Hail

Hail

There have been some storms in history that have been described as historic. Hurricane Katrina is one clear example that comes to mind. While this next example may not quite be considered historic, I can remember being in Jackson, Mississippi in 2013 when baseball sized hailstones fell upon the ground, causing much damage to property. It’s hard to forget an event like that one.

In the book of Exodus in the seventh plague, God sends an historic storm upon the land of Egypt. Pharaoh has persisted in his rebellion against God, and he has refused to let the people of God go. In persecuting the people of God, Pharaoh has blasphemed God Himself. The plague of the hail represents something of a turning point, as it is the most severe of the plagues yet, and as it is directed toward Pharaoh and his servants.

The passage is really a terrifying one. We see destruction, but we also see judgment upon Pharaoh as his heart is further hardened against God. Yet even in a passage like this one which warns against the hardening of one’s heart and warns of judgment for sin, we also see the kindness of God. The hailstones do not fall upon His people–they are spared by His grace and mercy; however, there are also some Egyptians who heed the Word of God and take refuge.

The judgment of hail points us to a greater judgment–the wrath of God against sin. But the Good News is that there is a refuge to be found in Jesus Christ, the Savior of sinners. He has been our refuge from the wrath and curse of God by bearing it Himself. In His death, He has satisfied justice and exhausted the wrath of God for His people. We see in His resurrection that He has been triumphant over sin, death and hell. Refuge is found in Him. Do not harden your heart as did Pharaoh, but rather run for refuge to the true Shelter from the storm of judgment, Jesus Christ. There you will find all that you need.

Join us this Lord’s Day for worship at 5 PM at The Commons at St. Andrews Church in Little Rock as we consider these truths more fully. If you need directions, click here or contact us for more information. You can also watch on FacebookLive@RiverCityARP or on YouTube.

Idiopathy

Idiopathy

Anyone who has experienced chronic illness, or the lingering effects of illness such as ‘long Covid’, knows that the path of diagnosis is a long and winding and uncertain road.  Those who travel this road feel the weight of the phrase, ‘practicing medicine.’ 

Indeed, we are blessed to live in an age of unprecedented medical understanding.   We routinely treat conditions that would have killed our great grandparents.   Our medical technology is like science fiction to our elders.  We decoded our genome.   We ‘edit’ our DNA with Crisper.   We perform delicate surgical procedures with robotic assistance.   We have medicinal therapies that have eradicated diseases which plagued mankind for millennia.   Yet there is still so much we do not know.  

The human body remains a vast mystery.   Many common terminal conditions are uncurable and untreatable.   Years ago, my wife and I faced a series of devastating losses in childbearing.   One of the more experienced OBs that cared for us noted that our losses appeared ‘idiopathic.’   “What does that mean?” I asked.   He responded, “it is a clinical way of saying, we just don’t know.”   And the Lord reminded us that only He opens and closes the womb.  

Much of our illness is idiopathic.   We don’t know what it is, where it came from, or what to do about it.  Sometimes doctors can help.  But often we feel like the woman in Luke 8:43 who had “spent all her living on physicians, [yet] she could not be healed by anyone.”   The best doctors are still only ‘practicing medicine.’   Only the Creator is sovereign over the human body and the human condition. As one pastor said, “medicine is a great tool but a terrible deity.”  

We may have good doctors, but there is only one Great Physician.   Our lives are in His hands alone.   In sickness we should find good doctors.  But to find complete healing, we must go to the Great Physician.   While many illnesses are not “a sickness unto death,” there is one malady which is.   A malady which kills body and soul.  An affliction we call sin.  The ultimate pandemic for which everyone tests positive.  It brings sorrow, malady, and death.   And for this sickness unto death there is no balm of Gilead, save one – faith in the finished and sufficient work of Christ on our behalf.

In Exodus 9 we read about the first plague which arises from human sickness.   The sixth plague comes unannounced.   No warning is given.   Moses and Aaron appear before Pharaoh and his magicians and with soot from the brick kilns initiate a devastating pandemic with symptoms of both cutaneous anthrax and small pox except with ‘gain of function.’   The magician-priests, from the cult of Egypt’s healing gods cannot even heal themselves.  They flee to their sick beds.   No Egyptian escapes, yet all who shelter under God’s grace are untouched.

This plague is an intensification of God’s judgement against Pharaoh, his gods, and his people.   Previous plagues were outside the body.   External afflictions that could be swatted, avoided, blamed.   But this plague is within its victims.   And so, it is an apt picture of sin.  It comes with a circumstance, but it is not outside of us.   We cannot blame Adam, or our parents, or our wicked culture.    It is ours.   We must bear it.   We must own it.  Oh! That someone else could bear it.   Take it away.   Give us relief, healing.

If you feel the weight of this here is good news.   Jesus Christ came into the world to,

“to proclaim good news to the poor.
    … to proclaim liberty to the captives
    and recovering of sight to the blind,
    to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
     to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Luke 4:18-19

“to save sinners of whom [you and I] are the foremost.” 1 Timothy 1:16

And elsewhere we read.

Surely he has borne our griefs
    and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
    smitten by God, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions;
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
    and with his wounds we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
    we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
    the iniquity of us all.

Isaiah 53:4-6

Sin is a plague, a pandemic of biblical proportions.  There is no prophylaxis, no vaccine, no PPE, no social distancing for it.  But there is a cure! Join us as we examine Exodus 9:8-12 and consider the sixth plague and the much worse plague that it pictures and hear of a cure that is 100% effective.

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

Discrimination

Discrimination

Discrimination is an ugly word.  It reeks of bigotry, racism, prejudice, unfairness.   It harkens to a time when people were judged not by the “content of their character, but the color of their skin.”  A time when human worth was assessed by standards other than those revealed by the Creator.  Discrimination despises the diversity God has imprinted on his created order. It defines truth, beauty, and value according to the eye of the beholder and not God’s revealed will.  In my youth, many wore discrimination as a badge of distinction, but now it is a Scarlet Letter. 

But the word, discrimination, does not always have a negative connotation.   For example, a food critic discriminates.   Her discriminating palate sifts subtle flavors and textures according to dozens of categories.   A good food critic can tell you where the ingredients were grown, simply from a discriminating palate.   Even if you do not possess ‘super-tasters’ you also discriminate.  Hot, cold, sweet, savory, you have your own categories of preference. 

Every time we make a choice, we discriminate.   Not every act of discrimination is wrong.   So long as we are exercising our freedom to choose in a way consistent with God’s revealed character and will, all is well.  But when we make discriminations that disregard his design, his will, his nature the Bible calls this sin.   Discrimination becomes sin when we place our will, our opinions, our preferences above those of God.   In our own autonomy, discrimination becomes bigotry, racism, prejudice, and unfairness.

And we all want fairness, right!   At least for ourselves.  We want more good than we deserve.  And nothing bad we don’t deserve.  That, we think, is the calculus of fairness.  And when life assigns more bad than good, we think it unfair.  But is fairness all it is cracked up to be?  

The God of the Bible is described as one who elects, predestines, and ordains all things whatsoever come to pass.   Skeptics hail this as unfair, imperious, and tyrannical.   But would they prefer a world of fairness, perfect justice?   The Bible warns us what that would look like.  Perfect justice requires a perfect judge.  And the only viable candidate is a Holy God.  One like the God described in the Bible.  In a world of his perfect justice, all could be condemned.   In a world of uniform fairness, our just desserts would be dreadful.  

A self-inflated opinion of our goodness and willing ignorance of our evil deceives us into believing fairness and justice would treat us well.   But one glance into our hearts and minds reveals quite another story.   To be honest, I am thankful for discrimination.  Thankful that there is a God who discriminates.  A God who does not give me what I do deserve.  But gives me what I do not.  The biblical words for these unfair gifts are mercy and grace.   And I will take them over fairness or justice any day.

The first three plagues of Egypt affected Egyptian and Hebrew alike.   A reminder that all have sinned.   All have fallen short of the glory of God.   And that sin brings the fair judgment of God.  The Hebrews needed to understand this as well as the Egyptians.   In these plagues, God reveals that He alone is God.  In Him alone is freedom found.   Anyone who looks elsewhere will be disappointed.  

But starting with the fourth plague, we see a difference.   God sets a ‘distinction’ between Pharaoh’s people and His people.   The Hebrews are not touched by this plague, or the plagues that follow.    The ancient word translated ‘distinction’ is translated elsewhere ‘a redemption.’  God discriminates!   He has put ‘a redemption’ among his people.   Those that trust in it are sheltered.   They receive mercy and grace instead of justice and fairness.  They get what they do not deserve and not what they do.   And this discrimination brings freedom.  

God has set ‘a redemption’ in our midst as well.   God’s eternal and divine Son, took on himself our human nature and in that nature bore our sin and satisfied the God’s justice.   In Jesus, God is both just and justifier.    By this redemption, a Holy God makes a distinction between those who fall under crushing justice and those who receive live-giving mercy.  

What about you?  Have you trusted in this God who discriminates?  Who gives you what Jesus deserved and gave Jesus what you deserved?   Are you still hoping for fairness and justice, thinking a reward for your actions would be a blessing, not a curse?  No, my friend, seek mercy and grace instead through faith in Jesus Christ.   Join us this week as we examine the fifth plague, the death of the Egyptian livestock, in Exodus 9:1-7 and consider the God who mercifully discriminates.

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

God For Us

God For Us

Cheerleading is now just ‘Cheer!’   What once existed to engage crowds at sporting events has now become a sport in its own right.  It has its own venues and events.  A cross between gymnastics and dance, it exists for itself, independent of crowds or sporting events.  Any actual cheerleading is an incidental by-product.  What had been essentially concerned for others, is now merely coexistent. 

Unfortunately, many people view God’s work of redemption the same way.   As though God acts in the lives of his creatures with cold detachment.  He rights the wrongs, redeems some, judges others, but is not personally invested.  Of course, Christian doctrine declares the impassibility and immutability of God.  He never suffers nor changes.  He is not contingent on anything in creation.  He does not need anything he has made.  He is self-existent, eternal, and utterly other-than all his creatures.   The Bible declares all these things to be true. 

Yet, like many apparent conundrums in Scripture where two seemingly contradictory ideas are presented side by side as true.  The impassibility of God is declared side by side with expression after expression of God’s love, hate, grief, and delight.   In our emotional lives these experiences imply vulnerability, growth, change.  How can this be true of God? But just as God ordains all things that come to pass, yet He gives men and angels real, true free moral will, the same God who never suffers or changes is described in the language of intense emotion.   He is never cold, detached, or sociopathic.  And, if fact, emotion animates his redemptive work.   “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son.”

Does God care about you?   Is he really concerned with whether you live or die?  Does it matter to him whether you are saved or damned?   Or are regeneration and faith just an incidental by-product of his purpose to reveal his glory?   The glorious truth is that God does care about you.  He is concerned with whether you live or die.  It does matter to Him whether you are saved or damned.   Grace, security, and assurance depend upon God’s unchangeableness, but they are all fueled by attributes we express in emotional terms.   Like many things in scripture these are truths to be believed, not discovered.  While hard to understand, there is no conflict.

As the plagues unfold, the first three emphasized God judgement against Pharaoh, his people, and his gods.   But with the fourth plague something remarkable is noted.   As God threatens a horrible plague of flies, he promises something new.

“But on that day I will set apart the land of Goshen, where my people dwell, so that no swarms of flies shall be there, that you may know that I am the Lord in the midst of the earth.

EXODUS 8:22

Not only does God distinguish those he has appointed for deliverance, but he does so to reveal that He is present with them, to fight against their enemies and to combat their own sin and unbelief.   We consider many times that in Christ, God is with us.  But in the fourth plague, we see that God is for us.   His care, his deliverance, his mercy, his sovereign providence is not dispassionate, not incidental, no mere by-product of his glory.   He cares for you.   The scripture tells us.

Say to them, As I live, declares the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways, for why will you die, O house of Israel? — Ezekiel 33:11

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 1 Timothy 2:1-4

… [cast] all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. — 1 Peter 5:7

God has concern for the life of his creatures.   He is no mere clinical observer of cosmic rats in a cosmic maze.   He loves you more than you can imagine.  His is not indifferent to you or your condition.   He sees, hears and knows.   And he desires you to turn to Him to find life.   Reconciling the free offer of the gospel with the doctrines of election and predestination is one of the secret things.  But what is revealed is that God truly loves us.

Have you learned this? Do you know God cares about you?  That he is concerned whether you live or die? And whether you are saved or perish?   Join us this Lord’s Day as we examine Exodus 8:20-32 and consider that not only is God with us, but that God is 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

The Finger of God

The Finger of God

A polite person is testament to diligent mothering.   Mothers are guardians of polite behavior.  When someone is rude we think, “didn’t his mother teach him not to do that?” All the basic dictums of polite society still resonate in our mother’s voice:  “don’t slam the door, don’t chew with your mouth open, don’t interrupt, don’t stare, and don’t point at people.”

Children, especially, love to point at those who appear strange or comical.  They are given to the perspective of Lizzy Bennett’s father in Pride and Prejudice, “what do we live, but to make sport for our neighbors, and laugh at them in our turn?”  But pointing the finger means more than calling attention.  It implies condemnation, accusation, and judgement.   The phrase, “to point the finger” indicates guilt.  Witnesses in court are often called to “point out the accused.”  

No one wants the “finger of blame” pointed at them.  Especially if the finger is God’s.  In his classic painting, Belshazzar’s Feast, the Dutch painter, Rembrandt, captured the terror of this.  The painting graphically portrays the moment, chronicled in Daniel 5, when Belshazzar literally sees the ‘handwriting on the wall.’   At a moment of great national peril with Cyrus besieging the gates of Babylon, Belshazzar throws a great feast.  To add to the revelry, he brings out the bowls and goblets looted from the Temple in Jerusalem to use as serving pieces.   Belshazzar thought himself untouchable behind the walls of Babylon, but God had a word for him.

“Then from [the Lord’s] presence the hand was sent, and this writing was inscribed. And this is the writing that was inscribed: Mene, Mene, Tekel, and Parsin. This is the interpretation of the matter: Mene, God has numbered the days of your kingdom and brought it to an end; Tekel, you have been weighed in the balances and found wanting; Peres, your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians.”

DANIEL 5:24-28

None of us wants to hear that we have been weighed in the balances and found wanting. Especially from God.   Belshazzar lifted himself up against the Lord of Heaven.  He despised God’s judgement, his holiness, his sovereignty, and his grace.  And the finger of God’s judgement was pointed at him.

The phrase, ‘the finger of god,’ was common in the ancient world for divine revelation or judgement.   We find it in the Old Testament in reference to God’s creative work in Psalm 8 and His revealing work in Exodus 31 and Deuteronomy 5.   And in the New Testament Jesus used the phrase in Luke 11.

Now he was casting out a demon that was mute. When the demon had gone out, the mute man spoke, and the people marveled. But some of them said, “He casts out demons by Beelzebul, the prince of demons,” while others, to test him, kept seeking from him a sign from heaven. But he, knowing their thoughts, said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and a divided household falls. And if Satan also is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand? For you say that I cast out demons by Beelzebul. And if I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. But if it is by the finger of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. 

LUKE 11:14-21

But the first occurrence of the phrase ‘the finger of God’ is on the lips of Egyptian magicians.   Without warning, the third plague of Egypt brought swarms of gnats upon man and beast.  Until  this, the magicians mimicked the plagues in microcosm.  Enough to convince the Egyptians that the plagues were not divine judgement.   But even by their secret arts they could not conjure gnats from dust.   And they declare to Pharaoh “this is the finger of God.”

But Pharaoh refused to repent.  The finger of God’s judgement was pointed squarely at him, yet he bowed up.   For once the magicians spoke truth.  But it was a hard truth to accept. And Pharaoh’s heart was hardened.   He refused to relent or repent.   His only hope was the mercy of God.  Yet his heart became even harder.   What about you?  Is the finger of God pointed in your direction? 

The hard truth is that the finger of God is pointed at us all.   Acknowledge it or not, we have been weighed and found wanting.   Or as Paul put it in Romans 3:23-24, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.”  

The hard truth is that we all face God’s judgement.  But the happy truth is that judgement need not be the last word.  Jesus endured the judgement of God for sin on behalf of those who believe in Him.   Join us as we examine Exodus 8:16-19 and consider hard truths about God’s judgement and the happy truth that in even in wrath God has remembered mercy in the gospel.

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