On Sept. 25th I attended the ordination service of a dear friend of mine. Mike Rice and his wife Sandra have been a part of my life for many years. Prior to my conversion I remember being at their home one evening very late and hearing them speak of God and the gospel while we listened to music. They are one of the few couples I knew at the time that seemed to take the gospel seriously. I thoroughly enjoyed them. Later, after my conversion, I attended the same church as they did, which my father pastored. After some time, I was ordained and began preaching and teaching. In the final year or so that Mike and Sandra were at SPBC we shared teaching responsibilities in the high school Sunday school department. I will never forget the genuine love that Mike and Sandra had for each other and for others. Their compassion was indeed contagious. They have two boys and they both have a tremendous love for the Lord. Both seem to love missions and sharing the gospel. Praise the Lord! They are even reading good reformed works too.
Mike and Sandra left with their boys 4 years ago to go to Southeastern Seminary. Mike and I often spent a night a month or every other month over several hours of coffee and conversation. Those times were always encouraging to me. I saw Mike full of joy and almost like a kid as he learned new things. It was exciting! He constantly was desirous of one thing: to finish his schooling and take a church that God would lead him to with the intention of spending the rest of his life pouring his life into the lives of God's people. Mike obtained no rose colored glasses from seminary. He is not yet reformed, but is one who does not believe in "easy believism". God has given him a wonderful church near us and we hope for many more opportunities to fellowship over numerous cups of coffee in the future and rejoice over the good things that God will do in and through him there in his new home at Gainesville Baptist Church in Lincolton, NC.
Just this past weekend we headed up to Virginia. This was my first trip to Virginia since I was just a little guy. We had been invited by Jerry Johnson of the Apologetics Group to come up and visit with he and his family and attend the first annual conference sponsored by the Apologetics Group. The conference was on Reformed Theology and was held in Draper, VA at Draper's Valley Presbyterian Church. This church was built back in the 1800's and even the bricks were those old style hand made bricks. The doors of the church are never locked! Can you believe it? We have been somewhat pressed in our finances due to the soon arrival of the new baby Denise is carrying and so Jerry graciously offered us their house to stay at along with providing us seats for the conference. We met his family that afternoon and we just had warm fellowship together. Our kids just fell in love with theirs and Denise and I enjoyed our fellowship with our brother and sister as well.
We heard from several speakers in the conference: Dr. Gary Crampton, Dr. Ken Talbot, Dr. Cortez Cooper, Jerry Johnson, and Eric Holmberg. I have to say that for a bunch of Presbyterians, they sure were passionate:) I am serious. I have never met such a group of passionate preachers from the PCA. They are all wonderful men of God. I was deeply moved by Dr. Cooper, who was celebrating his 50th wedding anniversary that Saturday. Whoever has that man as a pastor is deeply blessed and should thank God everyday for such a gracious man.
The topics included: God's grace in revelation, God's grace in Justification, God's grace in Election, God's grace and the Law, God's grace in Regeneration, God's grace in Perseverance, The difference between justification and sanctification, & the church's fall from grace. Each of the times were greatly empowered by the Holy Spirit. From the first session with Dr. Crampton speaking of the wonderful Word of God and its exaltation with the name of God and the power of God's spoken word to the tremendous challenge by Eric Holmberg to line up our orthodoxy with our orthopraxy (something I've been saying for years), it was an incredibly edifying time among those I was with. There was great fellowship and the people of the church that served us food and snacks were simply incredible and gracious. I met many wonderful people there. though I must say, I believe I was the only Reformed Baptist there. Yes I did get a couple of the "Presbyterian pats" on the head and one dear brother jokingly said that one day I would be truly reformed. Well, maybe one day he will see the error of his ways and repent:)LOL. In all seriousness (not that that wasn't serious), I had a wonderful time and we all gloried in the fact that God was truly glorified in the proclamation of His Word and in the delight of His people in Him.
Our children sat through about 6 of the sessions. It was a marathon and worth it. God definitely was gracious through their patience. You can see that Dakota was simply wore out during one of the sessions, so we let him sleep through the break. The children were up late the previous evening and so they needed that extra rest. They also made many new friends and left in tears. They hated to leave new found friends. But we hope they will be able to visit again in the near future. We are very thankful for those godly men and their wives who are their helpmates. I pray God would continue to bless their families and their ministries in the future and give them perseverance and strength to run the race as though they should obtain the prize and may Jesus Christ be glorified in them. Amen.