Screenshot 2016-05-05 15.16.02 “Yesterday” — as seen in the picture to the right — our son Benjamin stepped onto the bus and started kindergarten. This weekend he graduates from high school. Below is what I pray Ben and his classmates remember.

Congratulations 2016 Graduate:

For over 20 years I have thought about what and refined reminders to give graduates on one page. Obviously, I can’t say everything. Rather, these are the essential truths I want to stress at this pivotal time.

  1. Know that following Christ is both right and best. Believing in Jesus is right because Jesus is the One true God. He deserves all glory. Putting our faith and trust in Jesus is best because Jesus came that we might have life more abundantly. If you have not done so already, give your life to the King. On the Cross, he paid the penalty for His people so that we could spend eternity together on the New Earth in his presence. The alternative to believing in Jesus is unthinkable.
  2. Be warned. Be sure. Get up. Be warned: the way of the sinner is hard. Don’t buy the lie that you can make wrong choices and not reap the consequences. Be sure you really are a Christian (2 Cor 13:5, James 2:17). The worst words that will ever be heard will be when many stand before Christ thinking they are Christians and find out that they will spend eternity in hell. Get up. When you stumble as a Christian, as you will, don’t let failure give way to failure. Keep on. Persevere.
  3. Remember that God makes bricks with a building in mind. Christians should be mortared together in local churches (1 Peter 2:5). Gifted and empowered by the Holy Spirit to serve together, local churches are called to subtly season and boldly light the darkness across the street and around the world. Don’t put church on hold for the next few years.
  4. Sharpen your wisdom saw with the Word. 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 our wisdom saws by memorizing and reading the Word and by hearing it preached. Be Word-centered! Rinse in Scripture. It is more precious than gold and sweeter than honey.
  5. Envision a beautiful bride walking down the aisle in a Christ-centered wedding. Most of you will marry. God’s plan for sex and marriage is breathtakingly beautiful. All of us, even those who remain single, must remember that the Church is the bride of Christ. Marriage and the gospel explain one another. We cannot allow unbelieving culture to corrupt our vision for Christ-centered weddings and homes.
  6. Think deeply about true answers. Many people go through life as zombies not thinking through the big questions like: Why am I here? What happens after death? How can I know joy and happiness? If we do not live in light of biblical answers, we will stumble through life and make poor decisions. Ultimately, those who do not think deeply about the meaning of life will spend eternity in hell apart from Christ.
  7. Be assured: the people of the Red Brick Church love you. Love didn’t evolve. Love wasn’t invented. Love is eternal because our triune God is eternally love: ever giving and self-giving. He loves us and tells us to love one another. And we do. We 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. Until then, I am a pastoral resource available to you!

In Him,

Pastor Chris Brauns

See also:

Following Christ is Right and Best!

What Scares Me Most As A Pastor

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

A More Magnificent Mirror: For My Daughter and Her Groom

Why Is My Blog Title A Brick in the Valley?
5th Tree Back, Right Side, As You Face The Throne

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CDB_4702For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God. 2 Cor 1:20, NIV

This week I am blessed to join with a group of pastors at Covenant Harbor Retreat Center (Lake Geneva, WI). We will enjoy digging into 2 Corinthians under the instruction of Dr. George Guthrie of Union University.

With a couple of exceptions, what our group has in common is that we were privileged to complete doctoral work under Dr. Haddon Robinson. Now, we are committed to sharpening our preaching “saws” in an ongoing way.

Haddon Robinson at the GCTS Study Group 2014What our group does not have in common is:

  • The regions where we serve. The map included in this post shows that we come from all over North America: from Houston to Edmonton, Oregon to South Carolina.
  • The size of our cities or communities.  Some serve in rural communities, others in urban settings. Some are in the suburbs, others in the inner city.
  • The size of our churches. Some are part of large churches. Some are in small churches. Others are in new church plants.
  • Denominations. Just a sampling of our group includes Assembly of God, Baptist, Evangelical Free Church of America, Independent, and Presbyterian.
  • The venues in which we minister. A number have published books. Many have written articles one place or another. Most preach and teach on a weekly basis. Several teach homiletics (preaching) at Bible colleges or seminaries.

If you click through to the map, and then click on each pin, you will find more information about the ministries where we serve.

Pastors and Ministry leaders gather with Union University theologian George Guthrie to study 2 Corinthians.

Pastors and Ministry leaders gather with Union University theologian George Guthrie to study 2 Corinthians.

At Lake Geneva, our week will feature:

  • Intense study. Dr. Guthrie recently published a major commentary on 2 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament). He is one of the top NT scholars in the English speaking world and, having previously studied Hebrews with him, we are excited to learn from him again.
  • Sermon planning. Our goal is to return from our time together so that we can feed our flocks a rich diet of God’s Word. We use the common vocabulary taught to us by Haddon Robinsons: subject, complement, exegetical idea etc.
  • Ministry Updates. Each year when we gather together, we give updates and learn how we can pray for one another.
  • Prayer. At the beginning of each day, we spend time in prayer.
  • Food. The food service for Covenant Harbor is excellent!
  • Long walks and hot coffee. On most evenings, we take a 1.5 mile walk each way to the local Starbucks where we laugh and enjoy one anothers company.
  • Hockey Instruction. Several of our number hail from north of the border. Theirs is a colder climate and some of us have taken it upon ourselves to encourage an interest in hockey, which played on ice such as it is, would seem well suited for their arctic habitat. While the Canadians pick up fairly quickly on theological matters, it is taking them longer to understand hockey. It is our ardent hope that over the years those of us from the U.S. can teach them more about the sport. There is some indication they are making progress.

It is not lost on our group that we are uniquely blessed to have such an opportunity to study and be recharged. We are thankful for:

  • The support of our churches who encourage us to go.
  • A Wisconsin family that generously supports this retreat.
  • Gifted theologians who spend a week in Wisconsin in order to equip us.
  • The ongoing leadership of several in our group who continue to cast the vision and recruit speakers.
  • Administrative support from individuals at Fellowship Church (Greenville) and Blackhawk Church (Madison) who coordinate the logistics of reminding forgetful pastors to register, collecting our funds, and other administrative duties.

The below gallery of pictures were taken across a number of years. This is the second year that Haddon has not been able to make our retreat. We miss him being with us.

 

 

 

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

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See the Big Picture of Acts

Chris —  April 19, 2016 — 4 Comments

If you read the Acts verses in column three of the below table, you will understand much about the big picture of Acts.

The thesis or theme of Acts could be stated in this way:

Christ builds his Church through the Spirit empowered proclamation of the Word – – despite many conflicts in the battles of a fallen world — even in and through those conflicts.

Acts begins with Jesus’ charge to the disciples that, after the Spirit has been poured out at Pentecost, they are to go into all the world and make disciples (Acts 1:6-8). The book of Acts, then, tracks the disciples’ obedience to that mandate and the productivity of the Spirit empowered Word. Acts concludes with the point that the Word has victoriously arrived in Rome.

Acts: Gospel Progress in the Book

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Watch this video and see, also, What Scares Me Most as a Pastor.”

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This morning, as we conclude our time in 2 Peter by considering Peter’s admonition to grow in grace, I am recommending to our flock that they consider reading the book, Habits of Grace: Enjoying Jesus through the Spiritual Disciplines.

I hope to post more on this book in the near future, but for now I will simply point to it as an excellent resource for growing in the Christian life.

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Time Magazine: PornWriting for The American Conservative, Rob Dreher interacts with a recent Time magazine article and Denny Burk.

 Time magazine’s cover story this week is about what ubiquitous hardcore pornography is doing to men. I can’t link to it because it’s a subscribers-only piece, but Southern Baptist pastor Denny Burk has a detailed (but not NSFW) rundown of what it reports. The gist of it is that porn is changing the brains of young men, who have been watching it from a young age, such that they are impotent with actual women. Burk, quoting the article:

A growing number of young men are convinced that their sexual responses have been sabotaged because their brains were virtually marinated in porn when they were adolescents. Their generation has consumed explicit content in quantities and varieties never before possible, on devices designed to deliver content swiftly and privately, all at an age when their brains were more plastic—more prone to permanent change—than in later life. These young men feel like unwitting guinea pigs in a largely unmonitored decade-long experiment in sexual conditioning.

Read the rest here.

See also:

Pornography: 8 Suggestions for Sticking a Needle In Your Eye

The Porn Free Family Plan (Tim Challies)

The Top 5 Free Ways to Protect Against Internet Pornography (Tim Michalek)

For help implementing a family policy, and for saying no to Internet enabled devices, see Parents Memorize This Speech (Chris Brauns)

Please Don’t Give Them Porn for Christmas (Tim Challies)

Parenting in a Hyper-Sexualized Culture (Heath Lambert)

The Most Insidious Drug (Chris Brauns)

What’s at Stake with Internet Pornography (Russell Moore)

Is Pornography the New Tobacco (Mary Eberstadt)

Pornography: The New Normal (Carl Trueman)

Pornography: The New Narcotic (John Piper)

Hijacking Back Your Brain from Porn (John Piper)

Porn, Pride, and Praise (Heath Lambert)

Children Playing Outside Requires Leadership. Here’s Three Suggestions (Chris Brauns)

Russell Moore: Fake Love, Fake War and the Dangers of Pornography and the Internet

Pornification: Just the Facts (Ed Stetzer)

A Study on the Effects of Pornography

Recommended Reading:

Finally Free: Fighting for Purity with the Power of Grace (Heath Lambert)

Counsel to Men Addicted to Pornography (Ed Welch)

Pornified: How Pornography is Damaging Our Live, Our Relationships, and Our Families (Pamela Paul)

When I Don’t Desire God: How to Fight for Joy (John Piper)

Wired for Intimacy. How Pornography Hijacks the Male Brain (William Struthers)

Sexual Detox (an e-book by Tim Challies)

Recommended Videos:

I Am Struggling With Pornography and Need Help. What’s My First Step (Heath Lambert)

What Should I Do When My Husband is Looking at Pornography (Heath Lambert)

The Science of Pornography

You Can Say No to Porn (John Piper)

The Key to Escaping Porn (John Piper)

Tim Keller: How Does the Gospel Conquer Pornography

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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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