Monday, October 30, 2006

Southern Baptists from Vermont(!) and Marriage in Virginia

Yesterday we had a couple from Vermont visit us in Sunday School and worship at JPBC who are considering relocating to our area. They come from what sounds like a really dynamic dual SBC-BGC church, Christ Memorial Baptist Church, with a Reformed, Baptistic, and evangelical identity. Check out especially the New England Theological Seminary ministry started by this church and its church planting efforts (listen to this pitch: NETS is looking for a few good men. Do you have what it takes to plant a church in dry New England soil?).

Couple of thoughts: First, these folk found us the way most of our visitors and new attendees seem to these days—through our website.

Second, as the conversation heats up concerning the upcoming vote on the marriage amendment in Virginia, one of the arguments made by those in opposition is that it will drive away homosexuals and their supporters from taking up residence in Virginia. This is a weak argument on many levels, not the least of which is the fact that the opposite might also be true. Conservative folk, like these Southern Baptists from Vermont (of all places!), might be attracted to a place like Virginia, precisely because it is more conservative and does not allow gay marriage.

The polling data on the marriage amendment is alarming. The recent Mason-Dixon poll showed only 52% in Virginia in favor of the amendment. Hardly a landslide. For pro-amendment info look here. See the recent Baptist Press article: "Homosexual activists eye victory in the South." Even the South is drifting away from its Christian influenced social conservatism. The Bible belt has been loosed a notch or two. The marriage amendment in Virginia is, no doubt, having trouble picking up steam, because it threatens not only the legality of the marriage of homosexuals but also, indirectly, heterosexual cohabitation. Some advocates seem apologetic on this front, but from a Christian perspective, should we not also be outraged by cohabitation as an end run around marriage?
OK, so let's assume the marriage amendment passes (even narrowly) this year. Here is the question. What will the vote say about our culture in 2006? What would the percentage of approval have been 100 years ago in Virginia? Or even 10 years ago? So, it passes this year. What will happen ten more years from now after even more relentless exposure to homosexual advocacy in the general population through media, education, etc.? What kind of culture will my children and my children's children be living in? The pressures on them to conform will be immense. How vital it is that we instill a Biblical worldview in them now.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

All the fat is the Lord's (Leviticus 3:16)!

In our Leviticus series last Sunday evening, we were pondering the description of the "peace offering" in Leviticus 3. In making the sacrifice of an animal from the herd or flock, the Israelites were instructed to burn on the altar the fat, the kidneys, and the liver of the victim animals. These were likely considered the choice parts of the animal by the ancient Israelites.

The spiritual message appears to be that Israel was expected to offer up the choice parts of their lives to God and to keep nothing of these back for themselves. This was the only way they could have peace with God.

Do we offer up to God the choice parts of our lives? Do we give to him the best of our mind, heart, and strength? Does the Lord get the choice portions of our time, our effort, our money, our passions, and our energy? Or do we give him the leftovers, the parts we do not really want or need?

I thought of Bill Wallace, a young man from Tennessee who went to medical school back in the early 1930s and trained to become a surgeon (listen to the audio biography). Rather than pursue a profitable medical career at home, however, Wallace answered a call to become a missionary to China in 1935. He bravely led a little Chinese mission hospital in Wuchow through the chaos of World War II, and he remained serving in China after the war even as communism enveloped the country. Arrested on trumped up charges and suffering merciless torture, Wallace died in a dank prison cell on February 10, 1951. He was only 43 years old. A few of his Chinese Christian friends later erected a makeshift marker over the simple grave where his body had been buried without ceremony. The marker read: "For me to live is Christ."

Can it be said of our lives, as one might say of Wallace’s, that "all the fat is the Lord’s"?

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Monday, October 23, 2006

Oh sinner! Does the food on your plate want to choke you?

One of the best things I have read of late is Norman Well’s abridgement and modernization of Joseph Alleine’s Wake Up & Live (Evangelical Press, 1998). Banner of Truth has also published the 1672 original under the titles, "An Alarm to the Unconverted" and "A Sure Guide to Heaven." After reading the book I ordered 10 copies to use in evangelism.

Last evening in preaching on the "peace offering" in Leviticus 3, I read the section titled "The whole world is against you," in which Alleine presses the unconverted man to understand his enmity against God using Romans 8:22:

It is a solemn thought to think that you are a burden to creation. If inanimate creatures could speak, the food on your plate would cry out to God, ‘Lord, must I nourish this person and give him strength to dishonor you? If you would only give me permission I would choke him!’ The very air that you breathe would say, ‘Lord, must I give this woman breath so that she can blaspheme your name, insult your people, and engage in corrupt speech? Just give the word and I will make sure she never breathes again.’ Even your regular means of transport would complain, ‘Lord, must I help him on his way to commit yet more sins against you?’ If you do not belong to Jesus Christ, the earth groans under you and hell groans for you until death shall satisfy both. While the Lord remains against you, you can be sure that all his creatures—in heaven and on earth—are against you. You cannot be at peace with what God has made if you have not found peace with God himself (p. 63).

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Report from Flat Creek

Last Sunday, I had the honor of preaching at Flat Creek Baptist Church in Lynchburg, Va on the occassion of their 175th anniversary as a church. It was good to have fellowship with Pastor Ernie Carey and with the family of Jackie Rosser, a UVA student who attends JPBC, who grew up at Flat Creek. I preached from Acts 2:42 on "Four Marks of a True Church." Here's a picture my daughter Hannah took of me by the church sign and also one of the church building.

Daily Progress Article Features JPBC's Brian Davis

When I opened my Daily Progress this morning, I saw a mini-photo of Brian Davis on the front page with a note leading to a page two article about a seminar on safe internet use at UVA in which Brian was speaking. Here's the link to the article online, but it does not include the picture. In addition to being an information technology security and policy specialist at UVA, Brian is also a faithful deacon at JPBC and our church's webmaster.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Calvin on Christ-less Islam

For even if many men once boasted that they worshipped the Supreme Majesty, the Maker of heaven and earth, yet because they had no Mediator it was not possible for them truly to taste God’s mercy, and thus be persuaded that he was their Father. Accordingly, because they did not hold Christ as their Head, they possessed only a fleeting knowledge of God. From this it also came about that they at last lapsed into crass and foul superstitions and betrayed their own ignorance. So today the Turks, although they proclaim at the top of their lungs that the Creator of heaven and earth is God, still, while repudiating Christ, substitute an idol in place of the true God.

John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion (Book II, Chapter VI).

Monday, October 09, 2006

Parziale blocks punt

UVA fell to East Carolina 31-21 down in Greenville, NC in football last Saturday, but JPBC's Ben Parziale did block a punt at the start of the third quarter that led to a touchdown. See the article on Ben from Sunday's Daily Progress.

October 2006 Evangelical Forum Newsletter

The online version of the October 2006 EFN is online. You can read it here. Thanks to Brian Davis! The hard copy goes out in the snail mail this week. Thanks to Bonnie Beach!

Cavinism Debate Cancelled

The much anticipated Calvinism Debate set for October 16 has been cancelled over conflict between the participants over last minute changes in the format and recording of the event. See Tom Ascol's announcement.
That's really disappointing since we were planning to go, but perhaps it is all for the best.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Scary Costumes

On a lighter note, Steve Hills alerted me to these "Scary Halloween Costumes for Christians." I especially like the "Grumpy Deacon" and the Message Bible toting "Megachurch Youth Pastor."

Smiles! JTR

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

The Reality of Evil

As the horrific details of the Amish school shooting unfold, we are reminded again of the depravity of the human condition, apart from the grace of God. What could possibly lead a man to do what this man did? It is truly mind and spirit numbing to consider the evil of which men are capable.

There are some who deny the evil of the human heart. They explain all despicable human behavior as the result of environment, nurture, and culture. But even those raised in the best of surroundings are capable of the most awful crimes. As someone said, "Even the best of men are men at best."

Back in the early 1900s with the rush of "evolutionary’ philosophy, many Europeans and North Americans envisioned a glowing future for humanity. These thought that society would evolve and progress to higher and higher levels. Disease, poverty, war, and crime would all be eliminated in the brave new world of the future. After two world wars, the rise of fascism and communism, and now the rise of Islamic terrorism, few are as naively optimistic about the future of humanity. In a world like ours, we believers have hold of a powerful truth that many are eager to hear. Our only hope is in the Lord alone.

For those with ears to hear, Dr. Kostenberger reminded us of this in worship on Sunday when he preached from Ephesians 6. We are engaged in a great spiritual battle of cosmic proportions. Evil is a reality. The evil one seduces unstable men into the delirium of perpetrating the unspeakable. On a more subtle level he is always at work driving wedges between husbands and wives, parents and children, brothers and sisters, neighbor and neighbor, friend and friend. So then, let us put on the whole armor of God so that we may make our stand against the wiles of the devil (Eph 6:10).

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Monday, October 02, 2006

Seven Reflections on Music in Worship

I had someone ask for the text from the Sunday evening message I did a few weeks ago offering seven reflections on music in worship. Here are my notes:
Reflections on Music in Worship
JPBC September 17, 2006, evening sermon
Jeff Riddle

Luther said that when Satan fell from heaven he landed in the choir loft!

In modern times, there has been much division over music in worship—the so-called "worship wars."

In some sense, this is nothing new. J. B. Jeter left his pastorate of the FBC-Richmond in the 19th century after a controversy over whether or not to add an organ—which he opposed. When he moved to his new church in St. Louis, he found that they had installed an organ!

Seven reflections:

1. Music is a Biblical part of worship.

In the OT, we have the Psalms and the Levitical choirs.

In the NT, the key passages are Ephesians 5:18-19 and Colossians 3:16-17, both of which speak of singing "psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs."

We might add the parting hymn sung by our Lord and his disciples after the Last Supper (Mark 14:26); the worship instructions in 1 Corinthians 14:26 mentioning a worshipper bringing a "psalm"; the possible hymn fragments in the NT (like the Christ hymn in Phil 2:5-11); and the hymns of the book of Revelation.

We should also, however, note the lack of detail.

Note, in particular, in the NT that no one is given charge of leading music in worship. The overseer is to be "apt to teach" (1 Tim 3) but not "apt to sing."

2. As with all worship elements, music is to give glory to God (the vertical aspect) and to edify the saints (the horizontal aspect).

Again, in 1 Corinthians 14, Paul notes that all things are to be done "for edification" (v. 26). "For God is not the author of confusion but of peace" (v. 33a).

3. Corporate worship should not focus on performance or individuals.

The emphasis, thus, should be on congregational singing (see Mark Dever’s The Deliberate Church, pp. 116-17).

4. Exclusive Psalmnody?

Some have argued that only the exclusive singing of Psalms fulfills the regulative principle for worship.

See Iain Murray’s little booklet, The Psalter—The Only Hymnal, in response.

-Not all the psalms are meant as corporate songs. Some are individual laments.
-The Psalms only speak indirectly and prophetically of Jesus Christ.
-The NT speaks of "psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs." Is this not more than OT Psalms?

5. Instrumental accompaniment?

Some have likewise objected to instrumental accompaniment.

There is no direct reference to instruments in worship, except maybe Revelation (see 5:8 where each elder has a harp).

There is no doubt that instruments were used in OT worship (see Psalm 150).

Bottom line: Instruments are permissible but must not detract from God’s glory or the saints’ edification.

6. We should take care in the lyrics we sing.

We learn much of our theology in singing.

We should avoid over-use of the first person, preferring lyrics that are God-centered and Scripture based. The songs we sing should lead us to worship God by contemplating who God is (the vertical) or teach us great doctrines (the horizontal; cf. how "Holy, Holy, Holy" teaches the doctrine of the Trinity).

7. We should beware of worldly musical styles.

This is the danger of rock-pop music. We cannot separate the medium from the message.
Rock is about sex, drugs, and rock-n-roll (the modern version of wine, women, and song). It conveys an anti-authoritarian spirit to people in our age. So, how can we urge men to submit to God when we have music that conveys this unspoken counter-message, even if the lyrics are "Christian"?

The church’s music must be "sacred" and distinct.

When a worldling comes into our worship, he should note our distinction from the world’s ways even in our music.

See Dan Lucarini’s Why I Left Contemporary Christian Music. Music is not amoral.
What about those who object that Luther and Wesley used contemporary tunes (beer hall songs)? John Makujina in Measuring the Music has uncovered this as a contemporary evangelical fiction (see Lucarini, pp. 107-08).

John 2:15: "Do not love the world or the things in the world."