Slaving Away

Slaving Away

My dad was “old school.” A child of the depression, he believed firmly in the value of child labor – especially mine. I had weekly chores for which I was paid, if I did them in a way that passed his rigorous requirements. By the pay was meager, especially when compared to the gratuitous, labor-free allowances received by most of my middle-class peers. During the summer I mowed the grass for $2 per mowing and during the fall I raked 1.3 billion leaves, working pro bono. Now, as an adult with a healthy work ethic and ability to appreciate the value of money in terms of the labor required to earn it, I am thankful that my dad was “old-school.”

But at the time, my thoughts of my dad’s parenting were not so charitable. I remember mowing the grass with our rickety push mower, glancing toward the neighbor’s yard where my friend was playing ball while his mother did the mowing. Now there was liberation I could get on board with, I thought. I recall actually thinking to my self that my dad treated me like a slave, that I had to “slave away” at yard work under a broiling Georgia summer sun, while my friend lived a carefree childhood of leisure and comfort.

Had I paid attention to the numerous passages in the Bible which speak to the work and attitude of slaves — both actual slaves and those who fancy themselves to be slaves like myself — perhaps I would have gained a heart of wisdom as a child. But like many who hear the Bible’s teaching on slavery, slaves and masters, I foolishly relegated it to what I believed were a collection of things in the Bible which have nothing to do with me.

The Bible deals very honestly with the issue of slavery and all the subtle forms it takes. While many today are impatient with the Bible’s apparent lack of forceful denunciation of slavery, they fail to recognize that the Bible is thoroughly opposed to slavery from beginning to end. Yet like many other things that arise from the darkness of men’s hearts, the Bible also prescribes pastoral instruction and care for those caught up in social injustices. Nowhere is this precept seen more clearly than Jesus’ words in Matthew 19:3-9 regarding the issue of divorce. The Bible does not condone or prescribe divorce, but it does regulate it and mercifully offer it to protect those suffering under the hardness of men’s hearts.

Beyond this, the Bible’s pastoral exhortations to slaves and masters or employees and employers instruct us how to do our work, no matter what the conditions, “as unto the Lord.” And it reminds us that there are, in fact, a great many people who are enslaved through human trafficking — 40+ million in 2018 — and that the Church must work tirelessly, evangelically, and socially, to eradicate this great evil.

These are all important applications, but above all, the Bible’s instruction to Christian slaves illustrates how we are to serve our Lord. We delight in calling Jesus our Savior, and rightly so. But if He is our Savior, then He is also our Lord. Christ delivered us from the slavery of sin, but as Christians we are His bond-servants, transferred from one kingdom to another. Paul points this out explicitly in 1 Corinthians 7:23

For he who was called in the Lord as a bondservant is a freedman of the Lord. Likewise, he who was free when called is a bondservant of Christ.

One ancient pastor drives this point home, commenting on Paul’s instructions to slaves from 1 Timothy 6:1-2.

But if he exhorts servants to render such implicit obedience, consider what ought to be our disposition towards our Master, who brought us into existence out of nothing, and who feeds and clothes us. If in no other way then, let us render Him service at least as our servants render it to us. Do not they order their whole lives to afford rest to their masters, and is it not their work and their life to take care of their concerns? Are they not all day long engaged in their masters’ work, and only a small portion of the evening in their own? But we, on the contrary, are ever engaged in our own affairs, [yet] in our Master’s hardly at all. –John Chrysostom

Join us this Lord’s Day, January 13, as we examine what the Bible has to say about slavery, slaves and masters and consider what this means for us today. 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.

Constant Growth

Constant Growth

We all know the story of the tortoise and the hare – and its lesson.  Slow and steady wins the race.  Careful, measured, chipping progress often proves more effective than bursts of sound and fury.   The turtle is a symbol of this truth.  But the turtle has another notable quality worth envying.  Turtles will grow continuously, unless limited by environmental factors.  While their growth slows, turtles live long and large.   Unlike humans, they never reach a period of optimal maturity and then settle in for a long physical decline.  Scientists have noted that the organs of centenarian turtles differed little from young mature ones.  Like they way the move, slowly and steadily, they also grow — slowly and steadily.

We long for constant growth.  We spend lots of time, effort, and money searching for ways to reverse or slow the effects of aging, while turtle’s bodies do not decline from age.  Much like rings in a tree, turtles add rings to their shells as they age, but their bodies remain strong and growing.  We would love to see this kind of growth in our intellect, strength, and investments.  But, alas, there are few areas of human life that experience this kind of steady, constant growth.

The good news is that we can experience constant growth in the area that matters most – our spiritual life.  While physically we mature and then decline, the Bible sets no such expectation on our spiritual lives.  The exhortation we see in scripture is one of constant growth in godliness and spiritual maturity.   Though it may look more like a sine-wave than a positively sloping line, our spiritual growth should trend continually upward.   The Holy Spirit has given us many gracious means, such as bible reading, prayer, worship, fellowship, service and stewardship, that never lose effectiveness no matter how old we become.  Spiritual plateaus or declines should never be the norm, but only temporary occurrences.   They are warnings to get back to the means of grace given by the Spirit.

One of the most remarkable, but often overlooked, passages in the Gospel of Luke is the story of the boy Jesus in the Temple, listening and interacting with the great teachers of the Law.   This story is book-ended by two statements about Jesus growing in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and man.  Indicative of Jesus’ humanity was his progress – physically, mentally and spiritually.  Though morally perfect and without sin throughout his life, in his human mind and soul, he grew and developed in his understanding and in his faith.   Orthodoxy has always taught that Jesus’ mind and soul was a true mind and rational soul.  Though in him we find the inexplicable union of divine and human natures in one person, his human mind and soul were like ours, only not encumbered by sin.  For this reason, this passage teaches us two important truths — to expect continuous growth in our spiritual lives and to diligently use the means Spirit has given us to fuel this growth.

Join us this Lord’s Day, January 6, as we examine the story of the boy Jesus in the temple and consider what it teaches us about growing in 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.

An Evening of Lessons and Carols

An Evening of Lessons and Carols

The story of the coming of Christ in the Incarnation is the most dramatic story ever told.  While it reaches a beautiful high point with the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem,  there is much, much more to this story – a story that has its origins in eternity past and its implications in eternity future, a story of epic failure and dramatic rescue, a story that reveals a God who is quite different from the one our fears imagine.  As singer/songwriter Andrew Peterson puts it.

Gather round, ye children come
Listen to the old, old story
Of the pow’r of Death undone
By an infant born of glory
Son of God, Son of Man. (Andrew Peterson)

Come and experience the rest of this story in God’s own words and in song as we share in An Evening of Lessons and Carols together at 5:00 pm on Sunday, December 23, in the Commons at St. Andrew’s Anglican Church, 8300 Kanis Rd, Little Rock.  For directions click here or email us at rivercityarp@gmail.com for more details.   We look forward to seeing you there.

Getting Christmas

Getting Christmas

Our family has many Christmas traditions – the annual tree pilgrimage, dinner at The Grapevine, the Christmas Cake, the advent storyboard calendar, and iconic holiday movies, which for us include Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer and the ever-poignant, A Charlie Brown Christmas.

Despite its ancient vintage, Charles Shultz’ classic cartoon commentary on Christmas confusion is spot on.   What is the point of this ever-expanding season each year?  Lucy touts community involvement, Sally just wants her fair share and Snoopy capitalizes on Christmas commercialism.  But Charlie Brown just doesn’t get Christmas.   His epic fail in choosing a Christmas tree brings his contemplation to a head in the following exchange with Linus.

Charlie: I guess you were right Linus; I shouldn’t have picked this little tree. Everything I do turns into a disaster. I guess I don’t really know what Christmas is about. Isn’t there anyone who understands what Christmas is all about?

Linus: Sure, I can tell you what Christmas is all about. Linus goes to center stage, spotlight. Linus: “And there were in the same country Shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them, and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, ‘fear not, for behold, I bring you tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you. Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes lying in the manger.’ And suddenly, there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, ‘glory to God in the highest, and on Earth peace, good will toward men.’”

Linus: That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.

Linus points Charlie in the right direction, but there is much, much more to this story – a story that has its origins in eternity past and its implications in eternity future, a story of epic failure and dramatic rescue, a story that reveals a God who is quite different from the one our fears imagine. As singer/songwriter Andrew Peterson puts it.

Gather round, ye children come
Listen to the old, old story
Of the pow’r of Death undone
By an infant born of glory
Son of God, Son of Man.

Come and experience the rest of this story in God’s own words and in song as we share in An Evening of Lessons and Carols together at 5:00 pm on Sunday, December 23, in the Commons at St. Andrew’s Anglican Church, 8300 Kanis Rd, Little Rock.  For directions click here or email us at rivercityarp@gmail.com for more details.   We look forward to seeing you there.

Waiting Tables

Waiting Tables

One of the common denominators of greatness in our modern world is a stint waiting tables.  Famous and prominent people from all walks of life, from CEOs to Hollywood celebs, learned and honed many of the skills needed to achieve success in their fields while working as waiters.  Actor Jon Hamm commented about lessons learned from waiting tables in a recent interview.

 “It’s important to know how to treat people, and to learn how to respond when someone you’re working with is having a bad day … Understanding other people’s problems is the cornerstone of the service industry, and it’s essential as an actor. Or whatever field you’re in.”

And startup CEO, Jason Wesbecher, writing in Entrepreneur, noted.

“Being a CEO is … about embracing the unpredictable each day and soldiering through the chaos. Which, upon reflection, reminded me precisely of my days waiting tables. As it turns out, there are a number of similarities between the two jobs….  Being a start-up CEO is first and foremost about people. Evaluating them, motivating them, reading them. The four major constituencies that you must serve to be successful in this role are your employees, your customers, your investors and your family. If you can’t engender trust and excitement across each one of these groups, it’s only a matter of time before you are an ex-CEO. Waiting tables isn’t any different.  Waiters aren’t in the food business; they’re in the people business. They have to read the body language of each table to figure out who wants to engage in a dialogue and who wants to be left to their conversation. They have to be prepared to instantly reinvent themselves every few feet as they move to the next table.”

But long before these modern-day success stories, the greatest authority on leadership the world has ever known, Jesus Christ, expressed this same truth pointedly with his followers when they were arguing about greatness.

“You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Matthew 20:25-28

The word Jesus used to describe those who serve was later used to describe men appointed in the church to serve the physical needs of those inside and outside the church membership.  These men were called deacons.  When they were first appointed in the early church in Acts 6, the apostles noted that they were men “of good repute and full of the Holy Spirit,” but they were chosen to “wait on tables” by distributing food to the poor in Jerusalem.  They were “waiters’ who were not in the “food business, but in the people business,” meeting the physical needs of people in a spiritual way.

Like any parent, however, God is concerned about the integrity and reliability of those who care for his children.  God’s word sets standards for the character and faithfulness of men who are to wait on the tables of His children.  Join us this Lord’s Day, September 30, as we examine 1 Timothy 3:8-13 and consider what type of men God calls to wait tables among people inside and outside the 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 worship. We look forward to seeing you there.

What in the World is Happening?

What in the World is Happening?

The Great Commission calls us to make disciples of all nations.  Within the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church one of the ways we are doing this is through the mission and ministry of World Witness.

World Witness is the foreign missions agency of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church.  Since 1875, we have sent missionaries to Mexico and Pakistan.  Our fields have broadened to now include Chile, Germany, Latin America, Lithuania, Persian Ministry, Scotland, Spain, Turkey, theological training worldwide (MT3) and Eastern Europe.

A primary focus is the Muslim world which includes a Christian hospital in Sahiwal, Pakistan, reaching 40,000 Muslims annually, and Christian schools in Pakistan, educating 500 students annually. In addition, an Iranian satellite TV ministry is planting dozens of house churches, and in Turkey, we are planting churches.

AlexPettettOn Sunday, September 23, the director of World Witness, Alex Pettett will join us for worship to share God’s Word and the mission and vision of World Witness.  He will also be available before and after worship to answer any questions you might have about how you can be involved in this Great Commission work.

Join us for worship September 23 at River City Reformed Church and see what God is doing through the work of World Witness.  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.

Getting Ready for Church

Getting Ready for Church

My father was a rigorous logistician.  Every trip, no matter how short, was meticulously planned and documented with copies of the itinerary sent to all reasonably close relatives — “just in case.”  But when it came to getting our family ready for church on the Lord’s Day, he met with serious challenges.  He would be up before dawn shaving and brewing the coffee, waking my mom to make the blueberry muffins, waking my sisters to start the glacial process of feminine adornment, and helping me get dressed complete with a thorough application of comb and Vitalis to direct my unruly coif.  Saturday afternoons would find the men-folk polishing and shining white patent-leather shoes and Saturday evenings always included the study of Sunday School lessons.  But even with my father’s careful planning and direction, we rarely left the house on Sunday mornings at the published departure time.   I can still see him pacing in the driveway, puffing furiously on his pipe, trying to maintain his composure as the clock ticked.

Why is it so hard to get ready for church?  Every other day of the week we manage to get dressed, find something to eat, collect all the important trappings of the day, and depart at some early hour for work, school or play with the logistical proficiency of Fed-Ex.   But when we are preparing for church, it seems everything is harder.  Hair just won’t work.  Razors cut deeper.  One of every pair of shoes is AWOL.  The right clothes are rumpled or in the laundry.  Every child has been switched into three-toed sloth mode.  And we suddenly discover that our Bible and our keys are playing hide and seek.   At last we trundle everyone in the car and arrive for worship, breathless and emotionally exhausted and totally unprepared to enter the presence of the Lord of All Creation.

How are we to account for this mysterious disturbance in the space-time continuum on the Lord’s Day?  We cannot blame it on any astronomical or celestial phenomena since the seven-day cycle we call our “week” is the only measure of time not based on the rotation or revolution of stars, planets, or moons.  Maybe, just maybe, the problem lies closer to home.  Perhaps it is reflective of our values and priorities.  We prepare well for what we value.  What does our preparation for worship say about the value we place upon the communion of the saints in worship on the Lord’s Day?   In the original language of the New Testament, the word used for Friday (the day before the Jewish Sabbath) was literally translated, “preparation day?”   How much of the day or days before the Lord’s Day are devoted to getting ourselves ready for church?

This is not a new concern.  In 1 Timothy 2, Paul writes to his friend, Timothy, to urge him to give needful instruction to the church concerning personal preparation for worship.  In a passage that excites controversy in our modern world of gender confusion, because it dares to differentiate the roles of men and women in worship, Paul’s real focus is on how men and women are to prepare their bodies, their minds, and their hearts for church.

Join us this Lord’s Day, September 9, as we examine 1 Timothy 2:8-15 and consider the practical aspects of our physical, emotional and spiritual preparation for worship.  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.