The Devil is in the Details

Jul 14, 2015 | Erik Raymond


Last night when my 4 year old was “reading” from his picture Bible he retold the story of Genesis 2-3. He repeatedly emphasized, like a musician stuck in a loop, that Satan was a snake. I woke up thinking about it having been reminded of the subtle craftiness of the serpent. He does not come with horns and a pitchfork but in the acceptable and familiar, and often flying under the cover of tolerance.

I saw the smudge of his fingerprints today when a video of a Planned Parenthood top doctor talks about the industry of selling the body parts of aborted children. It is striking how she speaks of it so casually in between bites of her salad and sips of her wine. In the video below Deborah Nucatola, Senior Director of Medical Services for the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, explains how there is a market for the organs of these murdered children. There is even detail given to how to carefully extract the child in such a way so as to ensure marketability. Make no mistake: the Devil is in the details. He is a murderer and has been from the beginning. (Jn. 8:44)

Yesterday I wrote briefly about how we have forgotten how to blush. Like the contemporaries of Jeremiah (Jer. 8:12) we today seem to be incapable of becoming ashamed. Many today may, with chronological snobbery, look down our noses at those uncivilized generations before us who sacrificed children. If we do then we do so under the influence of the hypnotic hiss of the serpent. The fact is, Planned Parenthood receives over $540 million from the federal government and they are active in the industry not only of killing children but profiting from the sale of their body parts. How can this not shred your heart?

How can a nation that is so horrified by the barbaric killing by ISIS not be outraged by this? Is not the work of Planned Parenthood eerily similar to how the Islamic State profits through the murderous conquest of innocent people? How can we condemn it on one hand but fund it on the other? How can we be loudly outraged on the one hand but silent or indifferent on the other?

We cannot see the horrible inconsistencies because we are blinded by such an infallible self-interest.

However, just as in the days of Jeremiah when the people would not blush and were not ashamed, God sees. When they sip their wine, crunch their salads, and talk with such unfeeling casualness, God sees and hears. God will judge. He will vindicate his name and his people.

In the mean time the serpents still hisses and we as Christians, our stomaches still turn (daily) with groaning. We see the demonic slight of hand and we cry, “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done.”

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Your Church: A Missionary Family

Jul 14, 2015 | Erik Raymond

field missionary

Roger and Luke were sitting down for coffee to discuss ministry. Roger was a missionary overseas and Luke was a pastor. At one point during the conversation Luke asked Roger what he found most discouraging about his ministry.

His answer was surprising and revealing. Roger told him that the most discouraging aspect of ministry in his area is the other missionaries.

He went on to describe in detail how so many western churches send people to their area for mission work but in reality they are just on a vacation. They collect a check, get the benefits, and relax at the beach. Their engagement with the locals is minimal and when they do—they engage them with a critical spirit. These “missionaries” take up space at church and are really not ready to serve.

What is the problem here?


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We Don’t Know How to Blush

Jul 13, 2015 | Erik Raymond


If there is one thing we can be certain of when we read the news today it is that we should not be surprised. The staggering rate of the moral revolution has conditioned us this way. Each day’s headlines bring with it a sense of moral ascent (or descent, depending upon your perspective). And here I am not simply talking about so-called same-sex marriage and the erosion of religious liberty. Like dropping a line in the water, you often catch more than just a fish. We are pulling a lot into the boat that shapes our experience.

If one were inclined to be objective they might open their eyes and ears and try to pinpoint a root. Walk through the malls, the public square, flip through the TV, read the paper, listen to the chatter, and talk to strangers.

This is what I’ve been doing for quite some time. My conclusion: we have forgotten how to blush.

Why Would we Blush?


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When the Gospel Comes to Town

Jul 10, 2015 | Erik Raymond

As a pastor my life is characterized by an incessant longing for people to taste and see the goodness of God’s grace in the gospel. I pray for it, plan for, organize events to promote it, and even dream about it. I want to see the gospel come to our city and our church. I want evident gospel renewal.

In Charles Dickens’ classic A Tale of Two Cities, there is a memorable scene where a large cask of wine is dropped and broken in the street. The cask had burst like a walnut shell and gushing all over the stones in the street. Dickens goes on to write:

All the people within reach had suspended their business, or their idleness, to run to the spot and drink the wine. The rough, irregular stones of the street, pointing every way, and designed, one might have thought, expressly to lame all living creatures that approached them, had dammed it into little pools; these were surrounded, each by its own jostling group or crowd, according to its size. Some men kneeled down, made scoops of their two hands joined, and sipped, or tried to help women, who bent over their shoulders, to sip, before the wine had all run out between their fingers. Others, men and women, dipped in the puddles with little mugs of mutilated earthenware, or even with handkerchiefs from women’s heads, which were squeezed dry into infants’ mouths; others made small mud-embankments, to stern the wine as it ran; others, directed by lookers-on up at high windows, darted here and there, to cut off little streams of wine that started away in new directions; others devoted themselves to the sodden and lee-dyed pieces of the cask, licking, and even champing the moister wine-rotted fragments with eager relish. There was no drainage to carry off the wine, and not only did it all get taken up, but so much mud got taken up along with it, that there might have been a scavenger in the street, if anybody acquainted with it could have believed in such a miraculous presence.


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How Praying for Evangelism is like Buying a White Van

Jul 09, 2015 | Erik Raymond


The apostle Paul seems like someone who took the initiative. If we could imagine Paul we would think of a guy who would parachute into a town and talk to everyone about Jesus before lunch. He was a guy who fearlessly and faithfully got it done.

We might be tempted to think that this was just how Paul was wired. After all, he was the guy who reminded Timothy not to fear men but to be bold with the truth.

But what if Paul wasn’t naturally bold? What if he was supernaturally bold? What if he knew that he was weak and as a result prayed for God’s help? What if Paul was just like us? Then we would be encouraged and instructed by his praying.


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Don’t Put God in a Box

Jul 08, 2015 | Erik Raymond

god in a boxWhen you read the NT you see the demonstration and description of miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit. Right away on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2) the people are speaking in tongues. Not long after we see the dead raised, lame healed, and people transported. It is a powerful outbreaking of the Holy Spirit in an arresting way.

When you read these things (and their corresponding descriptions, instructions, and warnings) a Christian must ask if these so-called miraculous gifts are operative today (i.e. the gifts of tongues, healing, & prophecy). Do we today see the same types of things happening as we did in the early chapters of Acts?


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Book Review- From Eden to the New Jerusalem

Jul 07, 2015 | Erik Raymond


One of the dangers for students of the Bible is to get so into details that we end up forgetting how these details fit together. It is not to say that the details are bad, for we love the details. However, if we don’t have a comprehensive understanding of the big picture and how the various details fit together, then how much do we really understand these seemingly unrelated facts?

This is a good tension to realize and address. To help us in doing so T. Desmond Alexander has written a terrific book entitled From Eden to the New Jerusalem. And as the title suggests it is a study that begins in Genesis and ends in Revelation. It is a study called thematic biblical theology. That is, he tackles the Bible’s meta-story of creation, fall, redemption and runs it through the various books to understand their contribution to the big story, or the whole.

Here is one of the quotes that impacted me:

God’s original blueprint is for the whole earth to become a temple-city filled with people who have a holy or priestly status. Tragically, the actions of Adam and Eve endanger the fulfillment of this project. In spite of this, God graciously and mercifully embarks on a lengthy process designed to reverse this setback and bring to completion his creation scheme. pp. 30-31

The treasure in a book like this is its simplicity. Alexander is not writing too far above us. He takes the themes and chases them down through the Scriptures while providing us with a better understanding of God’s character, our sin, our Redeemer, and our hope. In this sense it is wonderfully profound. It is a book that helps change the way you look at your Bible, not in a bad sense, but in a good one.

Many times I get asked by people for a good book on Biblical Theology and there are several (see here, here, here, and here). But, sometimes they ask for something a little more entry level, something for them to cut their teeth on. This book is a great place to start. From Eden to the New Jerusalem will not let you down.

Good deals abound on this book; see Amazon and then Westminster.

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Becoming Like a Child

Jul 06, 2015 | Erik Raymond


As a Dad there are many times that I see our children provide direct insight into the heart of humanity in a refreshing way. An example that most of us have seen is a child that does not want to be left alone. They may be sitting in their room playing with a toy and then all of a sudden start crying and yelling, “Dad! Dad! Where did you go?” Our daughter was in a store with my wife and, in plain sight of her mom, but mom was not in her plain sight. Suddenly she cried with desperation, “Moooom?! Moooooom!!” My wife answered, “Right here honey.” To which she grabbed her Mom by the leg, pressed her face against her and said, “I thought you had left me here. I thought I was alone.” My wife answered, “No, sweetie, Mommy would never do that. I was right here the whole time.”

Our Self-Sufficiency has a Leak


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Book Review- The Christian Life

Jul 02, 2015 | Erik Raymond

the christian lifeAs Christians we know that our goal is to glorify God (1 Cor. 10:31). How do we do this? We do it by obeying God. But how do we know how to obey God? How do we know what he desires? This is where we see the important connection between Christian doctrine and Christian living. In view of this I try to regularly read a book on a particular doctrine or doctrines. This helps remind and refresh me with things I know and provide rich new discoveries of things I don’t yet know. It has been a very helpful practice for me.

This last month I picked up a book that has had great reviews for years but was not something that I had read personally. The Christian Lifeby Sinclair Ferguson is walk through 18 chapters on the “nuts and bolts” of basic doctrine for living. Anyone who is familiar with Ferguson knows that he is able to take complex topics and make them accessible without compromising. In particular, he is able to take the concept from the “classroom” to the “pavement” by teaching how it applies. I really appreciate this about the author.

One feature that makes this book especially helpful is how the author is able to distill very important concepts from authors that laymen may find intimidating. Ferguson quotes or pulls from authors such as John Calvin, John Owen, Augustine, and others, to further bolster his teaching. When you read Ferguson you are reading Calvin and Owen without realizing it. Not bad.

I found the chapters on Union with Christ and Crucifying Sin to be the most rich to me. Ferguson often works through a text to wring it out of its doctrinal importance. Here he teaches you the Bible while teaching you systematic theology.

I’ve listed the chapter/subjects below:

Knowing is for living
God’s broken image
The plan of grace
Called by God
Conviction of sin
Born again
Faith in Christ
True repentance
Sons of God
Union with Christ
Sin’s dominion ended
The Christian’s conflicts
Crucifying sin
Asleep in Christ

I can’t think of a critique for the book. I wish I would have read it years ago. Now I have the privilege of reading it with others and recommending it to them.

Pick up a discounted copy of the newly formatted 2013 edition at Amazon.

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Our Unhealthy Preoccupation with Acceptance

Jul 01, 2015 | Erik Raymond

old guys clappingOne of the troubling, but nonetheless fascinating realizations of the moral revolution has been the number of professing Christians who deviate from traditional and clear biblical teaching on sexuality and gender. It seems like we steadily see new groups, leaders, and people come out of their theological closets to declare their support for such things as same-sex marriage. Myself, I’ve gotten quite a bit of feedback via this blog, social media, and even in person of people who try to persuade me away from being such a theological dinosaur.

Our Thirst for Respectability and Relevance

In thinking about this quite a bit over the last several months it occurs to me how gripped Americans, particularly religious Americans are by honor and acceptance. I live in Omaha, Nebraska. The slogan for the state is “Nebraska Nice”. Did you catch that? We are nice here. I grew up in Massachusetts. I am not going to say that people in New England are mean, but they are, in the words of Megamind “less nice”. We didn’t exactly take pride in our niceness. If someone complained about people being rude we would generally think you were a bit too sensitive. But here, if you say that Nebraskans are not nice it is like you said something about their mom. It is one of the worst things you can say to a native Nebraskan. It seems to me that one of the worst things you can say to American Christian, whether in academia, church leadership, the pew, or on the street, is to say that they either not relevant or not respectable. We seem to clamor for it with alarming intensity.

I believe it is this clamoring for relevance and respect that is and will draw people to embrace these progressive (and errant) views of sexuality, gender and marriage.


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