Monday, June 30, 2014

2014 VBS Follow Up Resources

Image:  Scenes from Bible Lesson Review

I uploaded the Power Point I created for the 2014 VBS Lessons on "The Life of Jesus (from the Gospel of Mark)" to Google Docs.  I also recorded and uploaded to an audio recording, reviewing the four lessons in about 50 minutes.


Thursday, June 26, 2014

The Vision (6.26.14): Scenes from our 2014 VBS

We completed another encouraging “Puritan” Vacation Bible School at CRBC this week (meeting Monday-Thursday).  Why do we call it a “Puritan” VBS?  Because our approach is simple, non-programmatic, and Bible-focused.  This year’s theme was “The Life of Jesus (from the Gospel of Mark).”  We had 35 children registered for the week.  Thanks to all those who contributed to make this year’s VBS a success!  Here are a few pictures:

Each day started with a procession led by the “Bible-bearer”

Reading a Bible story from Isobell Tallach's "The Life of Jesus" (a Banner of Truth picture book which includes no images of Jesus)

A volunteer plays the role of the paralytic whom Jesus healed in a Bible lesson from Mark 2:1-12

A friendly game of tug-o-war during recreation

"Gaga ball" also proved to be a big hit during recreation

Craft time

Working together on the order of events in Jesus' early ministry during Bible Review

Stephanie O. introduces a craft session

Singing "The Fruit of the Spirit" is always a big hit

Each day ended with lunch and fellowship for the children and their families

Thursday, June 19, 2014

The Vision (6.19.14): What is Baptism?

Note:  Here are some notes from last Sunday afternoon’s message in the Spurgeon’s Baptist Catechism series:

Q 75:  What is baptism?

A:  Baptism is an ordinance of the NT, instituted by Jesus Christ, to be unto the person baptized a sign of his fellowship with Him in his death, burial, and resurrection, of his being engrafted into Him, of remission of sins, and of his giving up himself unto God through Jesus Christ to live and walk in newness of life.

We might make three basic observations on this answer:

1.  The Baptist Catechism prefers to describe baptism here as an “ordinance” (stressing that the practice of baptism comes by the order or command of Christ) rather than as a sacrament.

The framers of our confession and catechism had a high view of the ordinances, but they did not want to confuse the sacrament with “sacramentalism” (the view that baptism and Lord’s Supper are beneficial regardless of the spiritual state of those who partake of them).

2.  Baptism is “instituted by Jesus Christ.”


First, by his person example in being submitted to baptism (see Matthew 3:13-17).

Second, by his direct command to his disciples (Matthew 28:19-20; Mark 16:15-16).

Third, by the demonstration of this as the practice of the early church in the book of Acts, which as part of Holy Scripture, is also the very words of Christ (see, for example, Acts 8:35-38).

3.  Baptism is a “sign.”

So the Catechism reads:  “to be unto the person baptized a sign of his fellowship with Him in his death, burial, and resurrection.”

Notice it prefers the word “sign” rather than “symbol.”  Sign has more weight to it than mere symbol.  When a person is baptized an announcement or public declaration is made.

Our catechism teaches that baptism is a sign of at least four things:

First, it signifies our fellowship with Christ in his death, burial, and resurrection (see Romans 6:3-5; Colossians 2:11-13).

Second, it signifies our being engrafted into Christ (John 15:1-7; Romans 11:16-24).

Third, it signifies remission of sins:

Baptism does not achieve remission of sins.  That is only done through the cross work of Christ.  But it pictures what Christ has done by calling to mind the ordinary act of washing in water to cleanse the body.

When Paul reports how he was discipled or catechized by Ananias as a new convert he records that Ananias said to him:

Acts 22:16 And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord.

Now, did Paul mean by this that Ananias taught him that by the “work” of baptism one had his sins washed away?  Certainly not!  As Peter taught, what saves is not “the putting away of the filth of the flesh” by physical washing, but “the answer of a good conscience toward God” (1 Peter 3:21).

Fourth, it signifies our giving up ourselves “unto God through Jesus Christ, to live and walk in newness of life.”

Having heard and believed the gospel, the Ethiopian eunuch asked Philip:  “See, here is water, what doth hinder me from being baptized?” (Acts 8:36).  To which Philip responded:  “If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest”, and the Eunuch confessed, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God” (v. 37).

The language of giving up oneself or submitting oneself is prominent both here and later in Question 79 (“What is the duty of such as are rightly baptized?”) when the catechism stresses the importance of those who are baptized giving themselves up “to some particular and orderly Church of Jesus Christ, that they may walk in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless.”

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Thursday, June 12, 2014

The Vision (6.12.14): A Testimony on Stewardship

I am often amazed that our small congregation gives so much and so faithfully to support the Lord’s work through our local church.  A friend who is a member of a sister Reformed Baptist Church in Virginia and who is a regular reader of The Vision, sent me a note to follow up on last week’s article on “The Widow’s Mite.”  With his permission, I share a [slightly edited] portion below of what he wrote in hopes it might be an encouragement to you:

Dear Jeff, thank you for continually publishing The Vision….

I believe I was converted as a young child at a VBS.  My parents were not Christians and never went to church but would send the 8 of us children off to VBS when they could find someone to invite us.  I was called, however, when I was 33 by special invitation of the Holy Spirit to return to church.  Anyway, my first 15 years in an SBC church I never tithed my salary, because I struggled even to pay my bills.  I gave to the church but only when there was extra money to give.

Long story short, when God opened my eyes to the doctrines of grace I felt the need to tithe no matter what my situation at the end of the week.  Now I don’t believe in the prosperity gospel that the heretics push in today’s media, but I have found the old saying true:  “You can’t out give the Lord.”  The largest benefit I have received is the relationship I have gained with the Holy Spirit.  I give to the Lord’s work first no matter what condition I find myself in.

Several years ago I visited a church in North Carolina which I had attended over a period of ten years while on vacation.  The pastor was preaching on tithing.  He argued that the New Testament did not teach tithing as a requirement or standard.  He said one should give what is laid on his heart.  It might be 0% or 90%.  I could not argue with his findings.  Having said that, I have found that the Old Testament tithe fits me well.  My “offerings” [above and beyond the tithe] I give outside the church to organizations like the Institute for Creation Research, to Christian schools, or to people whom I feel might need it.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Thursday, June 05, 2014

The Vision (6.5.14): The Widow's Mite

Note:  Devotion taken from last Sunday’s message Religious Show Versus Religious Reality (Luke 20:41—21:4):

Luke 21:1 And he looked up, and saw the rich men casting their gifts into the treasury. 2 And he saw also a certain poor widow casting in thither two mites. 3 And he said, Of a truth I say unto you, that this poor widow hath cast in more than they all: 4 For all these have of their abundance cast in unto the offerings of God: but she of her penury hath cast in all the living that she had.

Luke records that after the season of controversy and verbal sparring in temple, Jesus looked up and saw the rich men casting their gifts into the treasury (21:1).

The historians tell us that at this time the “treasury [gazophylakion]” was a section of the temple in what was called the court of the women where there were thirteen trumpet-shaped offering boxes where worshippers would make contributions as an act of piety to support the temple services.

Luke mentions first, in particular, that Jesus saw the rich casting their gifts into these offering boxes.  The moment we hear the title “the rich” an internal alarm sounds, for Jesus has taught about the dangers of riches.  Recall his account of the deaths of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16 and the sorrowful turning away from discipleship of the rich young ruler in Luke 18, where Jesus taught:  “How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God!  For it is easier for a camel to go through a needle’s eye, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God” (18:24b-25).

Next, Luke adds that Jesus also saw “a certain poor widow casting in thither two mites” (v. 2).  There are several things we should observe in this brief verse.  Luke’s adjective here for poor is penichra, and it is only used here in the NT.  It refers to a state of extreme and destitute poverty.  In the first century, marriage and family were a social safety net.  Leon Morris observes:  “A widow had few ways of earning money in first century Judea and normally found life very difficult.  A poor widow is thus almost proverbial for the poorest of the poor” (Luke, p. 294).

She gives two “mites.”  The Greek word is lepta and it refers to a Jewish copper coin (the only reference to Jewish coins in the NT) that were of exceedingly small value.  In a commentary I read which was published in the 1970s it said the value of the coin was about a tenth of a penny.  Nowadays I’m guessing we might say it was worth a hundredth of a penny!

When we were living in Hungary just after communism, the currency was called the forint and they had a smaller coin called the filler which due to inflation was almost worthless and has now passed out of circulation.  It was minted in such light and thin metal so that it seemed almost to float from your hand!  I imagine that the “mite” was like that.  There are some early Jewish sources that might indicate that two lepta or two mites were considered the least amount that one could contribute to the treasury.

What a contrast:  Here are rich men giving much apparently to the temple treasury and here is a poor widow giving what seems to be little to the same treasury.

But this is not how Jesus sees things.  Remember, man looks at the outward appearance but God looks at the heart (1 Samuel 16:7).

So, in v. 3 Jesus declares that this widow has given more than all (v. 3).  He explains in v. 4 that the other contributors gave out of their abundance, while this widow out of her “penury” or poverty gave all her living (bios), all that she had.

If Bill Gates were to visit our church, and he placed a check for $10,000 in the offering plate that would be a very large gift, but in comparison to his wealth it would be minuscule.  At the same time if a poor widow who worked at a fast food restaurant for minimum wage and who barely scraped by week to week wrote a tithe check for the last $25 in her checking account so that she might have the privilege of supporting her Lord’s work through his church there would be no contest as to who had given the most.  This is why we can never judge generosity of stewardship by quantity, but it must always be seen by quality.

You can give much and in very public ways to support religious endeavors.  But if you give only of your abundance, of your fiscal leftovers, what does this say of your heart?  Think again of Jesus’ praise of the widow.  What is it that he finds so praiseworthy of her?  She gave of out of poverty everything she had.  She lived a life of complete and total dependence upon the Lord for her day to day existence.  Hers was not a “wax museum spirituality.”  This is a model of genuine discipleship that Jesus finds praiseworthy.  May we have the grace to follow him in like manner.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle