Tim Keller Encounters

The more I watch Keller, the more I listen to Keller, and the more I read Keller, the bigger I fan I become of him and, more importantly, a more grateful follower of Jesus I become. In many ways, Keller is a modern C. S. Lewis, able to powerfully communicate the truths of Christianity in a way that engages the culture.This particular volume is an edited collection of talks he gave in two settings: the first half of the book was a series of talks he gave about Jesus to believers and unbelievers at Oxford University in England. The second half of the book is a series he delivered to the Harvard Club in Manhattan, New York. But lest you think this book is for Mensa (genius level intelligence) types only,  I’m not Mensa material and I found it very straightforward and accessible. Like the teaching of Jesus Himself, it has depth and profundity, but yet is simple enough for a child to understand.

This book is highly recommended for believer and unbeliever alike.  ****5 stars

In preparation for my message from Ephesians 6.1-4, I came up with this visual aid:


3 Approaches to Parenting

I was saddened this week to read about a young man getting killed in an accident at a coal mine in my home county back in southern Illinois. It brought back memories for me. When most people think about coal mines, they usually think about West Virginia and eastern Kentucky. I’ve learned that many people don’t realize that southern Illinois has one of the richest coal mining veins in the United States.

I can remember as a young boy going to spend the night at my Grandma and Grandpa’s house and Grandpa coming home from finishing the 2nd shift. He’d wake me up so I could join him for a midnight snack in the kitchen: Pringles and a bottle of cold Mountain Dew.

My Grandpa is in the middle.

My Grandpa is in the middle. Grandpa would shower before our “midnight snack” in the kitchen.

I also remember in grade school getting news of a classmate’s Dad being killed in the mine. One of my Dad’s best buddies had his face crushed in mine accident. Several surgeries were required to reconstruct his face. One of my best friends spent several weeks in a hospital recuperating after nearly dying in a coal mining accident.

But perhaps the most dramatic story I can tell happened long before I was born. My Uncle Pete (my Grandpa’s older brother) changed shifts at Orient #2 in our home county just days before a mine explosion killed 119 of the 255 miners working that very shift. My understanding is that in the area where Uncle Pete had been working there were no survivors.

My friend Jim Muir spent 20 years working in the coal mines and now has spent several years as a journalist. He wrote a moving piece yesterday as a reflection on Mr. Payne’s death.

Here’s a portion of that piece:

I know about riding a ‘cage’ 600-feet into the ground and about the feel and smell of the damp, dark recesses of a coal mine. I know about swing-shifts, rock falls and about trading the ability to breathe fresh air for a paycheck. I know what it feels like to change clothes next to a fellow miner at midnight and laugh and talk with him only to learn that he was killed in a rock fall three hours later. I know about the eerily quiet, subdued feelings that are present when miners return to work on the shift following a fatality. I know what it feels like to work in the exact same section of a mine where only hours before a young life had been snuffed out. “

Coal mining tragedies usually make the national news when several miners are killed. What’s not reported nationally are the many single incidents. It is a dangerous profession. These men earn their money.

A few nights ago, at “ManDay Night” at Harvest Jacksonville, we watched a video of an excellent message by my friend longtime friend Darrin Patrick, who grew up just a few miles away from me in the coal rich country of southern Illinois. He talked about how some men love their job and make it their identity.  He also talked of how other men hate their job but do it because it puts food on the table. I suspect most men who go 600 feet underground to breathe air filled with coal dust don’t do it because they love it. They do it because they love their families and the pay is good (as it should be).


I wonder if coal miners think more about eternity than the average American worker. They certainly face the reality of their mortality more than most. I hope they do. The death of a young husband and father back home in a coal mine certainly reminds me of the urgency of the message of the Gospel of Jesus. I hope it does the same for you.


One of my heroes is the late Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones (1899-1981).* In the interview from 1970 (the year in which I was born) he boldly presents the truth of Christianity, according to the Bible. What shocked me was how relevant his words are for today. Please note that his definition of “tolerance” is probably slightly different from yours and mine, but I hope that doesn’t cause you to miss what he is saying on the subject. The demeanor in which he communicates the message reveals the right way to go about declaring the exclusivity of the Christian message. He is not arrogant, he is not angry, and he is not condescending. He is stating the facts of what the Bible teaches and the necessary implications for Christians. My how we need men of God to stand up for the truth like this!


*Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones was on the fast track to become one of the leading physicians in the U.K. when he was called of God to leave medicine and preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Initially a pastor in his native Wales, he eventually fulfilled the role of pastor of Westminster Chapel in London, where he became known worldwide for his engaging biblical expositions.


I don’t plan on going to the theater to see the movie “Heaven is For Real.” I did read the book, however, and will make just a few comments:

1. I am highly skeptical of the testimony of any small child.  The pollyanaish view of children that has become common in recent decades (especially in Hollywood movies) is far from lining up with what God, through His Word, says about children.  With the exception of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Bible does not have much good to say about the trustworthiness of children. In fact, the Bible states on more than one occasion that children are more on the foolish side. Proverbs 22.15 says, “A youngster’s heart is filled with foolishness.” (NLT)

2. I was not convinced by Todd Burpo’s claims that Colton shared details that could only be explained by a trip to Heaven. Each time Mr. Burpo would say that there is no way Colton could have known something, I thought 0f a few ways that Colton could have indeed known about it without a trip to Glory.

3. Very few people in Scripture were afforded trips to Heaven. Those experiences, compared with this one, do are radically different than Colton Burpo’s experience. I’ll go with God’s Word rather than the word of a small child as communicated by his Dad.

4. I have a handful of books in my study which are about supposed trips to Heaven. The details of what Heaven is like by these various authors are different in ways that cannot be reconciled. In some cases, these details even contradict what the Bible has to say about Heaven. Again, I’ll go with God’s Word.

David Platt, in this brief video, makes some valuable points that one would do well to consider:

Hank Hannegraaff of the Christian Research Institute lists 10 reasons why the movie “Heaven is for Real” is a dangerous diversion.

Remember, dear Christian, that you don’t need someone to take a trip to Heaven to verify that what the Bible says is true.  God’s Word is true. It’s more powerful, more reliable, and able to assure you to a far greater degree than anyone’s “experience.”

Finally, I urge you to consider this story from the Bible and think about how it relates to this discussion. Jesus tells the story of a rich man who is in Hell. Not wanting to his living brothers to suffer the same fate as he, the rich man begs Father Abraham to send the poor beggar Lazarus (who is in Heaven) back to earth to warn his brothers:

27 And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father’s house— 28 for I have five brothers—so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.’ 29 But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ 30 And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ 31 He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’”

Notice that Jesus teaches that if someone were to leave Heaven and come back to Earth to tell us about the afterlife, it would NOT have a greater effect than the Word of God.


I met Lee Corning several years ago when he lived in Jacksonville Beach for a while. A native of suburban Chicago, Lee now lives in Dallas, Texas, with his wife Chelsy. Lee, 28, works in technology and trading. In January Lee decided to embark on a challenge: to read the entire Bible within 7 days. Having been raised in a devout Christian home (his mother is the author of Entrusted With a Child’s Heart and his father was chair of the elder board at Harvest Bible Chapel of Rolling Meadows, IL for twenty-three years), Lee grew up surrounded by a deep love and respect for God’s Word. Here at pastorbrett.com we post fairly frequently on the importance of Bible reading. I asked Lee if he would be willing to answer some questions about his experience of reading the Bible intensely over a short period of time. He graciously agreed.
PB: Thanks, Lee for being willing to do this interview. Where and when did you get the idea to try to the read the Bible in six days?  Why six days?
LC: I generally wake up around 3 or 4 a.m. to watch overseas markets for a little before the work day starts and get a little reading done or something in the educational realm. I had been reading lots of business books and biographies of industrialists and technology innovators. I was about halfway through the Steve Jobs biography and thought to myself, this guy is really just an excellent manipulator… and kind of a charlatan. I put that book down and thought, people really put this guy on a pedestal and he’s not even a good guy. I don’t want to be like this guy at all, which raises the obvious question of, “Whose life do you want to imitate/learn from?”
The answer to that is pretty simple to me: 1.Jesus 2.My dad. 3. My brother. Since my number one option on this list wrote a Book which happens to be the all time best-seller, the idea to read the Bible was obvious. Feeling a little energized because the idea made perfect sense to me, I decided to read the Bible in way that I have never read it before: cover-to-cover in a sprint format. I did this to try to understand the context of the larger picture of what was written instead of tiny spoon feedings everyday, as I have done before. The reason I chose to do this in week is because I had read other books that were only a few hundred pages shorter then the bible in about 2 weeks before and that gave me the idea that it was possible to read the Bible in a week, given a little effort.

I’ve come to the conclusion that Christmas is unfair.


We’ve spent a lot of energy shopping for the perfect gifts for our children.

Our kids spent a lot of energy thinking about the perfect gifts for themselves.


We spent hundreds of dollars on gifts for our children.

Our kids are about to spend money that they got for Christmas.


For our kids, Christmas has been a wonderful, thrilling time.

For us, Christmas has been a stressful, tiring time.


But we did it joyfully…because we love them.


Yes, I am convinced that Christmas is unfair.


And that’s not so bad, because…


Our Heavenly Father spent a lot of time thinking about us.

We spent a lot of time thinking about ourselves.


Our Heavenly Father offered the perfect gift, His Son, for us.

We offered Him nothing but sin, shame, and brokenness.


Our Heavenly Father ordained His Son’s atoning death for us,

While we pridefully maintained our own innocence.


But He did it joyfully…because He loves us.


(c) Brett A. Maragni, 2013


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