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.

 
Blessings,
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.