Post Tenebras Lux

Post Tenebras Lux

For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.   2 Cor. 4:6

Despite the appearance of brightness and joy cast by the lights of the season adorning every tree and structure, this time of the year can be very dark for many.  Grief, loneliness and spiritual emptiness are often magnified as the outward expectation of joy places artificial demands on us to put on a good face.  For many, the season of light is the darkest time of the year.  Perhaps your soul resonates with words of the Psalmist who cried ‘“Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night.”  But recall the rest of the verse, “even the darkness is not dark to you, [O Lord];  the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you.’ Psalm 139:11-12

Sinclair Ferguson, commenting on the conception of Christ in the womb of the virgin Mary, noted, “God does His best work in the dark.”  He created the world out of nothing in the dark. He finished the work of redemption on the cross in the dark. And he prepared the body of the Lord Jesus Christ in the darkness of the womb of the virgin.  Though things seem dark, the Lord is at work.  He is not absent. Though our eyes cannot see all that he is preparing for us in the dark, he will reveal it in due time and we will see hope, shining out of darkness.   Post Tenebras Lux, “after darkness, light,”  — this great Reformation motto is also the power of the gospel operating in our lives.  For,

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.   John 1:1-4

River City Reformed Church in Little Rock is a confessionally Reformed Church committed to reaching Little Rock with the light 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 continue this work.

  • For the Lord to bring additional families and individuals who share our vision of planting a Reformed Church committed to ordinary means evangelism, confessionally Reformed worship and family-integrated ministry, worship and discipleship.
  • For our ”Lessons and Carols” service planned for December 17, 2017 – that through this service the Lord would edify our current group and expand connections to our community.
  • For spiritual impact among the unbelievers, disbelievers, and disconnected believers in Little Rock as our families exercise their spiritual gifts in their various spheres of influence.
  • For wisdom and discernment regarding the timeline for transition from our Lord’s Day Gatherings to Lord’s Day Worship.
  • Thanksgiving for several new families and individuals who have connected with our group during November.
  • Thanksgiving for the Mississippi Valley Presbytery’s approval of River City Reformed Church as a mission congregation effective January 2018 and for its ongoing financial and prayer support.
  • Thanksgiving  for the ONA Board’s conditional approval of our church plant proposal.
  • Thanksgiving for the continued generosity of St. Andrews Anglican Church, Little Rock to let us use their facilities for our gatherings for the foreseeable future and for their prayer support for the work.

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.

Uneclipsed

Uneclipsed

Our family traveled to the “path of totality” on August 21 to view the eclipse.  Despite many hardships in getting there, it was well worth the trip.  The dramatic veiling of the sun and the incredible witness to the order and beauty God has woven into creation was a sight to behold.  The words of David in Psalm 19:1 are beyond apt, “The heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament showeth his handiwork.”  Yet, many gazed up at this manifestation of God’s glory and saw nothing of Him.  For this reason the Lord has called us to share the gospel and to plant new churches.

Even more amazing than the eclipse, however, is that the Lord causes the sun to shine, “uneclipsed,” day after day and year after year, to provide light and life.  Through this we are reminded that He is unchanging and faithful to all He has promised.  His glory and his promised gifts, though sometimes unseen, are never eclipsed.  For,

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.

One of these promised gifts is that the Lord will build His Church.  Pray with us in the following ways as we seek to see this promise unfold through River City Reformed Church in Little Rock, Arkansas.

  • Thanksgiving for answers to specific prayer in the lives of our core group members regarding job opportunities, health and healing, and direction.
  • Thanksgiving for new families who joined us during August and are 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 Pastor Wheeler’s father-in-law as he continues difficult rehabilitation at home following a serious car accident and stroke.
  • For the continued growth of our Men’s Bible Study, Lessons from Nehemiah, which we pray will be effective in discipleship and outreach to men in our city.
  • Pray for wisdom and discernment as we begin to plan the 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.

Consistency

Consistency

No matter what your opinion regarding McDonald’s cuisine, you cannot argue with their success.  The key ingredient in Ray Kroc’s recipe for the success of McDonald’s was consistency.  Through innovation and efficiency he sought to give his customers a consistent experience – every time at every location.  While innovation is important, consistency made McDonald’s what it is.

Likewise, the health of any church is tied to its consistency in making diligent use of the ordinary means of grace given to it through biblical worship, faithful teaching, meaningful ministry and authentic community.   The temptation is great to constantly tweek our identity or innovate our ministry in order to “remain relevant.”  But the Lord calls us to hold consistently and tenaciously to the identity and ministry given to us by Christ himself.  Only this will enable us to be a thermostat, rather than a thermometer for our culture.  Consistency and perseverance are essential.  The author of Hebrews reminds of this when he writes.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith… Hebrews 12:1-2

We seek to plant River City Reformed in Little Rock as a church committed to consistency with the identity, calling, and mission Christ established for us.  Pray with us in the following ways as we seek to do so.

  • Thanksgiving for many new contacts with families and individuals during July who are interested in our vision of planting a Reformed Church committed to ordinary means evangelism, confessionally Reformed worship and family-integrated ministry, worship and discipleship.
  • Thanksgiving for the continued growth and development of strategic partnerships with other Reformed church planting pastors and groups in Little Rock.
  • For the growth of our Thursday morning, Men’s Bible Study, Lessons from Nehemiah, that it may be effective in discipleship and outreach.
  • 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 Pastor Wheeler’s family following the death of his wife’s mother, Marium Oates, in July after a battle with pancreatic cancer.
  • For Pastor Wheeler’s father-in-law as he continues difficult rehabilitation following a serious car accident in April and for all the care-giving demands this places on Pastor Wheeler’s extended family.
  • For revival in the city of Little Rock which has been gripped this year by a surge of gang-related violence. 

The World Turned Upside Down

The World Turned Upside Down

Legend has it that as Lord Cornwallis’ forces surrendered to Washington at Yorktown and stacked their arms, their incredulous band played a popular tune of the day entitled, “The World Turned Upside Down.”   No one quite expected that the world’s greatest military power would be brought to defeat by American colonists in what George III, himself, described as a “Presbyterian war.”   As Christians, we are involved in a war for independence, to proclaim liberty to the captives.  We are called to turn the world upside down, not to leave it to be ravaged by the enemy.

It is a curiously modern Christian response to paganism – this tendency of the church in our day to disengage from the culture as the culture in which we live is increasingly at variance with a Christian worldview.  Such disengagement is deadly to the world in which we live and leaves our neighbors, our families, our cities and towns abandoned to the enemy as we retreat for some imagined utopian enclave.

Historian Henry Van Til once wrote that “culture is religion externalized.”   The only hope for any culture is to engage it with the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.  The apostles in Acts had a reputation as “those men who turned the world upside down.”  What is our reputation?    What are we turning upside down?

When Paul got to Athens, the scripture records his response.  He was not apathetic.  In fact, he was indignant, but he did not pull away or leave the city.  He rolled up his sleeves and got to work to find a way to engage.

Now while Paul was waiting for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him as he saw that the city was full of idols. So he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the devout persons, and in the marketplace every day with those who happened to be there.  Acts 17:16-17.

Pray with us in the following ways as we seek to plant River City Reformed in Little Rock and turn our corner of the world upside down.

  • Thanksgiving to the Lord for the addition of several new attenders to our Lord’s Day Bible study who share our vision of planting a Reformed Church committed to ordinary means evangelism, confessionally Reformed worship and family-integrated ministry, worship and discipleship.
  • Thanksgiving for the growth and development of strategic partnerships with other church planting pastors and groups in Little Rock.
  • Continued prayer for Pastor Wheeler’s family, and especially his mother-in-law, Marium Oates, who was diagnosed with stage IV pancreatic cancer in June.
  • For the effective planning and establishment of a men’s weekday morning Bible Study in July for the purposes of discipleship and outreach.
  • For dramatic revival in the city of Little Rock which has been gripped this year by a surge of gang-related violence.  Pray for The Body of Christ in this city that we will boldly proclaim liberty to the captives of this cycle of oppression and hopelessness.

Preparation and Providence

Preparation and Providence

The horse is made ready for the day of battle,
    but the victory belongs to the Lord.  Proverbs 21:31

In an age of marketing-driven economics, it is tempting to put our confidence in methodology, strategy and promotion for church planting.  While these things are important and we must work diligently to discern methodology, develop strategy and promote effectively, most often the salient points that advance the growth of Christ’s Church are the unplanned and unanticipated Providences of God which church planters could never have orchestrated.

This reminds us that God has given us the ordinary means of grace upon which we are to depend.  These are the means we use to “demolish strongholds and to destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God.” As Reformed believers we recognize that God’s sovereignty and human responsibility are never mutually exclusive, but mutually inclusive. We must prepare for battle, but the battle is the Lord’s.

Pray for us in the following ways as we seek to plant River City Reformed in Little Rock.

  • Thanks to the Lord for the growing commitment of many in our core group to the vision of planting a Reformed Church committed to ordinary means evangelism, confessionally Reformed worship and family-integrated ministry, worship and discipleship.
  • Continued prayer for healing and rehabilitation for Pastor Wheeler’s father in law, David Oates, following a car accident. 
  • Prayer for expansion of influence through personal contacts, hospitality, pastoral care, wise use of social media, and divine appointments. 
  • Prayer for the Lord to give us patience and discernment to recognize the unexpected and unanticipated actions of the Holy Spirit that define and refine our methodology, strategy and promotion.

SEO and the Gospel

SEO and the Gospel

In God’s providence, the spread of the gospel has often been catalyzed by technological advances. The Roman road, the codex, the printing press, and yes, even the internet are means that have advanced the Great Commission. 

Yet many churches are hesitant to engage the world of social media and if they do, grapple with how to become more than a needle in the cyber haystack.  

But as a connectional church, our structure gives us some leverage to make our individual church’s social media presence more prominent through something called SEO – search engine optimization. 

While this can be complicated, the most effective ways to boost your social media visibility are simple.

  • Get as many websites to link to your church’s website as possible.  
  • Make sure the arpchurch.org site includes a link to your website. 
  • Include a link on your website to all our ARP church plants. You can get this from ONA.
  • Many members of your church have blogs or personal or business sites. Encourage them to link to your church website and facebook page on their social media spaces.
  • Encourage members to like/follow your church’s blog, website, and facebook or instagram pages and to mention and share them often in their own posts. 
  • Make sure your church has a facebook page and an instagram or Twitter account and that you have a recognizable user id.
  • Request members and friends to invite their friends to like/follow your social media and any ARP church plant in their area.
  • Pastors, blog/post regularly through your church social media outlets.

These are simple and free ways to significantly improve you church’s visibility online and optimize search engines to find your church in the cyber haystack.