Archives For Church

I started reading this the article, Man in the Middle, by Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra because I have long appreciated Dr. David Dockery’s leadership in evangelicalism. But as I began reading, I realized that this piece tells a far bigger story than Dr. Dockery’s personal journey. Rather, Dr. Dockery’s experiences offer a lens through which we can consider evangelicalism’s story in North America over the last 50 years. Dr. Dockery has had a front row seat — and place in the ring — and invested his life — regarding debates and violence involving theological liberalism and racism. 

David Dockery, president of Trinity International University, knows the feeling of exhaustion. His wife, Lanese, gave birth to their three boys in three years. While he was president at Union University, one student shot another, and an EF4 tornado tore through while half of the students were on campus.

But the most emotionally exhausting day in his life came on January 24, 1992.

“It was one of the happiest days and one of the saddest days of our lives jammed together,” he said.

For Dockery, January 24 started early. His commute to downtown Nashville normally took about 20 minutes. Although he was an assistant professor at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (SBTS) in Louisville, he was on loan to the Southern Baptist Sunday School Board (precursor to LifeWay Christian Resources) in order to serve as the general editor for the New American Commentary series.

But that Friday the drive was three hours, and took him up Interstate 65 back home to the SBTS campus in Louisville.

Read the rest here

Our church stresses “meaningful membership” in an ongoing way. Sometimes people counter, “But I don’t find the phrase in the Bible.” Here Trip Lee speaks to this objection.

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).

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.

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[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.

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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One of the best compliments children can give their pastor and church family is to draw pictures of church.

My friend Adrien drew a picture of our church. (You can see my picture with Adrien and Alex below – – and Sparky too).

I love the picture. It made my day.

2014-09-23 19.07.26

Here is why Adrien’s picture made my day. For the most part, children draw pictures of what they love. They draw pictures of their house – – or their family – -or their grandma’s house — or often of pets and animals.

So when Adrien drew this picture today, it was her way of saying, “I am loved at church. I feel welcomed there. The people at church care about me.”

What a compliment to our church family.

And we love Adrien. And her brother. And her parents.

Jesus loves them more.

My Study Window

Chris —  January 19, 2016

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.

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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.

Our culture is infatuated with Jesus’s admonition, “Judge not, that you be not judged (Matthew 7:1-2).” But, as I explained in Sunday’s sermon, the reason this is a favorite saying may not be good news.

There are, arguably, two reasons, our culture so often quotes Jesus’s prohibition of making judgments. First, hypocritical judging, which is what Jesus warned against, is ugly. The person who presumes to know why another person suffers, or the motives of another’s heart, or another’s status with Christ, puts him or herself in the place of God. Jesus warned against such hypocrisy in the strongest possible terms (Matthew 7:2).

Of course, when Jesus warned, “Judge not, that you be not judged,” he did not mean that we are not to make reasoned moral judgments. After all, in this same context, Christ cautions that we should identify some as “dogs” and “pigs” so as to not see truth trampled in the filth (Matthew 7:6).

The second reason that our culture is so enamored with the concept of not judging is that many do not like the idea of judgment at all. “Judge not” means to some that not even God judges. Yet, the idea that God will not judge is patently false. The Bible consistently stresses that God is a God who will judge sin. Consider a small sampling of biblical examples of judgment.

TABLE 1. SELECT BIBLICAL EXAMPLES OF GOD’S JUDGMENT

Example Text Comment / Summary
The Fall / Adam & Eve’s Disobedience Gen 3 Adam and Eve rebelled against God and God pronounces a sentence of spiritual death and all the pain and heart ache of a fallen world.
The Noahic Flood Gen 6-9 God destroyed everyone on earth except Noah and his family: the one family who had faith.
Sodom and Gomorrah Gen 19:23-29 God destroyed the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah for their wickedness, though Lot is spared
The Passover Exodus 12 God struck dead the firstborn in Egypt except those covered by the lamb’s blood (Exodus 12:21-28).
The Golden Calf Exodus 32 God sent the tribe of Levi to execute about 3,000 and more died from a plague because of their idolatry at the foot of Mt. Sinai.
So severe that even Cannabilism Lev 26:14-35 God warned that if Israel broke covenant that the judgment would so severe that there would even be cannibalism (Lev 26:29).
Adult Israel dies in wilderness Num 14:20-38 God vowed that all of the adults of Israel (save Joshua and Caleb), who would not follow Moses into the Promised Land, would die.
Jericho Josh 6 The city of Jericho was completely devoted to destruction.
Jesus promises judgment Matt 16:26-28 Jesus warned that he will return and reward people according to what they have done.
THE CROSS 2 Cor 5:21, 1 Pt 2:21, 1 Jn 4:10 God’s simultaneous demonstration of love & judgment. Love: Jesus died for sin. Judgment: Jesus received the punishment we deserve.
Ananias and Saphira Acts 5:1-11 Ananias and Sapphira lied about their commitment to the Church and God struck them dead.
Herod Acts 12:23 God struck Herod dead while people were praising him for having the voice of a god.
Those who destroy the church 1 Cor 3:17 God warns that people who harm God’s temple (the church) will be destroyed.
Warning to N.T. Believers 1 Cor 10:1-22 Paul warned the church at Corinth that examples of O.T. judgment are warnings for our day as well as then.
Partakers of communion in unworthy manner 1 Cor 11:27-34 Paul explained that the reason some are sick and have died was because they participated in communion in an unworthy manner.
Leaders / Teachers Warned Luke 12:47; Jam 3:1; Heb 13:17 Warnings that those in positions of responsibility have an increased accountability to Jesus when He returns.
The Judgment Seat of Christ 2 Cor 5:9-10; Rom 14:10-12 When Christ judges Christians resulting in rewards for some and a sense of loss for others.
The Great White Throne Judgment Revelation 20:11-15 Follows the Millennial Kingdom and is the occasion when the unsaved of all the world will receive their punishment of eternal hell.
Jesus’s final words in Revelation Revelation 22:12-13, 16, 20 Jesus promised that He will soon return and that when he does he will dispense punishment to those whose who do not know Him.

If these examples of biblical judgment people do not make you uncomfortable, then maybe you are not engaging with this idea of God’s judgment. The judgment of a holy God is a sobering topic. It is so uncomfortable the reality is that many churches in North America speak little of God’s judgment. And, perhaps the reason many pastors won’t speak of judgment is the same reason Jesus admonition, “Judge not that you be not judged,” is the most popular saying in the Bible.

For biblical Christianity, there is no denying the reality of judgment. Some insist that the Old Testament presents God as a harsher judge. But this is inconsistent with the Bible. Look at the table above. Read Revelation 20-22.

Some counter, “Well, then I’m not sure if I want the Bible. I’m not sure that I want judgment at all.”

But the person who objects to God’s judgment does want judgment. All people do. Every sane person believes in judgment. You need only to go to a high school football game and see a bad call and see people express their indignation at injustice to know people believe in justice. Or, watch a political leader make a decision that affects the standard of living. People cry out for justice. We all want judgment if a loved one is harmed. We should!

The fact is that people who object against God’s judgment are okay with justice and judgment. They just want to dictate judgment on their own terms and that, says Jesus in Matthew 7:1-2, is what we must not do. To insist on being the judge is a matter of pride. Only God is worthy of rendering judgment.

But then someone else will counter, “These examples of God’s judgment are harsh. Think of Sodom! Think of eternal hell. How can a God of such harsh judgment be loving?”

This is where we need to go to the middle of the above table and focus on the the Cross! On the Cross we see how God’s love and God’s judgment are both on display. John tells us (1 John 4:10) that the ultimate display of love is that Christ died for our sins. The reason he died, was to give Christ as the propitiation or atoning sacrifice for our sins.

For sure, one reason that our culture appreciates Jesus’s admonition to not be hypocritically judgmental is because such hypocrisy is so ugly and damaging. But, I fear, the greater reason so many quote Matthew 7:1-2 is because they have misread it to mean even God does not judge. About this, unbelieving culture could not be more mistaken. God is just and he will judge sin. Those who do not believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, will suffer God’s judgment eternally (John 3:36, Revelation 21:8).

See also:

What do Christians mean when they reference the gospel or good news?

The Pastoral Privilege of Telling Christians When Jesus Will Return

Jonathan Edwards Was as High on Heaven as He Was Hot on Hell

A Soft View of Hell Makes Hard People

Augustine:

It is a great duty of natural affection (it will be said) for a father to lay up for his sons; rather it is a great vanity, one who must soon die is laying up for those who must soon die also.

Luther:

See to it that greed does not take you in with a sweet suggestion and lovely deception like this: that you intend to advance yourself or your children into a higher . . . social position. The more you get the more you will want; and you will always be aiming for something higher and better. No one is satisfied with his position in life.”

Of course, balance is in order. It is not wrong to leave provision for one’s family.