TGC:

It’s no secret Western culture is shifting fast, particularly in the realm of sexual ethics. What was unfathomable just 30 years ago is normal today.

How should Christians engage our neighbors who think differently? How can pastors equip Christians to talk about these things in a way that’s loving, winsome, and compelling?

Read the rest here.

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Should We Forgive God?

Chris —  August 16, 2016 — 1 Comment

Following my appearance on the national Moody radio program, Up for Debate, hostess Julie Roys asked me to write a guest post for her blog addressing the question, “Should We Forgive God?”

Here is how Julie introduced the post:

Today, people commonly talk about forgiving God. But, is this idea biblical? This question surfaced last Saturday on my radio show, Up For Debate, and sparked passionate dialogue. Interestingly, my guest, who maintained that forgiveness is unconditional, argued that we can forgive God. But, author and Pastor Chris Brauns, who believes forgiveness is conditional, argued emphatically that we cannot. He further asserted that the notion of forgiving God is inextricably linked with the notion that forgiveness is unconditional — something he defined as “therapeutic forgiveness.” Intrigued, I asked Pastor Brauns to follow up by writing a guest post for my blog on the topic. Graciously, he agreed —and I am so glad he did because I think his reflections are extremely helpful. Enjoy! —Julie

Read the rest here.

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UpforDebateI will be on the Up for Debate show with Julie Roys at 11:00 AM CST, 8/13/16. Listen here

*****

I’m looking forward to unpacking forgiveness today with Julie Roys and another guest (Remy Diederich). We are going to go right after tough forgiveness questions and common Christian misunderstandings.

Hopefully, many of you can listen live. If not, I will post a link to the audio if one is available. In the mean time, below are forgiveness links that well help you begin to think through relevant forgiveness questions.

The Forgiveness Quiz – This will get you started thinking about forgiveness.

Didn’t Jesus Forgive Unconditionally on the Cross? – One of the first questions that comes up when we talk about the truth that Christians should not always forgive.

Others on Unconditional Forgiveness – This is a collection of quotes from others who interact with the subject of conditional forgiveness.

5 Problems With Unconditional Forgiveness – Numerous problems arise when we encourage cheap grace. Here are 5 examples

Should I confront an offender or just get over it? – What should be confronted? What should be let go? This post will help you work through the question of when to confront.

How can I stop thinking about it? – The “mental gerbil wheel” is one of the most difficult aspects of deep offenses.

How can I forgive myself? – This is another forgiveness question people often raise.

Chris Brauns Review of Totally Forgiving God by R.T. Kendall – Is it okay for Christians to forgive God. Some authors argue there are times it is appropriate. In this review for The Gospel Coalition I interact with R.T. Kendall’s book.

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I’m looking forward to being on Moody Radio with Julie Roys on the show, Up for Debate.” Here is the program description given:

Should Christians Forgive No Matter What?

Should Christians forgive someone even if he’s not sorry?  Or does true forgiveness require repentance and a desire to reconcile?  This Saturday, on Up For Debate, Julie Roys will explore this issue with Chris Brauns, a pastor who believes forgiveness requires repentance, and Remy Diederich who believes it does not. Listen and join this challenging discussion, this Saturday at 11 a.m. Central Time, on Up For Debate!

Read more here.

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13668782_10201905009104795_4624676443988276250_oAs one of your pastors at The Red Brick Church, I would encourage you to make every effort to be at the 4:00 PM Ordination Service (8/7/16) for Timothy Michalek. Doubtless there are more ways we could motivate ourselves to participate in the ordination service. But these are the top nine reasons I identified that we should be sure to come ready to pray, sing, and celebrate.

  1. To participate in the decision making process of our church. We are in autonomous local church that is congregational in its government. Hence, the participation of membership is the final step in setting apart Tim for gospel ministry (Acts 13:1-3).
  2. To love on the Michaleks and communicate to God that we are thankful for their hard work and to communicate gratitude to God for them (John 13:34-35).
  3. To recognize that it is in your own spiritual interest to care for those “oxen” who grind out the grain for your spiritual bread. Scripture is clear that some are gifted to equip you and that apart from their provision and your regular interaction with them, we are bound to be tossed to and fro by every gust of wrong thinking. The necessity of spiritual leadership is far more significant for our families than any presidential election (1 Timothy 5:17-22)
  4. To encourage one another: your presence not only lifts the spirits of the pastors but stirs one another up to love and good works. Your greeting of someone may encourage them more than you will ever know (Hebrews 10:24-25).
  5. To represent our church in a positive light to brothers and sisters from other local churches so that they are encouraged that the Spirit is at work in our midst and that we see their local churches are partners (Philemon 7).
  6. To learn – – many of you have not seen an ordination service before and you will grow in your knowledge about the Bride of Christ by your participation even as you are fed the Word. Whether you have been around an ordination event or not, all of us should grow deeper in our knowledge of the faith through our interaction in this service that includes leaders from other churches (Acts 13:1—3, Titus 1:5-9, 1 Timothy 5:17-22).
  7. To reach our country and world. The gospel of Jesus Christ is the only hope of the world and with this service we must picture what we pray will happen over and over again – – that we will see godly men raised up to lead the church of the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 1:6-8).
  8. To recognize our responsibilities as an ordaining church and to prayerfully commit to the Lord that we support Timothy Michalek as a pastor/elder and that even as we keep him accountable (1 Timothy 5:17-22).
  9. To experience and see our great God glorified in a special way in the life of the church. When we talk about glory, we reference the “manifest beauty of God.” God’s glory is to the Triune God what light is to the sun: it emanates from his being. The Bible promises, that God shows his glory in a special way in and through the community of his people. At these times, when we are particularly focused on our identity as a Christ-centered, Word believing, conservative church – – we can expect God’s glory in special ways. We have already experienced the goodness of God this week. He was glorified in the council.  And so when you come in tonight and hear people singing, and see the laying on of hands, you will more deeply appreciate that our local church is a prism through which the beauty of Christ is reflected in ways that we could never conceive part from the local church (Eph 3:10, 1 Peter 2:9-12).
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Lemonade Stands: Q&A with Chris BraunsThere is about a 70% chance the man who stopped was an angel. . .

It’s that time of year when we again consider Christian morality and lemonade stands. Below find answers to common questions.

  1. How often should I stop when I see a lemonade stand? 100% of the time.
  2. That seems like a high standard. Is it okay if I bat say .950? No.
  3. How much should I pay? No less than 3 times the asking price. More is better.
  4. What if the children running the stand are my grandchildren? Then you pay 5 times the asking price, have the children’s mother take a picture of you buying, and spend time thanking God for your grandchildren’s industry.
  5. What should I do if the children begin to make change when I give them too much? Wait until they have finished properly (or improperly) counting out the change. Do not offer to help with the process of calculating the change. Then refuse the change. Under no circumstances correct their math. Save your accounting expertise for tax season.
  6. What if I don’t have money with me when I see the stand? Drive directly home. Get the money. Go directly back, all the while praying that the children don’t wear out and close the stand.
  7. Are you just trying to be cute with this post? I am not. It is the responsibility of a community to wholeheartedly support the initiative of children. If you insist on being mercenary about the topic, then bear in mind that hopefully the children who are smashing lemons now will be paying into social security tomorrow – – either literally or figuratively. But far more important, supporting lemonade stands is an easy way to tell children you love them. You don’t have anything better to do with your life.
  8. Did you ever have a lemonade stand? Yes. As a matter of fact, I did. Thank you for asking. In the summer of 1969 — as in when soldiers were in Viet Nam and astronauts were landing on the moon- my sisters Shelley and Mary Dawn and I built a stand out of cardboard boxes and peddled lemonade on hwy 1 north of Keosauqua. For the most part, our business was limited to our grandfather and both of our neighbors. One business man stopped. Our asking price was a 5 cents. He plopped down a quarter. Shelley — MD and I weren’t yet qualified — made change. He waited and then told us to keep the change. So far as I am aware, we never saw him again. It’s about a 70% chance he was actually an angel (Hebrews 13:2). But if he wasn’t, then we hope to meet him on the other side, and when we do, we will insist on paying him back 100 fold, in whatever negotiable currency is used on the New Earth.
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The French Spirit

Chris —  July 14, 2016 — 1 Comment
Screenshot 2016-07-14 20.36.32

Our 2 youngest with French veterans at the Arc de Triomphe (2010)

“I began to cry. Not out of sorrow for myself, nor because of my wounds, but at the great joy that I felt at being back on French soil.” Commando Robert Piauge, June 6, 1944

Grieving as we are for our fellow image-bearers in France, I was reminded of this D-Day story that so captures the French spirit.

At the last minute, the commander of the group, Lt. Col. Robert Dawson, Royal Marine Commandos, waved the Frenchmen forward so that they would be the first to set foot on shore.

One of those Frenchmen was Pvt. Robert Piauge, twenty-four years old, whose mother lived in Ouistreham. He was on LCI 523, commanded by Sub-Lt. John Berry, which had got hung up on a beach obstacle. Piauge and the other commando jumped into the sea, so impatient were they to get back to France. Piauge landed in chest-deep waters. He waded ashore, the third Frenchman to arrive.

Mortars were exploding around him, some heavy shells coming down, a bit of small-arms fire, a lot of noise. Piauge made it to shore and got about ten meters across the beach when a mortar exploded beside him, riddling him with shrapnel (he still carries twenty-two pieces of steel in his body today). His best friend, next to him, was killed by the same mortar. A British medic examined Piauge’s wounds, pronounced him “fini,” gave him a shot of morphine, and moved on to treat men who could be saved.

Piauge thought of his mother, who had protested tearfully against his joining the French army in 1939, as her husband had died as a result of World War I wounds. Then he thought of France, and “I began to cry. Not out of sorrow for myself, nor because of my wounds, but at the great joy that I felt at being back on French soil.” He passed out.

Piauge was picked up by a medic, carried out to a hospital ship by an LCI, treated for his wounds, and eventually recovered in a hospital in England. He lives today in a seaside apartment in Ouistreham. From his living-room window he can look out at the spot where he landed. (Stephen Ambrose, D Day: June 6, 1944: The Climactic Battle of World War II, 553-554).

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DavidMurray2One in ten people struggle with depression. Over the course of a lifetime, one in four will battle this condition. In the below sermon at Bethel Church, pastor, author, and professor Dr. David Murray preaches a sermon on Psalm 77 that surveys depression and offers a broad strategy for battling the blues. The audio for this sermon is available on Bethel’s web site.

If you battle depression, be assured that you are not alone. Many of history’s greatest leaders were attacked by their thoughts. Abraham Lincoln once said about his depression.

“I am now the most miserable man living,”  . . . “If what I feel were equally distributed to the whole human family, there would not be one cheerful face on the earth. . . Whether I shall ever be better I can not tell . . .  To remain as I am is impossible; I must die or be better.”

Great pastors have been swamped by depression too.  Charles Spurgeon was one of the greatest preachers ever.  But, his church leaders once informed his congregation:

“You are anxious to hear about our poor pastor – – he is very bad.  Very bad I say, not from any injuries or bruises he has received, but from the extreme tension on his nerves and his great anxiety.  So bad is he that we were fearful for his mind this morning.  . . .”

Spurgeon said that he could not think himself out of his depression.  He said that his thoughts were like knives shredding his heart into pieces.

And, King David wrote about depression.  In Psalm 69 David said it was like being in deep filthy mud where there is no foothold

. . . . . Save me, O God, for the waters have come up to my neck. I sink in the miry depths, where there is no foothold. I have come into the deep waters. . . My eyes fail, looking for my God (Psalm 69:1-3).”

Even if you do not battle depression personally, it is very, very likely that someone you love often finds him or herself in the quicksand of being down. This is an important sermon for all of us to hear.

 

 

For more resources, see David’s web site and his series of films, Christians get depressed too.

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Baptism at the Red Brick Church in Stillman ValleySee if you can prayerfully fill in the blanks before Sunday’s sermon (6/19/16) at the Red Brick Church. For more on Sunday’s excitement, see this announcement

Update: Your can now listen to this sermon here.

The people at our church know that I am not generally a fan of “fill in the blank” sermon notes. However, given our baptism service on Sunday — and a crunch for time — I am providing more information than normal on our sermon notes including blanks to complete.

Here’s the challenge:

  1. Printout  (see below) or download the sermon notes.
  2. Study the text and collateral texts and see if you can anticipate where the sermon is going. Can you fill in the blanks?
  3. If you’re feeling really good – – send your notes to Chris is advance or bring them to church.
  4. Above all, pray! It’s going to be a great Sunday.

SERMON TITLE: The Story We are Living

Given the baptism service, our time is limited this morning. We will spend less time in pastoral prayer. Be sure and review the prayer requests on the back of the bulletin and be in an attitude of prayer for one another and throughout the service and week.

Our sermon text (Acts 8:26-40) makes each of the supporting points for the sermon. Notice I have also provided cross references which likewise teach these same truths. If you take the time this week to review these truths your faith will be strengthened as you are increasingly rooted in biblical thinking (Colossians 2:6-7).

Big Idea / Central Thought: As a local church, we are witnessing, l__________ & experiencing the s____________ of Acts 8:26-40.   

  1. Look up: a merciful God is s____________ s___________ (Acts 16:31, Ephesians 1:4-5)– [26] Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Rise and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” This is a desert place. [27] And he rose and went. And there was an Ethiopian, a eunuch, a court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of all her treasure.
  1. Bow to the the e_______________ of Christ (Isaiah 45:22, John 4:22, Acts 4:12)- He had come to Jerusalem to worship (27b)
  1. Focus on the s_____________ of the W______________ of Christ (Romans 10:17)– [28] and was returning, seated in his chariot, and he was reading the prophet Isaiah.
  1. Humbly recognize the n____________ of pastors / evangelists (Luke 24:27, Ephesians 4:11-13, Romans 10:14-15) – [31] And he said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” . . . [35] Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus.
  1. Understand the a_______________ work of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21, 1 Peter 2:21-25) (Hint: study “terms to know”) –

Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. Isaiah 53:4-5

  1. Picture the p___________ p______________of baptism (Matt 28:18-20, John 3:23, Acts 16:33, Romans 6:1-7) – (Hint: Nestea)

TERMS TO KNOW

Acts (The book of) – A New Testament book of the Bible written A.D. 70 by Dr. Luke. Luke also wrote the Gospel of Luke. The title of “Acts” references the “acts” or “deeds” of the Apostles of Christ. Acts begins with the resurrected Christ ascending to heaven having instructed his followers to wait for Pentecost (when the Holy Spirit would be poured out on the Church) and to go into all the world making the disciples. After Acts 2 and Pentecost, Acts tells the story of the Spirit empowered Word of Christ igniting the early Church as people believed from Jerusalem to Rome (Acts 6:7, 9:31, 12:24, 16:5, 19:20, 28:30-31).

*Atonement – Broadly, the word “atonement” refers to reparation for an offense. In the context of the Christian faith the wrong in view is the rebellion of all image bearers against our Creator and the reparation is the reconciling of God and humanity through the work of God’s only unique Son, the Lord Jesus Christ (2 Cor 5:21). Jesus atoned for the sins of Christians.

But how did Jesus atone for the sins of his people? The Bible teaches that the atoning work of Christ involves both substitution and satisfaction. Christ was the substitute for his people and he satisfied the demands of God’s justice (1 John 4:10, Isaiah 53:4-5, 2 Cor 5:21).[1]

Said another way, the central aspect of Christ’s atoning work is that that he paid the penalty for his people on the cross. Theologians refer to this truth as penal substitutionary atonement. Michael Horton summarizes, “Christ died in our place, bearing God’s wrath, satisfying his justice, and reconciling us to the Father.”[2]

In order that we might grasp both the problem sin creates, and the solution for how sinners can be right with God, the Bible describes sin using different pictures including debt, enmity, and crime. R.C. Sproul helps us understand how Christ atones for our sin with the following table.[3]

Sin as . . . Man God Christ
Debt Debtor Creditor Surety
Enmity Enemy Violated One Mediator
Crime Criminal Judge Substitute

For more, see Kevin DeYoung’s important post, Substitution is Not a “Theory of the Atonement”[4]

Baptism – Along with the Lord’s Supper/Communion, one of two ordinances/sacraments given to believers. Christ commanded both. Baptism pictures death and resurrection in Christ and the cleansing of sins. Baptism is passive for the person being baptized. We do not baptize ourselves. This pictures the truth that God is the one who graciously saves.

Gospel – The word “gospel” means “good news” and the good news is that God offers salvation for those who turn in repentance from their sins and put their faith in Jesus Christ (John 1:12, Acts 20:21, Romans 6:23, Romans 10:9-10, Ephesians 2:8-9, Titus 3:5).[5]

Isaiah the Prophet  – Eighth century prophet (circa 700 B.C.) whose massive book supplies central prophecies of Christ. His prophecies include the virgin birth (7:14), the promise of a wonderful counselor, everlasting God, the prince of peace (9:6-7), and the Servant Songs that include Isaiah 53. Isaiah 53 is the passage the Ethiopian eunuch was reading in Acts 8.

Preacher / proclamation – The Holy Spirit empowers people to proclaim the good news / gospel so that people can understand salvation and believe in Jesus. Pastors are special gifts from Christ to his people given to equip God’s people (Ephesians 4:11).

Propitiation – The turning away of wrath or anger usually by an offering.[6] Propitiation appeases the wrath of God rightly brought about by our sin.[7] So 1 John 4:10 summarizes, “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins (1 John 4:10 ESV).”

Similarly, in arguably the most important paragraph ever written,[8] Paul wrote that Christ was “put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.” (Romans 3:25a)

So, on the Cross, Jesus satisfied the wrath of God by dying in the place of Christians.

Hence, the Gettys were right to refuse to remove from their song, “In Christ Alone,” the words, “till on the cross where Jesus died, the wrath of God was satisfied.” See here.[9]

If you find yourself uncomfortable with the idea of the wrath of God, see Can a God Without Wrath Be Good?[10]

Wrath of God –  The settled indignation of God against sin. God will punish those who sin with eternal condemnation (hell) unless there is atonement for their sins.

*******

[1] R.C. Sproul, Essential Truths of the Christian Faith (Wheaton: Tyndale House, 1992), 172–73.

[2] Michael Horton, Pilgrim Theology: Core Doctrines for Christian Disciples (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2011), 208.

[3] R.C. Sproul, The Truth of the Cross (Orlando: Reformation Trust, 2007), 42.

[4] Kevin DeYoung, “Substitution Is Not a ‘Theory of the Atonement,’” The Gospel Coalition, March 22, 2016, https://blogs.thegospelcoalition.org/kevindeyoung/2016/03/22/substitution-is-not-a-theory-of-the-atonement/.

[5] See also Chris Brauns, “What Do Christians Mean When They Reference the Gospel or Good News?,” A Brick in the Valley: The Web Site of Pastor and Author Chris Brauns, June 13, 2013, http://chrisbrauns.com/2013/06/what-do-christians-mean-when-they-reference-the-gospel-or-good-news/.

[6] Leon Morris, The Cross of Jesus (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1988), 6.

[7] Millard Erickson, Christian Theology (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1990), 809.

[8] Chris Brauns, “The Most Important Paragraph Ever Written!,” A Brick in the Valley: The Web Site of Pastor and Author Chris Brauns, March 19, 2010, http://chrisbrauns.com/2010/03/the-most-important-paragraph-ever-written/.

[9] Collin Hansen, “Keith Getty on What Makes ‘In Christ Alone’ Accepted and Contested,” TGC – The Gospel Coalition, December 9, 2013, https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/keith-getty-on-what-makes-in-christ-alone-beloved-and-contested.

[10] Sam Storms, “Can a God without Wrath Be Good?,” Enjoying God, February 14, 2014, http://www.samstorms.com/enjoying-god-blog/post/can-a-god-without-wrath-be-good.

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Protestants can use the term sacraments. What is important is to define the significance of baptism and the Lord’s Supper in an ongoing way.

Regarding use of the term “sacraments,” Grudem writes:

There is disagreement among Protestants even over the general term that should be applied to [baptism and the Lord’s Supper]. Because the Romans Catholic Church calls those two ceremonies “sacraments,” and because the Catholic Church teaches that these sacraments in themselves actually convey grace to people (without requiring faith from the persons participating in them), some Protestants (especially Baptists) have refused to refer to baptism and the Lord’s Supper as “sacraments.” They have preferred the word ordinances instead. This is thought to be an appropriate term because baptism and the Lord’s Supper were ‘ordained’ by Christ. On the other hand, other Protestants such as those in the Anglican, Lutheran, and Reformed traditions, have been willing to use the word “sacraments” to refer to baptism and the Lord’s Supper, without thereby endorsing the Roman Catholic position.

It does not seem that any significant point is at issue in the question of whether to call baptism and the Lord’s Supper “ordinances” or “sacraments.” Since Protestants who use both words explain clearly what they mean by them, the argument is not really over doctrine but over the meaning of the English word.” Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994), 966.

Calvin (though wrong about when baptism is administered!) gave this helpful definition of “sacraments.”

It seems to me that a simple and proper definition would be to say that [a sacrament] is an outward sign by which the Lord seals on our consciences the promises of his good will toward us in order to sustain the weakness of our faith; and we in turn attest our piety toward him in the presence of the Lord and of his angels and before men.  Here is another briefer definition; one may call it a testimony of divine grace toward us, confirmed by an outward sign, with mutual attestation of our piety toward him.”  Calvin.  IV.14.1, page 1277.

Someone may counter, “Well, why not use the term ‘ordinance,’ so that there is never any confusion and the explanation is not needed.” But that is no solution. The centrality of the ordinances/sacraments, and the debates surrounding them, will always require an explanation when they are administered.

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