Friday, May 28, 2010

"At the risk of their lives": A Memorial Day Sermon

Back in 2006 I preached a sermon titled "At the risk of their lives" from 1 Chronicles 11:10-19 on the Sunday before Memorial Day which offered some Christian reflections on this national holiday.  My dear friend Ed Brown (now with the Lord), a veteran of the WW2 "Battle of the Bulge," read the Scripture that day in worship.   


Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Vision (5/27/10): A famine of hearing the word of the Lord

An article in the local newspaper last weekend described a recent new age “Whole Life” Conference that was held in Charlottesville. In reviewing the various opportunities the conference presented, the writer observed: “Today you can heal through gratitude and zero balancing, chase your shadow to expand your spiritual growth and dance, dance, dance.” Classes offered last Sunday included “advice on birthing, Afton Mountain’s spiritual legacy, Tibetan Bon Buddhism meditation and balancing the body through charkas.” Other courses included ones on how to “talk to your angels” and how to communicate with your pets (or “animal partners” as the article refers to them).

We could echo Paul’s observations concerning the ancient city of Athens, “Men of Charlottesville, I perceive that in all things you are very religious” (cf. Acts 17:22). G. K. Chesterton’s quip comes to mind that when men stop believing in the God of the Bible the problem is not that they will believe nothing but that they will believe anything. When Old Testament Israel battled with false worship and syncretism, the Lord spoke through the prophet Amos to announce, “Behold the days are coming …. That I will send a famine on the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord” (Amos 8:11). We will meet many spiritual seekers in our community, but they are usually not seeking the jealous God of the Bible. As Paul put it, “There is none who seeks after God” (Romans 3:11b).

It is to such a time and such a place that the Lord has called us to be his witnesses. We need not be dismayed. Our call is to announce to this city, as Paul did to Athens, “Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, because he has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given us assurance of this by raising Him from the dead” (Acts 17:30-31). Let us be compassionate, bold, and confident in bearing witness to the risen Lord in this community.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Vital Place of the Prayer Meeting

Photo:  CRBC midweek prayer meeting in the home of one of our attendees.

We will gather tonight (actually, in about 15 minutes) for our midweek prayer meeting at CRBC.  Here's the start of Erroll Hulse' article "The Vital Place of the Prayer Meeting":

It is said that the weekly prayer meeting is the spiritual barometer for any local church. You can tell with a fair degree of accuracy what the church is like by the demeanour or substance of the weekly prayer meeting. Is there genuine evangelistic concern? If so it will be expressed in the prayers. Is there a heartfelt longing for the conversion of unconverted family members? If so that is sure to surface. Is there a world vision and a fervent desire for revival and the glory of our Redeemer among the nations of the world? Such a burden cannot be suppressed. Is there a heart agony about famine and war and the need for the gospel of peace among the suffering multitudes of mankind? The church prayer meeting will answer that question. Intercession in the prayer meeting will soon reveal a loving church that cares for those who are oppressed and weighed down with trials and burdens. Those bearing trials too painful or personal to be described in public will nevertheless find comfort in the prayer meeting, for there the Holy Spirit is especially at work.

To read the rest of this article look here.


Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Watson: "Oh! What blottings are there in our holy things."

Another gem from Watson on the way in which God views our attempts to live upright and holy lives (from The Ten Commandments):

Though the prayers of the righteous are mixed with sin, yet God sees they would pray better. He picks out the weeds from the flowers; he sees the faith and bears with the failing. The saints’ obedience, though short of legal perfection, yet having sincerity in it, and Christ’s merits mixed with it, finds gracious acceptance. When the Lord sees endeavours after perfect obedience, he takes it well at our hands; as a father who receives a letter from his child, though there be blots in it, and false spellings, takes all in good part. Though the prayers of the righteous are mixed with sin, yet God sees they would pray better. He picks out the weeds from the flowers; he sees the faith and bears with the failing. The saints’ obedience, though short of legal perfection, yet having sincerity in it, and Christ’s merits mixed with it, finds gracious acceptance. When the Lord sees endeavours after perfect obedience, he takes it well at our hands; as a father who receives a letter from his child, though there be blots in it, and false spellings, takes all in good part. Oh! what blottings are there in our holy things; but God is pleased to take all in good part. He says, ‘It is my child, and he would do better if he could; I will accept it.’


Monday, May 24, 2010

Watson on the usefulness of afflictions

Some quick quotes on God's use of suffering from the homiletical wordsmith Thomas Watson's All Things for Good [original title, A Divine Cordial, 1663]:

"Afflications to the godly are medicinal."

"A sick bed often teaches more than a sermon."

"When you dig away the earth from the root of a tree, it is to loosen the tree from the earth; so God digs away earthly comforts to loosen our hearts from the earth."

"When God brings a deluge of affliction upon us, then we fly to the ark of Christ."

"The worst that God does to his children is to whip them to heaven."

"When God lays men upon their backs, then they look up to heaven."


Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Vision (5/20/10): In Memoriam: R. William LaGrange (1936-2010)

On Wednesday afternoon, May 19, 2010, our brother Bill LaGrange went to be with the Lord. Bill was born in Endicott, New York and worked for over 35 years with IBM. While a student at Rider University Bill met and married Judi. The Lord blessed their union with three daughters and twelve grandchildren.

The biggest event in Bill’s life happened when he was 38 years old. At the time, the LaGranges were living in Northern Virginia. Some friends at Bill’s workplace kept bugging him about going to their church. He finally went and was converted under the preaching of the gospel. A month and a half later, Judi was also converted. Bill’s life began to change dramatically. Before his conversion he was a self-confessed “golf bum” with an overly competitive spirit. The only reading he did was Golf Digest and Sports Illustrated. After he was converted he gave up golf completely. He developed a passion for reading and studying the Bible. That led to reading other Christian books, especially the works of Reformed writers like D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones and R. C. Sproul.

After Bill retired from IBM he threw his life into Christian service. He and Judi became founding members of a church plant in Burlington, Vermont that was meeting in a classroom at a local university. Bill became an Elder there while Judi became the church secretary. That little plant, Christ Memorial Church, eventually became a thriving congregation and the mother church for numerous church plants across New England.

Just a couple of years ago, Bill and Judi decided to retire and move to Charlottesville. Bill had suffered with a blood disease, and he wanted to escape the harsh New England winters. Soon after moving to Virginia, however, Bill’s health began to decline. Most troublesome was the development of an aggressive skin cancer on his arm. Last November, Bill was told that the skin cancer was beyond treatment and that he would soon die. Bill’s prayer was that he would be able to “to finish well.”

Though told he had mere weeks to live, the Lord had other purposes and Bill’s life was graciously extended for more than six months. During that time, he and Judi became founding participants at another church plant, Christ Reformed Baptist Church. Bill was there on the very first Lord’s Day when we met in January and missed only one Lord’s Day gathering up until four weeks ago. Over the last few months I often sought Bill’s valued counsel as we moved forward with our church.

We will miss Bill greatly. We grieve alongside Judi and her family but not as men who have no hope. We find great comfort in knowing that Bill has finished his course and is now engaged full time in the very thing he enjoyed most while here on earth, worshipping his Lord.

There will be a service of worship to offer thanks to God for Bill’s life at 11:00 am on Monday, May 24th at the Hill and Wood Funeral Home in Charlottesville. A graveside service will follow at Riverview Cemetery. There will also be a reception following the graveside service at 1410 Incarnation Drive (Suite 202-B) hosted by CRBC.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

What would you say if you knew you had only a little time to live?

Here's a stirring video made by a man named Zac Smith, several months before he died of colon cancer:

The Story of Zac Smith from NewSpring Media on Vimeo.

What will it profit Billy if he gains the whole college scholarship but loses his own soul?

Yesterday, I read Robert Spinney's little booklet Did God Create Sports Also?  Here's an excerpt:

Pastors are hearing something today that they didn’t hear forty years ago: “We won’t be at church meetings this coming Sunday. Billy has a soccer game.” When kicking a soccer ball is regarded as more important than worshipping God and hearing God’s Word taught, sports are too big. “But Billy’s absence will let his teammates down.”  You and Billy have a commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ and His church that is far more critical than any commitment to Little League teammates; your absence from the Body of Christ will let the church down. “But Billy’s soccer is his ticket to a college scholarship.” What will it profit Billy if he gains the whole college scholarship but loses his own soul? Parents, demonstrate to your children what it means to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness (Matthew 6:33). Your children should see that your priorities rest with God’s kingdom.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Vision (5/13/10): CRBC Update

“you also as living stones are being built up a spiritual house….” (1 Peter 2:5)

Christ Reformed Baptist Church has now been meeting for Lord’s Day worship for four months. Here are some of the things we have seen God do among us thus far:
• We have established a regular pattern of morning worship, lunch, and afternoon worship on the Lord’s Day. We have had preaching and teaching series on Matthew 10 and 1 Peter (ongoing) in morning worship and the doctrine of the church (CRBC series) and the Ten Commandments in afternoon worship.

• The average attendance in Lord’s Day worship has doubled.

• We have established a regular meeting site at 1410 Incarnation Drive which we have improved by painting and decorating.

• We have established a website and sermonaudio site for CRBC.

• We have seen a core group come together who are committed to the planting of this church.

• We have entered into a partnership agreement with Covenant Reformed Baptist Church in Warrenton for oversight in our church planting process.

Here are a few things on the horizon:
• We have completed a draft of our CRBC Constitution and Membership Covenant (prepared by Jeff Riddle and Daniel Houseworth) which we will be sharing with the pastor and elders at Covenant Reformed Baptist Church. After receiving their feedback and approval we will be sharing these documents with our regular CRBC attendees as we move toward “particularizing” as a church.

• We will begin a three part series sermon series on the sacraments (ordinances) this Sunday afternoon in preparation for commencing our body’s initial observances of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper.

To this point, we can definitely see how the Lord has graciously provided for our needs. We look forward to seeing how He will be pleased to continue to work through us as we go forward.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Audio from Radford Conference Available

You can now listen to the messages from the "All Things New" Conference that was held at Wilderness Road Baptist Assembly earlier this month.


Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Book Review: E. S. Williams' "The Dark Side of Christian Counseling"

E. S. Williams, The Dark Side of Christian Counseling (Wakeman Trust & Belmont House Publishing, 2009): 155 pp..

This book, written by a Christian physician in the United Kingdom, is an expose of what the author calls “the Christian Counseling Movement.” The book asks two basic questions: Is the type of counseling advocated by the contemporary Christian counseling movement a legitimate part of Christian ministry? And does the church benefit from the attempt to integrate secular psychological studies with Biblical truth?

The work begins by noting that “the flame of psychological counseling burns brightly in the Christian church” (p. 7). From church based counseling centers, to courses in psychology and counseling in Christian colleges and schools, to sermons that address “self-esteem,” to popular Christian speakers like Larry Crabb and James Dobson, this movement has made deep inroads among evangelical churches.

Williams first traces the history of the movement beginning with Clyde Narramore in the 1950s whom he dubs “the father of Christian counseling” to its widespread acceptance by the 1990s. The fruit of this movement has been the introduction of “a new therapeutic ‘gospel’ that aims to meet the psychological needs of the congregation” (p. 14).

Those who advocate the integration of psychology and Scripture often claim that they are merely making use of truth that has been revealed even to non-Christians by common grace. Williams offers a review and critique of the worldviews of the various leading lights of modern psychology, including Sigmund Freud, Alfred Adler, Abraham Maslow, Carl Rogers, and Albert Ellis. His verdict is that the man-centered humanism and often virulently anti-Christian attitudes of these men cannot be integrated with the Biblical worldview. According to Williams, those who turn to secular psychology are saying that Biblical truth, sound doctrine, and the gospel are not enough to meet the needs of sinful men.

Williams offers a particularly stinging critique of the ministry and writings of Larry Crabb, concluding, “It is a fair question to ask whether Crabb truly understands the gospel” (p. 107). He proceeds to present a trenchant critique of the “self-esteem” emphasis in the Christian counseling movement and as this concept is advocated by ministries like James Dobson’s “Focus on the Family.” According to Williams this emphasis distorts Biblical teaching on sin, downplays the role of the moral law, blames and undermines Biblical parenting, and promotes permissiveness. He concludes:

Those who follow Jesus do not spend time learning to love themselves. The idea that a Christian should strive for healthy self-esteem is contrary to the teaching of Christ. The teaching of the Christian counseling movement that I should be kind to myself, trust myself, is to put me at the centre. I become self-centred, focused on myself. This is not the mind of Christ; this is anathema to Christian faith (p. 143).

For Williams there is a distinct “dark side” to the Christian counseling movement. In answer to his original two questions, the author clearly and forcefully answers, “No, counseling, as it is practiced in this movement, is not a legitimate part of Christian ministry.” And, “No, the church does not benefit from integrating secular psychology with Biblical truth.” In fact, this combination has produced a “false gospel” (p. 147).

One might ask, “What about ‘nouthetic counseling’ that is embraced by many Reformed men today?” Although he is less critical of nouthetic guru Jay Adams, Williams notes that “as Adams’ influence declined during the 1970s the CCEF [the Christian Counseling and Education Foundation, an organization founded by Adams] has become increasingly psychological in its orientation” (p. 11).

This book is to be commended to minister and laymen alike. It would be especially helpful for those who have been hooked by the typical line of self-help books that roll off the presses of many evangelical publishers. It might also help “de-program” those who have drunk deeply from the well of secular psychology and counseling. For pastors, reading this book might help one consider how the pervasive “counseling culture” might have seeped its way into his own preaching and teaching ministry. It also helps one understand how those to whom they minister have been influenced by secular psychological categories like “self-esteem” and why these are not compatible with the Biblical gospel.

Jeffrey T. Riddle, Christ Reformed Baptist Church, Charlottesville, Virginia

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The profitability of a theology degree

A Yahoo article today lists the top ten "Worst Paying College Degrees."  Theology appears at number three on the list, just nudged out by Elementary Education (No. 2) and Social Work (No. 1).


Monday, May 10, 2010

Burning Wycliffe's Bones

Image:  Burning Wycliff'e's bones. From Foxe's Book of Martyrs.

I was struck recently by a biographical note on the proto-Protestant John Wycliffe (1324-1384). Wycliffe, an Oxford theologian, was one of the first to translate the Bible into the English language which ran him afoul of the Roman Catholic authorities. He is called the “Morningstar of the Reformation.” Despite strong opposition from Catholic leaders, Wycliffe’s teachings were never officially denounced by church authorities during his lifetime, and he died peacefully on December 31, 1384.

The interesting thing is what happened decades after his departure. When John Hus pressed some of the ideas of Wycliffe even further, the Council of Constance (1415) not only condemned Hus to be burned at the stake but also ordered that Wycliffe be punished posthumously. His books were ordered to be burned; his body was exhumed from the consecrated ground where it had been buried; his remained were burned, and the ashes were scattered on the River Swift.

It is amazing what vindictive and insecure religious authorities will do to defend themselves from the truth. They will even burn Wycliffe’s bones.


Thursday, May 06, 2010

The Vision (5/6/10): What is a Reformed Baptist Church?

Note:  The Vision is the weekly e-newsletter of Christ Reformed Baptist Church.  The article below is from the "Pastoral Reflections" column.  To subscribe to the full version of The Vision, email your request to

Note: The following article was written by Dr. Robert Spinney while he was an Elder at Grace Baptist Church of Hartsville, Tennessee. He is now on the faculty of Patrick Henry College in Purcellville, Virginia.

A Reformed Baptist church is a Bible-centered, doctrinally conservative, Christ-focused, and grace-emphasizing church. It embraces both the truths championed in the Protestant Reformation as well as a Baptist understanding of believer's baptism and local church autonomy.

Some refer to Reformed Baptists as Historic Baptists. This is because Reformed Baptists affirm the same doctrinal positions:

• That the English Puritan Baptists affirmed in the 1600s (these English Baptists, like Pilgrim's Progress author John Bunyan, were the founding fathers of most of today's Baptist denominations);

• That prominent Baptist leaders like Charles Spurgeon and William Carey affirmed in the 1800s; and

• That the Southern Baptist Convention affirmed up until the late 1800s.

Today's Reformed Baptist churches (like most Baptists before 1870) regard the 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith as a concise summary of the Bible's main doctrinal teachings.

Reformed Baptist churches - like their Baptist forefathers - accept the foundational truths of the Protestant Reformation as essential to correct doctrine. These truths include the so-called Five Solas of the Reformation:

• Sola scriptura, or Truth based upon Scripture alone;

• Sola gratia, or salvation by grace alone;

• Sola fide, or salvation through faith alone;

• Solus Christus, or salvation through Christ alone; and

• Soli Deo gloria, or to God alone be all glory.

In practice, this means that Reformed Baptist churches hold to an inerrant and wholly sufficient Bible. The Word of God is our only rule for matters of faith and conduct.

It also means that Reformed Baptist churches emphasize salvation by grace alone (apart from man's works) based upon the substitutionary atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ on the cross. Sinners are declared righteous (or justified) by faith in Christ alone. And we respond to questions like, "Why did God create the world?" and "Why does God save sinners through Jesus Christ?" and "Why does God intervene in men's lives today?" by answering, "To showcase and draw attention to His glory." Accordingly, Reformed Baptists frequently summarize their life's purpose (or their chief end, as the Puritans put it) as glorifying God and enjoying Him forever.

While Reformed Baptist churches have great respect for godly men like Martin Luther, John Calvin, and Jonathan Edwards, they nonetheless are Baptist churches. They believe that although the Old Testament covenant community consisted of the physical offspring of Abraham (and therefore circumcision was administered to all male Hebrew infants), the New Testament covenant community consists of the spiritual offspring of Abraham, or only those who have embraced Jesus Christ by faith and have been born again. Accordingly, we administer baptism only to members of the covenant community- that is, only to those who have been regenerated, converted, and made partakers of the New Covenant. We also differ from Presbyterian churches regarding local church autonomy. Reformed Baptist churches often cooperate with one another and labor together, and even create associations to encourage mutual spiritual health and accountability. However, we locate local church authority in particular local churches and their own ordained elders/pastors, not in a denominational hierarchy or council.

Reformed Baptist churches are committed to evangelism and global missionary projects. Some assume (erroneously) that a Reformed church (i.e., one that embraces the total depravity of man, unconditional election, limited atonement, irresistible grace, and perseverance of the saints) will not be committed to fulfilling the Great Commission. Not true! Reformed Baptists are eager to preach the Gospel to every creature, not only because God has commanded that we do so but because we are confident that God will save His people when His Gospel - which is the power of God unto salvation - is proclaimed. Over the past three hundred years, Reformed Baptists have been at the forefront of many of the church's global missionary endeavors.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Wider Applications of the Ninth Commandment

Below are my notes from last Lord's Day afternoon's sermon outlining six "wider" applications of the Ninth Commandment forbidding false witness against one's neighbor:

1. It forbids falsehood in our speech generally (lying).

This includes everything from outright lies to exaggeration.

2. It forbids slander.

Slander is malicious speech against our neighbor in order intentionally to ruin his character and reputation.

Some quotes from Thomas Watson:

“The scorpion carries his poison in his tail, the slanderer carries his poison in his tongue.”

“The wounds of the tongue no physician can heal; and to pretend friendship to a man, and slander him is most odious.”

“As it is a sin to raise a false report of another, so it is to receive a false report of another before we have examined it.”

“We must not only not raise a false report, but not take it up. He that raises a slander, carries the devil in his tongue; and he that receives it carries the devil in his ear.”

“The slanderer wounds three at once: he wounds him that is slandered; he wounds him to whom he reports the slander, by causing uncharitable thoughts to arise up in his mind against the party slandered; and he wounds his own soul, by reporting of another what is false.”

He concludes, “You may kill a man in his name as well as in his person.”

3. It forbids even sharing things that might have some truth in them if we do so uncharitably and indiscreetly:

Pink says we violate this commandment “even when we speak the truth, if we speak it unnecessarily and from improper motive.” He quotes John Dick:

“We injure the character of our neighbor when we retail his real faults without any call to divulge them, when we relate them to those who have no right to know them, and when we tell them not to promote any good end but to make him lose his estimation in society.”

4. It also forbids failing to speak up on behalf of a person who is unjustly attacked.

John Dick: “Nay, we transgress this precept when we do not speak at all, for by holding our peace when something is injurious is said of another we tacitly give our assent by concealing what we know to the contrary.”

Watson: “A man may wrong another as well by silence as by slander, when he knows him to be wrongfully accused, yet does not speak in his behalf.”

5. It forbids flattery.

If slander is saying false things negatively about your neighbor, flattery is saying false things positively in order to manipulate or win the good graces of your neighbor.

6. It forbids rumor-mongering, tale bearing, and gossip:

I remember when we were living in Eastern Europe that rumor and gossip were rampant. There was a shampoo being advertised and the rumor was that if you used this shampoo your hair would fall out. It was completely false, but it ruined the sales of the product, and it has to be withdrawn from the market.


Leviticus 19:16 'You shall not go about as a talebearer among your people; nor shall you take a stand against the life of your neighbor: I am the LORD.

Proverbs 11:13 A talebearer reveals secrets, But he who is of a faithful spirit conceals a matter.

Proverbs 20:19 He who goes about as a talebearer reveals secrets; Therefore do not associate with one who flatters with his lips.

Proverbs 26:20 Where there is no wood, the fire goes out; And where there is no talebearer, strife ceases.


Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Resource: Spinney Booklets

I recently discovered the series of practical booklets by Robert Spinney, published by TULIP Books and distributed by Cumberland Valley Bible Book Service.  TULIP Books is a ministry of Grace Baptist Church in Hartsville, TN where Spinney, who now teaches at Patrick Henry College, once served as an elder.

Among the titles:
The cover picture for How to Survive Your Pastor's Sermons is classic.

You can also read the text for these booklets and other articles for free online at Grace Baptist's website (click here).


Monday, May 03, 2010

Scenes from Radford Conference

I enjoyed the conference last weekend in Radford sponsored by the Wilderness Road Baptist Assembly. The theme was  "All Things New."  Steve Clevenger was the "bad cop" preaching two messages on Galatians 1:3-5 on "this present evil age," while I got to be the "good cop" preaching two messages from Revelation 21 on the coming new age.

Photo above:  Pastor Steve Clevenger, Covenant Reformed BC; Terry Walters, Wilderness Road Baptist Assembly; and Jeff Riddle, Christ Reformed BC. 

The meeting was held in the public library in Radford.  Here's a park bench just outside.

 Photo:  Conversation before the Saturday evening meeting.
Photo:  Some of the Wilderness Road folk pose after the Saturday meeting.