Under Pressure

Under Pressure

One of creation’s great wonders is water.   The earth and its inhabitants are made of it.   Unlike most matter, water rebels against convention as it moves from liquid to solid.   While most substances become denser when they freeze, water expands.    And in a world teeming with aquatic life, that difference is crucial.  Ice floats.   If it sank, aquatic life would be forced to the surface as lakes, ponds, and rivers froze, depriving plants and creatures of warmth and oxygen.  But in God’s remarkable design, ice floats, insulating and preserving aquatic life.

This past week, however, many discovered that what is a blessing to fish, is not so great for plumbing.   Added to the sounds of children sledding and car wheels spinning, was the groaning of pipes and the rushing of water.   The pipes under our house burst.   Or rather should I say, one pipe burst.   The rupture to a single span of copper pipe was only half an inch long.   Yet the force and volume of the leak was prodigious.  The sound was like the sound of many rushing waters.   The pressure required to get water from lake to tap is immense.  And in a frozen instant, that pressure can bring unbelievable destruction.

And, so it is with the circumstances of our lives.   We live under the pressure of uncertainty.  We try to prepare, to plan, to insulate and anticipate.   Yet we can never get it quite right.  We all think want to know the future.  That is, until we do.   The older you get, the more you realize that prescience is not a panacea.   Foresight, when we get it, frustrates because we rarely have the power to alter or avert what is foreseen.   Foreknowledge without omnipotence easily leads to paralysis.    A pastor once commented that “anxiety comes from an awareness of our finitude.”   Hence, we say “ignorance is bliss.”  Or as Wendell Berry expressed it through Port William resident, Mat Feltner, “The mercy of the world is that you don’t know what’s going to happen.”   But ignorance is only mercy if you know and trust the one who is neither ignorant nor impotent regarding the future.

Jesus’ message to the Church in Smyrna in the Revelation is remarkable.   It contains neither commendation, nor condemnation.   Jesus never says, ‘nevertheless, this I have against you.’   This brief message has but one message, “hold fast!”   No matter what comes, “hold fast!”  The pressures building against Christians in Smyrna were dire and intense.   And worse, they were betrayed by those who ought to have been brothers.    Jesus words are concise and succinct.   “Be faithful unto death.”   How would you like to receive this message?   No matter what happens do not break with your faith.  Do not turn away.   Do not compromise.   Rest in the Faithful One, the first and the last, who died and came to life.

Persecution comes in all different shapes, sizes, and intensities.  We do not get to pick our cross.  We are only instructed to pick it up and carry it.   Paul wrote to Timothy, “all who live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.”  (2 Timothy 3:12)   Perhaps that is not what you signed up for when you gave your life to Christ.  But there it is.   We may seek compromise to avoid it.  Or seek mere relief rather than peace.   But consider the words of Ralph Erskine.  ”Some may bless themselves they were never assaulted by the devil and yet they are but sleeping, as it were, in the devil’s cradle and he is rocking them.”

What is your response to persecution?  To the intense pressure that comes with taking up a cross and following Christ?   Where will you seek rest?  In the promises of the Faithful one or the devil’s cradle?  Join us this week as we continue our survey Revelation as we examine the message to the Church in Smyrna in Revelation 2:8-11 and its encouragement to persevere in the face of extreme pressure.

We meet from 5:00 – 6:30 pm at The Arkansas DreamCenter at 1116 Daisy L Gatson Bates Drive 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.

Will You Hold the Ropes?

Will You Hold the Ropes?

You may have heard of William Carey, the “father of modern missions”; but perhaps you have never heard of his good friend Andrew Fuller.  Before leaving for India, Carey famously told Fuller, “I will go down into the pit, if you will hold the ropes.”

Fuller held the ropes by traveling all over the British Isles, raising funds and preaching missions-related sermons. The missionaries in India and other early fields could concentrate on their ministry in the field because they knew Fuller was holding the ropes for them.

William Carey was courageous and faithful to his call, but he would not have been able to go to India and establish his mission work if not for all those “holding the ropes.” Church planting pastors and the seedling churches they plant, like those early missionaries, depend on you to “hold the ropes.”

Are you willing to hold the ropes for your ARP Church plants?

  • Will you give of your substance?
  • Will you pray for your church planting pastors and their congregations?
  • Will you write, visit, and call them to encourage them?
  • Will you move to their city and be a part of what they are doing?

Will you hold the ropes?  We would ask you to partner with us at River City Reformed Church in Little Rock and join us as a “rope holder.”  You can find out more at https://rivercityarp.org/partner-with-us-financially/.  We would also encourage you to consider holding the ropes for our other ARP church plants.  You can find more info and links to give at https://outreachnorthamerica.org/directory/.

Saying Grace

Saying Grace

Thanksgiving and the Super Bowl perennially vie with one another as the “Black Friday” of the grocery world. All week my sorties to the local Kroger have evoked the imagery of a slow drain – where too much water is being pushed through too little pipe. Say what you like, “the meal” is the heart of an American thanksgiving. But is that really a problem?

In Scripture, thanksgiving is often accompanied by a feast. All of God’s mighty acts of redemption are pictured in the feasts of Israel. Jesus’ first sign, the turning of water into wine in Cana, was central to a protracted wedding feast. The only miracle recorded in all four gospels, apart from the resurrection, was the feeding of five thousand families on a Galilean hillside. We don’t know all Jesus taught them that day, but we know how he fed them. So much of Jesus’ ministry was centered around meals that the Pharisees accused him of being a glutton and a wine-bibber. The great Passover meal was the annual celebration of thanksgiving and remembrance for God’s mighty deliverance. And the Passover pointed to the greater deliverance through the blood of the Lamb of God – a deliverance pictured in the Last Supper. Thanksgiving is well celebrated “at table.”

For Christians, there is no greater illustration of this than the Lord’s Supper, called in Scripture and in the lingo of the Church, “the eucharist” – a Greek word for ‘thanksgiving.’ One theologian has rightly noted that how we approach every table in our lives should be instructed by our approach to that table. A table which reminds us that God is merciful, kind, gracious, holy and just and like Mephibosheth, we who are unworthy to come, are worthily able to come through the worthiness of another. This table is the great thanksgiving meal which celebrates the incomparable and incomprehensible goodness of God toward ruined sinners. This table celebrates our adoption as God’s children by faith in the finished work of the Only Begotten Son. This table teaches us to celebrate the goodness of God, not merely our feelings about ourselves. This table teaches us how to come to our family thanksgiving tables today.

Enjoy the meal. Enjoy the day. Celebrate the goodness of God. Celebrate with thankfulness that He joyfully calls us to be His. Celebrate the gifts he has given, even though a great many of them seemed hardly like gifts at the time. Celebrate His mercies which are new every morning and His faithfulness which is great. Celebrate the families He has given you along with the opportunities for self-sacrifice and sanctification that come with them. Give Thanks. The word eucharisto, which we translate thanksgiving means, quite literally, ‘good grace.’ Our thanksgiving may be celebrated in many ways, alone or with others, by a variety of activities, with certain foods that are required to “fulfill all righteousness.” But let all your thanksgiving “say grace,” declaring what scripture teaches us to proclaim whether in joy, sorrow, in peace and in conflict.

For the Lord is good;
His steadfast love endures forever,
and His faithfulness to all generations. Psalm 100:6