Who Is This?

Who Is This?

We live in a world awash with outrageous claims and inflammatory statements.   Faced with the daunting challenge of distilling fact from fiction, we may be tempted to believe everything or nothing.   But among all the outrageous claims, what if there is life giving truth?  What if there is truth we cannot live without?

No man made more outrageous claims that Jesus Christ.   He shocked the men of his hometown, by claiming to be the Messiah.  He challenged the religious leaders to point out a single one of his sins.  He pushed the limits with his disciples, commanding them to love enemies and offer unlimited forgiveness to offensive brothers.  

Jesus’ own disciples struggled to understand who he was and what he came to do.  From time to time, glimpses shone through their own preconceived notions of Him.  In a poignant moment, as they were crossing the Sea of Galilee, a furious squall sprang up and threatened to sink their small fishing boat.  Half of Jesus’ disciples grew up on these tempestuous waters, fishing with their families from their childhood, yet even they were convinced that they would not survive the trip.  They woke Jesus, who was asleep in the back of the boat. 

They did not ask him to save them – for what miracle working teacher was a match for a force-ten gale?  They only asked, “don’t you care that we are about to die?”   Jesus stood up in the boat and with a word, brought the waters from tempest to mirror.   These seasoned seamen were almost speechless.  The only thing they could say of Jesus was, “who is this?”   They perceived that there was much more to Jesus than even their imaginations could anticipate.

What about you?  When someone mentions Jesus, what comes to mind?  Religious revolutionary? Social justice warrior?  Ethical teacher?  Failed Zionist leader?  Founder of a yet another world religion? Who is this Jesus?  For many it is a caricature, influenced by pictures you have seen or by clichés which permeate our cultural ideas of “the historical Jesus.”  Or perhaps you remember him from a collection of anecdotes or parables you heard as a child in some Sunday School.   Just who is Jesus?

No claim of Jesus was more outrageous than his claim that “I and the Father are one.  He who has seen me has seen the Father.”   Jesus did not claim merely to be God’s servant, or God’s prophet.  He did not claim to be “a son of God,” but “The Son of God.”  Despite the best efforts of Arian heretics to erase Jesus’ claims to divinity, the Scriptures claim pervasively and decisively that Jesus is fully God and fully man.   Men who seek some value in Jesus as a mere man and moral example, but disbelieve his outrageous claim to deity must face C. S. Lewis’ scathing critique.

A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else He would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronising nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to. 

C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity.

Jesus did not come to point out the way, the truth, or the life, but to be the way, the truth and the life.  This demands that he be fully human and fully divine. 

Who is Jesus?  Our seasonal displays of a baby Jesus in a lowly cattle stall have led us astray, thinking only of his humanity.   But in the opening chapter of his gospel, John, the beloved disciple, pulls back the curtain to reveal “the rest of the story.”     You think you know who Jesus is?  Come and find out as we examine John 1:1-5, 9-14 and grapple with what our forefathers expressed in the Westminster Shorter Catechism.

Q21: Who is the Redeemer of God’s elect? 
A21: The only Redeemer of God’s elect is the Lord Jesus Christ, who, being the eternal Son of God, became man, and so was, and continueth to be, God and man in two distinct natures, and one person, forever. 

Westminster Shorter Catechism, Question 21

We meet from 5:00 – 6:30 pm in The Commons 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.

The Plan

Two things my father was almost never without were pipe tobacco and yellow legal pads.   He did nothing without an outline.   In large, block script he detailed his plans to do anything he intended.   Even after I moved out of the house, I would receive outlines of his travel itineraries in the mail.  He was not an impulsive man.  He carefully analyzed his intentions and all expected consequences.  Only after putting the plan on paper did he act.   And without a doubt, I am my father’s son.   I outline my approach to everything.  And attempt very little without a plan and analysis of contingencies.

In this, my earthly father strongly resembled my Heavenly Father.   God is not a trouble shooter.  He is not unaware of anything that comes to pass.  In fact, He “foreordains whatsoever comes to pass, according the counsel of His own will, for His own glory.”   He is the ultimate planner.   Man’s fall was not an unexpected turn.   God is never held captive or contingent to any of the free actions of his creatures.   He not only knew all that would happen, but he purposed it.

Everything that happens contrary to God’s prescribed will is by no means contrary to his decreed will.   He always intended to deal with the world according to grace.  And the means by which he bestows that grace is not through an unfallen mankind in Adam, but through a redeemed mankind in Christ.   Isaac Watt’s metrical paraphrase of Psalm 72 says it well.

Where He displays His healing power,

Death and the curse are known no more:

In Him the tribes of Adam boast

More blessings than their father lost.

In Christ, redeemed mankind can boast more blessings than Adam ever had.   That is a remarkable statement.   This is what God had always planned for us.   Time and time again Scripture shows us that God purposed grace in Christ, “from before the foundation of the world.”   Even in its fallenness, and sin, and sorrow, this world with its promise of redemption, regeneration, and renewal in Christ is the “best of all possible worlds.”  

Nothing has gone amiss in God’s plan and purpose.  There is no waste, no “gratuitous evil,” in God’s economy.  The world is not “off the rails.”   God’s perfect and gracious plan is unfolding, just as He intended.  And in this we have hope.   He is the God who does all He pleases, and all He promises.

The first chapter of Ephesians is a literary masterpiece.   In one long breath, Paul extols the amazing beauty and richness of God’s grace to those who are ‘in Christ.’   The Ephesian church faced severe crises internally and externally.   False teaching and persecution were leading many to ‘abandon their first love.’  So, God pulls back the curtain to show them the truth of their situation ‘in Christ.’    In a city that boasted one of the wonders of the ancient world in the Temple of Diana, it was actually that church that housed the great treasure of God’s grace – grace rooted in God’s sovereign and eternal plan to save.  

And this is good news.   Our sin and rebellion is nothing so novel, so unexpected, that it is outside God’s plan and power to save.   There are no surprises or unexpected circumstances able to thwart God’s efficacious love for us in Christ.   You are not beyond hope.    Even if your situation seems hopeless.   Our forefathers expressed this hope in a series of questions and answers called the Westminster Shorter Catechism.   There we find this great promise.

Q. 19. What is the misery of that state into which mankind fell?

A. All mankind by their fall lost communion with God, are under his wrath and curse, and so are made liable to all the miseries in this life, to death itself, and to the pains of hell forever.

Q. 20. Did God leave all mankind to perish in the state of sin and misery?

A. Out of his mere good pleasure, from all eternity, God chose some for everlasting life, and he entered into a covenant of grace to deliver them out of their state of sin and misery and to bring them into a state of salvation by a redeemer

Westminster Shorter Catechism in Modern English

Join us this Lord’s Day as we examine Ephesians 1:3-10 and Galatians 4:4-7 and consider God’s eternal, unbreakable, and effective plan to deliver us from the power of our own sin by a Redeemer.   We meet from 5:00 – 6:30 pm in The Commons 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.


Ah! Remember those heady days when we shook hands and inwardly laughed at the Asian tourists who wore masks?  It seems years ago, but it was only March 2020.   How we long to return, to undo all that Covid has done.   Some still look forward to the day when “all this is over.”  But will it be?  Will it ever really be ‘over?’ 

Epidemiologists define ‘over’ in two different ways.   First there is disease elimination.  Elimination means zero cases in a defined geographic area.   Elimination is ‘over’ with a small ‘o.’   Elimination does not mean the disease is gone, just inactive in a particular region.  Eradication is what we want.    Eradication means zero cases world-wide following deliberate efforts to prevent and treat a disease.   The only human disease considered eradicated is smallpox.  And it was only declared to be eradicated in 1980.   To be eradicated, a disease must be both preventable and treatable.   But we currently have no proven strategies for either when it comes to Covid-19.   As with smallpox, eradication, if it were to ever come, is a difficult and distant future reality.   Will we every be ‘over’ Covid-19?   

Eradication is unlikely.  Elimination is probably a distant likelihood.  But ‘over’ could come sooner in a different form factor.  Most probably being ‘over’ Covid looks like learning to live with it through lifestyle adjustments that become a permanent part of our social intercourse.   Practical eradication comes when, though still present, we by and large ignore it.   This kind of practical eradication through a willful apathy is probably the best we can achieve in the near term.   And while this may be a necessary coping strategy when it comes to Covid, it is deadly when it comes to Scripture.

Since the dawn of time, ungodly tyrants have sought to eradicate scripture.   Yet, no matter how often it has been confiscated or burned, God’s Word will not be silenced.  The Bible is eradication-proof and proves Newton’s third law, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.    Every attempt to forcibly eradicate the Bible only caused it to proliferate.   Though practical eradication does occur.  Like Covid, learning to coexist with the Bible, while largely ignoring it, provides a kind of practical inoculation against its truths.   Unfortunately, this is reflective of our society today.

In his article, The Scandal of Biblical Illiteracy, Al Mohler concludes.

While America’s evangelical Christians are rightly concerned about the secular worldview’s rejection of biblical Christianity, we ought to give some urgent attention to a problem much closer to home–biblical illiteracy in the church. This scandalous problem is our own, and it’s up to us to fix it.

Researchers George Gallup and Jim Castelli put the problem squarely: “Americans revere the Bible–but, by and large, they don’t read it. And because they don’t read it, they have become a nation of biblical illiterates.” 

Christians who lack biblical knowledge are the products of churches that marginalize biblical knowledge. Bible teaching now often accounts for only a diminishing fraction of the local congregation’s time and attention. 

We will not believe more than we know, and we will not live higher than our beliefs. The many fronts of Christian compromise in this generation can be directly traced to biblical illiteracy in the pews and the absence of biblical preaching and teaching in our homes and churches.

In Jeremiah 36 we find the terrible picture of Judah’s King Jehoiakim, burning the words of the Prophet Jeremiah.  He was not open to what God’s Word had to say.   But he was not the only one.   The people of his time neither listened, nor inclined their ears to hear God’s word through the prophets.   “Neither the king nor any of his servants who heard all these words was afraid, nor did they tear their garments.”   When God’s people have little concern for God’s Word, disaster cannot be far behind.   The people of Jeremiah’s day only wanted positive messages.   Words of sin, judgment, and wrath, were not what they wanted to hear.   While Jehoiakim’s Bible burning shocks us, what should shock us more is that the people who heard all these words were not afraid, nor did they think God’s Word applied to them.

It is easy to sit in judgement on Jeremiah’s generation, but how different are we?   How careful are we to hear and heed God’s Word?   We have more flavors of the Bible than Baskin-Robbins has ice-cream.   God’s word has never been more accessible.   Mao and Stalin and Voltaire tried their best to eradicate it, but could not.  But what Mao, Stalin, and Voltaire could never accomplish, the Church effects through growing ignorance.   We profess to be a ‘people of the book,’ but is the Bible authoritative and sufficient in our lives?   The response of Judah’s king and Judah’s people to the word of God offer a warning and challenge – how careful have we been to love and live God’s Word?

Join us this Lord’s Day as we examine Jeremiah 36 and consider faithful and unfaithful responses to God’s Word.  We meet from 5:00 – 6:30 pm in The Commons 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.

Consolation Prize

My childhood was filled with aspirational experiences.   We had no participation trophies. And the only gifts at birthday parties were for the birthday boy.   We recognized that some excelled and some did not.  We accepted that some were celebrated and others were celebrants.   But we did have consolation prizes.   For those with little skill on the carnival midway, a toy from the consolation prize box was great comfort.

Consolation prizes were my lot.  I never mastered the midway.   My ring toss was never a ringer.   My penny never made it into the glass.   And shooting gallery ducks had no fear when I stepped to the line.  I never won the giant stuffed panda.  But I always got a consolation prize.  And those consolation prizes were often the most memorable.   The bolo paddle and sliding 5×5 puzzles were epic fun.   But the mother of all consolation prizes was circular maze.   Five concentric tracks, slotted and pitted, that made getting the ball to the center spot a matter of great skill and tenacity.   Oh, to have back a fraction of the hours I spent navigating circular mazes.   Who wants a giant stuffed panda when you can have a circular maze?   Often the consolation prize was the best prize of all.

A consolation prize is not the same as a participation trophy.   It is meant to console your failure, not celebrate your contribution – not matter how minor.   We are not all winners.  And sometimes our contribution contributed to failure.   Participation trophies say nothing of glory or grace.   “We showed up.”   That is all they can declare.   But a consolation prize is a picture of grace.   You deserved nothing, but there was something good for you anyway. 

We think of a consolation prize as something of lesser worth or value, less glorious.   And perhaps that is true on the carnival midway.   But when it comes to the important things, consolation prizes are priceless.   No matter what you earn in life, the greatest things you possess will be graciously given – the love of a wife who is better than you deserve, the trust of your children who have no idea how little you really know.   The gifts that bring real and lasting joy are never things we have earned or achieved. 

Real joy comes from consolation prizes.  Gifts graciously given, not because you earned them or won them, but given by those who love you to bring comfort and consolation.   No one ever owed me a consolation prize.  There was no expectation of earning a prize just for showing up.  The consolation prize was always given to console me in my failure, in my falling short.   This is what makes it the better prize.  This is what God does for us.   We have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.    Falling short is what we do., what we are.  We have no skill or capital or piety to escape the state of sin and misery that is our spiritual condition.   As the Bible puts it.

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 

Ephesians 2:8-9

But what is this grace that is given?  What does the consolation prize look like?   Is it merely a free pass on a bad afterlife?  Is it a do over on all our mistakes?   Is it a spiritual painkiller to take the edge off of life — an opiate for the masses?   Curiously, the Bible does not describe God’s gracious gift as a state, a circumstance, or a feeling.  While grace affects each of these, grace itself refers to the thing given – and that thing is a person. The ubiquitous John 3:16 reminds us what this greatest consolation prize is.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”

John 3:16

Grace is given in knowing Christ, not simply his benefits.   Phillip Melancthon put it succinctly, “to know Christ, is to know his benefits.”  You cannot separate them.   Christ, himself, is the gift.   Christ is not given for us, but to us.  The Apostle Paul’s letter to the Ephesians is filled with the most lavish expressions of the gift of grace, but the theme of the letter is being “in Christ.”  Repeatedly, he reminds the church that the gift is Christ.  To know Him is to know his benefits.

After decades of preaching judgment against Judah, when it finally came Jeremiah consoles his people.  God will restore them.  His covenant of grace has not been shattered.  He will keep all his promises.    But God’s covenant promises are no mere reversal of fortunes or restoration of good old days.  No, God has more powerful consolation in mind.  He is sending them his Son, a kinsman Redeemer, the Greater Son of David.  Jeremiah 33 is a remarkable picture of the real consolation God has for us – the gift not just of judicial acquittal, circumstantial comfort, or emotional stability – the gift of a person, the Lord Jesus Christ himself.  

Jesus is the great consolation gift.   Grace is found in a person, not a condition or a quality.    Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life.  No man comes to the Father, but through me.” (John 14:6)    What have you desired from your Christian life?   Forgiveness? Eternal Life?  Joy?  A fresh start?   All these are the fruits of grace, but they are not the root of grace.    No, the great gift God gives us is to know Christ.  He is the consolation gift God offers, the only consolation that will console.

Jeremiah points this out vividly in chapter 33.  To a people who see no hope, whose greatest desire is to be free from captivity and return to the way things were before, the prophet gives better consolation.  He shows them the greater gift God has for those who come to Christ and know Him.  What do you desire most?  Where will you find the consolation you need?   Is it Jesus?   Join us this Lord’s Day as we examine Jeremiah 33 and see what real consolation looks like. 

We meet from 5:00 – 6:30 pm in The Commons 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.

Never a Fast Day

The Lord’s Day is a Feast Day, never a Fast Day!  That has always been Christendom’s creed.  Even when long, protracted penitential fasts were the fashion of Medieval Christianity, the Lord’s Day was always excluded from the fast.  The Lord’s Day is to be a day of celebration, joy, and fellowship.  It is not the day for downcast faces or despair.   Any solemnity that marks the day is due to sheer awe for the graciousness of a Holy God of whom “mercy is His proper work.”   Any sorrow sown by conviction of sin is wiped away by the forgiveness and cleansing which are ours in Christ.  The Lord’s Day is a Feast Day, never a Fast Day!

Our forefathers were apt to call the Lord’s Day, “the Market Day of the Soul.”  It was not a day for buying and selling the commodities of temporal life, but a day to traffic in the commerce of higher things, better things – eternal things.   While our lives today blur the distinctions between the Lord’s Day and every other day, we are most blessed and at rest when we “remember the Lord’s Day and set it apart.”  The Lord’s Day is not like every other day.  Quite the contrary it is unlike any other day.  When the Lord was creating the world, He rested from His work, not just on the first day after he finished, but He finished by creating the seventh day – actively making it and setting it aside to celebrate, rejoice, and fellowship with His creation.

Thus, the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. So, God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation. Genesis 2:1-2

Is the Lord’s Day a feast day for you?  Is it the Market Day of your Soul?  Is it unlike any other day?  Or has it become like any and every other day to you?  Is it distinguished by the pursuit and enjoyment of the things that really matter, that last forever?  Or only the pursuit of more of the same things that won’t last.  Doubtless, for most of us, the week is the unit of time that most defines our lives, yet it is the only unit of time not defined by some celestial or environmental cycle.  It has no exemplar in nature.  It is simply given to us by God and delineated for us by the Lord’s Day.   Whether you observe it or not, your life revolves around the Lord’s Day.

Growing up, Sundays were always unique.  The usual biscuits that adorned every breakfast at our house, were replaced with blueberry muffins.   Lunch was a grand affair, usually grilled steaks, baked potato and salad – a meal we never ate except at lunch on Sundays.   My father always included me in his duties at the church.  Some weeks we drove a church van into downtown Atlanta to pick up a spunky group of elderly ladies.  Other weeks, I delivered the Sunday School boxes to each classroom before anyone else arrived.  My service made me feel important and useful.   After lunch, was “rest time.”  We could play quietly at home, but it was not a time for the usual kinds of play with friends and neighbors.  And then in the evening we would return to church for choir, and Royal Ambassadors (a Christian boys club), and worship.   It was a full day, different from every other day.  Full of feasting, fellowship and rest – all centered around worshipping and celebrating who we were in Christ.

When Christians lose delight in enjoying the “thousand sacred sweets” of the Lord’s Day, life begins to lose its savor in every other area as well.  Just as the Lord’s Table defines how we live at every other table in our lives, the Lord’s Day defines how we will live every other day.  The Lord’s Day with its corporate worship, fellowship, feasting, resting and serving is the heartbeat of the Christian life.  It is one of two positive commands in the Ten Commandments.  It comes with great promise.  Jesus reminds us that “man was not made for the Sabbath, but the Sabbath for man.”  The Lord’s Day is a Feast Day and never a Fast Day.  It is the Market Day of the Soul.

The prophet Jeremiah took great pains to make clear the deeply ingrained sin in the people of Judah.  By the time we get to the end of Jeremiah 17, we have heard the prophet call the people to repentance for their perpetual idolatry, their self-serving greed, their heartless oppression, and their continual refusal to heed the call of God to return.  So, it seems a little surprising that Jeremiah makes so much of calling them to repent of contempt for the Lord’s Day .  With so many dire issues on the table, is this not a bit of straining a gnat and swallowing a camel?  Yet this thinking shows that we have not rightly understood that the Lord’s Day stands at the center of our Christian life.

Join us this Sunday, February 16, as we examine Jeremiah 17:19-27 and consider the the great blessing of remembering the Lord’s Day.  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.