06/14/2020 | “No King, But Jesus” | Jeremiah 21:1-23:8

06/14/2020 | “No King, But Jesus” | Jeremiah 21:1-23:8

Who rules your heart?  Who reigns over your strength, mind, and soul?  Where do you look for deliverance and freedom?  In Jeremiah 21-23, the enemy is at the gates.  God’s judgment is at hand.   After forty years of resisting God’s call to repent, Judah’s king finally seeks an audience with the prophet.  Zedekiah vainly hopes for a miraculous deliverance as in the days of Hezekiah.  But Jeremiah offers only the gospel.   He calls out the sins of Judah’s kings, calls the people to repent, and points them to a new king – a king of righteousness, justice and peace, King Jesus.  

We too are facing God’s judgement.   We cry out for some miraculous deliverance and God offers the gospel.  Repent, trust in His grace, and serve a new King.   It’s time for a change.  It’s time for new leadership.  It’s time for a new King – King Jesus. Listen as we examine Jeremiah 21-23 and consider what king we serve. 

“No King, But Jesus”, Jeremiah 21-23

Time for Change

Time for Change

In our family, the Fourth of July ushers in the year’s second half with watermelon, a far-flung fireworks pilgrimage and, of course, home-made ice cream.  We usually gather with family and friends on the Fourth to share our best home-made ice cream and patriotic recitations, capped off by a reading of the Declaration of Independence.   While we are all familiar with the famous Jeffersonian platitudes on human equality and self-evident truths, the real meat of the Declaration is found in the “decent respect to the opinions of mankind” which required our forefathers to “declare the causes which impel them to the separation.”

The Declaration’s rationale and sense of compulsion is remarkable for its clarity.

Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and, accordingly, all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

The modern reader would do well to pay close attention to the “history of repeated abuses and usurpations” of the late King of England by which he abolished the free System of English Laws.  For the litany of his tyranny reads like it was ripped from today’s headlines.  The governmental overreach that drove our forefathers to pledge their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor to resist is met in our day with sighs of resignation.    The Achilles Heel of any Republic is that it may easily throw off one tyrant for a more corrupt collective tyrant.   As John Adams noted.

“Our constitution was made only for a moral and religious people.  It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”

Our leaders are a reflection of “we, the people.”  Our rulers are not hereditary kings or vassals of some foreign power.   They are our vassals.  They reflect our interests and our character, good or bad.  In the Gettysburg Address, Lincoln observed that we have a government, “of the people, by the people, for the people.”  But what kind of people are we? 

Nothing is more devastating to the life of a nation than for its people to live with their backs to God.   Every nation has some king.   While that king may not be a monarch on a throne, nations are ultimately governed by what its people seek to serve.   As Judah drew near to the brink of destruction at the hands of the Babylonians, the prophet Jeremiah’s calls to turn back to the Lord fell on deaf ears.  Like their forefathers in Samuel’s day, Israel had forgotten that the Lord is their only King. 

Israel’s kings were not dynastic.  They ruled by the assent of the people.  The people were not hapless victims of tyranny.  Their kings, like ours, reflected their concerns and character.  Though God had graciously given them a wise and godly ruler in Josiah, their loves and lives longed for the idolatry of Manasseh.   

As Jeremiah called them to turn back, they sighed, “It is hopeless, for [we] have loved [foreign gods], and after them [we] will go.”  When Josiah died, the people sought out his sons, who looked more like their great-grandfather, Manasseh, than their father.   Jeremiah noted that prophets, priests and rulers ruled by lies and deceit, because “my people love to have it so.” (Jeremiah 5:30)   

Today, our nation is awash in anarchist fervor.  The cry goes up to tear down and overthrow.  But the tyranny that grips us is not the tyranny of presidents, senators, representatives, judges, governors, mayors, or police.  No, the tyrant that rules our nation is “we, the people” living with our backs to a gracious and loving God.   We have sought every king except the King of Kings and served every lord except the Lord of Lords.  Jesus struck a nerve when he declared, “everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin… [but] if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”  John 8:34-36

Who rules your heart?  Who reigns over your strength, mind, and soul?  Where do you look for deliverance and freedom?  In Jeremiah 21-23, the enemy is at the gates.  God’s judgment is at hand.   After forty years of resisting God’s call to repent, Judah’s king finally seeks an audience with the prophet.  Zedekiah vainly hopes for a miraculous deliverance as in the days of Hezekiah. 

But Jeremiah offers only the gospel.   He calls out the sins of Judah’s kings, calls the people to repent, and points them to a new king – a king of righteousness, justice and peace, King Jesus.   We are facing God’s judgement.   We cry out for some miraculous deliverance and God offers the gospel.  Repent, trust in His grace, and serve a new King.   It’s time for a change.  It’s time for new leadership.  It’s time for a new King – King Jesus.

Join us this week as we examine Jeremiah 21-23 and consider what king we serve.  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.   Or join us on Facebook Live @RiverCityARP.

06/07/2020 | “The Valley of the Shadow” | Jeremiah 20:1-18

06/07/2020 | “The Valley of the Shadow” | Jeremiah 20:1-18

Jeremiah preached hard words to hard hearts.   For over four decades he did the work of a prophet, yet saw no profit from it in the people’s lives.  No repentance, no returning, no reformation – only the unrelenting judgment of God against his beloved Judah.   He was beaten, imprisoned, ridiculed, despised, outcast by foe, friend and family.   He was kidnapped.  He was denied every earthly relationship that might bring joy.   Little wonder he was the weeping prophet.  He wept for his people, but he also wept for himself.  In Jeremiah 20 we find the prophet in a valley of deepest darkness.   His grief, anger and frustration carry him close to the border of apostasy.  Jeremiah’s struggles, just like Jeremiah’s preaching, are written for our instruction.  How do we walk in the light when God leads us into the Valley of The Shadow? Listen to “Valley of the Shadow” from Jeremiah 20.

“The Valley of the Shadow,” Jeremiah 20:1-18

The Valley of the Shadow

The Valley of the Shadow

Going to work with Mama was a special treat.   It was rare to spend time just with her.   At home she was busy with the demands of family, but at work her schedule was more relaxed.  Only there could I have her full attention.  She worked part-time as a secretary at the Ormewood Park Presbyterian Church in east Atlanta.   On Fridays, Pastor Obert “visited the Greens.”   All that was pressing was the printing of bulletins.   I still remember the smell of mimeograph ink and the bluish-purple stains on my mother’s hands.  By one o’clock she was done and we were off to Arby’s for Beef-n-Cheddars and then to Mrs. Mowery’s for Mama’s weekly hairdo – and, of course, the jar of butterscotch and toffee.

While my mother finished up at the church, I was explored the curiosities of Pastor Obert’s office, listened to stories of Mama’s childhood, and designed the next generation of spacecraft.    Her office was warm and inviting.  And Pastor Obert’s office was spacious, more library than office.   Mama would also allow me to go up to the sanctuary – a beautiful worship space with large windows, flooded with so much light that it seemed as much like heaven as a ten-year-old could imagine.  

But not all the spaces at Ormewood Park were warm and luminous.   In order to get to the sanctuary from the office, I had to pass through a dark, ancient hallway.   Its musty smell, noisy tile floor and penetrating dark, terrified me.   It seemed sinister and menacing.   Running was the only way to make the passage.   And I knew that whatever I did, whatever I heard, I must never look back.

Darkness is like that.   In the dark, common comforts become sinister uncertainties.   In the dark, we can’t distinguish between what is real and what our fears project.   We were not made for the dark.  Before God did anything else in creation, he turned the lights on.   Almost every dimension of life depends upon light.  Even in the black depths of the deepest sea, creatures use natural luminescence to survive.

We are afraid of the dark because we were created to live and walk in the light.   The Bible notes that heaven is a place with no night – lit eternally by the Eternal God who, himself is its light.   In the Gospel of John, Jesus repeatedly draws attention to the contrast between light and dark as a metaphor for our emotional and spiritual condition. 

And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. John 3:19

Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12

I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness. John 12:46

And Jesus’ disciple, John, would later write.

God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.

1 John 1:5-7

But walking in the light can be hard to do.   Even believers with the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit, may experience consuming spiritual and emotional darkness.  Three times the Bible uses the phrase, “shadow of death.”   We usually read this as a metaphor for death.   But in each instance, the Bible refers to the experience of the living, not the dead.   The ancient language literally reads, “the shadow of deepest darkness.”   It is a darkness so black it is palpable, penetrating every nook and cranny of heart and soul.  Grief, doubt, fear, sickness, and adversity easily shadow our lives with deepest darkness.  Little grows well in this darkness except questions.   Where is God?  Why is he silent?  Why has he allowed this?  Will the darkness ever end?  Can I trust him?  Follow him?

Jeremiah was a bold and persistent prophet.   He was set apart before his birth.  God promised to deliver him from all his enemies.  Jeremiah confessed that even if he wanted to forsake his calling, he could not. 

If I say, “I will not mention him,
    or speak any more in his name,”
there is in my heart as it were a burning fire
    shut up in my bones,
and I am weary with holding it in,
    and I cannot.  Jeremiah 20:9

Jeremiah preached hard words to hard hearts.   For over four decades he did the work of a prophet, yet saw no profit from it in the people’s lives.  No repentance, no returning, no reformation – only the unrelenting judgment of God against his beloved Judah.   He was beaten, imprisoned, ridiculed, despised, outcast by foe, friend and family.   He was kidnapped.  He was denied every earthly relationship that might bring joy.   Little wonder he was the weeping prophet.  He wept for his people, but he also wept for himself.  In Jeremiah 20 we find the prophet in a valley of deepest darkness.   His grief, anger and frustration carry him close to the border of apostasy.  

Yet Jeremiah’s struggles, just like Jeremiah’s preaching, are written for our instruction.  How do we walk in the light when God leads us into the Valley of The Shadow?   We feel should feel the weight of this question every time we pray, “lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from [the evil one].”   Join us this week as we examine Jeremiah 20 and consider how to walk in the light through the valley of deepest darkness.  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.   Or join us on Facebook Live @RiverCityARP.

05/31/2020 | “Asking for a Friend” | Psalm 122

05/31/2020 | “Asking for a Friend” | Psalm 122

In our idiom, “asking for a friend,” is a euphemism for our own concerns.   But when it comes to Christian prayer we are called to ask boldly for others through the ministry of intercession.    Listen to “Asking for Friend” as we consider Psalm 122 which calls us to pray for the sake of our brothers and to intercede for the church, the world, and our neighbors.

“Asking for a Friend” Psalm 122