Skeptics Welcome

Skeptics Welcome

We live in an age of flourishing skepticism, particularly when it comes to religion.  Science is seen as the new arbiter of absolute truth and the “scientific-method” the only test of the believe-worthiness of any idea.  The incredible popularity of thinkers such as Stephen Hawking underscores this flowering of the enlightenment enthronement of human reason.  Hawking, who once quipped that “heaven [and the afterlife] were fairy-stories for people afraid of the dark,” nevertheless frequently left his own pay-grade in the narrow confines of mathematics and observable physics to declare metaphysical absolutes.  It was this dimension of his writing and thinking that made him a pop icon.

Many skeptics today view religion, in general, and Christianity, in particular, as afraid of rational inquiry and apologetic challenge.  From the view of the secularist, Christianity has circled the wagons, arrogantly assuming the “fairy tales” of the Bible are true while closing its eyes to all reason and evidence.   Yet nothing is further from the truth.  Real and vibrant Christianity hangs out a shingle that says, “Skeptics Welcome.”

Nowhere is this seen more dramatically than in the Biblical accounts of the resurrection.   No point of Christian doctrine has been more thoroughly assaulted by skeptics than the resurrection.  Yet every assault strengthens credibility.   When the accounts are critically examined, it seems God took great care to surround the crucifixion, death and burial of Jesus along with the subsequent discovery of the empty tomb with a vast body of evidence which can only be satisfactorily explained by Jesus’ resurrection.  In many respects, the empty tomb is a sign that reads “Skeptics Welcome.”  The stone was not rolled back to let Jesus out but to let skeptics in.

Join us this Lord’s Day, April 1, as we examine the account of the empty tomb from John 20 and consider an invitation to skeptics to examine and believe in the resurrection of Jesus.  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.

Here’s The Church

Here’s The Church

Here’s the church and here’s the steeple, open the doors and see all the people…

There was a day when we could recognize a building as a church by its distinctive features, but now the architecture of sacred spaces runs the gamut.   Churches are designed to identify with a thousand different subtly secularized ideas about their mission, vision and community.  Some look like schools, others like shopping malls, while some resemble professional office parks and are called campuses.  Church buildings come in every conceivable shape and size, each with a corresponding and yet, competing vision of why it exists.

But the church is not the building, and its mission, vision and community, while flavored by the soil in which it is planted, is not as variable as the edifices that house it.   The church pictured in the New Testament is not an innovation or departure from the Old Testament covenanted community.  In fact, it is explicitly described as “the Israel of God.”  On the day of Pentecost, the church is not born as some assert, but new branches are radically engrafted.  The essence of the ekklesia, the “called ones” is reasserted, not reinvented, but now with the “dividing wall of hostility removed.”

Acts 2:36-47 reveals a glimpse of this as the picture of the church, its identity, and its impact is reaffirmed in light of Pentecost.   In our day, when the mission, vision and community of the church is as diverse as the buildings in which it meets, it is important to return to the exemplar.

What is a Church?   What is River City Reformed Church?  Join us this Lord’s Day, November 12, as we examine Acts 2 and consider our identity and impact as a Church.

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 Art of Neighboring

The Art of Neighboring

Elizabeth Bennett’s father in Pride and Prejudice was notoriously disengaged from the world in which he lived.  He loved the quiet of his study and accepted the society of his neighbors only as a sort of entertaining study in human folly.  He famously quipped, “For what do we live, but to make sport for our neighbors, and laugh at them in our turn?”

For most of us, our neighbors are people we view from a distance and love only  metaphorically.  We see them come and go, we view them from the window or through the privacy fence.  We speculate about their lives, but often don’t know their names.  Yet, Jesus taught that our love for our neighbor is cut out of the same cloth as our love for God.

In their book, The Art of Neighboring, authors Jay Pathak and Dave Runyon make an eminently practical observation.

Jesus said to love our neighbors.  Sure, the teaching extends to our metaphoric neighbors – people everywhere in need.  This extends to the people we work with, the parent on our kid’s soccer team, and even the person on the other side of the world who is in need of a meal.  But it also means our actual neighbors – the people who live next door.

Jesus’ command takes us much deeper than most of us are willing to go.   This was the case with a lawyer who came forward to test Jesus in Luke 10, asking ‘and who is my neighbor?’   After declaring that the law calls us to love God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength and to love our neighbor as ourselves, the lawyer no doubt sees that he in over his head. So he seeks to narrow the field to a manageable and comfortable size.  Jesus takes up the lawyer’s question with a story about a merciful Samaritan and turns the question on its head from “who is my neighbor” to “who became a neighbor?”

“To whom are you a neighbor” is a very different question than “and who is my neighbor?” To whom are you a neighbor?  God is already working in your neighborhood.  Are you willing to find out how, simply by being a neighbor?  Join us this Lord’s Day, November 5, as we consider the calling for us to be a neighbor from the story of the Good Samaritan. 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.

S.D.G.

S.D.G.

‘The aim and final end of all music should be none other than the glory of God and the refreshment of the soul.” – Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)

Bach is well remembered for penning Soli Deo Gloria,“To the Glory of God Alone,” at the conclusion of his compositions, especially those intended for the worship of the gathered church. Perhaps this was a poignant way of declaring that it wasn’t the applause of a congregation, the praise of his patrons, or even the respect of his contemporaries that drove him to compose, but he did so for the honor and glory of God alone both in his work for the worship of the church and the edification of his neighbor.

Historian Jaroslav Pelikan commented that this commitment on Bach’s part,

“…bespeaks the conviction of Luther and the Reformers that the performance of any God-pleasing vocation was the service of God, even if it did not lead to the performance of chorales. The Bach of the Peasant Cantata, the partitas, and the concertos was not ‘too secular.’ These were, rather, the expression of a unitary … world view, in which all beauty … was sacred because God was one, both Creator and Redeemer.”

Soli Deo Gloria, the last of the Reformation ‘Solas,’ was one of the key summaries of Reformation thought, declaring that God’s redemptive work was thoroughly gracious, depending upon nothing but the work of God and directed toward nothing but the glory of God.  But more than this, Soli Deo Gloria also became a summary of Reformation life as everyday life became the context in which we glorify God.  In a world enraptured by human achievement and advancement what continuing relevance can Soli Deo Gloria have for us?  Ought not our works be concluded with the annotation S.D.G.?

Why does the Reformation still matter?  And why does Soli Deo Gloria still matter?  Join us this Lord’s Day, October 29, as we consider these questions. 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.

Why Solus Christus Still Matters

Why Solus Christus Still Matters

As a student of theology, Ralph Erskine made the rounds to many of Edinburgh’s notable churches to hear the great preachers of his day.  In his journal he recorded notes and assessment of each sermon.  In one entry he noted only, “not very good  — no word of Christ.”   I wonder what assessment Erskine would make of preaching in our day?   Would he hear a word of Christ or merely a moralistic prescription for self-improvement?

Scottish divine, Thomas Chalmers noted the spiritually fatal effect of the entertaining, self-help, power-of-positive-thinking type preaching of his day that lacked a word of Christ.   He aptly remarked that  such preaching was

“like a winter’s day, short and clear and cold. The brevity is good, the clarity is better; the coldness is fatal. Moonlight preaching ripens no harvest.”  

The Middle Ages, steeped in superstition and error, had no lack of interesting preaching.   Its art and rhetoric; its value as entertainment was without rival in the frivolities of Medieval life.   Yet it lacked the sunlight of the gospel.  It had the form of godliness but was bereft of gospel power because it spoke no word of Christ.   Calvin describes this preaching.

“Indeed what one sermon was there from which old wives might not carry off more fantasies than they could devise at their own fireside in a month?  For, [these] sermons … contained smooth stories, or not unamusing speculations, by which the people might be excited to cheerfulness.   Only a few expressions were thrown in from the Word of God, that by their majesty they might procure credit for these frivolities.   But as soon as the Reformers raised the standard, all these absurdities in a moment disappeared from among us.”

The Reformation grew in the soil of expository, gospel preaching.  Preaching that proclaimed salvation by grace alone, through faith alone in Christ alone.   Today’s preaching often aims merely to excite the hearers to cheerfulness and tell a few smooth stories.   Yet such moonlight preaching ripens no harvest.

Why does the Reformation still matter?  And why does Solus Christus, “In Christ Alone,” still matter?  Join us this Lord’s Day, October 22, as we consider these questions. 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.

Misdiagnosis

Misdiagnosis

Medical misdiagnosis is a serious problem.  Recent studies have estimated that as many as 12 million adults a year seeking outpatient care are misdiagnosed.  Worse yet, diagnostic errors may result in as many as 10% of patient deaths — more deaths annually than breast cancer.  To be fair, diagnosis is incredibly complex and patients place extraordinarily high expectations for accuracy on their doctors.  Patients often bet their lives on the opinions of their doctor.  When those opinions are wrong the prescribed treatment will fail to address the real condition and may even make the condition more acute.

Misdiagnosis is a serious problem but it is nothing compared to the misdiagnosis of a deeper sickness that affects us all – a spiritually terminal condition the Bible calls sin.  This condition is congenital and inherited.  It is always fatal.  Every one of us has it.  Yet it is often misdiagnosed.  Doctors of skepticism dismiss that any sickness exists, while doctors of philosophy are more concerned with classification than cure.   Doctors of psychology declare this sickness to be a non-fatal dysfunction, easily resolved with the right therapeutic tweak.   Doctors of world religions prescribe a course of works, coupled with a regimen of rituals and outward piety.  But with all these prescriptions, the cirrhosis of the soul continues unabated.

At the dawn of the Reformation, the Church taught that man needed the grace of God to overcome his sin problem, just not grace alone.  The Church and its teachers had misdiagnosed the depth and severity of sin as mere spiritual sloth.  If only the patients would exert themselves, even just a little, and show that they were trying, God would give them the loan of grace they needed to make up what they lacked.   God helps those that help themselves!

Yet these Doctors of the Church had failed to read their diagnostic manual, the Scripture, which reveals that the patients are already spiritually dead (Ephesians 2) and that none of them can ever exert themselves, even just a little (Romans 3).   Martin Luther worked and worked to do his part, yet with all his working he only felt that more working was needed.   Far from loving or seeking God, he hated and despised God for his implacable justice and harshness.  It was not until he read in Romans 1, “the just shall live by faith” that he realized that his hope was not in a loan of grace, but in grace alone — grace given to him, not in response to his willingness, but in spite of his rebellion.  Luther commented.

“He is not righteous who does much, but he who, without work, believes much in Christ…. The love of God does not find, but creates, that which is pleasing to it…. Rather than seeking its own good, the love of God flows forth and bestows good. Therefore sinners are attractive because they are loved; they are not loved because they are attractive.”

Dead men do not need renovation, but resurrection.   For this reason, the Reformers insisted that the only remedy for sin was Grace alone (Sola Gratia) through Faith alone (Sola Fide).  Why do Sola Gratia and Sola Fide Still Matter?  Because the epidemiology of sin has not changed in the last 500 years.

Join us this Lord’s Day, October 15, as we consider the question, “Why do Sola Gratia and Sola Fide 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.