Ordinary Pastor: Recommended Reading List

Feb 26, 2013 | Erik Raymond

ordinary pastorrecommended booksOne of the benefits of being a pastor who blogs is that I often are able to recommend helpful resources to people. Over the last few years I have wanted to put together a reference list for people who were looking for good books. I am thankful that I now have it published on this site.

In the header at the top of the page is a menu “Recommended Reading” under that section there are several sub-lists:


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Cancel Your Trips to Sodom & Sinai

Feb 25, 2013 | Erik Raymond

Fear is powerful thing. Depending upon its severity it can preoccupy our minds and deeply effect our bodies. When fear grips you there is scarcely anything you can do except try to deal with it. Even when you think you have it out of your mind you are still dealing with it through patterns of manipulation and control. When fear invades then fear pervades.

The highest level of fear is fear of God. By this I do not mean a healthy, reverent fear of God but a cowering, uncertain, insecure, paranoid fear of judgment. How do you deal with this? How can anyone deal with the reality of an angry God and a place like hell designed to showcase God’s wrath by eternally tormenting rebels?

From my seat there are three common ways to deal with this kind of fear.


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Restoration is Romantic, but also Difficult.

Feb 21, 2013 | Erik Raymond


Recently my wife and I were able to visit with a gentleman who restored home to its original design. The home was actually a mansion, built in the late 1800’s. The mansion lost its luster through a number of events in the early 1900’s. By the time of The Great Depression the home was turned into apartments. By 1990 it was vacant, a sad monument to the past. Within a couple of years it was nearly destroyed in a fire. Our new friend purchased it and over the next 15+ years, worked tirelessly to restore it to all of it’s 19th Century glory. He succeeded. Some may even say he exceeded his task. It truly is beautiful.

As we talked with him he spoke of the hard work. His face showed the toil. He lost hair and gained wrinkles during the project. He likes the finished product by speaks reluctantly about it. As we pressed more he said something illuminating:


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Moleskine iPhone Hack (for Pastors)

Feb 20, 2013 | Erik Raymond

Pastors have greatly benefited from the recent technological advances. Having only been in full-time ministry for the last 8 years, I have seen a flurry of new gadgets and software that can help me to be more efficient and effective.

At the same time, there is a little recoil. New devices and software present challenges as well as opportunity. How can I employ these means without being a distraction to those I preach to? One such environment is the officiating of a wedding. I have always printed my notes out from a word document and then conducted the wedding. The trouble is: I don’t own a printer and I no longer use Microsoft Word. I put everything in Evernote and use my Desktop / iPad / iPhone. In my estimation I would be about as distracting officiating a wedding with an iPad as I would with my desktop. So I have used my iPhone in the past. The issue here would be that it would slide in my bible and become a distraction, potentially for everyone if I fumbled it.

My solution was to combine the best of both worlds: my trusty (and timelessly trendy) Moleskine Notebook with my iPhone. Think of a combination of Charles Dickens and Shawshank Redemption.

Below are some pics of the process. Trust me when I say that my craft skill rivals a 3-year-old. No one should feel like they could not do this if they wanted to.

Start with the tools (Moleskine Ruled Notebook, iPhone, box cutter, ruler, pencil, coffee).



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Book Review- The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness

Feb 19, 2013 | Erik Raymond

Some books are too long and say too little. Other books seem too brief but still say quite a bit. Tim Keller’s book The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness falls into this latter category.

The book is small enough to read over your lunch hour but will need to be digested over a lifetime. Keller walks uses 1 Corinthians as lenses to understanding how the gospel had gripped and transformed the Apostle Paul. The result: gospel humility. Or, in other words: self-forgetfulness.

The book is more like a sermon that gets after you. With probing application that pulls the gospel-train into town, Keller helps show pride and chase it away with gospel.


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A Gospel-Centered Church Will Have Their Eyes Open to Racial Issues

Feb 18, 2013 | Erik Raymond

It has been said that in order to be polite in conversation one should not speak of politics, religion, or money. What are the three taboos are for churches? I suggest, money, sex, and race. It is this third topic that I want to discuss in this post.

Why is the issue of race something that a gospel-centered church should deal with? Simply put, it is because the gospel deals with racial reconciliation through gospel reconciliation.

How do we get there and why is it necessary?


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Saying and Meaning “I Love You”

Feb 14, 2013 | Erik Raymond

With today being Valentine’s Day the over-under on “I Love You’s” is set right at 2.2 billion. People will say “I love you” via the spoken, written, sung, and texted word. If someone Wordled today “I Love You” would be in prominent, dominating font.

But, what does it mean precisely?

For a culture educated at the unprestigious University of Hallmark we are not really accostomed to thinking deeply about what love is. We just mindlessly say, “I love you” because it seems appropriate. We leisurely toss the phrase around (particularly on Valentine’s Day) like we are playing frisbee at the park. It seems to me, however, that for a subject as important and enduring as love that we might want to have a handle on it and make sure we know what we are saying and then actually mean it.

This is especially true for Christians. Remember, we serve and worship a God who says that he is love (1 Jn. 4.8). He is the source and truest expression of love. Everything he does is loving. Further, God has told us that we can actually know what love is by looking at the doing and dying of Jesus for sinners like us: “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us…” (1 Jn. 3.16). At its very core then our understanding of love must carry the gospel scent. It must be reflective of God’s love, particularly in and through the gospel.

What then is love?


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You Need See a Funeral and New-Born Everyday

Feb 13, 2013 | Erik Raymond

Two of the most heart-grabbing events in our human experience are death and birth. When a friend or loved one dies we attend the funeral, coming alongside of the family to grieve with them. When someone close to us has a baby we likewise come to rejoice with them. In both events the arrow that is shot through our hearts is life. Life intersects differently with our minds and emotions depending upon if it is birth or death; but it is life or the absence of it that brings the reaction.

The Bible uses both of these concepts to describe the Christian experience. Prior to conversion we were dead spiritually (Eph. 2.1). This spiritual death was characterized by separation from God and expressed in terms of evil deeds (Col. 1.21; Titus 3.3). Once converted, we are brought to life (Rom. 6.4, 13; Eph. 2.4-10). This life is characterized by communion with God and expressed in terms of obedience to God’s Word and loving loyalty to him (1 Jn. 3.1-10).


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Pastors: An Idea for your next Sermon Series

Feb 12, 2013 | Erik Raymond

ezra nehemiah emmaus bible church

Preachers love to preach. We love to dive down deep, mining God’s Word for glorious, eternal treasures and then to swim back up to the service, sharing them with our church each week. But sometimes we get a little preacher’s cramp in so far as what to preach next. After preaching through Ezra and Nehemiah, I am thoroughly convinced that pastors, in particular church planting pastors, should prayerfully consider preaching through these books.

Here are some reasons…

New Beginnings: Ezra starts out with the people of God in Babylon. Within a verse or two God is strirring the heart of a pagan King (Cyrus) to send his people back to Israel to rebuild the temple and reestablish the covenant community. It is time for a new day. In particulur for a church plant this helps to show how God works in people and communities to build something new.

Idolatry: The books are repleat with examples of what idolatry is. Everywhere from the neglegence of the weak in Nehemiah 8 to the ignorance of the Sabbath in order to make wine in Nehemiah 13, God shows how the elevation of good things to ultimate things is actually a replacement of what is ultimate, namely the worship and adoration of the Lord God. This primes the pump for a crucial discussion on idolatry.


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You May Not Like ‘em, but You Must Love ‘em.

Feb 11, 2013 | Erik Raymond

Because of the gospel, which displays God’s love for us, Christians are to love others in the same way (1 Jn. 3.16). However, we often struggle with understanding and applying this verse. One helpful clarification is the distinction between “loving” and “liking” people.

Dr. Martin Lloyd-Jones is extremely helpful in drawing this distinction for us. What follows is a quote Life in Christ a collection of his sermons on First John.

So let me put it like this: we are not called to like the bretheren, but we are called and commanded to love them. Furthermore, I would assert that loving and liking are not degrees of the same thing but are essentially different.

What is liking? What is it to like a person? Well, I would say that liking is something natural something instinctive ore elemental, something that is not the result of effort; you find yourself liking or not liking. In other words, liking is something physical and unintelligible.


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