Archives For Sabbatical

Sunday (6/4/17) Jamie and I were blessed by a sermon from Pastor Bruce McKanna on Sabbath rest. Bruce gave this beautiful challenge: “Don’t give yourself permission to rest so much as hear God’s permission.”

The first Sunday of my sabbatical, I preached in the GSOI. June 4th was my first opportunity to sit in the pew.  We attended Evangelical Free Church of Mt. Morris and In God’s conspicuous providence, we heard a sermon on Sabbath rest.

The entire sermon was excellent but the point I continue to reflect on is the reminder that God’s work and rest in creation serves as a pattern for his people.

In response to the sermon, I am memorizing Exodus 31:17:

It is a sign forever between me and the people of Israel that in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested and was refreshed.

The pattern of work and rest is rooted in creation. Work followed by rest is a rhythm that should be part of all our lives.


I’m thankful for the opportunity to recharge! 

A week into my sabbatical and here is some of how I’m working at recharging:

  • Memorizing and meditating on Romans 11:33-36. I can’t believe I haven’t previously memorized.
  • Lots of Scripture review and meditation
  • Listened to Paul Tripp’s address: Parenting is Gospel Ministry. It’s excellent!
  • Reading in Orwell’s 1984Churchill and Orwell: The Fight for FreedomChurchill’s Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare: The Mavericks Who Plotted Hitler’s Defeat
  • Gave a sermon at a family reunion.
  • Lots of walking at the Byron Forest Preserve — developing a friendship with the deer!
  • Listened to a sermon by Tim Keller on the incarnation. Also excellent!
  • Travelled to the GSOI (Great state of Iowa) where the children were thrilled to see me. 
  • Preparing for a graveside service for someone connected to our church family. 
  • I’ve prayed that our flock will be blessed this summer — especially by Pastor Tim Michalek’s preaching in Philippians. 




Spiritual retreats and highs are good and necessary. But be prepared to return to everyday life.

Spiritual retreats and highs are good and necessary. But be prepared to return to everyday life.

Being at camp, or on a spiritual retreat, is like free falling with friends. The rush of “sky-diving” is great. Soon enough, gravity takes over, and we are back on “land.” If the decisions made at camp are to make a lasting difference, we need a strategy for everyday life. Getting together with other believers must be central in that strategy. WITH GOD’S HELP, IT CAN BE DONE!

Many of us enjoy times of refreshment and renewal during the summer months. Times of spiritual renewal and refreshment are good and necessary. But we need to be prepared for what happens after our feet hit the ground again and we have to take everyday steps.

When I was a youth pastor, I enjoyed retreats immensely. It was a chance to see teenagers withdraw from all the distractions of the world and be renewed. So many times we saw teens be convicted about the need to deal with sin in their lives. In our days of cell phones, video games, and other distractions, there has never been a greater need for spiritual retreats.

As much as knew that retreats were necessary for teens,  I also knew as a youth pastor that very soon the sky-dive of camp or a retreat – – -or a vacation – – – was going to be over and that if there was not a strategy, that teens would quickly feel defeated about decisions they made at camp. Without a strategy, sincere decisions flame out by Monday morning.

If decisions we make are to have a lasting impact, then we need not only the time of a decision, but also a strategy for implementation once we return.

In terms of our current context, our church has a number of teens returning from camp on Saturday. They have been at Camp Forest Springs all week – – listening to Greg Speck preach – -I am confident that they will have prayerfully made many sincere decisions.

But this Saturday it is back to reality. And if the decisions that our teens make at camp are going to last longer than the campfires they were made around, they need help going forward. So Sunday night – – before they’ve even rested up from the return – — my wife and I are going to have them in our home to talk about what is next and how they can persevere in their decisions.

The Red Brick Church in Stillman Valley, IL - Teens for SH 2013I will be talking to teens and young adults about a number of post-spiritual-high strategies. But none is more important than determining to intentionally get together in an ongoing way for Christ-centered fellowship. Specifically:

  • Be in church. Hear the Word preached. Sing together.
  • Talk about your decisions with one another. Be accountable.
  • Connect with older more mature believers.
  • Memorize Scripture together. Pray together.

If you have the opportunity to be renewed spiritually this summer, you can count on the fact that very soon Satan will whisper in your ear, “It wasn’t real. It was just emotion. It won’t last. You can’t do it.”

Don’t buy that lie. There is nothing more real than being together with other believers, hearing the Word proclaimed without apology, making decisions to be obedient to Christ. You CAN follow through on those decisions. But only if you are committed to being together with other believers when your feet hit the ground again.

If you need a strategy for your return to reality, and you’re within 500 miles of Stillman Valley, IL – – you’re invited to my house on Sunday night.

We should all agree about the most beautiful site in the world . . . .

One summer our family was at the Garden of Versailles near Paris. It was the summer of my sabbatical. We stayed in the Lauterbrunnen Valley in Switzerland arguably the most beautiful place in Europe. It is thought to have inspired Tolkien’s Rivendell.

It was altogether a summer of beauty in the Swiss Alps, Germany, Austria, and France. The Gardens of Versailles, Lake Geneva, Neuschwanstein, Zurich, Paris: it was incredible.

The day we were at Versailles was hot. We were on our feet through a palace tour and a little worn out thinking about the unfortunate ending for Marie Antoinette. While we were taking our break in the shade a family from Spain was nearby. They had a daughter who was about three years old. And as we sat their in the shade of Versailles it was obvious to me that there was nothing in the palace, or anywhere in the Swiss Alps, close to being as beautiful as that one little girl. She had dark hair, dark eyes, and her mother had obviously taken care to make sure she looked like a princess for her trip to the castle. The little girl was stunningly lovely.

We didn’t talk with the family. Unless their English was far better than my Spanish it would have been difficult. They were there a couple of minutes and moved on. Moments before, I had walked through the Hall of Mirrors and I assure you the little girl was prettier. It wasn’t even close.

My point is not that the little Spanish girl, in particular, was the most beautiful little girl in the world. Rather, children, in general, are the most beautiful part of God’s creation.

One of the many things I am thankful for at The Red Brick Church is that they give me a book allowance and encourage me to study. Pastors who do not read and study quickly become stale in the pulpit. While they may be making good points, they ring the same bell week after week. The church soon grows tired of such a diet.

Justin Taylor recently posted on the importance of pastors taking the time to read.

Charles Spurgeon, reflecting on 2 Timothy 4:13 (where Paul said to Timothy: “When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, also the books, and above all the parchments”):

We do not know what the books were about, and we can only form some guess as to what the parchments were. Paul had a few books which were left, perhaps wrapped up in the cloak, and Timothy was to be careful to bring them.

Even an apostle must read.

Some of our very ultra-Calvinistic brethren think that a minister who reads books and studies his sermon must be a very deplorable specimen of a preacher. A man who comes up into the pulpit, professes to take his text on the spot and talks any quantity of nonsense is the idol of many. If he will speak without premeditation, or pretend to do so, and never produce what they call a dish of dead men’s brains—oh, that is the preacher!

How rebuked they are by the apostle!

He is inspired, and yet he wants books!

He has been preaching for at least thirty years, and yet he wants books!

He had seen the Lord, and yet he wants books!

He had had a wider experience than most men, and yet wants books!

He had been caught up into the Third Heaven and had heard things which it was unlawful for a man to utter, yet he wants books!

He had written the major part of the New Testament, and yet he wants books!

The apostle says to Timothy, and so he says to every preacher, “Give attendance to reading” (1 Tim. 4:13).

The man who never reads will never be read.

He who never quotes will never be quoted.

He who will not use the thoughts of other men’s brains proves that he has no brains of his own.

Brethren, what is true of ministers is true of all our people. You need to read. Renounce as much as you will all light literature, but study as much as possible sound theological works, especially the Puritanic writers and expositions of the Bible.

Here’s how John Piper put it in his chapter “Fight for Your Life” in Brothers, We Are Not Professionals (new edition coming from B&H in February 2013): . . . .

Read the rest here.

There is something to be learned from Trueman’s thoughts about busyness.  Why not read this and then find time to take a walk?  Waste just a little time.

One of the amazing things about modern American culture is surely the pathological fear of wasting time.  It is especially evident in the attitude to children.  Public school kids have their lives scheduled from morning till night; homeschool parents seem to regard any second of the day from the age of two that isn’t used to learn Latin poetry or the cello or conversational Swahili as time that is wasted.  It’s a far cry from my childhood, when school ran from 9 in the morning till 4 in the afternoon, and then I was free to ride my bike, walk on the common, or just sit around with friends.  And it continues in to later life: all the technology we have, and people seem to have less free time than ever.

The rest here.

My sabbatical is winding down.  It has been a tremendous blessing.  And, I am praying that our flock will be blessed because of it.  My friend Darryl Dash is also on sabbatical this summer.  I can relate to much of what he said recently in a post.

On June 1, I began a three-month sabbatical. This is new for me. I’ve taken vacations before, but the last time I was off for a significant period of time was when I was a teenager some 25 years ago.

Although the entire three-month period has a serious rest component to it, I really wanted to focus on rest the first month.

Here’s what I’ve learned so far.

It’s hard to rest. You would think that it would be easy to pause and to enter into an extended period of rest. It isn’t. I found myself fidgety and restless for the first few weeks. It’s probably because I hadn’t found a rhythm for my sabbatical yet – but I wonder if the real reason is that resting is learned behavior. We’re much more used to doing than we are to pausing and allowing ourselves to be refreshed. Temperament plays a role as well.

I was tired, but not the way I thought. I thought I was physically tired. I wasn’t. I don’t think I’ve slept more in the past month than I do normally. But I’ve discovered that I’m weary in ways that I hadn’t even grasped before the sabbatical began.

An example of this is that I’m an introvert who can masquerade as an extrovert. Steve McCoy reflected on this in his own life recently. I’ve read three books in the past couple of weeks that have helped me understand the toll that this takes, as well as some of the adjustments I need to make so that I’m serving as myself, not as someone else.

This is an example of two or three areas that have been out of whack in my life, and have caused me to be drained in ways I hadn’t recognized up until now.

Not everyone understands. No surprise here: not everyone gets why pastors need sabbaticals. . .

Read more here.

A fitness strategy

Chris —  July 17, 2010

Getting in better shape physically is one of my sabbatical goals.  I may adopt this little boy’s exercise routine.


God shines in all that’s fair

Chris —  July 10, 2010


I understand that the pictures linked to here will not be of interest to many who read this blog – – sort of like being invited over to see vacation slides – – but, the primary audience I target is our church family.

The picture to the right is our youngest daughter, Mary Beth, at Grindelwald First.  While the mountains and flowers are beautiful, there is nowhere that the glory of God shines brighter than in pretty girls, created in His image.

Allison, Christopher, and I returned from Switzerland yesterday.  Jamie, Ben, and Mary Beth had returned a few days earlier.  As a family, we enjoyed the trip of a lifetime and learned so much.

I wouldn’t want to choose just one lesson we learned, but certainly we were amazed at how the glory of God shines in His creation. 

You can watch the below slide show if it is of interest – – click here to see these pictures – – or here to see more pictures of the Brauns family than anyone other than my children’s grandmothers will want to view.

One of my sabbatical highlights was watching the below video on my computer while in Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland. 

Trevin Wax:

In Holy Subversion, I briefly recount the conversion story of my father-in-law, Florin Trifan. Bro. Trifan was a Communist party member in Ceausescu’s Romania back in the 1970’s. Sent to spy on a Baptist revival meeting, he heard the gospel and trusted Christ. He then abandoned Communist ideology and eventually became a pastor.

In 2007, we were fortunate to have Corina’s parents visit us here in the U.S. The videos below (part 1 & part 2) are of Bro. Trifan giving his testimony at our church (I’m the translator). I encourage you to listen to his story.

Bro. Trifan is currently battling throat cancer. He has been through an operation, three rounds of chemotherapy, and he will start radiations in the next few weeks. Please pray for him and for our family during this difficult trial.