Most of us are concerned about the condition of our heart.   Every trip to the doctor involves a check of our ‘vital signs.’  Vital signs which assess either a direct metric of our heart’s performance or some downstream effect, such as our blood oxygen level.  No matter what medical concerns brought us in, our health care providers want to know our heart is working well.   Nothing in the machinery of our anatomy reflects the frailty of life like our heart.  Only one heartbeat separates life and death, the here-and-now from eternity.

Despite our modern debates, the presence of a heartbeat is still the core criteria for distinguishing life from death.   A sound heart is so fundamental to being alive, that our language enshrines the ‘heart’ as the center of our being.  It represents our will, our desires, our affections, our deepest thoughts.  We use the heart to describe our physical, emotional, and spiritual condition.  And so, the thought of having heart problems brings existential crisis.   The clinical term is cardiopathy which refers to any disease or disorder of the heart.  

The thought of cardiopathy creates anxiety and imminent concern for our mortality.   Especially, cardiopathies with few effective treatments.  I recently read about “stiff heart syndrome.” Stiff heart syndrome is a condition in which the heart muscle thickens due to chronic high blood pressure. It is a warning sign of developing congestive heart failure. When the heart muscle can no longer efficiently pump blood, it can lead to fluid build-up in the lungs and limbs and cause shortness of breath.   The heart quite literally becomes hard.  

Degeneration and death come from a slow, progressive process of heart hardening.   The good news is that it can often be prevented through diet and lifestyle choices.  But once you have it, it is not easily treated.  Any time a life-giving organ turns to stone we should be concerned.  But are we as concerned for the hardness of our hearts, spiritually – a condition far more deadly, with eternal consequences?   

The Bible shows us the devastation of a spiritually stiff heart through the example of the Pharaoh in the book of Exodus.  The plagues, or mighty acts, God used to deliver his people from the oppression of Pharaoh were a judgement against both the people and the gods of Egypt.   And they were connected to Pharaoh’s hard and hardening heart.   From the start, the Lord declared that only the death of the firstborn would bring deliverance, but He graciously brings the progressive destruction of the plagues to reveal His glory, that the Hebrews and the Egyptians might “know the Lord.”  

But Pharaoh persisted in unbelief. And it brought disaster to his nation and his family.   He is a prime example of the destruction produced by a spiritually stiff heart.  And a warning to us.   The author of Hebrews warns.

Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end. As it is said, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.” For who were those who heard and yet rebelled?

HEBREWS 3:12-15

How many times have you heard the free offer of God’s grace and yet rebelled?   Is your heart hard or hardening?   Take heart! There is good news.   Hard-heartedness need not be the last word.   The Bible promises, “Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” And “And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” There is a cure for spiritual stiff heart syndrome.   Join us this Lord’s Day to hear more as we examine Exodus 7:14-25 and consider the consequences and cure of a hard heart.

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

Lesson Learned

Lesson Learned

First it was a Nigerian widow who wanted to contribute $43,000,000.00 to our church.   Then a friend who was stranded in France without money or passport.   Next, the IRS called in from Puerto Rico to tell me that criminal proceedings were beginning in response to back taxes.   Rachel and Veronica kept my phone hot inquiring about my lapsed car warranty and unpaid student loans – neither of which I ever had.   And now representatives of Norton Security with atrocious spelling and even more unbelievable names are emailing me from clearly fraudulent domains to thank me for my $827 renewal of virus protection software I haven’t used since Win95.  

Does anyone really fall for this?  After all my spam filters have gotten so good that I never see most of this until my monthly spam purge.  Even my smart phone is smart enough to change Rachel and Veronica’s names to “Spam Risk” or “Telemarketer.” And yet, they are unmoved.  Confidence men or ‘conmen’ in the vernacular, continue with courage undaunted.  Someone will always fall for their spiel.   If not you, then the next mark.   It is a numbers game fueled by the certainty that some people never learn.   Or as P. T. Barnum was reputed to have said, “there’s a sucker born every minute.”

Pop psychologist Maria Konnikova examined this remarkable idea in her 2016 book, The Confidence Game: Why We Fall for It…Every Time.   She asks and attempts to answer age-old questions.

While cheats and swindlers may be a dime a dozen, true conmen—the Bernie Madoffs, the Jim Bakkers, the Lance Armstrongs—are elegant, outsized personalities, artists of persuasion and exploiters of trust. How do they do it? Why are they successful? And what keeps us falling for it, over and over again?

In her attempt to answer these questions, Konnikova brings readers into the world of the con, examining the relationship between artist and victim. The Confidence Game asks not only why we believe con artists, but also examines the very act of believing and how our sense of truth can be manipulated by those around us.  No matter what you think of her conclusions, she puts her finger on difficulty of learning our lessons from a bad experience.  We like to say, “fool me once shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me.” But how careful are we really to learn our lesson?  

We know Santayana’s maxim that “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”  We see this play out every day.   But do we learn our lessons?   And while this is important in regard to our relational, vocational, financial, and parental choices, it is of eternal importance in regard to our faith.   Faith grows as we exercise it.  And that exercise, not unlike physical exercise often comes in painful and trying circumstances.  The agency of sanctification is always refinement in the crucible of tribulation, suffering, need, or uncertainty. 

Faith grows when we lean into it, putting our weight upon the object of our faith.  The biblical word ‘faith’ carries with it the idea of standing on something to see that it will hold up and not give way.  The temporal things of this world and indeed your own skill, personality, talents, or circumstances cannot bear the weight of adversity in this life – but God can.  The Bible describes him as one who holds all things together, who carries us, who carries our sorrows and afflictions, and upon whom we can cast our cares.   He alone is the trustworthy object of our faith.   But how well have we learned this lesson?

Moses struggled to learn this.   His expectations of how God would work contradicted what God had revealed to him.   He did what he was asked.  He went to Pharaoh but his actions only made life more bitter for the Hebrew people.   Pharaoh’s heart grew harder with every exchange.  And his resolve grew greater with every refusal.   What kind of deliverance was this?  Moses was disappointed with his circumstance, himself, and most of all with God.  

But Moses was still placing his faith in himself and not in God’s promises and God’s power.   At the end of Exodus 6, God tells Moses to return to Pharaoh.  Moses complains, “what’s the use, I am a man of faltering speech.” But he goes anyway.   This time, however, he is careful to do exactly what God told him – no going off script, making apologies for God, or trying to smooth out what God said to make it more acceptable the unbelieving king.  

Moses learned a lesson.   Our faith in not in our faith, but in the object of our faith – God’s promises and power.   Join us this Lord’s Day as we examine Exodus 6:28-7:13 and consider some of the lessons learned by Moses about God’s promises and power and character – lessons we need to learn.

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

Faith of Our Fathers

Faith of Our Fathers

I admit it.  I was afraid of the prospect of changing diapers.  When my first child was born, I rushed to change that first diaper. I had to conquer my fear 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 he did not know how to handle any and every situation. He always had a plan, seemed 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.  Dads, how are you shaping your family? What legacy will you leave? And what mark will your family make upon the world as it unfolds into history?   Genealogy, the study of our generations, is often more about where our family is going than where it started.  Where is your family going? What will be its legacy?

Genealogies in the Bible often seem quite out of place, interrupting great stories just as they reach a high point.   They can be tedious.  And often they are the bane of our daily Bible reading plan.   But they are no less “breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16) 

Tucked in among unpronounceable Hebrew names and begats are some very important theological and practical truths.   God is a God of real people and real history.   God works through families and generations.   God sees, knows, hears, and directs parents, spouses, children, and outsiders toward his grace through their relationships.   No one falls through the cracks.  No one is unknown or unnoticed.   And no one is found among ancestors or descendants who ‘has it all together.’  Every generation needs a savior and looks to Christ.

As Moses prepares to confront Pharaoh and initiate the most awesome display of spiritual power the ancient world had seen in the plagues, the Holy Spirit presses the pause button. He gives us a genealogy and reminds us of the importance of being faithful men and women, boys and girls, following Christ and leaving a legacy of following Christ.   Join us this week as we examine Exodus 6:14-30 and consider the formative power of the ‘Faith of Our Fathers.’

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

Christ Who Is Your Life

Christ Who Is Your Life

Many people seek change. Perhaps they want to change their lifestyle, or perhaps they want to change their location. If you listen to the radio very often, you’ll likely here of people singing about moving far away to change their scenery. But if you listen long enough, you realize that while there may be a change of location, there is often no real change in the person.

The kind of change Paul speaks of in Colossians 3:1-4 is unique in that it describes a core change in the life of the believer. The passage reads,

“If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.  Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.  For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.  When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” (English Standard Version)

Paul is describing someone who has not merely had a change of lifestyle, but someone who has been brought from death to life. The Christian is united to Jesus Christ, and therefore he is a new person. The Christian is dead to the power of sin and is alive in Christ. Based on that truth, Paul exhorts the believer to seek that which is above. In other words, the Christian who is a new creature in Christ ought to seek to cultivate a heavenly mindedness.

The believer in Christ is so united to Him, according to Paul, that Christ is said to be their life. There is much more to be said about these great truths, so will you join us this Lord’s Day evening at 5 for worship at The Commons at St. Andrews Church in Little Rock? Click here for directions or contact us for more information. You can also watch on FacebookLive@RiverCityARP or on YouTube.