The Story of Operation World

Chris —  September 28, 2015 — Leave a comment

Sunday, I encouraged our church to focus on fasting. My central proposition was that one of the ways we should respond to horrific evil in the world is to fervently pray for global missions.

One of the greatest resources ever produced for the sake of praying for missions is Operation World: The Definitive Prayer Guide to Every Nation (Operation World Set). This book offers an overview of every country of the world and offers suggestions about how to pray for them. This resource would be on the short list of books I think every Christian family should own.

In the below video, Jason Mandryk interviews Patrick Johnstone about the origin and development of Operation World.


See also:

Operation World

The E-mail Syrian Christians Would Write to Us

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Focus on Fasting

Chris —  September 28, 2015 — 3 Comments

One of the ways God’s people should respond to grave injustice in the world is to fast and pray for the gospel message to go out to all nations. A number of our flock responded to my sermon on Matthew 6:16-18 and a challenge to focus on fasting. You can listen to the sermon here.

The black notebook to the right is the binder I use for some of my prayer notes for our church family. This week, I have crammed into it many response sheets from those who want prayer and/or are committing to fasting and praying on Tuesday. This was in response to the sermon on 9/27/15.

The logic of my sermon developed as follows:

  1. I asked our people if a captain in the United States army was justified in “beating up: an Afghan leader (one who the United States helped put in place) who sexually abused a young boy he had chained to his bed. (See U.S. Soldiers told to Ignore Sexual Abuse of Boys by Afghan Allies).
  2. We defined fasting (per Lloyd-Jones) as voluntarily giving up a legitimate activity for the purpose of prayer and spiritual focus. Food is one obvious example but we might also choose to fast from media, screens, entertainment etc. The possibility of rewards and God answering our prayers should encourage us to do so.
  3. We reviewed Jesus’s warnings about fasting. Don’t fast to look spiritual in front of people. Be careful not to do acts of righteousness with the applause of people in view (Matthew 6:1). Further, do not approach fasting as a “work” to earn or merit something from God.
  4. We reviewed examples of biblical occasions of fasting (2 Chronicles 20:3, Ezra 8:21-23, Nehemiah 1:4, Acts 13:2-3, Acts 14:21-24. We concluded with Calvin that, ““Wherever men are to pray to God concerning any great matter it would be expedient to appoint fasting along with prayer.”
  5. We then returned to the original question. How should we respond to the sexual abuse in Afghanistan? It isn’t really for us to know precisely what should have been done in that situation. What is far more important than whether or not we would hit an Afghan leader as a soldier is to consider if we are so concerned about the cause of missions in the world that we fast and pray for the gospel to go out? We should consider which  we believe would help more: (a) Punching someone (b) Proclaiming the gospel?
  6. Bearing in mind that our heavenly Father who hears in secret will reward those who pray in secret (Matthew 6:18), we were challenged to consider making a specific commitment to fast.

I asked people to consider fasting during the daylight on Tuesday. I also encouraged our people to let our pastors know if they are fasting and praying and to share their prayer requests. Many responded.

Now let’s follow through. Let’s be praying people who cry out to God for justice.

See also:

John Piper’s recommended study: A Hunger for God: Desiring God through Fasting and Prayer

Scripture Passages to Help You Pray

Pray the Lord’s Prayer, Don’t Chant It

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Scripture Passages to Help You Pray

Chris —  September 25, 2015 — 3 Comments

If you struggle knowing what to pray, or how to pray, one of the best practices is to prayerfully (Psalm 119:18) read biblical passages/prayers and then pray a current version of them. The Bible is full of passages that will help you pray. Here are some suggestions to get you started . . .And consider watching the video at the end!

Text What It’s About How It Can Help You Pray
Neh 1:4-11 Nehemiah was broken because Jerusalem,  which was central to Old Testament worship, was a mess. Follow Nehemiah’s example in seeing our messed up world through the eyes of the gospel (Jesus is the only answer!) and cry out to our great and loving God to use us.

If you read Ezra and Nehemiah, you will be motivated to pray for the “Good hand of the Lord on our lives”! See this post.

Matt 6:9-13, 7:7-11 The Lord’s Prayer: Jesus outlined the categories which should be the handrails of our prayer life. Pray the Lord’s prayer – – don’t chant it! See this post:  – – Ask our heavenly Father for good things. He won’t give us serpents!

See also Jesus Example of Prayer in the Gospel of Luke

Luke 18:1-8 Jesus taught this parable to his disciples so that they would not give up. Persist in praying with an expectation that our heavenly Father, who is is far more generous than a crooked judge, will hear our prayers. See this post for more explanation.
Acts 1:6-8 Jesus repeated the Great Commission to the disciples and stressed the role of the Holy Spirit. Pray that we would be a church that keeps its eye on the mission of making fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ. Remember: “A local church is not a local church.”
Acts 14:19-23 The early church appointed elders after fasting and prayer. Pray that God would use our pastors (our elders) to give overall leadership to our church and that other gospel centered people would be used in leadership in our church. Pray our church would be committed to biblical leadership.
Eph 3:14-21 Paul prayed that the Ephesians would not only objectively know the good news of Christ, he prays they would experience it as well. Pray that the Lord would give an experience of the Holy Spirit that we cannot even put into words: that we would experience the unknowable love of Christ.
Eph 6:19-20 Paul asked the Ephesians to pray for his proclamation of the gospel. Pray for all the teaching ministries of our church – – and our pulpit in a special way – – that the Holy Spirit would anoint the Word so that it would go out with boldness and power. Notice the explanation of the word “fired” in this post.
Col 1:9-14 Paul prayed for the Colossians to be strengthened in patient endurance. Consider how Paul positions his prayer for the Colossians in the context of the gospel. It is only as we are in Christ – – only as we have been delivered from the dominion of darkness and transferred into the Kingdom of His beloved Son – – only as believers – – that we find patient endurance. Meditate on this prayer and ask for patient endurance with joy.
Revelation 22 John shared a vision of the New Heaven and the New Earth Notice how many times John uses the Word “soon” relative to Jesus coming back. Think about all the pain in the world, and the people you miss, and pray “Thy Kingdom come!”

Remember: We are meeting at the 5th Tree on the Right Side of the River!

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Children praying during a time of worship at Vacation Bible School in 2013.In our series at the Red Brick Church on the Sermon on the Mount, one of our central emphases has been to pray rather than chant the Lord’s Prayer. It is of no value to mindlessly recite the Lord’s prayer. Rather, praying the Lord’s Prayer means understanding what each phrase means and how it should guide our prayers.

Think of the Lord’s Prayer as “hand rails” we hold onto as we pray. But we must walk through the prayer in our minds as we engage with God.

If you are unsure what each phrase of the Lord’s Prayer means, then follow this link (Westminster Confessions and Heidelberg Catechism on the Lord’s Prayer) to a document I created which brings together the explanations given by the Westminster Shorter and Larger Catechisms as well as the Heidelberg Catechism. These catechisms give beautiful and elegant explanations of the Lord’s Prayer.

The below video from the New City Catechism will also help you understand the Lord’s Prayer.

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Chris —  September 12, 2015 — Leave a comment

In the context of life’s most difficult moments, we want to know “why?”

We might at as well ask to to pluck the planet Mars from the heavens between our thumb and forefinger and flatten it between our hands like a piece of Play-dough. We have neither the strength nor the wisdom to comprehend the reasons of the Universe.

Indeed, flattening Mars between our palms would be far easier than understanding all the reasons of life and history.

However, having acknowledged how little capacity we have for understanding the reasons of God in the universe, we should be quick to note that it is not as though we have no understanding in hard times. There is so much we do understand.

To begin with, love is real. There is truth in Queen Elizabeth’s words after 9/11 that grief is the price we pain for love. The depth of pain we feel when met with sudden loss reminds us of the reality of love. Grief hurts so much because love is so real.

Still more, amid loss, we understand more about the love of parents for children when we see their grief. Could any reasonable person explain the feelings of a mother for her child by merely saying that evolution organically programmed mothers to care for their young?

A parent’s love for his or her child also assures us that the present path on which we find ourselves is the only possible avenue forward towards redemption. Had there been any other option, God the Father would have pursued it rather than giving his only begotten Son (John 3:16). Sending a child to die is the last option any parent would choose.

No, we cannot pluck Mars out of the air like we are taking decorations off our Christmas tree. Nor can we understand why life can hurt so much. But we can be sure that love is real. And that the God who loves us so much that he gave His only Son is the one true God who can be trusted even though we cannot comprehensively understand why.

See also:

Reflections on the Road During Our Time of Grief

Amid Tragedy, Let’s Talk

The Danger of Cherry-Picking Only Praises from the Psalms

Incurable Cancer and the Problem of Good

The Real Problem of Evil

Ask, “How Long?” Instead of “Why?”

9 Reasons Tim Keller’s Book on Suffering is Superb

Andy Naselli’s interview of John Frame regarding the Problem of Evil

Men seek an understanding of suffering in cause and effect

Job: A Writer of Superb Genius Has Erected a Monumental Work

When Suffering Avoid “I Hate Thee” and “I Hate Me”

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What do pro-life advocates say in response to those who say abortion should be allowed in the first trimester or difficult situations? Matt Chandler speaks to this and other difficult questions.

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Jesus’s message in the Sermon on the Mount, “Happy are the hurting,” is the opposite of Trump’s stump speech. Christ is, of course, eternally right.

Donald Trump is having the time of his life proclaiming the gospel of this world: “Blessed are the rich, strong, and beautiful because they don’t make stupid deals.” If Trump’s sole goal in life was to write the antitheses of the Sermon on the Mount, he could do no better.

Of course, Trump is not alone in his opinion that “rich and beautiful are better.” His polling numbers demonstrate that many are making a deal with Trump according to the details in his “Sermon Through the Media.”

It is worth considering the differences between Christ’s beatitudes and Trump’s beatitudes. Who is it that is blessed? Contrast the gospel of a “would be king” with that of the only true King and see why it is the Trumps of the world who are really hurting. In his book, The Jesus I Never Knew, Philip Yancey interacts with Monika Hellwig who lists the following advantages to being poor.

  1. They poor know they are in urgent need of redemption.
  2. The poor know not only their dependence on God and on powerful people but also their interdependence with one another.
  3. The poor rest their security not on things but on people.
  4. The poor have no exaggerated sense of their own importance, and no exaggerated need of privacy.
  5. The poor expect little form competition and much from cooperation.
  6. The poor can distinguish between necessities and luxuries.
  7. The poor can wait, because they have acquired a kind of dogged patience born of acknowledged dependence.
  8. The fears of the poor are more realistic and less exaggerated, because they already know that one can survive great suffering and want.
  9. Then the poor have the Gospel preached to them, it sounds like good news and not like a threat or a scolding.
  10. The poor can respond to the call of the Gospel with a certain abandonment and uncomplicated totality because they have so little to lose and are ready for anything.

Yancey continues:

In summary, through no choice of their own–they may urgently wish otherwise–poor people find themselves that befits the grace of God. In their state of neediness, dependence, and dissatisfaction with life, they may welcome God’s free gift of love.

See also:
Who Gets Helped By Jesus

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The Christian life is about a journey to the heavenly city.In our sermon this morning, I used “The Road” to picture the journey God’s people are making which will one day end in the Heavenly City. (You will be able to listen to the sermon online soon). So “The Road” references the story of how God will buy back or redeem his people from the pain and death of a fallen world.

We meditated on 5 aspects of “The Road.”

  1. Know where the Road started & where the Road ends. The story we are in began in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 1-3) and it will end in the Heavenly City on a New Earth.
  2. Recognize that the basic problem of the Road is personal. People – created in the image of God to love him and one another – broke their personal relationship with God. The consequence of brokenness is hell – separated from God for eternity. Revelation 21, that speaks of the heavenly city, also warns of the Lake of Fire or hell for those who do not follow Christ (Revelation 21:8).
  3. Understand that personal offenses require personal solutions. Only Christ can repair the Road. Christ did this by becoming human without ceasing to be deity – – living a perfect life – – going to the Cross to pay the penalty for sin – -and rising victoriously. In this sense, we might think of Christ as a “bridge” as much as a road. Through his atoning work, he made it possible for His people to spend eternity with Him.
  4. If you have not already, accept the invitation to follow Christ. We accept the invitation by believing in Jesus and following Him (Romans 6:23, John 3:16, Ephesians 2:8-9). So the Road is for those who choose to accept Christ as Lord and Savior.

[13] “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. [14] For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few. Matthew 7:13-14

  1. The timetable on the road isn’t what we expect. On the Road, we encounter devastating delays when we least expect them. And the end will come much sooner than we can imagine (Revelation 22).

If you know that you need to make a decision to follow Christ – – that you haven’t been living in light of eternity at all – – then do not delay. Make a decision to follow Christ at once.

If you have questions, then talk to a mature Christian at once.

We are available to you at The Red Brick Church.

See also:

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

A Football Illustration: Ron Brown Shares the Gospel

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CDB_6739As we mourn the loss of one of the young people in our community, and the loss of a man from s surrounding community, tomorrow at the Red Brick Church (9/6/15 at 9:00 AM), Pastor Chris Brauns will preach on Revelation 21-22 and the image of a New Heaven coming down from Heaven as a bride adorned for her husband.

The picture of Emily going to the basket – – the ball went in for the record – – made me smile at the time.

The picture of Emily scoring means so much more now.

I take pictures of young people because I love them and so does our community. And we need them. Images of young people are good for our souls. Seeing their smiles full of future potential motivates us in the present.

At times of great loss we are reminded that there is another category of images we need even more than photographs. We need the beautiful, true, and hopeful images painted by the power of the Holy Spirit in the words of the Bible. These images from God show us how we can be hopeful even at our times of greatest loss.

There is, perhaps, no more beautiful and hopeful picture for times of loss than the picture painted by Revelation 21-22. Read this – – perhaps aloud – – and pray that God will help you see it.

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people,2 and God himself will be with them as their God.[4] He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

[5] And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” [6] And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. [7] The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son. Revelation 21:4-7 ESV)

Not only do we need to read these words individually, we need to reflect on them together. Tomorrow in our morning service at the Red Brick Church, we will picture this in our mind. And because it is the Word of Christ we can be confident that, if we receive it prayerfully, these images will be living water for our souls.

If you don’t have a church home, then come. Be our guest. Drink deeply from the certain truth that this image will be a reality: the heavenly city will come down from heaven as a bride adorned for her husband. Picture it.

See also:

Pictures We Need

Amid Tragedy Let’s Talk

9 Reasons Tim Keller’s Book on Suffering is Superb

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We hum some songs across decades. It is worth asking why they strike a chord.

When I was a freshman high school (think late 70’s), England Dan and John Ford Coley recorded a song written by Rafe Van Hoy, “What’s Forever For?” But the song was by no means done after its first appearance. It soared to number 1 in the 80’s when Michael Martin Murphy covered it. “What’s Forever For?” got our attention again in 2000 when a young Billy Gilman sang it for the movie Pay it Forward.

Thirty-seven years later many could sing along with the lyrics if they heard “What’s Forever For” on the radio (or IPod or whatever people listen to now).

If you know the song, then you know the central question the song raises is, “if love doesn’t last forever then what’s forever for?” The musicians ask, “What’s the glory in leaving?” The artists point is that love is not glorious if does not last.

So why do we keep singing, “What’s Forever For?” Who has the best explanation for that song? Does the idea that we are a collection of biochemical impulses explain our commitment to love? Of course not. Christians know why we (or at least some of us) keep humming, “What’s Forever For?” Deep down, we have a God given intuition that true love lasts. A commitment to lasting love reflects the God who created us in His image: the one true God is triune: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – – eternally giving and self-giving in relationship. True love is forever because it reflects God who is forever.

But the recognition that love lasts should also remind believers that there is an urgency to our call to glorify God by making fully devoted followers of Christ. Those who do not know Christ, and do not enjoy his lasting love, will not know the glory of living with Christ and other believers for all eternity. So whatever songs about love we enjoy, we should be asking ourselves even as we sing, “Have I shown love to people around me by inviting them to enjoy the love of the Savior that ‘lasts forever’?”

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