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Pastor Chris Brauns at Stillman Valley baccalaureate 2016This is not an exact transcript. I preached a slightly shorter version. My central point was that, even when facing those intolerant of Christianity, we should name the name of Christ. Salvation is found in no one else (Acts 4:12).

I am privileged to deliver the baccalaureate sermon to the 2016 Stillman Valley High School graduates: a group so loved by our community. After introductory remarks, my plan is to read the Bible text, pray, and share a few thoughts.

By way of introduction, if you have not previously attended one of these services, we want to stress that this is not an official school event. Rather, baccalaureate takes place as an explicitly Christian worship event organized and led by our students. The school graciously approves rental of the facilities for a non-school event.

I speak today at the invitation of those who organized baccalaureate. Which is to say that, though I am a parent, I stand here as a minister of the gospel of Jesus: that is, as a servant of the good news of eternal life in Christ.

Of course, we welcome people of all faith backgrounds to this service and we are thankful to reflect with you on truth at such a pivotal time. We live, it would seem, in an age of growing intolerance and we want nothing to do with an unwillingness to fairly engage with different points of view.

To the students, we are thankful for those of you who made this a priority. We know you are busy and I have prayed earnestly that you will be blessed for being here.

Our Bible text for today’s baccalaureate message is from the New Testament book of Acts. God the Holy Spirit wrote Acts nearly 2,000 years ago through a physician named “Luke.”

You may be interested to know: God used Luke to write more words of the New Testament than any other author. We find Luke’s writings in two parts:

  • Part 1 of Luke’s writings is the Gospel of Luke: his account of the Lord’s Jesus Christ’s entrance into history, of his journey to the Cross, and of his death, burial and resurrection.
  • Acts constitutes Part 2 of Dr. Luke’s writings. The title “Acts” is spelled “A-C-T-S”, not “a-x”! Acts is so named because this portion of Scripture references the acts or deeds of the apostles in beginning the church.

Where the timeline of this passage is concerned, it is helpful to see the beginning of Acts in the context of Christian holidays.

  • We recently remembered Good Friday when Christ was crucified for the sins of his people.
  • The Sunday after Good Friday we celebrated Easter: remembering the Lord’s bodily resurrection which demonstrates Christ’s victory over sin and Satan and promises that Christians who have given their lives to Christ will one day themselves be resurrected and share eternity together with Jesus on the new earth.
  • Tomorrow – – seven weeks after Easter – – the day you graduate – – is Pentecost Sunday which remembers how after Jesus ascended into heaven the Holy Spirit was poured out on the Church and the church officially began. The account I will to you today takes place only a few days after Pentecost.

High level, the situation is that the intolerant religious establishment of the day confronted the Apostle Peter and John because they saw them as a threat. Peter and John had healed a man who had been lame from birth (Acts 3:1-8). They were on their way to the temple for afternoon prayers when they saw a man well known to everyone because he was crippled. The only way this crippled man survived was to be placed at this gate that was the center of traffic so that he could beg for charity.

Now you know how it is. People who do not intend to give beggars anything ignore them when they walk past them. Peter and John, however, when they got to this beggar he called out to them and said, “Hey, look at us.  [5] …he looked at them expectantly… [6] Peter said, “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!” [7] And he took him by the right hand and raised him up—as though he was getting up after a football play– and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong. [8] And leaping up he stood and began to walk, and entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God.

[9] And all the people saw him walking and praising God, [10] and recognized him as the one who sat at the Beautiful Gate of the temple, [begging]. And they were [blown away] by what had happened to him. Acts 3:1-10.

Having heard the ringing of cow bells after we win a football game, we can only imagine how quickly the crowd energy of a well know lame man leaping rippled through Jerusalem.

But the power of Christ – – which meant healing for this man – – threatened the power of others intolerant to the claims of Christianity. Soon enough the religious establishment arrived on the scene. The Bible tells what happened next and this is our text:

[1] And as they were speaking to the people, the priests and the captain of the temple and the Sadducees came upon them, [2] greatly annoyed because they were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead. [3] And they arrested them and put them in custody until the next day, for it was already evening. [4] But many of those who had heard the word believed, and the number of the men came to about five thousand.

[5] On the next day their rulers and elders and scribes gathered together in Jerusalem, [6] with Annas the high priest and Caiaphas and John and Alexander, and all who were of the high-priestly family. [7] And when they had set them in the midst, they inquired, “By what power or by what name did you do this?” [8] Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them,

“Rulers of the people and elders, [9] if we are being examined today concerning a good deed done to a crippled man, by what means this man has been healed, [10] let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by him this man is standing before you well. [11] This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. [12] And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” Acts 4:1-12.

Let me pray and then I will share a few thoughts.

Our Father, in heaven, my prayer today is that of the apostle Paul’s prayer in Ephesians 6:19-20. I ask that you would enable me to speak the Good News of your Son with boldness – – that I may declare it boldly as I ought to speak.

I pray this in the name of Christ. Amen.

“Name the name”: this is my thought for you today. It is my thesis. My central aim is to encourage you to specifically remember people, events, and places by name. Pronounce their names. Say their names. Whether or not people are interested – – even when they are intolerant of your beliefs—name the name.

Now, hopefully, the idea of a thesis or main idea is a familiar one to high school graduates. Your teachers began pounding the concept of a main idea into your malleable minds in late elementary school. Do you remember the essay diagrams where there was a middle circle for the thesis and then surrounding circles for supporting points? So, in terms of those essay diagrams you learned in late elementary, “name the name,” would be the middle block of the diagram.

Maybe I should qualify the thesis by saying, “Where good memories are concerned, name names,” because doubtless there are things many of you have done that you prefer not be remembered. I’m not saying you need to remember every Saturday school.

You have repeatedly been taught that a good thesis deserves explanation. The best way I can support the thesis I have for you today is by way of examples.  Let me start with places. As you make your way in this world, many people will ask you where you are from. Name the name of your place.

Noah, for instance, will be privileged to cross the Mississippi river to the great state of Iowa. Now, when you’re at Iowa State, when someone asks where you are from, don’t answer generally. Don’t say – – “I’m from Illinois.” Say “Stillman Valley” in a way that implies they should know as much about Stillman Valley as they do about Cedar Rapids.

Makala, it should be the same thing in Colorado. Don’t say, I’m from Illinois – – or, I’m from near Chicago – – or worse yet, near Rockford – – say, “I’m from STILLMAN VALLEY, IL.”

It is fine to explain the location of where you are from relative to Chicago or Rockford or whatever works – – but come to the point where you say the name.

Say the specific name of events. Name the name. Say, for instance, “our musical my senior year was Hello Dolly starring Savannah Giddings as Dolly.” Or, when referencing football plays, say, “We ran the veer offense in the mud in Oregon, IL our last game.

Name the names of people. Find times to pronounce your grandma’s name the rest of your lives. Be specific.  Say Emily’s name. Say, “I lost a beautiful friend my senior year. Her name was Emily Flemming.” You remember her now and will continue to do so. Keep saying her name. Say your mom’s name. Talk to other people about your dads by name when you can.

Consider three important reasons to name names.

First, by referring to people and places specifically, you will make fun and exciting connections. You will be pleasantly surprised in London, England if you say you’re from Davis Junction and someone tells you they have been to Davis Junction. Better still – – tell someone your grandfather’s name and they will say, “Oh yes, I knew your grandpa. Did he ever tell you about the time . . . ?” A good story may follow.

Second, and more important, naming names demonstrates gratitude. Remembering someone by name is a way to be thankful the rest of your lives. For so many of you, your grandmas and grandpas, aunts and uncles, organized their schedules around you. Specific people loved on you from the moment you were born. Now, the rest of your lives, you can be thankful for them by remembering their names. Your moms and dads did so much on your behalf.

Third, and most important, naming names shows love and loyalty. To specifically connect ourselves identifies our allegiance. It shows where we belong. In the next decade – – a large number of you will marry someone. Here is a little tip for you – – if you are in what you think is a serious relationship, but the other party is not willing to tell anyone your name – -well, that’s a really bad sign. People don’t get married in general, they get married in particular – – they say their vows publically and, in the vast majority of cases, share the same last name.

Now, this matter of naming the Name is precisely what is in view in Acts. The intolerant leaders who crucified Christ demanded that Peter explain his allegiance. “By what power or by what name did you do this?” They wanted to know where Peter was coming from in terms of his faith.

Those who were intolerant of early Christianity, would have been quite content if Peter had answered them with a general reference to “god” that aligned with their allegiances and did not threaten the influence of the power brokers.

But the apostle Peter was having nothing of it. Peter said – with laser like specificity – – “Rulers of the people and elders, [9] if we are being examined today concerning a good deed done to a crippled man, by what means this man has been healed, [10] let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by him this man is standing before you well. [11] This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. [12] And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” Acts 4:1-12.

Notice, Peter was specific about the place: Nazareth. The events: the crucifixion and resurrection; Most of all – -the person: Jesus. Regardless of their intolerance and threats – Peter was specific and clear. Peter named the name.

This confession of Christ was exactly what the religious authorities did not want to hear. And the Apostles understood for their part that a specific confession of Christ would likely mean death. Indeed, naming the name did mean death for many in the early church at the hands of those intolerant of Christianity. While Peter’s death is not recorded in the Bible, historical documents tell us that Peter was later executed. And Scripture does tell us of Stephen, James, and others who died at the hands of those intolerant to Christianity and hostile to the name of Christ.

Still, we must see, that not fearing the intolerance of the day – – Peter named the name of Christ.

For him, it was a matter of connections – – we are with the one you opposed – -and now we are part of the body of Christ – the church of Jesus Christ.

It was a matter of gratitude – – he was crucified for our sins – – he paid the penalty we deserve.

It was matter of love and loyalty. We have decided to follow Christ and there is no turning back.

Peter spelled it out very specifically:

And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” Acts 4:12

In giving this confession, Peter shared what Christians call the good news or the gospel. His point was that even though all fall short of God’s standard, those who trust Christ as Lord and Savior are forgiven on the basis of his atoning work on the cross and will spend eternity with him.

Stillman Valley Class of 2016: As you go out into the world, people will ask not just where you’re from, but where you’re coming from, in terms of faith commitment. Where faith is concerned, it will be up to you to decide where – – like Peter – you will name the Name.

We live in an age of vague generalities and qualified allegiances. Yet, to be a Christian is to accept and believe a very specific claim – – that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life – that no one comes to the Father except with him as King (John 14:6).

To be sure, there can be a cost for following Christ. Many are intolerant of Christianity. People are comfortable alluding to the man upstairs – – or even God – – or a higher power. Increasingly, broader culture allows undefined allegiances. But this is not the Christian faith. Salvation is found in no one else for there is no other name under heaven given to humanity by which we can be saved.

Inevitably, those intolerant of Christianity will object that naming Christ is narrow and dogmatic. The answer is, “Well, of course, it is narrow to say that Jesus is King.” Truth is narrow – -by definition. Are you from Davis Junction or aren’t you? If you are – – to say you are from DJ isn’t being unreasonable. It is the truth. Is Christ God or not? Was he resurrected or not? The answer is inevitably narrow.

Surely it is also obvious that is as narrow to deny that Christ is not the Messiah as to believe that he is.

Or, maybe you have heard someone accuse: “You are a Christians because you were born in America.” To this, we would respond, “be reasonable.” We don’t have to think long about that accusation to see it doesn’t hold together. Jesus lived in Asia. We live in North America – –  the other side of the world from Christ – – we are not Christians because we live in America; we are Christians because Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life and no one comes to the father except by Him – – and those who lived on the other side of the world went throughout the world to make disciples.

To be sure, there are some religions that are relatively limited to particular places. But not Christianity. And where the spread of Christianity is concerned, it is worth noting – – Christianity does not obliterate cultures – it does not insist that people all dress the same way nor does it oppress – rather, it is redemptive.

Someone still others object, “Well, naming Christ is offensive to those who disagree.” It may be – – but the nature of truth and loyalty demands specificity. Just as it would be silly to say you should not get married because some other disappointed person will resent your allegiance, it is ludicrous to say that you cannot confess the name of Christ because someone else may not like it.

And – of course – the sword that the cries “foul” when a different position is articulated cuts both ways. It could just as easily be pointed out that those who deny Christ are being unfair to believers.

Christian graduates – – those of you who are followers of Jesus Christ – – the expectation is that you have given your lives to Christ with a willingness to confess his name – – even to die for his name if necessary. This is saving faith. This is not a matter of being unreasonable. And there is every reason to follow Jesus. If it was clear in the book of Acts, that a lame man leaped, it is one million times more vivid today that Christ went to the cross, was crucified, and rose again. Any objective examination of the evidence bears out that it is the name of Christ that has brought salvation and freedom wherever people bow before him. It is the name of Christ that has shaped all of history – you are, after all, graduating in this, the year of our Lord, 2016, so dated because time is measured in terms of his life. As surely as North America has steeples on the horizon of nearly every small town, the good news of Jesus has gone into the world.

Now, how will you respond when intolerant people demand an explanation for your life? I implore you to look to Christ. Name the place (He was from Nazareth and he went to the cross on Calvary), the event (the Cross and resurrection), name the name: Christ.

I recognize, of course, that everyone hear may not be a follower of Christ. To you – – I would encourage you to investigate very carefully who you will serve – what name will you name. Don’t think about life’s big questions in general – – consider them in particular. Who is Christ? What did he claim? What is love? Who is the source of love? If you have any question talk to one of your pastors or leaders. Ask specific questions.

In concluding, allow me to practice what I preach. As one of your pastors, I love you – – not in general – – but in particular. We love the graduates of Stillman Valley High School. And I commend to you the good news – – that salvation is found in the name of Jesus Christ. Name the name.

I shared earlier this week that I am part of a group that has met to study 2 Corinthians with Dr. George Guthrie. Dr. Guthrie is the author of the excellent new commentary, 2 Corinthians (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament).

I can’t remember a time when my understanding of Scripture has been so effectively sharpened in such a short period of time. I look forward to preaching this rich book of the Bible to our church.

The below images offer an opportunity to look in through the window at our times of study at the Haddon Robinson study retreat.

Screenshot 2016-05-05 15.16.02 “Yesterday” — as seen in the picture to the right — our son Benjamin stepped onto the bus and started kindergarten. This weekend he graduates from high school. Below is what I pray Ben and his classmates remember.

Congratulations 2016 Graduate:

For over 20 years I have thought about what and refined reminders to give graduates on one page. Obviously, I can’t say everything. Rather, these are the essential truths I want to stress at this pivotal time.

  1. Know that following Christ is both right and best. Believing in Jesus is right because Jesus is the One true God. He deserves all glory. Putting our faith and trust in Jesus is best because Jesus came that we might have life more abundantly. If you have not done so already, give your life to the King. On the Cross, he paid the penalty for His people so that we could spend eternity together on the New Earth in his presence. The alternative to believing in Jesus is unthinkable.
  2. Be warned. Be sure. Get up. Be warned: the way of the sinner is hard. Don’t buy the lie that you can make wrong choices and not reap the consequences. Be sure you really are a Christian (2 Cor 13:5, James 2:17). The worst words that will ever be heard will be when many stand before Christ thinking they are Christians and find out that they will spend eternity in hell. Get up. When you stumble as a Christian, as you will, don’t let failure give way to failure. Keep on. Persevere.
  3. Remember that God makes bricks with a building in mind. Christians should be mortared together in local churches (1 Peter 2:5). Gifted and empowered by the Holy Spirit to serve together, local churches are called to subtly season and boldly light the darkness across the street and around the world. Don’t put church on hold for the next few years.
  4. Sharpen your wisdom saw with the Word. Wisdom is skill for living. It is the saw we use to cut our way through life. We need a sharp saw to make quality decisions. We sharpen our wisdom saws by memorizing and reading the Word and by hearing it preached. Be Word-centered! Rinse in Scripture. It is more precious than gold and sweeter than honey.
  5. Envision a beautiful bride walking down the aisle in a Christ-centered wedding. Most of you will marry. God’s plan for sex and marriage is breathtakingly beautiful. All of us, even those who remain single, must remember that the Church is the bride of Christ. Marriage and the gospel explain one another. We cannot allow unbelieving culture to corrupt our vision for Christ-centered weddings and homes.
  6. Think deeply about true answers. Many people go through life as zombies not thinking through the big questions like: Why am I here? What happens after death? How can I know joy and happiness? If we do not live in light of biblical answers, we will stumble through life and make poor decisions. Ultimately, those who do not think deeply about the meaning of life will spend eternity in hell apart from Christ.
  7. Be assured: the people of the Red Brick Church love you. Love didn’t evolve. Love wasn’t invented. Love is eternal because our triune God is eternally love: ever giving and self-giving. He loves us and tells us to love one another. And we do. We love you. When we get to the Heavenly City, we want to know you will be at our meeting spot: 5th tree, right side of the river, facing the throne. We will be there soon. Until then, I am a pastoral resource available to you!

In Him,

Pastor Chris Brauns

See also:

Following Christ is Right and Best!

What Scares Me Most As A Pastor

What Do Christians Mean When They Reference the Gospel or Good News?

A More Magnificent Mirror: For My Daughter and Her Groom

Why Is My Blog Title A Brick in the Valley?
5th Tree Back, Right Side, As You Face The Throne

CDB_4702For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God. 2 Cor 1:20, NIV

This week I am blessed to join with a group of pastors at Covenant Harbor Retreat Center (Lake Geneva, WI). We will enjoy digging into 2 Corinthians under the instruction of Dr. George Guthrie of Union University.

With a couple of exceptions, what our group has in common is that we were privileged to complete doctoral work under Dr. Haddon Robinson. Now, we are committed to sharpening our preaching “saws” in an ongoing way.

Haddon Robinson at the GCTS Study Group 2014What our group does not have in common is:

  • The regions where we serve. The map included in this post shows that we come from all over North America: from Houston to Edmonton, Oregon to South Carolina.
  • The size of our cities or communities.  Some serve in rural communities, others in urban settings. Some are in the suburbs, others in the inner city.
  • The size of our churches. Some are part of large churches. Some are in small churches. Others are in new church plants.
  • Denominations. Just a sampling of our group includes Assembly of God, Baptist, Evangelical Free Church of America, Independent, and Presbyterian.
  • The venues in which we minister. A number have published books. Many have written articles one place or another. Most preach and teach on a weekly basis. Several teach homiletics (preaching) at Bible colleges or seminaries.

If you click through to the map, and then click on each pin, you will find more information about the ministries where we serve.

Pastors and Ministry leaders gather with Union University theologian George Guthrie to study 2 Corinthians.

Pastors and Ministry leaders gather with Union University theologian George Guthrie to study 2 Corinthians.

At Lake Geneva, our week will feature:

  • Intense study. Dr. Guthrie recently published a major commentary on 2 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament). He is one of the top NT scholars in the English speaking world and, having previously studied Hebrews with him, we are excited to learn from him again.
  • Sermon planning. Our goal is to return from our time together so that we can feed our flocks a rich diet of God’s Word. We use the common vocabulary taught to us by Haddon Robinsons: subject, complement, exegetical idea etc.
  • Ministry Updates. Each year when we gather together, we give updates and learn how we can pray for one another.
  • Prayer. At the beginning of each day, we spend time in prayer.
  • Food. The food service for Covenant Harbor is excellent!
  • Long walks and hot coffee. On most evenings, we take a 1.5 mile walk each way to the local Starbucks where we laugh and enjoy one anothers company.
  • Hockey Instruction. Several of our number hail from north of the border. Theirs is a colder climate and some of us have taken it upon ourselves to encourage an interest in hockey, which played on ice such as it is, would seem well suited for their arctic habitat. While the Canadians pick up fairly quickly on theological matters, it is taking them longer to understand hockey. It is our ardent hope that over the years those of us from the U.S. can teach them more about the sport. There is some indication they are making progress.

It is not lost on our group that we are uniquely blessed to have such an opportunity to study and be recharged. We are thankful for:

  • The support of our churches who encourage us to go.
  • A Wisconsin family that generously supports this retreat.
  • Gifted theologians who spend a week in Wisconsin in order to equip us.
  • The ongoing leadership of several in our group who continue to cast the vision and recruit speakers.
  • Administrative support from individuals at Fellowship Church (Greenville) and Blackhawk Church (Madison) who coordinate the logistics of reminding forgetful pastors to register, collecting our funds, and other administrative duties.

The below gallery of pictures were taken across a number of years. This is the second year that Haddon has not been able to make our retreat. We miss him being with us.

 

 

 

Even if you are an Auburn fan, this from Bear Bryant is good advice.

See the Big Picture of Acts

Chris —  April 19, 2016 — 4 Comments

If you read the Acts verses in column three of the below table, you will understand much about the big picture of Acts.

The thesis or theme of Acts could be stated in this way:

Christ builds his Church through the Spirit empowered proclamation of the Word – – despite many conflicts in the battles of a fallen world — even in and through those conflicts.

Acts begins with Jesus’ charge to the disciples that, after the Spirit has been poured out at Pentecost, they are to go into all the world and make disciples (Acts 1:6-8). The book of Acts, then, tracks the disciples’ obedience to that mandate and the productivity of the Spirit empowered Word. Acts concludes with the point that the Word has victoriously arrived in Rome.

Acts: Gospel Progress in the Book

Watch this video and see, also, What Scares Me Most as a Pastor.”

This morning, as we conclude our time in 2 Peter by considering Peter’s admonition to grow in grace, I am recommending to our flock that they consider reading the book, Habits of Grace: Enjoying Jesus through the Spiritual Disciplines.

I hope to post more on this book in the near future, but for now I will simply point to it as an excellent resource for growing in the Christian life.

Time Magazine: PornWriting for The American Conservative, Rob Dreher interacts with a recent Time magazine article and Denny Burk.

 Time magazine’s cover story this week is about what ubiquitous hardcore pornography is doing to men. I can’t link to it because it’s a subscribers-only piece, but Southern Baptist pastor Denny Burk has a detailed (but not NSFW) rundown of what it reports. The gist of it is that porn is changing the brains of young men, who have been watching it from a young age, such that they are impotent with actual women. Burk, quoting the article:

A growing number of young men are convinced that their sexual responses have been sabotaged because their brains were virtually marinated in porn when they were adolescents. Their generation has consumed explicit content in quantities and varieties never before possible, on devices designed to deliver content swiftly and privately, all at an age when their brains were more plastic—more prone to permanent change—than in later life. These young men feel like unwitting guinea pigs in a largely unmonitored decade-long experiment in sexual conditioning.

Read the rest here.

See also:

Pornography: 8 Suggestions for Sticking a Needle In Your Eye

The Porn Free Family Plan (Tim Challies)

The Top 5 Free Ways to Protect Against Internet Pornography (Tim Michalek)

For help implementing a family policy, and for saying no to Internet enabled devices, see Parents Memorize This Speech (Chris Brauns)

Please Don’t Give Them Porn for Christmas (Tim Challies)

Parenting in a Hyper-Sexualized Culture (Heath Lambert)

The Most Insidious Drug (Chris Brauns)

What’s at Stake with Internet Pornography (Russell Moore)

Is Pornography the New Tobacco (Mary Eberstadt)

Pornography: The New Normal (Carl Trueman)

Pornography: The New Narcotic (John Piper)

Hijacking Back Your Brain from Porn (John Piper)

Porn, Pride, and Praise (Heath Lambert)

Children Playing Outside Requires Leadership. Here’s Three Suggestions (Chris Brauns)

Russell Moore: Fake Love, Fake War and the Dangers of Pornography and the Internet

Pornification: Just the Facts (Ed Stetzer)

A Study on the Effects of Pornography

Recommended Reading:

Finally Free: Fighting for Purity with the Power of Grace (Heath Lambert)

Counsel to Men Addicted to Pornography (Ed Welch)

Pornified: How Pornography is Damaging Our Live, Our Relationships, and Our Families (Pamela Paul)

When I Don’t Desire God: How to Fight for Joy (John Piper)

Wired for Intimacy. How Pornography Hijacks the Male Brain (William Struthers)

Sexual Detox (an e-book by Tim Challies)

Recommended Videos:

I Am Struggling With Pornography and Need Help. What’s My First Step (Heath Lambert)

What Should I Do When My Husband is Looking at Pornography (Heath Lambert)

The Science of Pornography

You Can Say No to Porn (John Piper)

The Key to Escaping Porn (John Piper)

Tim Keller: How Does the Gospel Conquer Pornography

12380988_1164395103571699_1566099637_o-2Don’t miss the artwork from some of our church children found at the bottom of this post.

From the Greek eskatos/ἔσχατος, eschatology is the doctrine of “last things” or better stated, “the final redemptive work of the Last One.” This area of systematic theology or doctrine summarizes the work of Christ necessary to complete the plan of salvation – – it is what Jesus is doing as he brings salvation history to a conclusion.

Eschatology is an essential area of study for families and local churches. The study of Jesus’s return is how we share the vision with one another of where we are headed. The more we picture the return of Jesus – – the more unity, peace, and joy we will share as families and local churches.

Here are 9 blessings you can expect from studying eschatology.

  1. A fuller view of Jesus’ majestic beauty and power. Christians are familiar with images of Jesus in his first advent. Our churches and Christian literature often feature pictures of Jesus welcoming children (Mark 10:14). And Jesus did welcome children. But Christ’s tenderness is only one aspect of he majestic beauty. When our Savior returns, he will not come as a suffering servant but as a conquering King. Every knee will bow. Every tongue will confess. The more we meditate on the return of our King as a conquering warrior, the more our confidence and hope in him will grow. One of our church children (Noah G.) drew the picture to the right. It is his way of remembering that when Jesus returns, he will come as a conquering king
  2. Comfort for Hurting People. The promise of our Lord’s return and the resurrection is our foundational source of comfort amid loss of life and suffering (1 Thess 4:13-18). Though the pain of this life can seem unbearable, Scripture promises that our wounds will be healed. We will spend eternity with those who know Jesus where there will be no more death, mourning, crying or pain (Revelation 21:3-5). Jesus will return soon.
  3. A Greater Missions Focus. Jesus emphasized that it is not for us to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. Rather than getting distracted by setting dates, we are to go into all the world and make disciples. Indeed, missions paves the way for Christ to return (Matthew 24:14). So we should be creative, work hard, be shrewd, and aggressive in multiplying that which is entrusted to us as we go into all the world to make disciples (Matt 25:21, Luke 16:8-9).12891568_10153295400046986_3059856905847796612_o
  4. Kingdom Shaped Prayer. Our Lord taught us to pray “thy Kingdom come” and the cries of the those who were slain for Christ cry, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge your blood on those who dwell on the earth (Revelation 6:10)?” Studying the return of Christ will help us pray these and other prayers with greater depth and conviction.
  5. Anticipation of the Resurrection. When we study eschatology, we will make a greater distinction between the intermediate state (believers who die are consciously with Christ now) and life together after the resurrection. This, in turn, gives us greater excitement about the hope of the resurrection.
  6. Greater Enjoyment of Creation. Those who study eschatology will quickly see that Christians see too much discontinuity between this earth and where believers spend eternity. The Bible is clear that believers will spend eternity on earth, radically purified from the effects of original sin.
  7. Alertness in the Pursuit of Holiness. Peter wrote, given that all these things are thus to be dissolved we should pursue holiness and godliness (Matthew 24:42-43, 2 Peter 3:11-13). Likewise, regarding our hope in seeing Christ, John added, “Everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure (1 John 3:3).” Likewise, the the author of Hebrews expected that an awareness of the return in Christ would motivate people to be more faithful in church attendance (Hebrews 10:25).”
  8. An Awareness That We are in a Great Cosmic Battle. We struggle not against flesh and blood, but against the powers of darkness (Ephesians 6:10-17) Never the less, given that this war is unseen, we are often lulled into spiritual complacency. Like David in 2 Samuel 11, we presume that we are safe because someone else is fighting the Ammonites when Satan prowls about in our back yards. Studying passages like Revelation 12 reminds us of the nature of the conflict.
  9. A Better Sense of the Scale of Time. As we watch the seconds tick by in this life, we begin to lose sight of the brevity of our days (Psalm 144:3-4, James 4:13-17, 2 Peter 3:8-9). But when we study eschatology, we remember that a day is like a thousand years and a thousand years are like a day (2 Peter 3). As a result, we better number our days (Psalm 90:12).

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Below is artwork about the return of Jesus from some of our church children.

By way of explanation, we tell our church children that when we get to the heavenly city are going to meet at the 5th Tree on the right side of the river facing the throne. You will notice that some of our children illustrated this point by including people around the appropriate tree.