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Prayer and Mission are Inextricably Linked

Mar 17, 2015 | Erik Raymond

shutterstock_185310479Our life as a follower of Jesus Christ is a spiritual battle. It is an ongoing conflict to advance the cause of Christ in our own lives and the world around us.

But we do not fight this war, this spiritual battle on our own. We fight it together with other Christians in the church and under the leadership and command of Christ. And we fight it with powerful weapons that God has provided for us. Prayer connects us with the unlimited resources of our Father in Heaven.

In evangelism we clearly see the need for prayer for this spiritual battle. When we read the Bible we see that prayer and evangelism are inextricably linked. This is because prayer fuels mission. Evangelism is a spiritual work, so we must pray for the Holy Spirit to open doors and hearts.

But how do we pray for evangelism? What do we pray for?

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Chew the Gum of Christ’s Compassion All Week

Mar 16, 2015 | Erik Raymond

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All Compassion, All the Time
When you read through the Gospels, particularly the Gospel According to Mark, you are arrested by the compassion of Jesus.

It is everywhere. He heals a man with an unclean spirit (1.21-28), heals many with sickness (1.29-34), is burdened to preach to the people (1.35-38), heals a leper by touching him (1.40-45), heals a paralytic (2.1-12), forgives the paralytic’s sin (2.1-12), calls a turncoat tax collector to turn coat and follow him (2.13-17), punches the self-righteous, joy suffocating religious cats in the gut with his liberating preaching (2.18-28), calms the storm while his ‘tough’ disciples are making girl noises in their boat (4.35-41), heals a demoniac and then sends him out to be a missionary (5.1-20), heals a girl who was dead! (5.1-43), heals a women who is suffering from an issue of bleeding, he makes bread for hungry people (6.30-44)…and on and on the list goes.

Jesus says powerfully in the second feeding, “I have compassion on the crowd…” (8.2).

Why Jesus’ Compassion is Different
Jesus’ compassion is expressed in that he sees the needs of people and then he goes about meeting these needs. (more…)

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Dear Pastors: Your Preaching is Not in Vain.

Mar 13, 2015 | Erik Raymond

Everyone is prone to discouragement. No matter our vocation, we all face the temptation to feel like what we are doing does not matter. I can remember working in the military and wondering how much my work really supported the mission. I recall working in Insurance Compliance and debating in my mind as to how in the world all of these reports and analysis really did anything. These are natural and common questions.

From my seat there is no other vocation that trumps pastoral ministry with the feeling of not making a difference. In addition to our knowledge of our own weakness there is the front-row view of many other people’s problems. The pastor sees people at their worst. Whether it is the horrific impact of sin on their lives or the activity of sin within the church. Furthermore, there is the overall burden to see every member presented complete or mature in Christ (Col. 1.28-29). Oh, and by the way, you, Mr Pastor, will give an account for the souls of your sheep (Heb. 13.17).

So here you stand, knee deep in the sludge of personal and corporate sin, knowing your own weakness, and watching sheep alternating between picking each other off and falling asleep, and you ask, “Am I doing anything?”

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Toxic Charity

Mar 12, 2015 | Erik Raymond

toxic charityChristians rightly have a burden to love and serve their neighbor. In particular many of us have opportunity to serve the poor around us. But how do we do this? What do we do?

I remember asking this question to my friend Mez McConnell, the founder and director of 20schemes, (a ministry to plant church in Scotland’s poorest communities). Mez spoke of the need to help without hurting people. He has a profoundly biblical and therefore a compassionate and responsible approach to this work. In our conversation he recommend the book Toxic Charity by Robert Lupton. Mez called it a must for considering this subject. So, I picked it up.

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Helping You Delight in God’s Word

Mar 11, 2015 | Erik Raymond

It is truly astounding that we can come to the Bible everyday and we are met, fed, and sustained by the Word of God and the God of the Word. This is a tremendous privilege. In fact, it is such a privilege that we ought to be carefully intentional as to how we use the time.

Once you have settled the fact that you are going to be committed to daily reading your Bible, you may encounter a common problem. A few hours into a busy day you may take a few minutes to gather yourself and think about what you have read. But, to your dismay you have a difficult time remembering anything specific or “sticky” from your earlier reading.

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Are You Playing “Prevent Defense” in your Marriage?

Mar 10, 2015 | Erik Raymond

def8dAt the end of a football game often times the defensive team will collapse back to prevent a big play in order to preserve their lead. This defensive scheme is appropriately entitled a “prevent defense”. The goal is to prevent the big-play that would jeopardize their lead. The concession, of course, is that they are willing to give up some yards.

This defensive strategy works for short periods of time and only in particular situations of a game. It would be a laughable strategy for the entire game or if you were losing. There is simply too much yardage conceded and the game clock would become an enemy.

When we think about marriages, it appears that many people, particularly men, rely upon a “prevent defense” approach. Their philosophy is that the outcome is secure and they are simply trying to prevent the big-play. They are “playing” to prevent divorce, major unhappiness, or personal discomfort. This is deadly for a marriage. Marriages that employ this scheme are in trouble because, instead of actively trying to improve, they are characterized by a slow decline or are content to just “hold the line”.

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Martyn Lloyd-Jones’ “Secret Sauce”

Mar 09, 2015 | Erik Raymond

martin-lloyd-jones-2It’s Monday morning. If you are a pastor who preached yesterday it means that you probably are somewhat discouraged. Of course you try to shrug it off by thinking through it logically but even that reminds you that you left some runners on base.

So what do you do? By about noon you start to feel the blood pumping a bit as you look ahead to the week. You might even go and grab the Dr’s medicine, Preaching and Preachers by Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones (MLJ). He does a fair job of reminding us of the task at hand. It’s good. You start to get encouraged, but then it hits you, “I wish I could preach like MLJ.”

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A Good Prayer before Preaching

Mar 08, 2015 | Erik Raymond

Prayer before preaching is essential because, without God’s help, we are useless.

In Deuteronomy 32 Moses is no doubt feeling quite a burden. You see, Moses is about to die–and he knows it. He is going to look into the eyes of the covenant community once again. He is going to preach and plead God’s character, promises, and threatenings to them.  In the ensuing words of chapter 32 he uncorks one if the heaviest, pastoral, and most passionate sermons in print. Remember, it was this chapter that proved to be the sermon text for Edwards’ Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.

How does he begin?

May my teaching drop as the rain….For I will proclaim the name of the Lord; ascribe greatness to our God! Deu. 32.2-3

The preacher’s burden has never changed, therefore his prayer remains the same. God–may you be pleased to use my words to magnify your name!

Moses knew himself, a dying man preaching to dying men (to use Baxter’s phrase). As a result, he did not long for such temporal and base things like what the crowd would think of him, how they would remember him, or how he would feel saying what needed to be said. Instead, he pleaded the living word of the living God! And in his prayer he struck the flint for God to light up his people with an awareness of God’s awesomeness and sin’s repulsiveness. Oh, that more preachers would preach a deep awareness of their own mortality as well as God’s eternality!

Whether you are stepping into the pulpit today or will be in the pews, this is they type of prayer that you can pray for the sermon: “May this teaching drop as the rain…may the name of the Lord be proclaimed, may he ascribe greatness to our God!

The best part about this: God answered the prayer. Read the sermon; it drips with God-centeredness.

As you ascend to the sacred desk, consider afresh the words of Deu. 32:

Give ear, O heavens, and I will speak,

and let the earth hear the words of my mouth.

2 May my teaching drop as the rain,

my speech distill as the dew,

like gentle rain upon the tender grass,

and like showers upon the herb.

3 For I will proclaim the name of the LORD;

ascribe greatness to our God! Dt 32:1-3.

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The Lion’s Diverse Excellencies

Mar 06, 2015 | Erik Raymond

shutterstock_165448391The scene in Joel is heavy. There is a plague for the ages through these vicious locusts. It appears according to chapter 1 that the effect is far-reaching and debilitating. In the midst of this, God looks ahead to a day of greater calamity and judgment. He looks ahead to the Day of the Lord.

We read of a gathering together of people in verse 14. However, instead of a gathering for a party or a celebration it is a gathering for judgment:

“Multitudes, multitudes, in the valley of decision! For the day of the Lord is near in the valley of decision.” (Joel 3:14)

This word decision could be translated cutting. It is a valley for judgment. There is a verdict that will be read and a sentence that will be executed.

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Book Review — Church Elders

Mar 05, 2015 | Erik Raymond

church eldersAs an elder in a local church I am always on the look out for books that will help me and my team better serve our congregation. At the same time, I have been looking for a book that would serve church members by encapsulating what to expect from their elders. In this concise and lucid book, Church Elders, Jeramie Rinne has done both. Written to the new elder who asks the question after installation, “Now what?” it serves to outline basics of pastoral ministry.

I mentioned Rinne’s writing style. It is clear and memorable. For example, to make his point that the elders need to know the sheep he has a chapter titled, “Smell like Sheep.” His point is clear: the elders are not to be separated from but intimately involved in the lives of the sheep, even like Jesus, our Great Shepherd (Jn. 21:15-16).

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