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Dear Christian Friends: Remember you are not Home

Jun 29, 2015 | Erik Raymond

white house rainbow

This is a strange time for patriotic American Christians. On the one hand, we will observe the 4th of July this weekend. Most of our neighborhoods are ringing with fireworks and are adorned with symbols of American pride. Many will celebrate the 4th with family, friends, and an open grill. At the same time, our stomaches are still turning by the fresh reminder that we and our Christianity are increasingly not welcome here. This is truly a strange confluence of emotions.

Feeling Unwelcome Here

In talking with a number of Christians last week I was struck by how the Supreme Court decision to legalize same sex marriage brought such an unsettling clarity to their perspective. Any morning fog that lingered in our minds that this was a nation that was at least neutral towards biblical Christianity was quickly eradicated last Friday. With the court’s affirmation, the chorus of celebrations on the news and in our neighborhoods, and then the White House being lit up in rainbow colors to celebrate the decision, it seemed to bring clarity. Most Christians knew this deep down but for some it did not home until last week. At some point they looked up and said, “I’m not welcome here.”

What Not To Do

What do you do about this?

(more…)

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The “Just-as-if-I’d” definition of Justification

Jun 26, 2015 | Erik Raymond

How would you define justification? I’ve heard some say that justification means that God treats me “just-as-if-I’d” never sinned.

Is this a helpful way to explain it?

In one sense there is truth here. God does treat those who are justified as if they have never sinned. We have peace with God (Rom. 5:1-2) rather than judgment from God. However, this just doesn’t go far enough. It leaves us short of what the Bible teaches and conveys an insufficient understanding of justification.

Justification is the instantaneous and irreversible divine declaration of the unrighteous as positionally righteous, based upon the merit of Christ’s obedience, applied by grace and received through faith (Rom. 3.24-28; 4.1-5; 5.1-2). God declares the unjust to be just based upon Christ’s work for them.

To simply say that justification is “just-as-if-I’d” never sinned is to stop far short of what the Bible says. It does not take us far enough.

Justification by faith alone is the declarative act by God the judge that we are forever wrapped in the everlasting righteousness of Christ! His record is now your record. His merit is yours. God treats you as righteous because he treated Christ as unrighteous—for our sake (2 Cor. 5:21).

If, however, God merely treats us ‘just-as-if-I’d” never sinned then we’d be morally neutral. We would be back in the garden with untested holiness like Adam before he sinned. This is a far cry from being clothed in the everlasting righteousness of the last Adam. Not only has God taken away the debt of our sin but he has given us his righteousness!

Sinclair Ferguson rightly observes,

“We are not simply like Adam, beginning all over again; we are in Christ. In the sight of God we are not only innocent, but as righteous as Christ is, because righteous with his personal righteousness!” The Christian Life, p. 81

The illustration falls too far short by not emphasizing our sin and the corresponding remedy of Christ’s perfect righteousness. After all, it is Christ’s righteousness, earned through his obedience to the Law, that we cling to every day. It is this solidarity with Christ that provides believers with security, humility and joy.

Therefore, I encourage believers to pitch this convenient explanation of justification on the grounds that it sells short what Jesus actually did for sinners like you and me.

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Book Review- How to Read the Bible through the Jesus Lens

Jun 25, 2015 | Erik Raymond

Many people have been taught to read their Bibles as a collection of isolated books. The books spans over millennia and many different cultures. How do these books fit together? Does the Bible have an organized, coherent theme? Or, are we simply doing a biblical jig-saw puzzle without the picture?

Michael Williams believes that the Bible should be read redemptively. Or, to put it another way, he believes that the Old Testament looks forward to Christ’s work then the New Testament describes Christ’s work and then explains all of its implications. Williams is Professor of Old Testament at Calvin Theological Seminary and a member of the NIV Committee on Bible Translation. In his book, How to Read the Bible through the Jesus Lens, he sets out on a task to help ordinary Christians see the person and work of Christ in every book.

The concept sounds simple but the task, in my opinion, is a bit daunting. We have 66 books in the Bible. Some are very long books (i.e. Genesis) and some are short (i.e. Ruth). Some are very complicated (i.e. Ezekiel) and some are more straightforward (i.e. Mark). Williams aims to take every book and introduce it, explain its basic objective and them, and then show how it points forward or reflects Christ. He does this in about 4 pages or so per book. Some may want more detail but I don’t think this is the point of this book. If you want to study in more depth perhaps a NT/OT Survey or a commentary may be helpful. This book is aiming to remind us of what the book is basically about and then how it points forward to Jesus. Even this runs close to 300 pages!

I agree with Williams’ thesis and practice. I too want to see people read the Bible with Christ at the center. However, when I picked up the book I will admit that I thought it was going to be repetitive and predictable. I was pleasantly surprised when I did not find that this was the case. Williams writes in a fresh way that shows he is himself impressed with Christ and seeing him in all of the Scriptures. It is this modeling of his own Bible reading and his rich observations that serve the reader well. This may be a book that you prefer not to read straight through but rather keep at arm’s length when you are reading your Bible or preparing to teach or disciple others. It also may serve as a rich introduction to seeing Christ in all of the Scriptures.

Discounted copies of How to Read the Bible through the Jesus Lens are available at Amazon (Kindle).

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How to Prevent a Gospel-Centered Fizzle Out

Jun 24, 2015 | Erik Raymond

candle outWe are well into this new and widespread recovery of the centrality of the old gospel. I continue to see and hear of lights being turned on for people. Those precious, robust theological truths of yesterday are gripping hearts today. While I rejoice in this there is also something of a rock in my throwback theological shoes: these truths are being recovered because they were once under-emphasized.

Recovering Means it was Once Lost

The reason why this whole thing is newsworthy today is because these doctrines were relegated to the back page in previous decades. In other words we are susceptible to seeing the same thing happen before our eyes. Imagine for a second those young people back in the mid-90’s listening to Piper or Sproul for the first time. Their theological synapse start firing at a rapidly joyful rate. They suddenly get a big God complex and can’t stop talking about the greatness of the gospel. Twenty years later they look around at a conference and there are nearly 10,000 other people who have likewise come to the same gospel boasting session. Amazing. Look ahead 40 years later. Someone in their 20’s writes a book about what happened a half-century ago. They marvel at how quickly this gospel wildfire was lit and spread, but also they observe how quickly it went out. After a couple of generations it’s history. This, in my view would be tragic.

It would also be preventable.

We Desperately Need Hermeneutics

My chief concern today is not primarily a matter of theology but hermeneutics (the art and science of interpretation). What the gospel-centered movement needs in order to persevere is a commitment to teaching people how to read, interpret and rightly apply their Bible.

Let me give an illustration. When my wife and I go out to eat we have somewhat different experiences. I (happily) eat the food but, in addition to eating the food, she studies the food. She is able to taste what is in the dish. Then, if it is a particularly enjoyable meal, she comes home and makes it herself. She is able to cook it up herself and serve it to the family. I could never do that. I’m a happy consumer of it but I could never make it myself. My concern with the gospel-centered movement is that we seem to be very good at consuming but not particularly good at cooking.

We are very good at buying books, reading blogs, listening to sermons and tweeting out quotes. We excel at catching John Piper’s passion for a God-saturated, joy-effusing, expository exultation (not to mention his penchant for hyphenated descriptors). We devour Keller’s new books as soon as they come out. We read the old guys too; Calvin, Luther, Edwards, Spurgeon, Owen and the rest. We have theological comprehension.

But how did we get there? Did we simply read the right books, listen to the right sermons or go to the right conferences? Do we even know how to come to these conclusions on our own? Can we see the Solas arise out of the Bible before they pop off of Calvin’s Institutes?

It’s one thing to have been able to say you have been to the restaurant and eaten a meal, but, if you don’t know how to get there yourself then you’ll never be able to eat that food again, much less take someone else out to enjoy the same experiences. My concern is that too many have been piling into Sproul’s theological minivan to go eat a feast but never learned how to actually find their way to the meal.

The danger here should be obvious. Without a hermeneutical base to undergird our theological conclusions we are susceptible to losing this thing as fast as we have recovered it. If we are just fan-boys then we may follow a new theological band someday. If we are just fan-boys then we can’t train a new generation to discover and delight in these truths themselves.

How tragic would it be to lose something that is so gloriously precious? We must pass down both the theology and the hermeneutic that teaches us how to discover the theological truth. The White Horse Inn’s slogan is helpful here: know what you believe and why you believe it. Because as history tells us, if we don’t have a firm grip on the “why” then we will become less passionate about the “what”.

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Yesterday’s Faithfulness Brings Encouragement Today

Jun 23, 2015 | Erik Raymond

old man bibleThe Book of Hebrews is a tense letter. It’s gloriously tense, but tense nonetheless. There is an issue on the ground that the writer is dealing with. Many in the congregation are feeling the pull away from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ back to their familiar system of Judaism. There are social, financial, and religious pressures abounding. The pinch is pronounced.

The writer’s strategy is to lift high the banner of Christ’s unmatched sufficiency, beauty, and utter supremacy. In each case he shows Jesus to be a better priest, king, sacrifice, and mediator of a New (and better) Covenant. And with each emphatic statement he blasts holes, by way of comparison, in and through the supporting structures of what was alluring them. Wherever you turn, if you turn from Christ, you turn to something less.

I find it fascinating how he begins to land the plane in chapter 13. After providing a number of clear responsibilities for the believer in verses 1-6, he begins to talk about the family life of the congregation. What fascinates me is he tells them to look back before he tells them to look ahead.

“Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith.” (Hebrews 13:7)

These leaders here are those who spoke the word of God to them. The writer of Hebrews is reminding the congregation to not forget those who have gone before them. More than likely these leaders that he is referring to, have now gone on to be with the Lord. They were no doubt instrumental in the planting of this church, and perhaps even the conversion of many of these people.

The leaders’ faithfulness is tied to their speaking the word of God. This is the most valuable friend anyone can have, but especially in a church. This is so very precious for 3 immediate reasons, 1) It is not a widespread practice. 2) It is of the utmost benefit to the hearer, 3) It glorifies God.

So then, this congregation is told to bring them to mind. You’ll notice 3 verbs jump right out at you in verse 7: Remember, Consider, and Imitate. This is what he wants them to do with regard to these faithful pastors and church leaders.

  • Remember the leaders. Christians are to bring them to mind, specifically how they labored in the word and doctrine, faithfully bringing the scriptures to the congregation.
  • Consider the outcome of their way of life— how did they end? Did they finish? They most certainly did. They had completed the course that the church is being called to run. These guys are in the clubhouse and their testimony encourages those on the field to finish well.
  • Imitate their faith. Copy. Replicate. Do what they did. This is similar to the faithful saints in Chapter 11 that reminded Christians to press on to the heavenly city. These church leaders, like faithful leaders (1 Pet. 5.4) provide an example for the church to emulate.

This is such an important step that we too often neglect or at least forget. Think about your own congregation, if you were facing such a pressure packed situation, do you think you would you point them back to the previous generation? It is common today to embrace the prominence of the now. We tend to act like we think that we are the most important generation. We rarely look over our shoulders unless we are looking down our noses or tickling our curiosity. However, for Christians, looking back is vitally important for marching ahead faithfully. There is great value today in looking back to yesterday. This is one reason I so enjoy reading biographies of faithful men and women from church history.

Instead of being enamored with what is new or who is new and up and coming, Christians would be well-served to look back. We should resist the impulse to enamored with the new guys and find ourselves encouraged by the old guys, even those who are in the clubhouse. After all, they finished!

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How to Read More Books

Jun 22, 2015 | Erik Raymond

reading“How can I read more books?” I’ve gotten this question a number of times since I’ve started posting more book reviews here on the blog. Here are some of my thoughts to this question.

This past year I have attempted to become more intentional with my reading. In previous years I have read a lot but I would not say that I read well. My reading lacked a detailed attack plan. As a result, sometimes reading happened and other times it did not. What’s more, I felt as though my reading was more chosen for me rather than me choosing it. I read what I thought I needed to read for my job. Over the last few years I have been slowly making adjustments and feel like I am in the best place that I’ve been since I first became a Christian. I am reading more and enjoying it much more. With summer here, and summer reading listing abounding, here are some personal discoveries that were helpful to me.

Pick out books for each month.

I created a simple excel spreadsheet that includes a bunch of books that I think I should read or want to read. Towards the end of each month I pick out books from the list and put them under the upcoming month. This process of assigning myself books has been very helpful for me. After ordering the list I put a (tentative) start date and due date in a column and then keep track during the month. It is important to remember that you have to be reasonable here. Since most people don’t read books as fast as Al Mohler it does not make sense to set yourself up for failure and say that you are going to read 100 books in July. Make a reasonable plan and chart the course.

Vary the book selection a bit.

This has been new for me. I used to read what I thought I needed to read to keep up with current trends or to do what I needed to do work-wise. Now I have tried to make each month have at least one biography and one fiction book to go along with the theological reading. In time I would like to add some books on history because I know this is not a particularly strong suite of mine. This variation has been surprising for me. Several years ago my wife bought me one of Marilyn Robinson’s books, Gilead. I never read it because I didn’t have time to read a book “like this”. But now with these changes I have read two books by Robinson this year (including Gilead) and have really enjoyed them. If I had not made myself read them then I would not have read them. And, if I’d not read them then I would never have found the pleasure that I found in reading them. The variation has been real good for me.

Read for pleasure.

I always thought something was wrong with me because I would hear others talk about how they loved to read. I didn’t love to read as much as I loved to get information. After reading a couple of books that pointed out how we tend to miss out on the pleasure of reading because we are hounds for information, I began to wonder if I could change this. I decided to treat the book like Jacob treated a wrestling match with the angel, “I won’t let you go until you bless me!” I’ve grabbed some books that people say are really good and, with trust in their recommendations, would read them through. Over time I’ve found that I really enjoyed the books. Reading became pleasurable. It actually worked. Now, I’m enjoying reading more and as a result, joyfully reading more books. (books on pleasure: Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction, and The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our BrainsI also have found Tony Reinke’s book Lit! to be very helpful for cultivating an appetite and plan for reading.)

If you are competitive, then make it competitive.

If you are not competitive then feel free to skip this one. I am very competitive. When I set a schedule for reading it is like setting a goal for running, lifting or cycling. I set a goal for how many books I wanted to read this year. Once you figure out what you need to do per month it becomes a friendly competition with yourself. Like anything, this can be taken to extremes, but, if done right, this can be a nice way to get more reading in.

Be willing to put the book down.

I used to get discouraged when reading because I’d be in the middle of a book that was not very good but felt like I had to finish it. One day I just said, “this book stinks. I’m not reading this.” I put it away and moved on to another book. I ended that relationship quickly and painlessly. Moving on to the next book was really good for my reading.

Guard your reading time.

I schedule time for reading. Most of the time it is early in the morning and/or over the lunch hour. I rarely read in the evenings or on my days off when I am home with my kids. If you block out 45 minutes a day to read and you read 20 pages (this is an average reading speed) then you will read 600 pages a month! That’s about 3-4 books per month, and nearly 50 per year! Think about that. But, if you don’t guard this time and you do something else during that time (fill in the blank) then you will miss being shaped by these books. I try to guard my reading time with a tempered reasonableness. It’s not so important that it cannot be replaced but it cannot be replaced flippantly or easily.

Redeem time for reading.

It just makes sense to take a book with you. There are many times that we are waiting for someone or something and instead of reading headlines or social media, we could be reading a book. Throw a book in you car, purse, or backpack; you’ll be glad you did the next time you are waiting. I also have been blessed by the technological developments that allow us to read electronically. My Kindle has been a very valuable tool here. Of late I have been using my Kindle app on my iPhone to read books to me while I exercise, commute, or do menial tasks. In the video below you can get the gist of how to do this.

Read with others.

Maybe you are not competitive and have had trouble persevering in reading. I have seen people greatly increase their reading by being part of a group that reads books. Whether at church, work, family, or neighborhood, get some friends together to read and discuss the books. You will doubtless find yourself reading (and thinking) more in a group.

These are some random thoughts from the last year or so of trying to read more efficiently. What about you? Do you have any thoughts on what has worked well for you?

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The College World Series is Good for Baseball Fans

Jun 19, 2015 | Erik Raymond

Brett Pirtle Kyle Schwarber

This weekend I plan to take in one of the College World Series (CWS) games here in Omaha. Going to these games has been a summer highlight for our family in the last 20 years we’ve lived here. The reasons why the games are so enjoyable are not what you might think, or perhaps have come to expect with sports in 2015. Let me give you a few reasons.

The game is the show.

Growing up in the shadow of Fenway Park I have never not loved baseball. I would attend several games each year and either watch or listen to every other game on the TV or radio. I loved the game. Something seemed to happen in the late 90’s early 00’s though; the games seem to get replaced by the surrounding show. The names on the back of the jerseys began to eclipse the name of the team on the front. It seemed to me that some of the simple purity of the game was being changed. When you go to the CWS, the game is the show. And, for a few hours it’s nice to just watch baseball.

Nobody knows who these guys are.

Can anyone who is not from a city where these guys play even name 10 guys who are in the entire tournament? What about 5? Probably not. And, this is beautiful. The teams are made up of a bunch of guys that most people don’t know anything about. I love the experience of watching these guys for the first or second time and observing noteworthy things about their game.

They play refreshingly hard and passionate.

I remember watching one of my favorite players jog down the first base line after hitting a slow grounder to shortstop. The defensive player bobbled the ball, dropped it, and then after retrieving it, hurried to make a throw to first. The runner was out by about a quarter-mile. This lack of hustle is nauseating to a baseball fan. When you come to the CWS however, these guys are running around 100 mph and diving all over the place. Sometimes I just sit and watch and think, “These guys love the game. They love to play and they want to win.” I thoroughly enjoy watching guys play who haven’t gotten over their love for the game. They seem to still have that boyhood “twinkle” in their eye.

Omaha is the perfect place for it.

Omaha has been hosting the CWS for over 50 years. For most of that time it was in a quaint neighborhood ballpark in South Omaha. Now, it has moved to a stadium built for this event just north of downtown. It is truly a beautiful park in a developing area. The city embraces the series and the fans from their respective places. It has something of a “2 week tailgate” kind of feel to it. And Omaha just fits as its host. Like the CWS, Omaha is something of a gem that nobody knows about. It’s kind of a throwback town that makes you feel good by giving you what you want without you even knowing you wanted it. Like the CWS, Omaha wants to be noticed, but it doesn’t want to change. It is unapologetically what it is. And, that’s what makes them both pretty special and refreshing.

I’m looking forward to watching a bunch of guys that I don’t know, go hard, have fun, and compete on a beautiful stage. If you get a chance to catch any of the weekend games on ESPN you will not be disappointed. And, you may even be drawn in.

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Book Review – The Pastor and Counseling

Jun 18, 2015 | Erik Raymond

Here are some facts about pastoral ministry: pastors have a lot of work to do, there seems to not be enough time to do everything, sin causes big problems in the church, people need help, and most pastors have relatively little training in counseling. When you put all of this together you have a recipe for discouragement.

Pastors Jeremy Pierre and Deepak Reju want to help. They wrote the book The Pastor and Counseling in order to come alongside of pastors to encourage and equip them toward faithful counseling. They write:

“We want to help by giving you a basic framework to approach your people’s troubles. You may not have a lot of time. You may be fearful of messing someone up permanently. You may simply not want to deal with this stuff. So what you need is both a reminder that the gospel of Jesus Christ is powerful in these situations and some practical guidance for ministering in light of that power.” (15-16)

I think they hit the mark. The authors write a book that is helpful, compassionate, convicting, and efficient. Providing practical tips to shape the counseling sessions as well as the counselor, Pierre and Reju help pastors to stay on the course of faithful shepherding.

The book is structured in a helpful way. After establishing the concept of counseling from the Scriptures—and how the pastor must see himself here (no way out of this brothers), they move on to the process. This is where the authors are particularly helpful. They recommend 5 sessions for the ideal counseling scenario. They provide a number of thoughtful considerations for how the pastor may prepare for the first meeting. These items include everything from the arrangement of the room to a pre-counseling questionnaire to be completed by the one requesting counseling prior to the session. In the subsequent sessions readers are equipped to see how to lead the sessions in such a way that it is beneficial to those needing counseling. Most pastors feel like they won’t have all the answers, but the authors remind us that we can do our best work by listening well and asking good questions to get more relevant information. As I read the book I remember thinking, “Hey, the bottom line here is that I need to know my Bible, value the gospel, and love people. I can do this.” Shortly after I read:

“To be able to do this well, you simply have to know your Bible. And the more you experience both the comfort and discomfort found in its pages, the more you’ll be able to sense what is appropriate for another person.” (67)

In the final section the authors provide the context for the continued counseling needed: the local church. Pastors are encouraged to encourage further care by developing a culture of discipleship, equipping, and connecting. People are to be expected to speak the truth in love to one another, be equipped to do so, and take the initiative to connect with others for this purpose. This reinforces the centrality and priority of the gospel in the local church. I really appreciated this section that reminded the pastor of the importance of deputizing the rest of the congregation for the purpose of care through word-work.

If you are looking for an accessible book that answers the questions you have and even the ones you don’t have about how to faithfully do pastoral counseling, this is it. In 156 pages the authors provide a quick moving, efficient, gospel-dripping practicum on pastoral counseling. I intend to have this at arms length in my study to refer to throughout the counseling process. It’s a real blessing to the church.

Discounted copies of The Pastor and Counseling are available at Amazon (kindle available).

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Christians Need to Stop Cussing

Jun 17, 2015 | Erik Raymond

soap in mouth cussingWhen I first became a Christian I had a bad mouth. I am thankful that over time God worked to change my heart, and as a result, my mouth. I knew right away that talking in a particular way was offensive to God and others. It does not have a place among those professing faith in Christ because it does not give grace to those who hear (Eph. 4:29). This is pretty straightforward.

But, I’ve noticed that many Christians are still plagued by a foul mouth. They say things that are offensive to God and to others. I suspect that many don’t even realize it either. Like a new convert who remains fluent in the sailor’s tongue the Christian may not realize what they are saying or its theological impact.

So let me give you a couple of 4 letter words that Christians should mortify with quickness: “luck” and “fate”. These words and their concepts are unbiblical and atheistic. Luck communicates randomness while fate describes a inevitability of something happening without a purpose. Both are blind and impersonal.

Undermining & Obscuring who God is

I say they are Christian cuss words because they undermine the key biblical doctrine of God’s providence. This word providence may be a new word for you, but it is an important word. It is a word that we as Christians need to know and delight in. We are often so quick to simplify and redefine words, but in doing so we can be losing something of our identity as Christians. At one time this word was so prevalent that people named cities and churches after it! This is a very important word.

What does it mean? Providence is God’s infinite power that upholds and governs all things that come to pass.

As the Heidelberg Catechism says,

“God’s providence is his almighty and ever present power, whereby as with his hand, he still upholds heaven and earth and all creatures and so governs them so that: leaf and blade, rain and drought, fruitful and barren years, food and drink, health and sickness, riches and poverty, indeed all things, come to us not by change but by his fatherly hand.”

The main things you need to know about this is that God is not disconnected from what is happening in the world today. There is no such thing as chance or luck or fate or karma. Rather, God is upholding, governing, and ordering all things as with his very hand.

“Whatever the Lord pleases, he does, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all deeps.” (Psalm 135:6)

“He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,” (Hebrews 1:3)

“In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will,” (Ephesians 1:11)

“But even the hairs of your head are all numbered.” (Matthew 10:30)

As Charles Spurgeon observed,

There is just this difference between fate and providence. Fate is blind; providence has eyes. Fate is blind, a thing that must be; it is just an arrow shot from a bow, that must fly onward, but hath no target. Not so, providence; providence is full of eyes. There is a design in everything, and an end to be answered; all things are working together, and working together for good. They are not done because they must be done, but they are done because there is some reason for it. It is not only that the thing is, because it must be; but the thing is, because it is right it should be. God hath not arbitrarily marked out the world’s history; he had an eye to the great architecture of perfection, when he marked all the aisles of history, and placed all the pillars of events in the building of time.

Am I Splitting Hairs?

Some might say, “Why are you nitpicking? Why squabble about these things?”

The answer is simple, we serve a precise God. He is to get glory in all that we do. And this includes how we think and speak about him. If we are saying things attack, undermine, blur or otherwise detract from a truth that God means to get glory from—shouldn’t we stop? Don’t you want to stop these things?

If you get a new job, is this God’s providence or a lucky break? Do you think the God who orders and upholds all things means to get glory from the new job? What about when someone’s disease clears up or is healed? Is this luck? No! It is God who smiled upon them.

God Actually Counts Hairs

God is involved in the details of life. He is the God who said that he numbers every hair on your head (Mt. 10:30). As Spurgeon noted, even the most committed of earthly moms can’t pull this off. He’s right. Go ahead and walk to the nursery this Sunday at church. Ask the Moms about how many teeth their children have. Ask them if they are crawling or trying to walk. They will give you a quick and clear answer. Then ask them how many hairs are on their heads. They will laugh. No one knows this. But friends, God does. Even the hairs on your head are numbered. He is the God who upholds and governs all things; he orders the cosmos and knows the number of hairs on your head. God is intricately involved with the affairs of your life.

We mustn’t dare to carelessly speak in terms of fate or luck. These are offensive and insulting terms that Christians should cast into the sea along with other inappropriate speech that characterizes our immaturity. And as we throw them overboard, remember to delight in the truth of God’s providence and the God who upholds and governs as with his very hand.

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Book Review- Honest Evangelism

Jun 16, 2015 | Erik Raymond

Have you ever wondered why evangelism seemed to come so naturally to you when you were first converted to Christ but then over time became increasingly difficult? This is the common experience of Christians. Rico Tice has some answers and help along this way. And Rico is apt to help us. He is a minister at All Souls Langham Place in London and the Founder of Christianity Explored Ministries. He has served as an evangelist who equips Christians for gospel ministry for decades.

In his book Honest Evangelism Rico intends to be honest with us. He shoots straight: we don’t like getting hit. He is saying “hit” metaphorically of course. His point is we don’t like the negative pinch that witnessing brings. It causes a strain on relationships, brings awkwardness with strangers, and it could even bring about more extreme unpleasant consequences. However, says Tice, most people don’t like the gospel. They don’t agree with what the Bible says. There are going to be strains on relationships. Therefore, if we are going to be faithful with the gospel we must be willing to cross, what Tice calls, “the painline”.

This sounds unpleasant, doesn’t it?

Exactly. Rico would say that now we are onto something.

“….whenever I tell someone the gospel message, and get hit (metaphorically speaking) there’s a temptation either stop saying anything, or to change what I’m saying. I know there’s a painline that needs to be crossed if I tell someone the gospel; but I want to stay the comfortable side of the mainline. Of course I do!” (15)

Once we experience this painline we get discouraged because either we think it (the gospel and our evangelism) is not working or it is not worth it. So we go silent.

To aid us in this problem Tice properly diagnoses the problem as loving and obeying someone or something other than God. Our lack of evangelism is actually idol worship (p. 43). Until we slay this idol of self we will not speak on behalf of our Savior.

Along these lines the author reminds us of who God is and what he has done for us in Christ. He shows us again the beauty and grace of God in Christ. This is attractive to the Christian; he wants to brag on or boast in Christ.

Further, Tice reminds us what our job really is. It is tremendously liberating and encouraging to remember that we do not do the converting!

“Our job is not to convert people. It is to witness to Christ. Conversion isn’t the mark of successful witness—witnessing is…You have not failed if you explain the gospel and are rejected. You have failed if you don’t try.” (p. 56)

Rico pivots out of his persuasive encouragement to equip us to share this gospel with us. He helps us to (re)start in our mission of evangelism. Providing memorable hooks to hang the key gospel points on, Tice reminds us again that it is not hard to communicate the gospel. It is simple and beautiful. He provides encouragement for the task.

One big strength of the this book is how the author weaves in various illustrations and examples from decades of personal witnessing. His discouragements and encouragements serve the reader well. He reminds us that we can do this.

The best books on evangelism are the ones that encourage you to go and talk to people about Jesus. Not only does this book do that, but it tactfully and truthfully addresses the reasons why we do not. The beauty of this is not that he provides us with new content, but that he helps renew our commitment to evangelism. I’ve been blessed by reading it and look forward to passing it on to others.

Discounted copies of Honest Evangelismare available at Amazon (kindle version available)

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