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.

 

Disappointment

Disappointment

Few experiences in life are more humiliating than being stood up.   As we sit alone at a café table or wait anxiously at a restaurant entrance, our emotions run the whole gamut of worry, then embarrassment, then anger, then bitterness, then disappointment, then perhaps jadedness.

The word disappointment literally means having an anticipated appointment unmade unexpectedly – an appointment with success, with accolades, with love, with companionship, or with the object of our desire.  When we are stood up our minds immediately rush to cast blame and identify a culprit for our disappointment.   Who is responsible? Who cancelled the anticipated appointment?  Sometimes our disappointment is with ourselves, sometimes it is with others, often it is with God.

The life of Joseph in Old Testament was marked with many bitter disappointments.  His father unwisely showed him great favoritism and Joseph unwisely lorded it over his brothers.  Not surprisingly, his brothers hated him with murderous rage and, at the first opportunity, seized him and sold him into slavery in Egypt.  Once there, he was unjustly accused by his master’s wife and thrown into prison and forgotten.

Later in Joseph’s life, he was able to look in his life’s rear-view mirror and declare to his brothers, “what you meant for evil, God meant for good.”  But as these events unfolded he no doubt experienced disappointment with his family, his situation and, perhaps, even his God.  In Joseph’s story we have a foreshadowing of Jesus’ humiliation and suffering as our savior.  But here we may also find wisdom to follow Christ in the midst of our own bitter disappointments.

Join us this Lord’s Day, April 15, as we examine the story of Joseph from Genesis 39 and consider what it looks like to follow Jesus in the midst of disappointment.  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 Rest of the Story

The Rest of the Story

The term ‘community’ has become fashionable.  Everyone talks about its importance and how to create it.  We speak of shared vision and mission, of breaking down barriers and distinctions, and of inclusion and tolerance.  Yet community is created neither by the obliteration nor exaltation of individualism.  Real community depends upon something objectively transcendent to the individual and the group to which he belongs.  Dietrich Bonhoeffer in Life Together expresses this pointedly.

Let him who cannot be alone beware of community. Let him who is not in community beware of being alone… We recognize, then, that only as we are within the fellowship can we be· alone, and only he that is alone can live in the fellowship. Only in the fellowship do we learn to be rightly alone and only in aloneness do we learn to live rightly in the fellowship. It is not as though the one preceded the other; both begin at the same time, namely, with the call of Jesus Christ. Each by itself has profound pitfalls and perils. One who wants fellowship without solitude plunges into the void of words and feelings, and one who seeks solitude without fellowship perishes in the abyss of vanity, self-infatuation, and despair. Let him who cannot be alone beware of community. Let him who is not in community beware of being alone.

Christianity declares that the only transcendent reality powerful enough to create lasting community is the resurrection of Jesus and the life that comes through believing in Him.  Often the gospel is viewed simply as a path for personal, individual redemption.   But it is much more than just that.  God has reconciled us to himself through the cross and, consequently reconciles us to one another.  Sin is a breaker and divider.  The gospel restores community.

John’s gospel holds a surprising ending.  The story of Jesus appears to end in John 20 with an invitation to the skeptical to examine the strong evidence for the resurrection of Jesus from the dead and a final summary of Jesus’ life and work,

“Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”  John 20:30-31

Then, unexpectedly, we find a postscript in John 21.  One more vignette of the risen Jesus with his disciples, not to further prove the reality of the resurrection, but to answer the question “What’s Next?”  How does the resurrection powerfully change the lives of those who believe in it?  What does following Christ mean in light of the resurrection?  What does it look like to experience life together?

Join us this Lord’s Day, April 8, as we examine the John’s postscript and consider what it looks like to live in light of the resurrection.  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.

Skeptics Welcome

Skeptics Welcome

We live in an age of flourishing skepticism, particularly when it comes to religion.  Science is seen as the new arbiter of absolute truth and the “scientific-method” the only test of the believe-worthiness of any idea.  The incredible popularity of thinkers such as Stephen Hawking underscores this flowering of the enlightenment enthronement of human reason.  Hawking, who once quipped that “heaven [and the afterlife] were fairy-stories for people afraid of the dark,” nevertheless frequently left his own pay-grade in the narrow confines of mathematics and observable physics to declare metaphysical absolutes.  It was this dimension of his writing and thinking that made him a pop icon.

Many skeptics today view religion, in general, and Christianity, in particular, as afraid of rational inquiry and apologetic challenge.  From the view of the secularist, Christianity has circled the wagons, arrogantly assuming the “fairy tales” of the Bible are true while closing its eyes to all reason and evidence.   Yet nothing is further from the truth.  Real and vibrant Christianity hangs out a shingle that says, “Skeptics Welcome.”

Nowhere is this seen more dramatically than in the Biblical accounts of the resurrection.   No point of Christian doctrine has been more thoroughly assaulted by skeptics than the resurrection.  Yet every assault strengthens credibility.   When the accounts are critically examined, it seems God took great care to surround the crucifixion, death and burial of Jesus along with the subsequent discovery of the empty tomb with a vast body of evidence which can only be satisfactorily explained by Jesus’ resurrection.  In many respects, the empty tomb is a sign that reads “Skeptics Welcome.”  The stone was not rolled back to let Jesus out but to let skeptics in.

Join us this Lord’s Day, April 1, as we examine the account of the empty tomb from John 20 and consider an invitation to skeptics to examine and believe in the resurrection of Jesus.  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.

Who Is This?

Who Is This?

When someone mentions Jesus, what comes to mind?  Religious revolutionary? Social justice warrior?  Ethical teacher?  Failed Zionist leader?  Founder of a yet another world religion? Who is this Jesus?  For many it is a caricature, influenced by pictures you have seen or by clichés which permeate our cultural ideas of “the historical Jesus.”  Or perhaps you remember him from a collection of anecdotes or parables you heard as a child in some Sunday School.

Jesus’ own disciples struggled to understand who he was and what he came to do.  From time to time glimpses shined through their own preconceived notions of Him.  In a poignant moment, as they were crossing the Sea of Galilee, a furious squall sprang up and threatened to sink their small fishing boat.  Half of Jesus’ disciples grew up on these tempestuous waters, fishing with their families from their childhood.  Yet even they were convinced that they would not survive the trip.  They woke Jesus, who was asleep in the back of the boat.  They did not ask him to save them – for what miracle working teacher was a match for a force-ten gale?  They only asked, “don’t you care that we are about to die?”   Jesus stood up in the boat and with a word, brought the waters from tempest to mirror.   These seasoned seamen were almost speechless.  The only thing they could say of Jesus was, “who is this?”   They perceived there was much more to Jesus than even their imaginations could anticipate.

Who is Jesus?  The accounts of him at the end of the gospel of John are really very unexpected.  As he faces an unjust arrest, trial, and execution, we seem him not as a failed revolutionary swept up in the unstoppable tide of Roman tyranny and religious jealousy.  What we see is that Jesus is the one in complete control of everything that transpires.  He told his disciples, “no one takes my life from me.  I lay it down and I will take it up again.”

Think you know who Jesus is?  Come and find out as we walk through the final days of Jesus’ earthly life, from John 18-21.  Join us this Lord’s Day, March 18, as we examine John 18 and consider just who Jesus is and what he came to do.  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.

Providence

Providence

In 1973 a quarter was very valuable.  As children, we were worked hard – taking out the trash, washing the pets, raking leaves – to earn the quarter that would give us purchasing power for the weekly bike trek to the 7-11.  The lure of that quarter was great — so great, indeed, that my sister once sold me to a neighbor for just that princely sum.

Mr. Bailey was a kind man and he drove a school bus.  On warm spring days I would help him wash his bus.  His driveway was steep and perfectly suited to the task.  It was my job to man the hose.   I would mount the front steps of the bus and turn the hose, full blast, on the seats and the floor.  The sheer ecstasy of hosing out the inside of a school bus was something only a seven year-old boy can fully appreciate.

As dinnertime approached, my sister came to collect me.  No doubt, to my sister, I was a tedious and trying lad.  When she arrived, Mr. Bailey made an unexpected proposal.  What if he kept me and gave her a quarter instead?  She did not hesitate.  She gladly accepted the quarter and left me with Mr. Bailey.  My sister certainly did not hate me, it was just that she was sure a quarter was worth more than a little brother.

For Joseph, things did not turn out quite that way.  Though the youngest son in his family, he was given the privilege and the status of a firstborn.  His father, Jacob, loved him above his eleven brothers and gave him a princely robe that stood constant witness to his father’s favoritism.  To make matters worse Joseph was careful to report his brother’s misdeeds to their father.  He shared with his brothers his dreams that he would one day rule over them.    His brothers hated him with murderous rage and at the first opportunity seized him and sold him into slavery in Egypt.  As often happens in Scripture, however, their evil action towards God’s chosen man becomes the very act which leads graciously to their salvation.  Remarkably, many years later, Joseph meets and forgives his brothers, recognizing that “what you meant for evil, God meant for good.”

But Joseph’s story is not a mere illustration that bad things sometimes work out, rather it is a picture of God’s promise of a savior in Jesus Christ.  It is this promise that forms the focal point of God’s Providence.  Join us this Lord’s Day, March 11, as we examine Genesis 37 and consider how the story of Joseph anticipates the unfolding of God’s promises to rescue and deliver us from our deadly enemy.  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.

Setting the Stage

Setting the Stage

A good story teller strikes a careful balance between preparing the reader for the climax and surprising him when it comes.   In a gripping tale, we sense what will ultimately happen, yet remain riveted to the unfolding action and gasp in surprise when the expected occurs.  Skilled writers accomplish this through literary techniques such as foreshadowing and flashback.   Far from destroying interest or inducing boredom, setting the stage for the climax only heightens anticipation and along the way creates imagery and categories of thought through which we process the moment when all the strands of the plot are at last woven together.

No story creates this effect more powerfully than the story of the God who rescues and redeems men, women, boys and girls who appear hopelessly enslaved by sin and death.   As the Bible unfolds this epic, the stage is set through the stories of many men, women, boys and girls whose failures and victories create anticipation, imagery and categories of thought to understand the power of the moment when the central hero, Jesus, declares “It is finished.”

The story of Joseph in the Book of Genesis is one of these stories.  More space is given to the life of Joseph than to any of the patriarchs.  His story involves intrigue, deception, power, heroism, joy and tragedy.  In it we see trial and triumph, forgiveness and redemption.  Joseph’s life story sets the stage for the climactic moment when God saves the world, frees slaves from the deadliest of tyrants, and leads the weary into rest.

Join us this Lord’s Day, March 4, as we examine Genesis 37 and consider how the story of Joseph anticipates the unfolding of God’s promises to rescue and deliver us from our deadly enemy.  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.

Preparation for Worship

Preparation for Worship

Churches love demographics.  Some sociographic statistics are helpful to enable a church to understand and engage its community, while other research may detail the habits, healthy and unhealthy, of the congregation itself.   Years ago, a church our family attended commissioned a detailed demographic study of its congregation and community.  A Lord’s Day was appointed to unveil the results of the study and to cast a vision for the next 5 years of congregational life.  I confess that the only statistics that stood out to me that day were 1) the average distance families lived from the church, contrasted with 2) the time it took them to get to church.   As a recovering mathematician, I immediately collated these stats and computed that the average rate of travel for families attending worship was 68.7 mph — a telling statistic that most worshippers arrived in their pews breathless and emotionally rumpled.

How prepared are you to enter God’s presence in worship?  Do you arrive to worship breathless and emotionally rumpled?  Or have you taken time to recognize that private, public and family worship demands prayerful and careful preparation?  Perhaps our frequent lack of preparation flows out of a  contemporary ambiguity about the purpose and nature of worship or simply from too little time spent worshipping.

We read little about the patriarch, Jacob’s private, family or public worship.  Time and time again, Jacob devises worldly schemes to respond to the crises du jour, but seeking the Lord in prayer and worship is rarely part of his modus operandi.   In Genesis 35, however, the Lord confronts Jacob and directs him to return to Bethel where He had appeared to Jacob as he fled his brother’s murderous rage.   But before Jacob can meet the Lord, he makes careful preparations, lest he find God’s wrath rather than His blessing at the “house of God.”

Join us this Lord’s Day, February 25, as we examine Genesis 35 and consider our preparation to meet the Lord in worship.  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.