Big Shoes

Big Shoes

I admit it, it was afraid of the prospect of changing diapers.  When my first child was born, I told my wife I needed to change that first diaper so I could conquer my fears from the get-go.  But I had not done my homework.  I was not prepared for meconium. It was more than I had bargained for – much more.   But meconium was not the most shocking aspect of becoming a father.  Most unexpected was the realization that my children would look at me, the way I had looked at my own father.  I never for an instant believed that he did not know how to handle any and every situation. He always seemed to have a plan, to have things under control — except that is when he attempted to fix household appliances.

But as a new dad, I was painfully aware that I did not know how to handle any and every situation.  I did not always have a plan, nor did I have things under control.   As a child my confidence in my father made the uncertain certain, and made the impossible possible.  He taught me to plan, to write, to teach.  He taught me the importance of serving others, and in particular, of serving Christ.  He had his faults to be sure, but I am thankful to be my father’s son.  His shoes were very big.  I sat with him as he drew his last breath in this life.  I was surprised by an overwhelming sense of being untethered as he left us.  Though I was almost fifty years old with seven children of my own, the thought of a world without my father seemed unexpectedly daunting.

Our fathers define us.  Either by their place in our lives, or by their absence.  Some infused us with strength and confidence, while others saddled us with weakness and insecurity.   In one way or another we are all shaped by fatherhood.   But no Father-figure has more power to shape us than our Heavenly Father.  Unlike earthly fathers, our unbounded faith and confidence in Him is never misplaced.  Unlike our own fathers, every promise of His gets kept.  No sin or circumstance crashes in to derail his best intentions or unveil some sinister aspect of his character.   He is good and his steadfast love endures forever.  His mercies are new every morning and His faithfulness is great.  There is no shadow of turning with Him.  Not one of His promises ever fails and not one of His words ever falls flat.   Without Him we are truly untethered.

When Jesus’ disciples came to Him and asked Him, “Lord, teach us to pray,” Jesus taught them the pattern of prayer we commonly call, ‘The Lord’s Prayer.’  We have heard it so many times that it is hard to grasp how revolutionary it is.  The religious men of Jesus’ day spoke about God as their Father, but they never addressed Him as ‘Father.’  But Jesus taught us that God, our Father, delights in us.  He loves for us to draw near.  He wants us to call Him, ‘Father.’ He has gone to unimaginable lengths, in sending His only begotten Son, to adopt us as His own.  He promises to love us as we have never been loved, care for us, save us, sustain us, instruct us, and give us life.

Fatherhood defines us.  And God is the one who defines fatherhood.  This Father’s Day, June 16, celebrate the World’s Greatest Father with us as we gather to worship Him as His adopted sons and daughters.  River City Reformed Church meets 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.

Go West, Young Man!

Go West, Young Man!

Long before Horace Greely penned those now famous words, “Go West Young Man,” the Apostle Paul heeded the call of the Man of Macedonia to go west to plant churches on a whole new continent.  He had formulated another plan, he thought he knew where he was headed, but the Holy Spirit changed his itinerary.

And a vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing there, urging him and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” Acts 16:9

Paul answered the call to ‘go west’ and the gospel was planted began to take root in Europe.  The cultures there were very different. Support was uncertain.  And Paul had to adapt his usual modus operandi to engage cities without synagogues or significant Jewish enclaves.  But he went.

What about you?  You have your plans to serve, but what if God is calling you to “go west?”  What if God is calling you to Arkansas?  Come over and help us plant and grow Reformed Churches in the west.   The culture is different.  The support is uncertain.  But the need is great.   Find out more by checking out  why we need another church in Little Rock. Or contact us.

Graduation Gifts

Graduation Gifts

It is that time of year.   The time when graduation invitations compete with gardening catalogues for space in our mailbox.  With each invitation comes the challenge of selecting the perfect gift – a gift that reflects the interests and achievements of the graduate, yet communicates a larger vision for their future.  What will you get for the graduate in your life?  Graduates, what gifts do you hope to receive?  When I graduated, the most popular gifts were Cross Pen and Pencil sets, inspirational books, written especially for the graduation gift market by positivity-power gurus, and the perennial favorite of graduates, cash.  I appreciated the kindness of the givers – especially those who gave money – but none of the gifts challenged me with a vision for the next step.

Many graduation gifts are congratulatory, but not visionary.  Graduation is often celebrated as the last step and not the next step. But the word graduation inherently anticipates the next step, which is why it is sometimes called ‘commencement.’  Like a mark on a graduated cylinder, graduation is the line that marks the beginning of the next stage of life.  What is now behind was preparation for what is ahead.   The entire focus is on what is next.  What will our gifts communicate about the next step?  What vision will our gifts paint for our graduates, for their future, their identity and their way of life?

At the end of the Gospel of Matthew we encounter a remarkable graduation of sorts.  Jesus’ time with his disciples has come to an end.  Their three years watching him, learning from him, loving him, and following him in his earthly ministry are giving way to what is next – making disciples of the nations by going, baptizing and teaching in the power of the Holy Spirit which he sends.  The disciples have graduated from the rabbinic school of the Lord Jesus Christ.  They no longer call him Teacher.   Now he is Lord.  Their language has radically changed and their lives are about to radically change as well.

Jesus has summoned them to a mountain in Galilee to receive their commission, to graduate to the next step in their calling to follow Him.  They were moving out and into uncharted territory, leaving the comforts of the homes and towns they knew so well without the visible presence of the teacher who had guided them every day for three years.  Jesus calls them to a mountain top to give them a vision, not of what they can potentially do if they work hard enough, but a vision of what He will do by working in and through them.  Jesus gives them gifts – a vision, an identity, and a way of life – that will turn the world upside down.

Join us this Sunday, April 28, as we examine Matthew 28:16-20 and consider the vision, identity and way of life that Christ gives us as He turns the world upside down through the work of His Church in the world.  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.

Defining Moment

Defining Moment

By March, 1836, the situation had become desperate for the Texans holed up the Alamo.  The defenders answered Santa Anna’s surrender demand with a round from the fort’s cannon.  In response, Santa Anna, ran up a red flag and ordered his buglers to play Deguello – a cadence instructing his troops to show no quarter.  The die was cast.  The time for negotiation was past.  William Barrett Travis had committed his men to either victory or death.

Shortly before Santa Anna’s final assault, Travis assembled the garrison and with his sword drew a line in the sand in front of his men.  Any man who desired to leave and live could simply walk away.  But those who would stay and die must step across the line in the sand.   According to legend, every man, except one, crossed that line and vowed to die for the cause of freedom.

This was a defining moment in the history of our country.  The death of the Alamo defenders galvanized support for the Texas Republic and fueled American Westward expansion.   The doomed men inside the Alamo would never know the impact of their fateful decision.  Crossing Travis’ line was a defining moment and gave rise to an expression we all use.  To draw a line in the sand means to make a decision from which there is no retreat.  It is a moment which defines us.

Each of us will face defining moments – points at which our choices will establish what characterizes our lives, choices from which there is no going back.  But there is no more significant line in the sand than the one we are invited to cross when we are confronted with the resurrection of Jesus.  Not one of the gospels describes the moment of Jesus’ resurrection, but every gospel examines the responses of all those confronted with the evidence.  There were many reactions – fear, obstinacy, joy, and skepticism – and most importantly faith.   The resurrection of Jesus is the defining moment of all human history.  Belief or unbelief in the resurrection is the central issue of the Christian faith.  The Apostle Paul put it bluntly.

if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.… if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. 1 Corinthians 15:14-19

What is your response to the resurrection of Jesus?  How does this moment in history define you?  Is belief in the resurrection a line in the sand you won’t cross?  Join us this Sunday, April 21, as we examine Matthew 28 and consider how our response to the resurrection defines us.  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.

A Sure Thing

A Sure Thing

One of the by-products of copious interstate driving is an ample opportunity to critique of billboards.   Billboards are a powerful way to make a statement.  They are unquestionably effective at catching your eye.  And they are larger than life, which means they will immortalize both the praiseworthy and the cringeworthy message.    I recently saw a local bank billboard which boldly proclaimed – “We want all your money!”   To paraphrase Inigo Montoya, “They keep using that phrase — I don’t think that phrase means what they think it means.”

Trusting others with our money is no small matter.   It is hard to come by, but easy to lose a grip on.   We grow suspicious when someone asks for it.   And we don’t want to invest our money with just anyone.  We need to be assured that it will be invested safely and soundly and will increase in value over the long haul.  We want a personal relationship with our financial adviser.  Horror stories abound and success stories are rare.  When someone gives us an investing tip, we often receive it with polite suspicion.  There is no sure thing – no guarantee.  Or is there?

The Bible has a lot to say about money.   Jesus’ teaching on money was more prolific than his teaching about heaven.  Much of what he had to say was shocking and unexpected.  And in Paul’s letters to Timothy, we also find warning after warning about how church leaders and its members should regard and use their money.   Included in this teaching, in a postscript to his first letter, is one of the best investment strategies a Christian can employ.

As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life. 1 Timothy 6:17-19

Far from advocating government-sponsored, or even church-sponsored, wealth redistribution, Paul gives those with worldly means – and those without — clear and succinct instruction how to be rich in a way that lasts beyond life in this world.   A good financial adviser should counsel regarding the relationship between risk and return. This is investing 101.  High return requires high risk.  But the Bible points to an investment strategy with a guaranteed high rate of return that continues undiminished forever with no market corrections or downturns.

Join us this Lord’s Day, February 10, as we finish our study of 1 Timothy and consider an investment strategy that produces real riches.  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.

Flood Stage

Flood Stage

The sheer power of water is unfathomable.  When it is raging, it sweeps away everything before it.  It overwhelms, inundates and immerses.  Among the repertoire of weather catastrophes, few are more dreaded than a flood.   In the past decade we have endured many powerful hurricanes, but in the wake of each, it was the flooding that brought the most sustained destruction, loss and suffering.   Floods both large and small are feared because of their irresistible power.  For this reason, we have gone to great lengths to control the effects of flooding.

But in the history of the world, floods often had a better reputation.  Ancient men, without the means of modern flood control, endured regular cycles of flooding.  But these floods were life-giving, nourishing the land so that it might bear food in abundance.   The “fertile crescent” was the result of this life-giving overflow of the banks of Middle Eastern rivers as new soil was deposited by the raging waters to renew land wearied by farming.   Flooding was often viewed positively in literary imagery as it is today.  For example, when we receive help, encouragement, empathy in a time of trial we say we were flooded with love and concern.    The Bible also uses the image of overflowing when it speaks in Luke 6 of giving.

… give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you. Luke 6:38

Jesus also noted that it is “out of the overflow of the heart, that the mouth speaks” – a truth that comes with a warning that whatever floods our hearts will spill over onto those around us.   What is it that fills your heart?  What is it that spills over onto those around you?  What “heart-flood” will overwhelm, inundate and immerse your loved ones, friends, neighbors and even enemies?

Paul, writing to a young Timothy, instructs him carefully in how the church is to care for women facing disaster because of the death of their husbands.   More than any other issue of family life, Paul gives detailed instructions for the care of widows.  Widows and orphans were the most at-risk members of every ancient society, but God is a “defender of widows and a father to the fatherless” and his people are to “plead their cause” and care for them in their need – not as a substitute for the gospel, but as the overflow of the gospel.

When the gospel is carefully guarded through orthodox teaching, powerful prayer, biblical worship, and accountable leadership it will overflow those banks and result in a flood of intense and intensely practical love for our neighbors — love that provides, love that instructs and love that redeems.   Paul’s instructions regarding widows do not constitute a mere social gospel, but set the bar much higher, reflecting the truth later expressed by John that “we love because He first loved us.”   When our lives are filled with the deep, deep love of Jesus they will overflow with committed care for “the least of these.”   What about you?  Is your life in flood stage?

Join us this Lord’s Day, November 11, as we examine 1 Timothy 5:9-16 and consider the practical effects of living a life flooded by grace.  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 worship. We look forward to seeing you there.

String Theory

String Theory

Without music, the world could not exist!  This is not merely a declaration of aesthetic sensibility or support for the importance of the arts.   But quite literally, theoretical physicists have hypothesized that multi-dimensional vibration accounts for all the particular arrangements of protons, neutrons and electrons into the atomic structures that constitute matter.  This view, known as “string theory,” resonates remarkably with how the Bible claims the world came into being.

 “By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.” Hebrews 11:3

Consider, however, that God did not think the world into existence, but spoke it.  The original language of God’s speaking in Genesis does not exclude the idea of singing – an idea common in the creation accounts of many cultures and in popular literature.  Both Tolkien in the Silmarillion and C. S. Lewis in the Chronicles of Narnia describe the creation of their fictional worlds through the singing of a supreme being.

But there is another singer in each of these stories – a glorious, but prideful, envious creature who sings a different song, slightly off pitch in order to lead creation to resonate with discordant vibrations.  He weaves doubt and dissonance, asking “did God really say?” and introducing a “better truth” than God’s truth – a truth that man himself should be the captain of his soul and the master of his fate.  He does not deny God’s existence or that he has spoken.  He only suggests that God’s word is not enough, not sufficient, not completely trustworthy – suitable only for moral and practical suggestion.  He does not sing a new song, just God’s song off pitch and out of tune.   He sings of man’s essential goodness and God’s overbearing and unreasonable demands.  He sings of God’s justice and implacable wrath or perhaps of his basic apathy toward us and our concerns.

This accuser, this destroyer, this father of lies sings a soul destroying and life depriving dissonance.  For this reason, the scripture commands us to close our ears to his choir of false singers, teaching a different doctrine and another gospel, contrary to God’s Word, the Bible.  When the Apostle Paul writes to his young protégé, Timothy, to instruct him in giving guidance to the fledgling church in Ephesus, he charges him strictly to refute those who are teaching off-key.   In his exhortation he gives one of the simplest, most concise, articulations of the gospel in all of scripture.

“The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.” 1 Timothy 1:15

Paul sings out the song of redemption with clarity of voice and perfectness of pitch in order that men might reject Satan’s song.  Join us this Lord’s Day, August 26, as we examine 1 Timothy 1:12-17 and consider why it is imperative to resist those who sing the gospel off-key.  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.