Welcome, Pastor James Ritchey!

Welcome, Pastor James Ritchey!

River City Reformed Church is excited to welcome Pastor James Ritchey and his family to Little Rock.   Pastor Ritchey joins the staff of River City Reformed this month as a Pastoral Intern.   He will be pursuing ordination this summer to become our Associate Pastor.   In addition to assisting Pastor Wheeler with pastoral care, preaching, and teaching, Pastor Ritchey will focus on growing our community engagement through authentic community, biblical discipleship, and meaningful ministry.  

A native of Birmingham, Alabama, Pastor Ritchey is a graduate of Mississippi College (2014) and Reformed Theological Seminary (2018). He has served as a students and families assistant at First Presbyterian Church in Jackson, MS, Director of Youth Ministry at First Presbyterian Church in Pooler, GA and Pastoral Intern at Holy Trinity Presbyterian Church in Tampa, Florida.

James and his wife Missy were married in 2017 and have one daughter, Anna Maria. They enjoy hiking, traveling, reading and visiting museums.   Please join us in welcoming the Ritcheys to Little Rock.  

Plan to meet them in person, Sunday, May 16 at 5:00 pm as we gather for worship at St. Andrews Church, Little Rock outside on the Pavilion. Click here for directions or contact us to learn more.

Acts of God

Acts of God

Literally anything can be insured today.   Your health, your life, your car, your house, these have long been insurable.   But now anything you can buy on Amazon comes with an optional protection plan.  Asurion and SquareTrade will sell you piece of mind for any device imaginable.   No matter what happens, you’re in good hands.   These ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ plans promise to fix anything and everything for any reason.   Once plan declares,

…you’re covered from day one for damage caused by common accidents, including: knocking it off a table, dropping it in water, your dog chewing on it

[we] cover your device from all electrical and mechanical failures, including battery replacements if the original battery won’t hold at least a 50% charge. Drop it? Spill on it? No worries. We cover accidents caused by you and people you know.

Sounds like absolute security!   But, like all things legal and financial, read the fine print.   Theft, loss, and ‘intentional damage’ is not covered, along with other vague categories of disaster which create large liability loopholes.   And the list of coverage exceptions always ends with the coup de grace of limited liability, ‘Acts of God.’

Acts of God are serious.   No insurance can or will protect us from them.   There are things in life that just happen.   Things we expect.  Things which, though disastrous, we have come to expect.  But acts of God are those things so catastrophic and unexpected that they get our existential attention.  

For example, in 1755 an earthquake struck off the coast of Portugal triggering a Tsunami which ignited a massive firestorm in the city of Lisbon.   The consequences were devastating.   The death and destruction triggered by this act of God ignited an existential firestorm.   Enlightenment philosophers and churchmen fiercely debated the goodness of God and whether this world constitutes the “best of all possible worlds.”

There are things in our lives that just happen, and then there are acts of God.   Those are the things that confront us with the deep existential questions and keep us up at night.   Does God exist?  What kind of God is he?  What does he demand or expect of me?   Is he pleased or displeased with me?   Can I know the answers to any of these questions?  If so, how?

God has a plan and a purpose for the world.   The Book of Revelation pictures this plan as a scroll sealed with seven seals.   No mere man can open it or look into it.  The only one found worthy is the Lamb slain, who yet lives – the Lord Jesus Christ.   As he opens the seals in Revelation 6, we see a series of events that, for the most part, are a part of the common experience of men throughout history: conquest, bloodshed, famine, injustice, and persecution.    These things are devastating, but not unexpected.   They will sometimes draw men’s attention to the greater reality of God and our relation to him, but often men’s focus is more earthbound in such times.

But in Revelation 8, Jesus opens the final seal and reveals the contents of the scroll.   The judgements found there move from common experiences of men to remarkable acts of God.  While God’s providence extends to all his creatures and all their actions, some providences reveal more clearly his active agency in our lives.   Acts of God get our attention.  They provoke deeper questions than, “how do I survive.”   They provoke us to recognize God’s existence, nature, authority.  And to wrestle with our relationship to him.

But even in the dramatic judgements of Revelation 8, we see the grace of God shining through the terror the first four trumpets.   God acts in ways similar to the plagues against Egypt, signs given to warn men to abandon their false gods and to find deliverance in the Living God alone.  Signs that also warn us not to harden our hearts and flee from the Lamb.    But to flee to Him. 

The use of trumpets for these acts of God is significant.  Trumpets in the Bible are used to signify many things:  a call to battle, a warning of impending attack, to call Sons of Israel to the feasts, but the most significant use is to declare the year of Jubilee – to declare freedom for the captive and release from slavery.  The trumpets of judgement that begin to blow in Revelation 8 are acts of God that warn us and call us to flee to and not from God for deliverance from the slavery of sin and the righteous judgement we deserve.   These trumpets call us flee to the Lamb who was slain, who “by His blood has ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.”

When acts of God occur, we begin to ask questions.   But are we seeking answers?   In these trumpets, God is warning us to return to Him.   As the unfolding narrative of Revelation everywhere declares, “in wrath, He remembers mercy.”   Are you listening?   Will you flee from the wrath of the Lamb or flee to the Lamb in the midst of the throne who will be your shepherd, who will guide you to springs of living water and wipe away every tear from your eyes.  Join us this week as we examine Revelation 8 and consider God’s gracious warning to us through his undeniable acts of judgement.

We meet from 5:00 – 6:30 pm, outside on The Pavilion 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.  For the Order of Service, click here.

Photo by Josep Castells on Unsplash



I confess, I don’t like to part with my brass.  I’m not a miser.   If a thing is needful and worth what it costs, I am all in.  But I don’t get there quickly or casually.   In this, I am my father’s son.    My childhood Saturdays were consumed by running errands with my dad.   We drove all over town, comparing market prices on Borkum-Riff pipe tobacco.   My father was not about the convenience buy.   Before Google, he used gasoline to fuel his comparison shopping.   He would agonize over simple purchases and use yellow legal pads to analyze his options.   He would not part with his brass unless he could prove it was worth it.  As Wendell Berry noted, for my Dad, “the Depression was not over and done, but merely absent for a while.”

We all want to know that the things that are truly costly in our lives are ‘worth it.’  Our education, vocations, investments – our love, our deepest commitments, are they worth it?  Are the things that cost the most, worth the cost?   While true that “to love any good thing at a cost, is a bargain.”  All too often, this perspective can only be discovered in retrospect.   In the middle of the costliness of loving any good thing, the yellow legal pads are constantly analyzing.  ‘Is it worth it?  Is he or she, worth it?’   

The angst of that question, ‘Is he worth it?’ puts its finger on the pulse.  Deep love is deeply costly.   Self-love, or selfish love, view this question as one of convenience not cost.   But love and costliness are directly proportional.  As one grows, so will the other.   “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13).   Love and costliness track together.   ‘Is it worth it?  Is he or she worthy?’  How many times have you spoken this to the darkness?

In his Messages to Seven Churches in Revelation, Jesus had hard words for his beloved bride, the church.   Her love for him is costly.   And growing even more costly.   She must face external threat and internal turmoil.   She is tempted to love herself more than Him.  Or to love Him less than herself.   She struggles with purity and commitment and the purity of her commitment.   She is often complacent, apathetic, and neglectful.   She questions whether, ‘to love Him at a cost, is a bargain.’   ‘It is worth it?  Is He Worthy?’   

We ask the same thing.   Not out loud of course.  But in the quiet hours and in Valleys of Shadow.  Following Christ is costly.   Bonhoeffer rightly wrote, “when Christ calls a man, He bids him to come and die.”   ‘Is He worth it?  Is He Worthy?’  God is kind and gentle with his children.   He knows our anxious thoughts.   The Revelation paints a dramatic picture of sacrifice and final victory.   Through it, God reveals ‘what is and what is to come.’  But the climax of this picture is not in its last brush-stroke, but in its first.  In Revelation 5, the real question is posed – the question that answers all others.  “Is He Worthy?”  And the answer?  “He is!”

Join us this week as we examine Revelation 5 and answer the question, ‘Is He Worthy?’  We meet from 5:00 – 6:30 pm, outside on The Pavilion 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.  For the Order of Service, click here.

The Open Door

The Open Door

I grew up in a culturally diverse community.    Nowhere was this more evident than at the Belvedere Plaza Theater.   In the age before Netflix and Hulu we caught the latest flicks on the big screen.   At the Belvedere, watching a movie was a true communal experience.   The audience was fully engaged.   We did not merely watch the drama unfold.   We advised, chided, and cheered the characters, especially if the movie was suspenseful.    The Dolby surround-sound was drowned out by cries of “Girl! Don’t you go in there!”  And “don’t you do it.  You know he’s gonna get you.”  Every warning louder and more earnest than the one before.

Hapless teens strolling through abandoned campgrounds were always walking through doors better left alone.   They clearly needed our counsel.  And my little theater community was not shy about warning them, loudly and colorfully, to watch out and keep out.  Everyone knew that an open door led to nothing good. 

We all have a fear of open doors.   Yes, they represent opportunity, but they also represent uncertainty.   Uncertainty about what is ahead of us and uncertainty about what is inside of us.  We never know what is behind the next door.    Or how we will handle it.   But the open doors we often fear the most, are those the Lord opens.  

Though opened by the Lord who loves us through all eternity, who gives us life and works all things for our good, we struggle to shake off the fear that we know more about our happiness than He does.   That it is somehow a divine trap.  He opens a door that no man can shut.  But will we follow Him to it and through it?  

The message to the Church in Philadelphia in Revelation 3 is remarkable.   Christ has no word of condemnation, only commendation for this church.   His message to them is filled with the imagery of the open door.  He is the Lord who holds the keys.  He is the one who opens doors which no one can close and closes those which no man can open.   Philadelphia was founded as a gateway city — not to defend the Greek cities to the west, but to evangelize peoples of the east with Greek life and culture.   And now the Lord has a more important gospel for the Philadelphian Christians to carry.    

He calls them to the open door.  Doors in the Bible often represent new opportunities for ministry, but they also represent the path from life to death and from loneliness into community.   All these things are part of Christ’s call come to and through the door he has opened.  For Christ not only opens the door but, John’s gospel tells us, He is the door – the way, the truth, and the life.    He is the only way for us to come to the Father, find real community, and pursue a life of meaning and purpose. 

He has opened a door which no man can shut.  Are you afraid to go through it?    Join us this week as we examine the message to the Church in Philadelphia from Revelation 3:7-12 and consider the call to follow Christ through the open door.   

We meet from 5:00 – 6:30 pm at The Arkansas DreamCenter at 1116 Daisy L Gatson Bates Drive 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. For the Order of Service, click here.

The Third Mark

The Third Mark

Three strikes and you’re out!  Even if you are not a baseball fan you know what it means.  No more chances.   Now you must face the consequences.   As a boy, I heard this phrase often.   After all, I grew up in Atlanta listening to the Braves during the Seventies.   If you followed the Braves in the Nineties, you remember the rousing sounds of a packed Braves’ stadium, thundering with the tomahawk chant and chop.  But in the Seventies, there were no crowds, no chants, and very few sightings of Chief Noc-A-Homa (let the reader understand). 

There were a few bright spots.  Men like “Hammering” Hank Aaron and Phil Niekro labored for what must have felt like a lifetime with other legendary cellar-dwelling Braves.   But for diehard fans like my mother, there was little to celebrate.  In those days the Braves could hardly give tickets away.   My mother and I attended many games on 25 cent “knot hole” tickets.  The schools also gave away scores of tickets to students with good grades.

But my mother never gave up on her beloved Braves.  Summer evenings were spent sitting on our carport listening on the transistor radio to Ernie Johnson, Pete Van Wieren, and Skip Caray call the “balls and [mostly] strikes.”  She was a die-hard fan, ever optimistic.  You had to be to be a Braves’ fan.   I always regretted that she did not live to see the Braves in the World Series.

Three strikes and you’re out.  No more chances.   While this is the rule in baseball, it is not the rule of grace and life together in the church.   The community of grace, the body of Christ, the Church is characterized not by three strikes, but three marks.  The faithful preaching of the Word, faithful administration of the sacraments, and faithful exercise of discipline.  Three marks which are interrelated and indispensable.   These are means of grace, given so we might grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ and in love, service and devotion to one another.

Many churches boast faithful preaching and teaching.  Some carefully observe the sacraments, baptism and the Lord’s Supper.  But how many practice discipline?   Discipline is hard.  Hard for those who receive it.  And as our fathers assured us, hard for the ones administering it.   As in parenting, discipline is often messy and inconvenient.  It is easier to let things slide.  Easier to ignore problems, hoping everything will “just work out.”  But it never does.   Because we assume discipline only leads to division and departure, we avoid it like the plague.    But peace, purity, and prosperity in a family, especially a church family, never comes by neglecting discipline.   Quite the contrary.

This is the message to the churches in Pergamum and Thyatira in Revelation 2.   Both churches are highly praised.   The church in Pergamum held fast against intense persecution.   Pergamum was the epicenter of a hostile, Satanic culture, yet the believers there had not wavered – even in the face of martyrdom.   And the Christians of Thyatira were praised not only for their love, faith, service and patient endurance, but for growth in each of these areas.   Unlike the Ephesians, their latter works exceed the first.  

At first glance, these churches appeared solid and impregnable.   But as is often the case, the greatest threat to a church is not from the outside, but from within.   False teachers were promoting compromise with the gods of culture and commerce.   “Go along to get along” was their theme.   And the churches tolerated it.   Disguised as ‘seeker sensitivity’ and ‘cultural awareness,’ this false teaching continued unchallenged.   And the false teachers continued undisciplined.    

For all their merits, their lack of discipline was a serious demerit.  So serious that Jesus threatened to “war against them with the sword of his mouth” and “throw [false teachers] onto a sick bed and those who commit adultery with [them] … into tribulation.”  And even to strike some dead so that all the churches would know that he is the one “who searches mind and heart.”   This was the most severe threat issued yet to the Seven Churches.  

Failure to discipline is deadly.  Deadly to a church and deadly to its members.   We might think it more loving to avoid it.   But discipline is a mark of real love.  Jesus takes discipline seriously.   Do we?  Join us this week as we examine Revelation 2:12-29 and consider why the Church struggles to practice discipline but why we must.    

We meet from 5:00 – 6:30 pm at The Arkansas DreamCenter at 1116 Daisy L Gatson Bates Drive 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.