Author Archives: Michael Riley

For the local newspaper

One of my tasks here in Wakefield is continuing a column that Pastor Thomas Bauder used to write for the local newspaper. I’m planning to cross-post these essays on the blog as well. Here’s the first essay, in which I introduce myself.


The editor of this paper has my thanks for allowing me to inherit the column previously written by Pastor Thomas Bauder, who preceded me in the pulpit of Calvary Baptist Church of Wakefield. My further thanks go to Pastor Bauder; he answered dozens of my questions and has shown me nothing but kindness in this transition. I know full well that I cannot replace him.

As a newcomer, a word of introduction is in order. I was born and reared in suburban Detroit. (The church here has agreed to mock my origins only when I really deserve it.) I have a couple of degrees in Bible and theology and am working on another. My ministry to this point has been mostly in academic institutions: I taught at a Bible college in Arizona and was most recently an administrator at a seminary in Minneapolis.

My wife Alicia is from Washington state, born near the coast and reared in the mountains on its eastern side. We met and were married in Arizona. Our daughter Katharine is 18 months old, and she will be an older sister come the turn of the new year.

I intend to continue writing this column in the format that Pastor Bauder established: simply explaining what the Bible says in answer to various questions. Why so? Mostly because I have little else worthwhile to offer. No one should read this column (or attend Calvary Baptist Church, for that matter) to marvel at my wisdom. I’m still youngish, and the Bible says nothing flattering about the wisdom of the young. Even if I were a fountain of wisdom, my calling as a pastor is not to be a puritanical Dear Abby. Opinions and advice are cheap and plentiful, and although I think mine are correct (else I wouldn’t hold them), they can be safely discarded if they are merely mine.

No, anything of value that I have to say must be rooted in a deeper wisdom. I’m convinced that the Bible is the very Word of God, and this column will (continue to) be written with that conviction. Proverbs, the very heart of the Bible’s wisdom books, tells us that “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge” (1:7), and for that reason, the Psalmist calls the Word of God “a lamp to my feet, and a light to my path” (119:105).

And so my life, my pastorate, and this column will be driven by a commitment to the Bible’s total trustworthiness. Why believe a thing like that? That, my friends, is certainly a column for another week.

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Posted by on July 18, 2012 in Newspaper Article, Pastoral


Preaching the dangers of tradition

Next Sunday, the next passage in our church’s current sermon series is Mark 7. In this passage, Jesus condemns the religious leaders of his day for allowing their traditions to trump the actual law of God.

One quick thought: as pastors, when we preach on allowing the traditions of men to violate the authority of God, we need to apply these passages to the actual kinds of traditions that our people are struggling with. As Protestants, our knee-jerk impulse is to find reason in this passage (and those like it) to condemn yet again the liturgical traditions of popery. This is not inappropriate.

And yet I wonder, in many of our congregations, if such traditions have any pull with our folks.

Here’s a test: if you preach against the traditions of men in your church and elicit nothing but hearty amens, you have certainly missed your target.


Posted by on May 29, 2012 in Conservatism, Pastoral


A necessary lie

As one interested in apologetics, I regularly keep tabs on any number of atheist blogs. One of the most interesting belongs to Hemant Mehta (writer of I Sold My Soul on eBay). In one of his most recent posts, he takes Nicholas Kristof to task; Kristof had argued that atheists need to respect the ability of religion to advance social good. Mehta replied:

No one ever argued religion wasn’t powerful…. But the “New Atheists” are right that religion is harmful and irrational. More importantly, religious beliefs are untrue. There’s no credible evidence Jesus rose from the dead, people go to heaven and hell, that your prayers get answered, or that God talks to you.

Religion may give you hope, but that hope rests on you accepting a lie. I, and many other atheists, don’t want to live that way.

Here’s the rich irony of Mehta’s position: I suspect that (to whatever degree he’s consistent with his own beliefs) he would insist that life has no meaning other than that which we create for it. In other words, for the atheist, all the hope and meaning that anyone has in this life “rests on you accepting a lie”; Mehta cannot exempt himself from his own criticism.

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Posted by on April 9, 2012 in Apologetics


Another CD recommendation

For the Sunday afternoon services at Calvary Baptist Church, we have been doing a survey of the Psalms. So far, we’ve spent two weeks considering examples of psalms of praise, and another two weeks the psalms of lament. We begin psalms of thanksgiving this week.

Our custom has been to conclude these services by singing the psalm that we’ve studied. For the psalms of lament, we used the tunes for the psalms from the Genevan Psalter.

For an introduction to these tunes, I’d recommend this recording. If any of the church folks are reading this post, you’ll hear that track 5 is the tune that we sang this past Sunday.

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Posted by on March 30, 2012 in Music



I’m always interested in finding good deals on good music. I’ve recently come upon the site (as I was looking for New York Polyphony’s newest disc, endBeginning, which I recommend to you). Of particular interest is their daily deal page, in which they offer one disc a day at half price. Today’s disc is a collection of Baroque guitar selections, which is quite good (and comes with a gloriously awkward cover as a bonus).

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Posted by on March 7, 2012 in Music


My candidating sermon

In January, when I candidated for the pastorate of Calvary Baptist Church, I preached on the qualifications for the elder in 1 Peter 5. The sermon is available for listening here.

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Posted by on March 2, 2012 in Preaching, Worship


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Now adjunct at Northland

Just a quick announcement: I will be teaching an online hermeneutics course for Northland International University’s Graduate School this summer. Here’s a link to my faculty profile.

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Posted by on February 20, 2012 in Personal


Ministry and family balance

I was recently asked my thoughts on balancing the demands of ministry and of family. Part of my answer was the following, about which I am seeking feedback from my loyal reader(s):

I believe that often (not always) pastors experience significant tension between ministry and family for two reasons: 1) a refusal to restrict the work of the church to only those things that the church is authorized to do in Scripture, and 2) a desire to expand their own personal ministry reach beyond their local church.

Thoughts? Comments? Snide remarks?


Posted by on January 17, 2012 in Pastoral


Apologetics and Tim Tebow

Just an observation: if “and Tim Tebow just keeps winning football games” functions as a crux of your defense of Christianity, you’re doing it wrong.

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Posted by on January 9, 2012 in Apologetics, Society


Way off topic: bad fantasy basketball league

You are warned: this post will be of interest to very few readers. I’m looking for the overlap between three groups: people who like the NBA, people who like fantasy sports, and people who have a slightly odd sense of humor.

If this describes you, please continue reading.

I have started an NBA fantasy league in which the scoring is inverted: instead of getting points for having the best players on your team, your goal is to play those players who provide the least production during their time on the court.

In this league, your players get points for starting games and for every minute they’re on the court. They get points for taking shots (but lose points if they make the shots). The get points for turning the ball over, but lose them for assists and rebounds. They also get points for fouls, including flagrants and technicals.

The result of this is that the top ten players in this league in the NBA last season were

  1. Travis Outlaw
  2. Stephen Jackson
  3. Jason Richardson
  4. Dorell Wright
  5. Wesley Matthews
  6. Trevor Ariza
  7. Metta World Peace (!)
  8. Gilbert Arenas
  9. Marco Belinelli
  10. Wesley Johnson

If this whole concept sounds amusing to you, add a comment below and I’ll send you an invitation to the league. We’re drafting on Monday night, and trust me: you want to be able to draft live for this one. The autodraft will just kill your team.

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Posted by on December 14, 2011 in Personal