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.
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!