Saturday, September 29, 2007

"Celebrate the Glory"

One more thing.

While at the UCH Network meeting last Thursday, I also met Pastor Mark Jantomaso of River Rock Church in Forest, VA. He also has a ministry called "Simply Devoted" which is having an event called "Celebrate the Glory" at the Sedalia Center (near Lynchburg) on Saturday, October 20, 2007. The conference is free if you pre-register and will focus on family worship. Check out details about the schedule and speakers.


Friday, September 28, 2007

UCH Virginia Church Leader Network report

Yes, I am alive.
This has been a week of meetings.
Tuesday we had the Central Virginia SBCV Pastors' meeting at JPBC.
On Thursday I rode down with a friend from C-ville to the first quarterly meeting of Uniting Church and Home Virginia Church Leader Network, held at Sycamore Presbyterian (PCA) in Midlothian, VA. The meeting was hosted by Eric Wallace, author of Uniting Church and Home (a book I highly recommend).
Eric preached a powerful message at the gathering from 1 Corinthians 3:10-15 with these three points on "uniting church and home":
1. Christ is the message.
2. Christ is the method.
3. Christ is magnified.
Pastor John Neal of Covenant Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Midlothian also urged the leaders present to "hold those accountable responsible." In their church they have mandatory "head of household" monthly meetings with their church's men to encourage and equip them in spiritual leadership in the home.
It was a good time of conversation and fellowship with brothers from Baptist, Presbyterian, and Brethren churches with encouragement to equip fathers to lead families in ministry and growth in churches.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

60 Seconds in the Word

JPBC started a new ministry this week called "60 Seconds in the Word." We are broadcasting one minute devotional spots on local talk radio AM 1260 in Charlottesville. I have uploaded to our sermonaudio site the seven current spots that are playing on a rotating basis there. The original studio recording was at 128 kbps and I had to slow it down to 16 kbps to fit the sermonaudio requirements, so the sound is not as crisp as it is on the radio.
For the whole series go here.
The individual spots:

Tuesday, September 18, 2007


I had supper last night (Amigo's, of course) with Kyle and Danny A., twin brothers who are students at UVA and attend JPBC. Our conversation reminded me of why I am so optimistic concering the next generation of young Christians. It is my sense that God is raising up a choice generation of serious believers, a much more serious, passionate, and committed generation than my own. Christian nominalism is on the decline. This means we have fewer people who come to church just because it is socially acceptable to do so. What we are left with is a smaller, but more sound, group of young people who are being drawn to the Lord against the cultural expectations and behaviors of their peers. I see a great number of more serious and faithful evangelical churches being raised up in the days to come.
My conversation with these young men reminded me of the "Rebelution" ministry of twin teen brothers, Alex and Brett Harris (yes, the younger brothers of Josh Harris of I Kissed Dating Goodbye fame). If you want to be encouraged about the future of the Christian movement, check out their popular blog, skim through their reading list, and check out the links to their fellow teen "rebelutionaries," and be sure to visit the resources page with links to good articles. Make sure to steer your own teens and students on to this ministry as well.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Sermon of the Week: "The God of the Bible Kills People"

"The God of the Bible Kills People" is one of my all time favorite messages on sermonaudio. Evangelist Rolfe Barnard was a doctrines of grace preacher when the doctrines of grace weren't cool. I think Rob Stovall first emailed me this message about three years ago, and I've gone back to listen to it many times. I especially like the opening hymn, "He Touched Me." You get the sense from his heartfelt singing that God had indeed touched this man. Barnard thumbs his nose at any politically correct, wimpy view of God. "The God of the Bible Kills People" will give you a holy fear of the God of Bible.


Thursday, September 13, 2007

The Ten Year Milestone at JPBC

Last Sunday marked the 10th year since I signed my covenant to become the Pastor at JPBC. I actually preached my first sermon as Pastor at JPBC on the last Sunday of August 1997.
JPBC constituted as a church on the first Sunday of October in 1962. I am the sixth Pastor in 45 years. JPBC Pastors:
1. Don Givens (1960 [as Mission Pastor] to 1969);
2. Carroll Bruce (1970-1976);
3. Samuel Young (1977-1978);
4. James Luck (1979-1982);
5. John Herndon (1983-1995);
6. Jeff Riddle (1997-present).
Here is my letter of thanks to the congregation posted in the September 13, 2007 Evangel:
Dear friends,

Thank you for the special celebration last Sunday to mark my 10th year of Pastoral ministry at JPBC. The deacon body, of course, deserves special thanks for their arrangement of this event.

Thank you in particular for the special resolution of appreciation read before the church body in morning worship, for the wonderful meal of North Carolina Barbecue with all the fixings shipped in from Kinston, North Carolina, for the generous gifts, for the kind words of encouragement, and for the slide show, revealing how my hair has turned gray, how my waistline has expanded, and how my children have grown. Funny, however, how Llewellyn still looks the same as she did in 1997!

JPBC was constituted as a church in 1962. I am the sixth man to serve as Pastor in these past forty-five years, and I now hold the distinction of having the second longest pastoral tenure in our church’s history (John Herndon has the longest tenure, serving twelve years, from 1983-1995).

It is hard to believe that ten years have passed since we moved to Charlottesville and began to labor in this ministry. I praise God for all that has taken place in our church body under his sovereign hand in these past ten years. Indeed, we can agree that God has already done far more among us than we might have ever asked or imagined (Ephesians 3:20). What else might He be pleased to do among us in the future?

I should also mention my appreciation of other members of the church staff who have added to our church’s continuity. Evelyn Jones has served JPBC for over thirteen years (first as Secretary and since 2002 as Financial Secretary); Bonnie Beach has also been at JPBC for ten years (serving faithfully as a Preschool teacher, Rainbow House Director, and since 2002 as Ministry Assistant); Jo Pettitt has served us as a Church Musician since 2000; and Llewellyn Riddle has also been in our Preschool ministry since 2002, serving as Director for the past three years. Pastoral Assistant Marcus Deel is the new man on board, having joined us in June of this year.

As I noted Sunday, one of my growing convictions is that healthy churches need prolonged pastoral tenures. Thank you for calling me to the office of Pastor in this body, for upholding me in this charge, and for your kind and encouraging acknowledgement of this milestone in my tenure of service.

Of course, if anything of any lasting worth has been accomplished, to God alone be the glory!

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Looking ahead to the Evangelical Forum

I have been delinquent in posting this week.
On Monday I went down to Roanoke to attend the meeting of the "Society for the Preservation of Baptist Principles and Practices." The speaker was Pastor Greg Barkman. He did an excellent job preaching first on James 3:1-3 ("Brethren, let not many of you become teachers..."). His message reminded the 15 or so of us preachers who were there of the great responsibility and privilege we have to teach publicly. The troublesome church member may talk to one or two folk in the hall or on the phone, but we get to speak to every one each Sunday. Next he preached on Mark 6:52 ("For they had not understood about the loaves, because their heart was hardened."). He noted that the "heart" in Biblical terms is not just for the emotions but for thinking and comprehending, citing Romans 10:10: "With the heart one believes unto righteousness...." Do we take the necessary time to think upon Christ, so that our hearts are not hardened to him?
As for our other speaker, Michael Haykin, Baptist Press had an article this week about a conference at SBTS on Andrew Fuller at which Haykin spoke.
Both these men will be at JPBC Friday-Saturday, October 5-6 for our 2007 Evangelical Forum. I am looking forward to it. The conference is open to anyone who wishes to attend.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Mohler on Mother Theresa and the Gospel

Today is the 10th anniversary of the death of Mother Theresa. Last Sunday, in my sermon titled "Stand Fast," I referenced Al Mohler's comments on recent revelations of Mother Theresa's dark night of the soul (see last week's Time cover). Here's what Mohler wrote:
The recent revelations of Mother Teresa's spiritual struggle should remind all believing Christians that our faith is in Christ -- not in our feelings.

The disclosure of previous secret letters from Mother Teresa indicates that she was deeply troubled by doubts and a sense of Christ's absence. The fact is that many Christians struggle with doubt. Indeed, the most thoughtful believers are most likely of all to understand what is at stake, and thus to suffer pangs and seasons of doubt.

Doubt can be healthy. It can drive believers to a deeper knowledge of what we believe and a deeper embrace of the truth of the Gospel. It can deepen our trust in God and mature our faith. At the same time, doubt can be a form of sin . . . a refusal to trust God and his promises.

This can also be the root of depression, especially spiritual depression. I would not presume to read Mother Teresa'a heart or soul, but I can reflect on the questions raised by her experience.

The Christian Gospel is the good news that God saves sinners through the atonement accomplished by Jesus Christ -- his cross and resurrection. Salvation comes to those who believe in Christ -- it is by grace we are saved through faith.

But the faith that saves is not faith in faith, nor faith in our ability to maintain faith, but faith in Christ. Our confidence is in Christ, not in ourselves.

There is a sweet and genuine emotional aspect to the Christian faith, and God made us emotional and feeling creatures. But we cannot trust our feelings. Our faith is not anchored in our feelings, but in the facts of the Gospel.

As an evangelical Christian, I have to be concerned that part of Mother Teresa's struggle was that she did not consider herself worthy of salvation. She was certainly not worthy of salvation. Nor am I. Nor is any sinner. The essence of the Gospel is that none is worthy of salvation. That is what makes salvation all about grace. As the Apostle Paul taught us, the wonder of God's grace is that while we were sinners, Christ died for us.

Our confidence is in Christ, not in ourselves. We are weak; He is strong. We fluctuate; He is constant. We cannot trust our feelings nor our emotional state. We trust in Christ. Those who come to Christ by faith are not kept unto him by our faith, but by his faithfulness.

I possess no ability to read Mother Teresa's heart, but I do sincerely hope that her faith was in Christ, and not in her own faithfulness.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Sermon of the Week: "House Churches: Are They Scriptural?"

Many these days are choosing to meet in private homes, in ad hoc churches rather than meet in organized, institutional churches that own property. In truth, there is much that is wrong with the institutional church of today! In addition, it is true that in places in the world where the church faces stiff persecution (like in China and behind the Islamic Curtain) many believers of necessity meet in house churches. In the US, however, folk may meet in house churches for different reasons--some to escape the oversight of elders and confessional accountability. Stephen Hamilton, a Free Presbyterian Pastor, examines house churches in his message, "House Churches: Are They Scriptural?", and he raises some interesting objections to the practice of some who are fleeing conventional churches.

If you give away motorcycles they will come

My friend Steve Clevenger sent me this link to an AP story about a unique evangelistic method being used by some of our fellow Southern Baptists in the Dakotas (the story also ran in the Daily Progress).
Too bad Paul didn 't have these kinds of innovative ideas back in the first century. Rather than given away chariots he simply preached the good news of the gospel. Imagine that.
This is one of those stories that really makes you shake your head and wonder where SBs are going with such carnal "evangelism" methods.


The "New Perspective" on Paul Filtering into the Pews

Christianity Today's current cover offers the title "Rethinking Paul." The online article "From the seminaries to the pews" notes how the "new perspective" on Paul is filtering down from seminary classrooms into the pew.
The article also notes anticipation for John Piper's upcoming book The Future of Justification: A Response to N. T. Wright which will critque the new perspective and one of its chief proponents (Wright).
For more on this, see my review of Piper's Counted Righteous in Christ and my review of Guy Prentis Waters' Justification and the New Perspective on Paul.

The New Testament: a "bad tempered book"

A new quarter of Sunday School started last Lord's Day at JPBC. I am taking the study of Galatians taught by Brian Davis. Brian gave a sound overview of the book before we get into the exposition of the text starting next Sunday. In discussing the polemical tone of Galatians, Brian shared this quote from Timothy George's New American Commentary on Galatians (Broadman & Holman, 1994):
The New Testament has been called a "bad-tempered book" given the amount of space it devotes to explicit attacks and polemical arguments against various opponents who were subverters of the gospel [footnote 44: This expression is attributed to Professor Christopher Evans by J.M.G. Barclay, "Mirror-Reading a Polemical Letter: Galatians as a Test Case," JSNT 31 (1987): 73]. To sense the force of this statement one only has to think of Peter's likening of certain apostates to dogs who turned back to their own vomit (2 Pet 2:22) or of Jude's designation of false pastors as clouds without rain, trees without fruit, and "wild waves of the sea, foaming up their shame" (Jude 12-13). Nor are such remarks confined to the latter books of the New Testament when the Christian church was engaged in a fight for its very life. No, they are equally present in the Gospels themselves. Witness John the Baptist's blast against the "brood of vipers" or even Jesus' pronouncements of woe against the Pharisees in Matt 23. Still perhaps no one in the New Testament was more belligerent in his denunciation of opponents than the apostle Paul. And nowhere was he more "bad tempered" than in Galatians. We will have to take up this theme again in the commentary proper, but it is well to note from the outset that from the standpoint of Pauline theology, polemics cannot be divorced from dogmatics. What was at stake was not merely the outbursts of an ill-tempered preacher but rather the truth of the gospel itself.
Indeed, in the NT we see the battle for orthodoxy, which includes, of necessity, contending for the truth of the gospel.