The Lion’s Diverse Excellencies

Mar 06, 2015 | Erik Raymond

shutterstock_165448391The scene in Joel is heavy. There is a plague for the ages through these vicious locusts. It appears according to chapter 1 that the effect is far-reaching and debilitating. In the midst of this, God looks ahead to a day of greater calamity and judgment. He looks ahead to the Day of the Lord.

We read of a gathering together of people in verse 14. However, instead of a gathering for a party or a celebration it is a gathering for judgment:

“Multitudes, multitudes, in the valley of decision! For the day of the Lord is near in the valley of decision.” (Joel 3:14)

This word decision could be translated cutting. It is a valley for judgment. There is a verdict that will be read and a sentence that will be executed.


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Book Review — Church Elders

Mar 05, 2015 | Erik Raymond

church eldersAs an elder in a local church I am always on the look out for books that will help me and my team better serve our congregation. At the same time, I have been looking for a book that would serve church members by encapsulating what to expect from their elders. In this concise and lucid book, Church Elders, Jeramie Rinne has done both. Written to the new elder who asks the question after installation, “Now what?” it serves to outline basics of pastoral ministry.

I mentioned Rinne’s writing style. It is clear and memorable. For example, to make his point that the elders need to know the sheep he has a chapter titled, “Smell like Sheep.” His point is clear: the elders are not to be separated from but intimately involved in the lives of the sheep, even like Jesus, our Great Shepherd (Jn. 21:15-16).


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We Are Called to be Irritating.

Mar 04, 2015 | Erik Raymond

shutterstock_141036160Are you an irritating Christian? I hope so.

Let me explain. In Hebrews chapter 10 we read of the priority of Christians to gather together. This is a staple of the New Covenant life. We cannot and must not neglect it (Heb.10.25).

But there is something very important that is said in conjunction with this. We read the previous verse in Hebrews:

“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works,” (Hebrews 10:24)


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What do You Think About Free-Will?

Mar 03, 2015 | Erik Raymond

2977c287-e8ce-4751-993d-bdd5f7204e1aWe have all endured those awkward, uncomfortable moments of a Bible study or small group where no one was willing to talk—except perhaps the leader. It is tough isn’t it? Here is a suggestion next time to get things rolling: ask, “What does you guys think about free-will?” This is pretty much a guarantee to get things moving.

I recently walked through Bondage of the Will by Martin Luther. Its logic is only superseded by its sarcasm. Luther is flat-out giving it to Erasmus for his view of the freedom of the will. In the midst of the interaction with his position Luther states that he does not like the term “free-will” very much. In fact, he notes, it is misleading. Instead, Luther suggests that we replace the term with “love”.


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What is Your “Go-To” Pitch?

Mar 01, 2015 | Erik Raymond


Baseball pitchers need to have a “go-to” pitch. This is their best pitch. And, it is their most important pitch because it sets up effectiveness and it compensates for under-effectiveness. How do you know what a pitcher’s money pitch is? It is what he throws when he is down in the count or in some trouble with runners on base. It is his “go-to” pitch when he gets into jams.

As Christians we have something of a spiritual go-to pitch. When we are in a jam or need answers we shake off other pitches in favor of what we think will get the job done. Whether at work or in the home, physical or emotional, in the church or in your neighborhood—we get into jams. What do we do?


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New Blog Home

Feb 27, 2015 | Admin

Welcome to my new blog home!

I am happy to announce that my Ordinary Pastor blog has been moved to join the other bloggers here on The Gospel Coalition site. It is a great honor and privilege to join some of my favorite writers on one of the most widely-read Christian websites. I have benefitted from the ministry of TGC since its inception and rejoice in their passion to recover the primacy and centrality of the gospel.

Other than site design and layout nothing will change about the blog. If you follow my posts via RSS, Twitter, or Facebook, the move should be seamless.

Thanks for reading.


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I’m Sorry, I Don’t Care for that Sorry.

Feb 25, 2015 | Erik Raymond

The Veterans Affairs Secretary is in hot water and all the while he is instructing us about glory and repentance.

VA Secretary, Robert McDonald has apologized for lying about his service in the special forces. He recently was serving food to a homeless man in Los Angeles when he told the man that he also served in the special forces. The cameras were rolling and caught the exchange. The news did some digging and found out that he never actually served in this capacity.

As a result, Secretary McDonald issued a statement where he stopped short of the issue while tipping his cap to his “error.” He said, “I incorrectly stated that I had been in special forces. That was inaccurate and I apologize to anyone that was offended by my misstatement…I have great respect for those who have served our nation in special forces.”


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My Takeaway from American Sniper

Feb 23, 2015 | Erik Raymond

The American Sniper movie continues to draw crowds to theaters several weeks after its release. It’s not surprising that people are drawn to the story of military dominance in Chris Kyle’s career. Part of this draw is the continued prevalence of terror in the news coupled with the fact that the Iraq war was such recent memory. It feels like the ongoing struggle, which is so often tragic, is being played out before our eyes. It is like we have a reserved seat for the action.

But there was something more at play for me—and I will admit that it took me off guard—it was the realized gravity of the film.


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When the Swan was Ordained

Feb 20, 2015 | Erik Raymond

I love this story and the way that RC Sproul tells it in his book Willing to Believe.

In 1505 Martin Luther entered the monastery in Erfurt. He was ordained in the chapel used by monks of the Augustinian order. When he was ordained neither Luther nor anyone else knew what this event would mean for him, the church, or the world. It was an intersection of time destined to change the course of history forever. One hundred years earlier the Bohemian reformer Jan Hus had been burned at the stake for heresy. Hus said to the bishop who had ordered his execution, “You may cook this goose, but there will come a swan who will not be silenced.” Hus was making a play on words with this prediction. The name Hus in the Czech language means “goose.”

In the summer of 1996, I led a tour that followed the footsteps of Luther. Celebrations were scheduled all over Germany in commemoration of the 450th anniversary of Luther’s death. Posters were widely displayed bearing the likeness of Luther against the backdrop of a swan. The German people saw Luther as the fulfillment of Hus’s prophecy, as the incarnate swan who was to come.

The circumstances of Luther’s ordination were marked by a double irony. When Luther prostrated himself with arms outstretched in the form of the cross, he was lying at the base of the chapel’s altar. The floor was made of stone. The exact spot where Luther lay was marked by an inscription in the stone indicating who was buried directly beneath the spot: the very bishop who had ordered the execution of Jan Hus. It is a great temptation to revise history and ascribe to the bishop an appropriate response to Hus’s words that a swan would come. I would like to think the bishop replied, “Over my dead body!” Indeed it was over his dead body that the swan was ordained. Willing to BelieveSproul (p. 48)

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Martin Luther’s Three Lights

Feb 19, 2015 | Erik Raymond

At the conclusion of Martin Luther’s masterful book The Bondage of the Will he reveals some compassionate pastoral care to those who may be struggling with the ethical implications of the biblical teaching concerning sin, grace, and free will. Keep in mind that this is some 300 pages after he has absolutely shredded any notion of harmony between free-will and the gospel. In his shredding he was, let’s just say, forceful. This is what makes this compassionate nugget at the end so compelling.

He writes:

Keep in view three lights: the light of nature, the light of grace, and the light of glory (this is common and a good distinction).

By the light of nature, it is inexplicable that it should be just for the good to be afflicted and the bad to prosper; but the light of grace explains it.

By the light of grace, it is inexplicable how God can damn him who by his own strength can do nothing but sin and become guilty.

Both the light of nature and the light of grace here insist that the fault lies not in the wretchedness of man, but in the injustice of God; nor can they judge otherwise of a God who crowns the ungodly freely, without merit, and does not crown, but damns another, who is perhaps less, and certainly not more, ungodly.

But the light of glory insists otherwise, and will one day reveal God, to whom alone belongs a judgment whose justice is incomprehensible, as a God Whose justice is most righteous and evident–provided only that in the meanwhile we believe it, as we are instructed and encouraged to do by the example of the light of grace explaining what was a puzzle of the same order to the light of nature. Bondage of the Will, p. 317

As Christians we are to thread all of our questions, concerns and frustrations through the needle of the Word of God. This (Rom. 12.1-2) is to form, shape, and renew our minds. When, even after this, we find ourselves confused or conflicted we can do no better than to rest in God’s wise, good, and unchanging character as we await “the day”.

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