Lessons and Carols, 2021

Lessons and Carols, 2021

The story of Christ’s coming is the most dramatic story ever told. While it reaches a beautiful high point with Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem, there is much more to this story – a story with origins in eternity past and implications in eternity future, a story of epic failure and dramatic rescue, a story that reveals a God quite different from the one our fears imagine. Come and experience the rest of this story in God’s own words and in song as we share in An Evening of Lessons and Carols together at 5:00 pm on Sunday, December 19.

We meet in The Commons at St. Andrews Anglican Church at 8300 Kanis Rd in Little Rock.  Get directions here or contact us for more info.  Or join us on Facebook Live @RiverCityARP or on YouTube.

Sing We the Song of Emmanuel

Sing We the Song of Emmanuel

As much as we love to sing the traditional carols to celebrate the Feast of the Incarnation, scripture also admonishes us to ‘sing a new song.’ This week in worship we will sing a newer song which celebrates the birth of our Savior, ‘Sing We the Song of Emmanuel.’ Take a minute to consider the words of this hymn and the great mystery and calling they declare, as we prepare to sing this together this coming Lord’s Day.

Sing We the Song of Emmanuel.
Words & Music: Matt Boswell, Matt Papa and Stuart Townend © Messenger Hymns, CCL# 11359088

Sing we the song of Emmanuel
This the Christ who was long foretold
Lo in the shadows of Bethlehem
Promise of dawn now our eyes behold.
God Most High in a manger laid
Lift your voices and now proclaim
Great and glorious, Love has come to us
Join now with the hosts of heaven

Come we to welcome Emmanuel
King who came with no crown or throne
Helpless He lay, the Invincible
Maker of Mary, now Mary’s son
O what wisdom to save us all
Shepherds, sages, before Him fall
Grace and majesty, what humility
Come on bended knee, adore Him

Go spread the news of Emmanuel
Joy and peace for the weary heart
Lift up your heads, for your King has come
Sing for the Light overwhelms the dark
Glory shining for all to see
Hope alive, let the gospel ring
God has made a way, He will have the praise
Tell the world His name is Jesus

Who Are You?

Who Are You?

We live in a world awash with outrageous claims and inflammatory statements.   Faced with the daunting challenge of distilling fact from fiction, we may be tempted to believe everything or nothing.   But among all the outrageous claims, what if there is life giving truth?  What if there is truth we cannot live without?

No man made more outrageous claims that Jesus Christ.   He shocked the men of his hometown, by claiming to be the Messiah.  He challenged the religious leaders to point out a single one of his sins.  He pushed the limits with his disciples, commanding them to love enemies and offer unlimited forgiveness to offensive brothers.  

Jesus’ own disciples struggled to understand who he was and what he came to do.  From time to time, glimpses shone 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 that there was much more to Jesus than even their imaginations could anticipate.

What about you?  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.   Just who is Jesus?

No claim of Jesus was more outrageous than his claim that “I and the Father are one.  He who has seen me has seen the Father.”   Jesus did not claim merely to be God’s servant, or God’s prophet.  He did not claim to be “a son of God,” but “The Son of God.”  Despite the best efforts of Arian heretics to erase Jesus’ claims to divinity, the Scriptures claim pervasively and decisively that Jesus is fully God and fully man.   Men who seek some value in Jesus as a mere man and moral example, but disbelieve his outrageous claim to deity, must face C. S. Lewis’ scathing critique.

A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else He would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronising nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to

C. S. LEWIS, MERE CHRISTIANITY.

Jesus did not come to point out the way, the truth, or the life, but to be the way, the truth and the life.  This demands that he be fully human and fully divine. 

Who is Jesus?  Our seasonal displays of a baby Jesus in a lowly cattle stall have led us astray, thinking only of his humanity.   But in one of the great Old Testament prophecies of Christ’s coming, he is called ‘Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace.”  You think you know who Jesus is?  Come and find out as we examine Isaiah 9:1-7 and grapple with what our forefathers expressed in the Westminster Shorter Catechism.

Q21: Who is the Redeemer of God’s elect? 
A21: The only Redeemer of God’s elect is the Lord Jesus Christ, who, being the eternal Son of God, became man, and so was, and continueth to be, God and man in two distinct natures, and one person, forever. 

WESTMINSTER SHORTER CATECHISM

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 or on YouTube.

Immanuel

Immanuel

The word Immanuel is one that is likely familiar. There are numerous Christmas songs that use the word. But what does the term really mean, and why is it significant for us?

The term means, “God with us,” according to Scripture. Matthew 1:23 quotes from an even older prophecy in the book of Isaiah: “‘Behold, the virgin shall bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel’ (which means, God with us).” That prophecy in Isaiah was given at a particularly trying time in Israel’s history, when Judah was threatened with an attack from both Syria and the Northern Kingdom. The king of Judah, Ahaz, was an evil king who sought to take matters into his own hands, but Isaiah went to him with a word from God. He was exhorted to ask for a sign. Even though Ahaz refused to ask for a sign saying in Isaiah 7:12, “I will not ask, and I will not put the LORD to the test,” God still gives a sign. Matthew is quoting from Isaiah 7:14 and this sign, this prophecy given by God. There would be one who would be God with us.

Have you ever considered the significance of God being with His people? In the third chapter of the Bible, we see the fall of man. Man had had communion and fellowship with God Himself, but sin has separated and placed man under God’s just condemnation. But even in that very chapter, God promises one who would come to deliver His people. And as His people wander in the wilderness in the pages of the Old Testament, God dwells with them in the tabernacle. Later, He will dwell with His people in the temple. But the ultimate fulfillment of “God with us,” is in Jesus Christ. John 1:14 tells us “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” God has sent His very own Son to dwell among His people. Even now, the Spirit of God dwells in the hearts of believers, and all who trust in Jesus Christ have the hope of God being with them for eternity.

For some, the Christmas season is one of happiness. For others, it is one marked by grief. Perhaps you yourself are finding it hard to get through this season. But the hope that we have before us in our passage is that no matter what trials this life brings and what you may be facing right now, there is a guaranteed eternity of everlasting joy for the believer in Jesus Christ. There is coming a day when there will be no more sorrow and no more sin. There will be unbroken communion and fellowship with God. Whether you are joyful, sorrowing, or some of both, this is your great and eternal hope.

If you are not a believer in Jesus Christ, won’t you see this hope and flee to Him? He is the One who was born of a virgin, lived without sin, died on behalf of His people and offers you His very own righteousness as your robe. He offers you Himself.

This Lord’s Day evening, December 5, we will consider these truths as we gather for worship at The Commons at St. Andrews Church at 8300 Kanis Rd in Little Rock. For directions, click here or contact us for more information. You can also join us on FacebookLive@RiverCityARP or on YouTube.

Great Expectations

Great Expectations

Light displays and Christmas trees in Hobby Lobby no longer indicate Christmas is at hand.  The only reliable sign that Christmas is near is a spike in the catalog-to-bill ratio in my mailbox.   By mid-November catalogs from knife-makers, clothiers, garden suppliers, toy companies, charities providing livestock in the third world, leather-crafters, Amish tradesmen, and purveyors of fine novelties are all vying for a place on my wish list.

As a boy, only one catalog ever came in the mail. And it was the only one that mattered. Larger than a phone book, the Sears and Roebuck Catalog opened up whole new worlds of Christmas possibility and gave substance to my letters to Santa. My parents were well aware of the power of the Sears and Roebuck Catalog and were careful to restrict our access to it.

While aware of its dangers, my parents also understood the catalog’s power to guide expectations.   They recognized that, as children, our joy came more from exceeded expectations than receiving a useful gift.  Before the catalog arrived, they would talk up the ideas of what they planned to give.   Then when it arrived, they used the catalog to reinforce their ideas either by confirmation or contrast.  

To our delight, Christmas always brought exactly what we hoped for.  No matter what was in our stocking or under the tree it was exactly what we wanted.   Our parents knew what was best for us, but wanted us to rejoice in receiving it.   Our heavenly Father is like this.   He wants us to rejoice in receiving His gifts.  The history of redemption is the epic story of God giving His greatest gift to beloved children, but not before teaching us to expect and long for what He desires to give.   From Genesis to Revelation, He trains our expectations and creates desire for the Savior He offers.

In the Old Testament, God does this through various covenants.   His covenants with Adam, Noah, Moses, and David, differ in emphasis and immediate application, but all point to the same thing – salvation and eternal life through the person and work of Jesus Christ.   Each of these Old Testament covenants is simply a renewal and expression of the one Covenant of Grace.  In each of these covenants, God meets some pressing need and blesses his people.  But more importantly He offers a reminder not to hope in Adam, or Noah, or Moses or David, but in the Coming One, the Messiah.

In the same way, the New Testament examines the person and work of Christ by looking back at how he fulfilled the Old Testament covenants.   We see that Jesus is exactly the Savior God promised.  And in understanding that ‘the Coming One’ is the One who came, we learn to desire his coming again.  Men are always tempted to look for a savior who conforms to their own desires and expectations.   And so, through Old Testament covenants and New Testament fulfillments, God teaches us who to expect and what to desire so we will rejoice in receiving Him.

What type of Savior are you looking for?   Someone to save you from your circumstances?  Or your feelings?  Or you past?  Or you fear of the future?   Or one who is much more – an everlasting and eternal Prophet, Priest, and King.   The author of Hebrews makes a remarkable statement in Hebrews 7:24-25.

[H]e holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever. Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.

HEBREWS 7:24-25

Jesus lives forever.  Only he is able to save us ‘to the uttermost.’   Beyond what you imagine you want or know that you need.   God reveals the Savior He freely offers us through Old Testament promises and New Testament fulfillments.   Join us this Lord’s Day as we examine 2 Samuel 7:1-14 and consider Jesus as our Everlasting King.

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 or on YouTube