I have been immersed in the book of Haggai today – - and decided to take a break by listening to someone else preach a sermon on Haggai. I “stumbled” across this sermon by John Piper which, as it turns out, is not an exposition of Haggai. It is, however, instructive for churches who are at various crossroads. It was preached at Bethlehem over 20 years ago and is worth a listen.
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It’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas. I nearly froze taking the garbage out. And that means it is time to think about what books to buy for those who are readers. Here are some suggestions.
Book Recommendations for Those Thoughtfully Considering Christianity
Encounters with Jesus by Tim Keller – Highly readable and well reasoned.
Despite Doubt by Mike Wittmer – We don’t need to be afraid of our doubts. Mike Wittmer – - gifted as always – - shows how we can confidently embrace faith. (By the way, you ought to read Mike wondering if it isn’t a little over the top to give elementary kids flowers for singing “The Little Drummer Boy).”
Book Recommendations for Those Who Love to Study God’s Word
A Book Recommendation for those (like me) Given to Introspection
The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness by Tim Keller
Books for Those who Love a Good Mystery
Anything by Charles Todd. I read everything that Todd (a mother and son) write.
My Most Recent Book
Bound Together by Chris Brauns
I use Adobe Lightroom to both organize my pictures and for 99% of my edits. In addition to being a wonderful tool for organization, the below before and after pics make the case for using it to edit pictures.
Of course, when I do occasionally want to get rid of power lines or make major edits, Photoshop is the preferred method! Notice: Church with power lines and church without.
In terms of cameras – - and I know this gets a little pricey – - but you will be pleased with any of the following:
Nikon 7100 - I use the previous version of this camera.
Nikon D600 – If you get this camera for me for Christmas, then I will take a very nice picture of you.
I am very excited to begin a new sermon series on Haggai this Sunday at the Red Brick Church. My gifted friend, Andrew Kischner, graciously served our church by writing the following introductory thoughts. If you are from our church family, this post will be a tremendous help in preparing for our sermon series in December.
A Brief Background & Overview of Haggai
The book of Haggai outlines the account, from a prophetic perspective, of how the temple that endured until Jesus’ day came into existence after the remnant of Israel returned from the Babylonian exile. “Lord of hosts,” used 11 times, connotes the controller of a vast army, but the Commander did not sound the retreat to stop building. The Lord of hosts speaks through Haggai the prophet four times over the course of 15 weeks calling the remnant to finish building the temple. For each sermon delivery, a precise date is given, which makes Haggai the most precisely recorded book in Scripture.
29 August 520 BC
To Joshua, Zerubbabel
17 October 520 BC
To Joshua, Zerubbabel, All
18 December 520 BC
18 December 520 BC
For the genre to which Haggai belongs, Minor Prophecy, Haggai is an overwhelmingly positive book. It’s filled with hope, encouragement and covenant renewal. The people of God are actually responsive to God’s Word and the temple finds its completion through the ministry of Haggai, Joshua, Zerubbabel, and also Zechariah, who is not mentioned in Haggai.
But, before continuing any further, it’s important to make note of the broader historical scope and setting of Haggai. As noted above, Haggai is a prophetic account of how God’s people reconstructed the Temple. Ezra is the corresponding historical account of how God’s people came to rebuild the Temple. Haggai, then, can be understood as a parenthetical remark or memorandum on Ezra’s historical account. God’s call to rebuild His house through Haggai comes in the midst of a very specific historical progression outlined in the book of Ezra. The historical progression in Ezra 1 – 4 is as follows.
Cyrus king of Persia issues a decree to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem and offers a monetary grant for it; a remnant of 50,000 returns to Jerusalem and Judah as a result; they constructed the altar of the temple and began making offerings to the Lord; they constructed the foundation of the temple, which resulted in mixed response from the remnant – joy and discouragement; the remnant is met with opposition from the previous inhabitants of the land in the form of threats and bribes; the opposition party writes a deceitful letter of accusation about the remnant to the Artaxerxes king of Persia; Artaxerxes writes a return letter issuing a decree that the remnant cease rebuilding Jerusalem; upon delivering the king’s edict to the remnant “the work on the house of God that is in Jerusalem stopped, and it ceased until the second year of the reign of Darius of Persia” (Ezra 4:24). Enter, first words of Haggai, “In the second year of Darius the king…”
Ezra 5 – 6 provides a parallel account with the book of Haggai. We learn through these chapters that the remnant faced opposition when they resumed reconstruction on the temple, but eventually Darius the new king told the opposition party to keep away on the basis of his historical investigation of Cyrus’ decree. And, God providentially worked through Darius to provide additional materials and offerings for the temple from the hands of the opposition party.
If the historical account from Ezra did not provide enough complexity for the returning exiles, there were more issues for the remnant to work through. Imagine settling in a completely ravaged land and city that cried for restoration, all of society from top to bottom– agricultural production, buildings, etc. Add to that the reality that they were still firmly planted under the rule of the Persian Empire. Where was their long-awaited Davidic ruler to oust them from Persia’s grasp? Wasn’t the 70 years of exile over, why weren’t they experiencing the blessings of God? It’s as though they had brought exile with them. How were they to cope with the drought and solve widespread famine?
With all the complexity involved in rebuilding homes, agriculture and society, while facing opposition and discouragement, how would the remnant prioritize their projects? Which projects were categorized as urgent and which projects could they postpone? What work would they give themselves to with all the work to be done?
Haggai seeks to provide resolution in the midst of this background. Our church should consider our context as well, in the midst of this Christmas season and the combined complexity of our lives, and inquire into our priorities and desires. Though Haggai’s four sermons occurred over the course of fifteen weeks, Pastor Chris Brauns sermons will occur over the course of four.
The key verse for Haggai is “Go up to the hills and bring wood and build the house, that I may take pleasure in it and that I may be glorified, says the Lord.” God says to the remnant, “Share My passion for My glory by finishing the Temple.”
It’s not enough at Christmas time to admire nativity scenes. We need to know our place in the Nativity scene. Studying the book of Haggai allows us to take a wider view of the birth of Christ so that we can see where we fit in the Christmas story.
Luke tells us that our King was wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger because there was no room in the inn (Luke 2:7). For centuries, artists have pictured the scene. Where was Joseph? Where was Mary? (Very close by!) What animals warmed the scene?
But it isn’t enough to know that Mary was in the Christmas story, we need to see that for those who know Christ, we are also part of the nativity scene. We are part of the story. In order to know how our stories relate to the Christmas story, we must step back from the starry night in
Jerusalem Bethlehem and see the big sweep of the story of salvation that all of Scripture describes.
It is possible to see all of Scripture from 30,000 feet. D.A. Carson once gave an overview of the message of the Bible in 221 words:
God is the sovereign, transcendent and personal God who has made the universe, including us, his image-bearers. Our misery lies in our rebellion, our alienation from God, which, despite his forbearance, attracts his implacable wrath.
But God, precisely because love is of the very essence of his character, takes the initiative and prepared for the coming of his own Son by raising up a people who, by covenantal stipulations, temple worship, systems of sacrifice and of priesthood, by kings and by prophets, are taught something of what God is planning and what he expects.
In the fullness of time his Son comes and takes on human nature. He comes not, in the first instance, to judge but to save: he dies the death of his people, rises from the grave and, in returning to his heavenly Father, bequeaths the Holy Spirit as the down payment and guarantee of the ultimate gift he has secured for them—an eternity of bliss in the presence of God himself, in a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness.
The only alternative is to be shut out from the presence of this God forever, in the torments of hell. What men and women must do, before it is too late, is repent and trust Christ; the alternative is to disobey the gospel (Romans 10:16;2 Thessalonians 1:8; 1 Peter 4:17).
But it is not enough to fly over Scripture from above the clouds. If we are to really gain a feel for the overall sweep of the Bible – - -and know where we “stand” in the nativity scene – - then we need to delve into the details of Scripture from books like Haggai.
This Christmas season, I will be preaching from the book of Haggai at the Red Brick Church. Haggai gave his prophesies, collected in 1 book, from August to December in the year 520 B.C. Central to the book of Haggai is how he encouraged his listeners to anticipate Christ.
I am “stoked” to preach these Christmas messages because our church will:
- Learn how our story fits with the story of Old Testament Israel and the birth of the Lord Jesus
- Be motivated for what God has called us to do in the New Testament church.
- Understand the disillusionment and cynicism that has come to characterize our culture.
- Anticipate with excitement the return of Jesus.
Don’t go through the holiday season treating the nativity as a sentimental scene from the past. Let’s dive into the details of God’s Word so that we can see our place at the foot of the manger.
Dear Church Family,
You know we do a pretty good job kissing on the kids at the Red Brick Church. The pastor’s wife, in particular, excels.
My nephew wanted to know at what age little boys are safe from the pastor’s wife. I told him that the deacons are generally okay, but after that, you’re on your own. Jamie finds the children – - and the rest of us do our part as well.
But it’s one thing to kiss the children and another to be kissing our community. Make no mistake. As Christians, we are called to show that we truly love our neighbors. Kisses, of one sort or another, are in order.
One of the most vivid ways we can “kiss” our community this time of the year is to invite them to church. We have neighbors all around us who do not have church homes. Would you not take a moment to share with them a link regarding our upcoming Christmas events and preaching series.
It is not a real difficult script. “Would you be my guest at church? I’ll watch for you and we can sit together.” Our affection should be concrete and vivid. It’s just about as easy as kissing.
Do use discernment about the kissing business. There is a youth decorating party coming up and we won’t be encouraging them to hang mistletoe.
Seriously though, Eternity is at stake. Love people for the glory of Christ and our collective joy. Invite someone to church. Love one another.
On for the King,
Pastor Chris Brauns
Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ greet you. Romans 16:16
Thanks to Andy Naselli for this post pointing to a 1 sentence summary of every book in the Bible.
I’m teaching a course at Bethlehem College and Seminary this fall to second-year seminary students called “New Testament Background and Message.” We are systematically working through the NT, and prior to each time we meet for class the students must summarize the theological message of a NT book in one clear, concise sentence. Then they must briefly unpack that sentence by showing how the book’s themes support that message. (And it takes a lot of work to do that well!)
It frustrates me when books and articles discuss the “theology” of a Bible book by presenting a bucket list of parallel motifs but without showing how they integrate as one coherent theological message. So I was delighted to see that the new NIV Proclamation Bible (ed. Lee Gatiss; cf. publisher page and 40-second video) includes a one-sentence summary of the message of every book of the Bible.
I disagree with many of these one-sentence summaries (which are rather uneven), but it’s still helpful to consider how others articulate the messages. These are from the introduction to each book of the Bible:
Genesis. The Creator God is faithful to his covenant promises and redeems humanity through the promised line, despite their sin and rebellion. (Seulgi Byun)
Exodus. Trust, obey and worship the redeeming, covenant-making God who is with us. (Douglas Stuart)
Leviticus. The holy God makes his people holy, calls them to be holy, and provides atonement through blood when they are not. (Robin Weekes)
Numbers. God has saved us and, as we travel through the wilderness of this world, we need to go on exercising faith to enter the inheritance Christ has secured for us. (Adrian Reynolds)
Deuteronomy. God’s people are called to respond to God’s salvation with love and loyalty, worshipping the one true God in the midst of surrounding cultural idolatries and living in the midst of the nations as a community shaped at every level of life by God’s character of grace, justice, purity, compassion and generosity. (Chris Wright)
Joshua. God gave the Land he promised and Israel took it (11:23; 21:43-45). (Liam Goligher) . . .
Read the rest here.
Full disclosure: I haven’t watched this entire video. But this is bound to be good. For those who want to go to the next level, this will be very helpful.
John Piper gives needed encouraged to parents of young children:
I am writing this to plead with Christian parents to require obedience of their children. I am moved to write this by watching young children pay no attention to their parents’ requests, with no consequences. Parents tell a child two or three times to sit or stop and come or go, and after the third disobedience, they laughingly bribe the child. This may or may not get the behavior desired. . .
Read the rest here.
I sent the below email out to our church family today. One of our teens is hurting and I know they will communicate love to her. We must always remember, we only get a few chances to be there for young people. Let them know you care.
Pray for Elizabeth and maybe send her a card. Teens will remember outpourings of love the rest of their lives.
Dear Church Family:
You have heard me brag many times in recent days about the young people of our church. They are so interested in God’s word, motivated, positive, and respectful.
One of the biggest blessings at our youth events has been Elizabeth. I recently taught the junior highers and throughout the time she had a big smile on her face. Later, when we placed “sardines” she teamed up with my son Christopher.
Earlier this week, Elizabeth took a hard fall off her horse and broke her shoulder. Largely because of Storm (who breaks something every summer) and Christopher (who is currently on something like his 4th cast for a broken hand), we are getting used to broken bones around here. But in Elizabeth’s case, the break is in such a place that she can’t have a cast. It is uncomfortable enough that she can’t sleep. It really hurts.
(1) Pray for her. You might put in a word for Marlene too, which is mothering her through the discomfort.
(2) Let her know you love her. $5 goes a long ways with teens.
Miss Elizabeth . . .(Address given here)
And, of course, we do love our church family!
On for the King,
Pastor Chris Brauns