Friday, June 28, 2013

The Cross and the Jukebox

While I was reading the article by Russell Moore on this week's Supreme Court decisions that I used in this week's Vision, I also ran across his weekly podcast "The Cross and the Jukebox" which discussed "cultural and religious themes in country music."

Thursday, June 27, 2013

The Vision (6/27/13): Russell Moore: Your Church and the Same Sex Marriage Decisions

Note:  The following online article was posted on June 26, 2013 to the website of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the SBC.  The author is the Commission President, Dr. Russell Moore.

The Supreme Court has ruled on the much-awaited decisions on same-sex marriage. How should your church respond? The first way is by recognizing that marriage is not merely a public good, and it’s certainly not simply a “culture war” political issue. Marriage is a gospel mystery, the Scripture tells us, an icon of Christ and the church embedded in the creation (Eph 5:32). When marriage falters, the gospel is eclipsed. On the other hand, the conversation about marriage gives the church the opportunity to point to a different word, the mystery of Christ (Eph 3:4).


1.  The Supreme Court ruled that the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional. It was determined to deprive persons equal liberty protected by the Fifth Amendment.

2.  The Supreme Court ruling on the Defense of Marriage Act means that same-sex couples who are legally married will be entitled to equal treatment under federal law.

3.  The Supreme Court ruled that the defenders of California’s Proposition 8 did not have legal standing as private sponsors to appeal the federal decision to strike down the ballot.

4.  The Supreme Court ruling on Proposition 8 means that same-sex marriage may be allowed to resume in the state of California.

5.  These Supreme Court decisions mean that religious liberty challenges are soon to emerge in new and unprecedented ways.


1.  Jesus Christ is still alive, and ultimately will bend history toward his kingdom.

2.  God, as Creator and Judge, determines the goal of human sexuality and the boundaries of marriage. The United States government, or any human state, didn’t create marriage, and can’t redefine it. The state can only recognize, or fail to recognize, what already exists: the one-flesh union that is the foundation of the family and every human civilization.

3.  The Bible addresses all of us as sexual sinners (1 Cor 6:18). We do not stand in judgment over others, as though we were righteous and whole.

4.  Our consciences and our churches are answerable to “another king, Jesus” (Acts 17:7) when it comes to matters of sexual morality and marital accountability. The First Amendment recognizes this free exercise of religion. Your congregation cannot be forced to perform same-sex marriages, to provide premarital or marital counseling to persons whose marriages you don’t recognize as biblical, or to jettison your membership requirements.


1.  Teach your congregation to avoid anger, outrage, or despair. Jesus tells us marriage has existed as a male/female one-flesh union “from the beginning.” This means marriage is resilient, regardless of what cultures do to minimize it.

2.  Love your gay and lesbian neighbors. They aren’t part of an evil conspiracy. They are, like all of us apart from Christ, seeking a way that seems best to them. Be kind, and respect all persons as image-bearers of God.

3.  Preach and teach on the integrity of conjugal marriage. Don’t assume your people understand the gospel foundations of marriage. Take this opportunity to point to the formation of healthy, gospel-shaped marriage cultures within your congregation.

4.  Repent of the ways our congregational cultures have downgraded marriage. If your church hasn’t addressed divorce, cohabitation, or fornication through proclamation and discipline, now is the time to repent and rework.

5.  Make your marriage convictions clear in your confession of faith. If your church assumes a definition of marriage, your confession of faith is now irrelevant. Defend your religious liberty by making your congregational conviction clear in your statement of faith. Make your marriage convictions clear in your church by-laws. Address what repentance and gospel fidelity looks like for those seeking membership, for those in good standing with your church, and for those who wish to be married in your church building or by the officers of your church.

6.  Stop laissez-faire wedding policies. Your church building is not a public space and your church ministers aren’t justices of the peace. Make clear that you will marry, and host weddings, only for those who have accountability to the people of Christ and to the Word of God.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Ishmael's Mocking: Paul's application of Genesis 21:9 in Galatians 4:29

Note:  Here are some notes from my exposition of Galatians 4:29 in my sermon on Galatians 4:21-31.
And Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, which she had born unto Abraham, mocking (Genesis 21:9).
But as then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now (Galatians 4:29).
I think Paul adds Galatians 4:29 as an encouragement to those who first received this letter and who were sympathetic to his cause, reminding them that just as Ishmael mocked Isaac, so the spiritual descendants of Isaac can expect to be mocked or persecuted by the spiritual descendants of Ishmael.
It is striking that all through this letter Paul never speaks of the dangers of persecution coming upon the church from the pagan Roman government, but he does describe persecution that comes from those who claim to be brethren.
Terry Johnson, pastor of Independent Presbyterian Church in Savannah, Georgia,  in his recent commentary on Galatians (Christian Focus, 2012) notes:  “This mocking by Ishmael of Isaac corresponds to the persecution of believers by those ensnared in legalism” (p. 122).
He then adds from his own pastoral observations:
I can only think of one time in twenty years that our congregation has suffered persecution, either fierce or mild, from outside the organized, visible church.  But from within?  I can hardly think of anything good that hasn’t been resisted, often fiercely.  On a personal level, Christian people typically suffer more at the hands of fellow professing Christians than worldlings.  Remember Ishmael was a part of the visible church.  The longer I am in the ministry, the more I am astonished at how cruel Christian people can be to one another, all under the guise of righteousness as well.
He continues:
Think of your own wounds and the scars of recent years. Who has inflicted them?  Who has criticized your priorities?  Who has criticized your choices?  Who has discourages and defeated you?  Has not most of this come to you from within the visible church?....  Why?  Because the besetting sin of zealous Christians is a Pharisaic self-righteousness.  We all seem to have our lists of things to which everyone must conform.  I don’t mean biblical things like keeping the Ten Commandments, tithing, witnessing, loving one’s neighbor, and so on.  Of course we must all do those things.  I mean extra-biblical expectations regarding ways of doing things and saying things, and matters of judgment not principle, about taking the left fork and not the right fork.  We can become Pharisees about food and drink, about child-rearing and education, about fashion and finances.  Take care about what you say, when you say it, and how you say it!  Take care lest unwittingly you become a persecutor of the saints (p. 123).

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

John Brown on the trials of the ministry

Note:  Below is one of the points of application from my sermon on Galatians 4:12-20.

"Am I therefore become your enemy, because I tell you the truth?" (Galatians 4:16) 
Application: This passage reminds ministers, and all those engaged in personal ministry as well, that the exercise of the ministry is very often painful and discouraging.
John Brown in his 1853 commentary on Galatians zeroes in on this application:
The Christian ministry, if entered on with appropriate sentiments, and prosecuted with conscientious fidelity, will be found replete with difficulties.  Its toils are arduous and unceasing—its trials numerous and severe.
The minister must submit,
to labors often ill-appreciated, sometimes unkindly requited, and with meeting trials and afflictions which are the more severe as coming  from a quarter from which nothing but support and encouragement has been expected.
Brown continues:
It is not an impossible, nor even an uncommon, thing for persons who seemed to be—who were—most tenderly attached to their ministers, and attached to him in consequence of having received from him spiritual advantage, to have their affections entirely alienated from him whom they so greatly esteemed and loved; and what is worse still, it is not impossible, nor very uncommon, to find this alienation of affection to their minister arising out of , or at any rate connected with, indifference about, or rejection of, those grand peculiarities of Christian truths….
He adds:
This is one of the severest trials which a Christian minister can meet with; and perhaps there are few situations in which he is so strongly tempted to indulge something like a resentful, almost a malignant feeling, as when thus situated, in reference to those designing men, whose selfish intrigues have been the means of injuring the best interests of his people, and robbing him of the dearest jewel of his heart.  It is comparatively an easy thing for a minister to be reproached, and ridiculed, and persecuted by an ungodly world; but he only knows who has felt it how bitter it is to see those whose conversion and spiritual improvement he flattered himself he had been the instrument, to guide whom to heaven he felt to be his most delightful work on earth, and to meet with whom in heaven who was not of the least delightful anticipations of eternity—to see them regard him with “hard unkindness, altered eye,” especially if, when they are turning their backs on him, they also seem in extreme hazard of making shipwreck of faith and of a good conscience.
In the end, Brown suggests that Paul in his interaction with the Galatians is a model of how the minister is to deal with such circumstances with discretion, patience, and affection.  Can we learn to do the same?

Monday, June 24, 2013

Thomas Vincent on the duties of children and parents flowing from the Fifth Commandment

In my Sunday afternoon exposition of Spurgeon's revision of the Baptist Catechism, I have been making frequent use of Thomas Vincent's "The Shorter Catechism Explained from Scripture" (1674; Banner of Truth ed., 1980).
Yesterday, we began to look at the fifth commandment (Exodus 20:12).  Here is an abbreviated list of Vincent's seven duties of children to parents and seven duties of parents to children (with his copious proof text references largely omitted):

The duties of children to parents:

1.      Inward honor, reverence, and estimation.

2.     Outward reverent carriage and behavior.

3.     Diligent hearkening to their instructions.

4.     Willing obedience to all lawful commands.

5.     Meek and patient bearing their reproofs and corrections, with amendment of the faults they are reproved and corrected for.

6.     Ready following their reasonable counsel, in reference to their calling, station, marriage, and any great affairs of their lives.

7.     Grateful kindness to them, in nourishing them, providing for them, and bearing with their infirmities when aged, and fallen into want and poverty.

The duties of parents to children:

1.      Tender love and care of them, especially when infants and helpless; particularly, mothers ought to give suck [nurse] their children, if they are able. 
2.     Training them up in the knowledge of the Scriptures, and principles of religion, and giving them good instructions in the laws and ways of the Lord, as soon as they are capable of receiving them.

3.     Prayer for them, and giving good examples of holiness, temperance, and righteousness unto them.

4.     Keeping them under subjection whilst young, yet requiring nothing of them but what is agreeable to the law of the Lord.  He adds, “As children must obey, so parents must command in the Lord” (Ephesians 6:1, 4).
5.     Encouragement of them by kind looks and speeches, and rewards in well-doing, together with discountenance, reproof and loving and seasonable correction of them for evil doing (Proverbs 29:15, 17).

6.      Provision for them of what is needful for the present; as also laying up for them according to the proportion of what they have, for the future (1 Timothy 5:8; 2 Corinthians 12:14).

7.      Disposal of them to trades, callings, and in marriage, when grown up, as may be for their good; therein using no force, but consulting and considering their capacity and inclination.

Friday, June 21, 2013

The Vision (6/20/13): 2013 VBS Reflections: David and Jesus

Image:  Scene from singing time at VBS

We completed our 2013 CRBC “Puritan” Vacation Bible School today.  We had a great time of learning, singing, playing, making, eating, and fellowshipping.  For those not able to join us, here is an outline of what we studied this year from the life of David.

Monday:  David and Goliath (1 Samuel 17)

            Tuesday:  David and Jonathan (1 Samuel 20)

            Wednesday:  David and Absalom (2 Samuel 18-19)

            Thursday:  David and Jesus (2 Samuel 7:12-14)

Thanks to all the youth and adult workers who made it happen.  Thanks also to the children who came each day with enthusiasm and excitement to learn about God’s Word.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Thursday, June 13, 2013

The Vision (6/13/13): Fathers, provoke not your children

One of the most timely and striking news stories that appeared in this week before Father’s Day was one from a Richmond, Virginia television station that reported on the rising number of single parent homes in our state capital.

An organization called “First Things First” reported that 60% of all families in Richmond are single parent families.  In the African-American community, that number spikes to an unbelievable 86 %.  Of course, most of these single parent homes are ones with a single mother who is raising children without the daily presence and support of a father.

The report also noted the toll that homes without fathers can have on children, citing Department of Health and Justice statistics which report that 63% of youth suicides, 71% of high school dropouts, and 70% of incarcerated juveniles come from fatherless homes.

When Paul wrote his epistle to the Ephesians, he offered a ‘’household code,” instructing Christians as to how to organize and interact in their extended families, addressing the relationship between wives and husbands, children and parents, servants and masters (see Eph 5:22—6:9).  When addressing the child-parent relationship, Paul specifically addressed fathers telling them, “provoke not your children to wrath” (6:4).  The NIV renders the phrase, “do not exasperate your children.”

No doubt, we Christian fathers will not always perform our duties as providers, leaders, and encouragers as we should.  We are always thankful that love covers a multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8).  We know both intuitively and from the explicit counsel of God’s Word how we should be.  May the Lord raise up a vast number of Christian men in our generation who have taken up the call to be godly husbands and fathers to reverse the current slide and give salt and light to a dying culture.    

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Thursday, June 06, 2013

The Vision (6/6/13): They will know we are Christians...

I’ve recently been reading a book titled The Rise of Christianity (Princeton University Press/HarperOne, 1996) by Rodney Stark.  The book is a series of sociological studies on early Christianity.  The book’s subtitle is:  How the Obscure Marginal Jesus Movement Became the Dominant Religious Force in the Western World in a Few Centuries.

In one chapter Stark contrasts how Christians and pagans responded during times of plague and how this difference affected the growth of the Christian movement.  Stark examines in particular a major epidemic that struck the Roman Empire in the year 260 AD.  At the plague’s height over 5,000 persons per day died in the city of Rome alone.

Once the plague passed, a Christian pastor in Alexandria, Egypt named Dionysius wrote a letter describing how the believers had cared for the sick and dying and how many had sacrificed their own lives in such service.  He wrote:

Most of our brother Christians showed unbounded love and loyalty, never sparing themselves and thinking only of one another.  Heedless of danger, they took charge of the sick, attending to their every need and ministering to them in Christ, and with them departed this life serenely happy; for they were infected by others with the disease, drawing on themselves the sickness of their neighbors and cheerfully accepting their pains.  Many, in nursing and curing others, transferred their death to themselves and died in their stead….  The best of our brothers lost their lives in this manner, a number of presbyters [elders], deacons, and laymen winning high commendation so that death in this form, the result of great piety and strong faith, seems in every way the equal of martyrdom.

In contrast, Dionysius also described how the pagans responded to the same crisis:

The heathen behaved in the very opposite way.  At the first onset of the disease, they pushed the sufferers away and fled from their dearest, throwing them into the roads before they were dead and treated unburied corpses as dirt, hoping thereby to avert the spread and contagion of the fatal disease; but do what they might, they found it difficult to escape.

Stark concludes that it was the compassionate response of Christians to the members of their own communities, as well as to strangers, that significantly contributed to the spread of the Christian movement during that time.

Reading the chapter I was reminded of the words of the old hymn, “They will know we are Christians by our love.”  As with the church of old, may the Lord gives to his church today a heart of compassion, self-sacrifice, and service that will become an effective witness to our community.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle