What in the World is Happening?

What in the World is Happening?

The Great Commission calls us to make disciples of all nations.  Within the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church one of the ways we are doing this is through the mission and ministry of World Witness.

World Witness is the foreign missions agency of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church.  Since 1875, we have sent missionaries to Mexico and Pakistan.  Our fields have broadened to now include Chile, Germany, Latin America, Lithuania, Persian Ministry, Scotland, Spain, Turkey, theological training worldwide (MT3) and Eastern Europe.

A primary focus is the Muslim world which includes a Christian hospital in Sahiwal, Pakistan, reaching 40,000 Muslims annually, and Christian schools in Pakistan, educating 500 students annually. In addition, an Iranian satellite TV ministry is planting dozens of house churches, and in Turkey, we are planting churches.

AlexPettettOn Sunday, September 23, the director of World Witness, Alex Pettett will join us for worship to share God’s Word and the mission and vision of World Witness.  He will also be available before and after worship to answer any questions you might have about how you can be involved in this Great Commission work.

Join us for worship September 23 at River City Reformed Church and see what God is doing through the work of World Witness.  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.

Dirty Jobs

Dirty Jobs

For our children, a stay in a hotel has many charms.  The pool, of course, is at the top of the list.  Hotels without pools fall into the “emergency only” category.  Booking a room at such a venue is seen as a breach of paternal trust.  But our children also enjoy the freedom to jump from one bed to another (before 9:00 pm) as well as the carb-overloaded cereal bins in the breakfast area.  And then there is television.

We have a television at home and recently got basic cable, but we rarely watch anything that does not stream from Roku or spring from a DVD.   Unless we have a hankering for big-pharma or big-auto commercials, we never venture past the evening news into TV land – except when the Olympics are on.  But when we are at a hotel, we enjoy a small dose of cablevision, especially “Dirty Jobs.”  While the show’s host, Mike Rowe glories a bit in the “muck and mire” aspect of each episode, I appreciate the heroic light he shines on those who work these jobs, day in and day out.  But “dirty jobs” are not for everyone.  It demands special people to work these special jobs.  Despite the natural revulsions these jobs may inspire, each one is of value and produces something that makes our lives better.

As far as I know, “Dirty Jobs” has never done an expose on the work of elders in the church, though it certainly might qualify.  A mentor of mine once declared, “working with sheep is a dirty business.”  And, so it is with any helping and caring profession from the work of an elder, to a nurse or caregiver.   But the value of this work extends far beyond the here and now, into eternity.   For this reason, the Apostle Paul writing to his apprentice, Timothy, instructs him to instruct the church in regards to what type of men God calls into the work of elder and deacon.

Paul declares that anyone who sets his mind on this work desires a “noble task,” then sketches the qualities of elders as men who have been tested in life and leadership.  They have a proven track record of living and leading consistent with their creed.  But Paul’s instructions are not just for Timothy and an elite group of executive recruiters in Ephesus.  They are for the whole church, so they may know what type of leaders to desire and how to pray for the leaders they have.

Join us this Lord’s Day, September 16, as we examine 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and consider what type of men are to be desired and selected to do the dirty job of shepherding the flock of God.  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 or check out the order of service.  Come with a friend you and join us for fellowship and worship. We look forward to seeing you there.

Sleep in, Live Longer!

Sleep in, Live Longer!

Recent studies indicate that sleeping in on the weekends may help you live longer. According to a study by Swedish and U.S. researchers, people under the age of 65 who get less than five hours sleep on the weekend had an increased risk of death.

Have you ever thought? Why does church start so early on Sunday mornings? After all, Sunday is the day of rest, it sure would be nice to sleep a little later! If this is you, then here is good news. At River City Reformed Church we don’t get started until 5:00 pm. So, sleep in a little later, live longer and still make it to church.

The Lord has set aside the whole day for public and private worship and for a holy resting in Him. Enjoy the day He has made to spend with you. Then join us for corporate worship every Lord’s Day evening at 5:00 pm at River City Reformed in Midtown, Little Rock. For more details, check us out at RiverCityARP.org or on facebook @RiverCityARP.

We currently meet at St. Andrew’s Anglican Church in The Commons. Parking for The Commons is on the north side of St. Andrews’ Campus. Follow the traffic circle and parking lot around to the right, behind the main facility. Pass the pavilion on the right and park by the playground. We will be there to greet you.

To get to St. Andrews from I-630:

  • Take exit 6A; head south on Rodney Parham Rd.
  • At the light, turn right onto Kanis Rd.
  • The church is 0.6 miles down Kanis on the right at 8300 Kanis Rd, Little Rock, AR 72204

String Theory

String Theory

Without music, the world could not exist!  This is not merely a declaration of aesthetic sensibility or support for the importance of the arts.   But quite literally, theoretical physicists have hypothesized that multi-dimensional vibration accounts for all the particular arrangements of protons, neutrons and electrons into the atomic structures that constitute matter.  This view, known as “string theory,” resonates remarkably with how the Bible claims the world came into being.

 “By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.” Hebrews 11:3

Consider, however, that God did not think the world into existence, but spoke it.  The original language of God’s speaking in Genesis does not exclude the idea of singing – an idea common in the creation accounts of many cultures and in popular literature.  Both Tolkien in the Silmarillion and C. S. Lewis in the Chronicles of Narnia describe the creation of their fictional worlds through the singing of a supreme being.

But there is another singer in each of these stories – a glorious, but prideful, envious creature who sings a different song, slightly off pitch in order to lead creation to resonate with discordant vibrations.  He weaves doubt and dissonance, asking “did God really say?” and introducing a “better truth” than God’s truth – a truth that man himself should be the captain of his soul and the master of his fate.  He does not deny God’s existence or that he has spoken.  He only suggests that God’s word is not enough, not sufficient, not completely trustworthy – suitable only for moral and practical suggestion.  He does not sing a new song, just God’s song off pitch and out of tune.   He sings of man’s essential goodness and God’s overbearing and unreasonable demands.  He sings of God’s justice and implacable wrath or perhaps of his basic apathy toward us and our concerns.

This accuser, this destroyer, this father of lies sings a soul destroying and life depriving dissonance.  For this reason, the scripture commands us to close our ears to his choir of false singers, teaching a different doctrine and another gospel, contrary to God’s Word, the Bible.  When the Apostle Paul writes to his young protégé, Timothy, to instruct him in giving guidance to the fledgling church in Ephesus, he charges him strictly to refute those who are teaching off-key.   In his exhortation he gives one of the simplest, most concise, articulations of the gospel in all of scripture.

“The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.” 1 Timothy 1:15

Paul sings out the song of redemption with clarity of voice and perfectness of pitch in order that men might reject Satan’s song.  Join us this Lord’s Day, August 26, as we examine 1 Timothy 1:12-17 and consider why it is imperative to resist those who sing the gospel off-key.  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.

War of the Words

War of the Words

It is not news that fake news is not new.  On October 30, 1938, CBS Radio presented Orson Welles’ adaptation of H. G. Wells’ classic story, “War of the Worlds.” Welles’ adaption unfolded the action of the story through a series of new-flash style interruptions to what appeared to be regular programming.  Listeners who tuned in after the program’s disclaimer panicked as report after report came in of a massive Martian invasion, replete with giant war machines and poison gas clouds. The first commercial break in the program came almost 30 minutes after the introduction, fueling the illusion of realism.  Before the program even finished, the studio was flooded with police and public outcry arose against the networks’ apparent lack of concern in reporting fiction as though it were truth.

Fake news is not new.  It did not arise from the smoked-filled back rooms or the nefarious political machines of the 2016 Presidential campaign.  Factual falsity in media is simply the immoral end of the bias spectrum.   Man’s words are always saddled with some level of intentional or unintentional, benevolent or malevolent bias.  Persuasion is at the heart of most of our words, but when it is unhinged from moral restraint, it descends into the murky realms of exaggeration, mis-construal and flat-out lying.

Fake news is not new.  What is new to us is that no one seems to care if their news is fake.  Fake news no longer inspires the public outcry that followed in the wake of “War of the Worlds.”  The mantra of post-modernity, “true for you, but not for me” has given way to an utter lack of concern for truth, so long as the story is moving.  As one preacher noted, “we are living in a post-truth era.”  Arguing over whether something is true for you or me, or whether there is absolute truth, or whether something is consistent with that truth is passé.    The cardinal value for today’s man is emotional resonance not intellectual verity.  Does it grip me?  Does it grab me?  Does it move me?  These are the questions that have replaced, “Is it true?”  Neil Postman’s prophetic book, Amusing Ourselves to Death, rightly foresaw that an unquenchable thirst for entertainment, not discourse, would result in a society in which “truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance.”

But man was not created to live in a post-truth society, with truth drowned in irrelevance.  Truth exists – absolute truth, truth that is revealed and not discovered.  Without this truth there can be no beauty, joy, peace, redemption, mercy, forgiveness, justice or love – only “how I feel.”  Without this truth there is never any “us,” only a “me.”  Truth matters.  Just as fake news is not new, neither is a “post-truth” society.  The people of Israel at the time of the exile to Babylon loved lies more than truth.  God assessed and warned them by the prophet Jeremiah.

An appalling and horrible thing has happened in the land: the prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests rule at their direction; my people love to have it so, but what will you do when the end comes? Jeremiah 5:30-31

The Greco-Roman world also loved entertainment more than truth.  So much so, that dramatic oratory and rhetoric were often found among the events at Greek Games.   It was into this environment that God spoke, through the Apostle Paul, to urge his young protegee, Timothy, to unmask the promoters of “fake truth” and to rightly divide the Scriptures, breathed out by God to make men wise unto salvation and to teach, rebuke, correct and train men and women in godliness, holiness, beauty and love.  This exhortation is no less needed today than it was in First Century Ephesus.

Join us this Lord’s Day, August 19, as we examine 1 Timothy 1:3-12 and consider God’s instruction to us to consider “what is truth” and “where can we find 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.

Moving Pictures

Moving Pictures

Occupational therapy!  That is what my CrossFit workouts resemble.  Occupational therapy teaches you how to do familiar things in a new and easier way in order to accommodate physical weaknesses or limitations.  I have come to accept that I am, almost without exception, the oldest guy in our CrossFit box.  I am the king of “modifications” and “scaled” workouts.  Rare is the WOD in which I can click Rx on my results.   One modification, I have yet to be able to make, however, is to get the rest of my Wod-mates to accept  that 80’s rock is the best music to set the pace for the workout.  My hips don’t hop, and the only pop I am concerned about is the pop in my knee.

One of my favorites from those BC days was Rush.  Their innovative musicality coupled with evocative lyricism resonated with me as a teenager.   A favorite album was Moving Pictures.  The album’s concept was the great power of poetry and music to tell moving stories through snapshots of life.  Probably all of us have been moved to sorrow, joy, reflection or action by an iconic song, picture or story.  But no story has more moving pictures than the story of redemption, unfolded in the Bible, with its themes of mercy and grace and good triumphing over evil.  The Bible is no mere moralistic litany, it is a living and active story of a mighty hero who through self-sacrifice and great power defeated the arch-enemy of all men, sin and death.  In every vignette, every chapter, this story is unveiled in moving pictures.

The story of David and Mephibosheth from 2 Samuel 9 is, perhaps, one of the most moving of these pictures. Mephibosheth was the last member of the family of King David’s arch-enemy and predecessor, Saul.  Mephibosheth’s father, Jonathan, and grandfather, Saul, were killed in battle on the same day.  In the ensuing chaos, Mephibosheth’s nurse dropped him, rendering him lame for the rest of his life.   He was a ruined man from a ruined house.  His name meant “shameful thing.” He was a fugitive and lived every day in the fear of being discovered and brought to judgment.   Yet David’s love for Mephibosheth’s father, Jonathan, awakened in him a desire to show God’s mercy to any remaining members of Saul’s family, for the sake of his friend.  David searches and finds Mephibosheth, restores to him his ancestral lands, and treats him as one of his own sons.  What a shocking and tender story of grace, kindness, and mercy.  The moving picture of David’s kindness to a poor, lame, ruined man reveals the even more moving picture of God’s grace, kindness, and mercy toward us, who spiritually speaking, are far worse off than Mephibosheth.

Matthew Henry says it well in summing up the story of David and Mephibosheth.

Now because David was a type of Christ, his Lord and son, his root and offspring, let his kindness to Mephibosheth serve to illustrate the kindness and love of God our Saviour towards fallen man, which yet he was under no obligation to, as David was to Jonathan. Man was convicted of rebellion against God, and, like Saul’s house, under a sentence of rejection from him, was not only brought low and impoverished, but lame and impotent, made so by the fall. The Son of God enquires after this degenerate race, that enquired not after him, comes to seek and save them. To those of them that humble themselves before him, and commit themselves to him, he restores the forfeited inheritance, he entitles them to a better paradise than that which Adam lost, and takes them into communion with himself, sets them with his children at his table, and feasts them with the dainties of heaven. Lord, what is man, that thou shouldst thus magnify him!

Join us this Lord’s Day, August 5, as we as we examine the moving picture of David and Mephibosheth and consider the greatest of God’s kindness toward us in the gospel.    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 Last Word

The Last Word

As a pastor, few things are harder than preparing for a funeral.  Not only are you sharing personally in the grief of beloved friends, but you are bearing the grief of precious sheep.   The gravity of speaking the last words of a person’s life and the urgency pressed upon us to declare the gospel are heavy weights on the mind and heart of a pastor.   Last words must declare the faithfulness and goodness of God while preparing those left behind to embark upon the voyage of grief.  What we say at the funeral must frame life and loss with the certainty of God’s goodness.

Especially poignant is the graveside.  In the quiet intimacy of the grave, we feel keenly the tension between a palpable sense of finality and a nagging certainty that there is more.   Andrew Peterson says it well.

This is not the end here at this grave
This is just a hole that someone made
Every hole was made to fill
And every heart can feel it still–
Our nature hates a vacuum

This is not the hardest part of all
This is just the seed that has to fall
All our lives we till the ground
Until we lay our sorrows down
And watch the sky for rain

There is more
More than all this pain
More than all the falling down
And the getting up again
There is more
More than we can see
From our tiny vantage point
In this vast eternity
There is more.  

Andrew Peterson, “More”

For the believer, death is not the beginning of the end, but the end of the beginning.  There is more. The last episode of the first book of the Bible recounts two funerals.  Genesis begins with “in the beginning” and ends with “in a coffin in Egypt.”  God began by speaking life and beauty into the world, but man’s sinful rebellion brought death and decay.  We see the great distance man has fallen.  Death seems to have gained the upper hand.  We might be tempted to despair over how things have turned out.  But this is not the last word.

The famous statement of God’s sovereignty in Gen 50:20, “what you intended for evil, God meant for good” is one of grace and promise.  Man’s evil is not the last word.  God’s goodness is the last word.  What man has experienced and intended for evil in his fallen, sinful rebellion, God has worked for good by sending a redeemer in the person of His Son, Jesus.

We see this explicitly in Acts 2 as Peter declares,

“this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.”  Acts 2:23-24

This is the great exchange in the gospel; Jesus who bore our sins, Jesus who through our evil intentions and actions, brings us forgiveness, mercy, and life.  This is the last word! Don’t let sin and death be the last word in your life.  Jesus came to give life and life to the full.

Join us this Lord’s Day, July 29, as we conclude our conversations from the Book of Beginnings and consider how God always speaks the last word — a word of redeeming grace to ruined sinners.  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.