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Some Quick Tips on Spiritual Growth

Oct 16, 2013 | Erik Raymond

I am an unabashed gym eavesdropper. This is really the only place where I shamelessly listen to people talking. Whether it is in the locker room, on the workout floor in the lobby or wherever: I listen. In one recent conversation I heard a couple of guys talking. The one guy was in his mid 50’s and the other guy, I’ll guess early 20’s. Both guys were in great shape. The older guy was telling the younger guy what he has been up to in terms of training. Apparently they hadn’t seen each other for some time and this guy was noticeably different. He explained how he changed his diet, got disciplined about weights, and didn’t try to go too fast. Over the last year and a half the guy has transformed.

As I listened to them I couldn’t help but notice the younger guy’s shock. He is knee-deep in the culture that demands instant results. He remarked of how amazed he was at the difference over time. In the end it was a proper plan, consistency of discipline, and time. The guy was a different guy.

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We Can Persevere Because Christ Did

Oct 15, 2013 | Erik Raymond

When we are in the heat of the moment we tend to think of the heat of the moment. However, as Christians we know that there is a much bigger, far grander plan at work. We are living in light of one who died for us.

In this section of John Flavel’s sermon on the covenant of redemption he tries to capture a dialog, based upon Scriptural deductions, of the Father and the Son concerning our salvation. This is intended to encourage obedience, loyalty, love and thanksgiving.

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God is Faithful. No, Listen, He IS Faithful.

Oct 14, 2013 | Erik Raymond

My wife is a great cook. I’m not just saying that because I have to or because I am a guy and eat whatever is in front of me. No, my wife is actually a phenomenal cook. She follows recipes, creates recipes, and flat out freestyles like a culinary ninja in the kitchen. As you’d guess, I really like her cooking. However, there are times when she blows us away. Surprising flavor matched with presentation washed down with a savoring that is unmatched. These are the times of particular grace when I am button-holed and reminded, my wife can cook.

Similarly, God is faithful. I mean, he is really faithful. I am not just saying that because I have to or because that is what Christians say. No, God is really faithful. He keeps his promises, he blesses, he works through prayer, and he opens the eyes of people to believe the gospel.

As a pastor I get to see this quite a bit. To my shame, I sometimes get used to it and forget to marvel. On such occasions God tends to graciously grab ahold of my collar and really get my attention.

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Our Calling is to Woo and Win Souls to Christ

Oct 11, 2013 | Erik Raymond

After a lengthy sermon on the beauty of Christ, John Flavel provides an exhortation to ministers to proclaim this message that is of first importance without reservation or flinching.

it is our calling, as the Bridegroom’s friends, to woo and win souls to Christ, to set him forth to the people as crucified among them, Gal. 3:1, to present him in all his attractive excellencies, that all hearts may be ravished with his beauty, and charmed into his arms by love: we must also be able to defend the truths of Christ against undermining heretics, to instil his knowledge into the ignorant, to answer the cases and scruples of poor doubting Christians.

How many intricate knots have we to untie? What pains, what skill is requisite for such as are employed about our work? And shall we spend our precious time in frivolous controversies, philosophical niceties, dry and barren scholastic notions?

Shall we study everything but Christ? Revolve all volumes but the sacred ones? What is observed even of Bellarmine, that he turned with loathing from school divinity, because it wanted the sweet juice of piety, may be convictive to many among us, who are often too much in love with worse employment than what he is said to loathe. O let the knowledge of Christ dwell richly in us.

John Flavel, Works, Volume 1, p. 40

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It’s Not Explosion but Erosion that Kills Marriages

Oct 10, 2013 | Erik Raymond

Wise and helpful diagnosis here from Paul Tripp in What Did You Expect? He is noting how often a couple will ask, “What happened to us? How in the world did we end up here?” The answer is not acute but a chronic problem.

It feels to them that they have driven into some kind of marital fog. It feels that what was once bright and sunny has suddenly gone dark. But nothing has been sudden. The changes of their marriage have taken place in progressive, little steps. In those unremarkable moments that occur in every marriage, wrong thoughts, desires, words, and actions changed the character and direction of their marriage; they took place in little moments, and no one was paying attention.

We all do it.

It’s not that we suddenly quit loving one another. No, that’s not what typically happens. Marriages don’t typically change with an explosion. Marriages typically change by the process of erosion. Even where marital explosions take place, they usually take place at the end of a long process of erosion. The movement of a marriage from an active commitment to an active lifestyle of unity, understanding, and love rarely takes place in one step. Rather, this movement takes place in ten thousand little steps.

The problem is that as these changes are taking place we tend to be asleep at the wheel. What we once committed to value and protect has progressively become the thing we take for granted. What we were once deeply appreciative of, we have become used to having over the long haul. The person that was so much the focus of our affection and attention has morphed into little more than the person that we live with—you know, a part of our environment and daily schedule. (Tripp, What Did You Expect?)

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Is There Anything Wrong with Not Preaching on Giving?

Oct 09, 2013 | Erik Raymond

This past weekend I preached a sermon on giving. As I was preparing the sermon I realized that in over 8 years of full-time ministry I have never preached a sermon on giving. My first response was a self-congratulation. I am not like those unbalanced, prosperity guys nor like the manipulating, arm-bending preachers who guilt trip those who don’t tithe.

Amid the back-patting I was convicted. The Bible talks a lot about giving and Jesus rings the stewardship bell quite often himself. How is it that I have gone through this many sermons without addressing it?

So why don’t we preach on giving?

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“Bo Will Do It!”

Oct 02, 2013 | Erik Raymond

photo (5)I often find myself having my theological convictions reinforced and sharpened through parenting. Our youngest child is a hard-charging, intense, resolute little 2-year-old. His first (semi) sentence was literally, “Bo do it.” This is a phrase that he often repeats when people try to help him. “Let me pick you up.” “Bo do it. Bo will walk.” “Let me put your shoes on.” “Bo do it.” “I’ll buckle you in.” “Bo will do it.” He gets a bit excited and animated when attempting to do everything he desires to put his hand to.

This reminds me of the Covenant of Works. God gave the first man, Adam, a job to do (Gen. 1 & 2). He was promised blessing by means of obedience. Of course he failed to do what God required (Rom. 5:12-18) and we all to have done the same (Hos. 6:7; Rom. 3:23; Rom. 6:23).

All of humanity is wired for work. This work is characterized by working with our hands and minds (doing stuff) but is also more vividly seen through our overall relationship with God. We are bent on working to please God. As a response to this virtually every religion in the world pivots on what we do. Religion is based upon doing all we can to please God. We must undo the omelets that Adam (and us) scrambled up.

When I listen to little Bo exclaim, “Bo do it!” I know that this desire to do will mature. He will eventually grow into a young man who attempts to expiate his own guilt by means of his working. The conscience will clamor so the hands of the soul will become ready to work.

The truth of the matter is that we cannot work our way out of the spiritual bondage we find ourselves in. Like our national debt, spiritual debt just daily increases and any effort to personally lesson it just exacerbates it.

We need a substitute. We need what the Bible calls “the last Adam.” (1 Cor. 15.45) Jesus Christ is that last Adam. He obeyed in every area that Adam failed. It is ultimately his work for us that deals with our conscience and guilt. It by the perfect life of obedience and the sin-atoning death that we may find true rest and rejoicing. By the doing and dying of Jesus we may cease striving and start living.

All of us need to go from “Bo will do it” to “Christ has done it!”

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Preaching is Basically a Hail Storm

Sep 24, 2013 | Erik Raymond

One interesting aspect of living in the Midwest is the sudden change in weather. We can go from sun to ominous clouds to run for cover faster than an opponent can score on Nebraska’s Defense. A particularly captivating expression of this extreme weather is the hail storm. It is not unusual to see quarter, even golf-bowl sized hail bouncing off the sidewalks, cars, and roads. Once the storm has passed the damage is assessed and often times cars, roofs, garage doors and other personal property has suffered at the hands of the storm.

It is this hail-storm that has been a perennial reminder for me of my job in the pulpit.

Let me explain. The preacher’s job is to preach the Word of God (2 Tim. 4:2). That is, we are to herald, proclaim, or declare what the Bible says. As we do this we will be highlighting the unique beauty, excellency and glory of Jesus Christ. This is the preacher’s job year after year, month after month, weak after week, and sermon after sermon. We proclaim him! (Col. 1.28).

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Bo Pelini and the Man in the (Cracked) Mirror

Sep 17, 2013 | Erik Raymond

Here in Nebraska the most influential, popular and public figure is not the governor or even Warren Buffet. It is the head football coach at the University of Nebraska. That coach is currently Bo Pelini. And he finds himself a bit more in the public eye than normal (he has been the number one trending topic on twitter for the better part of a day).

What did he do? In short he had a private conversation 2 years ago. The conversation was secretly recorded and then surprisingly released yesterday. In the audio Pelini did his personal best to wear the F word out of existence. He laid out the fans and the news media after a dramatic come from behind win. It’s bad, even worse than this paragraph makes it sound. (link to story in the Omaha World Herald, audio has bad language)

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Contextualization is Good, Just not at the Expense of the Church.

Sep 16, 2013 | Erik Raymond

Like many other things contextualization arises from a good seed (goal) but can sometimes grow into an unhealthy flower. We want to see people come to know Jesus so we work hard to remove the cultural hurdles that come into play when we communicate the gospel. Contextualization in its most faithful form aims to remain faithful to the text (Bible) amid an ever-changing context (culture).

There can be some unintended consequences to an overly acute contextualization. Perhaps “blind spot” is a good term to capture this. Let me provide an example. Let’s say First Baptist Church (FBC) is working hard to reach the 20-somethings in their community. They build their staff, gear their services, consider their language, and even tailor all of their communication towards this age group. Let’s give them the benefit of the doubt that they are being absolutely faithful to the text in this context. We have best motives and best practices, so to speak. After a couple of years of slugging it out they have 150 young people coming on a Sunday morning. Within 4 years this doubles. They are plodding ahead. Their contextualization at FBC seems to be well thought out, careful, and faithful.

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