Keeping the Feast

Keeping the Feast

Complaints about mothers-in-law are as old as the institution of marriage.  Yet I confess, my mother-in-law was a rare jewel.  She had many remarkable qualities.  She was the ultimate encourager.  She never forgot your name or your situation.  She left a wake of joy and blessing wherever life’s voyage took her.  And her life took her into some dark and difficult places.  She excelled in the art of gift giving.  And she always knew and gave exactly what you needed.

But her chief pleasure was the pleasure of others.  And no event gave her greater opportunity to please than feast-keeping.   Holiday meals were lavish, expansive, and eclectic.  She ensured that everyone’s favorite dish was on the table.   For me it was pickled peaches.   No one else shared my passion for pickled peaches.  And they are extremely hard to procure in Arkansas.   Yet every Thanksgiving MaMa preserved one quart jar of homemade pickled peaches, just for me.

MaMa knew the importance of keeping the feast.  Of gathering and celebrating the season.   Of remembering the grace of God with gratitude through feast-keeping.   Feasting it important.   God commanded feasts in the Old Testament to ensure the people would remember His mighty acts of deliverance.  And to prepare them for the even greater ultimate deliverance in Christ.   The feasts joyfully told the story – His story.   The story of what made God’s people different.  Of who they were and whose they were.  And of how they came to be.

The feasts of Israel were not optional.   Not extra for experts.   Nor merely perfunctory or obligatory.   They were to be attended with solemnity, yet joy.  With careful preparation, yet zealous participation.  And most of all they were to be enjoyed in faith. Faith that the God who delivered them from the tyranny of Pharaoh would deliver them from the ultimate tyranny of sin.  And so, at the climax of the exodus, we find more instruction than action.   God instructs his people to keep the Passover with diligence and sincerity.  And in the same way we are still instructed to keep the feast.

But Christ is our Passover and we celebrate this great work of redemption as we gather around his table in the Lord’s Supper.   Paul instructs us.

For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us:  Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

1 Corinthians 5:7-8

And again.

The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?  For we being many are one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread.  Behold Israel after the flesh: are not they which eat of the sacrifices partakers of the altar?

1 Corinthians 10:16-17

And finally.

And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, this cup is the new covenant in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come. Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup.

1 Corinthians 11:23-26

Are you keeping the feast?  Are you coming in faith?  Carefully prepared to thankfully participate?   Join us this week as we examine Exodus 12:43-13:16 to consider God’s instructions to his ancient people and to us to keep the feast.

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

Promises Kept

Promises Kept

The Lord’s promises are sure. If we are ever to doubt God’s faithfulness to His promises, we ought to look to passages such as Exodus 12:29-51. The promises fulfilled here are really twofold. He kept His promises to deliver His people, but He also kept His promise to judge the unrepentant.

He kept His promises to deliver His people. He led His people out of Egypt, and even the Egyptians themselves command them to leave. He delivered them by night and even fulfilled promises made to Abraham regarding the provisions His people would have upon leaving Egypt, as they would be given favor and wealth from the Egyptians. The fact that God keeps His promises to deliver His people ought to be of great encouragement to us. There are so many circumstances in life that may drive us to doubt or wonder what it is God is doing. But even after 430 years in Egypt, God had not abandoned His people. This Exodus from Egypt would be such a reminder of God’s faithfulness to His promises that it would be harkened back to many times. You see this particularly in the Psalms. You as a believer can press on in the Christian life knowing that God is the One who delivers His people.

But God also fulfilled His promise of judgment. This is seen throughout the ten plagues, but especially in the tenth plague. This is a warning against unrepentance. Sin rightly deserves the judgment of God, and only those found in Christ will be saved from it.

The Lord reminds His people of their deliverance in the Passover meal. Only those who were willing to covenant with God could partake of that meal. The Lord’s Supper, which now takes the place of the sign of Passover is only to be taken by those who have trusted in Christ. This is why we exhort those who are not found in Christ not to take the Supper but rather to run to the Christ of the Supper. He is the One your soul needs.

So dear friend, have you heeded the warning of judgment? Have you found rest in Jesus, having confidence in God’s promise of redemption? We will consider all of this this Lord’s Day during worship at The Commons at St. Andrews’ Church at 5 PM. For directions, click here or contact us for more information. You can also watch on FacebookLive@RiverCityARP or on YouTube.

“There Where the Blood of the Lamb Was Spilt”

“There Where the Blood of the Lamb Was Spilt”

The tenth plague of the book of Exodus is one of the book’s climactic points.  Judgment falls on those oppressing the people of God in a way that is more severe even than the previous plagues.  And we see in the passage that this is a judgment carried out by God Himself.  

The people of God are given many instructions in order to prepare for the Passover, and they are also given many instructions for its remembrance.  This is a reminder just of how serious the worship of God truly is.  We are drawn to consider His holiness and the fact that He is the One who directs how He is to be worshiped.  

We see that the people of God are commanded to sacrifice a lamb without spot or blemish, and that they are commanded to put its blood on their doorposts in order that God’s judgment may pass over them and that the firstborn of their households be spared.  We see here the seriousness of sin and its judgment, but we also see the Lord’s pardoning mercy.  In the account of these lambs being slaughtered, we are to focus our attention on the greater sacrifice to which these lambs pointed–the Lamb who would be slain for the sin of His people. He is the One who would truly bring deliverance from judgment as He Himself bears the justice, the wrath and curse of God. As the people of God found refuge under the blood on their doorposts, we need to ask ourselves–have we found refuge under the blood of the Lamb of God?  
Dear friend, have you found your hope in Christ and what He accomplished at Calvary?  Is your hope there, as the hymn says, “There where the blood of the Lamb was spilt?” (“Marvelous Grace of Our Loving Lord,” written by Julia H. Johnston, 1910)  Join us as we consider these things in more depth during worship this Lord’s Day at The Commons at St. Andrews’ Church.  For directions, click here, or contact us for more information.  You can also watch on FacebookLive@RiverCityARP or on YouTube. 

The Last Word

The Last Word

Everyone has one – the one person in your life who must always have the last word.  Whatever your great exploits, they have climbed higher, caught more, gone faster.   No story is complete until they have added the exclamation point of their own last word.   Though perhaps otherwise unremarkable, they are grand-masters of one-upsmanship.  Yet their quest for notoriety has gained only infamy.  

No one likes a know-it-all.  No one enjoys the one-upsmans’ self-agrandizing sagas.  Far from inviting admiration, the know-it-all only invites scorn.   We all have this person in our lives.  You are not that person are you?  Let this be a lesson.  Don’t seek the last word.  Learn the art of humility.  As Solomon wisely cautioned. 

Let another praise you, and not your own mouth;
    a stranger, and not your own lips. 

Proverbs 27:2

You never know as much as you think.  You are not the smartest or most accomplished person in every gathering.   Praise others and you will be thought praiseworthy.  Learn to exalt others and you will be exalted.   Let another speak the last word.  Exercise restraint against the temptation to focus the lens on yourself.   Discipline in this area helps us to remember that God always has the last word.  

No one likes a know-it-all.  But what if the know-it-all in your life really did know it all.  What if He knew how everything would turn out.  One who not only knew the future, but determined it.  One who knew you better than you knew yourself.  Who knew how to love you and knew what you loved better than yourself.   One who knew exactly what trials and triumphs were best for you.   One who, despite knowing your heart, your failings, your rejections, still loved you better than you loved yourself?  Would you give that know-it-all the last word?  Would you prefer that know-it-all’s last word to your own? 

Pharaoh was a know-it-all.  He always got the last word.   But when he tried to have the last word with Moses the Lord had one more word for him.   And it was a terrible word.

Thus says the Lord: ‘About midnight I will go out in the midst of Egypt, and every firstborn in the land of Egypt shall die, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sits on his throne, even to the firstborn of the slave girl who is behind the handmill, and all the firstborn of the cattle. There shall be a great cry throughout all the land of Egypt, such as there has never been, nor ever will be again. But not a dog shall growl against any of the people of Israel, either man or beast, that you may know that the Lord makes a distinction between Egypt and Israel.’ And all these your servants shall come down to me and bow down to me, saying, ‘Get out, you and all the people who follow you.’

Exodus 11:4-8

Nine times Pharaoh said no.   But God would force his hand with the worst plague imaginable.   Pharaoh’s own son would die.   And the Egyptian god of death and dying, Osiris, could not stop it.   God would have the last word – a word of judgement.  But it did not have to be.   For in God’s judgement was also a word of grace.

What about you?  When the Lord speaks the best, last word, the word of grace, will you let that be the last word?  Or must you speak the last word yourself, following your own plans according to the stubbornness of your heart.   Even in His wrath against pharaoh, his gods, and his people, the Lord remembered mercy.  

What is the last word in your life?   What last word will define life now and forever?   Join us as we examine God’s last word to Pharaoh from Exodus 11 and consider the importance of giving God’s word the last word in our lives.

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

Deepest Darkness

Deepest Darkness

Everything changes in the dark.   What is familiar and comforting in daytime, becomes sinister and disquieting in the dark of night.   Our closet is filled with looming, threatening forms.   And the area under our beds, which houses nostalgia by day, becomes a haunt for all manner of unimaginably malevolent beasts at night.    Even as an adult, I still sleep with my hands under my body.  A holdover from my childhood when I feared any uncovered hand drifting to the edge of the bed would be met by a slimy, cold, deadly grasp.

Darkness brings fear, uncertainty, complication.   It is hard to function in the dark.   You realize this on your first camping trip.  Without a flashlight or headlamp, movement is difficult.  Nothing is where you remember it being.  The simple becomes complicated.   And every squirrel sounds like Bigfoot.   We are all scared of the dark.   It is a fear we never outgrow.

The language of our distress makes this clear.   A trying time is “dark night of the soul.”  Depression is a “black hole.”  Death is the “valley of the shadow of death.”  Quite literally the phrase translated, “shadow of death” in the Bible means “deepest darkness.”   A darkness like that of a cave.  A darkness so thick that nothing can be seen.  A darkness in which you can only grope your way around.  A darkness than can be felt.   Felt in the deep places of your heart, mind, and soul.

 The phrase “deepest darkness” in scripture often describes fear, oppression, and judgment for sin.   Hell is described as “outer darkness.”  When Nicodemus came to Jesus by night, Jesus compared sin to darkness and salvation to light.

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. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”

John 3:19-21

And speaking in the Temple, Jesus declared, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” 

And elsewhere we read.

This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that 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

It is not insignificant that the first element of creation is light.   Darkness speaks of chaos, destruction, judgment, death.   It was the terror of the ancient world.  Ancient men did not have the benefit of artificial light.   They did not rejoice at the absence of ‘light pollution.’  They dreaded darkness.   All their pagan fears were vested in darkness.  And their relief and hope was founded upon the rising sun.  And this is reflected in their pantheism.

The greatest, most powerful, of Egypt’s gods was the Sun god, Amon-Ra.  Every morning the priests would gather by the river and sing hymns of praise to Amon-Ra and his supposed incarnate son, the reigning Pharaoh.  They would declare that no one in creation compares to Amon-Ra.

Until the day when Lord God Almighty extinguished the sunlight of Egypt in the nineth plague and brought the three days of utter darkness.   A darkness the Bible describes as a ‘deepest darkness’ – a darkness that could be felt.   A darkness of judgement against Amon-Ra.  And against his incarnate son, the Pharaoh.   The darkness of judgement came upon all who were not the Lord’s people.   A darkness every Egyptian felt.  But a darkness which no Israelite experienced.

We are all afraid of the dark, but the plague darkness was a foretaste of hell and of judgement against the gods of Egypt, its king and its people.   It was terrifying beyond imagination.   It immobilized the nation.   And brought Pharaoh to the very brink of obedience.   But only to the brink.  Even in the face of grave judgement, Pharaoh’s heart is hard.  

What about you?  How much judgment must God bring to your life before you will turn to Him?   How long will you love darkness?  And refuse to come to the ‘light of the world?’  Join us as we examine Exodus 10:21-29 to consider the plague of darkness and its warnings for us.

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