must remember the Lord. His point is that when we get discouraged, we sometimes choose to think discouraging thoughts. What I am going to do is read Philippians 4:4-8, focusing on verse eight and then write out my prayer using the following acronym: ACTS
  • Adoration- focusing on God’s attributes and works
  • Confession- confessing my sin and discouragement
  • Thanksgiving- listing as many things I can think of that I’m thankful for
  • Supplication- praying for the specific needs I am aware of
Fourth, resist the enemy. James 4:7 states ‘Resist the devil.’ I know he wants to discourage me, defeat me, but greater is He (the Holy Spirit) who is in me than he (the Devil) who is in the world.

And when we resist him, he flees. Victory is ours because of Jesus Christ. So when you’re feeling down or discouraged, these four things can help you bounce back.

Pastor Mark "The Bru" Brunott

P.S. God’s will is simpler to know and understand than you may realize. It’s not about what job to take, where to live, who to marry. If it’s not about those kinds of things, what is it all about? Join me at 9:00 and 10:30 and discover the answer. Why not bring a friend with you who might have some questions about knowing God’s will?

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Disappointments are God's Appointments

What has been the greatest disappointment of your life? Perhaps it’s on this list:
  • Not getting that promotion
  • Early death of a loved one
  • An event that changed your academic or career goals
  • Not getting married
  • Marrying the person you married
  • Getting a divorce
  • Having a rebellious child
  • Not providing enough for your family
The list of disappointments goes on and on. Disappointments come in different sizes, shapes, and pain levels.

Disappointment is the feeling of dissatisfaction that follows the failure of expectations or hopes to manifest. It is similar to regret, but it differs in that a person who feels regret focuses primarily on the personal choices that contributed to a poor outcome. A person feeling disappointment focuses on the outcome itself.

Often when we experience disappointment, we get extremely frustrated with ourselves, with life, with others, and with God. When that happens, here are five simple steps to take to help with those disappointing and frustrating times in your life.

Step One: Ask yourself, “Did I cause it?” The Bible says ‘we reap what we sow.’ We often bring frustrating things upon ourselves. When that happens you have to ask, “Who’s to blame?”

Step Two: Ask yourself, “What can I learn from it?” Use the disappointment, the frustration, and the irritation as an opportunity to grow in character and become more like Christ.

(Romans 8:28-29) And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.

Step Three: Thank God in the situation. You don’t have to be thankful for a bad situation, but you can be thankful in a bad situation.

(1 Thessalonians 5:18) Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.

Step Four: Turn the disappointment into a funny, humorous event. A sense of humor is God’s antidote to anger and frustration.

(Proverbs 17:22) A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit saps a person’s strength.

Step Five: Ask God to fill you with His love. Instead of focusing on your frustration, focus on others, on Him, and let His love compel you to a healthier response.

(Isaiah 26:3) You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!

Try these five principles out the next time you find yourself disappointed or frustrated. You might want to keep a copy of them on your refrigerator door or dashboard of your car. Perhaps your office desk would be another appropriate place to have a copy.

P.S. Do you find yourself discontented with your car, house, job, life, or whatever? What about your spiritual life and journey? Do you believe there has to be more than what you are experiencing currently? This Sunday we begin a new series entitled: Uncomplicated: Making Christianity Simple. These questions will be explored as we begin to probe the book of Colossians for answers.

P.S.S. Don’t forget to set back your clocks one hour AND we are starting our new service times: 9:00 First Service and 10:30 Second Service.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Don't Waste Your Pain

For the last three weeks I have been suffering with some sciatic nerve pain. Perhaps you have seen me waddling up to the platform to preach or walking around with a cane. I must say that the pain is excruciating. And as a typical male, I waited until my arm started getting numb before calling the doctor to learn how to correct the problem.

During my time of suffering, fellow sciatic suffers have given me some therapy tips: ice cube baths, whirl pool baths, chiropractic adjustments, acupuncture, sleeping in a recliner, lying on the floor and attempting certain stretches, and of course my favorite suggestion: lose weight.

But, in the midst of the pain, I got to thinking about those people who live with chronic pain. My sciatic pain will eventually subside. But so many people have to live with chronic pain daily. How in the world can they do that?

Then I remembered what the Apostle Paul said in 2 Corinthians 12:9 about his struggle with his pain. He concluded this: ‘God’s grace is all you need, God’s power works best in weakness.’

His grace is sufficient today and will help me today, and then tomorrow His grace will be sufficient and on and on. He gives me the strength, the peace, and the help I need in that moment. When God is all you have, you turn to Him and realize He’s all you needed in the first place.

The thing I’ve come to appreciate about my recent pain episode is ‘when I am weak, the power of Christ works through me’ (2 Corinthians 12:9b). It makes me more compassionate to the pain of others. It helps me identify with the hurts of others.

God never wastes a hurt. He will use the pains, wounds, difficulties of life, to enable us to be better encouragers, prayer warriors, supporters, and comforters of others.

Pastor Mark "The Bru" Brunott

P.S. Did you realize the Bible contains some ‘dirty words?’ Many in our culture would say that these words are perhaps the most demeaning and devaluing words to be spoken. What are they? What do they have to do with relationships? Join me this Sunday at 9:15 or 11:00 AM to discover the answers.

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.”

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.”

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’?

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.

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.

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?

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.


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.

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.


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.

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.


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!

Pastor Mark "The Bru" Brunott