The First Gospel Promise

The First Gospel Promise

This Lord’s Day we begin our series on the incarnation of Jesus Christ.  The Second Person of the Trinity, the Son of God became Man to live and die for His people.  In our series, we will look at specific passages in the Old Testament that point to Christ’s coming.  This Lord’s Day we will consider Genesis 3:1-15.  

The passage comes to us in the early pages of Scripture.   God has created man upright, and God has placed man into a perfect Garden with all of his needs met.  He is commanded not to eat of the fruit of the tree in the midst of the Garden, but there is much other fruit available to him.  Adam and Eve live in this perfect Garden, but the serpent tempts them to disobey God.  Specifically, he tempts them to seek to be like God.  And we know the rest of the story—Adam and Eve sinned and fell, and in Adam’s sin, we fell too.

Christmas is observed each year by people from many different countries.  The great hope of Christmas is summed up in Matthew 1:21—“She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”  That is great hope, as the fall of man means that Adam’s descendants fell into sin with him.  Paul makes this clear in Romans 5:12-21.  If we stand in Adam, we stand without hope. 

But Jesus has come to succeed where Adam failed.  Jesus is the Second Adam.  And as early as Genesis 3:15, that great hope is promised.  That verse reads, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” This is in the context of the curse placed upon the serpent.  There is one who will crush the head of the serpent.  That is the promise made here to Adam and to the people of God.  Jesus Christ is coming, and though He is the one who will have His heel stricken in His death, He is also the one who will triumph in His death and resurrection.  He will crush the head of the serpent.  We will consider this promise in more detail at worship this Lord’s Day at 5 PM at The Commons at St. Andrews Church at 8300 Kanis Rd in Little Rock.  For directions, click here, or if you have any questions feel free to contact us.  You can also watch on FacebookLive@RiverCityARP or on YouTube. 

Photo by Fiona Smallwood on Unsplash.

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.

Switched at Birth

Our ancestry and our environment have a lot to do with who we are.  They are both strong formative factors, but neither is decisive nor determinative.   I recently read a news story about two women in Wisconsin who discovered at the age of 72 that they had been switched at birth and had grown up in one another’s families.

The women were born 31 minutes apart in the wee hours of Dec. 19, 1945, at a St. Paul Hospital.  Both women say they stood out as oddballs in their families. One was the only member of her family who wasn’t an avid athlete, while the other was the only athletic member of her own family, having played competitive softball well into her 50s.  One woman grew up the sole blonde in a family of redheads and brunettes, the other a redhead in a sea of blondes with blue eyes.

While pursuing her genealogy, one of the women submitted DNA to the genetic testing site,  The results?  She was not related to anyone in her family.  The mystery deepened when a close relative also submitted DNA and found a name on her profile that appeared completely unrelated.   After making contact, it quickly became clear that the two women had grown up in each other’s family.   One more DNA test confirmed the fact.   Neither their ancestry nor their environment solely determined who they were, but rather their identity was a result of both.   But there is something far more important in determining who we are and that is who we follow.

In the closing chapters of the Book of Genesis, we have parallel stories of two brothers, Joseph and Judah.  Joseph’s story is well known.  The favorite son, doted on by his father, hated by his brothers, sold into slavery, who rises to become second only to Pharaoh in ruling over ancient Egypt.  Joseph’s story is distinguished by his remarkable care to be sensitive and faithful to God’s direction in his life.  Joseph acknowledges that it is God’s hand and plan, not ancestry or circumstances that are responsible for who, what and where he is in life.

Judah’s story, however, is radically different.  He is more like his uncle Esau than his father Jacob.  He leaves the family, marries into Canaanite culture, fathers wicked sons, treats his daughter-in-law shamefully, follows his own lusts and blames his ancestry and his environment for all his troubles.  He is the antithesis of his brother, Joseph.   But the Lord has not forsaken Judah.  The story of Joseph is intertwined with the story of Judah as God works in Judah’s life to graciously transform him from a worldly man to a godly man, from a man who portrays the worst of humanity to one who resembles the very best human ever, the Lord Jesus Christ.

In Genesis 44, we see the culmination of God’s transformative work in Judah’s life.  Ultimately who he has become is not determined by his ancestry or his environment, but by the surprising and gracious work of God in his life.  Do you know anyone whom you assume God has written off?  Is that person you?  Don’t be so quick to credit your ancestry or your environment for a ruined life.  The end of the story has not yet been written and God’s grace is the final word, if you will but find it.

Join us this Lord’s Day, June 17, as we examine the climax of the story of Judah as we see how the grace of God changed him from a dishonorable son, brother, husband, and father to a man transformed by God’s grace to become a man of honor who prefigures the Lord Jesus who would descend from his line.  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.


We usually think of irrationality as something that does not make sense — something that does not conform to a normal or reasonable way of thinking or acting.  When we can’t make sense of someone’s actions, we say they are acting irrationally.   But from a mathematical perspective, irrationality is the inability to express a number as a ratio of any two numbers.   For example, the number “pi”, so important in geometry and trigonometry cannot be expressed as a fraction.   While people revel in their ability to memorize “pi” to some number of decimal places, they can never trace it out to the end.  Being irrational, there is no end of decimal places for “pi.”   It is what we call irreducible.

In the same way many kind and well-meaning people will attempt to reduce the tragic or the happy providences of God in our lives to one specific purpose.  When we experience some profound sorrow, they will quote Romans 8:28 and proceed to conjecture as to what particular purpose God had in bringing that sorrow into our lives.   While there may be a grain of truth to their attempt at comfort, it is for most, cold comfort.

But God’s providences in our lives are like irrational numbers.  They are irreducible.  God is doing a million things in every one thing he ordains and brings to pass.  Some of those things are for us. And some are for others.  Some of his purposes may be clearly understood, but many will remain hidden to us.  Consider Job.  He never knew why God brought him through the trials he faced.  If Job had known, how satisfied do you think he would have been?   Yet Job’s faith was strengthened, Satan humiliated, and we are given hope to endure in the midst of a world that seems turned upside down.  The purposes of God in Job’s life will continue to unfold until the end of time.  You see, the providences of God are irreducible to some simple ratio or formula of understanding.  Mathematically speaking, God’s works are irrational, irreducible.

The reconciliation of Joseph and his brothers in Genesis 43 – 45 is an example of this.  This story unfolds much more to God’s work through Joseph than just a plan to save Egypt from famine.  Through nearly twenty years of trial and tragedy in Egypt, the brash young Joseph has become the wise, discerning and yet, humble, older Joseph.  God has been shaping him through adversity to come to a time of great need in the life of the ancient near East.  Yet that is only a fraction of what God was doing.  God was bringing comfort to an aging father, providing protective care for the future generations of the covenant family, working faith and repentance in Jacob’s wicked sons, instructing us in patient endurance, and setting before us a picture of the kindness of God through our savior’s suffering and redeeming work.   And this is by no means an exhaustive list.    For every work of God unfolds purposes beyond our lives, our times, and our understanding.

Join us this Lord’s Day, May 27, as we as we examine the continuing story of Joseph and his brothers as God unfolds more in their lives than they ever imagined and consider how God does the same in our lives.  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.

Beloved Enemy

While I was often a mischievous boy, I was rarely rebellious or overtly disobedient.  On a few, memorable occasions, however, my mother uttered the phrase much feared by children of my generation — “go sit on your bed and wait until your Father gets home.”   Now my father was not overly harsh in his discipline, but he was certainly firm.  A season of “biblical chastisement” from him was nothing to be considered lightly.   The hours of silent reflection awaiting his ever-punctual arrival at 5:15 pm ranged the gamut of guilty emotions; fear of punishment, rationalization of wrongdoing, grief over future lost privileges and then true sorrow for sin and disappointment with myself.

The must crushing part of my dad’s discipline was not the sting of the swat or the stern discussion about the seriousness of sin, but it was the lines of unspoken, but not unexpressed, disappointment etched in his face.   Only now, as a father myself, do I realize that some of that disappointment was no doubt with himself and not in my actions alone, but no child can grasp that.   The comfort that I had in the midst of the approaching storm was that my father loved me.  Even as a boy, I grasped that though in discipline he seemed to be an enemy for a moment, he was a beloved enemy – bringing me by sorrow of body to sorrow of soul and thus to repentance and forgiveness.

The scripture paints of this picture of our Heavenly Father, who because of our sin is for a time our “beloved enemy.”   Romans 2:4 reminds us that it is the “kindness of God that leads to repentance” and Hebrews 12:5-6 which exhorts us,

And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.”

As the story of Jacob unfolds into the story of Joseph in the closing chapters of the book of Genesis, we see a pretty sorry portrayal of the lives and character of Joseph’s brothers.  They are violent, deceptive, contentious, spiteful, unbelievably disrespectful to their father, despisers of the covenant like their uncle, Esau, sexually immoral, just to name a few of their characteristics.   Their attempted murder of Joseph is only thwarted by some lingering vestigial conscience in Reuben and Judah and by the providential arrival of a caravan of slave traders.   For over twenty years, while Joseph languishes in slavery and prison in Egypt, they remain at home, never speaking of or dealing with their guilt toward their brother, their father and most of all toward God.

But God has not forgotten.  Just as he was a beloved enemy of their Father at Peniel, so God is slowly working to bring them to repentance through a remarkable reunion with Joseph who has now risen to great power and position in Egypt.   Does the Lord seem to be a threat or an enemy in your life?  Perhaps in His kindness, He is leading you to repentance and cleansing from some sin that has held power for far too long in your life. Maybe, just maybe, He is a beloved enemy whose woundings are to be trusted.

Join us this Lord’s Day, May 13, as we examine the continuing story of Joseph as his brothers appear before him to find food in the famine and find something much more powerful and needful.  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.