Posts by Jed Brown

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The Reformation in a Verse

This Halloween is the 500th anniversary of the beginning of the Reformation, when Martin Luther revealed his 95 Theses, setting off a firestorm of debate, controversy, change, and blessed freedom. Many passages of Scripture could claim to be the heart of the Reformation; Colossians 2:23 is one of them. If you want to understand the Reformation, seek to understand Colossian...

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Addicted to Righteousness

An old Reformer once said, of the Christian’s life, that “unless we are addicted to righteousness”, "we will faithlessly abandon our Creator". That phrase - “addicted to righteousness” - is striking. Certainly the language of addiction applies to our present day, even in our entertainment practices - we don’t just “watch TV”;...

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Hugh and Jake

Sometimes God gives compare and contrast moments that are inescapable. This morning I saw in the New York Times that Hugh Hefner, founder of Playboy, had died. Thinking biblically: “. . . you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God . . . becaus...

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Grace for Gracie

Many of you have asked about my family member Gracie, who was shot by a fellow student in her school a couple weeks ago. She is recovering well. Though the bullet literally bounced off her spine (and missed her aorta by a hair), doctors expect a full recovery (though she is not yet walking again). As you read this, please pray for her.  As I understand it, she was sh...

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Earthy Means to Flourishing Community

“Community” is simply being with other people. A flourishing community is one where there is mutual, multiplying joy among the members, as a product of being with each other. This is because we humans are hard-wired for joy. We’re created with this innate desire. The only way that any human experiences satisfying joy is in God. Therefore the only truly fl...

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From Awesomeness to Flourishing

We are a polar people. On the one pole, we love to be exceptional, to be special. You see this sweet narcissism on social media; we post our best and brightest moments, but often the purpose is to demonstrate the singularity of ourselves. But a funny thing happens on the road to awesomeness: we find that being awesome doesn’t result in being loved.  Therefore, ...

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Notetaking During the Sermon

As you settle back into a routine from the summer, it might be a good time to consider how you take notes during the sermon. We like notetaking, and our style of preaching invites it (thinking here about the main points, which often require more than one pass to digest). But notetaking has its pitfalls: - While recording some information that is intriguing, one can easily...

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Prayer Triads

Our aim is to be a joy-filled community, that treasures God in Christ supremely, obeys the Bible completely, loves one another selflessly, and spreads the gospel intentionally. To that end, we structure our church life around three different spheres: the Sunday Worship Celebration, Community Groups, and Discipleship Groups. I want to focus in here on Discipleship Groups, a...

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The Power to Change

1 Corinthians 5 is a hard chapter; Paul is abrading the Corinthian church for allowing a man to hang around who took his father's wife. Paul's larger point is clear - don't tolerate what even non-Christians don't tolerate (v. 1). But in verses 6-8 Paul pictures crucial truths for us, for growth, change and sanity:  First, that grave danger underlies all boasting. Ver...

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Endurance by Shared Suffering

There are twin ditches in preaching: saying everything, and saying not enough. As I reflected on the sermon last week, I think I would have included this, or said it in a following sermon: our sufferings are meant to be shared, that we would endure them in hope.  Gloryifying God in this fallen world, in a life stained everywhere by sin, involves much suffering - Paul...

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Please Consider "Listening" to This Sermon

On behalf of the elders, I would like to invite you to consider volunteering to serve in children’s ministry this fall, particularly for Children’s Church - the time when kids up to third grade step out for separate instruction during the sermon.  “What? And miss the sermon?! I’m not a ‘kid person’. I’ve been there and done t...

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God's Sovereign Use of Sin for Holiness

We do not grow in certain sins because we pursue change with a “corrupt principle”, said John Owen - that being self-love, not love of God: “It is evident that you contend against sin merely because of your own trouble by it. Would your conscience be quiet under it, you would let it alone. Did it not disquiet you, it should not be disquieted by you. Now,...

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Be Killing Sin, or It Will Be Killing You

The only time the word “mortified” comes up in common language today is in this context: “What he did was so embarrassing; I was just mortified” - as in, I was so embarrassed, I felt like dying, or like I was dying. But the word literally means to bring about mortality - to be killing. No one was actually strangling this imaginary person; the word h...

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How the Spirit Produces Fruit

To understand growth in Jesus-likeness, look to your garden. Growth results in fruit, the fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22-24).  “of the Spirit.” This little phrase first means that it is NOT the fruit of our hard work, or discipline, or our increasing spirituality or contrition. The Spirit produces fruit in us, not us. Therefore growth, sanctification, is f...

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Abortion and Grace

How can God justly forgive you? The theological answer: it’s not the relative badness of one’s sins that matters, but the worth of the sacrifice given by God, for the forgiveness of sins. Leave in place the badness of what Bundy, Duch and you have done. Do not minimize it for a moment. But Jesus, the perfect Son of God, God in flesh, was an even greater, infinitely mor...

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Glory Around a Table

Where is God glorified most in the life of our church? I would argue that he is often most glorified in Community Groups. To explain, I quote John Piper, on the “diverse excellencies” of Jesus:  “we admire him for his glory, but even more because his glory is mingled with humility; • we admire him for his transcendence, but even more because h...

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Characteristics of Faithful, Useful Groups, Over the Long-Term

There are three common characteristics of Community or Discipleship Groups or friendships that are faithful and useful and healthy over the long-term: • Deliberately Gospeled • Attentive Friendship • Consistently Missional:...

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Needing a Bigger Discomfort

I am uncomfortable, at times, with living in contrast to the world. There exists in me a residual desire - shrinking but still there - to be friends with the world. I’m much more comfortable standing in contrast to this or that denomination than against the philosophies of this world. I need to grow in tolerating the discomfort of being increasingly different from th...

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Stress, Revealer of Idols

The term “idolatry” is big and bad. It probably conjures pictures of bad Israelites and really bad Babylonians doing bad sacrificial, religious acts, in defiance of the one true God. That’s all true. But in the whole of the Bible, the term idolatry came to mean a constellation of faith, deeds, beliefs, affections, and even resting, in antipathy to the one...

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The Shack and The Benedict Option

I have often been asked about The Shack, the book and movie that portray God in fascinating but unbiblical ways. Another book, The Benedict Option, has resonated with many lately. Its author commends seceding from the culture, like Benedectine monks of the sixth century. Where the two books intersect reveals an inflection point for us. The Shack portrays a god that’...

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Your Ministry

What does “ministry” look like? “You’re asking me, pastor?!” Yes, you, because Scripture plainly places ministry at the feet of Joe and Joan Pewsitter: “And he gave apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints [Joe and Joan Pewsitter] for the work of ministry, for the building up of the body of...

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Keep Yourselves in His Love

The most repeated phrase in Scripture is “the steadfast love of the Lord endures forever”. It’s no coincidence that Paul ends his great gospel “song” of Romans 1-8 by singing of God’s love: “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers nor height nor depth, nor ...

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The Sin Fighter

Last week’s sermon said that Christians actively “fight sin in one another, and forgive constantly”. There is perhaps no better time than Good Friday to revisit what this means. It does not mean constantly criticizing one another; gossiping about one another; “right-sizing” one another; or judging one another by one moment, instead of the dir...

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The Importance of Lament

“What then shall we say to these things?”, to suffering and the gospel? Paul gives three answers in Romans 8. The first two answers are obvious: he gives proof that God loves us (31b-35), and then the future-facing promise of that proven love, that it will never fail (37-39). But in between, in verse 36, Paul quotes Psalm 44:22, which is a complaint to God, tha...

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Community Distinctives

The fact of community, and the mode of community, are two different things in the church. This is different from the world, where we pursue a mode of community - could be Boy Scouts, Rotary, or just being neighborly - because we think that will create community. But God reverses that order in the church. We are already a community, created by Him, by uniting us by faith to...

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Real Life Turning on Hope

All of life turns on what we think of God, in fleeting moments. Whether we are conscious of it or not, our actions start with a subtle two-step of trust and hope. A common example: A husband (OK, you got me - me) is feeling mildly resentful about something his wife said or did (which for the life of me I cannot remember now exactly what it was). Their normal practice is t...

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Changing Abortion: Outside the Clinic, or In the Coffeeshop?

Recently a conversation turned to the subject of abortion, and the question was asked, what did I think about going to a clinic, and talking to women as they walked in? Without giving specific guidance, some questions come to mind that I hope give you clarity about how you might engage in a particular issue like abortion: First, we should think about problems both systemi...

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Free Indeed, to Spread the Gospel

“. . . We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded [their] eyes . . .” (Paul, 2 Cor. 4:2b-3) I want you ...

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Contagious Impurity

“How can I be faithful in this season of life?” I suppose we ask it in every season of life; my wife and I ask it now. Volleyball . . . homework . . . potty training . . . playing catch . . . reading a book . . . running . . . so much to do. Yes - if the Lord gives years, I know I will wish for these times again. Even still - how to be faithful? How to be fait...

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Discipleship at EFree

A word or two about Discipleship Groups. Their purpose is to "attend to one another's souls". We are essentially asking "How goes it with you with Jesus?" Then we help each other apply the Bible to life. For instance, you mention that you have a big meeting coming up this week at work. You want to trust God in that. That's your answer to "how it goes with you . . . with t...

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Simple Church

Our church, described in a nutshell, from the top down: we aspire to really be about God and his gospel, in everything we do. We grow into Jesus, through his gospel, by means of community. Therefore we pursue simple church, not in service of simplicity, but in the service of keeping God and his gospel at the center. Our simple church has three parts: Sunday Worship Celebr...

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"This I Know"

Our little Lucy requests that I sing "This I Know" to her at bedtime. She means the song "Jesus Loves Me", but the line "This I Know" stands out to her. She knows more than she realizes; we preach the gospel to ourselves that we would know what we know; that His voice of love would quiet us, encourage and give us rest - "He gives to his beloved sleep" (Psalm 127:2). The ba...

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His Sovereignty - Our Thankful Dependence

Sometimes the topic of the sovereignty of God can trip people up. Sometimes we take offense at the notion that God is sovereign over everything, even my free choices. So I'm a robot? one might ask. Offense or confusion can easily lead to arguments and division. It ought not be; we preach the sovereignty of God to Christians for encouragement that goes to the very base of ...

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Out of the Slavery of Productivity

These days you may be beginning a Bible reading plan, praying more, eating better, organizing your stuff better, etc. There's something about the turn of the calendar that hastens an impulse within us, to depart from ourselves and be a better self. For me, it's in January that iPhone apps for productivity suddenly become attractive. One is called "Nirvana" - presumably th...

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Finding Your Version of the Mission

Where do we find our mission? Our goal is to find one that is for the sake of others, "so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God" (2 Cor. 4:16). Paul had his version of this mission; how do we discover ours? Ezra points the way: "For on the first day of the first month he began to go up from Babylonia [on a risky tri...

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How God Celebrated the First Christmas

Christmas, if anything else, is about the giving of gifts to our loved ones. We criticize ourselves for our Americanized commercializing of Christmas (and we should). But we are only reenacting our Father’s giving in love. What we enact around the tree is little and miniscule, compared to how God “celebrated” the first Christmas. I’ll let Paul put i...

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Seeing His Glory, Finding Life

[Often I use this space to reflect on some portion of daily Bible reading from the M’Cheyne Bible reading plan. Personally, I try to follow half the plan, reading two chapters a day, or the whole Bible in two years. This gives me more space for personal reflection on what I’m reading, leaving less pressure to keep up with the plan. If you would like to join me,...

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What's the Point?

The world asks of the church, “What’s the point?!” So do people inside the church. What’s the point? If the point is to make you a better person, there are plenty of books and speakers who can tell you how to get your best life now, better than us. If it’s to build a better society, there’s the Rotary Club, or the Red Cross, or any numb...

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Thankfulness After Thanksgiving

Thankfulness is a key indicator of true, eternal usefulness. But the Bible never tells us anywhere to contrive thankfulness, as if thankfulness itself is power and a sign of nobility. Many scientific studies have found therapeutic benefits to thankfulness, but God wants more for us than just a noble character and a healthy body. To be noble and healthy are good goals, but ...

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Content with Small for the Sake of the Great

Small steps of faith are the long pry bar that moves mountains of change....

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What Now?

How do we respond to the recent election cycle? What actions would make our response wise and profitable? I suggest thinking about two crucial issues: culture, and distraction. The collective mind (culture) of our country shifted swiftly in recent years, and the Supreme Court ratified the culture change. As Chief Justice Roberts said at the time of the “gay marriage...

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Sigmund Freud's Dream, Our Reality to Enjoy

It used to be that four tenets ruled most Christians’ church life: 1. Act like you’ve got it together. 2. Isolate yourself. 3. Ministry is programs. 4. Bible reading is for me alone. This kind of church approach resulted in the entrance of many programs - a weekly newsletter chocked full of calendar events. But a plethora of programs pushed out the work of...

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Love In, and After, the Voting Booth

I was asked last night, “Who are you voting for?” Good question. Here are some other questions I’m asking myself, and for you to consider, as Election Day nears: First, if everyone’s vote was made public, how would that change our fellowship within our church? Evangelicals are divided on Hillary and Donald. Would our lack of agreement impede our lo...

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Getting Happy

We want happiness; we are ever in search of it; a current book written by a Briton describes how we Americans can’t find it. Perhaps we are more prone to search harder for happiness; its pursuit is built-in to our founding document and character. Or turn on PBS and you’ll hear about “mindful awareness”, an eastern practice that’s the en vogue ...

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William Cowper: Life Lessons

William Cowper’s (pronounced “Cooper”) life rings with lessons for us, about depression, and about moving towards others in love, even when we know not what we should say or do. Cowper lived in the 1700’s, was a friend of John Newton (Newton was his pastor for a time), and wrote poems and hymns that are still valued today. Martin Luther King often q...

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Idols and Times of Refreshing

When we listen to a sermon, the stakes are high - Jesus said in the parable of the soils that covetousness is always ready, looking to snatch the Word from us and make us unfruitful, or from becoming Christians (Matt. 13:22). The moment of the sermon is a battle. The battlefield is our hearts, because the location of the “root” of faith (13:21), and the locatio...

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Humble Ambition for Glory

We Americans have had a twisting relationship with ambition. Alexis de Tocqueville observed about us: “There are no Americans who do not show that they are devoured by the desire to rise, but one sees almost none of them who appear to nourish vast hopes or to aim very high. All want constantly to acquire goods, reputation, power; few envision all these things on a g...

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Live, Give, Representative

At any given moment, you are to be about . . . what? All the time, you and I are to live, give or serve as a representative. Live, give, representative. Live: Much of life is just, well, living. In order to feed one’s family, one either needs to work, or go to the grocery store or garden. The car ride or working or shopping or picking is just life. But I am to live ...

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The Purifying Power of Thankfulness

In all the Psalms Jesus meets with us, identifying with our weaknesses, having compassion on us, and graciously meeting us with help in our time of need. But he does not always help us on our terms, the way we would devise. Sometimes we call out for him for grace and mercy, but he meets us first with more wounds, more hurt. Psalm 50 pictures such a time. We must keep humbl...

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Malaise and Purpose in Community Groups

Recently I heard someone say that their Community Group lacked purpose. I was disappointed to hear that, but I think I understand the malaise. I want to make three comments to clarify and perhaps inspire us in the purpose of Community Groups.First, remember that God has sovereignly, deliberately placed us in geographic proximity to other real people. Therefore, one of your...

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The Step of Change We Skip

In the process of change, we often miss a vital step. If you miss this step, you miss something vital for going to where you want to go. You want life, real life. And your/my next step for finding life is often one of two things: “Stop doing that,” or “Just believe.” Both are good ...

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Meals Have Meaning

Meals have meaning. When you welcome someone to your dinner table, you act in a rich ritual, one “thick” with meaning. This meaning is heightened and made more clear in Christ....

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Growth and Christian Friendship

We need Christian friends for fruitful endurance. Some grace only comes to us by means of Christian friends. Our friends affect us, shape us, help us ...

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Missions and Churches

Thanks for praying for my trip to Ukraine (and please continue praying for our sisters who are currently ministering in a restricted country). Before the trip I wrote here about Matthew 9:38 - that we would pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. This command was reinforced for me in Ukraine, in this way: the local church sends out ...

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The Roadblock to Times of Refreshing

What would you say is the first way to apply the gospel? We've heard in Philippians that we should only let our manner of life be worthy of the gospel. But then, practically, what does this mean? Keep listening to the rest of the Philippians sermons, but I am struck by how Paul answers this question in Ephesians. Under his umbrella command, "walk in a manner worthy of the ...

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Sympathy vs. Compassion in Truth-Filled Love

True compassion does require empathy, but a form of empathy that utilizes more of our thinking abilities and less emotional sympathy. This kind of empathy actually requires deeper listening, to understand what's really true about the other person. This positions us to then speak truth about Christ that more closely corresponds to what's really going on....

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Our Means for Beholding Christ

God uses means for us to "behold" Christ: the Word, prayer, and fellowship. We behold Christ in the Word, in prayer for God to cause us to see Christ in the Word. But this is meant, like a body, to happen in relationship to each other....

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Attending to One Another's Souls

Last week I mentioned the purpose of discipleship groups: to attend to one another's souls. How do we do this? In short, it is Christian friendship. A friend is one who cares for you enough to help you get what you need most, even when it's not easy or pleasant. What do we need most? Think about that for a moment. What we think we need most is the need we project on others...

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Live Streaming of Sunday Service

To watch our Sunday service live, click on "Watch Service Live" at the bottom of this page, or click on "Resources" above, then "Sermons". Then click on the link at the top of the page. ...

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