I continue to prayerfully reflect on the book of Job. Our Fall series on Job will begin at the Red Brick Church, D.V., on October 5. In preparation, I am interacting a great deal with Christopher Ash’s recent commentary published by Crossway, Job: The Wisdom of the Cross (Preaching the Word). The following quote is critical in understanding the central thrust of Job.

In some deep way it is necessary for it to be publicly seen by the whole universe that God is worthy of the worship of a man and that God’s worth is in no way dependent on God’s gifts. Christopher Ash, page 44.

The only edit I would make to this quote is to say – – our worship of God is in no way dependent on God’s immediate gifts. Ultimately, there is no tension between God’s glory and our joy. But in the long it may feel for a season that there is a tension.

Be Sociable, Share!

The below selection of Proverbs will encourage and challenge you regarding how you communicate to your social networks  – – whether it is through the new media or sitting around at the grain elevator on a rainy day talking to other farmers.

Pastor Bruce McKanna serves the Evangelical Free Church of Mt. Morris. It’s one of my family’s favorite churches and one we often attend when we have a Sunday off. Pastor McKanna is currently preaching through a survey of the entire Bible. He writes the following about last Sunday’s sermon:

As we are going through the whole Bible together as a congregation, we are in Proverbs this Sunday.  Since I’ve preached a few different mini-series from Proverbs over the past six years, I’m not trying to do an overview or even focus on the fundamental issue of the fear of the Lord.  Rather, I’ll be trying to show how practical the Proverbs are in relation to a particular issue:  how we engage in a world of social media.  I will be making very clear that this applies to the old school “social media” of the old men having coffee in our local diner as much as it does the moms and millennials hanging out on Facebook.

Below is Bruce’s sermon insert for this sermon in which he selects different verses from Proverbs to encourage us about social media. It’s a great resource for all of us. In a social media age, this ancient biblical wisdom is as relevant as ever.

Be careful in what you’re consuming and what you’re contributing.

15:14 The heart of him who has understanding seeks knowledge,
but the mouths of fools feed on folly.

15:2 The tongue of the wise commends knowledge,
but the mouths of fools pour out folly.

Don’t say everything that pops into your head.

10:19 When words are many, transgression is not lacking,
but whoever restrains his lips is prudent.

15:28 The heart of the righteous ponders how to answer,
but the mouth of the wicked pours out evil things.

17:28 Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise;
when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent.

21:23 Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue
keeps himself out of trouble.

This is especially important in an argument or heated debate.

15:1 A soft answer turns away wrath,
but a harsh word stirs up anger.

17:27 Whoever restrains his words has knowledge,
and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding.

Listen, and you just might learn something.

12:15 The way of a fool is right in his own eyes,
but a wise man listens to advice.

18:2 A fool takes no pleasure in understanding,
but only in expressing his opinion.

18:13 If one gives an answer before he hears,
it is his folly and shame.

Just make sure you are listening to those who are speaking truth.

13:20 Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise,
but the companion of fools will suffer harm.

14:7 Leave the presence of a fool,
for there you do not meet words of knowledge.

Don’t get sucked into debates with fools.

9:7-8 7 Whoever corrects a scoffer gets himself abuse,
and he who reproves a wicked man incurs injury.
8 Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you;
reprove a wise man, and he will love you.

29:9 If a wise man has an argument with a fool,
the fool only rages and laughs, and there is no quiet.

Don’t use your platform to belittle others or boost yourself.

11:12-13 12 Whoever belittles his neighbor lacks sense,
but a man of understanding remains silent.
13 Whoever goes about slandering reveals secrets,
but he who is trustworthy in spirit keeps a thing covered.

27:1-2 1 Do not boast about tomorrow,
for you do not know what a day may bring.
2 Let another praise you, and not your own mouth;
a stranger, and not your own lips.

Use your powerful words positively to build up others.

15:4 A gentle tongue is a tree of life,
but perverseness in it breaks the spirit.

15:23 To make an apt answer is a joy to a man,
and a word in season, how good it is!

15:26 The thoughts of the wicked are an abomination to the LORD,
but gracious words are pure.

Be Sociable, Share!

Chris and Jamie Brauns Children Late 2002I wouldn’t expect everyone from our church to read a new book by Barnabas Piper. There are so many books to read. But it would be great if many in our church would listen to this podcast of Barnabas being interviewed by Thom Rainer. It’s only 23 minutes long!

It has been over 11 years since the picture to the right was taken. In that amount of time, we’ve watched our children growing up as “PKs”. We are thankful for how it has gone – – but in some ways, we are just starting to learn about how challenging it is to be a pastor’s kid.

I am thankful that Barnabas Piper has written The Pastor’s Kid: Finding Your Own Faith and Identity. I am looking forward to learning from it.

As I mentioned above, Thom Rainer recently interviewed Barnabas regarding his book. You can listen here.

Be Sociable, Share!

The Brauns Family on a Happy OccasionThis post is published with the modest expectation that readers have the capacity to recognize foolish behavior and determine not to follow the examples described. As I do qualify in the body of the narrative, I preemptively point out that, as a future pastor, I was blameless.

The primary way that the New Testament describes the relationship between Christians is that we are brothers and sisters.

I’m the second of six children (Shelley, Chris, Mary Dawn, Danny, Rusty, and Erin) so I can work with  brother/sister imagery. In the picture to the right I am in the back row next to my sister Mary Dawn. From left to right in the front are Danny (the protagonist in many Brauns stories), Shelley, Rusty (the guy who made the shot), and Erin.

I remember launching water balloons off the roof of our farmhouse at my sister’s first date. We also stole the same guy’s hubcaps. He was a champion sprinter but I had a motorcycle.

My brother, Rusty, once shot my brother Danny in the eyebrow with a BB gun. Danny was looking out of a knothole in the barn when Rusty shot him. Fortunately, Rusty was a little off center and Rusty plunked him in the eyebrow. Ideally, little boys with bbs lodged in their face seek medical attention, but my brothers feared our mother more than infection. The BB stayed put. Years later, a surgeon removed it when Danny was getting medical attention for reasons which involve another story.

In Rusty’s defense, he only shot Danny after Danny violated an agreed upon rule of BB gun fights. We had our own version of the Geneva Convention and war crimes were discouraged.

As a future pastor, I stayed away from the violent part of things. I was most often the voice of reason. And I don’t remember my sister Mary Dawn getting stung with a BB in the same way she does. Though, I do remember her really accelerating after she got hit.

Danny has the leading role in many of the Brauns sibling-stories. Depending on how you look at, he was behind the wheel when two of my sister’s cars went to the happy hunting ground. Danny was driving Shelley’s Chrysler Cordoba when it caught fire and burned in Bonaparte, IA. He had previously taken her Mercury into a tree in the state park. Strictly speaking, Danny wasn’t totally responsible for this car because Mary Dawn had previously wounded it when she plowed through a mailbox. Danny was with her at the time and to this day no one knows quite what happened. The mailbox, for the record, was on the opposite side of the road.

One year Mary Dawn was cutting down sweet corn when Danny tried to show her how he could disarm her of the knife. You know where this story is going. His hand was cut bad enough that he had to go to the hospital. Mary Dawn was too traumatized to drive, so Danny had to drive which might have been okay if (a) he was not losing blood at the time and (b) he was old enough to have a driver’s license.

Danny didn’t always drive himself to the emergency room. Mom drove when they pumped his stomach.

Danny was also present when I became violently ill with appendicitis while we were sledding. We were in the pasture at the time, a good walk from home, and there was nothing to do but for my brothers to pull me home on one of the sleds. They made it about 20 yards before they decided it wasn’t worth it and left me in the snow, at which time I figured out that I had the strength to walk home. My sickness meant a delay in Shelley getting her braces off so she accused me of faking, but I was gloriously vindicated when they did surgery.

The Brauns siblings get together fairly often. Brothers and sisters stick together, BB gun fights and wrecked cars notwithstanding.

See also:

A Tribute to Bull Fighting

Remembering the 1972 County Fair in Keosauqua, IA

The 197

Be Sociable, Share!

The Westminster Standards (Longer Catechism) gives this concise and beautiful statement regarding how we know that the Bible is God’s Word.

Q 4. How doth it appear that the Scriptures are the Word of God?

A. The Scriptures manifest themselves to be the Word of God, by their majesty and purity, by the consent of all the parts, and the scope of the whole, which is to give all glory to God; by their light and power to convince and convert sinners, to comfort and build up believers unto salvation: but the Spirit of God bearing witness by and with the Scriptures in the heart of man, is alone able fully to persuade it that they are the very Word of God.

Break it down:

The Scriptures manifest themselves to be the Word of God – The Bible is God’s Word because it says so. You might be inclined to object that this is a circular argument. And you would be right if you did! Ultimate authority must be self-authenticating (See the Frame link at the end of this post). Otherwise, the authority to which one appealed when verifying itself would be the authority. The Bible, then, is God’s Word because it tells us its God’s word. This is a circular argument, but it is not “narrowly circular” but broadly so. Consider the rest of the statement.

A number of aspects of Scripture demonstrate the basis on which Scripture is self-authenticating:

  • by their majesty and purity,
  • by the consent of all the parts,
  • and the scope of the whole, which is to give all glory to God;
  • by their light and power to convince and convert sinners, to comfort and build up believers unto salvation

Having pointed out the clear and compelling beauty of God’s Word which grants assurance that it is the Word of God, the Westminster answer to the question quickly clarifies:

but the Spirit of God bearing witness by and with the Scriptures in the heart of man, is alone able fully to persuade it that they are the very Word of God.

Which is to say – – only the Spirit, working in conjunction with the Word, can give us assurance that the Bible is God’s Word.

See also:

Presuppositional Apologetics by John Frame


Be Sociable, Share!

Job And His Friends - Ilya Yefimovich-RepinI am not given to hyperbole.  I’m the guy who starts a debate when someone uses words like “ever” or “all.” But here goes with a strong statement anyway. As a pastor, who who shepherds people, I would assert that Tim Keller’s book, Walking With God Through Pain and Suffering is unquestionably one of the best books I have ever read.


I could probably list 20 reasons why I think Keller’s book is so good and so important. But below are the top nine reasons.

After the first point, the list is basically in order of increasing importance. Some of the reasons overlap with others.

  1. Walking With God Through Pain and Suffering takes on the most difficult question of life. To be considered one of the best books ever, the book has to be about an area of vital importance. For example, The Brothers Karamazov is considered to be one of the greatest novels because it tackles the tough questions. Likewise, Keller doesn’t duck the hard questions. Why is there pain and suffering? How can we live through pain? Is there really hope? How could we ever get over the loss of someone we love? Why does Christianity offer the right and best answers.
  2. Walking With God Through Pain and Suffering includes stories of people who have endured agony.  We need to consider the question of suffering from academic angles, but we also need real life examples. Keller includes those. Most chapters end with account of someone who has endured suffering more than most of us will face. These stories show how Christ is sufficient whatever our lot and bear witness to the grace of God.
  3. Keller quotes great hymns and poetry. One of the points I will make this fall when preaching on suffering is that we desperately need the Psalms if we are to walk with God through suffering. Poetry involves both our minds and emotions – – and helps us to move to a different place. For more, see Memorize a Psalm in Order to Be Moved Emotionally.
  4. Keller considers suffering from multiple angles and disciplines. Some books on suffering are devotional. Others are philosophical. Still others are theological. Keller consciously makes the decision to consider suffering from each of these perspectives. This book could only be written by someone who is able to consider the intersection of real life suffering, deep theology, and mind blowing philosophy. There are only a handful of people alive who can do this. Keller is one of them.
  5. Walking With God Through Pain and Suffering describes how people of the 20-21st century uniquely view suffering. The worldview of our culture is dramatically different than it was for people 1,000 years ago. Going much further back than 1000 years, we view suffering far differently than Job who lived before the time of Christ. If we are to understand how to walk with God through pain and suffering, then we need to understand our own culturally conditioned mindset. Keller traces the developments of Western thought and helps us understand ourselves.
  6. Keller responsibly engages “the Problem of Evil in a way that is accessible to readers who have no training in theology and philosophy. The problem of evil is the most demanding question we face intellectually. Derek Thomas, for instance, says this is the most troubling and perplexing question we ever face. John Stott adds, “The fact of suffering undoubtedly constitutes the single greatest challenge to the Christian faith.” Briefly stated, the “problem of evil” is the question of how it can be simultaneously true that: (1) God is all-powerful, (2) God is good, (3) Evil exists. Keller summarizes some of the best thinking in a way that most will be able to find their way through if they are willing to work at it.
  7. Keller teaches and models apologetics. Apologetics is the branch of theology that deals with giving reasons for Christian hope. So when someone says, “there can’t be a god because of suffering and evil,” and when we respond to that statement, we are doing apologetics. Keller gives examples of both how to think about such questions, but also the tone to use when engaging them. He takes on the best attempts of atheists to show why the problem of evil proves or makes it unlikely that there is no God. In a way accessible to most readers, Keller then shows how those arguments are self-defeating.
  8. Walking With God Through Pain and Suffering is Scripture saturated. Keller summarizes Job, points to the Psalms over and over again in ways that will make the reader want to spend time in the Psalter, shows us the relevance of 1 Peter and Revelation, and does exposition of the writings of the Apostle Paul. If you do nothing other than read aloud the Bible passages that Keller points to, you will be blessed. But if you engage with his careful exposition, then you will profit eternally.
  9. Walking With God Through Pain and Suffering is Christ-Centered - Most important, Keller is thoroughly focused on the One true answer to suffering. Keller compares Christ to Job:

We don’t need a voice out of the storm. Rather, we need to know that Jesus Christ bowed his head into the greatest storm — the storm of divine justice — for us, so we can hear a voice of love from the holy God. he took the condemnation we deserves so God can accept us. For Jesus is the ultimate Job, the only truly innocent sufferer. Jesus “was willing to live the life of Job to its ultimate conclusion. He was willing to die while considered by friend and foe alike to be a fool, a blasphemer, even a criminal — powerless to save himself.” As Job was “naked,” penniless, and in physical pain (Job 1:21), so Jesus was homeless, stripped naked, and tortured on the cross. While Job was relatively innocent, Jesus was absolutely, perfectly innocent, and while Job felt God abandoning him, Jesus actually experienced the real absence of God, as well as the betrayal of his foolish friends and the loss of family. In the Garden of Gethsamane, Jesus saw that if he obeyed God fully, he’d be absolutely abandoned by God and, essentially, destroyed in hell. No one else has ever faced such a situation. Only Jesus truly “served God for nothing.” (293).

See also:

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”

Job is a Fireball Book

Does the Book of Job Offer An Explanation for Why People Suffer?

Christian Books on Pain and Suffering

If You Never Did Anything in Advance, There is Relatively Little You Can Do At The Time

Once You Are In A Crisis, There is Not Time

Four Wrong Answers to the Question Why Me

Be Sociable, Share!

Francis Anderson, in his splendid little commentary on Job, compares how human beings view suffering with the biblical view:

Men seek an explanation of suffering in cause and effect. They look backwards for a connection between prior sin and present suffering. The Bible looks forward in hope and seeks explanations, not so much in origins as in goals. The purpose of suffering is seen, not in its cause, but in its result. The man was born blind so that the works of God could be displayed in him (Jn 9:3). But sometimes good never seems to come out of evil. Men wait in vain. They find God’s slowness irksome. They lose heart, and often lose faith. The Bible commends God’s self-restraint. The outworkings of His justice through the long processes of history, which sometimes require spans of many centuries, are part of existence in time. It is easier to see the hand of God in spectacular and immediate acts, and the sinner who is not instantly corrected is likely to despise God’s delay in executing justice as a sign that He is indifferent or even absent. We have to be patient as God Himself to see the end result, or to go on living in faith without seeing. In due season we shall reap, if we do not give up.

Be Sociable, Share!

With my October series on Job just around the bend, I’m studying the book of Job nearly every day. Francis Anderson’s commentary on Job begins with this splendid summary that our church may hear me quote in the fall.

The book of Job tells the story of a good man overwhelmed by troubles. He is stripped of his wealth, his family, his health. He does not know why God has done this to him. Only the reader knows that God is trying to prove to the Devil that Job’s faith is genuine. Three friends come to console him in his misery, and the four engage in a long discussion. The friends try to explain what has happened by connecting Job’s sufferings with his sins. Job rejects their theory. Instead of accepting their advice to repent and so make peace with God, Job insists on his own innocence and questions the justice of God’s treatment.

At this point a new character, Elihu, appears and makes four speeches which he thinks will solve the problem; but this does not seem to make any difference. Eventually the Lord Himself addresses Job. These speeches change Job’s attitude, for he responds with contrite submission. In the end God declares Job to be in the right and restores his prosperity and happiness.

Upon this simple plot an unknown writer of superlative genius has erected a monumental work. The most persistent questions of the relationship of men to God have been given powerful theological treatment in verse whose majesty and emotion are unsurpassed in any literature, ancient or modern.

Be Sociable, Share!

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!