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.

 

Why Solus Christus Still Matters

Why Solus Christus Still Matters

As a student of theology, Ralph Erskine made the rounds to many of Edinburgh’s notable churches to hear the great preachers of his day.  In his journal he recorded notes and assessment of each sermon.  In one entry he noted only, “not very good  — no word of Christ.”   I wonder what assessment Erskine would make of preaching in our day?   Would he hear a word of Christ or merely a moralistic prescription for self-improvement?

Scottish divine, Thomas Chalmers noted the spiritually fatal effect of the entertaining, self-help, power-of-positive-thinking type preaching of his day that lacked a word of Christ.   He aptly remarked that  such preaching was

“like a winter’s day, short and clear and cold. The brevity is good, the clarity is better; the coldness is fatal. Moonlight preaching ripens no harvest.”  

The Middle Ages, steeped in superstition and error, had no lack of interesting preaching.   Its art and rhetoric; its value as entertainment was without rival in the frivolities of Medieval life.   Yet it lacked the sunlight of the gospel.  It had the form of godliness but was bereft of gospel power because it spoke no word of Christ.   Calvin describes this preaching.

“Indeed what one sermon was there from which old wives might not carry off more fantasies than they could devise at their own fireside in a month?  For, [these] sermons … contained smooth stories, or not unamusing speculations, by which the people might be excited to cheerfulness.   Only a few expressions were thrown in from the Word of God, that by their majesty they might procure credit for these frivolities.   But as soon as the Reformers raised the standard, all these absurdities in a moment disappeared from among us.”

The Reformation grew in the soil of expository, gospel preaching.  Preaching that proclaimed salvation by grace alone, through faith alone in Christ alone.   Today’s preaching often aims merely to excite the hearers to cheerfulness and tell a few smooth stories.   Yet such moonlight preaching ripens no harvest.

Why does the Reformation still matter?  And why does Solus Christus, “In Christ Alone,” still matter?  Join us this Lord’s Day, October 22, as we consider these questions. We meet from 5:00 – 6:30 pm in The Commons at St. Andrews Anglican Church at 8300 Kanis Rd in Little Rock.  Click here for directions.

Come with a friend you and join us for fellowship and conversation. We look forward to seeing you there.

Misdiagnosis

Misdiagnosis

Medical misdiagnosis is a serious problem.  Recent studies have estimated that as many as 12 million adults a year seeking outpatient care are misdiagnosed.  Worse yet, diagnostic errors may result in as many as 10% of patient deaths — more deaths annually than breast cancer.  To be fair, diagnosis is incredibly complex and patients place extraordinarily high expectations for accuracy on their doctors.  Patients often bet their lives on the opinions of their doctor.  When those opinions are wrong the prescribed treatment will fail to address the real condition and may even make the condition more acute.

Misdiagnosis is a serious problem but it is nothing compared to the misdiagnosis of a deeper sickness that affects us all – a spiritually terminal condition the Bible calls sin.  This condition is congenital and inherited.  It is always fatal.  Every one of us has it.  Yet it is often misdiagnosed.  Doctors of skepticism dismiss that any sickness exists, while doctors of philosophy are more concerned with classification than cure.   Doctors of psychology declare this sickness to be a non-fatal dysfunction, easily resolved with the right therapeutic tweak.   Doctors of world religions prescribe a course of works, coupled with a regimen of rituals and outward piety.  But with all these prescriptions, the cirrhosis of the soul continues unabated.

At the dawn of the Reformation, the Church taught that man needed the grace of God to overcome his sin problem, just not grace alone.  The Church and its teachers had misdiagnosed the depth and severity of sin as mere spiritual sloth.  If only the patients would exert themselves, even just a little, and show that they were trying, God would give them the loan of grace they needed to make up what they lacked.   God helps those that help themselves!

Yet these Doctors of the Church had failed to read their diagnostic manual, the Scripture, which reveals that the patients are already spiritually dead (Ephesians 2) and that none of them can ever exert themselves, even just a little (Romans 3).   Martin Luther worked and worked to do his part, yet with all his working he only felt that more working was needed.   Far from loving or seeking God, he hated and despised God for his implacable justice and harshness.  It was not until he read in Romans 1, “the just shall live by faith” that he realized that his hope was not in a loan of grace, but in grace alone — grace given to him, not in response to his willingness, but in spite of his rebellion.  Luther commented.

“He is not righteous who does much, but he who, without work, believes much in Christ…. The love of God does not find, but creates, that which is pleasing to it…. Rather than seeking its own good, the love of God flows forth and bestows good. Therefore sinners are attractive because they are loved; they are not loved because they are attractive.”

Dead men do not need renovation, but resurrection.   For this reason, the Reformers insisted that the only remedy for sin was Grace alone (Sola Gratia) through Faith alone (Sola Fide).  Why do Sola Gratia and Sola Fide Still Matter?  Because the epidemiology of sin has not changed in the last 500 years.

Join us this Lord’s Day, October 15, as we consider the question, “Why do Sola Gratia and Sola Fide Still Matter?”  We meet from 5:00 – 6:30 pm in The Commons at St. Andrews Anglican Church at 8300 Kanis Rd in Little Rock.  Click here for directions.

Come with a friend you and join us for fellowship and conversation. We look forward to seeing you there.

Tippecanoe and Tyler Too

Tippecanoe and Tyler Too

While old campaign slogans may be catchy and the memorabilia that immortalized them collectable, the issues they expressed are hardly relevant or even discernible in our day.   As we approach the 500th anniversary of the Reformation on October 31, 2017, our social media feeds will be burgeoning with memes and sermon series announcements related to the Five Solas, or Reformation era slogans, expressing the central concerns of the Protestant Reformers.  These slogans are:

  • Sola Scriptura, By Scripture alone,
  • Sola Gratia, By Grace alone,
  • Sola Fide, By Faith alone,
  • Solus Christus, By Christ alone,
  • Soli Deo Gloria, For God’s Glory alone.

As a Reformed Church our identity and our name is connected explicitly to a Sixteenth Century historical movement in Western European History, while our faith and practice is staunchly defined and directed by a book that has not been updated in almost two thousand years.

Are we not a living, breathing anachronism?   Are we not irrelevant to culture and a world that has advanced and moved on from the historical context into which we were born?  Does the Reformation still matter?  Do the Five Solas have any more relevance for our lives today than “Tippecanoe and Tyler Too?”  Or are we just worshiping and practicing our own outdated style in a world that is moving on without us?  These are weighty questions which we need to ask and answer as we consider “who” and “what” we are as a Reformed Church in the Twenty-First Century.

Join us this Lord’s Day, October 8, as we consider the question, “Why Does Sola Scriptura Still Matter?”  We meet from 5:00 – 6:30 pm in The Commons at St. Andrews Anglican Church at 8300 Kanis Rd in Little Rock.  Click here for directions.

Come with a friend you and join us for fellowship and conversation. We look forward to seeing you there.

Integration Crisis

Integration Crisis

The month of September marked the 60th anniversary of the 1957 integration crisis at Central High School in Little Rock.   The courageous action of the Little Rock Nine to  enter Central High in September 1957 sparked a nationwide crisis.  Arkansas Governor, Orval Faubus, in defiance of a federal court order, called out the Arkansas National Guard to prevent the Nine from entering the school. In response, President Dwight D. Eisenhower federalized the National Guard, sending in units of the U.S. Army’s 101st Airborne Division to escort the Nine into Central High on September 25, 1957.

Though this courageous action of the Little Rock Nine promised to herald a new era of desegregation and racial reconciliation, sixty years later we find Little Rock and, indeed, America more racially and socially divided than ever.  Much more is required than the might of the 101st Airborne Division and the courage of the Little Rock Nine to break down the walls of hostility in our culture.   Nothing short of divine intervention is sufficient.   But the good news — the gospel — is that God has intervened to reconcile men to Himself and one another through Jesus Christ and has given the Church the ministry of reconciliation.

…remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.   Ephesians 2:12-16

River City Reformed Church in Little Rock is a confessionally Reformed Church committed to bringing reconciliation to Little Rock by the hope of the Gospel through authentic community, faithful teaching and preaching, biblical worship and meaningful ministry.   Here is how you can pray for us as we begin this work.

  • For the Lord to bring new families and individuals interested in our vision of planting a Reformed Church committed to ordinary means evangelism, confessionally Reformed worship and family-integrated ministry, worship and discipleship.
  • For the expansion and growth of our Thursday morning, Men’s Bible Study, Lessons from Nehemiah, which we pray will be effective in discipleship and outreach to men in our city.
  • For wisdom and discernment regarding the process and timeline for  transition from Bible Study to Worship in our Lord’s Day gatherings.
  • Pray for our families as they exercise their spiritual gifts to engage those in their sphere of influence who are unbelievers, disbelievers or disconnected believers.
  • For increased influence in the city of Little Rock for River City Reformed, both “on the ground” and in social media. 
  • Thanksgiving for the commitment of the Mississippi Valley Presbytery for its careful and attentive prayer and financial support for River City Reformed and Pastor Wheeler.

Relentless Pursuit

Relentless Pursuit

Deputy Marshall, Bass Reeves set the standard for relentless pursuit.  Born to slave parents in 1838 in Crawford County Arkansas, Reeves would become the first black U.S. Deputy Marshal west of the Mississippi and one of the greatest frontier heroes in our nation’s history.

Appointed by the infamous Judge Isaac Parker because of his significant knowledge of the area and ability to speak several tribal languages, Bass Reeves earned his place in history as one of the most effective lawmen in Indian Territory, bringing in more than 3,000 outlaws during his 35 years of service.

Though Reeves could not read or write it did not diminish his effectiveness in apprehending fugitives. He memorized every warrant and never failed to produce the right one. Reeves earned a reputation for his courage, success and ingenuity. He was a master of disguises and often utilized aliases.  A meticulous dresser, he was known for his trademark hat and two Colt pistols, butt forward for a fast draw.  Ambidextrous, he rarely missed his mark.  He was so renowned for his relentless pursuit, that noted female outlaw, Belle Starr turned herself in at Fort Smith when she heard Reeves had a warrant for her arrest.

But despite his reputation, Reeve’s tenacity and effectiveness is as nothing compared to the Lord’s relentless pursuit of those He calls.   In spite of Jacob’s trickery and his grasping self-concern and self-conceit, the Lord pursued him as he fled from the wrath of his brother Esau.  In this pursuit, the Lord revealed Himself and His promises.  In running for his life as a fugitive, Jacob found life through the relentless pursuit of God.

Join us this Lord’s Day, October 1, as we examine the story of Jacob’s flight from home in Genesis 28 and consider how God relentlessly pursues us, even when we are not pursuing Him.  We meet from 5:00 – 6:30 pm in The Commons at St. Andrews Anglican Church at 8300 Kanis Rd in Little Rock.  Click here for directions.

Come with a friend you and join us for fellowship and conversation. We look forward to seeing you there.

The Fairness of God

The Fairness of God

Most children’s games are simple.  They have simple rules and simple goals.  Yet every parent can attest that in no time at all, most children’s games devolve into intense and serious litigation.   Claims and counter-claims of unfairness erupt like Mount St. Helens.

Concern for justice and fairness is lodged deep within our souls.  For this reason the following scriptures from Romans 9 often cause fear and anxiety in our relationship to God.

And not only so, but also when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls— she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.   Romans 9:10-16

These verses are provocative and appear to reveal a capricious God who acts unfairly, that is, until we go back to Genesis and consider the account of Jacob and Esau and realize there are no human heroes in their story.  Neither the brothers nor their parents act as we would expect Christians to act.  Modern counselors might say they put the ‘d’ in ‘dysfunctional family.’

Yet the focus is not on them, but on God’s determined purpose to be gracious to sinners and to freely choose to save some out of their sin.  Not because of anything worthy in them, but because of his free love alone.  God did not choose Jacob because of his greater worth, but in spite of his unworthiness.  This is the foundation of grace – that God demonstrates His love in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

Join us this Lord’s Day, September 24, as we examine the troubling story of Jacob and Esau in Genesis 27 and consider how God graciously saves us not because of what we have done, but in spite of it.  We meet from 5:00 – 6:30 pm in The Commons at St. Andrews Anglican Church at 8300 Kanis Rd in Little Rock.  Click here for directions.

Come with a friend you and join us for fellowship and conversation. We look forward to seeing you there.

Bumper Rails

Bumper Rails

Where were bumper rails when we were young?  Bowling was much harder than we imagined and gutter-balls were the mainstay of our early forays into the sport.  Children today, however, can experience the euphoria of crushing pins without the disappointment of gutter-dwelling, due to a truly marvelous modern invention – the bumper rail.  Throw in an adaptive bowling ramp and your average adult league bowler will be hard-pressed to beat a three year old without a sizeable handicap.

Older children may argue that this is an unfair advantage and bowling purists may complain that youngsters need to develop the character that comes from a single-digit score, but bowling alleys have learned that bumper rails and adaptive bowling ramps make the game more fun and significantly reduce crying among its fledgling bowlers.

In a similar way, the Lord graciously protects us when we struggle in our journey of faith.  Despite our struggles with unbelief, disobedience and conflict, the Lord, through His gracious providence keeps us out of many gutters and directs our paths when we are too weak to do so.   This great truth of God’s kindness in providence does not makes us apathetic or callous toward the demands of obedience or holiness, but rather increases our desire to grow in these areas out of gratitude for Him.  How has the Lord guarded and directed your path in the midst of a difficult faith journey?

Join us this Lord’s Day, September 17, as we examine Genesis 26 and consider how God graciously protects us when are struggling with unbelief, disobedience, and conflict in our journey of faith .  We meet from 5:00 – 6:30 pm in The Commons at St. Andrews Anglican Church at 8300 Kanis Rd in Little Rock.  Click here for directions.

Come with a friend you and join us for fellowship and conversation. We look forward to seeing you there.