COVID-19 Survival Guide

FeaturedCOVID-19 Survival Guide

In the exercise of Christian prudence and in response to calls for social distancing, our elders have decided to limit our corporate gatherings to online only. Below is a quick reference guide of links for you to use as we live life together as a church, online, until the COVID-19 pandemic is over.

  1. We will gather each Sunday at 10:30 am via Facebook Live.  This stream will be simulcast to our River City ARP Facebook page.   If there are technical issues or if you are not on facebook, the video will be posted on YouTube for later viewing.
  2. The service will be simple.   We will have a call to worship and response, I will lead us through our confession of sin, assurance of pardon, and confession of faith.  Then we will share a time of teaching.  Our service will conclude with a pastoral prayer, the Lord’s Prayer and then the Benediction.
  3. Each week we will post a full order of service which also includes the lyrics to some of the songs included on the YouTube playlist.   You may listen to these or sing them together in your home gathering.  We will not sing them together via the live stream.
  4. Continue your giving by giving online or for other options go to the Giving link on our website.
  5. Pray for one another and check in with one another via phone, text, email, social media and even cards and letters.
  6. Please contact us if you have questions.   If you have family members or friends who don’t have good internet access or aren’t quite sure how to navigate this brave new world of virtual gathering, please join them or ask them to join you.  

Men’s Bible Study

FeaturedMen’s Bible Study

In 1968, Little Rock native, Charles Portis, published his most famous novel, True Grit, as a weekly serial for the Saturday Evening Post.  The story’s main character, Rooster Cogburn, is a washed up, over-the-hill lawman — a man whose vices had robbed him of every shred respect and responsibility.  No one expected much of Rooster Cogburn.  Nor did he expect much from himself.  But young Mattie Ross recognized that somewhere deep inside of him was a man of ‘True Grit.’

The world today does not expect much from men.  The growing cultural ambiguity over gender has brought confusion to men regarding their unique identity and calling, robbing men of respect and responsibility.  The concept of masculinity has become a vacuum which has sucked up every worldly idea of what makes a man a man.

Men are looking for role models, someone to follow – a narrative to fill the vacuum.    In his book, The Power of Myth, Joseph Campbell astutely noted that men are drawn to stories of strong men.  But what he failed to grasp is that it is real men, not mythical ones, whose examples are needed.

Such men are not to be found in legend or in the movies, but in the Bible.  Contrary to the assertions of skeptics, the Bible the most well attested collection of historical stories of great and influential real men.  Men who wrestled with the question, “What does it mean to live and lead like a man?”  Nehemiah was one of these men.  He was a man with ‘true grit.’ The Book of Nehemiah reveals some essential principles for godly manhood, but,

“we do not come to the Bible primarily to study a man’s character or Christian methods, we come to meet God; a message has little value unless it brings us to the feet of our Savior.” Alan Redpath.

Men today are searching for significance — significance in their manhood, their vocation, their role within the family and their world.  Men want to know how to live and lead.  Nehemiah was confronted with these same challenges as he sought to reform the church and state of his day.   His example has much to teach us as men.

Join with other men as we gather Thursday mornings, beginning July 27, from 6:30 – 7:30am at Panera Bread, 10701 Kanis Rd, Little Rock, for fellowship, prayer and discussion of godly manhood from the life of Nehemiah.

 

09/20/2020 | “Signs and Seals” | Jeremiah 32

09/20/2020 | “Signs and Seals” | Jeremiah 32

Jeremiah’s prophecies of doom and judgment are unfolding.   The Babylonian army has laid siege to Jerusalem.   Jeremiah has been imprisoned for treason.   But God gives a personal, yet puzzling, word to Jeremiah.   His cousin will offer a piece of land for sale.  Jeremiah has the right of redemption, but this is no time to buy property.  Yet, Jeremiah is instructed to purchase the plot, seal up the deed, and store it away for safe keeping.   Nothing about this deal makes any sense.  

Jeremiah obeys, but struggles with the ‘why.’  Yet in this simple act, God offers a sign and seal that grace, not judgment, is the last word.   Listen to “Signs and Seals” as we examine Jeremiah 32 and consider the importance of signs and seals as a means of grace for us. 

“Signs and Seals,” Jeremiah 32

Signs and Seals

Signs and Seals

Selecting a wedding band was once a straightforward affair.   The only real decisions regarded size and engraving.   A gold band was a gold band.   Larger or smaller, bought at a pawn shop or jeweler, it was adiaphora – a matter of indifference.    And as a pastor, the language used in the wedding service at the giving of the rings was also straightforward.

The ring is a visible symbol of the spiritual covenant that you are making today before God.  The ring will serve for you, and for your children, and for all who see it as a reminder of the purity and the permanence of your marriage covenant.   

Like the gold in the ring which symbolizes purity and beauty, your love for one another is to be pure — unmixed and uncompromised by any other priorities, second only to your love for Christ.   And like ring whose shape, the circle, has neither beginning nor end, you are covenanting today, before God, to enter into a marriage that is permanent and unbreakable.

[Groom], one day when your children see your ring and ask you what it means, you can tell them that it is a symbol of your promise to love and cherish their mother for all time and that it is to be a reminder to them that you will never leave them or forsake them.

And [Bride], when your children see your ring and ask you why you wear it you can tell them that it is a symbol of your promise to love and respect their father and that it is to be a constant reminder to them of your loving, unbreakable commitment to your family.

The gold in your ring may get scratched from time to time, but its beauty and luster will endure.  In the same way there will be trials in your relationship as you learn what it means to live as one-flesh, but your ring will be a constant testimony to you that God has brought you together for keeps. 

But now, during pre-marital counseling, I know to ask,  “what type of ring will you have?”  While the design of the ring does not define its value, the liturgy must acknowledge that gold is no longer a given.  Millennials opt for titanium, silicone, and even tattoos.    And nothing says ‘permanence’ like a tattooed wedding band.

While I don’t jibe with everything the in her blog, I appreciate what Laura Ulveling writes in a post promoting GrooveLife alternative rings.

Your ring is simply a universally recognized symbol to show the world and each other that you have committed your life to someone. Whether the wedding ring you chose is cheap or extravagant, gold or platinum, diamond or silicone, its design has no impact on its value.

Even if you decide to exchange traditional wedding rings at the altar, you can still order a set of Groove rings for your adventurous days so you don’t lose your diamonds while you’re climbing waterfalls or deep-sea diving on your honeymoon!

A ring’s design has no impact on its value.  Signs illustrate.  Seals authenticate.  A wedding ring is a sign and seal of the covenant of marriage.   The ring does not make you married and the absence of one does not remove that covenant.   But the ring does point to the undeniable fact that you belong to someone.  The ring can’t make you a spouse, but it can make you a liar.  You have made and received promises.  And those promises define everything about your life.  

In the Bible, one of the pervasive analogies of faith is that of husband and wife.  In the Old Testament, the Lord says to his people, “I will be your God and you will be my people.”   This is the wedding vow of the ancient world.   God is the husband to his people.  The New Testament picks up this analogy.  The church is the bride of Christ.   God makes a covenant of grace with his people.  A promise is made and sealed with his own blood in the person of Jesus.   And this promise changes everything.  

But there are days when life crashes in.  Our experience seems to contradict or nullify God’s promises.   Can we trust his promises?  Can we trust him?  Is God a faithful spouse?   And when I am not faithful, will he still love me and keep his vows?   Psalm 103 declares that the Lord knows our “frame, that we are but dust.”  Yet, even in our spiritual fragility, he has compassion on us and shows steadfast, unwavering, unbreakable love.    To shore up our flagging faith and soothe our doubts, he gives us signs and seals – reminders of what he has promised and assurances that he is as good as his word.

In the Old Testament God gave repeated sacrifices and sacred spaces to teach the people to expect a once-for-all savior who would secure all God’s gracious promises.   Now, he has given us clearer signs and seals – baptism and the Lord’s Supper.  But their purpose is the same, to point us to his promises and assure us of his faithfulness.

In Jeremiah 32, the prophet is in a hopeless place.   It’s the eleventh hour.  Jeremiah’s prophecies of doom and judgment are unfolding.   The Babylonian army has laid siege to Jerusalem.   Jeremiah has been imprisoned for treason.   But God gives a personal, yet puzzling, word to Jeremiah.   His cousin will offer a piece of land for sale.  Jeremiah has the right of redemption, but this was no time for land speculation.  The market hates uncertainty.  And nothing is more uncertain than a Babylonian invasion.   But Jeremiah is instructed to purchase the plot, seal up the deed, and store it away for safe keeping.   Nothing about this deal makes any sense.  

Jeremiah obeys, but struggles with the ‘why.’  Yet in this simple act, God offers a sign and seal that grace, not judgment, is the last word.   Join us this week as we examine Jeremiah 32 and consider the importance of signs and seals as a means of grace for us.  We meet from 5:00 – 6:30 pm in The Commons at St. Andrews Anglican Church at 8300 Kanis Rd in Little Rock for worship.  Get directions here or contact us for more info.    You can also join us on Facebook Live @RiverCityARP.

09/13/2020 | “What’s New About the New Covenant” | Jeremiah 31:31-40

09/13/2020 | “What’s New About the New Covenant” | Jeremiah 31:31-40

When we hear that something is “new and improved,” we would do well to ask hard questions and exercise discernment.  Especially when considering theological truth.   In the midst of Jeremiah’s Book of Consolation in Jeremiah 31:31-34, God promises a New Covenant – a promise formative in the history and theology of the Church.    But just what is ‘new’ about the New Covenant?   How ‘new’ is it?  And why was something ‘new’ needed?    Listen to “What’s New About the New Covenant,” as we examine Jeremiah 31:31-40 and consider what is ‘new’ about the New Covenant and why it matters.

“What So New About the New Covenant,” Jeremiah 31:31-40

New and Improved

New and Improved

Novelty is a fickle temptress.    We are all fascinated with new things.  The promise of something new is alluring.   A new restaurant, no matter what its offers, will boom for six months.    Every new social media platform renders all others passé.  And when Dr. Oz recommends a new product, demand skyrockets.   But it doesn’t take long for the euphoria of fashionability to yield to a longing for the good old ways – the old places, the old platforms, and the tried and true products.    Novelty is a fickle temptress.    We love change, so long as it doesn’t actually change anything.   As the excitement of discovery cools, we see that newer is not always better.  

But novelty does offer an appeal.   Businesses understand this.   This is why beloved restaurants tinker with their menus and discount furniture stores are perpetually going out of business only to reopen under a new name.   When market share stagnates, products become ‘new and improved’ and businesses go ‘under new management.’    The word ‘new’ pricks our attention.  It arouses consumer desire, but often, not consumer discernment.   

Just what is new?  How is it improved?  Why, if at all, did it need to be improved?   Is the change an improvement?   Some of us are old enough to remember the New Coke debacle of 1985, and it jaded us.   The phrase ‘new and improved’ evokes suspicion.   And ‘under new management’ is often an admission of serious problems — code for ‘we swept the floors and the staff out the door.’   When we hear ‘new and improved’ or ‘under new management,’ we would do well to ask some hard questions and exercise discernment.

But what is true of our economics is even more important for our theology.    When we hear of new teaching or a new interpretation of scripture or a newly discovered ancient text, we must ask some hard questions.    Just what is new?   How new is it?   Why is something new needed?   Is this new thing contrary to the clear truth of the whole counsel of scripture?    The easiest way to lead Christians astray is to provoke our fickle love of novelty – novelty in worship, in teaching, or in practical living.   Ever since the Fall, God’s children have fallen prey to new teaching about God’s nature and His promises.

When we hear about something new, we would do well to ask hard questions and exercise discernment.  Especially when we see that claim in scripture.   Theological understanding demands it.   God promises a new heart, new heavens and a new earth.   He promises to do a ‘new thing’ in the lives of his people as he unfolds redemptive history.  And in the midst of Jeremiah’s Book of Consolation in Jeremiah 31:31-34, God promises a New Covenant – a promise formative in the history and theology of the Church.   

Jesus speaks of the New Covenant as he institutes the Lord’s Supper.

And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.”  

Luke 22:19-20

And the author of the Hebrews quotes Jeremiah 31 twice as he examines exactly what is and is not new about the New Covenant.  

But theological heterodoxy over the nature, membership, and significance of the New Covenant has been divisive in the church, especially since the Reformation.  For some it points to a new way, or dispensation, of salvation.  For others it demotes the Old Testament to a lesser revelation, providing historical background but no continuing authority or relevance for Christian practice.   And many believe it radically changes the nature of covenant membership and therefore the nature of the church.  

With so much at stake, we would do well to ask hard questions when we hear the word ‘new’ in regards to God’s covenant of grace.    Just what is ‘new’ about the New Covenant?   How ‘new’ is it?  And why was something ‘new’ needed?   Jeremiah 31 is the only place in the Old Testament where the New Covenant is mentioned, but the prophet and the whole counsel of God’s Word give us sufficient context to understand just what is ‘new’ about the New Covenant.   And why it is important.

Join us this week as we examine Jeremiah 31:31-40 and consider what is ‘new’ about the New Covenant and why it matters.  We meet from 5:00 – 6:30 pm in The Commons at St. Andrews Anglican Church at 8300 Kanis Rd in Little Rock for worship.  Get directions here or contact us for more info.    You can also join us on Facebook Live @RiverCityARP.

09/06/2020 | “Taking Comfort” | Jeremiah 31:1-30

09/06/2020 | “Taking Comfort” | Jeremiah 31:1-30

Jeremiah spent four decades warning of Judah of judgment and exile.   Through warning after warning, God called the people to turn back to Him, but they would not.  They sought comfort down every path except the path of faith and repentance.   But God did not forsake them.  When hope seemed lost, God gave the prophet Jeremiah a word of comfort for the people. But to take comfort from God’s promises, we must receive them.   We must believe them by faith.   We must turn back to Him.   We must rest in the assurance that Our Father has it all together. 

Listen to “Taking Comfort,” as we examine Jeremiah 31:1-30 and consider how God calls us to receive and experience the comfort He offers. 

“Taking Comfort,” Jeremiah 31:1-30