When I read the news I often feel like I am walking around in a the middle of a power-outage. Things are not arranged the way I thought they were (or at least the way my mind thinks they should be). Let me give you a couple of examples.

In the last few weeks the National Football League (NFL) has been in the headlines for incidents that occurred off the football field. In the first instance, Ray Rice was seen violently abusing his then fiancé. The running back appears to knock her out cold and then calmly drag her out of an elevator. The video goes viral and is accompanied by a loud public outcry. Rice is suspended indefinitely from the NFL and cut from his team. In another story, another running back, Adrian Peterson, is indicted for child abuse. Peterson, allegedly, went far beyond any reasonable forms of discipline and training his child. The images and descriptions of the wounds are graphic and disturbing. The public outcry over Peterson’s case is also loud and it appears, justifiably so.

As Christians we can join in the chorus of opposition. In both cases, Rice and Peterson, we see the breakdown of what God created man to be. Instead of loving, protective, sacrificial, servant leadership that promotes flourishing, there is violence, selfishness, and destructiveness.

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With the anniversary of 9/11 today I was remembering afresh the shock, devastation, and vulnerability that was shared by so many. At the same time, I was reminded of President Bush. The events surrounding 9/11 served to show some very important leadership characteristics from the president. He was strong, decisive, clear, passionate, sympathetic, and believable. He led with conviction and courage.

You may not be fan of George W. Bush, and certainly he had his issues, however, he did lead with conviction and courage.

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It is a common phrase spoken by Christians and wrestled with by pastors, “I don’t feel connected at church.” The pastoral burden is for all Christians to be thriving in and through the ministry. When we hear something like this we immediately go into “fix-it” mode. Often times we even attempt to construct some structure around the person to help them feel connected.

But what if this didn’t help anyone? What if the problem wasn’t the ministry but the individual? What if the disconnection we feel is actually the consequence of selfishness?*

Catering to selfishness will never cure selfishness, it only fortifies it.

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According to John MacArthur:

“Expository preaching is the most crucial thing in the life of the church.”

The most effective thing you will ever do is preach the word of God from the pulpit.”

More below:

Sabotaging the Fellowship

Erik Raymond —  September 2, 2014 — 1 Comment


Dearest Pruflas,

You are continuing to develop your craft at a record pace. I am particularly referring to your ability to quietly console and reassure those who feel heavy conviction after hearing a sermon. Remember, continue to emphasize that the preacher is modeling the exception rather than the rule. The lion’s share of believers do not even follow these commands fully (nor should they). Gently lull them to sleep with relative reasoning and sundry Bible verses. Most of them do not understand what the verses mean, so you will gain great advantage when you quote the book to sooth their consciences.

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servantI have been enjoying the reading of one of my favorite Puritans, Richard Sibbes. When you read Sibbes it is like eating that perfect pie–you have to cut some slices and share it. Enjoy!

In Christ we have the greatest and the lowest joined together; exalted God and humbled man. I appreciate how Richard Sibbes brings this out:

[He is] the Lord of all and a servant, and such a servant as should be under a curse, for the Highest of all to come to the deepest abasement. For there was no abasement ever so deep as Christ’s was, in a double regard. 

First, None ever went so low as he, for he suffered the wrath of God, and bore upon him the sins of us all; none ever was so low. 

And then in another respect his abasement was greatest, because he be a curse, to suffer the wrath of God, to be the lowest of all Lord, whither dost thou descend? Here is a wonder in these conjunctions.

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As I tweeted yesterday, I am speechless but for praise by the appointment of David Platt as the new President of the International Mission Board (SBC). This is huge to have a guy with Platt’s burden and theology leading the international missions effort of the largest Protestant denomination in the world. (see also Tim Brister’s post re a letter from the mission field re Platt’s appointment)

Praise God for this.

I love this quote from the video below:

“As the President of the International Mission Board, all I want to do is mobilize local churches to run after global missions….The local church is the means that God is going to use for the spread of the gospel to the ends of the earth.”

detours demonic

I’m fascinated by summits between leaders. Whether we are talking about Roosevelt and Churchill or Reagan and Gorbachev or a host of other historical moments, I’m intrigued.

But there is perhaps no bigger meeting than what we find in Matthew chapter 4 between Jesus and Satan. Here you have the seed of the woman and the serpent meeting together in that long awaited moment. The head of the true evil empire and the head of the new humanity, the kingdom of grace.

When you look at the temptations you see Satan attempt to get Jesus to take his eye of the ball (this may be an oversimplification). He appeals to his status and his rights as the Son of God. He also offers him what seems to be what Jesus wants: to be King.

“Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.”” (Matthew 4:8–9)

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What is Zeal?

Erik Raymond —  August 26, 2014 — Leave a comment

I was thinking today about the connection of zeal to hope. Hope is the ballast in the soul of the Christian that keeps him from being tossed about by the winds of uncertainty. It is also the basis for our zeal. When we say that we are hopeful we are saying that our faith is in God and all that he promises. Zeal then is the response to resting in God’s promise. You might say that resting produces a flurry (zeal) of activity. When our zeal is low we can be sure that we are not truly hoping in God (or at least wilting in it).

This brought me to the following quote from J.C. Ryle in Practical Religion on the subject of zeal. I find it instructive in line with the connection between hope and zeal. As you read it remember that Jesus was the most hopeful person of all time, little wonder he was also the most zealous (Jn. 2.13-17). Continue Reading…

never resist urge to pray

As people we know that it is often wise to resist various urges that we have. We can keep ourselves out of trouble by resisting the urge to say something when we are offended. We can prevent various health issues by resisting urges to overeat or (routinely) eat unhealthy foods. We can steer clear from financial debt by resisting the urge to buy something on impulse. We can almost develop a reflex of resistance in this fallen world. This can be good for us (and others).

However, there is one urge that you should never resist. This area is prayer. I believe it was Martyn Lloyd-Jones whom I first read who said, “Never resist any urge to pray.” That is great advice without much need for explanation. But let me point out a couple of reasons why.

The urge to pray does not come from your flesh or the devil, but from God. It is God who is urging and drawing his children to pray. He desires communion with his people. We can be confident that the urge to pray is an urgent call from God to lay our pride down and come to him with the sweet joys of communion with the Triune God. In prayer we come to confess our sin, claim God’s promises, bath in Christ’s blood, and refresh our souls. As Calvin said, prayer is climbing up into the lap of our Father. Why should we ever resist such an urge?

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I’m excited to let you know about a new album that just came out this week. It is “Battle To Do” by Stephen Gates. Stephen is a dear brother and friend who leads us in musical worship on Sundays at Emmaus. He is a very gifted guitar player and vocalist. What’s more, he writes and sings out of a heart that is deeply conscious of the greatness of Christ as well as the presence of indwelling sin (Hence the title: Though I am new…there is Battle to Do). To this end, this album is a refreshing, edifying blessing to me. I shamelessly encourage you to buy it.

Battle to Do is available on iTunes and Amazon.

We all know that kids, particularly little kids say surprising and funny things, but sometimes they are refreshingly precise. They can cut through the boundaries erected by the mature.

This was the case last night as I was putting my daughter (4) to bed. We were talking about how I was going to visit a family member. She asked me if this person loved Jesus. I told her that I do not think that she is a Christian. Then I invited her to pray with me for her salvation. She complied. Then she sat up, pushed her curly hair back and said, “You know what, you should also go and tell her about Jesus right away. Prayers are good but you need to tell her about Jesus Daddy.” I told her that she was exactly right and that I would.

Here we are reminded about the simplicity of a child and perhaps some of the things that Jesus would have been aiming at when he reminded us of being like a child. She doesn’t have all of the hangups that we often have about evangelism. She hasn’t been rejected, argued with, or belittled. She doesn’t entertain the quiet, embarrassing doubts about the sufficiency and power of the gospel. She just understands, in her young mind, the need for us as Christians to tell unbelievers about Jesus. And she is exactly right.

I share this story because it was so encouraging to me and I think it would be for you also. Further, it reminds us not to overcomplicate things; it is really that simple: someone has got to open their mouths and talk about Christ. The gospel is powerful. It is sufficient (Rom. 1:16). After all, this is how we ourselves came to faith in the Savior.

“It is beyond dispute that the inferior is blessed by the superior.” (Hebrews 7:7)

Like a shaken two-liter of soda in the hands of a 5-year-old, the story of Melchizedek is fully charged and overflowing in Christological significance. We learn of the uniqueness and superiority of Christ’s priesthood by means of this somewhat mysterious and obscure type from Salem. It is upon this new priesthood that the new covenant is built. For a guy with only a hand-full of Old Testament verses he sure does get a lot of airtime in the New Testament Scriptures.

shutterstock_94042480There is one phrase that arrests my attention in Hebrews 7 however. It is this statement about the inferior being blessed by the superior. In the case of the narrative we are talking about Genesis 14 where Abraham received a blessing from Melchizedek.

The context of chapters 13 & 14 include a story of Abram and Lot separating because their hired hands could not get along (Gen. 13.13). Abram went toward the land of Canaan and Lot towards Sodom. Following this a war breaks out and Sodom, along with 4 other kings, are defeated by the 4 king coalition from the north. Consequently, Sodom, and Lot with them, were dragged north towards Mesopotamia. When Abram hears about this he gathers his crew and charges after them. In due time he catches them, battles them, and wins. He takes Lot and all of his possessions and turns around to go home. Abram is legit.

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In Crossway’s ongoing series “The Theologians on the Christian Life” authors aim to provide an accessible introduction to some of the great teachers on the Christian life. The challenge is present in the goal. If you have a great teacher then accessibility may present a problem. What’s more, many (great) teachers are very interesting people. Their lives fill up pages quickly.

This gets intensified further when we consider Dietrich Bonhoeffer. With a biography named Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy–you can see how the author would have his work cut out for him. In this case, I feel that Stephen Nichols has done a superb job at introducing us to the life and theology of such an intriguing and admirable guy as Bonhoeffer.

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GOD'S CHARACTERHe arose early in the morning. There was no time to waste; after all, God had told him to do something. It was difficult but clear. He had to do it.

Previously God had promised Abraham that he would be the father of a great nation (Gen.12.1-3). This after, as Paul eloquently put it, Abraham was as good as dead (Rom. 4.19). The promise would not come through Eliezer, his present heir (Gen. 15.1-4) but his own son. Nearing 100 years of age Isaac is born and the word of the promise is confirmed. However, now, several years later, God tells Abraham to go and sacrifice his son on the mountain.

We know how the story ends. God mercifully stops Abraham and provides the ram. The promise does indeed come through Isaac. God is faithful.

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Much of what I am able to do in ministry is a direct result of God’s grace in and through a local church. Having never attended seminary, I owe much of what I do to faithful men who sought to train me in ministry through the church. It is little surprise then to have training at the core of what we do as a church. We say it over and over again: Emmaus exist to make and train disciples who make and train disciples. This is why we were planted and this is what we are pursuing as a church.

Now that we are nearing 3 years into the life of Emmaus, we have seen a number of people emerge who would like further training in ministry. We have also had people from outside the church express interest in being trained for ministry. Some want to work in church planting and revitalization, others international missions, still others to be better served toward the office of elder, etc. As a result we have established the Emmaus Residency. We believe this ministry will help equip men, women, and Emmaus Bible Church for the ministry that God has called us to.

The Residency is Emmaus’ training scheme devoted to training pastors, church planters and full-time Christian workers. The curriculum consists of three parts: theological training, ministry experience, and mentorship.

Theological Training- Our goal is to equip each student with the skills they need to responsibly and rightly handle the Bible so that they may teach it to others.

Ministry Experience- The residents engage in nearly every aspect of Emmaus’ ministry. On any given Sunday, you may see a resident preaching, leading an adult Sunday school class, or working with the children’s ministry. During the week, the residents lead gospel communities, work in the office and lead several other aspects of church ministry.

Mentorship- Perhaps you have heard it said that some things are better caught than taught. This is a powerful truth that the Bible affirms. Having a more seasoned mentor to disciple those that are younger in the ministry is modeled throughout the New Testament. The mentoring pastors not only teach the residents in the classroom, they also interact with them on their ministry responsibilities, training them and giving them feedback.

At present we are accepting applications for the upcoming year. If you are interested, head over to the Emmaus website and take a look at the page and application. Space is limited and the deadline for application is July 1st. You can also contact us with further questions.

(Note: we are thankful for ministries like Simeon Trust and Capital Hill Baptist Church for their help in putting together the Residency)

We are thankful that the Bible addresses a wide variety of questions and issues. Throughout church history we have been able to have many important questions answered by the Scriptures. At the same time this comprehensive biblical coverage provides answers that occasionally make people uneasy. Often times these topics are referred to as “controversial issues.” Some people want to avoid talking about these things and others enjoy it. The former out of a distaste for controversy and the latter out of a craving for it. Still others find these topics important and aim to cut through the fog to show what the Bible teaches and why it is important for the church to think through.

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shutterstock_171636374It is common today to hear people say, “God loves us unconditionally.” It is also common to watch people bristle when people say, “God elects us unconditionally.”

When people say that God loves us unconditionally they usually mean something like, “After conversion God loves you no matter what. Isn’t that great?”

In one sense this is true, God’s love for his people is not based upon what they do or do not do. But this does not mean that God loves us unconditionally. If God loves anyone he loves them conditionally.

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front steps“Make sure you shut the door!” This phrase is uttered a few dozen times a day in my home. With the warmer Spring weather we have children coming in and out of the house all the time. We also have a dog. She is an extremely curious, 1 year-old Boxer (fawn) named Bristol, who very much enjoys being outside. If the door is left open, or allowed to close slowly, Bristol will seize her opportunity to run out the door and then she’s off. She runs down the alley, through the neighborhood, off to experience the freedom of self-discovery. We have been told by neighbors that she sometimes just joins their family on their walk or goes into their yard to play. She seizes her opportunity.

However, there are times when she doesn’t run. Actually there is only one time. This is when someone with authority is standing in front of the door or close enough to catch her quickly. In this case she just sits there waiting for us to get distracted or leave our post. She is most certainly restrained by the law and not trained by grace.

As a Dad sometimes I feel like my wife and I are standing by the door. I look at my children (ranging from 2-18) and know what I think is best for them. We try to educate, be transparent, humble, gracious, consistent, and loving with them. We want to build a foundation of thinking and understanding of the world, train them in wisdom, and help them gain understanding. However, as a parent you never feel your work is done, there is always more to do and more you could have done better.

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shutterstock_190858196What does it mean to have faith? I have gotten this question numerous times as a pastor. Faith is a term that is vitally important but often also loosely defined or applied.

People speak of faith as if it is a “leap of faith.” In this way it sounds like an acceptable embracing of something that is irrational. The Bible does not present faith as irrational.

Others speak of faith as simply intellectual ascent. I believe the facts about God much like someone believes the facts about the life of George Washington. While facts are important there is more.

Still others will speak of the way they feel. God makes them happy when they should be sad. Emotion corresponds with faith but is not all that faith is.

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