I have noticed, on the Internet and elsewhere, that when a pastor says something angular, the kind of thing that provokes questions and/or consternation, a very common stock response emerges. That response is that such behavior is “not very pastoral.”
Later he iterated a first way to get a biblical judgment of a man:
First, outside the point of contention . . . . What are the families like?
Jesus said you could tell the difference by a man's "fruit" (Matthew 7:20). His "fruit" wasn't his own personal lifestyle, but the lifestyle of those he's "produced" (2 Tim 2:2). What do his closest followers look like? According to Jesus that's the best way to know someone. You could find that out by coming to someone's church, in my case -- my church. You could visit my home, look at my family.
For this reason among others, here's a family post. I don't write much personal here, and my kids said it was OK (I asked permission). I'm not going to say much about my wife, but things don't usually go well in the home without the mother, so many kudos to her. These are her fruits too. No one knows how much of a hypocrite you are more than your own family.
The above picture is about five months old now and they do look older already, but from left to right, it's Julia (19), Bridget, Kirk (22), Gabrielle (13, she's aged most), Kent, and Natalie (16, probably aged second most). This is right after Kirk's graduation at the United States Military Academy at West Point, NY. I'm going to give a little update of the four children and my thoughts, one by one, starting with the youngest.
She's an eighth grader and sheer joy. She is rarely without a smile and at the same time a little leader. She has a very tender conscience. Someone told me -- I didn't hear it from her -- that she makes copies of the memory verse for all her classmates. It didn't surprise me. She makes up a to-do and packing list for the girls who come to her slumber parties. One once commented: "I didn't get my list yet." They expect it. On it is her agenda for all the activities. She has a blackboard on the back of her door and I often hear her pounding away with the chalk flying.
I teach Gabi in World History and Bible and directed her Christmas program. My wife teaches her science. She works hard in school and on her violin and piano. She plays violin in every Sunday AM and PM service, and has a little trio now with two of her friends -- two violins and a cello. She's in her second year in Berkeley Youth Orchestra. When I look down at her during preaching, she looks engaged, and is a big participator in my class. She loves to cook and during the summer she prepares one of our meals once every week. Delectable. Her soccer teammates and coaches love Gabi. She hustles and is a little toughie out there, scrapping around the field. She has a reputation with all the teams of the league for taking on girls who are twice her size.
You might say, "You're making her sound like she's sinlessly perfect or something." She's not, but when she does sin, she really, really seems like she wished she didn't do it. Sometimes she goes out with me evangelizing and hands me the gospel tract before we get to the next door. We have nice little conversations. She loves her parents and grandparents and they feel loved by her. She regularly asks me how I'm doing and how my day is going. The smallest and biggest children of our church and school think she's their friend.
All your kids are different and in a good way. Some are more similar than others. We call Natalie the machine. She is a machine. She is up at day break and runs every day about 3 miles. Then I hear her in the garage torturing herself with an incredible regiment of exercise. When her brother was home for Christmas, the West Pointer, she "smoked him" with her ab routine. He could not keep up. She "takes a break" on Saturdays by getting up early and working in our yard. Many different neighbors comment. They see her running. Our next door neighbor told me he saw her out working in the rain. I never told her to do this. She does it on her own. She told my wife that she likes to run early before her brain knows what's happening. She loves a strict diet, usually drinking something dark green for breakfast. If I need something, I can count on Natalie.
Natalie is an excellent student and musician. She sometimes accompanies the adult choir of our church. She plays in the first section of Young People's Symphony Orchestra, that toured Europe the summer before last, and this June will play in Carnegie Hall, Central Park in New York City, and at Harvard with the New England Conservatory Youth Symphony. She has a dry sense of humor. Last season she was on the same stand as the daughter of the president of the orchestra, who is general counsel at AC Transit, and he more than once told me that my daughter made her laugh. She is our resident pizza cook, making our family pizza every Saturday night. When she sees my plate start to empty she always asks me if I want another piece and goes and gets some more. I teach Natalie in history and Bible. All my high school history is essay and hers are excellent, as well as her answers on my Bible quizzes.
When I go out evangelizing in the week, usually once Natalie is with me and we have good conversations. She takes the notes as we move along, keeping track of what happens at each door. After those calls, we talk about her thoughts as to the spiritual condition of the various folks to whom we minister. She goes over to the house of an older lady in our church and the lady raves about how hard a worker she is. Natalie has organized all of my sermons into notebooks and does almost all of my filing. Besides the work of my wife, whatever is wonderful in my office is my daughter. I started to teach jr. high history last week and one boy said that Natalie's speech reminded him of the dentist. I wasn't sure what he was talking about, but it was her speech for our school contest that she had given there. She helped carry our school program this year.
I'll stop here, but I could say much more about the machine.
Early on, I could see Julia would be sort of hippity-hoppity and bouncy. When she gets excited, she shakes her hands and bounces up and down. She still does that. She's got a great smile, lighting up her whole face, and swallowing up her eyes. She's got a busy life right now, because she's in her second year at Cal State University, East Bay, and she takes Bay Area Rapid Transit there three times a week as a full time student, plus working part time in our school. She also helped coach Gabi's soccer team and works with our school girl's volleyball team. On Saturday mornings she drives Gabi down to BYO rehearsal in Oakland and studies at a Starbucks.
On campus, Julia sticks out as the only girl with a long skirt on campus. Still, girls gravitate toward her there. Despite being an open Christian, she has girls who want to be with her. She has natural leadership. I've sat and watched her from a distance as little kids walk out of their way, one-by-one, to give her a hug. She does a great job helping our kindergarten teacher. She set candies out late on Thursday this week, so the kindergarteners would have them on their desk, since she would be at college on Friday morning. Her soccer team was undefeated two years in a row and undefeated and unscored upon this last year. She is musical. She plays violin Sunday AM and PM every week in our church. She sings in our choir. She plays piano for Sunday School and on Wednesday night.
She is a caring person. She is fun. She is funny. She gets stuff. She cares a lot about her school work and is doing great in school. She helps her friends live a more godly life. She gave a speech in her state school class on creationism and this year she's writing her paper on "Under God" for composition. She was always good in the speech contest and maybe single handedly raised the level of speech for our whole school. She is fiery. When she thought her teacher was making fun of the Bible, she was ready to stand up and tell her what she thought in front of all the students. She is very loyal. She's doing great with her money -- saving it and planning for the future.
Did I say that all my daughters were beautiful?
Kirk is my only son. He's the only one living outside of the home. He's a second lieutenant, field artillery, in the United States Army, living in Lawton, Oklahoma. The last four years he spent mainly at West Point, but also in many other places in the world. While at the USMA, he was a member of Liberty Baptist Church in Fishkill, NY. They helped him a lot there, but I did notice that he had a very good relationship with the church people there. Many of them came to the graduation and we had the reception afterwards at the church building. His pastor prayed at his commissioning and a faithful member there gave him his first salute as an officer. Kirk is sensitive to spiritual things. He wants to follow the Lord. He wants to know the Word. He wants to some day have a Christian family. He would tell you that his priorities are God, family, and then country.
Growing up, Kirk did well in school and in music. He was a straight A student. He won the concerto competition in the orchestra and was the principal trombone in YPSO, also touring Australia and New Zealand and playing at the Sydney Opera House. He played his trombone in the spirit band at West Point. He was faithful. Growing up at our church, he was a good testimony. He encouraged others to live for the Lord. He was faithful in evangelism. Our church people love Kirk. He's very friendly and loving to all of them. You can feel a kinship between them and him when he's at home. When I call Kirk on the phone or text, we have spiritual conversations. He wants to do right.
West Point is an incredible challenge for anyone, but especially for a Christian. It is very difficult to live a biblical Christian life in the environment of the United States Military Academy and in the Army. We need to pray for our Christian soldiers for all the pressures and challenges they have, that they will take a strong stand for the Lord Jesus Christ and be a testimony for Him. West Point was obviously the biggest test so far of Kirk's life and it would be difficult for anyone. We are thankful that God preserved and is preserving him for His glory. Kirk attends church faithfully at an independent Baptist church in town there and is making acquaintance with the best people he can to be the best influence and accountability on him that they can be.
Kirk pushes himself in his physical training. Typical, on the day Kirk left home to drive to Oklahoma, he ran ten miles. He keeps up with cross-fit. He is in a ranger physical training class that is very difficult. He is learning massive amounts of material about field artillery that he will in turn use in training others as an officer. There is a high level of expectation personally and in leadership. Not of all of that is a friend of godly living and he is on his own alone there. I am thankful that he has proven that he wants to follow the Lord on his own without his parents. Except by the grace of God, very few, I don't believe, could have gotten through what he has, intact.
So there is the Brandenburg family. None of this is an accident. We praise God for what He has done, is doing, and will continue to do in our lives. If I were to give you the biggest key, it is conversion. You want to make sure you deal with your own children properly in the matter of their own salvation. Pray for us, and we will pray for one another. If any of you ever have any questions, you can contact us at our email, which you can find at our church website.