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My Study Window

Chris —  January 19, 2016 — 1 Comment

The Pastor's Window at the Red Brick Church in Stillman ValleyYou have a chance to look in my study window. This invitation goes out to anyone, regardless of whether or not you attend The Red Brick Church.  I will be available in my study 7:00PM – 8:15PM on 1/21, 28, 2/4, 11. This will be an opportunity to learn from hearing about areas I am currently studying and, if time permits, to discuss questions you bring up. You can find out a bit more if you watch the below video.


The longer I serve as a pastor, the more I treasure opportunities to visit with our people. I so value those times when I just get to chat about all that is going on in our church. Some of our most helpful growth takes place when we talk informally.

God has given us all that we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him (2 Peter 1:3). We need times where I can build into the flock.

Yet — time is so limited!

One of the areas I wish that I had more opportunity to talk with people about is areas that I currently believe it is critical for me to study – – and, perhaps, write about at some point.

So I’m carving out some time.

If you’d like to be involved in informal discussions about where I am focusing my reading and studies, then come by for one or more Thursday nights in the last part of January and the first part of February. I expect only a handful of people. But that’s the fun part. And if we have more then we will adjust the dynamic accordingly. The goal isn’t so much to know what I am studying as it is to help you grow theologically. I am expecting a very enjoyable and profitable time.

DSC_4391It was Pastors’ Popcorn Night at AWANA meaning it was my night to stop by AWANA, listen to questions, and give devotions. Some of my favorite questions were:

  • What is your favorite color? Blue.
  • What is your favorite Bible verse(s)? Titus 2:11-14, John 3:16
  • Why do we have the Bible? God is a God who speaks and gives us all we need for life and godliness.
  • What should we say to an atheist? That was a longer answer . . .

We talked about caring for animals and I talked about growing up on a farm. I told the children the one thing we never did for our animals was lay down our lives. Yet, the Lord is our shepherd (Psalm 23). Jesus is the Good Shepherd who laid down his life for the sheep (John 10:11)

I also had the chance to tell our children that being a pastor means that I am their shepherd: such a privilege.

My New Sweet Dreams

Chris —  January 12, 2016 — 2 Comments

Billy Williams day in June of 1969When I was a child, I dreamed of being a big league ball player like Billy Williams. Now I dream of being Buck O’Neil. Without Buck O’Neil, Billy Williams might haven never played an inning in the majors. 

Billy Williams was unquestionably one of the greatest Cubs ever. Nicknamed, “sweet swinging” Billy Williams for his effortless yet powerful swing, the Baseball Hall of Fame summarizes Billy’s career:

Over an 18-season big league career (1959-76), 16 spent with the Cubs, Williams had 2,711 hits, a .290 batting average, 426 home runs, hit 20 or more home runs 13 straight seasons, and once held the National League record for consecutive games played with 1,117.

“Billy Williams is the best hitter, day-in and day-out, that I have ever seen,” said longtime Cubs teammate Don Kessinger. “He’s unbelievable. He didn’t hit for just one or two days, or one or two weeks. He hit all the time.” . . .

“The leader of the Cubs is, of all people, the quiet man of the clubhouse, Billy Williams,” wrote Chicago sports columnist Bill Gleason. “Billy Williams, who seldom speaks in a voice that can be heard beyond his own cubicle, who wouldn’t say ‘Rah! Rah!’ if (Cubs owner) Phil Wrigley promised him a $10,000 bonus for each ‘Rah,!’ is the man to whom the Cubs look for leadership.

“He combines the dignity of Ernie Banks, the determination of (Ron) Santo, and the competitive fires of (Randy) Hundley, and he plays every day, every night.”

Yet, Billy Williams’ big league career almost never happened. Williams came up in the Cubs minor league system in 1959 at a time when racism was especially despicable and inhumane. In his book, Billy Williams: My Sweet-Swinging Lifetime with the Cubs, Williams describes the humiliation African-American ballplayers endured:

I would help entertain fans at the ballpark by playing baseball to the best of my ability, but then I was not allowed to eat in the restaurants or stay in their hotels. My black teammates and I had to rely on our white teammates to bring us a sandwich in the back of the bus after they were done enjoying their casual meal in a segregated restaurant.

Finally, Williams could endure the racism no more. He made the decision to quit baseball. He told a teammate he was done and took a train home to Alabama.

With Billy’s decision to quit,  Buck O’Neil entered the story. O’Neil had been a legendary player and manager in the Negro Leagues. By 1959 he was working for the Cubs as a scout. When the Cubs management learned that Billy Williams had gone home, they contacted O’Neil to ask him if he knew Billy. O’Neil responded, “I know who he is. I have been to his parents house and sat around with them. And I have eaten at their house.” Indeed, it had been O’Neil who first spotted Billy Williams’ talent.

So O’Neil agreed to immediately make the long drive down to southern Alabama. Williams describes what happened when O’Neil got to his house:

Baseball’s Buck O’Neil

At first, Buck didn’t say much. He simply said, “How do you feel, boy?”

I said, “I’m doing pretty good Buck.”

Buck said, “Got a call yesterday from John Holland. The Cubs think a lot of you. You’re playing good. They think that one day you might be in the major leagues because your scouting reports are good. What do you think?”

I said, “Buck, I have had enough. I don’t want to go back there anymore to play any baseball. I have enjoyed the time that I played. But I just don’t want to through the stuff that I have been going through off the field. You know, waiting for the white guys to bring me sandwiches, staying in separate run-down hotels, and things like that.

Buck knew all about discrimination in those days. I wasn’t telling him anything he didn’t know himself firsthand. He had experienced it himself throughout his entire life. Buck had also managed the Kansas City Monarchs of the old Negro Leagues, and he had a lot of players who had been homesick and wanted to go home. But I repeated “No, I am not going back to San Antonio.”

At that point, Buck said, “Okay,” and then he talked to my dad before he went back to his hotel. The next day, Buck came back to our house and we talked again. It must have been around 3 or 4 o’clock in the afternoon.

There was a place down there in Alabama called Prichard Park. That’s where all of my colleagues and guys who were in my class went to play ball. . . Buck said to me, “Come on, boy. Let’s take a ride.” . . .

Once we rolled up into the park, everybody there recognized Buck as a big-league scout. Then people noticed I was with him and they started pointing and saying, “There’s Billy! Hey how are you doing? You’ve been off to play ball, right?”

I said to them, “Yeah, but I am home now.”

Then the fellas said, “Wow! How did you get a chance to play pro ball? How did you get an opportunity to sign and play professional baseball? I bet it’s great. Man, I bet you are having a good time playing baseball, doing something you always wanted to do. . .

Buck just shook his head up and down at everything those guys were saying to me at Prichard Park. You could tell he was loving that influential kind of talk from my friends. He could not have scripted the comments any better. There must have been 10 or 12 guys saying things like that to me, making a big deal about me playing professional baseball. At that point, I started looking around at the guys from my hometown. Most of them were scuffling, trying to make ends meet, trying to make it with scarce job opportunities around town.

At that point, I said to myself, “Well, you know baseball, ain’t that bad. And waiting to get a sandwich at the back of a bus from a teammate ain’t that bad.”

Of course, it was that bad. It is unthinkable that such racism existed – – and continues to exist in some ways – – in our country. But O’Neil was successful in persuading Billy to return to San Antonio.

Once Williams returned to San Antonio it was only a matter of weeks before he had the opportunity to play in the majors. From San Antonio, he was called up to Triple-A where he hit .476 over a five day period and was called up to the majors.

But for Buck O’Neil’s wise influence, Billy Williams would have quit baseball a few weeks shy of the major leagues.

The story of Buck O’Neil and Billy Williams hits me differently today than it did when I was playing sandlot baseball myself. When I was growing up, I would have given anything to be a big league ball player. I loved playing baseball. But now, all these years later, I no longer dream about playing professional baseball. Instead, I long to be Buck O’Neil. And longing to be Buck O’Neil is, in the end, a bigger dream than being a professional athlete. How many men and women have the wisdom and talent to put our arm across the shoulders of young, gifted, men and women and encourage them to keep going when they feel like quitting? And what a difference a pastor, a coach, a friend can make who has the wisdom to encourage someone to not give up.

Today the Cubs have retired Sweet Swinging Billy Williams’ number.  As long as baseball is played in the friendly confines of Wrigley field, Billy Williams’ name and number will flutter from the right field foul pole above Ryne Sandberg and Greg Maddux, while Ernie Banks, Ron Santo, and Fergie Jenkins wave from the left field pole. And that is as it should be. I’m glad that Billy William’s number has been retired. But if I owned the Chicago Cubs, I would have a seamstress stitch the name of Buck O’Neil in small silver thread in a corner of the pennant of Sweet Billy’s flag. And  Williams would be the first to agree with the decision. Without Buck O’Neil’s long drive and wise words, Billy Williams would never have rounded the bases at Wrigley nor plucked a baseball out of the air from just above the ivy.

150yearlogo.jpgLuke gives the purpose of his gospel in his opening, “It seemed good to me . . . to write an orderly account for you. . .you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.” Luke 1:3-4.

Sunday’s sermon at The Red Brick Church will continue our series, A Confident Christmas.  This sermon will consider the inevitable collision between the Christian worldview and that of naturalism. Below are definitions and quotes I am providing our people on the sermon notes.

I so look forward to this sermon because the more we study Luke’s gospel, the more confident of the Christmas message we grow – – and the more we will respond with worship to our glorious Savior.


A Lexicon for Sunday’s Sermon

“The Christian says, ‘Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for those desires exists. A baby feels hunger: well, there is such a thing as food. A duckling wants to swim: well, there is such a thing as water. . .’” C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity.[1]

The Annunciation – The announcement by Gabriel to Mary (Luke 1:26-38) that she would be the mother of Jesus and that Jesus’ Kingdom would never end.

Dystopia / Dystopian – “An imagined place or state in which everything is unpleasant or bad, typically a totalitarian or environmentally degraded one.”[2]

Incarnation – The term literally means “in flesh.” It references when Jesus Christ, the second person of the Triune godhead, became humanity without ceasing to be deity. The Westminster Standards summarize, “Two whole, perfect, and distinct natures, the Godhead and the manhood, were inseparably joined together in one person, without conversion, composition, or confusion”: no conversion: God was not changed, no composition: a third hybrid was not formed that involved both deity and humanity, no confusion: deity and humanity are not a mixture.

Magnificat – The song of Mary found in Luke 1:46–55. This poem is in the style of the OT psalms, and is strongly reminiscent of the prayer of Hannah in 1 Samuel 2:1–10.[3]

Metanarrative – “An attempt to grasp the meaning and destiny of human history as a whole by telling a single story about it; to encompass, as it were, all the immense diversity of human stories in a single, overall story which integrates them into a single meaning.” Richard Bauckham[4]

Miracle – “I use the word Miracle to mean an interference with Nature by supernatural power.” C.S. Lewis[5] “Events which run contrary to the observed processes of nature.” J.D. Spiceland [6]

Naturalism – The belief that there is no God and that there is nothing after death.[7] Naturalism goes further than atheism because it offers a comprehensive view of life. A web definition reads “a philosophical viewpoint according to which everything arises from natural properties and causes, and supernatural or spiritual explanations are excluded or discounted.”

Nihilism – The rejection of all religious and moral principles, often in the belief that life is meaningless. If followed to their logical conclusions, non-Christian worldviews end in nihilism.

Theological liberalism[8]The religion which developed in the modern era built on the foundation of autonomous human reason (meaning humans can understand reality without God’s Word) which led to the denial of basic tenets of the faith such as the virgin birth, substitutionary atonement, authority of Scripture, imminent return of Christ, and bodily resurrection.

Worldview – A translation of the German term “weltanschauung” which reference the grid or lens through which people make sense of reality. The “collision” referenced in today’s sermon title is that of Orthodox Christianity with its belief in miracles and that of naturalism which insists that everything must be explained by natural processes.

[1] C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, vol. HarperCollins (San Francisco: Harper, 2001).

[2] “Dystopia,” Oxford Dictionaries, accessed December 11, 2015,

[3] B.J. Beitzel, “Magnificat,” in The Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible, ed. Walter A. Elwell (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1988), 1377.

[4] Richard Bauckham, The Bible and Mission: Christian Witness in a Postmodern World (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2003), 4.

[5] C. S. Lewis, Miracles, New edition edition (San Francisco: HarperOne, 2015), 5.

[6] J.D. Spiceland, “Miracles,” in The Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, ed. Walter A. Elwell (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1984), 723.

[7] Alvin Plantinga, Where the Conflict Really Lies: Science, Religion, and Naturalism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011), x.

[8] J. Gresham Machen, Christianity and Liberalism (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2009).

A new Christmas series for the Byron, Stillman Valley, Rockford, Davis Junction and other surrounding areas. If you wrestle with doubts about life and Christianity, we are praying that our 2015 Christmas series at the Red Brick Church will deeply encourage your heart.

No one welcomes mental doubts, especially at Christmas time. We want a confident Christmas. We long to be free of fear and sure about life will unfold.

Still, doubts nag. We wonder. What if there is no truth to the Christmas message? What if Christmas is a made up story that never really happened? What if there is nothing more than the material world? How will everything work out?

We can’t just wish the doubts away. Fears invade our minds and refuse to leave.

Yet, we don’t need to feel this way.

The Bible tells us that God gave us the Gospel of Luke’s for the purpose of giving us confidence. Luke explained that his reason for writing his account of Jesus was that we might have certainty that story of Christ is real. Luke wrote:

It seemed good to . . . write an orderly account . . . that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught. Luke 1:3-4

So it is in Luke’s gospel – – in soaking in it – – and in hearing it preached – – that we find a confident Christmas.

Beginning, Sunday, November 29, Pastor Chris Brauns will preach a new series at the Red Brick Church, In Search of a Confident Christmas: Biblical Messages from Luke’s Gospel For Moving Beyond Doubt. These sermons will show how Christians can defeat doubts and know deep joy this Christmas season.

Services at The Red Brick Church are at 9:00 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. Sunday School is scheduled during the first service and children’s church up to second grade is provided during the 10:30 hour. Listen to our sermons at

The Red Brick Church will also offer:

  • A Children’s Christmas Program on December at both the 9:00 AM and 10:30 AM services.
  • Christmas Eve Services at 4:00 PM and 10:30 PM.

In addition to the series, the below posts on Pastor Chris Brauns’ web site may be an encouragement:

Help for Doubters

R.C. Sproul Punches Holes in One of Freud’s Theories

Incurable Cancer and the Problem of God

Can We Be Good Without God? (The Moral Argument)

John Frame: The Great Question Confronting Modern Humanity

Four Questions Every Thinking Person Must Answer

Early Book Gift Ideas

Chris —  November 23, 2015 — Leave a comment

Hopefully, you are buying a present for at least one reader this Christmas. Here are a few ideas to consider.


Pastor Chris Brauns teaching Writing to 7th Graders in Stillman ValleyI taught seven sections of 7th grade English today at Meridian Junior High in Stillman Valley. I cannot imagine a more beautiful group of young people. They were engaged, enthusiastic, and they even laughed at some of my jokes. We had a great time.

Here is how their teacher, Mrs. Hurt, summarized our time together:

Seventh grade English hosted a guest speaker today. Rev Dr Chris Brauns; community pastor, photographer and published author, spoke on the writing process with students.The students made connections with their narrative essays to his visual of the “big idea engine and supporting idea cars.”

Rev. Brauns modeled the writing process of generating an idea with example topics from his experience as a community events photographer.

Students then generated and created story concepts. Our creative students produced ideas ranging from swimming inside Lambeau field, a tickle competition, to a runaway elephant named Tootsie.

Chris Brauns teaching English in Stillman Valley 2Students enjoyed asking Rev Brauns questions about the publishing process and his insights on writing to publish.

The students are now equipped with inspiration and motivation to begin writing their personal narratives about a challenging experience in their lives. Mrs. Hurt and the 7th grade students would like to thank Rev Brauns for visiting and sharing his experiences and ideas on the writing process.

Christ said his disciples are the "salt" of the world.Two documents from Chris Brauns’s personal notes for his series on the Sermon on the Mount. One is an uneven summary of the sermons. The other is the glossary of terms I thought I should understand in order to preach the series.

Sunday I preached my 25th and final sermon in my series on the Sermon on the Mount. The exhortation was to “make fresh decisions to be astonished by hearing Jesus’s words and obeying them.” Listen here.

As a part of the sermon, I pointed out some highlights from the series. You can review those highlights in the below document.


It may also be of interest to you see the glossary I made for my own study. This is technical because I wrote it for my own use. It’s unedited and of uneven quality.

Glossary for the Sermon on the Mount

Here is a Tim Keller sermon that will feed the soul of people in our day. This sermon will help you understand some of the reasons you think like you do. And it will show how Christ can set you free. In terms of interacting with the cultural waters in which we swim, it is one of the most profound sermons I have ever heard.

Watch, listen, and be nourished.

Justin Taylor summarizes:

Tim Keller speaking at chapel for Wheaton College (November 11, 2015), explaining that our culture repudiates as oppressive the idea that someone else names us and gives us an identity, but that when you trust Christ you have the only identity on earth that is received instead of achieved.

Keller goes on defend a form of individualism as inescapable but to critique expression individualism (the idea that you must look inside and then express them outwardly no matter what anyone says). He offers five critiques: it is  (1) incoherent; (2) unstable; (3) illusory; (4) crushing; (5) excluding.

We are social beings who need recognition and naming from outside—someone whom you love, approve, and esteem—to speak to you.

See also:

Communicating Truth in Our Late Modern Moment