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Pastoral Essential: Having the Guts to Ask Hard Questions About Your Ministry

Jan 21, 2013 | Erik Raymond

I am currently reading through Tim Keller’s masterful new book entitled Center Church. In so many ways it is a textbook for church leaders. Keller has spent many hours at the whiteboard planning and evaluating ministry. We are the beneficiaries of his prayerful and faithful ministry for these many decades.

He draws one particularly helpful contrast early on. He writes of how some church leaders simply evaluate their ministries by their faithfulness. Without discounting the priority of faithfulness he cautions that ministers might feel too much security to question ministries that are bearing little fruit.
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Guilt is a Chauffeur to Drive You to the Cross

Jan 16, 2013 | Erik Raymond

Guilt: drive me to the cross

This is a sketch from my wife’s journal. Note the steering-wheel and actor named “guilt”.

Christians typically bounce off of two extremes:

  1. Undervaluing the work of Christ by clinging to our own merit
  2. Undervaluing the work of Christ by wallowing in our guilt

This is as dangerous as it is insane (and unbelieving).

Sometimes I find myself bouncing off of these opposing and perilous walls within the same day.

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Don’t Slash the Gospel Tires with that “I Can’t” business

Jan 15, 2013 | Erik Raymond

It was Jesus who taught that “out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks” (Lk. 6.45). It makes good sense then that we can get a good read on what is in our hearts by what comes out of our mouths. Particularly as Christians, we can learn a lot about what we believe about the gospel by listening to ourselves talk.

There is one phrase that is particularly indicting. It is a phrase that unwittingly slashes the gospel tires while making a personal excuse. In other words, this phrase deflates the gospel of its power while inflating us with an excuse. As a result, I think we should dump it from our vocabulary. The phrase is: “I can’t.”

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Book Review- Fools Rush in Where Monkeys Fear to Tread: Taking Aim at Everyone

Jan 14, 2013 | Erik Raymond

Sarcasm is a sword that when wielded deftly can get to hard to reach places in the storehouse of our pride. Some people grab the sword of sarcasm and swing it carelessly, resulting in others getting hurt and embarrassed. Others grab the sword like a literary knight going to work with surgical precision and we are all the better for it.

Carl Trueman is of the latter category. Trueman is deep thinker, adroit writer, and a pastoral theologian. In his book Fools Rush in Where Monkeys Fear to Tread: Taking Aim at Everyone, Trueman looks critically at the landscape of evangelicalism and appeals for Christians to do the same. Along the way he narrates his observations and conclusions in short, arresting, essays.

If you have not read any of Trueman, either on his blog or in his other books, this would be a terrific introduction into his writing. There is a certain style with which he writes that is simultaneously humorous, painful, prophetic, and pastoral. As a guy who is Reformed, (relatively) young, and pastor who has a blog–I am a prime candidate to be greatly offended by Trueman. But I’m not. I’m very thankful for him. His words were particularly helpful for me over my Christmas vacation.

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Don’t Look Past the Privilege of Prayer

Jan 11, 2013 | Erik Raymond

We take a lot for granted. Advances that once seemed like life-changers are now staples. It’s hard for us to imagine but there was a first day with electricity, running water, and the Internet. Now these privileges are expected.

In the Christian’s life the same could be said of prayer. Prayer is not an unalienable right of all people, like voting in America when you turn 18. Instead, prayer is a blood-bought privilege for those who trust and treasure Jesus.

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Husbands: A Tip that Could Save Your Marriage

Jan 09, 2013 | Erik Raymond

With a title like this there is little room for dilly-dallying along the way to the answer. So without much introduction, here is the tip that could save your marriage: Get a part-time job.

There. That’s it. Husbands, if you want to save or strengthen your marriage, get a part-time job.

I should say right off the bat that I am not talking about a literal job that will pull you away from the home for more hours. Instead I’m arguing for the husband to approach his time at home with his family with the same thoughtful intentionality and engagement that he would if he were to go to work.

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Book Review: Conviction to Lead

Jan 08, 2013 | Erik Raymond

There are some people that we are just drawn to. They may be interesting, admirable, strange, or a host of other options. We watch them. We listen to them.

Then there are others who we follow. They may or may not be interesting but they are definitely leaders. The compass of their life is calibrated by a compelling vision. We line up behind them and follow.

Dr. Albert Mohler is one of these guys for me. Though I did not attend Southern Seminary I have nonetheless been digesting everything I can get my eyes and ears on from him. As you might imagine, I was excited to hear of his new book, but doubly excited due to the subject he was to tackle: leadership. Dr. Mohler’s testimony of leadership at Southern Seminary and implementation of change and progress are well-documented. The story harkens us to come and hear from him, to learn leadership from this leader.

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Slow Down for the Theological Speed-Bumps

Jan 07, 2013 | Erik Raymond

If you are like me you are apt to drive through familiar areas without paying careful attention. This happened recently as I was driving my daughters and did not see a speed-bump. As you might imagine we all got quite a surprise and were quickly paying attention!

We can do the same thing when driving through familiar areas in our Bibles. We can become so familiar with words and phrases and books and verses that we miss their freshness and profundity. God puts theological speed-bumps in the Scriptures that we might slow down and consider them.

One such theological speed-bump is found in Ephesians 1. When you read In the first 14 verses the name “Christ” appears 15 times. The phrase “in Christ” or “in him” occurs 11 times. The temptation is to be lulled to sleep with the repition. But the treasure is in being awakened by the treasure! We must understand what the Bible means by saying “in Christ”.

The phrase “in Christ”refers to the believer’s union with Christ.

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How We Should Think of Christ

Jan 03, 2013 | Erik Raymond

As i like to do about this time of year, I am reading through the classic The Bruised Reed by Richard Sibbes. In addition to having the best nickname in church history, “The Sweet Dropper” this book is great. Sibbes throws strikes while encouraging, confronting, conforming and comforting us with Christ.

Here is a sample from what I read this morning: How Should we Think of Christ?

When we think of Joseph, Daniel, John the Evangelist, we frame conceptions of them with delight, as of mild and sweet persons. Much more when we think of Christ, we should conceive of him as a mirror of all meekness. If the sweetness of all flowers were in one, how sweet must that flower be? In Christ all perfections of mercy and love meet. How great then must that mercy be that lodges in so gracious a heart?

Whatever tenderness is scattered in husband, father, brother, head, all is but a beam from him; it is in him in the most eminent manner. We are weak, but we are his; we are deformed, but yet carry his image upon us. A father looks not so much at the blemishes of his child as at his own nature in him; so Christ finds matter of love from that which is his own in us. He sees his own nature in us: we are diseased, but yet his members. Who ever neglected his own members because they were sick or weak?

None ever hated his own flesh. Can the head forget the members? Can Christ forget himself? We are his fullness, as he is ours. He was love itself clothed with man’s nature, which he united so near to himself, that he might communicate his goodness the more freely to us. And he took not our nature when it was at its best, but when it was abased, with all the natural and common infirmities it was subject to.

Let us therefore abhor all suspicious thoughts, as either cast in or cherished by that damned spirit who, as he labored to divide between the Father and the Son by jealousies, by saying, ‘If thou be the Son of God’ (Matt. 4:6), so his daily study is to divide between the Son and us by breeding false opinions in us of Christ, as if there were not such tender love in him to such as we are. It was Satan’s art from the beginning to discredit God with man, by calling God’s love into question with our first father Adam. His success then makes him ready at that weapon still. (Richard Sibbes, The Bruised Reed< /a>), pp. 62-63

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A Prayer for a New Year

Jan 01, 2013 | Erik Raymond

Length of days does not profit me except the days are passed in thy presence, in thy service to thy glory.

Give me a grace that precedes, follows, guides, sustains,
sanctifies, aids every hour,
that I may not be one moment apart from thee,
but may rely on thy Spirit
to supply every thought,
speak every word,
direct every step,
prosper every work,
build up every mote of faith,
and give me a desire
to show forth thy praise,
testify thy love,
advance thy kingdom.

I launch my bark on the unknown waters of this year,
with thee, O Father, as my harbor,
(with) thee, O Son, at my helm,
(with) thee, O Holy Spirit, filling my sails.

Guide me to heaven with my loins girt,
my lamp burning,
my ear open to thy calls,
my heart full of love, my soul free.

Give me thy grace to sanctify me,
thy comforts to cheer me,
thy wisdom to teach,
thy right hand to guide,
thy counsel to instruct,
thy law to judge,
thy presence to stabilize.

May thy fear by my awe, thy triumphs my joy.

(Valley of Vision, p.112)

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