The Face of Betrayal

The Face of Betrayal

Milan is a city of contrasts.  Inside the lavish beauty of its cathedral are displayed the macabre corpses of former prelates, dressed in priestly robes.  The fountains of the stately Sforza Castle are thronged with gangs of pickpockets and the most aggressive flower salesmen on the planet.   And it is tricky to enjoy your gelato in the plaza because of the plague of pigeons.   But if you wander away from the castle and the cathedral and wander down a few side streets you will find two of Milan’s great treasures – the Basilica of Sant’Ambrogio and the Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie.  The first is the famous church established by Ambrose of Milan who was instrumental in the conversion of Augustine (and whose supposed corpse can be viewed in the crypt).  The second is the church which houses Da Vinci’s famous depiction of The Last Supper.   If you plan to see it, you will need to reserve tickets months in advance, but the convent itself is quite beautiful and worth seeing even if you can’t see the painting.

Theories abound about Da Vinci’s model for the face of Judas in The Last Supper.   As the story goes, the last two faces painted were those of Jesus and Judas.  Da Vinci struggled to find someone who conveyed the loveliness of Christ and the treachery of Judas.  By some accounts, Da Vinci haunted the local prisons and seedier parts of Milan and Rome looking for a face worthy of the world’s greatest treachery.  Other accounts say Da Vinci used the “nagging head” of the Prior of the Convent, because of his constant complaints to the Duke of Milan that the painting would never be finished.

Da Vinci’s difficulty is understandable.  The very nature of betrayal is that it is surprising.  The face of betrayal rarely reflects the treachery beneath.   Quite the opposite — the face of the betrayer is the face which declares unyielding loyalty and undying love, concealing a heart that is loyal only so far as self-love demands.

When you consider the definitive picture of the Last Supper, painted by the gospels, with Jesus’ shocking announcement, “one of you will betray me,” the horror in the disciple’s words as one after another they ask, “Is it I, Lord?” and the coldness of Judas’ “Is it I, Rabbi?” where would your face appear?   If Da Vinci asked you to sit as a model, where would he place you?

The irony is that every face is the face of betrayal.  Every disciple at that table would betray Jesus that very night.  The sorrowful self-examination of the table gave way to arguments about greatness, bold claims of loyalty, gripping drowsiness, precipitous violence, complete abandonment, and loud public disavowals bolstered by oaths and cursing.  The portraits painted in the gospels of these followers of Christ are shocking.  Each one is a face of betrayal.  But the gospel is never about good men becoming better, it is always about bad men redeemed by grace.  It is the story of betrayal and forgiveness.  Our own stories begin with sin, brokenness and betrayal.  What matters most is what happens next?

Who is the face of betrayal?  What does betrayal look like and where does it come from?  And where does betrayal take us?  Matthew 26 chronicles the betrayal of the disciples, but it highlights the betrayals of Judas and Peter.  Their similarities are more than you imagine and their differences fewer than you might expect, yet the name ‘Judas’ is synonymous with treachery, while ‘Peter’ is honored?  What made the difference?

Join us this Lord’s Day, March 24, as we examine Matthew 26 and consider the difference between despair and redemption in the wake of our own sin, brokenness and betrayal.  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 and join us for fellowship and worship. We look forward to seeing you there.

Tippecanoe and Tyler Too

Tippecanoe and Tyler Too

While old campaign slogans may be catchy and the memorabilia that immortalized them collectable, the issues they expressed are hardly relevant or even discernible in our day.   As we approach the 500th anniversary of the Reformation on October 31, 2017, our social media feeds will be burgeoning with memes and sermon series announcements related to the Five Solas, or Reformation era slogans, expressing the central concerns of the Protestant Reformers.  These slogans are:

  • Sola Scriptura, By Scripture alone,
  • Sola Gratia, By Grace alone,
  • Sola Fide, By Faith alone,
  • Solus Christus, By Christ alone,
  • Soli Deo Gloria, For God’s Glory alone.

As a Reformed Church our identity and our name is connected explicitly to a Sixteenth Century historical movement in Western European History, while our faith and practice is staunchly defined and directed by a book that has not been updated in almost two thousand years.

Are we not a living, breathing anachronism?   Are we not irrelevant to culture and a world that has advanced and moved on from the historical context into which we were born?  Does the Reformation still matter?  Do the Five Solas have any more relevance for our lives today than “Tippecanoe and Tyler Too?”  Or are we just worshiping and practicing our own outdated style in a world that is moving on without us?  These are weighty questions which we need to ask and answer as we consider “who” and “what” we are as a Reformed Church in the Twenty-First Century.

Join us this Lord’s Day, October 8, as we consider the question, “Why Does Sola Scriptura Still Matter?”  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.

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.

Bumper Rails

Bumper Rails

Where were bumper rails when we were young?  Bowling was much harder than we imagined and gutter-balls were the mainstay of our early forays into the sport.  Children today, however, can experience the euphoria of crushing pins without the disappointment of gutter-dwelling, due to a truly marvelous modern invention – the bumper rail.  Throw in an adaptive bowling ramp and your average adult league bowler will be hard-pressed to beat a three year old without a sizeable handicap.

Older children may argue that this is an unfair advantage and bowling purists may complain that youngsters need to develop the character that comes from a single-digit score, but bowling alleys have learned that bumper rails and adaptive bowling ramps make the game more fun and significantly reduce crying among its fledgling bowlers.

In a similar way, the Lord graciously protects us when we struggle in our journey of faith.  Despite our struggles with unbelief, disobedience and conflict, the Lord, through His gracious providence keeps us out of many gutters and directs our paths when we are too weak to do so.   This great truth of God’s kindness in providence does not makes us apathetic or callous toward the demands of obedience or holiness, but rather increases our desire to grow in these areas out of gratitude for Him.  How has the Lord guarded and directed your path in the midst of a difficult faith journey?

Join us this Lord’s Day, September 17, as we examine Genesis 26 and consider how God graciously protects us when are struggling with unbelief, disobedience, and conflict in our journey of faith .  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.

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.

Viewing the Son

Viewing the Son

On Monday, August 21, 2017 those within a seventy mile-wide swath of the United States will be treated to a rare and dramatic celestial phenomena – a total solar eclipse.  Perhaps you are late to the game and just now realized that to view the eclipse, you will need special glasses, certified to meet the ISO 12312-2 standard.  To ensure your glasses are safe click here.

But if you do not have safe glasses, you can still view the eclipse by making a pin hole projector.   This is simple and will allow you to watch the eclipse safely without looking directly at the sun. You can find simple instructions here.

Looking directly at the sun is hazardous.  It requires filtration or indirection.  In the same way it is impossible for us to look directly at the nature and plans of God.  If God were to reveal all of Himself or His purposes, our finite minds could not handle it.  Moses once asked to see God’s glory and the Lord created protected circumstances and gave only a glimpse.  God has also given us a protected way to view His nature and His purposes, through the safety and clarity of the Scriptural lens.   The Bible gives us insight into the depths of God’s love for us and His gracious purposes for His children.  All of the Bible reveals the story of redemption, most clearly expressed in the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.

In Genesis 22 we have a pin-hole projector into the love of the Father and the obedience of the Son in the story of redemption through a troubling account of Abraham and Isaac.   Like the various parts of a pin-hole projector working together to give a clear image of the eclipse, the rest of Scripture, especially Hebrews 11:17-19 gives us the key to resolving what seems to be a horrific demand of God upon Abraham.

Join us this Lord’s Day, August 20, as we examine the challenging account of Abraham and Isaac on Mount Moriah and gain a glimpse into the redeeming love of the Lord Jesus Christ.  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.

Laughter

Laughter

What makes you laugh?  While on the surface the answer seems obvious, the science of laughter is actually quite complex.  Certainly humor can trigger laughter, but so can nervousness or simply the laughter of others.  The area of the brain that controls laughter also controls breathing and many of our involuntary control mechanisms.

We often laugh in response to things that don’t fit with what we think should happen.  Our experience often functions as a predictive grid for anticipating what will happen in any given situation.  When we expect one thing and then something else happens — when our scripts are broken in a non-threatening way, laughter is a common response.

Sarah had heard God’s word of promise, regarding a son, for a quarter of a century. But her experience did not seem to square with God’s promises.   All of a sudden, when all possibility of fulfillment through her own womb or that of another is past, angelic messengers arrive with a precipitous birth announcement.  What is her response?  Laughter.

Join us this Lord’s Day, July 16, as we examine Genesis 18:1-16 and consider how God graciously confronts us when are struggling with unbelief and with the apparent disconnect between God’s Word and our expectations .  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.