Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Understanding our Jerusalem

" shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth" (Acts 1:8).
Been meaning to make this observation since the November election. Though the marriage ammendment passed by a margin of 58% to 42% in Virginia, it is interesting to note the figures for our county and city. In Albemarle County the Marriage Ammendment failed with 14,549 voting yes and 20,741 voting no. In the city of Charlottesville, it failed with 2,670 yes and 8,942 no. In the Jefferson Park voting precinct, where our church's meeting house is located, the count was 532 yes and 1,352 no.
Observations: First, our church has a wonderful opportunity to stand for gospel and Biblical truth in this Jerusalem. Second, what would these figures mean if we wanted to go with a "felt needs" approach to ministry? Would we avoid talking about the Biblical standards for marriage as one man and one woman? Would we avoid denunciation of cohabitation since "everybody's doing it" and folk would not likely come to our church if we were overt in our opposition to such?

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Prayer Request for Paul Washer and Schedule Change

Dear friends,

I have some bad news.

I got a call last night from Dr. Nathan Berry an associate with HeartCry Missionary Society telling me that Paul Washer had been admitted to the hospital in Muscle Shoals, AL with severe chest pains yesterday afternoon. They are running tests to determine what is going on. In light of this, Paul will not be able to be with us this week as planned. Please be in prayer for Paul and his family (he has two preschool age children and his wife is expecting their third child). Dr. Berry (who also happens to be a physician) was very apologetic for the cancellation. I, of course, told Nathan that Paul's health was our primary concern and that our doctrine would compel us to see this as God's perfect will. We also see the goodness of God in the fact that this took place before Paul set off to drive to Virginia today.

I talked with Brian Davis last night on the phone. We considered getting another speaker at last minute, but decided not to do that. Instead, we plan to proceed with the special Wednesday evening meal and then view a video of Paul Washer's best known sermon delivered at a Youth Evangelism Conference in 2002. It is a very powerful message that has been downloaded over 36,000 times online. We will not meet on Thursday-Saturday.

I know that some of you have prayed much for this series of meetings and that you have already invited unsaved friends to come to hear the gospel. I pray that this will not dull your zeal for evangelism!

As they used to say when I was on the mission field, sometimes life call for "flexibility to the point of liquidity"!

Again, most key, please keep Paul and his family in your prayers.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Monday, November 27, 2006

Paul Washer Coming to JPBC

Paul Washer is coming to preach at Jefferson Park this week. Paul will preach each evening at 6:00 pm, Wednesday through Sunday (November 29-December 3). He will also preach in our Sunday morning service at 10:45 am.
Paul leads Heartcry Missionary Society. His sermon "Shocking Youth Message Stuns Hearers" which he gave to 5,000 youth at a Youth Conference in Alabama 2002 has been downloaded over 36,000 times at Click here to listen (or watch, there is video of the message online now too).
Paul is a combination of prophet and evangelist.
Plan to come hear him preach at JPBC.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving!

My two year old Isaiah as a Pilgrim, at the JPBC Preschool Thanksgiving feast today. Behind him is a table full of "Indian" guests.


Pilgrim Separatists

In last Sunday’s message on Judges 7, we reflected on God’s whittling down of the army of Israel from 32,000 to a mere 300 men through whom the battle would be won. The key point is when the Lord says to Gideon: "The people who are with you are too many for Me to give the Midianites into their hands, lest Israel claim glory for itself against Me, saying, ‘My own hand has saved me’" (v. 2).

At the end I drew a parallel to the small band of Pilgrims coming to America:

This week we will celebrate Thanksgiving. Who would have thought when a group of a mere 102 passengers set sail on a cramped vessel called the Mayflower on August 22, 1620 for a perilous journey across the wild Atlantic that God would use them to establish a nation that would be a beacon of light and religious liberty. We now speak reverentially of those passengers as the Pilgrims, but their contemporaries called them "Separatists." Their fellow Englishmen ridiculed their desire to live separate from the world and the compromised Christianity of their day in the Church of England. They thought of them as religious fanatics, or as we might say today, "fundamentalists." God is pleased to do great things through slender means.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

2006 ETS Reflections Continued

ETS is the largest gathering of evangelical scholars, pastors, and students, probably in the world. There were literally hundreds of papers delivered in parallel sessions along with several larger plenary sessions.

Baptist Press has an article on ETS’ adoption of a more clearly definition of inerrancy as a test for membership in the society and an article on Wayne Grudem’s presentation in which he offers an evangelical evaluation of George Bush’s presidency and concludes it has been good. Though the general theme was "Christians in the Public Square" papers were presented on many topics.

Which did I go to?

I got there late Wednesday, so I missed all of that day’s sessions, though I went with Marcus, et al to Capital Hill Baptist Church for their Wednesday evening inductive Bible Study led by Mark Dever on I Corinthians 1:4-10. Mark led an open discussion on whether or not denominations are bad. Reminded me of our covering of the topic recently in Body Life.

Thursday morning I went to Bruce Ware’s session on the Trinity in the "Gender and Evangelicals Study Group." Ware and Grudem have been criticized by some, like Australian Anglican Kevin Giles, for their views on the Trinity as supporting the complementarian views of men and women (ontological equality and functional distinction, but not mutual submission, a la the egalitarian view of the Trinity).

I then went to a very engaging presentation by Dennis M. Swanson of the Master’s Seminary on "Charles H. Spurgeon and the Ministries of the Metropolitan Tabernacle: A Model for Evangelical Action." He noted that Spurgeon’s view of man’s sinfulness led him to see the answer to societal ills in preaching the gospel to individuals rather than attempting to change social structures.

Next I went to Dan Heimbach’s (of SEBTS) presentation on "Rethinking Natural Law." The upshot: If you want to talk to a modern pagan about why you oppose gay marriage the best answer is just to appeal to the Bible rather than try to appeal to natural law (which the postmodern pagan does not accept anyway).

Thursday afternoon I went to the session by Bill Wilder (fellow UTS NT PhD grad from the Center for Christian Study here in C-ville) on Paul’s use of Psalm 68 in Ephesians 4:8.
I also went to John Makujina’s paper in the Apologetics Study group in which he gave an excellent critique and rebuttal of John Shelby Spong’s "The Sins of Scripture."

In the late afternoon, we went to the plenary session by John Piper (the Crossway Lecture) on "William Tyndale and the Vernacular Bible." The hall was packed and Piper did not disappoint. He contrasted the Erasmian quality of much modern scholarship and church talk (playful, light, clever, flippant, a la some emerging church folk) with the "blood earnest," gospel saturated life of the martyr Tyndale.

After the Thursday banquet we went to a private meeting held by the Bethlehem Institute with about 40 men including Bethlehem interns and guests with John Piper. The discussion ranged from missions, to whether J. Edwards’ view of justification is orthodox (you should have been there when one participant said he had come not to like Edwards very much!).

Friday morning we came back in, looked at the book exhibit, and I did my paper, "A Theological Critique of Multi-Site Ministry." I had a good audience and got encouraging feedback. Mark Overstreet of Criswell College was the moderator for the session. I hope to post the paper on the JPBC website soon.

I left Friday afternoon to meet my family in Woodbridge. On Saturday, we went to former JPBC member and UVA student Sondra Smith’s wedding to Eric Williams at Mt. Olivet Baptist Church in Beaverdam, VA.

Again, I do not usually travel much but the last two weeks have been busy. Thankfully we are home for Thanksgiving this year with all Llewellyn’s clan coming up from Sanford to spend the holiday with us.


2006 ETS Meeting Reflections

Playing catch up.
I don't travel that much in the course of a year, but I've been on the road a lot lately. I went up to Washington, D.C. for the 2006 Annual Meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society (ETS) Wednesday-Friday (November 15-17) at the Washinton Hilton.
I stayed with former JPBC-er Marcus Deel at his inlaws' house in Chantilly along with two of Marcus' fine fellow SBTS MDiv students, Oren and Matthew. We drove into DC in the mornings, stayed till late in the night, and drove back to the suburbs. Lauren's parents gave us great hospitality in their lovely home! Here are a few pics, including one of Marcus, Oren, and Matthew in Chantilly; the three of them reading (one of the best thing about ETS is the huge book display with 50% discounts the norm--tough on the pocketbooks of pastors, scholars and students; you wonder how many wives get bent out of shape when the visa bill for books come!); and one of Marcus and I just after I gave my paper Friday morning.

Monday, November 13, 2006

2006 Evangelical Forum Update

The fifth annual Evangelical Forum was held on Wednesday, November 8th at the Green Run Baptist Church in Virginia Beach. For more photos from the meeting, look here. Tom Nettles and Andy Davis gave four outstanding presentations around our theme of "The Place of Doctrine in the Life of the Local Church."

Changes are in the works for next year that might include a new name for this ministry and a new meeting time for our annual gathering. More details TBA. Also hope to get the audio files online soon.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Gideon Parable

Last Sunday I began a four part series on the life of Gideon in Judges 6-8 (listen to part one here).
I gave a lot of focus to Judges 6:13 in which Gideon challenges God's goodness (why then has all this happened to us?) and God's greatness (where are all His miracles?). Gideon ends in v. 13 by charging God with having forsaken Israel (But now the Lord has forsaken us....) and having delivered them into the hands of the Midianites. Again he appears completely tone deaf to the voice of God. He is accusing God of forsaking Israel in the midst of God intervening to rescue them!!!
Consider this parable:

Imagine driving down the road one day and coming upon an accident. To your horror you recognize the mangled vehicle as being that of your beloved teenage son. Just that morning you had given him a lecture on safe driving because you had noticed his tendency toward carelessness behind the wheel.

You rush to the car and manage to unhook his safety belt and pull him out of the vehicle to safety just as gas spilling from the ruptured fuel tank busts into flames engulfing the car in flames. As you reach out to embrace your precious son, he pushes you away and sneers: "This is all your fault! Why did you ever let me out on the road? If you had been driving this would never have happened!"
The words of Gideon here have something of the tone of this ungrateful son.

Chantry on Forgiveness

Another memorable Scripture commentary from Walter Chantry in the Banner of Truth (July 2004 issue) is the one in which he examines the strained relationship between David and Saul in 1 Samuel 26. Chantry rejects a cheap, unbiblical view of forgiveness:

In Luke 17:3-4 Jesus taught, ‘If your brother sins against you, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day returns to you saying, "I repent", you shall forgive him’.

Readiness to forgive those who say, ‘I repent’ is a duty. To put the matter behind one’s back and to see no further judicial recourse for an injury from that moment is required to those who forgive. However, the repair of trust when broken is not so easily accomplished. Nor is it required that anyone expose himself to further injury after he has been seriously and repeatedly hurt by the hands of one who has shown himself ‘unstable’.

Churches and Christian counselors go too far when they insist that forgiveness requires returning to former relationships as though nothing has broken them. Forgiveness does not require the injured to risk more of the same mistreatment in friendship, marriage or business. In these days we hear of too many unwise pressures which are brought upon injured parties in the name of forgiveness. There may come a time when men must go separate ways: ‘David went on his way, and Saul returned to his place’ (p. 32).

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Election Day Report from Red Hill

I had the 6 am to 9 am slot working my voting precinct at Red Hill School in Albemarle County this morning for the marriage amendment. The older children joined me for a living civics lesson. The photo was taken when Llewellyn came to vote and we were watching Isaiah and Madeline (Marshall, whom we are keeping till her mom and Dad, Heidi and Chris, come home today from the hospital after the delivery of her brother Benjamin).
Working the precinct was an eye opener. Observations: I did not realize what a strong Democratic presence there is in my precinct. My family was there from 6-9 am but after us we had no replacements to pass out flyers for the amendment. We left our material at the Republican table. A few people gave us a positive response; most seemed indifferent, but a few were snippy and even rude. When I left to drive out I noticed that someone had taken down my sign in front of the school entrance and thrown it on the ground (see the photo after I put it back up). A couple of women were there early working agressively to hand out flyers urging rejection of the amendment, and they were joined by a young woman with a dog (that was an interesting contrast--a single woman with a dog against the marriage amendment and Dad with three children for it) and a man who told me he was a counselor and was sure that if the amendment passed it would lead to an increase in domestic violence (I politely disagreed). Celebrity sighting: Got to see Mary Chapin Carptenter show up to vote. When the Republican poll worker offered her male companion a sample ballot he responded: "No thanks! I'm against racism!" Also got to see several of my friends and neighbors including Roy Cress from church who bought us breakfast at the Trading Post store around the corner from the school.
The last Mason-Dixon poll before the election showed support for the marriage amendment slipping to only 49% approval. We'll see what happens.

When Leaders Fail: Worship God!

News broke last week about the moral failing and deception of Ted Haggard, Pastor of the New Life Church in Colorado and leader of the National Association of Evangelicals. The disclosure of the scandal was suspiciously timed for the weekend before election Tuesday, just as Colorado considers a marriage amendment similar to the one on the ballot in Virginia.

Such a scandal is, of course, disappointing in many ways. For some it will only reinforce the notion that Christians are just a bunch of hypocrites. In worship last Sunday evening, I made the observation that the media reaction to such scandals might actually have something positive to say about the way non-believers view the evangelical church. Namely, they expect something different from us and from our leaders. They expect a higher standard of moral and ethical behavior. It is news, not business as usual, when Christian leaders fall into gross error.

Haggard has been held accountable by his church’s governing board. Last Saturday he was dismissed from his position as pastor. A letter of repentance was read to his church on Sunday morning. His church leaders will seek to minister to him even in his failings.

What do we learn from this story? First, all leaders are human and are sinners. Parents will fall into sin in leading the family. Pastors, Elders, and Deacons will fall into sin in leading churches. Civil authorities will fall into sin in leading governments. This does not excuse sin, however, when it occurs in any of those situations. Leaders in every sphere of influence must know that they are vulnerable to temptation and they must also be held to account.

Second, as I suppose the folk at New Life are discovering, we must be clear that we do not come to church (or not come to church, for that matter) for the personality of any man. Please do not come to Jefferson Park Baptist Church for the personality of Jeff Riddle or any other sinful man. If we place our hope and trust in men, we will be disappointed every time.

In the book of Revelation, the apostle John records his encounter with a brilliant angel. As John falls at his feet to worship this excellent creature, God’s messenger replies: "See that you do not do that! I am your fellow servant and of your brethren who have the testimony of Jesus. Worship God!" (Rev 19:10; cf. also 22:9).

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Chantry on Leadership

I enjoy reading Walter Chantry's Scripture notes at the end of the Banner of Truth monthly magazine. In the October 2006 issue he offers some unconventional insights on pastoral leadership and church discipline in his notes on King David, drawn from 1 Kings 1-2:
Those who despise all confrontation and conflict are not suited to rule. Not everyone can be considered welcomed to live in a nation or in the membership of a church. Although the church may not wield the sword, there are effective spiritual disciplines available to be exercised. No organization which has the goal of doing good can succeed if it allows those who would sabatoge its goals to snap at the heels of the leadership with impunity (p. 32).


Holiday Notions

On a lighter note, thanks to Steve Hills for sharing this link to the "Reformation Polka" as a suggestion for next year's Reformation Day celebration:

And for those doing some early Christmas shopping, this one to the Ergun Caner talking doll: