Archive for June, 2009

Message to the Class of 2016 on their graduation from 5th grade
Greg Brandenburg

Congratulations! You are now smarter than a fifth grader.Eph.2:8-10  For it is by
grace you have been saved, through faith–and this not from yourselves,
it is the gift of God–  9  not by works, so that no one can boast.
10  For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good
works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

You are God’s workmanship – his poem, a work of art

I brought some technology – Etch a sketch – text messaging when I was a kid (talk about the etch a sketch)

Things the etch a sketch taught me about life

1. The longer you play with it the more complicated it gets

Started school in 2003
Things that have happened since then…
Space Shuttle Columbia
War in Iraq
Bush elected to second term
Giant Tsunami
Ronald Reagan dies
Hurricane Katrina
Justice Sandra Day O’Connor retires, Chief Justice William Rehnquist dies
The pope dies
Bad spinach
Martha Stewart
The Crocodile Hunter
Illegal Immigration
Ruth Graham dies
Jerry Falwell dies
Troop surge
Oil prices
Barry Bonds
Michael Vick
Michael Phelps
Global warming
Green politics
Defining marriage
Mortgage crisis
Hurricane Ike
Barack Obama

The pace of world change will continue to accelerate

By the time you graduate from high school in 2016:
China will be the largest English speaking nation
The dollar may be replaced as currency of world exchange
Printed textbooks may be a thing of the past
Holographic television
Computer screens you can roll up and put in your backpack
Domestic robots will clean your house

Your teachers have the task of training you for jobs that don’t exist
yet where you’ll be using technology that has been invented yet.

Aren’t you glad that God has a plan. We were created to do good works which God prepared in advance for us to do.

2. The older the etch a sketch the more permanent the picture

Life is like an etch-a-sketch, we start with a blank screen, when we’re
young it’s fairly easy to erase the lines of our experiences; decisions
we’ve made and actions we’ve taken but as we get older the sketches
become more permanent.

Thoughts turn into Beliefs
Decisions turn into actions
Actions turn into habits
Character is formed as the picture of our life appears.

Erasmus said it this way:
We sow our thoughts, and we reap our actions; we sow our actions,
and we reap our habits; we sow our habits, and we reap our
characters; we sow our characters, and we reap our destiny.

now entering an exciting phase of life. A time when the picture that
God is making of your life becomes permanently engrained.

Ask your parents about memories they have from elementary – they’ll have a
few. Ask them about Jr. High and I’m sure they could talk all day.

Friends you make – friends you don’t make
Things  you watch – things you don’t watch
Things you listen to – things you don’t listen to
What you do with your spare time – what you don’t do with your spare time
How you choose to relate to your teachers
How you choose to relate to your parents
Participation with your church
The effort  you give in school, sports, activities
The words of a friend, the words of a foe

Decide now whether you want God to take the controls of your life and allow Him to create His masterpiece.

3. Sometimes the best thing to do is shake it off and start over

there is no undo button in life but there is a renew

2 Cor. 5:17 – if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation, the old has gone, the new has come.


We are Christ’s workmanship – his poem Eph.2:8-10

He who began a good work in you… Phil.1:6

Does not change like shifting shadows – James 1:17

Mt. 7:24 = wise man built his house upon the rock


Ps.71:14  But as for me, I will always have hope;  I will praise you more and more.  15  My mouth will tell of your righteousness,  of your salvation all day long,  though I know not its measure.  16  I will come and proclaim your mighty acts, O Sovereign LORD;  I will proclaim your righteousness, yours alone.  17  Since my  youth , O God, you have taught me,  and to this day I declare your marvelous deeds.  18  Even when I am old and gray,  do not forsake me, O God,  till I declare your power to the next generation,  your might to all who are to come.  19  Your righteousness reaches to the skies, O God,  you who have done great things.  Who, O God, is like you?

The Doctrine of Salvation
Greg Brandenburg
Grace Community Church Tyler
June 21, 2009

What is it?

The confidence that we have that we are saved

What is it based on?

External signs are not a guarantee
Mt.7:21-23 – Not everyone who cries Lord, Lord…I never knew you
Mk.4:5-6 and 16-17 – the sower and the seed
John 15:1-7 – the vine and the branches
Heb.6:4-6 – once enlightened

Based on what Christ has done
My confidence must be in what Christ has done, not what I have done.
“Assurance of faith or assurance of salvation denotes the confidence of the believer in Christ that notwithstanding his mortal sinful condition he is irrevocably a child of God and an heir of heaven.” – B.A. Demarest from Elwell’s Evangelical Dictionary of Theology

Biblical Support:

Rom.8:15-17 – the Holy Spirit bears witness to our spirit that we are God’s children (based on the work of Christ see 8:1-4)
Col.2:2 – riches of assurance based on a knowledge of Christ
1 Thess.1:5 – the gospel did not come with just words but with power, the Holy Spirit, and deep conviction
1 Jn. 3:18-19; 4:13-14; 5:13

Acts 9
In The Light of the Son
Grace Community Church
June 14, 2009
Audio link to MP3


Visit to the Dentist

Have you been to the dentist lately? When I go they like to take pictures of my teeth – probably becuase it’s a medical miracle that they’re still in my head. The procedure goes like this – they come in a shove cardboard in your mouth until you gag then they tell you to take a deep breath and they shove it in further. Then they lay a 50 pound vest on you, point something at your face, tell you not to move (as if you could). leave the room and shoot you. Then come back in and hold their hand in front of your mouth so you can spit the nasty cardboard on it. I like that part the best – it gives me some sense of vindication.

What are they doing? Taking an xray. What is an xray? It’s a freqency of light that we can’t see that penetrates almost everything – except lead. That’s what the vest is made of. It protects your heart from the penetrating rays of xray light.

The Bible refers to Jesus Christ as light. John said “In Him was life, and that life was the light of men.” Like an xray the light of Jesus Christ can penetrate your life and bring life to your soul. But we have a problem – we all have on a lead vest.

Today we’re going to look at some of the lead vests that people wear that keep them in darkness. At the end of this, what I want us to realize after looking at Paul’s conversion, is that nothing can stop the penetrating light of Jesus Christ.

Let’s look at the passage. Read Acts 9:1-22

Lead vest #1: sight

Saul thought he was spiritually enlightened. He thought he looked good. He worked hard on his image. He had it all together. He was the picture of success.

Philippians 3:5-6 –
I was circumcised on the eighth day, from the people of Israel and the
tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews. I lived according to the law as
a Pharisee. 9
3:6 In my zeal for God I persecuted the church. According to the righteousness stipulated in the law I was blameless.

The rabbis viewed the coming of Messiah as dependent on the keeping of Mosaic law.
This gave Saul a religious zeal to stamp out the infidel.
would have been taught about Matathias, a Jewish leader who lived
during the time between the old and new testaments. His words are
recorded in books called the Maccabees:
“Children! be courageous and strong in keeping the law, for by it you shall be glorified.”
“You shall also gather about you all who observe the law, and you shall avenge the wrongs of your people. Pay back the Gentiles what they deserve, and observe the precepts of the law.”

(See intertestamental teachings: 1 Macc.2:23-28, 42-48
2 Macc.6:13; DSS – 1QS 9.22; 1QM 7:5; 10:2-5; 1QH 14:13-15)

And in his zeal to keep Judaism pure, he took issue with those who
were converting to Christianity. So much so that he would stop at
nothing to try to extinguish the movement, even murder. Last week we looked at the stoning of Stephen where Saul was present and the chilling words that “Saul was there giving approval to his death.”

He hated Christians and he hated Christ. Later, as he reflects back on his life as a Pharisee he would refer to the offense of the cross – Gal.5:11
He would also refer to the crucified Christ is a stumbling block   1 Cor.1:23

He wasn’t content to drive them out of Jerusalem, he would pursue them even into Damascus.

Damascus is about 140 miles from Jerusalem – about from here to Ft.
Worth. Why Damascus? This is outside the jurisdiction of the Sanhedrin
– 6
days walking. With the stoning of Stephen a persecution broke out
against Christians that scattered them and many of them took refuge in this city.

But it wasn’t just his religion, it was his culture, his whole way of life. His job, his family, his reputation, his record of achievements.

That was a pretty heavy vest that Saul was wearing and one that is common to all of us. We all like to look good. We spend a considerable amount of time and energy managing our image – what we want people to believe about us. But we all have our Damascus experience. The light of Christ will penetrate our vest of self-righteousness and success.

Isn’t it ironic that Christ would take away Saul’s sight and leave him blind so that he could finally see.

Lead vest #2: sin

Christ said (John 3:19-21) This is the verdict: Light has come into the
world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were
evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into
the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by
the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that
what he has done has been done through God.

During Saul’s three dark days, he would have a lot to think about. Repentance in scripture means a change of mind. Look at the repentance that would have to take place.

He was firmly convinced that Jesus was a false prophet, dead and buried but now had to accept Him as the risen and glorified savior and Messiah

Whereas he was firmly convinced that his way of ritualistic rule keeping was the way to God he had to accept that the Law is not a means of getting closer to God but a microscope that helps us see how far away we really are.

He had to deal with the realization that all his life and activities to date were under the rebuke of God

Perhaps most humbling, he had to accept the fact that the people he was trying to kill were intimately related to Jesus  – so much so that Jesus asked Saul “why do you persecute Me?” And these very people who were helpless against Saul’s persecution Saul will be rendered helpless and delivered into their hands.


If it were up to me, I would have marked Saul BER. It is inconceivable to think that Saul could be converted. This is equivalent to Osama bin Laden coming to Christ.

It’s impossible – He would have to be born again…

That’s what salvation is. That’s what Saul experienced. Salvation
is not erasing the effects of past mistakes, washing away guilt,
putting a stamp of approval on a pretty good life…salvation is
spiritual rebirth. You must be born again.

Prison ministry…

No one is too far gone. No one is worse than Saul the chief of sinners.

You don’t have to have a decent moral history – a track record of being good
You don’t have to be from a good, in tact family
You don’t have to be a decent, clean, church attending, believer

Saul came to the realization that he was a sinner and separated from the God he claimed to follow. He had to trust Jesus Christ to save him, the very one he was trying to eliminate.

Lead vest #3: scepticism

Ananias response – when Jesus asks Ananias to go and restore Saul’s sight, his response is understandable – I’ve heard of this man – wouldn’t it be better to leave him blind?

I must confess that I am Ananias.

There are people that I meet and not only do I not think are beyond saving, I don’t want them saved. I want bad things to happen to bad people. Three days of blindness for Saul is frankly not enough – how bout some boils? Why can’t God save Stephen and stone Saul?

What we get from Acts is the big picture, a glimpse from God perspective.  God is sovereign and everything happens according to his plan. Sometimes God uses great difficulty, pain, even death as a part of His plan.

He uses blindness to turn the heart of Saul.

Stephen’s death may have seem like a setback to the followers of Christ. But Luke gives us the big picture and in it we see God sovereignly working, even in the midst of great difficulty.

The book of Acts is the continuation of the gospel. Read Luke 1:1-4 then Acts 1:1-2. “So that you may know the certianty of the things you have been taught”

Acts picks up between Christ’s resurrection and ascension – Luke records these words of Jesus that become the outline for the book of Acts – read 1:8

Luke then records the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in Jerusalem and the birth of the church in ch.2-7

In 7, Stephen, a Jewish convert, is martyred for his new faith. This is where we meet Saul, a Jewish leader who gives his approval for the execution.

Look at 8:1 – what happens as a result of Stephen’s death – believers were scattered through Judea and Samaria. What did Christ say in ch.1 – you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria.

God uses great trial in His sovereign plan to spread His gospel.

The conversion of Saul of Tarsus from a Pharisee who zealously
persecuted Christian converts to Paul, an Apostle whose writings make
up half the New Testament is a miraculous picture of the sovereignty of

Considering that God could save even Saul, not only that but use
him to bring the gospel to the Gentiles is a message of hope that no
one is beyond the power of Jesus Christ for salvation.

I want you to see today is that the same light that penetrated the
heart of Saul is still shining  today in the lives and hearts of people
of every age, in every situation, in every nation – and I mean EVERY.

Damascus movie

The website is in English, Italian, French, and Arabic
4 responses:
I am not a Christian and still have questions
I just prayed to receive Christ
I recommitted my life to Christ
I am a follower of Jesus and I want to share Him with others

The top line of their website says “Jesus Christ is not a prophet, He is the Son of God”


So what kind of vest are you carrying around? What is keeping you from committing your life to Christ.

Maybe you have too much to lose – reputation, standing, whatever else that’s necessary to propogate your image that you stuff in your vest. That’s got to be pretty heavy.

Maybe you think your sin is too much for Jesus to carry.

Maybe you’re a believer but you still have on a vest of skepticism and doubt about the power of Christ to save.

1 Tim.1:15-16 – “Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners —  of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe.”

God saved Saul with you in mind. Let that vest go. Christ said “take my yoke upon you. My yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever Amen.

Application points:

Don’t count anyone out. I confess that I want people like bin Laden to die and go to hell. But the fact that Saul could be converted means that I should be praying for bin Laden.

You’re never too far gone.

Paul’s faith is not uncommon – he was going about his business, the light of Christ shined in his life, and everything changed.

In defending the truth of Christianity, my two greatest weapons are an empty tomb and the conversion of Saul.

Other Passages:
Gal.1:15-24 God sovereignly appointed Saul
2 Cor.11:32-33

Light changes things
The supernatural nature of the call
The miraculous circumstances of conversion

New Movie – Damascus:

World premiere

The film’s message of peace, redemption and
hope has a universal appeal. No doubt this explains why, thanks to its promotion
by the President of the Syrian Arab Republic, Dr. Bashar al-Assad, the world
premiere took place on 2 March at the Opera House, Dar al-Assad for Culture and
Arts in Damascus, in the presence of more than one thousand religious, political
and business leaders. The cast comprises over twenty well-known Syrian Muslim
actors. A Syrian Protestant film company, Agape4Media, has produced the film,
written by Maysaa Salloum and directed by Khaled al-Khaled. Thanks to grants
from Catholic and Protestant foundations, the film will be shown in theatres and
churches of all denominations and distributed on DVD throughout the Middle East
and the rest of the world. Produced originally in Arabic with English subtitles,
it has since been dubbed into a number of languages.

Youtube link to the movie trailer:

Zola Levitt newsletter movie review:

Movie website:
The website is in English, Italian, French, and Arabic
4 responses:
I am not a Christian and still have questions
I just prayed to receive Christ
I recommitted my life to Christ
I am a follower of Jesus and I want to share Him with others

Ministry website –
The top line of their website says “Jesus Christ is not a prophet, He is the Son of God”

Campus Crusade Global Media Outreach

The Light of the Son


Visit to the Dentist

you been to the dentist lately? When I go they like to take pictures of
my teeth – probably becuase it’s a medical miracle that they’re still
in my head. The procedure goes like this – they come in a shove
cardboard in your mouth until you gag then they tell you to take a deep
breath and they shove it in further. Then they lay a 50 pound vest on
you, point something at your face, tell you not to move (as if you
could). leave the room and shoot you. Then come back in and hold their
hand in front of your mouth so you can spit the nasty cardboard on it.
I like that part the best – it gives me some sense of vindication.

are they doing? Taking an xray. What is an xray? It’s a freqency of
light that we can’t see that penetrates almost everything – except
lead. That’s what the vest is made of. It protects your heart from the
penetrating rays of xray light.


used to work in the defense industry when I lived in California. I was
a buyer for an aircraft company that made jet fighters. I negotiated
repair prices on parts for the f-18. The Navy would send back a broken
part to be fixed and we would set a price on what that would cost.
Occasionally, the price would be higher than they were willing to pay
and they would ask us to scrap it and they would just buy a new one. I
would than mark the part BER – Beyond Economical Repair and it would be
sent off to the parts graveyard. I don’t remember much about that job
but, for whatever reason, that term sticks with me. I’ve used it ever
since. There are always things in your house, with computers that break
and are BER.

But unfortunatley, we don’t limit this concept only to things. I have run across many people whom I would consider BER.

This morning we will look at the account of a man whom I definitely would have considered BER

Radar illustration

oldest, Lucie, left for Tanzania on Wed. It was hard to say goodbye –
the uncertainty of flying, flying alone, flying to a different country,
flying to Africa. I was comforted by the fact that we were able to stay
in touch via text messages. But I was also able to get on a website
that shows a constantly updated map with her planes location on it.

radar, with GPS satellites, sattellite imagery, and the Internet I have
the ability to sit at breakfast with my wife and pull a device out of
my back pocket, go to a website and see where my daughter’s plane is

Clock illustration….(bring a clock up)

trying to encourage people to evangelize, I’ve used the illustration of
a clock. Everybody you know is represented by a different time based on
their nearness or farness from accepting Christ as their savior. If 12
o’clock is the hour of salvation, some people you know may be very
close, say 11:00. Some people are very far away – 1 o’clock.

God is a gentleman…

probably heard this (or said this) yourself – that God is a gentleman.
He won’t do anything you don’t allow him to. That Jesus stands at the
door of your heart and knocks – why don’t you let him come in?

Prison story…

used to do prison ministry at a medium security prison in Arizona.
Every Wed. I would make the drive to meet with anywhere from 10 to 50
men and would teach them from God’s word. My first time out, being
unfamiliar with the location, I stopped at a building labeled SMU to
ask for directions. I didn’t know what that meant at the time. I guess
I assumed it was separate prison space for SMU alumni. As I approached
the door, there were a group of prisoners working in the garden by the
front door. I said the dumbest thing possible – how’s it going?

walked up to the door and it was locked but soon heard the buzz of an
electronic actuator opening the lock to let me in. I walked into a
small room as the large metal door clanged shut behind me and I
realized I was now locked in between two doors. The door in front of me
buzzed and I walked through into a very stark, sterile, tiled room with
no furniture. There was a small window made of bullet proof glass
through which I could see the guard, and two doors on each side.

approached the guard window and spoke to him through the speaker – I’m
looking for the Rynning Unit. He said the Rynning unit is the next one
down, this is the SMU. Nice, I thought, an extension campus. Or special
facilities for convicts who are alumni. I got buzzed back out, walked
past the prisoners with my head down, got back in the car and drove on.
I later found out that SMU is Special Maintenance Unit and is where
they put prisoners who don’t get along nice with the others.

made it to Rynning, checked in at the guard window and was escorted in
to the room where I was to meet with the prisoners. He showed me the
room, told me the prisoners would be coming in a few minutes and
started to leave. “Wait a minute” I said “Are you not staying?” “Oh no”
he said “we don’t stay in the room with you” translation: you’re on
your own. I looked around – there were no radios, phones, windows, just
tables and chairs. I asked him how I could get hold of him if I needed
him – I don’t recall ever getting an answer.

But I survived it.
I was so moved by getting to interact with these men that I went out
several times and came to really enjoy the time – was blessed by it. I
remember on one occasion sharing about God’s grace and how salvation is
completely a free gift secured in heaven by Christ. All you have to do
is accept it. This is not new stuff. I had shared the same thing
countless times in churches without a question. This time I was
surprised as hands shot up. Two questions stick in my memory – the
first was more of a comment – “I’m not sure I buy that”

second question was from a man who sat rather silently. He paid
attention, I remember, but I wasn’t sure I was making myself clear to
him. He said, I hear what your saying about Christ’s free gift but…
you don’t know what I’ve done. I don’t think Jesus can save me.
learned that many prisoners feel this way, that God
could never same someone as bad as them. They look at churches and
compare them to how they were raised. Churches with nice parking lots,
carpet, clean, AC, clean well dressed people, nice cars. God only saves
clean, well educated people who make over $40,000 a year.