Thursday, July 26, 2018

Vacation Season

I'm still on vacation with my family for the next few weeks.  I encourage you to join in worship as Pastor Nat preaches again this Sunday.

Last week we kicked off a new sermon series called “Rooted in Christ.” We are taking 5 weeks to look at 8 characteristics of a fully devoted follower of Christ. This week we will look at the characteristic of prayer. Prayer often frustrates people because they don’t know how to pray or what to pray. Join us Sunday at 9 or 10:30 am to learn the ingredients of effective prayer.
Pastor Mark

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