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Jason Collins, Chris Broussard, and Our Cultural Temperature

Apr 30, 2013 | Erik Raymond

In many ways the news serves to be a thermometer of the culture. Today’s headlines give us an indication of the sentiment of the world around us. This sentiment is clearly seen in the story of Jason Collins. As the first major sports professional to admit that they are homosexual, Collins is receiving substantial news attention. And he should, it is, after all, big news. It’s unprecedented. Although Collins did not finish the season with an NBA team he did play nearly half the season in the NBA.

Collins said,

“I didn’t set out to be the first openly gay athlete playing in a major American team sport. But since I am, I’m happy to start the conversation,” Collins wrote. “I wish I wasn’t the kid in the classroom raising his hand and saying, ‘I’m different.’ If I had my way, someone else would have already done this. Nobody has, which is why I’m raising my hand.”

As ESPN reports, the support has been overwhelmingly positive. As I checked the pulse of the social media, talk radio and print, I was surprised to hear some people lauding him as a “hero”. Whether you agree with this or not, the point is made: people are very supportive of Jason Collins.

With the amount of conversation around the issue you are bound to have someone be less than thrilled. Right?

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Horton: The Word Always Creates the Church

Apr 30, 2013 | Erik Raymond

I’m really enjoying Michael Horton’s new Systematic Theology, Pilgrim Theology. A few guys at the church are going through it together and really benefiting from the simplicity and clarity that Horton offers. In his chapter on the Scripture he contrasts the Reformation and Roman Catholic understanding of Authority and Scripture…

The churches of the Reformation do not deny the ongoing authority of the church in its representative assemblies, but the key difference is this: whereas the Roman Catholic Church combines Scripture and tradition as one source of magisterial (i.e., ruling) authority, we confess that this belongs to Scripture alone, with tradition as ministerial (i.e., serving). Just as courts interpret the constitution, church courts interpret Scripture. This is why churches from the Reformation affirm the ecumenical creeds and subscribe to confessions and catechisms as communally valid interpretations of God’s Word. Yet again, it must be emphasized that this authority does not arise from the church. It arises from the canon that the church seeks faithfully to interpret in dependence on the Spirit.

To regard Scripture as the church’s constitution is to directly counter the Roman Catholic claim that the church is the mother of Scripture…

The canon, as the constitution of the church, is what constitutes a people as this people, under this government, in this body. Of course, the Reformers and their heirs never doubted that the church came before the completed canon of Scripture in history. However, they insisted that it is the word that always creates the church.

(Note: this book remains on sale for Kindle at $7.99 or Hardback)

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Idolatry is Robbery and Perversion

Apr 25, 2013 | Erik Raymond

As Americans we do not have a good understanding of idolatry. We name shows American Idol. We speak in glowing, unabashed terms of someone being our idol (this is intended to be complimentary).  Judging from the usage it is seen to be positive and glamourous to be an idol. This is a master work by Satan to redefine and empty a term of its biblical moorings.

I’m afraid it is not much better when it comes to the church. Many Christians do not have a working theology of idolatry. We tend to think of idolatry as a carved figurine of wood or porcelain; something we bow down before, light incense to, or regard with some various forms of mystical power. This may be something that was done in ancient history or if done today it is in places like India or a remote tribal area.

The Bible does not present idolatry as something that is specific to a historical period or even a particular group of people. Instead, the biblical perception of idolatry is that it is characteristic of all people of all times after man’s first sin in the Garden of Eden.

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3 Ways the Gospel Changes Marriages

Apr 16, 2013 | Erik Raymond

I wrote an article for the Ligonier Blog on the gospel and marriage. Here is the intro and summary:

When a new leader is appointed in an organization change is inevitable. The incoming boss will set policy, establish tone, and reflect an attitude in their organization. The same is true for our marriages. The new leader I am referring to here is not a new husband but rather the true husband, The Lord Jesus Christ.

We know from the Scriptures that a Christian marriage is never simply a union of two people but two people united together in Jesus Christ. This is another way of saying that Jesus is our head, the Lord and the life-giver of our marriage. When a couple embrace the truth of the gospel, whether in conversion or sanctification, there are always corresponding changes associated with Jesus being the head of the marriage. Below are three of the more common changes that Christ works into a marriage as he rules it through the gospel.

The three changes are:

1. From Selfishness to Service
2. From Laziness to Engagement
3. Self-Righteousness to Humility

You can read the rest of the article here.

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My Favorite Commentaries on First John

Apr 15, 2013 | Erik Raymond

I’m just finishing up preaching through First John. It has been a rich blessing for me, and I pray, our church as well. I often get questions about what resources were useful, so here is a list for pastors or anyone looking to dig in a bit and study the Epistles of John.

Here are my top 5 in order of my preference:

D. Edmond Hiebert: This is a very strong, textual commentary. Hiebert works through all of the issues by swimming through and out of the text. By the end of this series I looked forward to reading this each and every week. It’s great. (Amazon)

John Stott: If you are looking for an entry level commentary that will help you in your devotions and simplify some of the issues for you, then this is the one. Stott is incredibly simple and faithful. A must have if you are going to study the book. (Amazon | Westminster)

Robert Yarbough (Baker): As with the other commentaries in this set you can relay on it to provide solid contextual comments while also wading into various interpretive issues. Really good stuff. (Amazon | Westminster)

Collin Kruse (Pillar): Again, as is the case with the rest of the series you can’t go wrong with Pillar. Very readable and concise. Kruse is a worker; he helps you to think and reason. Even though I didn’t agree with every conclusion I knew and respected how he got there. Solid. (Amazon | Westminster)

Martyn Lloyd-Jones: This is more of an expositional commentary (sermons). In this you have 5 volumes of sermons from “The Dr”, one of the 19th Century’s best preachers. This is so good for your soul when you are preaching or studying. And if you are preaching, Lloyd-Jones will greatly help you with illustrations and interrogatives. (Amazon | Westminster)

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Some Kindle Deals (that I’ve been waiting for!)

Apr 10, 2013 | Erik Raymond

Often times I scratch my head as to why some Kindle books are so expensive. In the past I have done that with 2 of these listed below. I’m very happy to see that they are on sale for a limited time.

Center Church by Tim Keller ($5.69) Whether you agree or not with Keller (I happen to agree) pastors need to read this book to be encouraged and informed. It is that good. (Amazon Kindle)

Pilgrim Theology by Michael Horton ($7.69) This is Horton’s attempt to make the on-ramp into Systematic Theology more accessible. What results is a doctrinally and devotionally rich systematic theology. I really like this and can’t wait to have my Kindle read it to me. (Amazon Kindle)

Preaching and Preachers by Martyn Lloyd-Jones ($3.99) Arguably one of the 20th Century’s best preachers writing about preaching. This is the 40th anniversary re-release with contributions from contemporary preachers. This is a staple for preachers or aspiring preachers or people who just like preaching. (Amazon Kindle)

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Straight, Bible-Believing Christians Can Undermine God’s Plan for Marriage Too

Apr 09, 2013 | Erik Raymond

It seems that everyone has an opinion about Gay Marriage, and these opinions are rarely ambivalent. Christians have (and rightly so) been outspoken in their opposition to a redefinition of marriage. This recasting of the institution of marriage is not, we would argue, a progressive and healthy advancement but rather a disastrous detour from what biblical, therefore, right and good.

At the same time and while marriage is on the front burner, particularly the undermining of God’s plan for it, let me ask a question. Are Gay and Lesbians the only ones who undermine God’s plan for marriage?

The answer is, “Of course not!” Just because you are hetero-sexual does not mean that you are reflecting God’s plan for marriage. You don’t get a pass just on marriage because you are not Gay. The basis of a marriage reflecting God’s plan is how it reflects the gospel. In other words a marriage is reflective of God’s plan in so far as it reflects the marriage between Jesus the husband and the church the bride.

This is where it gets quite personal for us inside the Christian camp. God’s plan for marriage includes the following:

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You Don’t Kick a Man When He is Down

Apr 09, 2013 | Erik Raymond

By now most people have heard of the suicide of Rick Warren’s son, Matthew. Over the weekend the news broke and all parents, particularly Christian parents felt sympathy for Rick and Kay Warren.

Well, apparently not all.

Sadly, many people and even many professing Christians are taking this opportunity to express their lack of support for and even opposition to Warren’s ministry. Cathy Lynn Grossman, writing in USA Today noted that many Atheists, proponents of same-sex marriage, and even professing Christians are publicly piling on the wounded Warrens.

As I read the article and some of the related comments I became frustrated but not surprised by non-Christians kicking him while he is down. While I don’t like it, I understand it theologically and experientially. However, I do not understand and am frankly disgusted by any professing Christian who would use this opportunity to land a cheap punch in the emotional kidneys. You don’t do that. Far from kicking a man when he is down Christians are to come alongside their brothers and sisters who are hurting, to bear their burdens with them (Gal. 6.2), weeping with those who weep (Rom. 12.15).

There is absolutely no place for this type of thing from any professing Christian. And shame on you if you are doing this. This would be wrong behavior if such a tragedy happened in the life of an unbeliever, much less a fellow brother and sister in Christ. Those who do so unwittingly undermine their own message and demonstrate a shockingly ironic level of a lack of discernment and theological maturity. If you happen to come across such rubbish I hope that you would boldly call it what it is and direct them to a more Christ-like path.

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A Great Sports Story

Apr 08, 2013 | Erik Raymond

This is a good sports story.

From the Omaha World-Herald:

In a moment likely to go down in Husker lore, 7-year-old Jack Hoffman of Atkinson, Neb., scored the final points of Nebraska’s spring game Saturday.

Jack, battling a rare form of brain cancer, took a handoff from quarterback Taylor Martinez, started to the left side, cut back to the right (with a guiding hand from Martinez) and led a host of Huskers 69 yards to the end zone.

The crowd of 50,000 -plus roared to celebrate the score. This is great stuff and it made me thankful to live in Nebraska.

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Some Practical Help for Leading a Prayer Meeting

Apr 03, 2013 | Erik Raymond

In retrospect, prayer meetings are romantic. After all, what seems to be common to every revival and season of gospel renewal? People praying. God moves a few people to begin praying and then he powerfully answers them. Consider Charles Spurgeon, arguably one of the most influential preachers in church history, when asked about the secret to his success, he reportedly said, “My people pray for me.” God uses prayers. God uses prayer meetings.

If they are romantic in retrospection then prayer meetings are also intimidating in planning and seemingly complicated in execution. Several months ago I wrote a post arguing why prayer meetings were important and why pastors should lead their churches by insisting on regular meetings of prayer (Why You Should Attend a Prayer Meeting). I received a lot of feedback, none negative but most discouraged. People universally agree on the need for the meetings but get discouraged by the tone or the direction of the time.

In this post I want to highlight a few areas that I believe are important to helping get a meeting off the ground. These are items that grew organically out of our own context as we wrestled together with what we are trying to build. I sat down with another one of our pastors and we analyzed why our meeting was not being well attended and thriving. We had to ask and answer some hard questions. A lot of it came back to us as leaders. In the last year we have seen our group steadily increase and become a vibrant band of men who regularly sacrifice time to meet early in the morning for the purpose of frontline prayer. It is awesome. God is using it greatly!

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