This Fall, I am super motivated to be used by God to help people prepare for the sorts of crises we will all inevitably face. Tim Keller writing on the importance of preparing for a crisis before it happens:

Once you are in a crisis, there is no time to sit down to give substantive study and attention to parts of the Bible. As a working pastor for nearly four decades, I have often sat beside people who were going through terrible troubles and silently wished they had take the time to learn more about their faith before the tidal wave of trouble had engulfed them.

See also: If You Never Did Anything in Advance, There is Relatively Little You Can Do At the Time

Be Sociable, Share!

Thoughts worth considering regarding central questions.

Be Sociable, Share!

Good theology will help us avoid blaming God (“I hate Thee”) or improperly blaming ourselves (“I hate me”) when we face great difficulty.

I continue to prepare for my Fall series on the book of Job. As a part of my preparation, I am benefiting immensely from Tim Keller’s excellent book on suffering. I will post more on it in the days to come. It is one of the best books I have ever read.

Keller rightly points out that when facing suffering we must hold two truths in tension:

  • Suffering is just. The reason there is suffering is because humanity has rebelled against God. Our rebellion began with Adam and Eve’s sin, but we continue to make wrong decisions and there are consequences.
  • Suffering is unjust. At the same time, there is not always an immediate reason why we suffer. If someone endures a trial, it does not mean that the person sinned in some way. Trying to assign particular sins to particular difficulties was the error Job’s friends made when they told Job that his difficulties must have been due to some sin in his life.

Keller warns:

If we ignore either of these truths, we will be out of touch with the universe as it really is. If we forget the first truth –that, in general, suffering is just — we will fall into proud, resentful self-pity that bitterly rejects the goodness or even the existence of God. If we forget the second truth — that, in particular suffering is often unjust — we may be trapped in inordinate guilt and the belief that God must have abandoned us.  These teachings eliminate what could be called both the “I hate thee” response–debilitating anger toward God – – and the “I hate me” response – – devastating guilt and a sense of personal failure. Counselors know what an enormous number of people fall into one or the other – – or both of these abysses. This balance – – that God is just and will bring final justice, but life in the meantime is often deeply unfair – – keeps us from many deadly errors. If we end up in one abyss or the other, it will be due to being unwise, “incompetent with regard to the realities of life.” (Keller, 139).

See also:

Does the book of Job offer an explanation for why people suffer?

Christian books on pain and suffering

4 Wrong Answers to the Question, “Why me?”

Be Sociable, Share!

The answer is emphatically “no.”

When I published my first book, I was told by my publisher that The Chicago Manual of Style, 16th Edition is the gold standard of style manuals. Regarding whether or not it is proper to begin a sentence with a conjunction I quote:

There is a widespread belief – – one with no historical or grammatical foundation — that it is an error to begin a sentence a conjunction such as and, but, or so. In fact, a substantial percentage (often as many 10 percent) of the sentences in first-rate writing begin with conjunctions. It has been so for centuries, and even the most conservative grammarians have followed this practice. Charles Allen Lloyd’s 1938 words fairly sum up the situation as it stands even today; “Next to the groundless notion that it is incorrect to end an English sentence with a preposition, perhaps the most wide-spread of the many false beliefs about the use of our language is the equally groundless notion that it is incorrect to begin one with ‘but’ or ‘and.’ As is the case of the superstition about the prepositional ending, no textbook supports it, but apparently about half of our teachers of English go out of their way to handicap their pupils by inculcating it. One cannot help whether those who teach such a monstrous doctrine ever read any English themselves.” (Emphasis in the original)

Please help this go viral. Forward it to English teachers. Share it with your friends. Stop the madness.

When you find other grammatical errors in this post, please do not comment on them. Stick to the topic at hand: the Philistine practice of saying that one cannot begin a sentence with a conjunction.

Be Sociable, Share!

I continue to think about the family in our community who lost everything in a fire at the same time that their twelve year old’s son was broken in an accident. At the same time, I am preparing my fall preaching series at the Red Brick Church on the book of Job. You probably recall that Job is the Old Testament man who lost everything through a series of tragedies. In preparing today I read this quote from a new commentary by Christopher Ash on the book of Job:

Job is a fireball of a book. It is a staggeringly honest book. It is a book that knows what people actually say and think – – not just what they say publicly in church. It knows what people say behind closed doors and in whispers, and it knows what we say in our tears. It is not merely an academic book. If we listen to it carefully, it will touch us, trouble us, and unsettle us at a deep level.

I am praying, even as I prepare, that God will use this series to encourage many who hurt, or will hurt.

Be Sociable, Share!

Update 4: I am hearing that the family has solved their immediate housing need. I am thankful for a community where so many work together to care for the hurting. Rural northern Illinois people are good neighbors!

UPDATE 3: The family has received all the clothing they need right now and are moving into a furnished place. So no more clothing or furniture is needed at this time. New household items will be accepted at the FHS on Thursday: towels/washcloths, first aid kit supplies, kitchen ware and utensils, sheets, blankets, etc.

UPDATE 2: DONATIONS WILL BE RECEIVED 2-6 PM, THURSDAY, JUNE 12, AT FORRESTON JR/SR HIGH.

UPDATE: THERE IS NOW AN ACCOUNT AT STILLMAN VALLEY BANK. YOU CAN MAKE A GIFT TO THE BELTRAN FAMILY AT ANY OF THE STILLMAN VALLEY BANK BRANCHES WHICH INCLUDE: STILLMAN VALLEY, BYRON, ROCHELLE, OREGON, ROCKFORD, AND ROSCOE.

A family in our community (Leaf River) lost everything in a fire yesterday (see here for the news story). The family is not a part of our church, but our hearts go out to them. They lost everything except the clothes on their back.

I went to what is left of their home and prayed with them after church. Their daughter pointed out to me, “Even our camper burned.” You can see what is left of the camper on the right side of the picture.

2014-06-08 12.00.10 2014-06-08 12.00.14 2014-06-08 12.04.52 2014-06-08 12.04.58 2014-06-08 12.05.02 2014-06-08 12.13.38 2014-06-08 12.13.47The family was at a parade when the fire started. To make matters worse, one of the sons was injured in a “float accident” – – in the end, he was going to the emergency room at the same time that fire engines were going to their home. You can see the picture of his injured leg above.

Tomorrow, we will find out the details of where to take donations. For now, consider if you might have any donations of clothes or other needed help.

Here are their clothing sides:

Dad: XL, shoe size 10

Mom: size 16, shoe size 11

Son (age 12): size 16, shoe 10

Daughter (age 12): junior women, size large

Son (age 10): 12-14, shoe size 6

Son (age 3): 4T

I will be also talking with our leaders about a gift from our church benevolent fund.

 

Be Sociable, Share!

Our daughter showing off her engagement ring.A  man asked for my young daughter’s hand in marriage. I gave my blessing. Here are some of the reasons I said “yes.” This post is only a supplement to Russell Moore’s recent thoughts on why he is thankful he married his bride at a young age

The oldest of our four children was engaged last month. I was a little grumpy – – she is MY daughter after all. Yet my wife Jamie and I are excited and thankful. Our future son-in-law did everything parents could hope for – – While he did not stalk and field dress a bear as I previously stated I would require, he did ask my permission, not only to propose, but he also spoke with me at the very beginning of their relationship. He asked our opinion of the ring he picked out, and invited us to their college campus for the evening after the engagement. The picture to the right is of our daughter showing her siblings the ring.

Our future son-in-law is part of our church family. We know his parents well. (And his cousins played football with my sons thereby making it all the more romantic).

We remind our children fairly often that there are advantages to being pastor’s kids (PKs) and one of the joys of being a PK is that our church family shares in our excitement. Many have congratulated our daughter and her fiance. Lots of smiles.

But there are also challenges to being a PK – – (I’m sure we will be reading Barnabas Piper’s forthcoming book) – – one of which is that your church family loves you enough that  if some feel you are too young to get married, they might be willing to tell you so.

For the record, my daughter and her future husband are planning to get married in a year, just after college graduation – – He plans to graduate four years after high school – – our daughter is a motivated student and it will be three years after high school for her. You do the math.

We are not deeply offended by questions about the wisdom of marrying young. We know that the reason people share their concerns is because they love us. And we know it is not only pastor’s kids who are pressed when they marry at a young age. Though PKs may have a larger pool of people who consider themselves eligible to weigh in on such matters.

Having said that, it should be clear that we disagree with the thought that 21 is too young to get married.

I, Chris Brauns the older, disagree. And I have encouraged my daughter to send people with questions my direction.

My decision to give away a daughter was not made in the course of a minute or two when a guy asked for permission to meet. On the contrary, we have told our children over the years that we are not  opposed to them marrying before the age of 25. It is not good to be alone (Genesis 2:18). Marriage is a beautiful gift from God.

Of course, there were a great many qualifiers given when we said that we are not opposed to marrying at a young age! In order to have our blessing we told our children that they and the person they marry must both:

  • Be growing Christians . . .which means that the only sound foundation for a home is the Lord Jesus Christ and if he is not your king, then you should have no confidence for the future (Psalm 127:1-5)
  • Be Committed to a local church
  • Have have shown themselves to be responsible and people of character
  • Have  the support of both of their parents (if possible)
  • Be committed to a biblical view of marriage.
  • Have demonstrated that the people with whom they have built community and friendships are people of character. After all, if all your friends are named Beavis, then there isn’t much mystery about your identity.

1 Corinthians 7:9 certainly informs our position on this matter! We believe that sexual intimacy is God’s gift for marriage. So our children know that we are not encouraging them to live with someone prior to marriage. On the contrary, purity is the goal.

My father-in-law (pictured with my bride at our wedding rehearsal) gave me my wife when she was 21 and our 25th wedding anniversary is coming up in August. Neither of us would change when we got married for anything – – and we certainly don’t feel that we missed out on life because we married young!

There is much more that I could write – – but as I said above, Russell Moore recently wrote, What I’ve Learned After 20 Years of Marriage, so much of my work is already done. Here is one excerpt:

My grandmother’s wisdom [to marry young] is akin to what sociologist Charles Murray talks about in his book The Curmudgeon’s Guide to Getting Ahead as the difference between a “start-up” marriage and a “merger” marriage. A merger marriage is the sort one sees every Sunday in the weddings pages of the New York Times, with a groom who’s a hedge-fund manager with a master’s degree behind him and a bride who’s a film professor with a Ph.D. and tenure. They each have their lives, and they merge them. A “start-up” is where the marriage isn’t the capstone of the life, but the foundation. It’s where the husband and the wife start their grown-up lives together, often with nothing but each other.

We weren’t ready to get married. That’s true. But our finances were the least of our worries.

Read the rest of What I’ve Learned After 20 Years of Marriage.

See also: Verbiage for Asking For a Daughter’s Hand

My daughter and I "yesterday."*********************************

For the record – – I have not yet given my daughter away – – there is still the period of the engagement. Until I walk her down the aisle I still consider myself her man – – and pictures like this one of me with her in my pastoral study after I gave her a microscope are the sorts of images that I am bearing in mind.

 

 

 

 

Be Sociable, Share!

2 Corinthians is a wonderful book to read devotionally. I highly recommend Sam Storm’s 2 Volumes on 2 Corinthians: A Sincere and Pure Devotion to Christ (2 Corinthians 1-6), Volume 1: 100 Daily Meditations on 2 Corinthians
and A Sincere and Pure Devotion to Christ (2 Corinthians 7-13), Volume 2: 100 Daily Meditations on 2 Corinthians

Sunday I plan to preach on Paul’s warm, and wonderfully Trinitarian conclusion to 2 Corinthians found in 2 Cor 13:11-14. Here is the text with my custom indenting for the purpose of better seeing Paul’s emphasis:

[11] Finally, brothers,

rejoice.

Aim for restoration,

comfort one another,

agree with one another,

live in peace;

and the God of love and peace will be with you.

[12] Greet one another with a holy kiss.

[13] All the saints greet you.

[14] The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ
and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. 2 Corinthians 13:11-14 ESV)

Paul packs six imperatives into these final verses. That is, he concludes by summarizing his marching orders for the Corinthians with 6 different commands. Our hearts should be so encouraged by the nature of the orders God’s Word gives His people:

  • rejoice,
  • aim for restoration,
  • comfort one another,
  • agree with one another,
  • live in peace,
  • greet one another with a holy kiss.

Yet, if we read Paul’s 2 Corinthians conclusion apart from an appreciation for the greater context, then we will hear Paul in a way that is too sappy and sentimental. Over the course of Paul’s relationship with the Corinthians, there has been a great deal of strain. The below table summarizes a proposed Paul’s communication with the Corinthians. If this reconstruction is right, then there are two lost letters that God, in His infinite wisdom, chose to omit from the Canon.

Letter

Evidence For

Purpose or Circumstance

Letter A (now lost) Paul refers to another letter in 1 Cor 5:9-11 Paul warns the Corinthians against participation with the wrong people
Letter B (1 Cor) In our Bible! Paul fleshes out the content of (A) and encourages Corinthians to separate from false teachers
Letter C (now lost) See 2 Cor 2:4, 2:9, 7:8-12 The “Severe Letter”: Paul demands the punishment of the ringleader and others who opposed Paul’s apostolic authority
Letter D (2 Cor 1-9) In our Bible! Paul learns from Titus that the Corinthians have responded well and exalts (2 Cor 7:6-7)
Letter E (2 Cor 10-13) In our Bible! The sharp break with chapter 10 indicates some new circumstance. In the midst of writing (D), Paul learns that things aren’t really going that well and must be more forceful.

The conduct of the Corinthians forced Paul to confront the Corinthians at many points. Paul wasn’t all hugs and kisses! Yet, his warmth in conclusion means all the more given that Paul loved them enough to wound when necessary. If Paul had not been severe with the church at Corinth when their sin required severity, then he would not have had the right to truly encourage the Corinthians to rejoice.

Enough for now . . . I am really looking forward to Sunday’s sermon.

 

Be Sociable, Share!

“. . . the basic error of Job’s friends is that they overestimate their grasp of truth, misapply the truth they know, and close their minds to any facts that contradict what they assume.” Derek Kidner, The Wisdom of Proverbs, Job, and Ecclesiastes, 61.

Be Sociable, Share!

This may be of interest to the Red Bricks. Each May I have the opportunity to study with a group of friends who received D-Min degrees from Gordon-Conwell. We study with our leader Haddon Robinson  at Covenant Harbor, Lake Geneva, WI – – which is wonderfully convenient for those of us from northern Illinois as well as the “cheese-heads.”

In addition to Haddon, each year we invite a different scholar and focus on a particular book of the Bible. This year Job is our subject and  Dr. John Walton of Wheaton is our guest lecturer. Past scholars have included Dan Block, Craig Blomberg, D.A. Carson, George Guthrie, and Bruce Waltke.

It is a productive week – – and a great gift to our church through better equipping me to preach – – but it is also very demanding. We study all day long and then toss ideas back and forth in the evening. My personal goal is to come away from the week better equipped to preach to our flock. This year I studied Job in advance of coming to the retreat and will continue after I have returned to our church. Preaching requires a lot of work.

You can see some of how I begin to process my thoughts on this post.

Here is a map of where our participants hailed from this year. One of the aspects I most enjoy about our time together is connecting with leaders from across North America (and sometimes other continents).

I am so thankful for this annual opportunity and for our church’s support in allowing me to participate.

(Texas is missing due to one of our members not showing up).

Haddon Robinson Preaching Study Group 2014

Be Sociable, Share!