TDuguid Clowney Hom Diagramechnical Alert: My target audience for my blog is our church family. Whenever I consider writing a post I ask, “Would this benefit our flock?” This post is a little more technical than I would normally write. But it’s important as we go into the Job series – – and whenever I preach from the Old Testament.

One of the most important questions that any preacher must consider is how Christ is properly preached from the Old Testament. There can be no question that we should do so. After all, Jesus himself set this example:

And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. Luke 24:27

And Paul encouraged the Corinthians that:

For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory. 2 Corinthians 1:20

Yet this doesn’t always mean that Christ has been responsibly preached from the Old Testament. There are far too many examples of preachers making creative claims such as arguing that the tent pegs of the Tabernacle represented the nails of the cross (Duguid, 16).

I’ve recently spent time reading a very helpful booklet by Iaian M. Duguid, Is Jesus in the Old Testament?, in which he lays out principles for preaching Christ from the Old Testament. I have found the above diagram, adapted from Edmund Clowney, to be very helpful.

You have to study the diagram for a bit to see it. Yet, it is very helpful in identifying the proper path to preaching Christ – – and in avoiding errors that have so often been made.

  1. The preacher should start in the bottom left corner with the OT Text. He should avoid the shortcuts of either allegorical moralism or allegory and continue to identify the timeless truth of the Old Testament text.
  2. From the upper left corner – – the OT Truth, the preacher should then move right and consider this text within the context of the history of redemption (see Biblical Theology for a long answer – – or this video for a short one).
  3. Once we see how the Old Testament passage is fulfilled in Christ, the significance of the text for the contemporary audience can be considered.

Preach Christ!

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Hitting Hard Questions Head On

Chris —  September 24, 2014 — Leave a comment

iStock_000000166691MediumOnly Christianity can truly hit the hard questions head-on. A new sermon series at the Red Brick Church will address the central questions of life.

Thoughtful human beings encounter vexing questions:

·      Why are we here? What’s the purpose of life?

·      Does what I do matter?

·      Why do good people suffer while others get away with murder?

·      Is there real hope?

·      How can I step off the mental gerbil wheel and the inner turmoil I face?

·      How can I help someone I love who is hurting?

Thankfully we do not have to dig for answers on our own. God is there. And He is not silent. He has spoken clearly in his Word.

Beginning October 5 Pastor Chris Brauns will begin a new series at The Red Brick Church, A Journey with Job: Seeing and Savoring the Beauty of Christ Amid the Long Walk of Suffering. In this series Chris will show how the Bible hits these questions head on. And in this series, those willing to look to Christ will begin to see that the biblical answers to hard questions are more beautiful than we could have imagined.

The Red Brick Church has worship services at 9 and 10:30 on Sunday mornings. There is a nursery during both hours. Children’s Sunday School for all ages is offered at 9:00 and Children’s Church for preschool through third grace is offered at 10:30.

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Do you agree – – “time” is the aspect of suffering that makes it so difficult?

I have been preparing for months a sermon series: A Journey With Job: Seeing and Savoring the Beauty of Christ Amid the Long Walk of Suffering. Preaching on Job means preaching on suffering – – so I have been prayerfully reflecting on suffering a great deal.

One point which I have considered for some time is that “time” is what makes pain so difficult. We could stand any amount of pain for an instant. We could bear losing the person closest to us this morning if we knew we would see them in the afternoon.

But instant relief is not how it goes. And so pain becomes . . . painful. Time intensifies pain.

Having said that – – I would treasure your input. Does that point make sense? Would you agree?

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What Our Exhausted World Needs

Chris —  September 12, 2014 — 1 Comment

Dr. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones wrote his important book, Preachers and Preaching, in the wake of the protests of the 60’s and 70’s. In it, Lloyd-Jones argued that what a tired and disillusioned age desperately needs is the proclamation of the Word. In making his point, Lloyd-Jones draws a parallel between our tired age and that of the first century and says that what both need is Christ-centered, anointed, preaching.

The Victorian age, last century, was an age of optimism. People were carried away by the theory of evolution and development, poets sang about the coming of ‘the parliament of man and the federation of the world.’ We would banish war and all would be well, and the would be one great nation. They really believed that sort of thing. Nobody believes it by now apart from an odd representative here and thee of the old ‘social gospel’ of the pre-1914 era. We have lived to see the fallacy of that old optimistic liberalism, and we are living in an age of disillusionment when men are desperate. That is why we are witnessing this student protest and every other kind of protest; that is why people are taking drugs. It is the end of all the optimism of the liberals. It was bound to lead to this because it was wrong in its basic conceptions, its origins, in its very thinking. We are seeing the end of all of that. Is not this then the very time when the door is wide open for the preaching of the Gospel? The age in which we are living is so similar to the first century in many respects. The old world was exhausted then. The flowering period of Greek philosophy had come and gone, Rome in a sense had passed by her zenith, and there was the kind of tiredness and weariness, with consequent turning to pleasure and amusement. The same is so true today; and so far from saying that we must have less preaching and turn more and more to other devices and expedients, I say that we have a heaven-sent opportunity for preaching.

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From Ezra and Nehemiah, we learn that when local churches move forward in ways that are: (1) Shaped by the Word (2) Drenched in Prayer (3) Accompanied by hard work, God’s people can expect to experience his good and strong hand of blessing. – – James Hamilton has written an accessible commentary on Ezra and Nehemiah that will bless you as you study these books.

Read through Ezra-Nehemiah and you are likely to notice the repeated refrain, “the hand of the Lord.” You can scan the texts below.

“THE HAND OF THE LORD” IN EZRA-NEHEMIAH

this Ezra went up from Babylonia. He was a scribe skilled in the Law of Moses that the Lord, the God of Israel, had given, and the king granted him all that he asked, for the hand of the Lord his God was on him. Ezra 7:6

 For on the first day of the first month he began to go up from Babylonia, and on the first day of the fifth month he came to Jerusalem, for the good hand of his God was on him. Ezra 7:9

 and who extended to me his steadfast love before the king and his counselors, and before all the king’s mighty officers. I took courage, for the hand of the Lord my God was on me, and I gathered leading men from Israel to go up with me. Ezra 7:28

 And by the good hand of our God on us, they brought us a man of discretion, of the sons of Mahli the son of Levi, son of Israel, namely Sherebiah with his sons and kinsmen, Ezra 8:18

 For I was ashamed to ask the king for a band of soldiers and horsemen to protect us against the enemy on our way, since we had told the king, “The hand of our God is for good on all who seek him, and the power of his wrath is against all who forsake him.” Ezra 8:22

Then we departed from the river Ahava on the twelfth day of the first month, to go to Jerusalem. The hand of our God was on us, and he delivered us from the hand of the enemy and from ambushes by the way. Ezra 8:31

They are your servants and your people, whom you have redeemed by your great power and by your strong hand. Neh 1:10

 and a letter to Asaph, the keeper of the king’s forest, that he may give me timber to make beams for the gates of the fortress of the temple, and for the wall of the city, and for the house that I shall occupy.” And the king granted me what I asked, for the good hand of my God was upon me. Neh 2:8

And I told them of the hand of my God that had been upon me for good, and also of the words that the king had spoken to me. And they said, “Let us rise up and build.” So they strengthened their hands for the good work. Neh 2:18

Both Ezra and Nehemiah emphasize that their projects succeeded because God’s hand was on them.

So as a pastor, I am asking, “How can I experience the hand of the Lord”? To help me in my studies, I am reading a number of commentaries including James Hamilton’s commentary. I am only beginning, but so far I have identified the following points.

  • Ezra-Nehemiah were Word-centered and so aligned with God’s kingdom  purposes.

James Hamilton writes of Ezra:

Ezra 7: 6 tells us that not only did Ezra come from a significant ancestry, he was also godly and was seeking the kingdom of God: He was a scribe skilled in the law of Moses, which Yahweh, the God of Israel, had given. The king had granted him everything he requested because the hand of Yahweh his God was on him. The phrase “skilled in the law of Moses” tells us that Ezra was swift in the Scriptures. He was nimble, quick with the Torah. He knew the contents of the Bible, understood the contents of the Bible, and brought the Bible to bear on pressing questions. There are at least two factors at work in any skill : natural aptitude and practice. The Lord had blessed Ezra with abilities, and Ezra had honed the abilities given to him to the point that he could be described as skilled. This means that Ezra had God-given capacities and that Ezra had studied.

Hamilton also highlights Nehemiah’s commitment’s and challenges ours:

In the midst of these responsibilities and duties, with all this influence, Nehemiah knows the Bible. Nehemiah’s supreme concern is for God’s kingdom. I doubt that Nehemiah would plead that he was too busy to study the Bible or pray. He wanted to study the Bible and pray, so he made time for it.

  • Ezra-Nehemiah soaked their ministries in prayer. Just read Nehemiah 1 and you will see the centrality of prayer in Nehemiah’s life.
  • Ezra-Nehemiah worked hard. In the end, so much of life and ministry comes down to hard work. If you read through Ezra and Nehemiah, you see that because God’s hand was on them – – they worked hard – – and because they worked hard – – God’s hand was on them.

Going into fall ministries, I am praying that our church will be Word-centered – – on our knees – – and working hard. Nothing is more worthwhile than working with God’s good and strong hand on our shoulder.

 

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The Stillman Valley cheerleaders gave our community the gift of smiles last Friday night.One of the best gifts young people can give their communities is to smile, laugh, and have fun. It warms our hearts.

Let me say this at the onset to get it over with. It was an abysmal football game; it felt like some sort of dystopic nightmare. Because of lightning, the game didn’t  start until 9:45 and it was mostly downhill from there. Thankfully, we don’t endure those sorts of games often. We are also thankful that ESPN has already done their story on our opponent, Wendell Phillips high school, so at least we aren’t featured in the footage. The ESPN piece on Phillips is worth watching.

But there was a bright spot during the lengthy lightning delay.

For the first several days of the delay some of us hunkered down in the shed. Picture Noah on the ark. We went into the shed two by two. The winds howled. The rain blew in. Less brave people (like my wife) hid in the high school. But once the rain let up, we met up at the stands.

Sensitive to our boredom, the boys in the press box scrolled through their I-pods and played some  favorites. Maybe, I am living in the 70’s, but I’d like to think their playing of CCR’s, Who’ll Stop the Rain got things going right. Before someone brings it up, I deny yelling anything about Freebird when Sweet Home, Alabama was played.

In any case, the party really picked up when Neil Diamond’s Sweet Caroline blasted over the speakers. Our cheerleaders decided that if they weren’t going to lead the crowd in cheers (we still didn’t know at that point if we would even play) they could bring cheer with a “Sweet Caroline chorus line.” It wasn’t necessarily well choreographed – – but the moment I will remember for quite some time is what an encouragement it was to my heart to see young people laughing and having fun. Their smiles were warm and carefree.

Here is a serious point. At the end of the long week, seeing teens sing Sweet Caroline, or watching them surf on the football bench to Wipeout, or seeing adults champion the cause of the YMCA – – those are the sorts of smiles we need. We really do.

Young people can’t know what a gift they give when they smile and laugh. I am thankful for them.

 

 

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A Most Dangerous Game

Chris —  September 2, 2014 — 5 Comments

OreosPretending that God must give an account to people, rather than the other way around, deadens the heart to the need for a Savior.

Anyone who has ever tracked down the thief who ate the last row of Oreos knows that it is a common tactic for the accused to go on offense. The guy with black crumbs in the corner of his mouth accuses others of being greedy. (I speak from experience here).

After all, the best defense is a good offense.

Or is it?

Where cookie theft is concerned, it may work to put your accuser on defense. But with God it is an eternally danger game to presume that God is on trial. Could anything more ludicrous than the idea that God must give an answer to us? And, I say this soberly, it’s a hell of a thing to be wrong about.

Yet people accuse God all the time. Here’s why. All of us, even young children, have the law written on our hearts (Romans 2:14-15). Unbelievers know deep down, whether they admit it or not, that they must answer to God. They know that conduct matters without even being told this is the case.

But many, rather than face up to the fact that they must answer to God, choose to go on offense. As C.S. Lewis pointed out, modern man has a tendency to presume that God is on trial. So those who should be on defense believe that where God is concerned, the best defense is a good offense. They start to point their fingers at God with “hard” questions and passionate excuses:

  • Why does God allow suffering?
  • Everyone disagrees about what the Bible teaches. It just says what you want it to say. Or it’s too hard to understand the Bible.
  • My parents messed up my life. I can’t be responsible.
  • Does God really expect that I should go to church when there are so many hypocrites there?
  • My circumstances are too difficult for God to really expect me to obey him?
  • God’s plan is just too hard for me?
  • I’m doing my best so God will be okay with that.
  • God won’t be upset if I don’t go to church.

There is an aspect of this game of accusing God which “works.” In the short run, it deadens the conscience to the person who is rejecting God. It helps people sleep at night. They feel okay about rebelling against God in an ongoing way because they feel they have their reasons.

And that is why going on the offense with God is such a dangerous game. Fooling ourselves into believing that God is on trial deadens the conscience to the need for a savior.

But rest assured. God isn’t on trial. He’s not in the dock. Hear the warning of Romans 9:20: “But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, ‘Why have you made me like this?'”

We must all answer to God. Whoever believes in the Son has life, but for the one who does not, the wrath of God abides on him (John 3:36).

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Zac and Logan at Erie GameHere is what I am “yelling” at every sporting event – – if not verbally – – I am yelling with my heart.

Kick-off is a few hours away in Stillman Valley. My batteries are charged: literally and figuratively. I updated the firmware on my camera last night. And I reviewed football history with a coach (M.A.) over lunch at the Cardinal Cafe.

Which is to say – – I’m getting ready to click. And getting ready to cheer. I do yell occasionally. But I have never been penalized or booted from a game.

Having said that – – there are some things I don’t yell. But I am thinking them on the inside. Here’s part of the list:

  1. I love young people. I don’t yell about my love during football games. It would be awkward. But be assured that I care. That’s what motivates me. It’s why I post so many pictures. It’s what makes it fun.
  2. I love the young people on both teams. It goes without saying, but it needs to be said. While my biases are obvious, I enjoy being around all young people. I can’t tell you how many times I have scrambled to get a good picture to a player from another team, even when they score against us. It’s my small way of telling young people that our love is real. I have watched a lot of sporting events for area athletes. I’ve shot games when Stillman wasn’t playing. I check to see how Byron wrestlers do. I pull for Winnebago kids. I get excited about Oregon athletics. I love young people, not colors and uniforms.
  3. I am available. Not just me. Other pastors as well. You need to talk – – let’s talk. You know how to get in contact with me. You can be a football player or a cheerleader or a chess team member or someone who is involved in no extra-curricular activities. Pastors are gifts that local churches make available to people. We are busy gifts. We can’t do everything. But if you are facing something, then let’s get together and chat. Soon. You – – or your folks – – or your friends – – local churches are available to you.
  4. I take confidentiality very seriously. While it is true that I have a son and daughter who are still in the system, I don’t tell them personal details of ministry. I never give unqualified promises that I will never tell a soul what you say. After all, if you tell me you are going to bomb the school, then I should mention it to your folks. But it is always my goal to treat confidential matters very seriously. If you meet with me, then we can do it in a way that is private. (Though I don’t meet alone with women/ girls!) If you message me, it’s between us.
  5. Even if I am not the right person for a problem, I can help you get in touch with the right person. Many areas are outside of my expertise. But often one of the first steps is to find the right person to talk to. I can help with that.
  6. You are not alone. High school can be lonely. Life can be lonely. Lots of people feel lonely. If you feel that way, then you are not the only one. But you don’t need to be alone.
  7. You will never graduate from being loved or cared about by God’s people. High school is a short season. It’s soon over. But some things are eternal and love is one of them. So don’t go it alone. Find a good church home – – love and be loved – – we’re available to you.

Like I said – – it would be awkward to yell all that stuff aloud. It’s kind of wordy. So I’ll stick with, “One-two-three-four – – you know what those cleats are for – – stomp ‘em.” But the points are above are what I am really thinking.

 

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Marilynne Robinson Robinson wonders if the reason people prefer Rush Limbaugh and “Jay Leno” (no longer a current example) is because they instruct viewers as to what it is “cool to think.”

The present dominance of aspersion and ridicule in American public life is a reflex of the fact that we are assumed to want, and in many cases perhaps do want, attitude much more than information. If an unhealthy percentage of the population gets its news from Jay Leno or Rush Limbaugh, it is because they are arbiters of attitude. They instruct viewers as to what, within their affinity groups, it is safe to say and cool to think. That is, they short-circuit the function of individual judgment and obviate the exercise of individual conscience. So it is to a greater or lesser degree with the media in general. It is painful to watch decent and distinguished people struggle to function politically in this non-rational and valueless environment.

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Job: Preaching Propositions

Chris —  July 31, 2014 — 5 Comments

photoDuring our upcoming series on Job in the Fall, we will see that Christ alone is sufficient to sustain us through whatever suffering we may face. He is the only one who can truly see us through the inevitable pain of a fallen world. The more we soak in the book of Job, the more we will see the sufficiency of Christ in the face of suffering, and the more we will realize that all other ground but Christ is sinking sand.

I continue my preparation for Job – – and that has meant thousands of pages of prayerful reading and pages of notes. For several weeks, I have labored to distill from my notes propositions and truths that will form the skeleton of the series. These are a work in progress, but they show much of where I will go in the series.

As I state above, the central thesis of the series on Job will be that Christ alone is sufficient to sustain us through the suffering of life. This overall thought in mind, the below propositions flow out of my study of Job. Of course, these are very abbreviated! I don’t want to give all of the series in advance!

  1. When studying Job we should be reminded that suffering is inevitable and that we must be prepared for it individually, as families, and corporately.
  2. The central concern of the book of Job is the question of whether or not God’s people legitimately glorify Him. Do God’s people serve only for what they get from God? Or do God’s people serve God because He is God?
  3. This side of the cross, we live at a remarkably different time in salvation history than Job. We should be cross-eyed when we read Job. While nothing can allow us to exhaustively understand the problem of evil – – we simply do not have the capacity to comprehend the answer – – we can be overjoyed that on this side of the cross we can look to Christ knowing that He is sufficient.
  4. The truth that the patient of endurance of Christians glorifies God should motivate us individually and as Christian communities to suffer well. The fact that God calls Job’s conduct into evidence shows us how eternally important it is that Christians endure suffering in ways that are glorifying to God. Not only is one’s conduct in suffering a testimony to family, friends, and church – – what image bearers do is significant to God. God, and the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms are watching, and what Christians do reflects on the name of Christ. Our battles with pain are not private, isolated affairs. No child of the king is obscure or unknown.
  5. We must be intellectually prepared for suffering. While explaining the problem of evil is not the central concern of the book of Job, a study of the book inevitably puts this question on the table.
  6. All worldviews, other than the Christian one, are opaque lenses that ultimately give no insight into the meaning of life or how we can find truly find comfort. Indeed, most other worldviews must “borrow capital” (See Van Til) from the Christian to even pose the question. The atheist’s question regarding evil disintegrates – – – it is self-destructive.
  7. Suffering in this life is not always proportional to righteousness. Some suffer greatly though they have sinned less than others who suffer less. The retribution principle (the idea that you reap what you sow) is not a calculation that allows us to consistently predict how life will go.
  8. Along with being prepared in our understanding of theology, we must also know how to endure the experience of suffering.
  9. We must have a vision for comforting the hurting and be equipped as a church family to minister with great wisdom to those who are suffering.

 

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