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.

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brusselsI wrote a guest post for Grand Rapids Theological Seminary regarding the Christian response to terrorism.

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The reluctance of Christians to soberly consider the biblical doctrine of God’s wrath leaves us vulnerable to bitterness.

 It was the picture of an x-ray that punched me in the stomach. My wife got emotional when she heard the sound of a baby crying. But for me, watching the nightly news, it was the image of a bolt embedded in the chest of one of the victims of the Belgium terrorist attacks that made me mad.

 There is such a thing as righteous anger. But I was somewhere beyond righteous. Looking at the x-ray of shrapnel that had viciously ripped its way into someone’s chest, I did not feel constrained by the love of Christ.

Read the rest here.

 

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Karl & June Mornings on Moody RadioUpdate: I will be on the Karl and June show again tomorrow morning (Good Friday, 3/25/16 @ 7:00 AM CST. Click through to their site to stream.

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I’m looking forward to unpacking forgiveness on the Karl and June Mornings show on Moody Radio Monday morning (3/21/16) at 7:00 AM CST. The hosts and I are going to go right after tough forgiveness questions and common Christian misunderstandings.

Hopefully, many of you can listen live. If not, I will post a link to the audio if one is available. In the mean time, below are forgiveness links that well help you begin to think through relevant forgiveness questions.

The Forgiveness Quiz – This will get you started thinking about forgiveness.

Didn’t Jesus Forgive Unconditionally on the Cross? – One of the first questions that comes up when we talk about the truth that Christians should not always forgive.

Others on Unconditional Forgiveness – This is a collection of quotes from others who interact with the subject of conditional forgiveness.

5 Problems With Unconditional Forgiveness – Numerous problems arise when we encourage cheap grace. Here are 5 examples

Should I confront an offender or just get over it? – What should be confronted? What should be let go? This post will help you work through the question of when to confront.

How can I stop thinking about it? – The “mental gerbil wheel” is one of the most difficult aspects of deep offenses.

How can I forgive myself? – This is another forgiveness question people often raise.

Chris Brauns Review of Totally Forgiving God by R.T. Kendall – Is it okay for Christians to forgive God. Some authors argue there are times it is appropriate. In this review for The Gospel Coalition I interact with R.T. Kendall’s book.

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While there are many different interpretations of how events of the end times will unfold, orthodox, Bible-believing Christians passionately agree about the most important matters. Here I point out six end times areas of agreement about which the Bible is explicit:

1. King Jesus will soon return. Jesus could not have been more clear. The word “soon” is a repeated refrain in Revelation (Rev 1:1, 2:16, 3:11, 11:14, 22:6, 22:7, 22:12, 22:20). Previously, in the Olivet Discourse, Jesus emphasized that we must always be ready because we do not know when he will return (Matt 24:44, 25:13). Round clock faces are misleading. [1] “The view that the round clock suggests is only a polite fiction. In reality, time is running out,” wrote Frederica Mathewes-Green[2] Time is not an endless cycle. History is headed towards a conclusion.

2. In his second advent, Jesus will come as a conquering King. When Jesus arrived in Jerusalem for holy week, he came on an animal of peace (Zechariah 9:9, Matthew 21:1-11). But when He comes again, he will come on a white stallion symbolizing victory (Revelation 19:11-16).[3] Every knee will bow. Every tongue will confess.[4]

[11] Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. [12] His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. [13] He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. [14] And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. [15] From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. [16] On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords. Revelation 19:11-16 ESV)

3. Christians should be found busy with gospel priorities when Jesus comes back. Empowered by the Holy Spirit, we should fulfill the Great Commission to go into all the world and make followers of Jesus (Acts 1:6-8); likewise, we should seek to live holy and godly lives (1 Thess 5:5-8, 2 Peter 3:11-12). We should encourage one another all the more as we see “the Day” approaching (Hebrews 10:24-25).

When Jesus comes to reward His servants,
Whether it be noon or night,
Faithful to Him will He find us watching,
With our lamps all trimmed and bright?
Refrain:
Oh, can we say we are ready, brother?
Ready for the soul’s bright home?

Say, will He find you and me still watching,
Waiting, waiting when the Lord shall come?If, at the dawn of the early morning,
He shall call us one by one,
When to the Lord we restore our talents,
Will He answer thee, “Well done”?
Have we been true to the trust He left us?
Do we seek to do our best?
If in our hearts there is naught condemns us,
We shall have a glorious rest.
Blessed are those whom the Lord finds watching,
In His glory they shall share;
If He shall come at the dawn or midnight,
Will He find us watching there?
Fanny Crosby

4. Christians look forward to the physical resurrection. To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. But death will not have last word physically. Cancer will not have the last say. Alzheimer’s will be defeated (1 Corinthians 15:50-58). Those who died in Christ will rise in Him (1 Thessalonians 4:16-18). The promise of Jesus’s return and the resurrection is the blessed hope of all Christians (Titus 2:13) and the foundation of our comfort in a fallen world where there is so much pain (1 Thess 4:18, 5:11).

Missionary John Paton regarding those who sought to discourage him from missions:

Amongst many who sought to deter me, was one dear old Christian gentleman, whose crowning argument always was, “The cannibals! You will be eaten by Cannibals!”

At last I replied, “Mr. Dickson, you are advanced in years now and your own prospect is soon to be laid in the grave, there to be eaten by worms; I confess to you that if I can be live and die serving and honoring the Lord Jesus, it will make no difference to me whether I am eaten by Cannibals or by worms; and in the Great Day my resurrection body will arise as fair as yours in the likeness of our risen Redeemer.[5]

5. God’s people will spend eternity with Him on a New Earth. Those who have put their faith in the Lord Jesus will be with him forever on a New/Renewed Earth in a never ending adventure in which each day is better than the one before (Revelation 21:3-5). Eternity with Jesus will be immeasurably better than all we ask or imagine. We can imagine a wonderful place – – but, the new earth will be even better (Ephesians 3:20-21).

6. Hell awaits those who reject Christ. Those who do not receive Christ as Lord and Savior await eternal condemnation with no hope of reversing their state (Matt 10:28, 25:46, John 3:36, 2 Thess 1:9, Revelation 14:11, 22:8-10). Our hearts should be full of compassion for those who do not know Christ. We should be filled with love for even those who harm us when we consider the awfulness of the wrath of God. Let’s tell more people the Good News that for all who receive him, for those who believe in his name, he gives the right to be called children of God (John 1:12).[6]

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[1] Frederica Mathewes-Green, “Time Out,” Christianity Today, October 25, 1999.

[2] Ibid.

[3] “Jesus Messiah, who came first in weakness, poverty and humiliation will come again in great power and glory, exercising universal authority and dominion, all to the glory of God (1 Thess. 4:16; Rom. 8:38-39; Phil. 2:10-11). This hope gave rise to the prayer of early Christians: ‘Come, Lord Jesus’ (Rev. 22:20).” K.E. Brower, “Eschatology,” in New Dictionary of Biblical Theology: Exploring the Unity and Diversity of Scripture, ed. T. Desmond Alexander et al. (Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, 2000), 464.

[4] James M. Hamilton Jr., Revelation: The Spirit Speaks to the Churches, ed. R. Kent Hughes, Preaching the Word (Wheaton: Crossway, 2012), 356.

[5] Quoted in Ibid., 231.

[6] 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/.

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Children praying during a time of worship at Vacation Bible School in 2013.

I need the help of our church children in drawing pictures for our series on the End Times and the return of King Jesus. Draw pictures of one or more of the below Bible passages. We will find a way to share them with our church family.

Our church is doing a series on eschatology or the “end times.” Pastors sometimes avoid preaching about this important subject because it is controversial. But the Bible has many, many pages about what it will be like when Jesus returns. This is the Word of God that feeds our souls. We dare not avoid it because someone might disagree with us.

The best way to study the return of Jesus is to meditate on key Bible passages. I am asking our church children to help me do this between now and Easter. Draw a picture of one or more of the following scenes. We will then share with our church family. Be sure and read what the Bible says about each scene – – and then label your picture.

  1. 5th Tree, Right Side of the River Facing the Throne of Jesus – Revelation 22:1-5 promises God’s people that we will all be together before the throne of Jesus. Our church family is planning to meet at the 5th tree back from the throne, on the right side (see here). Some of our folks don’t follow directions well. A picture will help everyone be in the right spot.
  2. The Rapture of 1 Thess 4:16-18 – In 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, Paul encouraged the early church that we do not grieve without hope when we lose a loved one. Jesus is coming back and those who died in Jesus will be resurrected. Those who are alive will be “caught up” or raptured to meet Jesus in the clouds. We need a picture!
  3. The Olivet Discourse of Matthew 24 – Some of the most important teaching about the end times comes from the Olivet Discourse – – a sermon Jesus gave on the Mt. of Olives on Tuesday of Holy Week. Draw a picture of our Lord teaching his disciples about when he will come back.
  4. Meeting Friends in Heaven that Were Reached Through Missions (Luke 16:8-9) – In the parable of the dishonest manager, Luke 16:1-13, Jesus told us that we can use our worldly treasure – – which will not last – – to make friends and be welcomed into heaven. Our church gives money to missions. We are praying we will meet many people in heaven who were helped by our investment. What will our meeting with people from around the world look like?
  5. Jesus is preparing a house with many rooms (John 14:1-6) – Jesus promised that he was going away to prepare a place for us. And the author of Hebrews tells us that Abraham was looking forward to a city with foundations whose architect and builder is God (Hebrews 11:8-10). Draw a picture of the heavenly city Jesus is preparing.
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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.

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Soon on End Times at The Red Brick Church

WHY does the Bible tell us so much about what will happen at the end of the age? Beginning on March 6, at the Red Brick Church, I will preach a new series on the end times and the return of King Jesus.

If you read the below verses from the book of Revelation, you will understand how I came up with the title, “soon.”

The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants the things that must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John . . . Revelation 1:1.

Therefore repent. If not, I will come to you soon and war against them with the sword of my mouth. Revelation 2:16

I am coming soon. Hold fast what you have, so that no one may seize your crown. Revelation 3:11

The second woe has passed; behold, the third woe is soon to come. Revelation 11:14

And he said to me, “These words are trustworthy and true. And the Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, has sent his angel to show his servants what must soon take place.” Revelation 22:6

“And behold, I am coming soon. Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book.” Revelation 22:7

“Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay each one for what he has done. Revelation 22:12

He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus! Revelation 22:20

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On Sunday (2/14/16), our series in 2 Peter at the Red Brick Church will continue in 2 Peter 2. This is a rich chapter with a dizzying number of references to Old Testament examples. A great way to prepare for the sermon would be to read through 2 Peter 2 as well as some of the collateral references. See if you can pick up themes that run throughout these examples.

Biblical Illustration

2 Peter Reference

Other Bible Texts / Explanation

Rebellious Angels 4] For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment; 1 Peter 3:18-22; Jude 6 – This account also references the Apocryphal book of Enoch. Genesis 6:1-4 – The warning reminds us that we are in a great cosmic battle and that God will certainly judge fallen angels. See also Ephesians 6:10-20; 1 Peter 5:8; Colossians 1:15-20 which describes the cosmic dimensions of Christ’s victory. God’s judgment awaits those who rebel.
The Days of Noah / Flood [5] if he did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a herald of righteousness, with seven others, when he brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly; Genesis 6-8 – The world was so corrupt that God destroyed everyone except one family who had faith (Noah’s family). God judges in his own time.
Decadent Sodom and Gomorrah [6] if by turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes he condemned them to extinction, making them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly; [7] and if he rescued righteous Lot, greatly distressed by the sensual conduct of the wicked Jude 7; Genesis 18:16-19:29 – Sodom and Gomorrah were judged with burning sulfur from heaven and they were totally destroyed. Sexual sin (and Sodom’s other sins) are an abomination to God. God will judge this sin.
Fallen angels [11] whereas angels, though greater in might and power, do not pronounce a blasphemous judgment against them before the Lord. But when the archangel Michael, contending with the devil, was disputing about the body of Moses, he did not presume to pronounce a blasphemous judgment, but said, “The Lord rebuke you.” Jude 9 – People who presume to speak authoritatively in spiritual context should tremble at the thought of judgment.
Greedy Balaam [15] Forsaking the right way, they have gone astray. They have followed the way of Balaam, the son of Beor, who loved gain from wrongdoing, [16] but was rebuked for his own transgression; a speechless donkey spoke with human voice and restrained the prophet’s madness. Jude 11; Numbers 22, 31 – Balaam was an evil and greedy character willing to go up against anyone including God’s chosen people for a price. Ultimately, Balaam was killed because of his greediness (Numbers 31). God takes care of greedy leaders in his own time.
Proverbs Quotation [22] What the true proverb says has happened to them: “The dog returns to its own vomit, and the sow, after washing herself, returns to wallow in the mire.” Like a dog that returns to his vomit is a fool who repeats his folly. Proverbs 26:11 – Those who have known the Truth and return to sin are especially culpable. See also Hebrews 6:1-8.

 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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