Here are a couple of recent pictures I have snapped on my iPhone as I am out and about. I seem to encounter funny things regularly and it’s been suggested that I share them on here.

The first was at HyVee Grocery in Omaha. The marketers of this beer apparently think that polygamy is attractive to beer drinkers. I thought Mormons didn’t drink?

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This is a real product that I saw this at a cloth diaper store. Apparently it is for a diaper rash. I don’t get the connection to monkey flatulence, however, I am sure that some family thinks it us quite funny.

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Since we are expecting another little niño and will now have 2 under the age of 2…we need a double stroller. It basically is like putting a Volkswagen in your trunk. The engineering is amazing, but at the end if the day, it is huge. Anyone else relate?

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“It is a consoling thought that Christ is praying for us, even when we are negligent in our prayer life; that He is presenting to the Father those spiritual needs which were not present to our minds and which we often neglect to include in our prayers; and that He prays for our protection against the dangers of which we are not even conscious, and against the enemies which threaten us, though we do not notice it. He is praying that our faith may not cease, and that we may come out victoriously in the end. (Berkhoff, Systematic Theology p. 403)

“If I could hear Christ praying for me in the next room, I would not fear a million enemies. Yet distance makes no difference. He is praying for me. (Robert Murray M’Cheyne p. 179)

How can these blessed realities but drive us close to the Savior, even to his chest like the Apostle John? He is more committed to his sheep than his sheep are to him. We lag and linger but he is praying while we slumber. The truth of Jesus’ ceaseless, fervent, impassioned, hearty, and successful intercession on my behalf calibrates my wayward heart afresh to the glories of Christ and drops fresh dew from heaven on my earth scorched lips.

The former priests, on the one hand, existed in greater numbers because they were prevented by death from continuing, but Jesus, on the other hand, because He continues forever, holds His priesthood permanently. Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them. Hebrews 7.23-25)

Who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. (Romans 8.34)

I was reading The Forgotten Spurgeon the other day and found this quote a tremendous encouragement. It was reportedly spoken by Spurgeon to his friend J.W. Harrald prior to his death:

Ah! the bridge of grace will bear your weight, brother. Thousands of big sinners have gone across that bridge, yea, tens of thousands have gone over it. I can hear their trampings now as they traverse the great arches of the bridge of salvation. They come by their thousands, by their myriads; e’er since the day when Christ first entered into His glory, they come, and yet never a stone has sprung in that mighty bridge. Some have been the chief of sinners, and some have come at the very last of their days, but the arch has never yielded beneath their weight. I will go with them trusting to the same support; it will bear me over as it has borne them. (The Forgotten Spurgeon, p.164)

It sounds like a plan hatched in a college dorm room: a beer fast for 40+ days. However, for J. Wilson, this was not a plan for collegiate binging but rather Christian living.

Wilson emulated a tradition practiced by ancient monks. He ate a meal on Ash Wednesday for the last time until Easter Sunday. His only ‘food’ was beer.

That’s right. Nothing but beer for 40+ days.

What did he drink? Apparently his favorite was Illuminator Doppelbock from Rock Bottom Brewery in Des Moines. According to CNN, “At the beginning of the fast Wilson drank four beers a day during the week and five a day on weekends. Toward the end of the fast, he increased his beer intake to five a day during the week to maintain his strength.”

Wilson kept a keg at the office and one at home to fend off his hunger and provide ‘nourishment’. This guy seems to have landed the dream job / work environment for many American men.

As a Christian, home-brewer, and blogger, this fast combined many of his passions. Wilson was able to partake of a personal sacrifice, drink a lot of beer, and write about it.

At its conclusion, Wilson broke the fast with a bacon smoothie. Now I fully realize if you have not begun to admire Wilson for his creative beer planning this bacon-feast will doubtless win you over. How does one even make a bacon smoothie? I have actually heard of guys fantasy about being able to drink bacon. Maybe he’ll brew a bacon beer for next year.

While I’m not advocating this type of unorthodox fast, much less the consumption of bacon, I was glad to read that the preliminary doctor reports came back positive. The only ‘issue’ is that he dropped 25 lbs. during the fast.

J. Wilson definitely has the most creative Lenten story that I’ve heard.

If you have surveyed many church signs and materials then I am sure you have seen the phrase: “Everyone is Welcome.” But is it true? Better yet, is it biblical?

I remember years ago hearing my pastor tell us that actually everyone is not really welcome.

What did he mean by this?

The setting was a sermon on Matthew 18. Perhaps more familiarly the topic of church discipline. If we read through the passage of how the Lord intends his followers to deal with sin in the body of Christ we see that the goal is restoration. Jesus means to have his people to live in holiness. Therefore, if there is sin then there needs to be private confrontation (Matt. 18.15). If the brother (or sister) fails to repent then another confrontation is needed, this time with 2-3 witnesses (Matt. 18.16). Still further, if he refuses to listen, they are to tell it to the church (Matt. 18.17a). If, after this, he continues in unrepentant sin, then he is to be treated as a Gentile or tax collector. In other words, the unrepentant sinner is to be cut off from the blessings of community. In short, he is no longer welcome.

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The Cunning of the Snake

Erik Raymond —  April 27, 2011

“The cunning of the snake is seen again in that he presents his lies in the context of truth.  Eating the forbidden fruit did indeed mean that the humans came to know good and evil (Gen. 3:22).  But the process by which they achieved that involved a rebellion against truth and its source.  Instead of knowing good and evil by rejecting evil and remaining good, they choose rather to reject good and become evil.

The most important effect of this is that God is no longer regarded as the self-evidant Creator and Lord.  His Word is no longer accepted as self-evident truth, but is reduced to the status of the word of the creature.  Both God and his Word are seen as lesser authorities that must constantly be tested by higher authorities.

Again the cunning of the snake: he does not suggest that the humans transfer their allegiance from God to himself, but only that they themselves should consider and evaluate God’s claim to truth.

The final effect was the same as if they installed Satan as Lord, but is achieved without the humans realizing it. They rebel against God not by consciously making Satan their new and final authority, but by taking that function to themselves.  The truth of any proposition would from this point onward be tested by what was in humans themselves.  In this sense they became as God.”

–Graeme Goldsworthy, According to Plan: The Unfolding Revelation of God in the Bible), 104.

Keep the Gospel Rhythm.

Erik Raymond —  April 26, 2011

If there is a potential danger following the celebration of the events surrounding the Lord’s Passion it has to be the let down. Or more accurately, the ‘potential’ for a let down.

It is somewhat of a Christian reflex to emphasize the life, death, and burial of Jesus during the days leading up to and on Resurrection Sunday. However, what do we do with the other 51 weeks? What sermon text does the preacher load into his homiletical satchel? What is the soundtrack he is to hear as he jumps on the pastoral saddle?

The reality is that the tone and topic of our Holy Week services should not be much different than the services during the rest of the year. After all, we are Christians! Our chief (and only!) boast is in the work of Christ (Gal. 6.14). This is the foundation of who we are. It is the basis of our identity as Christians (1 Cor. 1.29-30). Therefore, to flip the page onto other topics or themes is to leg-swipe our own identity.

One of the reasons we as Christians gather together on Sundays is to trumpet the resurrection. We enjoy the sacrament of communion together to emphasize the completed work of Christ (1 Cor. 11.26). We are to sing songs and hymns that exalt Christ (Col. 3.16). Preachers are to preach the word (2 Tim. 4.2) which always showcases Christ. You of course can see why turning the page from Christ crucified and risen is a turning away from the heart of Christianity.

As a pastor it was greatly encouraging this weekend after our Good Friday and Sunday am service to hear several folks remark that they appreciated that this is not a once a year thing. In other words, they see the importance of the gospel being heralded not only every year, or week, but every day.

This is of critical importance for us as Christians, in particular, as pastors. There is never a day when you turn the page and move on. We are to be the congregation’s drummer: always keeping the gospel rhythm. We are never to leave that song. If pastors do their jobs right then heaven will be less of an adjustment (Rev. 5!).

I love the scene at the end of Matthew’s narrative. In particular, the scene involving the ladies at the empty tomb. Mark their response and learn from your great grandmothers in the faith: “they came up and took hold of his feet and worshiped him.” (Matt. 28.9)

Amen. This is the right spot for the Christian, for there is no better place to be than clasping with white knuckled faith the nail pierced feet of Jesus. The word chosen here for “took hold of” is also translated arrest, seize, and retain. We are told in Hebrews 4.14 to hold fast to our confession, it is the same word. What a great picture here, clinging, arresting, holding fast to the feet of Jesus; taking a mouthful of dirt and muddying the ground with tears of joy. Yes Christian find yourself here, trusting fully in the crucified and risen Savior who has defeated death and stands risen to greet you.

The text says that they worshipped him. Yes this is the picture of worship. He is standing and they are prostrate. There is no room in their hands for religious works, idols, or any other rivals to the Savior. No, all that fills their clinging hands is Jesus.

Dwell long on this meditation friends for it is the essence of the resurrection. He is supremely powerful and so therefore awful (causing awe). All of his claims are true therefore Christians are filled with mega joy. We therefore run and cling to him in full dependence, satisfaction and worship.

(Mat 28.10) Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.”

What a scene this is! The resurrected Savior is standing before two women. Their hearts are full of worship as they cling to him. But Jesus is not done, he instructs them to go and to tell…his brothers!

Do you see how far God has condescended in Jesus? Do you see how successful Christ’s work is for us? He has come down among us to bring us to God (1 Pet. 3.18). This is not to say that he is to be forever of the earth but that his people, his brothers and sisters, are to be forever with him in heaven.

By means of the payment of his life, death and resurrection, Jesus has purchased a new family. The great heavenly prince has plundered the enemy’s stronghold. He has kicked in the door of death. He has broken down the castle of sin. This great multitude of captives were formerly ‘sons of disobedience’ (Eph. 2.2) are now ‘sons of God’ (Gal. 3.26). That is, we have been adopted by the work of Christ, our older brother (Heb. 2.14-17).

O’ the eternal marveling we will do when we consider that he has made us fit to be called ‘brothers’!

Do you see and feel the heaviness of this term? The privilege of being called Christ’s brother is not cheap. It is not an unalienable right. It is not like voting at 18. No, no. Instead, being lavished with such a title is expensive. The very precious thought of it is soaked in Immanuel’s blood. The reality of being such a brother, such a member of the royal family is a gospel privilege. It was purchased by means of our great Savior, the Lord Jesus.

Your blood has washed away my sin
Jesus, thank You
The Father’s wrath completely satisfied
Jesus, thank You
Once Your enemy, now seated at Your table
Jesus, thank You. (from Worship God Live)

A Resurrection Day Prayer

Erik Raymond —  April 24, 2011

O GOD OF MY EXODUS,

Great was the joy of Israel’s sons when Egypt died upon the shore,

Far greater the joy when the Redeemer’s foe lay crushed in the dust.

Jesus strides forth as the victor, conqueror of death, hell, and all opposing might;

He bursts the bands of death, tramples the powers of darkness down, and lives for ever.

He, my gracious surety, apprehended for payment of my debt, comes forth from the prison house of the grave free, and triumphant over sin, Satan, and death.

Show me herein the proof that his vicarious offering is accepted, that the claims of justice are satisfied, that the devil’s sceptre is shivered, that his wrongful throne is levelled.

Give me the assurance that in Christ I died, in Him I rose, in His life I live, in His victory I triumph, in His ascension I shall be glorified.

Adorable Redeemer,

Thou who wast lifted up upon a cross
art ascended to highest heaven.

Thou, who as man of sorrows wast crowned with thorns,
art now as Lord of life wreathed with glory.

Once, no shame more deep than Thine, no agony more bitter, no death more cruel.

Now, no exaltation more high, no life more glorious, no advocate more effective.

Thou art in the triumph car leading captive Thine enemies behind Thee.

What more could be done than Thou hast done!

Thy death is my life, Thy resurrection my peace,

Thy ascension my hope, Thy prayers my comfort.

Valley of Vision, pp. 86-87

Think with me about the specific qualifications for humanity’s savior. He must be a perfect man. He cannot sin. If he is to be our substitute and rescuer then he cannot be a transgressor of this same Law. He must be perfect. He must be both God and man. Wholly God and fully man.

Of course there is no one created who qualifies for this post. We are, after all, created beings. And, as descendants of the first Adam, therefore beset by the same weakness as he.

Furthermore, no angel may pick up this mantle. In addition to not being eternally and inherently righteous they are not human. Therefore, the arch-angel Michael is not a suitable substitute for humanity.

There is but one in heaven who qualifies for the post. It alone is Immanuel, God’s own beloved Son. He is the special, unique, Son of God (Col. 1.13). Only he can be both God and man. Only he can come and bear the unrelenting weight of the Law and then go and swig down the eternal vat of condemnation that awaits all who rebel against God.

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I am looking forward to attending the Men’s Breakfast tomorrow at Omaha Bible Church. Here is the info:

Omaha Bible Church is excited to have writer and cultural analyst, Ted Kluck join us for a Men’s Breakfast on April 23rd at 9 a.m.  Ted will be speaking on the Art of Manliness in two sessions on Saturday morning from 9:00 to 11:00. Breakfast will be served starting at 8 a.m. (map)

Ted Kluck is the author of several books, on topics ranging from Mike Tyson to the Emergent Church. Both Why We’re Not Emergent and Why We Love the Church (with Kevin DeYoung) won Christianity Today Book of the Year awards. His work has also appeared in ESPN the Magazine and Christianity Today.

I recently finished another one of Ted’s books The Reason for Sports and plan to review it soon. It was a good read.

If you are local, make plans to attend (it’s free). It should be a good time of encouragement in Christ.

Luke 22:31-32 “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail.

As the Savior is looking down the barrel of the unmitigated wrath of God he speaks to his disciples rather cryptically about the ‘one’ (Judas) who would betray him and then quite specifically about the Apostle Peter’s impending defection.

In the midst of this dialog between Peter and Jesus we have these two verses nestled in full of encouragement for believers today.

We learn of Satan’s desires. It is to “have” believers. Satan is not concerned so much with the unbelievers, for he already has them, but rather those who are following the Messiah. Satan’s desire is to have Peter. Satan already ‘has’ Judas (Luk 22.3) and now he wants Peter too. He wants to undermine the work of Jesus by attacking his followers. So believer, know that just as sure as you have the Holy Spirit you have been ‘painted’ with a demonic laser sight…he wants to have you. For truly nothing would give the Devil more joy than to see the narrow road depopoulated, for there is plenty of room on the broad road for apostates.

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As a church planter I’ve enjoyed Mike McKinley’s book Church Planting is for Wimps. Mike planted through Mark Dever and Capital Hill Baptist Church in D.C.

These words are particularly helpful to the young guy who wants to see impact and is thinking about the means to that end.

Without God’s Word, a church has no hope as it prepares to meet this God who is to judge the living and the dead. It has no way to know the gospel in a saving way (Rom. 10:14; 1 Cor. 1:21). It has no way to grow in Christ. Without the Word of God, a preacher, especially a young preacher with little history, has no true authority. He might be able to woo them with the desires of the flesh just like any comedian or rock star. But without the Word he will have no true spiritual trust from his people.

Why would a church entrust its spiritual good to a know-nothing twenty-nine-year-old? Why would an older man who has been a Christian for twenty years, raised a family, and had a creer care what this twenty-nine -year-old says about marriage or children or money or taking up your cross and following Jesus?

But if that twenty-nine-year-old can simply open the pages of the Bible and explain what God himself says, then the church has something with which to work. Then the authority rests not in the preacher or his personal wisdom and experience but in the authority of God himself who has breathed his Word. –Mike McKinley, Church Planting is for Wimps, p. 48

Luke 22:37 For I tell you that this Scripture must be fulfilled in me: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors.’ For what is written about me has its fulfillment.”

Prior to heading up to the Mount of Olives the Lord Jesus makes this statement to his disciples. It is in the context of Jesus telling his disciples to get a moneybag, knapsack and a sword in preparation of the coming days.

The Scripture reference that the Savior sites is from the prophet Isaiah, specifically the 12thverse of the 53rd chapter. Of course the 53rd chapter of Isaiah is one of the clearest conglomerations of Messianic prophecy contained in the Old Testament. Isaiah writes with prophetic precision as he foretells of the manner in which the Son of David would suffer and die as he accomplishes redemption.

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Jesus Read his Bible

Erik Raymond —  April 19, 2011

It is the most common answer to one of the most common questions that Christians ask one another. Someone asks, “How can I be praying for you?”  Then we answer, “That I would be more disciplined in reading the Word.”

We know that this is the right answer. We also know our shortcomings in this area.

Therefore, it is as instructive as it is convicting to consider how quickly, regularly, and profoundly flips to the Bible for his answers. We are all familiar with his battle with Satan in the wilderness where Jesus quotes the Scriptures, slicing up the enemy like Zorro (Matt. 4.1-11). He does the same to Satan’s lieutenants and Bible teachers, the Scribes and Pharisees (cf. Mark 7.1-23). They keep after him and he keeps returning fire with the Bible.

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There are those times when stand in the midst of a sunny Spring day and see great shadows. You see the sun shining down on a building or structure and as you examine the shadow you see more of the building and vice versa.

The day that Jesus came to the temple should have been one of those days. The theological shadow of the temple was next to the substance, the structure. Jesus, the true and better temple, has come. The truth of God dwelling with his people has been realized finally in Jesus.

But this did not happen.

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Passion Week Devotions

Erik Raymond —  April 18, 2011

As I have done in previous years, I plan to write devotionals during The Passion Week. It is truly one of my favorite and most heart stirring times of year. As Christians we are always to live in the shadow of the cross of Christ, however, there is something about the calendar and this week that causes special gospel explosions of humility and joy for me.

My hope is that the devotions will do the same for you and perhaps even help you with devotions in your various settings (personal, family, small group devotions, etc.)

Here is one resource that I have found helpful. It is an attempted harmony/chronology of the words and actions of Jesus in the final week of his pre-resurrection life.

May God be pleased to stir our hearts with the glory of his grace.

It is my habit to read J.C. Ryle at the conclusion of sermon prep. This week I came across this quote pertaining to Mark 9.42-50 and Jesus’ persistence on mentioning and teaching on the reality of hell.

There is no mercy in keeping back from men the subject of hell. Fearful and tremendous as it is, it ought to be pressed on all, as one of the great truths of Christianity. Our loving Savior speaks frequently of it. The apostle John, in the book of Revelation, often describes it.

The servants of God in these days must not be ashamed of confessing their belief in it. Were there no boundless mercy in Christ for all that believe in Him, we might well shrink from the dreadful topic. Were there no precious blood of Christ able to cleanse away all sin, we might well keep silence about the wrath to come. But there is mercy for all who ask in Christ’s name. There is a fountain open for all sin.

Let us then boldly and unhesitatingly maintain that there is a hell, and beseech men to flee from it, before it be too late. “Knowing the terrors of the Lord,” the worm, and the fire, let us “persuade men.” (2 Cor. 5:11.) It is not possible to say too much about Christ. But it is quite possible to say too little about hell. –J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on Mark, p.193

I am currently on the way back to Omaha from Chicago where we attended The Gospel Coalition Conference. It was a rich time of fellowship with believers from around the world in the gospel of Christ.

Think about it, several thousand people gathered together to encounter and be tutored in preaching Christ from the Old Testament. Very encouraging indeed.

But I have a rock in my shoe.

As I sat and listened to the sermons I was regularly distracted. In each session I sat near guys who felt that they needed to check their Facebook and Twitter as often as Sean Hannity says something negative about President Obama.

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