Wednesday, June 28, 2017

ribbeite

Photo credit: rruff.info/ribbeite
Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.  (Colossians 3:23-24 NIV)

In 1987 a newly discovered mineral, dug from the Kombat Mine in Namibia, was named after Dr. Paul H. Ribbe of Virginia Tech.  "Ribbeite" was so named in recognition of Paul's many contributions to mineralogy, especially in his studies of crystal structures and mineral luminescence.

Further, in "The Vision of Paul H. Ribbe and the Remarkable Story of Reviews" this was written about his research and editorial work:  

Thirty years ago, a small unassuming book entitled Sulfide Minerals appeared. Soft-bound in a bright yellow cover, it was printed at a tiny press in Blacksburg, Virginia. The editor was Paul H. Ribbe, a well-known feldspar mineralogist. The print run was a few hundred, and not many people noticed. Today, the same series, covering a multitude of topics in mineralogy, petrology, and geochemistry, has grown to a staggering 25,000+ pages in 57 volumes. Known for excellence and comprehensiveness, over 200,000 copies of these books have been sold or distributed to libraries worldwide. It is fair to say that these books have touched the scientific life of nearly every mineralogist, petrologist, and geochemist in the world since the 1970's.  Paul remained series editor throughout, finally retiring just last year (2003) 

Read more about this here and here.   

David Kingston, Professor (UDP) of Chemistry at Virginia Tech, and fellow elder at BCF, shared these words about Paul in light of the Colossians 3 passage given above:  

We first met when we were both graduate students at Cambridge University in England; he in mineralogy and I in chemistry. We met at Zion Baptist Church, and Paul and Elna took pity on me as a single and rather skinny student, and invited me to their home on several occasions for American-style home cooked meals, which were greatly appreciated. We parted ways when we both graduated, but we were reunited in 1971 when I moved to Blacksburg. About two years before I arrived Paul and Elna and four other families had founded Blacksburg Christian Fellowship, with the aim of it being a church that preached the word of God and encouraged ministry to students. Paul was the most energetic of the elders, and although I was not around at the very beginning it is probably true to say that without him BCF would not exist today. However, my real point is that Paul was a man who was a wonderful example of someone who worked at his work with all his heart, as working for the Lord. He was a Professor of Mineralogy at Virginia Tech, and greatly respected for his research and teaching. Among other achievements he founded and was the Editor for 30 years, from 1974-2004, of the series Reviews in Mineralogy & Geochemistry. He also taught hundreds of students, two of whom later took jobs at VT and are
now University Distinguished Professors. In addition to all this he spent a major part of his time serving the Lord in Blacksburg. He wrote a brief autobiography in which he described himself as follows: “My spare-time pursuits: Teaching, preaching, marrying, overseeing, etc. as a BCF Elder; at home: landscaping, traveling and supporting my wife for 33 years as Teaching Leader of Bible Study Fellowship. She wondrously supported me for the past 58+ years! The secret of our strong marriage: We both had the same calling — a life-long commitment to serving and proclaiming Jesus.” And Paul lived what he taught, serving the Lord on the VT campus and through BCF for almost 50 years. And because of this I can tell you with confidence that verse 24 is true for him “since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord
Christ you are serving. And so our Lord Christ has greeted him with the words: “well done, good and faithful servant”.

Hear David's sermon "Your Work Matters to God" here







Monday, June 26, 2017

an easter prayer

The following is the Sunday morning prayer offered by Paul Ribbe at the BCF Easter service about four years ago, as recorded by Jason Meyer:  

Most exalted and loving Jesus, we bring our praise and worship to you this  morning. You have indeed been raised from the dead! You are alive!

What we celebrate today is the crowning miracle of your Gospel, the Good News: It’s the Greatest News ever heard by mankind in all of history!

Because of your death on the cross in our place, and your glorious resurrection from the tomb, we are no longer alienated from the Father, dead and rotting in our sins – Instead, we are completely wrapped in the perfection of your righteousness.

We have hope in this life and assurance of the life to come! You will present us – even me, Lord(!) -- to God the Father – holy, and blameless, and above reproach. And those who have passed away in you, who have “gone to sleep” in you, are today in Paradise with you.

Because you, Lord Jesus, have been raised from the dead, everything has changed. You are the first-fruits and the guarantee of a whole “new 
creation.”

Redemption, reconciliation, and restoration are your gifts of grace to us.

The decline and decay of our earthly bodies will soon give way to the glory of our resurrection bodies. Death is swallowed up in victory!

“Thanks be to God who gives us that victory through Jesus Christ, our risen Lord."

We thank you that the kingdom of this world has become the kingdom of God our Father, and of you, Lord Jesus! You are already reigning, and you will reign forever and ever. 

All evil powers and Satan himself have already been defeated by your death and resurrection. And, one day they will be completely removed when you return for your own. 

Our prayer is: “Even so, come, Lord Jesus!”

Jesus, your death was the death of sin and death itself, and your resurrection is beginning of life – new and victorious life for all those who love you. 

The wonder of it all!

By your compelling grace, Lord Jesus, open our eyes and minds to see you in your beauty. Free us from the emptiness of living for ourselves, and may we live for the praise of your glory.

Bring your resurrection power to bear in our homes, in our church, and in our community. Capture our children early and re-capture our hearts when we drift.

Speak to us from your Word this morning through your servant, David, and hear us as we sing your praises.

May the rest of our days be spent for your glory, empowered by your Holy Spirit. So, Risen Lord Jesus, we pray in your most glorious and worthy name, AMEN.





Friday, June 23, 2017

this verbal disease (eliot)

"During a good part of history the philosopher endeavoured to deal with objects which he believed to be of the same exactness as the mathematician’s. Finally Hegel arrived, and if not perhaps the first, he was certainly the most prodigious exponent of emotional systematization, dealing with his emotions as if they were definite objects which had aroused those emotions. His followers have as a rule taken for granted that words have definite meanings, overlooking the tendency of words to become indefinite emotions. 

"If verbalism were confined to professional philosophers, no harm would be done. But their corruption has extended very far. Compare a medieval theologian or mystic, compare a seventeenth-century preacher, with any 'liberal' sermon since Schleiermacher, and you will observe that words have changed their meanings. What they have lost is definite, and what they have gained is indefinite.

"The vast accumulations of knowledge—or at least of information—deposited by the nineteenth century have been responsible for an equally vast ignorance. When there is so much to be known, when there are so many fields of knowledge in which the same words are used with different meanings, when every one knows a little about a great many things, it becomes increasingly difficult for anyone to know whether he knows what he is talking about or not. And when we do not know, or when we do not know enough, we tend always to substitute emotions for thoughts." 

~ T. S. Eliot, excerpt from “The Perfect Critic” (1920) published in Athenaeum.  Complete article here.  

Friday, June 16, 2017

what standard of judgment



"For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world--to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice."  Pilate said to him, 'What is truth?...'"  (John 18:37-38 ESV)

One of the main problems in communicating with people today is a lack of clarity regarding what our standard of judgment is.  What framework, what authority, does each of us see as ultimate and binding?  When someone says, "what's wrong with ______ ", there is usually an implied basis for judgment.  It may be what seems "reasonable", or its wide cultural acceptance, or some scientific study which seems to support it.  

J. Gresham Machen notes, "The first question in dealing with any difference of opinion is the question what standard of judgment is to be applied to the question at issue."  (The Christian Faith in the Modern World)

I drew the chart above with spheres of authority.  God's Word is a solid circle; the others are dotted (fluctuating, variable).  There are overlaps.  This is to show that there are things in a culture which the Bible would affirm, as well as things the Bible would condemn.  

Reason and science are helpful tools in gaining knowledge, but cannot be the basic determination of truth, especially ethical and spiritual truth.  Reason is an important process, but by itself reason does not determine ultimate truth or ethical obligations.  Science has many limitations, but true discoveries are true because God created this world for us to study and discover.  However, science cannot tell us many things: purpose, meaning, what went before time, or after, or what is right and wrong.   As one philosopher said long ago, "We are afloat on the raft of our knowledge upon the sea of our ignorance."   

Likewise, our friends, traditions, feelings, and experiences may help us to know some aspects of truth and to act well, but they are not the infallible authority regarding truth and goodness. 

Again, Machen: "If we take the Bible as the Word of God, then the Bible becomes our standard of truth and of life. When we are asked whether we can support any kind of message or can engage in any course of conduct, what we do is simply to compare that message or that course of conduct with the Bible. If it agrees with the Bible, we can support it or follow it; if it does not agree with the Bible, we cannot support it or follow it no matter what we may be told by other authorities to do.  Our standard is not a flexible standard. Far from holding that what is true today becomes false tomorrow according to the shifting needs of human life, we find our standard both of truth and of conduct in the Bible, which we hold to be not a product of human experience but the Word of God." (The Christian Faith in the Modern World)

Which leads me to examine another question:  what is your (and my) operating -- or functional -- authority?  I think many Christians would say that their authority for faith and behavior is God and his Word.  However, for many that may be only in a formal sense.  Is that so in a functional way?  It is not enough to say that we believe God's authoritative Word, but then make actual decisions in life based upon feelings, experiences, friends' opinions, polls, what "makes sense", or what the culture approves.  

In making daily ethical choices -- and in our conversations with others -- the Scriptures must be our authority, both in a formal and in a functional sense.

"To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, they have no light of dawn."  (Isaiah 8:20 NIV)






Monday, June 12, 2017

the supernatural Jesus

J. Gresham Machen, Professor of New Testament at Princeton, and later the founder of Westminster Theological Seminary, was succinct and lucid in his approach toward critical scholarship and liberalism of last century.  His words in the radio addresses he gave in 1936 are as applicable today as they were then... 

Some radicals of the present day are drawing the logical conclusion. Since the supernatural is inseparable from the rest and since they will not accept the supernatural, they are letting the whole go. They are telling us that we cannot know anything at all with any certainty about Jesus.

Such skepticism is preposterous. It will never hold the field. You need not be afraid of it at all, my friends. The picture in the Gospels is too vivid. It is too incapable of having been invented. It is evidently the picture of a real person.


So the age-long bewilderment of unsaved men in the presence of Jesus still goes on. Jesus will not let men go.  They will not accept His stupendous claims; they will not accept Him as their Savior. But He continues to intrigue and baffle them. He refuses to be pushed into their little molds. They stand bewildered in His presence.


There is only one escape from that bewilderment. It is to accept Jesus after all. Refuse to believe that the picture is true, and all is bewilderment and confusion in your view of the earliest age of the Church; accept the picture as true, and all is plain. Everything then fits into its proper place. The key has been found to solve the mighty riddle.


The supernatural Jesus is thus the key to a right understanding of early Christian history. But He is also the key to far more than that. Mankind stands in the presence of more riddles than the riddle of New Testament times. All about us are riddles - the riddle of our existence, the riddle of the universe, the riddle of our misery and our sin. To all those riddles Jesus, as the New Testament presents Him, provides the key. He is the key not to some things but to everything. Very comprehensive, very wonderfully cumulative, very profound and very compelling is the evidence for the reality of the supernatural Christ.


But if we are convinced by that evidence, we must take the consequences. If we are convinced that Jesus is what the New Testament says He is, then the word of Jesus becomes for us law. We cannot then choose whether we will believe Him when He speaks. We must believe. His authority then must for us be decisive in all disputes. 


~ J. Gresham Machen, The Christian Faith in the Modern World (1936)


Thursday, June 1, 2017

a display of truth



In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me."  For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.  (1 Corinthians 11:25-26 ESV)

“So the Lord’s Supper was not just the idea of the apostles, not something conjured up by the Church, but it was a solemn command of the Lord. Why did He command them to keep it? Here is a most significant thing. I believe he gave this command in order to preserve the doctrine.  This, you see is an enactment of the doctrine, it is a kind of display of the truth, and our Lord wanted to preserve the truth throughout the centuries until the end of the Christian era.

“What a wonderful thing this has been! This table with its bread and wine has often been a terrible condemnation of the pulpit. Men have entered pulpits and said that Jesus was only a man, that he was nothing more than a moral exemplar and a good teacher. They have said that his death was the death of a pacifist, that it was a great tragedy and that we must imitate his spirit and live in the same way. They have preached like that in pulpits and then they have gone down to the Communion table, and there has been no connection between their preaching and the message of that Communion service. The Communion table, the broken bread and the poured out wine, has been preaching a message.

“And so, because of men and their fallibility – and we are all fallible – the Lord took a step to preserve the truth, the doctrine. And if you want to know how to test modern teaching and modern preaching, here is your test:  What relationship does it bear to the bread and the wine?  Does it lead to that?  Is the Communion service a demonstration of the message that has been preached?  If it is not, the message has been false. Here is the Lord’s own command and he has commanded it in order to preserve the teaching.”

~ D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Authentic Christianity Vol. 1 (Crossway Books, 2000) p. 150

the dominion of God

Pray then like this: "Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.  Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven..." (Matthew 6:9-10 ESV)

But Jesus called them to him and said, "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them.  It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."  (Matthew 20:25-28 ESV)

"The dominion of God is a very different sort of dominion from what we understand by the word in ordinary human relationships. As Jesus pointed out, the nations of the world exercise dominion over one another by force. Had Jesus’ dominion been of that sort, were his kingdom of this world, his disciples would doubtless have used force to protect and extend his kingdom or rule. But the dominion of God is a dominion which flows from righteousness and love. This is how God exercises his dominion in heaven and therefore also on earth. In heaven, the will of God is done because those who are there love God and love the rightness of God’s will. God exercises his dominion through the glad obedience of perfect hearts."  (Broughton Knox, The Everlasting God)