Judas Betrayed Jesus with Clean Feet

Nov 12, 2015 | Erik Raymond

foot washing

The story of Judas’ betrayal of the Lord Jesus is as familiar as it is troubling. There is nothing worse that he could have done in his life than to betray Jesus. When Jesus says that it would have been better for him not to even be born (Mark 14) we begin to see the significance of the action. It is the ultimate evil act to betray or attack the ultimate good one. The consideration of the whole series of events is flat-out disturbing.

One particular unsettling note to Judas’ departure from the Passover table is the timing. As Jesus was unpacking the various Christological and eschatological significance of the Passover meal Judas got up and left.

However, we know that just a short time before, perhaps after the first cup of wine, early in the Passover feast, our Lord washed his disciples feet (John 13).

The disciples were bickering about their greatness while Jesus was showcasing his greatness. Greatness always serves. It wears the apron (Mark 10.45; 1 Peter 5.5-6).

This serving, this washing of the feet included all of the disciples, even Judas.


View Comments

Marriage is Really About Companionship

Nov 11, 2015 | Erik Raymond

Many times in marriage the husband and wife become proficient at doing things apart. Slowly over time it becomes the norm to be alone and companionship becomes foreign. As a result, companionship, closeness, and even trust begin erode. Paul Trip has some sound words for marriages plagued by or beginning to be plagued by isolationism.

Marriage really is a human covenant of companionship. God wasn’t so much giving Adam a physical helper for the work in the garden as he was giving him a companion.

God knew that he had created a social being, and because of Adam’s social hardwiring, it was not good for him to live without the companionship of one made from him and made like him. You could argue that this is the most basic reason for marriage. God created a lifelong companion for Adam, and his relationship with Eve would exist on earth as a visible reminder of God’s love relationship with people and as the God-ordained means by which the earth would be populated as God designed.

So the character and quality of the friendship between a husband and wife always functions as an accurate measure of the health of their marriage. It is also an accurate barometer of trust. When trust is present between two people, their appreciation and affection will grow, and as these things grow, friendship flourishes. Tripp, What Did You Expect?

View Comments

We Need a Few Good Men

Nov 10, 2015 | Erik Raymond

Every man desires to be considered a “good man”. If God has given a man 75 years of life and he looks back at it, nothing would give him more joy than to know that it wasn’t in vain. Further, the church is in desperate need of good men. The reason of course is that good men honor God and multiply themselves. Good men make more good men.

But, what do they look like?


View Comments

You Cannot Domesticate Pride

Nov 09, 2015 | Erik Raymond

A lot of times people flatter themselves and think that they can contain sin, pride in particular. They think that rather than sin mastering them they can master it. This type of thinking demonstrates a disaster waiting to happen.

Pride is not something to be handled. It is not for you. It opposes and destroys.

There was a disturbing story here in the Omaha area. A 34 year-old man used to walk up and down his neighborhood and show off his 6′ boa constrictor to neighbors. He often would let the snake wrap around the children and slide on their trampolines. He liked to show off his snake.

On one such occasion last June the snake constricted around his neck. Within minutes he was out of breath, on the floor, and soon after, dead. His ‘pet’ became his ‘killer’ in a matter of seconds. This man had overestimated his ability to master the snake while underestimating the snake’s desire to master him.


View Comments

Has Prosperity Thinking Shaped Your Ministry Expectations?

Nov 05, 2015 | Erik Raymond


Years ago I was listening to a talk on church planting and the speaker was talking about discouragement in ministry. As he did he spoke of the high expectations from the church planter. He expects great things—fast! And what happens when the gap between reality and expectations only seems to grow wider? Discouragement, discontentment, despair, and even thoughts of quitting begin to grow like weeds in a neglected garden. It was a good word for me then and it remains so today.

Some weeks back I wrote about how the prosperity gospel has infiltrated our thinking. It is not just the chaos of Benny Hinn “slaying” people it is also the chaos of a heart that is fixed on getting physical things rather than spiritual, things of this life rather than the life to come. I believe there is a connection between expectations and prosperity thinking. More to the point, I believe that prosperity thinking has drifted into the pastoral ministry more than we care to realize it. And we see it with our expectations.

My Expectations Were Way Off

I’ll just go ahead and put myself out there and perhaps you will benefit. I’ve been in full-time ministry now for just over 10 years. I’ve had some bad days and some really bad days. But, overall it has been pretty positive. I don’t have anything worth complaining about. But guess what? I have complained. And do you know why? Among other things, my expectations for ministry were out of whack.

In my thinking and in my experience I basically had a ratio of about 80 / 20; 80% positive and 20% negative. Then stuff started happening. Strange stuff. Compounding stuff. Some days I felt like I couldn’t flip the field position (to use a football analogy); we were stuck in our own territory. Providentially, I was reading and studying the prophets and found myself properly warned and instructed. I started studying the topic of contentment and my heart was melted. Like a car out of alignment my pastoral calibration was off. My expectations were not commensurate with my experience. Further, my expectations were not lined up with the job description. This is a recipe for discontentment.

Scripture Calibrates our Expectations

While studying contentment I concluded that if I am not in hell I should be happy. I get mercy! I get life! I get hope! What am I discouraged about? In this study I felt like I got to know Paul better. How could he learn to be content (Phil. 4:11) without having difficult and blessing (Phil. 4:12)? How could I miss it? Suffering, disappointment and difficult are part of the deal (Phil. 1:29).

I missed it because of prosperity thinking. It has it devilish tentacles in everything. I believe that my ratios (80/20) were flipped. What would happen if I believed that I deserved 0% good and 100 % bad? Could I be content? What if expectations (based upon the NT tone, church history, conversations with other pastors, and increasingly my experience), were really about 20% good and 80% difficult? Could I be content?

I believe that this is the ballpark estimate of what a healthy and reasonable pastoral expectation should be. It’s going to be hard about three-quarters of the time. Pastors will spend most of their time underwater; they will come up and get fresh air only to go back under again. If we experience better times and the ratios balance out then God should be praised. However, if it gets worse, and the difficult time goes to 90 or 95%, then we should remember what we deserve. God has been and remains so kind to us. He never leaves nor forsakes us, even in the difficult times (Heb. 13:5-6).

Contentment in ministry comes when our expectations match up with our experiences. If a pastor’s expectations are off then he has no framework to deal with the difficulty that is to come. But if they are biblically grounded and informed by the gospel then he can stand firm in the winds of adversity and stay humble in the seasons of blessing.


Image via Shutterstock

View Comments

Your Obedience is Not Just About You

Nov 04, 2015 | Erik Raymond

shutterstock_246086914Over the last 15 or so years of being a Christian I’ve observed a recurring trend. When I ask someone how I can be praying for them I often hear about a need to be more faithful with spiritual disciplines (Bible reading, prayer, etc). In most of these conversations the believer talks like he/she is a soloist. While they know that spiritual laziness is wrong it seems to be mitigated by the appearance of it being contained and ok. While it is not ideal it is not a big deal. Who are we hurting, after all, when we don’t read our pray? Who suffers when my eyes are glued to Netflix and my Bible gathers dust? What’s the big deal about me not coming to Sunday worship? There is a pervasive downplaying of the overall impact of our obedience and our disobedience.

The bottom-line is that your obedience as a Christian is not just for you. And therefore, you disobedience does not simply impact you.

It’s About God


View Comments

Book Review- The Work of the Pastor

Nov 03, 2015 | Erik Raymond

stillOne of the longings of young pastors is to spend time with older, seasoned men who have run the race well, and then stand close to the finish line full of zeal and focus. If you are privileged to have this type of interaction you will be greatly refreshed and encouraged.

This is what William Still did for me. Though he is now in heaven and I have never met him, his book The Work of the Pastor is a great blessing to me.

Still was the pastor at Gilcomston South Church of Scotland, Aberdeen for over 50 years! His ministry impact shows today through men like Sinclair Ferguson. Still worked closely with Ferguson in his teenage years until Pastor Stills died in 1997.


View Comments

That Vital Moment in Every Preacher’s Week

Nov 02, 2015 | Erik Raymond


We want results. And we want them fast. The trouble is we often have to wait. Whether in traffic, at the deli counter, at the pharmacy, at a restaurant, in a conversation, or for a website to load–we have to wait for things.

This is a problem for most of us. We tend to not like to wait. Conditioned by the technological improvements of our microwave society we have a reflex where we feel entitled expediency.

As a pastor I feel this pinch of impatience in a pronounced way. Pastors work all week-long putting their heart, mind and souls into their teachings for the week. Every time we open the Bible to preach God’s Word we feel as though it is the most important thing that we have ever said and will ever say. Preaching and teaching the Bible is an urgent and important matter. Like the Old Testament prophets we have a tremendous burden from the Lord that needs to be preached, heard, received and applied.

But here is the tension: we go to bed on Sunday night and wake up Monday morning and nothing has changed. We meet with the same people during the week and they seem like the same people. We see them again on the next Lord’s Day and they still seem the same. We want to microwave sanctification but we can’t. It takes time, oftentimes a lifetime.

This is why one of the most important decisions that the preacher will make each week will come on Sunday night before he goes to sleep. He has to be able to go to close his eyes patiently trusting that God will work. In the parable of the soils we see the helpful reminder that the sower goes to sleep each day and then eventually he sees growth.

And he said, “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground. He sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how.” (Mark 4:26–27, ESV)

The pastor has to come to grips with the fact that he did his job to preach the Word of God and that God will, in his time, do his job to cause the seed to grow.

This is so hard for us in a microwave society. We want to go to sleep counting the conversions and thinking about the lives so evidently transformed by the text preached in the morning. But if we are honest this would often put the spotlight on us rather than God. In the case of patiently closing our eyes with trust in God, we find ourselves looking to him for the growth. And if we do this then we will look to him for the praise as well.

As I try to learn and relearn this lesson I have found that the most important time of my week is not simply Sunday morning before I preach but Sunday night after I preach. I must trust God in both and not look to myself, trusting in the arm of flesh. Week after week passes and slowly the sprouts come. First we see the blade, then the ear, then the blade in the ear (Mk. 4.28). We labor then we sleep; and God works. And we praise him for it.


Image via Shutterstock

View Comments

How Do You Prioritize Book Purchases on a Limited Budget?

Oct 29, 2015 | Erik Raymond


This is a question that I get regularly. It is so encouraging that people are hungry to read and to do so in a way that does not cripple their budget. Here are my thoughts in working through it.

When I first started reading books I wanted to buy everything that came out. A lot of times this included many of the ‘controversial’ books dealing with various trends within and without evangelicalism. After a short time I realized that it was best for me to stock my shelves with what is most helpful to me both today and for the years to come. In other words, I needed something with staying power.

In this assessment I realized quickly that my commentary section was severely understocked. It would make sense that the most helpful books are going to be those that help you to understand the text. In addition to enhancing your ministry, bulking up on good commentaries will equip you to deal with the various issues that we face as evangelicals.


View Comments

Beware of the Selfie-Preacher

Oct 27, 2015 | Erik Raymond

selfie snapper

In 2013 selfie was the Oxford word of the year. This indicates an ongoing and widespread cultural fascination with taking pictures of ourselves and sharing them with the public. Of course there is nothing inherently wrong with the practice. For centuries we have captured moments and shared them with others. It helps us to celebrate, remember, and even cherish times in our lives.

There are a couple of concerns that tend to arise in our snap-happy age. The first is the frequency. One study found that young women spend nearly an hour per day taking selfies. This would seem to be a bit of an unhealthy preoccupation with self. Another concern would be the creation of a pretend world. Selfies tend to create a reality for the one behind the camera. They are in charge and they control what others see. It creates a look, a feel, that presents us in our best light in a way that we approve of. This is simply not the real world. In the real world we are seen at our worst and often limp along together as we grow older and less photogenic.

My concern here is not primarily with selfie snapping teenagers however. Instead, I am concerned with the selfie culture in the pulpit. The Apostle Paul exhorts believers not to be conformed to the world (Rm. 12:2). If you had a word for the bottom, the irreducible core of what is wrong with the world it would be selfishness. Pride is the birth-mother of all sin. Therefore, if a world is awash in self then it is self that we need to be sure that we are not being conformed to. And, judging by how many preachers go about their sermons the warning to not be self-consumed should ring loudly in the preacher’s ears.

I want you to beware of the “selfie-preacher”. Here are some of his “tells” that he is one of the club.

He always talks about himself.

The selfie preacher lives in the first person singular. His favorite words are “I” and “me”. Some of the selfie preachers with the most followers have perfected this craft. They are phenomonal at their selfie sermons. They tell the stories in such a way that they tug at the heart, make you like them, and even “need” them. Like an Instagram account with thousands of followers these selfie preachers share the details of themselves that make you know and love them.

He hides his defects.

When he talks about himself the selfie preacher is always the hero of the story. Rarely—if ever—does the selfie preacher show himself to be a weak, desperate, depraved sinner who needs a strong, sufficient, righteous Savior. For the selfie-preacher, the pulpit is often a way for him to craft a story, and project his life in such a way that others begin to think that he has it all together.

He appeals to the flesh.

From his keen observance of or total baptism in the world the selfie preacher knows the power of the flesh. He gives alarming amounts of consideration to his “pastor fashion” each week. The selfie preacher is cool, funny, hip, and riding whatever cultural waves get him more cred with his audience. Some of the selfie preachers dip into the gutter of cultural backwater for illustrations and word pictures. Using sophomoric, crass, and even obscene language some selfie preachers will lace their sermons with fleshly terms to keep people engaged, interested, and entertained.

He is always so clever.

Selfie’s on social media are known by their clever hashtags. But selfie preachers are known by their clever words, funny jokes, and perfect outlines. Instead of the focus being upon Christ and his Word the focus gets diverted to the selfie preacher.

In total transparency I can write this post because I find myself wrestling with these things in my own life as a preacher. I have found myself with temptations to be or at times even employing some of these selfie preacher traits. I love to craft a sentence or to make a word picture. But is this about me or the point? I’ve used many personal illustrations over the years. But, are these about making a point or painting my own reality? These are a couple of areas that gave rise to this post. As I deconstructed the tendencies I have seen that it is part of a larger trend that is ubiquitous and unhealthy in the church.

So, whether you see these in seed form or in redwood tree size, it would seem wise to address them. Because, when we read the New Testament we see preachers who, quite frankly, are not very impressive (2 Cor. 10:10). They don’t want to say anything except Christ and him crucified (1 Cor. 2:2). They seem so utterly self-forgetful. And, when they do reference themselves it is to say how much they want to honor Christ (Phil. 1:20-22). And this is where the power is! While people may be entertained by selfie preachers no one will be converted, sanctified, or properly admonished by painting ourselves into every sermon. If God is to work in these powerfully desirable ways then Christ and Christ alone must be preached! (Rom. 1:16-17; 10:13)

In light of the NT pattern and the cultural current at our feet, we should all beware of the selfie preacher and celebrate the gospel preacher! It is him that we need because he points us not to himself but to Christ; and not to a fake world but to an everlasting kingdom!

View Comments
1 2 3 4 208