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.

 

Eye for an Eye

Eye for an Eye

“Fool that I am, that I did not tear out my heart the day I resolved to revenge myself…. Hatred is blind; rage carries you away; and he who pours out vengeance runs the risk of tasting a bitter draught.” ― Alexandre Dumas, The Count of Monte Cristo

Dumas’ Count of Monte Cristo is a brilliant exposition of the Bible’s warning, ‘Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”’ (Romans 12:19)   As Edmond Dantes sets out to avenge himself on the three men responsible for his imprisonment and ruin, he learns a terrible lesson — that the law of unintended consequences makes mere mortals poorly suited to avenge themselves in the name of perfect justice.  Dantes finds that his attempts to gain personal justice for the injustice done to him perverts justice and multiplies injustice toward others.  Every twist and turn of his perfectly planned and executed revenge meets with an unintended tragic end.

We are exhorted in scripture to be merciful to the wicked and ungrateful, as our Father in Heaven is merciful to us.  When the God commands men in the Bible to exact “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” it is with a view toward limiting vengeance and not encouraging it.   The warning is not to take a head for an eye or a life for a tooth.   God is perfectly just, but he is also a God of mercy and he calls us to act likewise.

But this is a great challenge for us who live in a world filled with injustice, abuse, and evil.  Can we trust God’s justice and vengeance?  Or must we take matters into our own hands?  How are we to respond when we endure abuse, injustice and evil as individuals and a people?  What is our duty?  What are our limitations?  These are hard questions, often with no easy answers.

Genesis 34 details the terrible account of the rape of Dinah, Jacob’s daughter.   Her wealthy and prominent abuser engages in an attempted cover-up, but seems sincere in remorse.   Her father seems wracked by inaction.  And her brothers avenge a terrible crime with an even more heinous and far-reaching response.   No one in the story sought counsel from God.  None of these responses forms a biblical precept for responding to abuse, but rather paradigmatic antithesis.  The failure of Jacob, Hamor, Shechem and Jacob’s sons to bring proper resolution is a foil for what is to come – the gospel.  In the gospel we find a God who is both just and merciful.  He alone can provide justice tempered with mercy, reconciliation and restoration in response to injustice, abuse and evil.

Join us this Lord’s Day, February 18, as we examine Genesis 34 and this consider how we respond to injustice, abuse and evil.  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.

Gravity

Gravity

Gravity is important.  While we take it for granted, it effects almost every detail of our lives. In Physical Science we learned that the force of gravitational attraction between two celestial bodies is a product of their relative mass and their distance from one another.   Scientific observation has shown that proximity has an exponential effect while mass has only a multiplying effect.   Mathematically, however, the force of gravity is inversely proportional to the square of the distance and directly proportional to relative mass.  In plain English this means that being closer is more significant than being bigger.

While this is true for stars, planets and moons, it is even more painfully true in our relationships.  When conflict, estrangement and sin enter our relationships the gravity of brokenness is more powerful in close relationships than casual ones.   It is much easier to politely excuse or ignore the person at a relational distance when they offend us or are offended by us.  But when it is a parent, sibling, spouse or child, the seriousness of the offense looms large and casts a long shadow.

Solomon put it this way.  “A brother offended is more unyielding than a strong city” (Proverbs 18:19).  The prodigious size of the “Relationships” section in any book store and the number of afternoon TV programs devoted to relational guidance — funded by divorce lawyers — are potent witnesses to our cluelessness when it comes to reconciliation.   We look everywhere except the Bible for guidance, yet the persistent theme of Scripture is reconciliation.  Every relationship is fractured by sin and the only path to reconciliation is the gospel pattern of forgiveness, confession, and repentance.

In Genesis 33, Jacob returns home to dangerous uncertainty.  His brother’s last words were breathed out in murderous threat and they have not spoken for 20 years.   No relationship is more broken than theirs. But before Jacob is confronted by Esau, he is confronted by God.  Only after he is reconciled to God is he able to be reconciled with his brother.  Join us this Lord’s Day, February 11, as we examine Genesis 33 and consider what this story teaches us about reconciliation.  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.

Tenacity

Tenacity

Motivational posters define Tenacity as “the ability to hang on when letting go appears most attractive.”  Nothing illustrates this more vividly than the experience of our British brethren during the early days of World War II when they stood seemingly alone against the might and fury of the Third Reich in the Blitz.  What seems so simple when quoted on a poster with a stirring image in a corporate boardroom is quite a different matter when the enemies are deadly and adversities devastating.

Speaking to his alma-mater, the Harrow School, in October, 1941 Winston Churchill distilled the lesson of Britain’s remarkable providential deliverance with iconic speech.

You cannot tell from appearances how things will go. Sometimes imagination makes things out far worse than they are; yet without imagination not much can be done. Those people who are imaginative see many more dangers than perhaps exist; certainly many more than will happen; but then they must also pray to be given that extra courage to carry this far-reaching imagination. But for everyone, surely, what we have gone through in this period… surely from this period of ten months this is the lesson: never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never-in nothing, great or small, large or petty—never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy. We stood all alone a year ago, and to many countries it seemed that our account was closed, we were finished…

Very different is the mood today. Britain, other nations thought, had drawn a sponge across her slate. But instead our country stood in the gap. There was no flinching and no thought of giving in; and by what seemed almost a miracle to those outside these Islands, though we ourselves never doubted it, we now find ourselves in a position where I say that we can be sure that we have only to persevere to conquer.

But what do we do when our enemy seems to be none other than the Lord, Himself?  When all the providences in our lives seem to be frowning providences, when the promises of God seem to go unfulfilled and prayers unanswered, or worse still when God seems silent.   Genesis 32 chronicles the return of Jacob to his homeland.  Leaving his in-laws in hostility, he returns home to the uncertainty of his offended brother whose parting words were breathed out in murderous threat.  He is between a rock and a hard place.  Yet the Lord has told him to go.

As Jacob contemplates what is ahead, he faces a new adversary – the Lord, himself.  Jacob wrestles with the Lord throughout the night.  He cannot prevail, but he refuses to let go, saying, “I will not let you go, unless you bless me.” Jacob is brash, yet tenacious. How tenacious are we when life seems to be a lot like wrestling with a God over whom we can never prevail?   How willing are we to hang on to Him when it seems easier to let go?

Join us this Lord’s Day, February 4, as we examine Genesis 32 and consider our response when God seems to be our adversary.  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.

Moving Day

Moving Day

Inca Court was a little utopian outpost on the frontier of a fledgling dystopian America.  The small suburban Atlanta street where I grew up had only ten houses.  Until I left home for college, it was the only home I had ever known.  None of the families on our street ever moved in or out.  None of the parents in any of those homes ever moved in or out.  We never knew the curiosity of new neighbors and never coped with the stress of leaving Inca Court behind. There were no Moving Days on Inca Court. In a mobile society marked by constant transition, Inca Court was sociological anomaly.

My first significant move was phenomenally stressful – filled with logistical angst and existential self-doubt.  Was I crazy to leave the familiar, the comfortable, the settled, the influential, the known – even with its problems and challenges – for the uncomfortable, the unsettled, the uninfluential, the unknown?  Life transitions are fertile fields for lush and verdant anxiety, yet as followers of Jesus, we have been chosen to live a pilgrim life and to farm these fields.  Our God is always moving, always at work, even to this very day.  To be a follower means to follow – to follow a God who never changes, but often calls us to change, a God who never leaves or forsakes, but often calls us to leave and forsake.  Followers of Christ in scripture were often on the move, tracing the movement of God.

But… When do we go?  How do we leave?  How do we know?  How do we tell them we are leaving?  What will happen when we leave?  Or when we arrive?  Following God and leaving the familiar is tough.  In Genesis 31, Jacob senses it is time to go. God calls him to leave his in-laws and return to Canaan.  But like us, Jacob’s relationships are complex and complicated.  How and when should he leave?  How should he approach the issue with his family?  What will he leave behind and what will he find ahead of him?  Leaving is tough.

Join us this Lord’s Day, January 28, as we continue to trace the story of Jacob from Genesis 31 as he flees deteriorating relationships with his in-laws to return to Canaan, where his embittered brother Esau awaits.  In this account we see some critical truths about following God when he brings us to Moving Day.  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 Eye of the Beholder

The Eye of the Beholder

Every baby is beautiful to its mother and every child’s drawing is a masterpiece to parents.   Love enables us to delight in that which the critic despises.  Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, because beauty is not always to be observed on the surface.  Though, perhaps, there is some notion of objective beauty, it is the subjectivity of the beholder that grasps and gasps at a beauty that transcends mere presentation.  No subjective lens adds loveliness to the unlovely like love.

The constant refrain of the Bible is that the “steadfast love of the Lord endures forever.”  Nothing shakes it loose.  Nothing causes Him to fall out of love with those he chooses to set his love upon.  The Bible is full of shady characters.  Even its human heroes often think, speak and act in cringeworthy ways.  Yet the love of the Lord is steadfast.  The Hebrew word often translated ‘steadfast love’ is the Old Testament word for ‘grace.’

The power of God’s grace shines through every page of the Scriptures.  This can be seen dramatically in the lives of the Old Testament patriarchs.  When we read Genesis 30, the only thing more shocking than the behavior of Jacob’s family is the persistent kindness of God.  This chapter is a passage full of scheming and counter-scheming.   Leah and Rachel seek to outdo one another in  baby-making and Laban and Jacob work to get the upper hand over one another.   The Covenant Keeping God is only marginally acknowledged and rarely sought, yet he pervades this passage with his gracious providence and blessing to a family that seems utterly undeserving of it.   And that is the point.  God is a god of grace and gratitude, not works and wages.

Join us this Lord’s Day, January 21, as we examine the mixed up story of Jacob’s family in Genesis 30 and consider how God demonstrates steadfast love toward us, even when we are not looking for 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.

The God Who Sees

The God Who Sees

Just this week our Congress extended permissions for the NSA to continue to dumpster dive in the flotsam and jetsam of your digital wake.  For another six years, so long as they happen to be hunting foreign terrorists, our government can keep a benevolent eye on us through the cyber tracks we leave everywhere in an ever-broadening desire to be connected.

Our pocket-palantirs are ever listening, watching and reporting.  In The Lord of the Rings, Tolkien unwittingly prophesied the doubled-edged benefit of smart phones when he conceived of the Palantir.  The Palantir were seeing stones that let the characters in Tolkien’s world see and communicate with one another across time and space.   They also revealed the potential futures of those peering into them.  Sounds great, except that anyone looking into a Palantir could be seen by anyone possessing another Palantir, especially Sauron with his “all-seeing” eye.  Magic rings and Palantir are tempting productivity tools, but remember there is an “all-seeing” eye.

Many of my friends have tape on their smart phone camera, keep wifi and mobile data off, and never enable GPS because of concern that their pocket-palantir makes them seeable by an ambiguously benevolent higher power.  But this is not a new idea in the history of the world, just a different tool and new set of players.  Men have always had concern over whether they are being watched.  Jesus noted that men prefer darkness to light so that their deeds may remain hidden.  Yet the scripture notes that even darkness is as light to God and that the Lord sees everything, down even to the deepest thoughts and intents of the hearts.

The Nazca Indians of South America sensed this, even in their spiritual darkness, and constructed mammoth images on the desert floor to please the gods above whom they believed to be angry because of the lives of men.  Men throughout history have distressed over an awareness that the God who Is, is a God who sees.  The Psalms speaks of those who try repress the knowledge of God’s omniscience through idolatry and atheism. Yet, this thing which men’s darkened hearts fear, is their greatest hope.  For the God who sees is the God who saves.  The God who sees is the God who loves the loveless and relieves the afflicted in their affliction.

Genesis 29 is a complicated story of an ancient family dealing with the whole cadre of modern sins.   Jacob deceives and is deceived, faces drama and jealousy, plays favorites and shirks his obligations and labors under caustic relations with in-laws.  What hope is there for such a family?   What hope is there for our complicated families?  Buried in this passage is the sad tale of Leah, the unloved wife and woman.  Her father trundled her off to Jacob to defraud him out of seven additional years of labor.  Her new husband despised her.  Her wedding bed was shared with her sister.  She was the contempt of her husband, father and sister – but not of the Lord who Sees.  He saw her in her affliction.  He saw that she was not loved.  He loved her and gave her the gift of children, whose love would fill up her empty spaces.

Join us this Lord’s Day, January 14, as we examine the story of Leah in Genesis 29 and consider how God who sees us for what and who we are and yet loves us with steadfast and redemptive love.  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.

Christiformity

Christiformity

Certain things are inevitable. The sun will rise in the morning.  Even the hardest heart will cry listening to the song “The Christmas Shoes.”  Young men will drink milk from the jug.  And sons will become their fathers.   While this last inevitability is strongly declared against and resisted as sons move from boyhood to manhood, it is already deep in the heart of a son to be like his father.   But is this a bad thing?

Scripture encourages us to “imitate God as dearly loved children.”  But it also warns us against following our earthly fathers uncritically when it declares that “the sins of the fathers will be visited upon the children.”  To Christian fathers this challenges us to be fathers worth imitating,whose life is being conformed to the one we profess to follow.  Paul summed it up as he wrote, “follow me as I follow Christ.”

The early French Reformer, Jacque LeFevere d’Estaples, coined a term to describe this fundamental aspect of Christian life – Christiformity.  Christiformity is conformity to, or transformation into, the likeness of Christ from the inside out.  More than the mere imitation of Christ in our outward habits and actions, Christiformity speaks of a transformation of the heart, mind, soul and strength.  Paul expressed this concern for his Galatian friends this way, ”my little children, for whom I am again in the anguish of childbirth until Christ is formed in you!”

We see an example of Christiformity in Joseph, the husband of Mary and adoptive father of Jesus.  In a remarkable turnabout, we see a picture of a father conforming his life to the son.  Though the Bible gives little back story on Joseph, in every account of him, he sets aside his own feelings, plans and ambitions in order to conform his heart, mind, soul and strength to the protection and care of the Lord Jesus.  We see this in Joseph’s deliberations regarding Mary and in his careful obedience to God’s step by step direction at every salient point in his leadership of the family.   Like father like son is the maxim, yet in Joseph’s case it is like son, like father.  Joseph gives an example of Christiformity.  Is this a word that characterizes your Christian life?

Join us this Lord’s Day, January 7, as we examine Matthew 2:13-23, the flight of Joseph, Mary and Jesus to Egypt to escape the wrath of a jealous tyrant.  And in the midst of this familiar story, we consider the call to Christiformity. 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.