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A Simple Way to Pray

Jun 21, 2013 | Erik Raymond

Nearly 500 years ago Martin Luther served his barber providing him with a simple way to pray. A hand-written letter outlining how to pray using the Bible and the creeds. I seem to always need prayer to be simplified for me. Therefore, I always come back to Luther’s little pamphlet. Here is a link to the .pdf of it and an introductory quote.

I will tell you as best I can what I do personally when I pray. May our dear Lord grant to you and to everybody to do it better than I! Amen.
First, when I feel that I have become cool and joyless in prayer because of other tasks or thoughts (for the flesh and the devil always impede and obstruct prayer), I take my little psalter, hurry to my room, or, if it be the day and hour for it, to the church where a congregation is assembled and, as time permits, I say quietly to myself and word-for-word the Ten Commandments, the Creed, and, if I have time, some words of Christ or of Paul, or some psalms, just as a child might do.
It is a good thing to let prayer be the first business of the morning and the last at night. Guard yourself carefully against those false, deluding ideas which tell you, “Wait a little while. I will pray in an hour; first I must attend to this or that.” Such thoughts get you away from prayer into other affairs which so hold your attention and involve you that nothing comes of prayer for that day.

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My Concern Over the Gospel-Centered Movement

Jun 19, 2013 | Erik Raymond

Recently I was able to sit on a panel for a discussion among some local church planters. One of the questions was, “What are you most concerned about with the gospel-centered movement?”

Before expressing any concern I want to be clear: I am very encouraged by the recovery of the center, the gospel, among many, particularly younger evangelicals. This is essential for us at this hour.

At the same time I have a cause for concern. My chief concern is not primarily a matter of theology but hermeneutics (the art and science of interpretation).

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Why Church Membership?

Jun 18, 2013 | Erik Raymond

During a meeting recently with some new folks at our church I was asked why we have church membership. The question has actually become more common as many churches do not have a formalized membership process. What follows is our rationale at Emmaus for church membership.

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9Marks Workshop in Omaha

Jun 17, 2013 | Erik Raymond

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We are excited about hosting this at Emmaus. If you are in the area consider coming over for the morning (Register here.)

Here is the summary:

As Christians we have the unique privilege and responsibility of testifying to God’s love for us in the gospel. We understand what this sounds like; it is the content of the gospel-all that Jesus has done for us. But what does it look like? How does the church uniquely communicate the love of God to the world and to one another?

This is an important question that Jonathan Leeman has endeavored to answer. Jonathan is the editorial director of 9Marks and the author of 4 books that shed light on this topic. Leeman contends that it is through church membership that the world knows who represents Jesus and it is through church discipline that the church protects the name of Jesus.

Jonathan will be teaching at a Saturday conference at Emmaus on the 29th of June. The event is open to all in our city and region who would like to attend.

More info here.

Register here.

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Will This Change Your Mind?

Jun 14, 2013 | Erik Raymond

Sometimes we speak of sin in extremely unbiblical categories. For example we may speak of our bad attitudes, selfishness or anger as defects that are to be expected. We say or think things like, “I am a sinner” or “I’m not perfect” or “I know I really should do…” And when we do say things like this our Christian brothers and sisters too often affirm these truth claims with passive affirmation (nodding, agreeing, or otherwise not helping).

This produces a culture where sin is not really a big deal. It’s just a necessary part of life that we need to deal with. Like a man with a limp we just keep moving along with our spiritual handicap.

This causes two immediate problems:

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Is Hip-Hop Becoming the New Hymn Book?

Jun 13, 2013 | Erik Raymond

I remember as a new Christian people would quote these antiquated, flowery, profound lines from songs. They would skillfully deploy the quote like a baseball player executing a hit-and-run with a line drive over the second basemen’s head. The quotes would drop in the Bible Study or prayer meeting with powerful profundity. This was evidenced by the corporate, “Umm…” or “Amen.” I never quite got to the point of trying to execute this type of poetic contribution, but I have always appreciated it.

Now I believe there is a new bag of powder for our musical muskets. Here in 2013 the new hymns writers are hip-hop artists. Now before you shake me off with a pffffh, hear me out. I have seen a recent swell in the number of references to songs during a time of gospel-shaped discussion. And when I say reference I don’t mean that someone is saying, “Man did you hear Lecrae’s new track, that joint is fresh!” (they may say that but I don’t mean that). What I mean is people reference the hip-hop songs in order to add value to a gospel-shaped conversation.

In the last several months (and even this morning) I have heard multiple people reference a song by Lecrae, Shai Linne, Tedashii, and others to help further elucidate the point being made. This is a marked transition and development.

The question that remains is, “Why?” I’ll give you two reasons.

First, Christians have always reached for music to impress God’s truth upon our hearts. The hymns still do this. However, increasingly the hip-hop tracks are dominating.

Second, many Christian hip-hop artists (particularly the gospel-centered Reformed guys) are filling the doctrinal void left by many in the Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) scene. Instead of singing sappy-ballads and prom songs to Jesus these guys are jamming so much passionate, gospel-rich, theologically dense, personally applicational truth into a 4 minute song. Passionate doctrine resonates.

I think this is a win for the kingdom. It is also a win for me because I not only like the content but the style of the music. I smile when I consider people at our church driving around, working out, or whatever while listening to this genre of music.

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Does Jesus Lack Compassion?

Jun 12, 2013 | Erik Raymond

Does Jesus lack compassion? The question sounds ridiculous and at best has a whiff of being irrational and at worst dishonoring. But it is a helpful question to ask and answer in light of his words in Matthew 15.

Then the disciples came and said to him, “Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard what this saying?” He answered, "Every plant that my Heavenly Father has not planted will be rooted up. Let them alone; they are blind guides. And if the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit. (Mt. 15:12-14)

On its face this instruction to “let them alone” seems a bit heartless. After all, they are heading towards a pit. What’s worse, they are leading others there as well. Does this advocate an anti-evangelism? Should we just leave people alone? And above all, was (is) Jesus lacking compassion?

No. And, no. Let me explain.

1. Jesus is the Incarnation of Compassion

His entire mission leaves in its wake the foamy waters of compassion. B.B. Warfield observed that the most common description of Jesus is that of compassion. Whether we are talking about healing the lame, raising the dead, or simply preaching the truth of the kingdom, he exemplified and was characterized by compassion. Remember, he came to save sinners (Lk. 19:10). This is compassion on steroids.

2. There is a Greater Context Here

The setting in Matthew’s narrative comes after some very dramatic and important scenes. In chapter 12, verses 22-32 the Pharisees (those referenced here) witness the miracles and heard the preaching of Jesus and they made a stunning conclusion. He is Satan or he works for Satan. They attributed the powerful working of the Holy Spirit to be the demonic working of the Devil. This led to a very stern exchange with Jesus in which he pronounced judgment upon them (v.32). They have had the privilege of the curtain being pulled back and the Holy Spirit working right before their very eyes only to attribute the work to Satan. This conclusion brought judgment from Jesus. He then began teaching them in parables (Mt. 13, especially Mt. 13:10-14). Jesus is compassionate, he is also a judge. One does not eclipse the other.

3. There is an Immediate Context Here

You might say, “That is still pretty harsh. They didn’t get it and he blows them up.” Well, let’s remember the immediate context: Jesus is talking to the Pharisees (Mt. 15:1-9). This admittedly blistering exhortation is directed at the Pharisees. He is talking to them clearly and biblically. He is isolating their heart idolatry and laying it bear in the light of the Scriptures. While being firm it is still a very compassionate thing to do.

So, does Jesus lack compassion here? I do not think so. If anything we are to marvel at his persistent compassion in the face of such bald rebellion. While being the Priest who is compassionate, he is still the Prophet who declares and the King who demands obedience.

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The Gospel Language

Jun 11, 2013 | Erik Raymond

It is said that author J.R.R. Tolkien created over 14 languages for his Lord of the Rings trilogy. It has been observed that for Tolkien language presupposed a story. The language he created served to communicate his story in a particularly compelling way. But it was the story that brought the language alive. It gave it texture.

In the Scriptures we also find that language gives way to the drama. Think about the early chapters of the Bible as if you have never read them before. You have themes and concepts like mercy, grace, covenant, blessing, inheritance, promise, rest, etc. It is here, early on in the story, that God begins to show us the budding flowers redemption and restoration. This is the gospel language. God created it to serve his ends in communicating the most fascinating, soul-arresting, hear-stirring, joy-producing drama in history.

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Pastors: #rethink your Instagram

Jun 07, 2013 | Erik Raymond

There is no doubt in my mind that technology is a win for the kingdom. We are able to disseminate truth, communicate, promote ministry, and testify to the gospel. This is a major gain.

At the same time there is a potential danger with this media. And maybe the danger reveals an underlying issue. The danger is that people may perceive that pastors sit around doing nothing all day except snapping pictures of their food, recreation, and relaxation. Again this may be the reality–which is a bigger problem.

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Because God is Father We Cheerfully Fly to Him in Prayer

Jun 04, 2013 | Erik Raymond

From one of my favorite books, The Lord’s Prayer, by Thomas Watson:

If God be our Father, we may go with cheerfulness to the throne of grace.

Were a man to petition his enemy, there were little hope; but when a child petitions his father, he may hope with confidence to succeed. The word ‘Father’ works upon God; it toucheth his very bowels. What can a father deny his child? ‘If his son ask bread, will he give him a stone?’ Matt 7: 9.

This may embolden us to go to God for pardon of sin, and further degrees of sanctity. We pray to a Father of mercy sitting upon a throne of grace. ‘If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?’ Luke 11: 13. This quickens the church, and adds wing to prayer. ‘Look down from heaven.’ Isa 63: 15. ‘Doubtless thou art our Father'; ver 16. For whom does God keep his mercies but for his children? Three things may give boldness in prayer.

We have a Father to pray to, and the Spirit to help us to pray, and an Advocate to present our prayers.

God’s children should in all their troubles run to their heavenly Father, as the sick child in 2 Kings 4: 19: ‘He said unto his father, My head, my head.’ So pour out thy complaint to God in prayer. ‘Father, my heart, my heart; my dead heart, quicken it; my hard heart, soften it in Christ’s blood. Father, my heart, my heart.’ Surely God, who hears the cry of ravens, will hear the cry of his children!

-Thomas Watson (The Lord’s Prayer), p.21

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