Saturday, June 30, 2007

Off to Hungary!

I leave tomorrow (July 1) for Bicske, Hungary and won't be back in town till July 9th. I probably won't post anymore here till the week I get home.

Peace, Jeff Riddle

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Exposition of Jude: Part 5 of 25

Note: This is an occasional, verse-by-verse commentary on the book of Jude.

Jude 1:5 But I want to remind you, though you once knew this, that the Lord, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe.

Having urged the believers to contend earnestly for right doctrine (v. 3) and having condemned false teachers (v. 4), Jude lays down a solemn warning. He issues this warning by calling to mind God’s past activities recorded in the holy history of the Old Testament. Namely, he asks his readers to consider God’s actions toward Israel during the time of the Exodus from bondage in Egypt.

What did God do to Israel during the Exodus? First, he saved the whole nation, a spiritual mixed multitude. He did so in spectacular fashion. He provided a savior, Moses. He sent terrible plagues to show his power that culminated with the angel of death striking down the first born. He parted the waters of the Red Sea.

Despite all this, some did not believe in God’s power to protect his people. They murmured and complained against the leadership of Moses (Exodus 16:7-8). They despised the manna God provided and stated their preference for the spicy foods of Egypt (Numbers 11:5). The culmination of their discontent came in an outright rebellion against Moses led by Korah (recorded in Numbers 16). The Lord caused the ground to open up, and it swallowed whole the households of Korah and his rebels, and "they perished from among the assembly" (Numbers 16:33).

I once heard a recording of an old minister who preached a message called, "The God of the Bible kills people." That same title might be given to Jude 1:5. The God of the Bible saves, but He also destroys. We will not appreciate His mercy till we reckon with His wrath. We will not know His grace, till we learn of his justice.

This verse gives us a gracious warning. Do not think that just because you are in a good church that you are safe from God’s wrath. You will not be saved by the obedience of others. He destroys those who do not believe. This should make us shudder, fear, and, in the end, believe.

Practical application:
  • How does God use warning passages like this to provoke our obedience? Why will meditating on this verse make you want to obey and love God more?

  • What does Jude’s application of the history of Israel in the Exodus to the church say about the ongoing relevance of the Old Testament for Christians? About the church’s spiritual identification with Israel?

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Blue Jays Win Cove Creek Championship!

My son Sam's Rookie League (coach-pitch) team won the tournament championship this afternoon at the Cove Creek Park. The Blue Jays (mostly kids from the Red Hill/North Garden community) ended the season with a record of 15 wins, o losses, and 1 tie (the tie came in the very first game of the season). They defeated the Marlins 9-7 in the tournament championship and received their trophies in the closing ceremonies from Cove Creek Commissioner John Grisham (a novelist in the off-season). Tom Carter did a great job as head Coach. Sam played all six innings at pitcher in the championship game and hit lead off in the line-up (Can you tell I'm a proud Dad?).

2007 VBS at JPBC: Galilee by the Sea

Our JPBC 2007 Vacation Bible School is over! It was an amazing week. Stephanie Glass and Melia Hatfield did a great job as the Directors/Organizers. We used the Group material "Galilee by the Sea" which focused on the ministry of Jesus (calling disciples, healing the sick, calming the storm, feeding 5,000). Our workers (some of whom are pictured above) were dressed in Biblical costumes as we recreated a Jewish village in Galilee. In addition to children learning, one of the great side benefits of VBS is the shared ministry experiences of the workers and teachers.


Wednesday, June 13, 2007

SBC Meeting and Upcoming Conference on Calvinism at Ridgecrest

The 2007 Southern Baptist Convention meeting is wrapping up today in San Antonio. I attended the last two years (in Nashville and Greensboro), but I'm skipping out this year.

I watched a little of the broadcast online yesterday. Among interesting issues: Calls for unity by SBC leader Morris Chapman; Frank Page's re-election as President of SBC and his convention sermon from Psalm 51 on the need for repentance and humility by SBs; ongoing tensions over doctrinal guidelines with regard to charismatic gifts; definition of the "Cooperative Program" (What's behind this?); Tom Ascol's resolution on integrity in membership not making it out of the resolution committee for the second straight year.

Vodie Baucham preached at the Founders' Breakfast yesterday (6/12) and Founders' Director Tom Ascol announced a major upcoming conference at Ridgecrest (SBC retreat center in Western NC) co-sponsored with Southeastern Seminary that will be held November 26-28 with the theme, "Building Bridges: Southern Baptists and Calvinism."


Baxter on Family Ministry

I am reading the Puritan spiritual classic The Reformed Pastor by Richard Baxter (1615-91) with Ben Parziale this summer. Baxter encourages the Pastor to be diligent in taking heed to the flock. His comments on family ministry are fitting for reflection as we approach Father’s Day:

We must have a special eye upon families, to see that they are well ordered, and the duties of each relation performed. The life of religion, and the welfare and glory of both the Church and the State, depend much on family government and duty. If we suffer the neglect of this, we shall undo all. What are we like to do ourselves to the reforming of the congregation, if all the work be cast on us alone; and masters of families neglect that necessary duty of their own, by which they are bound to help us? If any good be begun by the ministry in any soul, a careless, worldly, family is likely to stifle it, or very much hinder it; whereas, if you could but get the rulers of families to do their duty, to take up the good work where you left it, and help it on, what abundance of good might be done! I beseech you, therefore, if you desire the reformation and welfare of your people, do all you can to promote family religion….

Baxter then tells the Pastor to do five things:

1. "Get information how each family is ordered…."
2. "Go occasionally among them … and ask the master of the family whether he prays with them, and reads the Scripture, and what he doth? Labor to convince them of the neglect of this…."
3. "If you find any unable to pray … persuade them to study their own wants, and to get their hearts affected with them, and, in the meanwhile, advise them to use a form of prayer, rather than not pray at all."
4. "See that in every family there are some useful and moving books, besides the Bible…. And engage them to read them at night, when they have leisure, and especially on the Lord’s Day."
5. "Direct them how to spend the Lord’s Day; how to despatch their worldly business, as to prevent encumbrances and distractions; and when they have been at church, how to spend time with their families…."

He concludes:

Neglect not, I beseech you, this important part of your work. Get masters of families to do their duty, and they will not only spare you a great deal of labor, but will much further the success of your labours…. You are not likely to see any general reformation, till you procure family reformation. Some little religion there may be, here and there; but while it is confined to single persons, and is not promoted in families, it will not prosper, nor promise much further increase.

Are you the master of a household? Are you doing your duty in leading your family in spiritual things?

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

2007 HEAV Reflections

Been meaning to blog this. Llewellyn and I went to the annual HEAV meeting last Thursday-Saturday in Richmond. This year Hannah (13) also went with us, while Ben and Vanessa kept our other kids, Lottie the dog, the two hound puppies we were keeping for a friend, and the chickens at home.

The keynote speakers this year were Doug Philips of Vision Forum and Ken Ham of Answers in Genesis.

In the Friday morning keynote, Philips spoke on "Providence and Perseverance: A Homeschooler’s Vision for America’s 400th Birthday Party." Philip’s is leading a Christian celebration of the founding of Jamestown this weekend. Philips argued that Jamestown gave the US:

1. America’s Great Commission Birth Certificate;
2. The Bible;
3. Christian Worship;
4. Gospel conversions;
5. Origins of republican, representative government;
6. Bible based common-law.

He noted, "Those who control the history, define the culture."

I also attended Friday sessions with Bill Potter (Vision Forum’s resident historian) on "The Great Awakening in Virginia." We went to lunch with Melia Hatfield from JPBC. Hannah and I also went together to Doug Philips’ afternoon session on "The True Legacy of Pocahontas and John Rolfe." Philips noted the current attempts to demythologize the Pocahontas story.

There was also time Friday for perusing the exhibition area and the used curriculum and book sale.

Saturday morning’s keynote was Ken Ham on "Genesis of a Godly Legacy: Raising Godly Children." Ham spoke of how his evangelical father influenced him to pursue apologetics. We went to lunch with our friend Renee Shockley from our previous church, Beulah, in Warsaw. Hannah and I went later to his session on "Why Won’t They Listen? How to Reach Today’s Culture." Ham noted that most folk in America today (including in evangelical churches) are "Greeks" (pagan in thought) rather than "Jews" (steeped in Bible tradition). He criticized the evangelical church for over-emphasis on music praise and worship and not giving enough time to extensive Biblical teaching. Ham is a gifted populizer and speaker.

It is always encouraging to get around thousands of homeschooling families. It is a diverse lot. We bought books for the next year of schooling. It took much restraint not to buy more. I did pick up two books: Gary Demar’s Last Days Madness (been meaning to bone up on preterist eschatology) and a copy of the 1599 Geneva Bible.


Mary now appearing in Nelson County, Virginia

Last Sunday’s (June 10) Daily Progress featured a front page article titled "Divine Vision: Sanctuary draws faithful to apparition of Mary: Monk shares his vision of Blessed Mother."

The article begins:

According to Charles Cannon, spiritual director of the Synchronicity Foundation in Nelson County, an apparition has been making itself known to visitors on a daily basis since last August. He refers to the apparition as the Blessed Mother and says she is more than the Blessed Virgin Mary, mother of Jesus.

"She refers to herself as the Divine Feminine, the Divine Mother, the Blessed Mother, not just Mother Mary," Cannon said recently before going to the nearby site where the visitations are said to be occurring.
"She is the divine consciousness - the essence of all those forms. What is amazing here is that so many people are seeing her, hearing her, smelling the fragrance [roses and gardenias].

"Her basic message, which she says every time she appears is, 'I appear that you might know the truth of who you are and what life is.' Then she goes on to say, 'Life is divine, you are alive, you are divine, all and everything is divine.'

"So the message is one of awakening to that holistic truth that God is not something that is separate from you, but is rather part and parcel of you and lives within the shrine of your own heart, and that's the greatest temple. It's a beautiful message, and it's amazing how many people resonate with that message."
Cannon is a self-proclaimed mystic and founder of Synchronicity Foundation. Oddly enough, he is not Roman Catholic (though his 89 year old mother, one of the 40 member "congregation" that took part in the new age seance, is), nor is his Mary that of traditional Catholic Marian piety (misguided as that is). His is a New Age Mary whose shocking message is essentially the same old pantheistic message of "all is one," "you are god(dess)," etc. Nothing particularly original in this.

Cannon claims that this "Mary" began appearing to him when he was three years old (he’s now 62). He studied Zen Buddhism and later spent 12 years studying with an Indian guru. Mary apparently told him that she would begin making "public manifestations" once Canon turned sixty.

The Synchronicity site has a link to its "The Blessed Mother Apparition." site. "Master" Canon offers this text of the first "message" he received on August 21, 2006:

"I am the Divine Feminine, God as Mother, Universal Creatrix,of all that is and is not.
I come again that you might know the truth of who you are and what life is.
God is life, you are God. All is God.
I am the One in the Many, I have manifested as the Divine Feminine forms of all cultures and religions. Yet, I remain unto myself in eternal divinity.
I come with a simple message: It's time to awaken. It's time to rise to the level of the God that you are. the God that is all and everything."


Wow! How do you begin to respond to this sort of thing? It is another reminder of where men go with "spirituality" apart from the revealed truth of Scripture. As Paul said of our sin-spoiled "spirituality" in Romans 3:11: "There is none who understands; there is none who seeks after God." Apart from God’s saving grace, we would be sitting around in a garden trying to convince ourselves that we were having some faux mystical experience of a goddess of our own creation. The quote attributed to G. K. Chesterton again comes to mind: "When people stop believing in God, they don’t believe in nothing—they believe in anything."


Thursday, June 07, 2007

Are most evangelicals in "same-sex" marriages?

Are most evangelicals in what are essentially same-sex marriages? This is the question Russell Moore of SBTS asked in a recent 9 Marks Ministry roundtable discussion (with Randy Stinson [of CBMW], C. J. Mahaney, and Mark Dever) on evangelical feminism.
Though many conservative evangelicals would affirm a "complementarian" view of the roles of men and women, is there any real difference in the roles and functions of the husband and wife, even in most Christian marriages? It's a great question.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Exposition of Jude: Part 4 of 25

Note: This is an occasional verse-by-verse commentary on the book of Jude. Past commentaries are archived below under the tag "Jude Exposition."

Jude 1:4 For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ.

In v. 3 we noted that the purpose of this letter is to defend the faith by exhorting the believers "to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints."

In v. 4, Jude warns against particular false teachers. These "certain men have crept in unnoticed." This implies that their entry into the church was by deception. Jesus warned against "false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves" (Matthew 7:15). Not every person who claims the name "Christian" or every group that claims the name "church" is one in reality. We must be discerning.

We should note that Jude says these ungodly men "long ago were marked out [from the Greek verb prographo, literally: "written down ahead of time"] for this condemnation." Some have seen in this verse evidence for the doctrine of reprobation. At the least, this verse tells us that God has exhaustive knowledge of the schemes of those who oppose the Gospel and that, in the end, their resistance will fail, and they will stand condemned.

What do these men teach falsely? Jude accuses them of two heresies:

First, they "turn the grace of God into lewdness." This implies that these men were antinomian (lawless) and libertines. They stressed the grace of God but omitted the discipline of God.

Second, they denied "the only Lord God [the Greek word is from despotes; literally: "Sovereign Master," the root of the English word "despot"] and our Lord Jesus Christ." What were they denying? It appears that they were denying the sovereignty of God and the status of Jesus as Lord (God) and Christ (Messiah). Jude is defending the orthodox doctrine of the Incarnation, the Word made flesh in Jesus (cf. I John 4:1-3).

In the spirit of Jude, let us resist false teachers who would justify ungodly living in the name of an unbiblical construal of grace. Let us also hold fast to the confession of Jesus as Lord and Christ.

Practical application:

1. Given the certainty of the ultimate condemnation of false teachers, what confidence should believers have as they contend for true doctrine?

2. Are you ever tempted to "turn the grace of God into lewdness"? Do you assume you can continue in sin without consequence, because God will forgive you anyway? How does Jude 1:4 challenge that notion?

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Conrad Mbewe: The Spurgeon of Africa

Conrad Mbewe preached at the recent True Church Conference in Alabama. I have been listening to some of his sermons online from a church leadership conference in Singapore (look here). This former engineer was called to become the Pastor of Kabwata Baptist Church in Zambia. A 2003 profile article in World (later reprinted in Banner of Truth), describes his rough start in pastoral ministry with which most Reformed minded Pastors can relate:

The growth proved to be the pastor's hardest test. Twenty members left over changes he instituted. When he arrived at Kabwata, he found a team of deacons and one elder heading the church. Within two years he created an eldership and divided the duties, which left the deacons out of some decision making. He also introduced Reformed theology.

Church members accused him of singling them out in sermons and said he was unfit to be a pastor. Dapson Mwendafilumba, a member who disagreed with Mr. Mbewe, argued in the pastor's book-lined study that Mr. Mbewe wasn't practising what he preached. "He was not being more of a caring pastor in terms of visiting when he left the pulpit," he said. "I called him an actor. I said, 'Look here, you don't seem to marry the two."' Mr. Mbewe described the period as the "worst in his ministerial life."

He used to joke, "If I coughed, people would say 'He's coughing too much,' or if I didn't cough they'd say, 'Why isn't he coughing? Isn't he human?"'

So five years into his pastorate; the congregation had to vote on whether it wanted him to stay or go. In the end, 92 percent of the congregation voted for Mr. Mbewe to stay. Mr. Mwendafilumba, who joined another church, said they are on good terms now. He maintains that Mr. Mbewe could have gone slower on the reforms. Mr. Mbewe agrees. "He is very headstrong and likes to lead, likes to push," said Mr. Bota. "He's rarely in a position where there's another guy that's better than him. He tends to get what he wants done, done."
1. Church reform is arduous spiritual work no matter what the cultural context.
2. God is at work in the world today raising up faithful churches to reclaim Biblical theology.


Brister's Chronological Survey of Calvinism in SBC

Travis Hilton tipped me off to a May 28 post by Timmy Brister on his "Provocations and Pantings" blog in which he presents a "Chronological Survey of the Calvinism/Arminianism Controversy in the SBC." Lots of good links and background for modern state of Calvinism among Baptists. Brister also lists my review of Frank Page's Trouble with TULIP in the chronology (June 5, 2006).