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!

Haddon Robinson's Lake Geneva Study Group with John WaltonI am preparing to preach this coming fall on the book of Job. This week, I am studying with a group with Dr. John Walton of Wheaton College. One of the first questions that comes up when studying Job is whether or not the book of Job offers an explanation of why bad things happen to good people.

Theologians use the term “theodicy” to refer to explanations of why evil exists.  A theodicy speaks to the question, “If God is good and all-powerful, how do we explain the existence of evil?”

In preaching Job this fall, I will stress  that the purpose of the book of Job is not to explain suffering (D.V.)  In fact, the purpose of Job on some level is to show that suffering cannot be understood. God’s ways are completely beyond ours (38-39). So Walton contends, “The role of the book of Job is to perform the radical surgery that separates theology from theodicy, contending that in the end Yahweh’s justice must be accepted on faith rather than worked out philosophically (Walton, 41).”

To be sure, Job’s suffering is front and center. His pain cannot be missed. But Longman contends that wisdom, not suffering, is the subject of Job (462). “Job’s suffering is the occasion for discussing wisdom (Longman, 462).” Walton identifies the purpose of the book as an evaluation of God’s policies – – more on the purpose of Job later. The point in this post is that the purpose of the book of Job is not to provide a tidy answer to the question, “Why do bad things happen to good people?”

While it is true that Job does not offer an explanation of why suffering takes place, the book of Job does help us understand suffering more. Longman writes:

That does not mean that the book of Job makes no contribution to our understanding of suffering, but it does so predominantly in a negative sense. In particular, it loudly and clearly denies that suffering is the result of sin or that all suffering has the purpose of discipline. The cause of suffering is much too complex to be reduced to a single explanation that can be applied to every case. The book of Job serves as a warning to those who want to judge others based on the quality of their life (Longman, 462).

Estes adds:

Although the book of Job does not formally address the problem of evil, which asks why innocent people suffer in a world governed by a God who is all-good and all-powerful, it does provide several insights that relate to the issue. The book teaches that suffering is not always attributable to personal sin. It also indicates that factors beyond human control can intrude, such as the suffering that Job experienced at the instigation of the adversary. Job’s final response reveals that suffering can result in instruction and growth, as God brings good out of evil. Ultimately, the book of Job brings the reader to realize that the explanation for why good people suffer must be left in the realm of divine mystery, but that Yahweh can be trusted, even when humans cannot comprehend his ways (Estes, 5).

I’m not preaching on Job to the fall . . . my understanding is still very much a work in progress! And my understanding will be a work in progress even after I preach it! But by the fall, I will be much further.

See Christians need not be intellectually troubled that they can’t exhaustively explain why God allows evil and Why is There Evil and Suffering?

See also Christopher Ansberry’s comparison of Walton and Longman’s commentaries.

 

 

Be Sociable, Share!

Even if you are an Auburn fan, this from Bear Bryant is good advice.

Be Sociable, Share!

Gospel Thoughts for High School GraduatesEarlier this week I posted a version of the letter I share each year with graduates. I asked for your input and it was such a great help that I made my most extensive revisions to the letter ever. It is a little longer, but it still fits on one page of a Word document with 1″ margins! Here is the 2014 version (with lots of links to follow).

Dear Graduate:

Congratulations on your accomplishment! We are so thankful for you.

For the last 20 years I have thought about what I would tell graduates on one page.  Each year I refine this letter a little more even as I refine our philosophy of youth ministry. Here is the 2014 version. It is my prayer for you.

  1. If you have not already, Give Your Life to Jesus Christ Who is the only King.  On the Cross He paid the penalty for His people.  Receive the gift of eternal life by believing in Him and your sins are forgiven.  The alternative is unthinkable (John 3:36). This is the Gospel (or the Good News of Christ) and it should shape every area of life. Christ is God- – He is not just a name we chant to help us cope. We must be His. It is not enough to be “moral” (Romans 3:23).
  2. Be sure you really are a Christian (2 Cor 13:5, James 2:17). Many think they are Christians and they are not. The worst words that will ever be heard in human history will be when a group of people stand before Christ thinking they are Christians and find out that they are not (Matt 7:21-23). What scares me most as a pastor is the thought that some of our people may be in that group. Be sure of your salvation! If you have any questions, talk to me, or someone who understands the Gospel, soon.
  3. Grow in wisdom (Philippians 1:9-11, Romans 12:1-2).  Wisdom is skill for living.  It is the saw we use to cut our way through life. We need a sharp saw to make quality decisions. We sharpen the saw by remembering that the fear of the LORD s the beginning of wisdom and by being in Word-centered local church. Don’t think you can simply put church on hold for the next few years. During that time, you will make decisions that affect the rest of your life.  Make wise decisions amid being involved in a good church and vitally connected to other committed Christians. If you move, or go to college, make it your first priority to find Christian fellowship. This is especially critical the first three weeks of college.
  4. Follow Christ and be super excited about a blessed or “happy” life.  For Christians, everything doesn’t always fit together as neatly as you would like in the short run. Our culture is increasingly hostile to Christianity. But Psalm 1 is true.  The person who walks with God and delights in God’s wonderful Word is the one who will be blessed.  Pursue the joy of Christian life. God promises that you won’t be disappointed (Hebrews 11:6). Christ is both right and best. Remember: there are two ways: a broad road or a narrow one. There is no third.
  5. Be warned: the way of the sinner is hard.  Please don’t be deceived.  Don’t buy the lie that you can make wrong choices and not reap the consequences (Galatians 6:7-8).  Choose to sin, choose to suffer (1 Corinthians 10:11). (Do not choose to suffer by dating unbelievers! Hate, hate, hate pornography!)
  6. Tell people about Jesus – Regardless of where God leads in life we are called to be Christ’s ambassadors (Matthew 28:18-20, 2 Cor 5:19-2). Jesus gave us the mission of making disciples.
  7. Be assured: the people of the Red Brick Church love you. When we get to the Heavenly City, we want to know you will be at our meeting spot: 5th tree, right side of the river, facing the throne. We will be there soon. In the mean time, I am a pastoral resource available to you!

In Him,

 

Pastor Chris Brauns

Be Sociable, Share!

Hurting On Mother’s Day

Chris —  May 8, 2014 — 11 Comments

Hurting on Mothers DayMother’s Day is a wonderful time to be thankful for maternity. But the celebration of Mother’s Day can also focus pain.*

I am taking the time this week to pray on my knees for women in several categories. I know specific ladies in nearly all of these categories. And I know some who are in multiple categories.

Who have I missed?

  1. Mothers who miss their mothers
  2. Women who have mothers with Alzheimers, dementia, or other illnesses that require care.
  3. Mothers who have lost a child: such incredible grief – See Christian books on pain and suffering
  4. Women (couples) struggling with infertility
  5. Women (couples) who could not have children and now watch friends with grandchildren
  6. Women who had abusive or neglectful mothers including some who even abandoned them
  7. Women who clash with their mothers on a personality level
  8. Mothers who miss husbands who have died
  9. Women (couples) who are trying to adopt and yet continue to be met with obstacles – See these posts on Russ Moore’s book here and here.
  10. Women grieved by rebellious children (see this post) and how parents should unpack forgiveness with rebellious children
  11. Single women who battle loneliness
  12. Mothers who regret how they raised their children
  13. Mothers battling “empty nest” syndrome
  14. Mothers who are estranged from their children and cannot see their grandchildren
  15. Single mothers trying to do everything on their own
  16. Women who chose not to have children and feel ostracized or out of place amongst other Christians.
  17. Mothers overwhelmed by financial concerns
  18. Mothers worn out physically who are facing other physical problems
  19. Mothers battling depression
  20. Mothers who have gone through a painful divorce or who are in painful marriages
  21. Mothers who regret abortions

Do be encouraged by the gospel. As one of the comments below said, “For some, Mother’s Day is difficult because of their experience or non-experience with their mother. Yet it can be transformed into something that is more positive when they think about how God provided someone to fill that void.”

*I will be updating and editing this as I receive input. I have already received excellent input. I have already made 4 revisions based on input in the comments.

Be Sociable, Share!