Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Soul Communication

In premarital counseling, I always spend a session with the couple on the importance of communication within their relationship. I talk about the five levels of communication.
Level 1 is cliché communication like, ‘How are you?’ ‘Fine!’ 
Level 2 is like reporting the news: ‘What did you do today?’ ‘I went to work, I came home.’ 
Level 3 communication is sharing an opinion. ‘In my opinion, turnips are absolutely delicious.’ 
It’s just the person’s opinion and that’s all. T
hose three levels of communication are not deep enough to sustain a healthy, deep relationship. Although each level goes a little deeper, they do not go deep enough for a deep, satisfying relationship.

When we begin to communicate at Level 4- the sharing of a conviction- one begins to share more of him/herself. You are sharing a part of you. ‘It is my conviction that children should be loved unconditionally by their parents.’ If you disagree with my conviction- a part of me is being rejected by you.

Of course, Level 5- the deepest of all the levels- is the most open, the most vulnerable, and the most ‘out of the soul’ kind of communication. I tell the couple that they need this kind of communication if they hope to grow in their love, become soul mates, and have a deep, intimate, satisfying, and enriching marriage. I then tell them that to get to this level, you need at least 3 things and these 3 things you really have to work at.
  • First, you have to minimize external distractions. You can’t get to Level 5 Communication amidst a crowd, with screaming kids around, cell phones ringing, televisions on, in front of the computer, etc.
  • Second, you need time. Soul talk with anyone cannot happen if you’re always running off to your next thing or in a few minutes. You need chunks of time.
  • Third, have patience. You don’t get to Level 5 Communication the first week of marriage. In fact, after 42 years of marriage, we still have to work at it.
Why am I boring you with this information? Because if we want to have a deep, intimate, soul-satisfying, authentic relationship with God, we need to communicate with Him at  Level 5 Communication. In order to get to that kind of genuine soul talk with God- which we call prayer- it requires hard work. It requires silence. How much of your life is lived in silence, removed from activity, noise, and distraction?
Second, authentic prayer requires time. It cannot happen in a few minutes, in your car driving to the next appointment. When was the last time you had a block of time- I mean an hour or two or three- just to commune with God?

Third, it takes patience. You have to work at this for a lifetime. It doesn’t happen instantly. So don’t give up- don’t be impatient but strive to have a conversation with God at a soul level.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

What kind of older person do you want to be?

What kind of older person do you want to be?

The question is not designed to describe where you want to live in your older years or how much money you have in your account.  Rather, the question has to do with your character, your personality, and your style of being as you see your life moving forward.

If I were to choose a biblical character who I would love to model in my older years, it would be Caleb.  He was one of twelve men entrusted by Moses with the responsibility of exploring Canaan, in anticipation of a Hebrew invasion.  Ten said, ‘No, we can’t take back the land.’  Joshua and Caleb said, ‘Yes, we can!’

When we read about Caleb again in Joshua 14:6-14, he is in his mid-eighties.  Most of the younger Israelites were being intimidated by the enemy’s fighting ability.  Not Caleb!  He stepped forward to take on the challenge, to fight and take the mountain. (Read Joshua 14)

Three times in this chapter the word ‘wholeheartedly’ is used to describe him.  Everything he did, he did with his whole heart.  This is the kind of man he became.  His enthusiasm, faith, and toughness were not by accident.  Whatever he has done, he has done it wholeheartedly with nothing held back.

It takes a disciple, a determination to live life like that.  I have known a few people like Caleb in my lifetime—and I have to be honest – they are rare.  He was always a man who had strong convictions and lived by them.  He was a man who loved challenges and preferred the toughest of all.  He was a man who had unlimited faith that the God of his youth is the God of his old age.  When others were fearful, he wasn’t.

How many men or women do you know like that- let alone 85-year-olds?  What kind of older person do you want to be?

Here are some of the characteristics I hope to have in my toolbox from the older people I have admired through the years.  I’m confident they were in Caleb’s.
1.        An attitude of gratitude.  This means having a spirit of thankfulness, rather than ‘the world owes me’ attitude.
2.       A mind that is sharp and agile.  I don’t want to quit learning.  I want to revel in new things and new ideas.  If my eyes can’t read anymore, I’ll find someone to read to me.
3.       “I never want to retire.”  Now, that doesn’t mean walk away from a job or a position.  I mean never retire from a life mission of becoming more like Jesus, using your gifts and talents to influence others to Jesus.  Your income production may change but your value production need not change.
4.       Pave the way for the next generation. Let's take an enthusiastic interest in the accomplishments of the younger generation, making them successful whenever possible. 
5.        Don’t be afraid of death.  We should strive to have the attitude of Paul when he writes in Philippians 1:21-24: “For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better.  But if I live, I can do more fruitful work for Christ. So I really don’t know which is better.  I’m torn between two desires: I long to go and be with Christ, which would be far better for me.  But for your sakes, it is better that I continue to live.”
What characteristics would you add to the list?  We all are growing older, so what kind of older person do you want to be?  Respond to me with your answers.

Monday, July 2, 2018

Your Personal Mission

This week I want to write to you about a mission. Not the church’s mission, although that is very important. The mission I want to talk about is your personal life mission.
What do I mean by ‘mission?’ It is the foundational intention that provides meaning and direction to all of your life. If you have a well-defined mission, it provides the grounds for guidance, the choices you make, and the values you live by throughout your life.
Bill O’Brien, CEO of Hanover Insurance, talks about how people enter business as bright, well-educated, high energy people, with the desire to make a difference. Often as people grow older, they lose the commitment, sense of mission, and the excitement they had when they started. When asked what they want in life, they state what they’d like to get rid of. We ought to live our lives with a mission – one that clarifies the things that really matter to us and living our lives in the service of our highest aspirations.1
When you look at the men and women of the Bible, they show us the evidence of personal mastery of mission-driven living.  Some examples include:
  • Moses and his role in the liberation of the Hebrews. 
  • Paul who spent his life preaching Christ and teaching every person in all wisdom, that we might present every person as complete in Christ-likeness (Colossians 1:28).
  • Jesus seeking and saving the lost (Luke 19:10)
Perhaps my favorite is the priest Ezra. ‘This was because Ezra had determined to study and obey the Law of the Lord and to teach those decrees and regulations to the people of Israel.’ (Ezra 7:10) I see a couple of principles from Ezra’s mission statement that each of us should apply to our personal mission statement.First, a mission should include one’s devotion to God. His deepest desire was to please and honor His God.
Second, it should involve a commitment to God’s redemptive work, such as the proclamation of the Good News of the Gospel. Now, for Ezra, this was done primarily through teaching God’s word. But if you’re not a teacher, God still uses you and desires to use your wiring to proclaim Him to your friends and those you know who are far from a personal relationship with Him.
Third, we are called, given the mandate, to serve our own generation. Ezra returned with the exiles from Babylon and taught them the word, modeled the word, obeyed the word before them, not a previous generation. Whether we like our current culture or not, God has placed us here now to serve it- to point people to the redemptive power of Jesus.
Fourth, your mission should take into account a life of holiness that reflects the honor and character of God. Christ-likeness means we often will think, and act, counter-culturally. Obedience is the goal, not becoming the same as the culture (read Romans 12:1-2).
Your mission can be developed by communing with God through worship and praise and obeying His will. Your mission should follow and honor Jesus in your values, choices, gifts, abilities, and organize your life according to Biblical perspectives. Have you written out your personal mission statement? If so, would you mind sending it to me? I’d love to see it!
Pastor Mark "The Bru" Brunott

1. Senge, Peter. (1990). The Fifth Discipline. Pp. 129-162

Monday, June 4, 2018

Spirituality or Spiritual Experience

My daughter and son-in-law are healthy eaters. They have lost 40-50 lbs. each and kept the weight off. I asked them their secret, and they said, ‘Eating healthy is like having a second full-time job.’

I responded, ‘What do you mean?’

‘Well, you have to learn about food and nutrition, and that takes time. Then you have to know how the digestive system works and what foods are good for certain digestive enzymes. Again, that takes time. And then you have to discipline yourself not to eat certain things.’

They don’t eat processed foods, sugar, bread, fruit (except some berries), red meat, or many carbohydrates. Everything has to be fresh- that means more trips to the store. This takes time. Then the food has to be prepared properly. More time. They take classes and read books on how to cook, prepare good tasting foods, and how to keep the nutrients in the food. Then you have to have the cooking tools to prepare the food. On and on it goes; by the time they explained everything to me, I understood what they meant by ‘it’s like having a second full-time job.’

I would have a bowl of Honey Nut Cheerios (which are full of sugar) with milk for breakfast and feel really satisfied- you know, like a sugar high. They would eat protein in some form. Guess who would be hungry in about an hour and a half? Me. They could go hours before needing their next meal.

I use this illustration to compare the difference between spirituality and spiritual experience. Spirituality takes time. It takes discipline and sacrifice. It’s a full-time job of being filled with the Spirit, living victoriously and abundantly.

Spirituality is not knowing more Bible stories, memorizing more Bible verses, or being involved in more church activities. These may be noble ventures but often become religious busyness more than soul purposefulness.

Spirituality is the journey in which God is permitted to guide the way, provide the strength for the journey. It’s learning to take one’s cues from the Holy Spirit, not from the world around us, having heavenly discernment, conviction, and decision. It is evident that the Spirit of God has been invited to dwell in your life (see Ephesians 5:18 and Colossians 3:16).

Spiritual experience is different. It is like eating Cheerios for breakfast: the contentment doesn’t last very long. Spiritual experiences require little discipline of the soul and are usually prompted by an external stimulus (music, persuasive speaking, or intense feelings). Spiritual experiences can happen at any time and are regularly a matter of emotion more than anything else.

Spiritual experiences often bring honor to the musician, speaker, or event instead of honor to God Himself. In a world where the intensity of an experience is of great value, we are easily duped into thinking that a momentary religious experience that leaves us amazed is far more genuine and satisfying than the hard work of developing spirituality. Let’s not settle for that.

Pastor Mark "The Bru" Brunott

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Make Today Awesome!

Cindy and I spent a week with our daughter and son-in-law at their home in Westfield, Indiana as we celebrated our 42nd Anniversary. In the kitchen of their home is a plaque that says, ‘Make today awesome.’ It’s the first thing you see when you walk into the kitchen. It’s really a great mantra to remember.

The Bible would say it this way: ‘This is the day the Lord has made. I will rejoice and be glad in it’ (Psalm 118:24). Shouldn’t we start every day remembering it’s the Lord who gives us this day?

Shouldn’t we live each day to the fullest? Jesus said it well: ‘The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.’ In other words, a life that counts. How do you live a life that counts? By making today awesome! But how do you do that? Here are a couple suggestions:

First, start your day rejoicing as Psalm 118:24 declares. Think about three things you are thankful for.

Second, live like today is your last. James 4:14 declares, ‘How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog- it’s here a little while, then it’s gone.’ So if today was your last- how would you live it? Hopefully, you’d say, ‘No different than how I am living it!’

Third, make the most of every opportunity. Paul says that we should be careful how we live, not foolishly but as people who are wise. Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days. Don’t act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do (Ephesians 5:15-17).

Everything we do should be done with eternity in mind. Everything you do today should be done with a ‘Would Jesus be pleased?’ attitude. Everything you do today should be controlled by the Spirit, not by your flesh.

Fourth, never stop praying (see 1 Thessalonians 5:17). Throughout your day be in an attitude of prayer. I often call this ‘arrow praying.’ Like shooting an arrow into the sky. I pray, ‘Lord, help me today. Lord, give me wisdom in this situation. Lord, forgive me for that attitude. Lord, protect me. Lord, thanks for watching over me.’ You get the idea.

These are just a few ways to ‘make today awesome.’ What would you add to the list? Email me your suggestions.

Pastor Mark "The Bru" Brunott

P.S. Let’s be honest: Parenting isn’t for wimps. We’ve all got questions about parenting young kids, maturing kids, adult kids, and grand kids. Where can you turn for some answers? Join us on Sunday at 9 and 10:30 AM for Biblical insight into some of your most pressing questions.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Try it on for size this summer

In our worship services, we often talk about being an outward-focused kind of church body. What do we mean by ‘outward-focused?’ Many things are included, but let me mention a couple of them.

First, an outward-focused church thinks about people who are far from God. We all have people in our spheres of life who do not know Jesus. They are far from God. God wants to use us to build meaningful relationships with them. As we build meaningful relationships with people far from God, we pray for open doors to share Jesus’ love with them. We recognize God is the one who ‘saves’ people from their sin, but He wants us to invite them to receive Him.

Second, being an outward-focused church has a Lincoln community presence. By this, I mean that our church would be missed if it wasn’t here because our involvement in our community through acts of service make a difference. We want to love our city, pray for our city, and make our city a better place to live. That is why we do things like our ‘Day of Service’ each April and community projects throughout the year.

The third thing we mean by outward-focused lies within the first point. We want people to share their faith in Christ without feeling awkward, uncomfortable, or unnatural. We want sharing the Good News to come naturally, just as you would feel talking about your favorite topic. We are developing people to discover how to share the life-changing story of Jesus on the golf course, over coffee, in the gym, taking a walk, and anywhere and everywhere else.

We have received some guidance to help us as a church from a book written by Pastor Kevin G. Harney, entitled Organic Outreach. Here is one simple idea I want to encourage you to try as you begin your journey with us on being a church of everyday outreach, or an outward-focused church. The author likes to ask servers in restaurants if they have any needs he can pray about. He says, ‘Hey when we get our food, we’re going to have a short prayer. If you think of anything we can pray about for you, just let us know when the food gets here.’

He said it’s amazing how many servers come back with a need. If they don’t, he doesn’t bring it up again. He saw even unbelievers wanting prayer. He says this little thing has opened doors for great conversations, friendships, authentic sharing, and presentations of the Gospel. The prayers aren’t forced or manipulated, just a natural part of the relationship.1

So try it! I am. Tell me what you discover.

Pastor Mark "The Bru" Brunott
P.S. Being a wife today is more confusing than ever. You’ve got TV shows, movies, magazine articles, and social media telling you how to look better, cook better, and be better as a wife. There’s got to be better advice out there.  There is!  Join us Sunday at 9 and 10:30 am to learn what the Bible says is important about being a godly wife.

1. Excerpts taken from Organic Outreach by Kevin G Harney. 117-118. 

Thursday, May 10, 2018

A Great Summer Idea

With summer around the corner, I realize for many of us our schedules and routines change. School is out, vacations are awaiting, we stay up later because the sun sets later, and there are sports activities to fill our days and nights. Because of the change in routine and calendar changes, Life Groups usually take a break and Children’s Ministry and Student Ministries have more trips than their normal Wednesday activities. It’s easy to believe that summertime is one big vacation time and fall prey to what I call the ‘summer slump.’

But God doesn’t take a vacation. He never slumbers or sleeps. He is always with us. He never takes a break. He never experiences a summer slump.

To combat the summer slump spiritually, I want to share with you an idea my Life Group leader shared with our Life Group before breaking for the summer. If you’re in a Life Group and still meeting, I highly suggest you try this. If you are not in a Life Group, connect with 2-3 friends and try it. You can do it by yourself, but it’s far more effective if you try it with at least one other person.

Everybody needs a piece of paper (8.5 x 11), a pen, and a 3 x 5 note card. On the 8.5 x 11 paper, you write down everybody’s responses to the following question: “How do people grow spiritually?” My Life Group came up with about 20 ways. Here were some of the responses we had:
  • Read the Bible
  • Memorize Scripture
  • Journal your daily thoughts
  • Meditate on a passage and look for God’s characteristics
  • Take a walk in nature and enjoy creation
  • Pray consistently
  • Listen to Praise Music
  • Serve others
Our leader then directed us to look over the entire list and put a check mark by 3 or 4 of them that you think are the most important to you. Next, take the 3 x 5 note card and on the top of one side, put your name. Now write the 3 or 4 items you checked as a SMART Goal (Specific – Measurable – Achievable – Realistic – Time-sensitive). For example, I wanted to memorize scripture over the summer. Putting that into a SMART Goal would be: Memorize 2 verses a week, starting May 1 through August 31st, for a total of 34 verses.

You would come up with a SMART Goal for each of the items you checked. On the back side of the card, you would write three personal prayer requests for yourself to see God work in your life over the summer.

Then, exchange your card with another person. Hold them accountable to those things and pray for them over the summer. Try this idea and I believe you will not experience the spiritual summer slump that is so easy to fall prey to.

Pastor Mark "The Bru" Brunott

P.S. What is a Family Hack? Is it a shortcut? No! Is it a trick of some kind? No. By ‘hack’ we mean skill. We’re going to talk about skills needed to ‘do’ family in God’s way. Come at 9:00 or 10:30 AM on Sunday to discover some of these skills.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

The Power of Prayer to Transform a Life

I heard a powerful story this week from a friend of mine about his daughter. We had lunch just to get caught up on life (we have been friends for over 40 years). I had been praying for him and his wife for years over the challenges they had with their adoptive daughter.

She was adopted as a young child. At the time, no one realized she had Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD). It’s likely she received negligent care and wasn't able to form a healthy emotional attachment to her birth mother. This carried over into the lives of my friend, his wife, and their family.

The child-rearing years were difficult. The teenage years were a living nightmare. She was always in trouble at school and home. She struggled with her peers and rebelled at every level. She drank, did drugs, and ran into trouble with the law. Even as a young adult, her life was lived in rebellion and it was hard. Her first marriage ended in divorce.

My friend said there were times when he and his wife didn’t want to get up and face the day. Other times when they wanted to pull their hair out. Some days it felt as though nothing could surprise them anymore. They tried so many different things, but nothing seemed to help. They just prayed and continued to pray. There were times when they felt like giving up, but they kept praying and asking God to get a hold of her life.

A few months ago, I met with my friend for coffee (actually, a diet coke for me. I don’t like coffee.) And asked how it was going. “Oh, we are still praying,” he said. And this week when I asked him he said, “You’ll never believe what is happening.

Last week she called and told us amazing things. She is a car detailer and had her business cards made up with a verse on it: Philippians 4:13 ‘For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.’

She had air fresheners made up to put in the cars after detailed with that verse painted on them. She heard her pastor say, you don’t have to do big things for God, even the small things matter. So she sits in her customer's car after she has finished the detailing and prays for them before they pick the car up.”

She remarried and has three kids. Wow! You talk about life change. I asked my friend, ‘what triggered the change?’ He replied, ‘Prayer.’

I shouldn’t be surprised. The Bible reminds us that the effective prayer of a righteous man accomplishes much (James 5:16). I hope this story encourages you to never give up on praying for those who seem like lost causes or those who are so far from God, it appears like they will never believe. Keep praying. God has the power to change anyone from the inside out.

Pastor Mark "The Bru" Brunott

Monday, April 23, 2018

Day of Service

This Freshly Bru’d is dedicated to our Day of Service (DoS).  These questions were asked of our Local Outreach Pastor, Nat Crawford.

Q1: What do you see as the primary objective of the Day of Service?
The objective of DoS is to show the city that we are #4Lincoln in love and in hope. We want to show the city a picture of Christ’s love through our serving the non-profits and individuals of Lincoln. We want to share hope through the relationships we form in these projects with gospel intentionality.

Q2: When you talk about the church being ‘outward focused’ what does that really mean?
How are we doing as a church in being outward focused? It means as the Church we are to gather and then scatter. We are to come together in the various options to study God’s word, Worship Him, encourage each other, and then go out to the people in our spheres of influence and invest in their lives. By serving them, listening to them, and doing so with prayer to share the gospel when God opens a door.  How are we doing? We are gradually becoming more outward focused. We’re not yet a missional people – people who daily look for everyday outreach moments and capitalize on those God-ordained outreach moments. I think we’ll know we’re “there” when the stories fill the boards, our inboxes, and social media about our time with people who are far from God and the stories of God saving souls and changing lives.

Q3: How many places are we trying to serve in Lincoln?  How many volunteers are needed?
We have more projects and service opportunities this year! We have 25 projects and 401 volunteer slots. As of today, we have 142 spots available.Currently, we have 9 sites with zero or only 1 person signed up. One of these projects is this Saturday, April 21st at Maxey Elementary School.  The others with the greatest needs on April 28th are below:

**Lincoln Parks & Rec: 17 Spots Left**
**Car Wash: 14 Spots Left**
**Lincoln Children’s Zoo: 13 Spots Left**
**Christian Heritage (Afternoon Slot) 12 Spots Left**
**Yard Project: 12 Spots Left**
**Salvation Army: 9 Spots Left**
**Crisis Pregnancy Center: 8 Spots Left**
**Home Improvement Project: 3 spots Left**
**Yard Clean-Up: 3 Spots Available**

Q4: If someone still wanted to volunteer, how could they sign up?
You can sign up for a project at: http://firstfreelincoln.org/day-of-service/

Q 5: How are we connecting our service on that day to our local church? Are we inviting people to church or just telling them we love them?  Are we leaving information or just hoping for the best?
Every encounter we have we want to approach with gospel intentionality and a culture of invitation. We are #4Lincoln in Community. We want people to feel welcome to check out First Free. So as you serve at your sights look for God-sized openings to share the stories of God’s faithfulness in your life and offer the opportunity to check us out.

Q 6: Describe the prayer time on Wednesday night April 25th from 6:30 to 7:15 p.m. for the Day of Service.
This is a time to come before God in prayer to bless our Day of Service, to provide opportunities to invite them to our church and to engage in meaningful conversation about Jesus. And then we’ll worship God in gratitude for the opportunity to serve Him by serving the city.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Taxes and Friends Day

I got the phone call today I always dread this time of year. ‘Your taxes are ready.’ The reason I dread it is because no matter how much I pay quarterly, I always have the privilege of paying a few thousand more. It’s one of the joys of being self-employed.

Nobody likes to pay taxes, and I've noticed that the resentment of the IRS has increased over their misuse of power. Yet, we don’t have it nearly as bad as people did in Jesus’ day. Back then, the tax collectors could collect more than a person owed and pocket the difference.

Jewish tax collectors were seen as traitors to their own people since they collected from Jews for Rome. Tax collectors were despised. While in Capernaum, Jesus walked over to this despised tax collector named Matthew. Jesus asked Matthew to be one of His followers.  Can you image how appalled the people were?

No one was more shocked than Matthew! He was not welcome in the Synagogue and was despised by his fellow Jews, but contrary to what he knew about himself, Matthew was chosen by Jesus as one of the original apostles.

What followed was a big reception for Jesus at Matthew’s house where he invited other tax collectors and his sinful friends (see Luke 5:27-32). Why would he do this? Well, Matthew was so moved that Christ had called him to be a follower, he wanted his friends to meet Jesus and recognize how this Jesus could change their lives too. So, he invited them all to his party to meet Jesus.

As Christ followers, I know you and I have friends far from God that we want to meet Jesus. One way that we can get them to hear how Jesus transforms people’s lives is to invite them to church. This Sunday is Friends Day. A time when we put a little more emphasis than every other week on inviting friends to church.

We begin a new series called ‘First Free Goes to Broadway.’ We will focus on salvation and redemption through stories found in the creative arts. This would be a great series to invite friends to hear the transforming power of the Gospel message.

When the religious leaders saw what Matthew did, they were appalled. They thought it was ridiculous that this man Jesus, who called Himself a Man of God, would mingle with sinners like that. Jesus responded, ‘It is not those who are well who need a physician, but those who are sick.  I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.’

Do you have some friends in need of the Savior? Invite them to join you this Sunday so they can hear how God loves them, how Jesus died for them, then conquered sin and death by being raised from the dead, and how they can be transformed by Him from the inside out.

Pastor Mark "The Bru" Brunott

Monday, April 9, 2018

Smooth Sailing

There’s an African proverb that goes like this: ‘Smooth seas do not make skillful sailors.’ Have you ever thought of life that way?

All of us would love things to go our way all the time. But if they did, we would never learn to trust God for we would never have to trust God.

Well, we all know that life isn’t ‘smooth seas’ all the time. Hard times come. In fact, sometimes the waves of hard times capsize us. Relationships are damaged, financial worries plague us, and there are even times that threaten war. We are overwhelmed with fear and worry.

The clouds and the storms really do come.

Jesus reminded His followers, ‘In this world, you will have trouble.’ But the good news is He didn’t stop there! He also said, ‘Take heart, I have overcome the world.’

Yes, trouble is a fact of life. In fact, if you look at your past week, you probably can think of some trouble. Trouble at work, trouble at home, trouble in a relationship, trouble with money, trouble with schedules, trouble with a personality, trouble with a friend, etc.

But Jesus has given us a means of finding victory- the real victory- even in the hard times. And with each hard time as you learn to trust Him, you become more skillful in living your life.

Will you allow Him to provide all you need to face the good times and the bad? Will you allow Him to use the difficult moments of life to develop you with greater skill in living life?

He is willing and able to provide triumph, even when things look the darkest. It is usually through the storms of life that we learn our most valuable lessons. Put your trust in Christ Jesus.

James, the half-brother of Jesus, said it well: ‘The testing of your faith produces perseverance.’

Pastor Mark "The Bru" Brunott

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Does the "when" matter?

I was reading from the Gospel of Mark this week and came across this verse, ‘In the early morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house, and went away to a secluded place and was praying.’ (Mark 1:35)

Is the point of the verse when we pray? I don’t think so. I’m not a morning person. In fact, I loathe early mornings. And of course, there are those in the church who love them. And when you serve with them on a committee they love to meet at 6:30 A.M.

That means I have to get up at 5:30 A.M. For me, that’s the middle of the night. Maybe it’s because I have a sleeping disorder that makes it doubly hard for me to wake up so early. Who knows the reasons?

But I don’t think the verse is emphasizing the ‘when’ as much as it is the regularity. Jesus spent a lot of time alone with God. Why? Jesus needed to stay connected to the Father in order to be refreshed and recharged after the pressures of his life and ministry.

Knowing His ultimate purpose on earth was to go to the cross for our sins, Jesus also needed strength to continue walking in God’s will.

Even though our most intense pressures and stress pale in comparison to what Jesus faced at the cross, we too need God’s refreshment, strength, and encouragement in the face of life’s demands and anxiety.

For Jesus, it was early in the morning. For me, it’s later in the day. The issue isn’t the ‘when’ but the ‘are you.’ Are you regularly spending time alone with God to get recharged? Let me give you a couple tips that have helped me.
1.        Remove distractions. Jesus went to a secluded place. Silence your cell phone, close your laptop, turn off the T.V., get away from others, and ask God for a desire to know Him.
2.       Be vulnerable. As Jesus prayed I’m sure he poured out His heart to God. And so should you. Christ teaches us in other places that prayer should consist of praising, thanking, and confessing sin, as well as meeting our needs and praying for His will in our lives. It’s about 100% vulnerability with God.
3.       Read God’s Word. God speaks, teaches, encourages, and directs us through His Word. We need to listen to Him because we love Him. It’s His way of revealing Himself to each of us.
4.       Have a regular habit. I believe this verse emphasizes that this was a habit of Jesus. We should make it a habit of ours.
The more time you spend with God, the more you will understand the power of God’s love that brings joy, fulfillment, and purpose to life. Ask God to help you prioritize time with Him today. Just do it. And remember, it’s not the ‘when’ but the fact that you want to be with Him.
Pastor Mark "The Bru" Brunott

P.S. As a Christian, do you feel that science and faith are constantly in tension? Is God anti-science? Are there reasons to believe in God?  Join us this Sunday at 9:00 and 10:30 A.M. as we begin answering these questions and looking at the evidence for God’s existence.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Who owns your money?

Years ago Cindy and I began to operate from two principles that we have tried to honor. These two principles have transformed us, sometimes painfully, but for the better financially.

The first principle was the fact that God is the owner of everything we possess. By “everything,” we mean EVERYTHING (Clothes, house, cars, body, guitars, toys, computers, food, basic essentials to live, things we have to enjoy, etc.). And He doesn’t own a portion of it, He owns all of it (Read 2 Chronicles).

The second principle is: He calls us to be faithful stewards (2 Corinthians 4:2). This, of course, includes money. It’s all His. Not just what we determine to give to Him- it’s all His. He gives us the opportunities to make money.

I state these two principles because it is easy for money to become an idol for us. An idol is anything in our lives that comes before God. This can be a person or a thing, a job or career- but very often it’s money. These two principles call us back to true Biblical stewardship so money doesn’t become an idol.

Tim Keller, author and pastor, describes our culture’s obsession with money as a ‘surface idol.’ What does he mean? People can become enslaved to money when their real concern is finding security. They build a big wall of protection around their lives with bank accounts and investments in hopes of protecting themselves from all the dangers of this world, yet ultimately this desperate search for security can lead to a heart of greed and stinginess.

For others, money is the surface idol for acceptance- using money and wealth to impress others, desperately seeking approval. Obsession with money can also hide a deeper desire for power and influence.

Take a look at how you view money. Do you fall into one of the above categories? Jesus knew that we would be tempted to put money before God (Read Matthew 6:24). That’s why it is so important to remember that all we are and all we have comes from God. We’re simply a steward, a manager, of all that He has entrusted to us.

The easiest way to be sure that you have a healthy relationship with money is to give it away. It demonstrates our faith and gratitude for all that we have. It puts God first.

Does your money own you or does your money reveal that God owns you? The litmus test is to look at your giving.
Pastor Mark "The Bru" Brunott

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Compassionate Living

In 2012, an online accommodation and hospitality platform began known as Air BnB, with one section known as Open Homes. Open Homes has helped thousands of people with safe places to stay while rebuilding their lives after devastating natural disasters, wars, and other kinds of displacing events. The amazing thing is: homes listed in Open Homes are totally free.

Everyday people with hearts of compassion voluntarily open their homes to strangers, even those with incredibly different backgrounds and beliefs from their own. Why would compassion lead to this kind of hospitality and care? I believe the answer is simple: Compassion has the power to transform lives.

When Jesus saw the crowds, He had compassion on them because they were confused and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. His compassion for them is the example we, as His followers, are to demonstrate to those in our neighborhoods, schools, churches, clubs, and workplaces.

One of the ways we can demonstrate compassion and see that it has the power to transform lives is to get involved in the Day of Service on April 28th. Through acts of kindness, we want to show people (especially those who are beaten and broken down by this world) that we care- that we love them.

Why? Because Jesus loved us first. Jesus loved us when we were beaten down and broken. He went out of His way to show love and kindness to us. He chose to save us by dying on the cross for our sins. It is out of this love that we are to love others.

Think for a moment of how you can better love your neighbors, family, colleagues, classmates, strangers, and community today. May your love and compassion for others demonstrate what it means to follow Jesus as well as we serve Lincoln to make it an even better place to live.

There are a couple of things I want to encourage you to do as we get ready for our Day of Service on April 28th.
1.        Pray that First Free would be a blessing to the city of Lincoln and those we serve in our community.
2.       Sign up to serve and become a part of the Day of Service Volunteer Team (beginning March 18 online or in the foyer).
3.       If you know an individual or organization in need of help, visit our website to recommend a project until March 7. http://firstfreelincoln.org/day-of-service/
Day of Service t-shirts are available for purchase beginning this Sunday, March 4 for $7 each (cash only).
Pastor Mark "The Bru" Brunott

P.S. When you hear the word “evangelism,” what comes to your mind? Do you feel fear? Do you think: ‘that’s what professionals do?' Do you believe it means memorizing scriptures or using specific methods? Do you automatically conclude ‘that’s not for me?’ None of these responses are even close. Join me Sunday as we discover what it really means to be a witness concerning your faith. See you at 9:00 or 10:30!

Monday, February 26, 2018

A Sure Bet

I am not a betting man. I have never played a betting game or put any money in a slot machine. The closest I have come to betting is scratching off or peeling off some sticker at the local McDonalds to see if I won a free Big Mac or Coke with my next meal.

However, if I were a gambling man, one thing in life that is a sure bet is if you haven’t been in a really difficult situation and you’re not currently in one, then there is probably one waiting for you right around the corner.

When a crisis hits, your first response is usually to scream something like, ‘why me?’ Even Jesus asked that question when He was on the cross. Remember what He shouted? “My God, my God WHY hast thou forsaken me?”

It’s true that some storms of life are caused by our own sin. However, many storms occur even when we’re not doing anything wrong. We can be in the middle of God’s will and doing exactly what He asked us to do!

That was the case for Daniel. He was obeying God and trying to be a devout, obedient Jew in Jerusalem. Then King Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonian army marched from Babylon to Jerusalem, tore down the walls protecting the city, destroyed the temple, and took the cream-of-the-crop young Jews (including Daniel) back to Babylon where they were exiled for 70 years. Even though Daniel was following God, he found himself in a captivity so violent there were times he wondered if he might not survive.

Another example comes when Jesus told His disciples to get in a boat and cross the Sea of Galilee. Even though they were obeying Jesus, they still found themselves in a storm that was so violent they didn’t know if they would even survive.

But here is the important message from these events: with the help of Jesus, they survived. We must accept the fact that life is not a perfectly smooth ride. The road will sometimes have bumps, potholes, and sharp turns.

Look upon these difficulties and tragedies as part of life. Turn to Jesus for guidance and the Holy Spirit for comfort. Trust in God’s Word and His promises. He will be beside you as you get through the triumphs and tragedies of life.

Take a moment to read Matthew 14:22-27. Let your mind focus on the words of Jesus, ‘Take courage, it is I. Do not be afraid.’
Pastor Mark "The Bru" Brunott

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Our Ultimate Destination

Some of you may recognize the name Adrian Rogers. For those of you who don’t, he was a great preacher, cut from the fabric of what I like to call ‘the great Southern Baptist tradition.’ I was listening to one of his sermons where he was telling a story about one predecessor who was known as the ‘Prince of Preachers.’

He was a man of such oratorical skills and anointing of God that people were awestruck when they heard him preach. As the preacher grew older he was hospitalized and was in and out of a coma constantly. On his last day, while lying there in bed, he suddenly looked up and his eyes grew wide. He said to his daughter, “It is greater than I imagined; I never did it justice!” Then he closed his eyes and died in peace.

Now think about it: He was a great man of God, an incredibly gifted communicator of the Bible, but as he was finally at the point of stepping over to the other side of life and catching that glimpse of Heaven, all he could say was, “It’s greater than I imagined. I never did it justice!”

In our journey of faith with Jesus, we go through some tough times; difficult days, dry moments, hard circumstances, and "I do not understand" seasons. When those days happen, and they will, I want you to remember your ultimate destination- Heaven. Words can’t explain it; it’s greater than you can imagine. You will see Jesus face to face. He is greater than you imagined.

Surely there are no words that can adequately describe how incredible it will be to come face-to-face with the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Until that day, take a moment today to quiet yourself and read out loud Revelation 21:1-4. Then, try to imagine what Heaven will be like.
Pastor Mark "The Bru" Brunott

P.S. How is your attitude at work? Are you the same when nobody at work is watching you? Are you a complainer at your job? Are you satisfied with your employment? Why or why not? This Sunday, at 9:00 and 10:30 AM, we will allow God to give us a work makeover.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Can Good come from Bad?

George Barna, the well-known public-opinion pollster, conducted a national survey: ‘If you could ask God one question what would it be?’ the number one answer was, ‘Why is there so much pain and suffering?’

1 billion people suffer from hunger and every second someone dies of hunger. The earthquake in Taiwan left thousands without water, 170 missing, and several dead. There is terrorism unrest. The list goes on and on. Some follow-up thoughts on pain and suffering are raised: If God is all-powerful and all-knowing, yet doesn’t stop evil, why should I believe in Him? If He can’t do anything about all of this, He isn’t much of a God, is He?

Questions like these can shake our faith and grip us with fear, anger, and bewilderment. If God is all-powerful and all-good, then how can He allow so much pain and suffering? As Christians, we know that God is powerful and loving, but sometimes it feels like He doesn’t care, or that we’re all alone. I try to keep a few things in mind when I feel that God doesn’t care.

There are at least four Biblical reasons why a bad thing may be a good thing. First, we live in a fallen world. God gets blamed for a lot of man’s evil. Ironically the more victimized people are by man’s evil, the more they tend to blame God. Second, we do not heed God’s warnings (read Deuteronomy 28:1, 15). Third, we make foolish decisions. We are not computers programmed to do good or evil; like God, we can make choices. Fourth, we experience the backwash of life itself. Sometimes we are in the wrong place at the wrong time. Daniel was minding his own business when King Nebuchadnezzar’s troops marched into Jerusalem, destroyed it, and took him to Babylon as a captive. Things like that happen.

So, the question remains: Why does an all-loving and all-powerful God allow suffering and evil? No answer is adequate, but God’s main concern is that we trust Him to bring good out of the bad (see Romans 8:28). If He did it when humankind murdered His innocent son, then He can do it with all of the pain and unrest in 2018. Let’s live by God’s promises, not man’s expectations.
Pastor Mark "The Bru" Brunott
P.S. Have you ever read articles titled '5 steps to being a better parent' or '7 tricks to getting a new kid by Monday?' They always sound so good and simple but are never as easy to implement. What does God have to say about being a godly parent or child? Join us this Sunday at 9:00 or 10:30 AM to find out.

Monday, February 5, 2018

Outreach Discoveries

Pastor Nat, our Pastor of Local Outreach, has the ministry team reading a book entitled Organic Outreach for Ordinary People.  Written by Pastor Kevin G. Harney, the emphasis is on sharing the Good News naturally.

I’d like to pass on a couple of the principles I’ve been learning lately about personal outreach and evangelism. First, the roadblocks we all face in sharing our faith with non-believing friends is nothing in comparison with the joy of seeing Jesus change a friend’s heart from the inside out. Whatever risk you took to share your faith was well worth it.

The second thing I’m learning is that there really is no set program for evangelism and outreach. Perhaps the best approach is simply to invite people to join you in the regular activities of your life. If your faith is real, it will shine through in the way you live. What might this look like practically? If you’re going to an event, ask them to join you. Think of all the things you do that you could invite someone to join you! Going to lunch, going shopping, going to work out at the gym, or going to a concert.

When you get there, be yourself. You don’t have to force a conversation. Let people see the real you. If the subject of faith comes up, don’t be embarrassed. Let people see how Jesus is a normal part of who you are.

The key to outreach is casting the seed wherever we go, knowing it’s God who brings the growth (1 Corinthians 3:6). I love the way Kevin Harney describes outreach, “It’s like trying on clothes. Before making a clothing purchase, most people will try on a shirt, a pair of pants, or some piece of clothing to see how it fits. If the clothing is too tight or too loose, they’ll try another size. If the color or style really does not work for them, they may put it back on the rack. When buying clothes, we often try several options to see what works” (Organic Outreach for Ordinary People, p. 148).

He goes on to say outreach is often like that. We try something to see how it goes. If it feels natural or organic, we wear it. If it just doesn’t fit well, we try something else.

Would you be willing to try inviting your unbelieving friends to join you in the regular activities of your life? Go ahead, give it a try! To borrow the well-known phrase of Dirty Harry, “Go ahead, make my day.”

Thursday, January 25, 2018

How to say "YES"

Are you feeling overwhelmed; like there is so much to do, but you don’t have enough time to get it all done? Are you always late for appointments? Are you so busy with activities that you find yourself double-booked too often?

If you answered ‘yes’ to these, you probably are suffering from a time management problem. Fortunately, there is a simple solution to the problem: Manage your time better. Duh!

Let me give a tip that may help you manage your time better. It’s really a simple principle: Every time you say ‘yes’ to something, say ‘no’ to something else. The principle reminds us that we can’t do everything. We can’t afford everything. We can’t attend, sign up our children, or be involved in everything (even though many of us try.)

You can’t say ‘yes’ to everything. The choice is yours as to what you will say ‘yes’ to and what you will say ‘no’ to. Let me give you some examples. If you say ‘yes’ to exercise, you have to say ‘no’ to sleeping in later in the morning. If you say ‘yes’ to eating healthy, you have to say ‘no’ to chips, candy bars, andsnacking. If you say ‘yes’ to eating together as a family, you have to say ‘no’ to running your kids everywhere. If you say ‘yes’ to being in a Life Group, you will have to say ‘no’ to something else when your Life Group meets. If you say ‘yes’ to the golf course every Saturday, you will have to say ‘no’ to some other activity.

By the way, this principle is true of church ministries too. No church can say ‘yes’ to every kind of music, dress, style, and service time. Churches say ‘yes’ to the one they believe fits them the best with what God wants to accomplish through them.

The point of the principle is we need to understand the implications. When you say ‘yes’ to something, you say ‘no’ to something else, maybe multiple things, but it happens every time. Most of us want to do everything, be liked by everybody, and never want to miss out, so we say ‘yes’ too much. Remember this: It’s okay to say ‘no.’ In fact, take a deep breath right now and say ‘no’ out loud.

It is also necessary that when you say ‘yes,’ you do so strategically. When we say ‘yes’ strategically, we live more strategically. Is it more strategic to exercise or sleep in? Is it more strategic to eathealthy or snack? Is it more strategic to have family meals together or run the kids everywhere? Only you can answer these questions for you.

However, if you find yourself hectically busy, overwhelmed, and feeling like there isn’t enough time in the day, try this time management principle of “every time you say ‘yes’ to something, say ‘no’ to something else” and see if it makes a positive difference in your life.
Pastor Mark "The Bru" Brunott
P.S. Do you know that what you wear matters? We may not like it, but people judge the inside by the outside. Who I identify with is revealed by what I wear. What does this mean for us as Christ followers? Join me this week at 9:00 AM or 10:30 AM to discover the meaning.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Expectations. Should the Church have some?

Last week someone asked me, “What do you expect from those who attend First Free?” I first responded with, “What a great question.” Most of the time I get asked about programs, ministries, views about certain doctrines, but rarely an expectation question.

My answer comes from our partnership covenant that we ask every partnering attender to sign. It really challenges if you have made two commitments based on 2 Corinthians 8:5. First, a commitment to Christ personally. In other words, you have trusted in Him as your Savior. Second, you have made a commitment to one another in the context of a local church.

We expect people (yes, expect) to protect the unity of the church by acting in love (Romans 14:19) towards other partners, refusing to gossip (Ephesians 4:29), and following the leaders (Hebrews 13:17).

Second, we expect them to share the responsibility of the church by praying for its growth (1 Thessalonians 1:2), inviting their unchurched friends to attend (Luke 14:23-24), and warmly welcoming anyone who visits.

Third, we expect people to serve the ministry of the church by discovering their gifts and talents (1 Peter 4:10), being equipped to serve- with the help of our pastors (Ephesians 4:11-12), and developing a servant's heart (Philippians 2:3-4, 7).

A fourth expectation we have is to support the church by attending faithfully (Hebrews 10:25), living a godly life (Philippians 11:27), and giving regularly to the church (1 Corinthians 16:2).

All of these expectations are based on the Bible and are the desires of Jesus for the church He is building. If you would like to learn more about this expectation and commitment and become a partnering member, contact Brian Abbott or Julie Florom, or call the church office at 402.483.7635.

Together as partners, I know we can accomplish our mission: to introduce people to Jesus Christ, develop them into full, devoted followers, and equip them to reach their neighborhoods.

Pastor Mark "The Bru" Brunott

P.S. Do you ever feel a weight is on your back because you keep holding on to something you know God wants you to let go of? You tried to master it, but it seems to keep mastering you. What do you do? Join us this week at 9:00 AM or 10:30 AM as we discover some answers to your questions.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Throw a Party in 2018

One of the things I love most about Jesus is His love for all people, even those people many of us as Christ followers don’t want to be around. One of those people was Jesus’ disciple Matthew. He later became one of Jesus’ biographers.

Matthew was one of the last guys you’d want on your team if you were trying to impress good religious folks. He was a crook. He ran with a bad crowd. He was a party animal and participated in those things that party animal implies.

But in spite of all that, or maybe I should say especially in light of those things, Jesus reached out to him and asked him to join His team. As a result, Matthew followed Him (Matthew 9:9).

Matthew was so excited, he threw a party for all his wild and notorious friends, just so they could meet Jesus. And they all had a great time.

But of course, the Pharisees (the religious crowd) were appalled. They asked the disciples ‘Why does your teacher eat with such scum?’ (Matthew 9:11 NLT) They thought, ‘If Jesus is supposed to be so holy, why would he run with such a rough crowd?

Jesus’ answer is masterfully stated, ‘Healthy people don’t need a doctor- sick people do. For I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners’ (Matthew 9:12-13).

I love this story for two reasons. First, if you are a Matthew or like Matthew, never forget that Jesus loves you. He demonstrated that love for you by dying on a cross, the substitute for your sin and was raised from the dead. Anyone who believes in Him has eternal life.

Second, Matthew threw a party for his friends, not caring what the religious crowd thought. I wish we, as Christ followers, would be more like Matthew. Hang out with people who are far from God, yes people whose lifestyles we would not approve of or participate in. Love them and invite them into our homes to have fun- wholesome, clean fun.

Who are you hanging out with that is far from God; a neighbor, classmate, or coworker? Why not throw a party for them and some of their other friends who are far from God?

Pray that God would use that party to begin a relationship, a connection with them that would lead to other times of connection. Throw a party! This year, let’s intentionally invest in people who are far from God and ask God to open doors for us to influence them and point them to the cross of Jesus. Remember our mission: inviting people to trust in Jesus, developing them into fully devoted followers, and equipping them (and us) to reach our city.

Pastor Mark "The Bru" Brunott

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Getting Off to a Fresh Start

How are your New Year’s resolutions working? Researchers tell us about 1/3 of Americans make them each year. It’s human nature to want to do better. But, it’s also human nature to fail. Research tells us most resolutions last about three days to three weeks and by February we are back in the old patterns we had promised ourselves we’d leave behind. Only 10% of us succeed in our resolutions. We often fail because we underestimate how difficult it is to change.

Did you know the month January was named after the Roman god Janus? Janus is depicted as having two faces- one looking back at the old year with regret and the other face looking forward to the New Year with hope. The Romans understood that at the start of a New Year, we can’t help but be hopeful of improvement.

Are you looking back on 2017 with sadness or see failure in the old year? As you start 2018, do you have a desire to do things differently? May I suggest three things you should do when you get a fresh start this New Year? This comes from the Apostle Paul, writing to the Philippians in chapter 3, verses 8-14.

First, if you want a new start, you must forget the things which are behind (read Philippians 3:13). Forget about your failures. Don’t obsess over them, confess them (1 John 1:9), and learn from them. Don’t let past failures define you, let God’s grace define you.

But past failures are not all we need to forget. We need to forget past successes, too. Sometimes success leads to being content, lazy, and becoming useless rather than useful. Give God your very best in 2018. Learn from your past; don’t yearn for the past.

Second, if you want a new start, you’ve got to focus on the things before you (read Philippians 3:13b-14). You run the race at hand. Not last year’s race. That one is over. The race demands your whole self. The race demands your very best. Never be satisfied with less than your best.

You run the race with the goal in mind. What is the goal? To receive the crown. In this case, it’s living my life becoming more Christ-like so when the race is over, I will hear the words, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant.’

To be like Jesus. That’s the goal. That’s the prize. For me, that means I’m going to pray and study the word of God more. I’m going to be more intentional about reaching my neighbors with the gospel. I’m going to confront debilitating patterns of sin. I’m going to work hard to build community at First Free. I’m going to make sure my grandkids are in church on a regular basis. I’m going to quit comparing myself to others. My list could go on and on.

Third, if you want a new start for a New Year, you need to fulfill those things that are beyond us (Philippians 3:12). No one would have found fault with Paul had he reached this place in his life and said, ‘You know, I think I’m gonna retire… I’ve worked hard. I’ve served the Lord faithfully all these years. I’ve put myself out there. It’s time to do a little something for me.’

But he didn’t say that- instead, he said, ‘I haven’t attained what I want to attain. I have not reached the place I want to be. I’m not finished yet. Paul would not be satisfied until he took his last breath giving his all to Jesus. He did a work beyond him, paying a price few would be willing to pay- to serve the Lord.

Are you sold out, utterly committed to Jesus? It’s a great time to start. It’s a New Year, choose to make it a great one.

Pastor Mark "The Bru" Brunott

P.S. Have you ever been left out of a secret? Have you ever been the focus of a secret? How did it make you feel? This Sunday at 9:00 and 10:30, we will discover God’s most important secret which He has revealed.