"When a city perceives a church as existing strictly and only for itself and its own members, the preaching of that church will not resonate with outsiders. But if neighbors see church members loving their city through astonishing, sacrificial deeds of compassion, they will be much more open to the church's message. Deeds of mercy and justice should be done out of love, and never as a means to the end of evangelism. And yet there is no better way for Christians to lay a foundation for evangelism than by doing justice."

- Tim Keller, Generous Justice

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Discipleship leaders, members, and interested parties, registration for the 7th annual ROCC 5K (May 12th) opened earlier this month and already the response has been even greater than our record race of 2017.

As many of you know, the ROCC 5K is a wonderful opportunity for you, your family, friends, and small groups, to participate together - running, walking, or volunteering. We would love to have you join us in any of these capacities as we ROCC Solus Christus in this year'...s event.

Information for the race is found here: AND here:
Note: Early bird rate expires in exactly one month from today! Don't wait.

And information for volunteering is found here:

Of course we do always appreciate sponsorships which help cover race costs and fund proceeds to the local ministries. Contact me with any questions.

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ROCC the Solus Christus 5K
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WORK as WORSHIP! REGISTER NOW! This Friday, February 23, River Oaks will host a live simulcast of RightNowMedia's 'Work as Worship 1-Day Retreat: Bridging the Gap Between the Sacred and the Secular" Wonderful speakers, wonderful fellowship, and lunch provided ($25). Watch the video and check out the event website for more details. There is still time to register. Invite your friends and co-workers to join you.
“As the bee collects honey from many fair and beautiful flowers, so is this [Apostles’] Creed collected, in appropriate brevity from the books of the beloved prophets and apostles—from the entire Scriptures—for children and unlearned Christians. For brevity and clearness it could not have been better arranged, and it has remained in the church from ancient time.” - Martin Luther (1535) Thank you for our time in the Apostles' Creed this fall. We were encouraged by hearing our elementary children recite the Creed for us today as we concluded the study. Parents, continue to using these biblical truths as teaching points to deeper understanding. May the words of the Apostles' Creed remain with us and may they reflect the words of our heart. May we know the depth and richness behind each stanza and may we embrace a 'One Body' faith with these common ground essentials. The December teaching series will be an Advent message on Worship.
Thanks to all who came out last night for our fall study kick-off and leader appreciation dinner. I thoroughly enjoyed the fellowship and time together. Per a suggestion, I've attempted to take the highlights from our 45 minute discussion and record for anyone interested. You'll hear me reference a "6-8 minute overview," well .... it's more like 15 minutes (sorry), but hopefully it helps to align us for the start of this series on Sunday and possibly answer some questions. Thanks again for all that you do to shepherd those who are led your way and to encourage one another in the faith.
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"Indeed it was that first Eucharist that transformed Jesus' death from an execution to an offering. At the Last Supper he gave his body to be broken, his blood to be poured out, as if on an altar."

An interesting perspective from the book 'Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist' written by Brant Pitre. Though much of it serves as as an apologetic for the Roman Catholic doctrine of "real presence" or as it's often called, "transubstantiation," Pitre provides excellent in...sight into the Passover feast and the messianic expectations of first century Jews. His observation of Jesus as the "New Exodus,” in terms of new covenant, new promised land, new temple, new Moses, is excellent.

Unfortunately, his defense of real presence is grounded in later century misinterpretation of Scripture which, among other points, requires the once-and-for-all sacrifice of Jesus to be regularly re-sacrificed in the Eucharist of mass. Familiarity with Pitre's logic is invaluable for understanding how denominational doctrine is established, almost always with well-intended motives, yet incomplete of a holistic understanding of Scripture. May we come to the table in discussion, and in communion, with the universal, one Body, one Lord, Church.

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Jaroslav Pelikan (1923-2006) was a renown professor of history at Yale and scholar of early church and medieval theology. His emphasis on the development of doctrine is especially insightful and highly recommended for anyone interested in learning more deeply how we (all of Christendom) have arrived to our current positions.

Reading ‘Vol. 2: The Christian Tradition and The Spirit of Eastern Christendom (600-1700)', Pelikan begins his discussion of the Eastern / Western Churc...h Schism with an interesting comment by Martin Luther. He writes:

"Alongside this (cultural) isolation between east and west, was an ecumenical and sometimes romantic yearning for Eastern Christianity. In fact, Martin Luther appealed to the example of the Eastern Church as proof one could be both catholic and orthodox without being papal." *A reference to "papal" as the medieval Roman abuses of the church - greed, power, and theological interpretations.

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Remember that scene ... Ferris Buehler spends the day driving the Ferrari all over Chicago, and then faces the reality of having to reverse the miles in order that Cameron's dad wouldn't find out ... but as it sinks in that it wasn't possible to do this, Cameron snaps ... he snaps not because of the day on the town, but as a result of years of abandonment from a dad consumed by work and success and misplaced goals ... Cameron finally reaches a breaking point and as he melts d...own, he takes it out on the car, all the while screaming, "Who do you love?"

In the recent Work as Worship Retreat, pastor Matt Chandler emphasized how critical it was for working moms and dads to never forget that 'Family Comes First.' I think we all know that intuitively, but one of the signs that family is not coming first is usually through the way 'Toys, Tech, and Travel’ are used as either ways of buying off guilt with the children and spouse, or as ways of rewarding yourself for all that "success."

In short, take an inventory. Want to know if your family is first, or second, or third, or ...? Can you find them, and can they find you, through all the toys, tech, and travel in your life?

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On the Reading of Old Books, C.S. Lewis (God in the Dock).

“There is a strange idea abroad that in every subject the ancient books should be read only by the professionals, and that the amateur should content himself with the modern books. This mistaken preference for modern books, and shyness of the old ones, is nowhere more rampant than in theology. This seems topsy-turvy to me. Naturally, since I am a writer, I do not wish the ordinary reader to read no modern books, but ...if he must read only new, or only old, I would always advise him to read the old. And I would give him this advice precisely because he is an amateur and therefore much less protected than the expert against the dangers of an exclusive contemporary diet.”

Lewis argues that modern books have not been proven and are always biased by a contemporary worldview. Yet writings which have stood the test of time and collected centuries worth of support, those are the books that should fill our libraries for study. Ultimately, let us be balanced readers who error on the side of the proven, and not chronological snobs who lean toward the latest best-sellers.

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"For anyone ... who separates himself from Me and sets up his idols in his heart and puts before him what causes him to stumble into iniquity, I the LORD will answer him by myself!" - Ezekiel 14:7

It seems that most of us tend to view the Old Testament reference to idols as one of statues and monuments, and only begin to see the internal conflict (heart issue) of idolatry in the New Testament; i.e., 'greed' becoming an idol.

To this Dr. J. Niehaus, OT Professor, writes: "Eze...kiel makes clear that idolatry has always originated from the inner nature. We first set our heart on that which is false and deceptive, then we place the tangible, physical, "thing" or "god" before us as a priority. The Old Testament idol was very much heart, just as the New Testament idol is very much tangible." - Biblical Theology: The Special Grace Covenants.

May we guard our heart to live a life free of idols. May our love affair be with God and never with falsehood of any kind. Amen.

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Dr. David Livingstone, missionary / explorer (1813-1873), used his global notoriety as a divine calling. In Martin Duggard’s ‘Into Africa,’ we read:

“In his speeches, Livingstone didn’t gloat about his discoveries. Rather, he spoke out against the slave trade in the most graphic terms. He was compelled to speak and describe what he had seen, for only by doing so could he advance the great cause for which he had devoted himself. Livingstone’s antislavery speeches were scathin...g and volatile, one of the few forums in which this private, quiet man expressed public rage. He was not antislavery because it was convenient or politically correct, but because Africa had become his home and this inhumane trade was a destruction of people; a forced diaspora of mostly peaceful, agricultural tribes to other lands.”

May the Lord use us like Dr. Livingstone, in uniquely missional ways - sharing the Gospel, sharing His love, sharing our passions, sharing our God-gifted abilities, and discerning our place in defending the creation image throughout all humanity. Amen.

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Peter - James - John - Andrew - Philip - Bartholomew - Thomas - Matthew - James (son of Alphaeus) - Simon - Judas / Thaddeus (son of James) - Judas Iscariot

Reading John MacArthurs 'Twelve Ordinary Men', and thinking what a fantastic twelve week study this could be ....

Interestingly, MacArthur writes, "one of the main things that motivated William Tyndale to translate Scripture into the common language (early 16th century), was a survey of English clergy that had revealed a few of them could name more than four or five of the twelve disciples."

In short, because of this biblical illiteracy, the Church had dehumanized this group, making it seem that Jesus had selected them for their extraordinary abilities or spiritual superiority. Learning about them reminds us that they were most notable for their ordinariness and their obedience to follow, learn, and share. Not nearly close to perfect, but willing. That's the call to discipleship and a great encouragement to living in the Word.

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We have approached the midpoint of the Lenten season, and from a number of conversations, it certainly seems that these past twenty days have been especially rewarding for many who are practicing spiritual disciplines and pursuing Christ-likeness. Blessings on your remaining days up to Palm Sunday and Holy Week.

There has also been a noticeable uptick in questions on the subject of Lent, which is really awesome. So, I thought I would provide a short definition from the Baker... Evangelical Dictionary of Theology (a gold standard resource). Enjoy.

Lent. A forty-day period of penitence and prayer that begins on Ash Wednesday and prepares for the feast of Easter. It is a form of retreat for Christians preparing to celebrate the paschal mystery. It became a forty-day retreat during the seventh century to coincide with the forty days spent by Christ in the wilderness; before this Lent usually lasted only a week. Fasting probably originated from the custom of fasting by those who were expecting to be baptized during Easter.

Penitential works are very important during Lent. Not only abstinence and fasting, but also prayers and charitable works. However, believers should not become overly involved in penitence itself, but realize that the penitence is in preparation for celebrating the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Seeking a change of heart during Lent is the most vital aspect of a growing relationship with God.

- T.J. German, Oxford.

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"Let your gentleness be known by all." - Philippians 4:5

The word 'gentleness' is closely associated with our understanding of 'reasonableness' as much as it is a particular demeanor. In this context, Paul is imploring the reader to be less concerned with unimportant matters that create strife, tension, or conflict. But rather, be reasonable and model graciousness with humility, patience, mercy, and goodwill to others despite their faults and failures. We should note Paul's use of the word "all." Again, as we see over and over in Scripture, "all" means, well, ALL!

To summarize with emphasis, let's consider what Paul does NOT say: "Let your sarcastic, opinionated, soapbox, finger-pointing, intentional belittling, petty-issue instigating, world-like spirit be known by all.” No, Paul was preaching just the opposite.

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"Distraction is the primary spiritual problem in our day - we have noisy hearts" - Richard Foster

As we enter into our weekend, may we find quality space for silence and be blessed with less-noisy hearts, that God may speak in the stillness with a quiet voice that can be heard. May it prepare us for a richer time of worship as we gather together on Sunday morning.

A thought from Eliot on the subject:


Where shall the Word be found
Where will the Word
Not here, there is not enough silence.
- T.S. Eliot from Ash Wednesday

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‘Generation Z’ and ‘The Nones’, both titles written by Pastor James White, speak to the urgency and privilege of reaching the young and the unchurched.

One group, the Z’s, are a soon-to-be adult generation, and the other, the Nones, an ever-increasing religous categorization. Both hold post-Christian worldviews with little-to-no exposure to the Gospel.

Interestingly, White and others have discovered that one of the most appealing attributes for these groups, is when the Chu...rch lives out an especially counterculture witness (also meaning, unfortunately, a counter-church-culture witness in many cases). To this point, he writes:

“We often marvel at the growth of the early church, the explosion of faith in Christ among pagans and “unchurched.” We look for formulas and programs and strategies, services and processes, yet the simple truth is that the early Christians were very much like Jesus, so much that the name Christian (“little Christ”) came into existence. They shared the gospel like it was gossip over the backyard fence. Being different, or countercultural, is highly attractive to an unbelieving world, as long as the difference is Christ and not void of Christ."

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Arminianism - the system of salvation theology that opposes Calvinism on the idea of God’s sovereignty with man's free will. Named after Dutch theologian, Jacob Arminius (1559 - 1609), and initially put forward by his followers, the Remonstrants, Arminianism was at the core of one of the earliest, and longest-standing, doctrinal divides within Protestant Christianity.

As Reformed Presbyterians, River Oaks is aligned with the theology of those who view God’s sovereignty as com...plete in all areas, man’s depravity as total in all areas, and God’s grace as both electing and assuring.

That said, we also agree with both Arminians and Calvinists, that the doctrine of predestination “does not commend itself to babes in the faith.” That many God-fearing, biblically grounded, Christ-like, well-intentioned believers comprise both systems of belief, and that our call is mutual in Jesus’ instruction for mission and holiness. We will finish all theological debates on the subject as we gather together around the throne!

I write this post as exactly 400 years ago, pastors and theologians met at what would be referred to as the Synod of Dort. Over the course of almost fourteen months, they hammered out a response to Arminian theology for the Dutch churches. These Canons of Dort provide a wonderful point-by-point defense (beginning with Scripture, of course) of the Reformed Doctrine of Grace. One of the best, most approachable resources I have found is Matthew Barrett’s ‘The Grace of Godliness: An Introduction to Doctrine and Piety in the Canons of Dort.'

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At the recent 'Work as Worship' retreat, Auntie Anne's founder, Anne Beiler, shared her remarkable story; from childhood simplicity, to the loss of her toddler daughter, to the brokenness within her marriage following this horrific tragedy. Only in mid-life, after God had called her to Him and restored her, did she happen upon that world famous pretzel.

One interesting acronym that her business used was that of LIGHT. Representing the light of Jesus that they were to be everyday, she spoke to L-eading by example, I-nvesting in Employees, G-iving freely, H-onoring God, and T-reating all business contacts with respect.

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