Fear Not!

Fear Not!

He was a young man on the edge.   He knew in his heart, his mind, his will he needed to take the next step.  A step either glorious or tragic.  Yet he was unable to move, paralyzed with fear.  Absolutely frozen in place.  His whole body shaking.   Tears streaming down his face.  Turmoil raging within him.   It was a rite of passage.  Others had done it.  He must do it.   But no rationale, no counting to 3, no sibling rivalry or encouragement loosed the grip of fear.   The gravity of fear was an irresistible force.  The heights were dizzying and the depths unfathomable.    

And nothing below would hold him up once he had jumped.  Nothing would keep him from sinking into the abyss.  Nothing that is except the grasp of his father.   His father’s presence, strength, and assurance was the only thing that made sense.  And ultimately the thing to which he leapt. “‘You can do it.  I am here.  I will catch you.  I will not let you sink.  Look at me.  Jump to me.”  

Everyone swimmer knows this fear.  It is a childish but powerful fear.  Few actually learn to swim by being thrown in.   Most of us can swim because there was someone there to catch us.   Someone we trusted more than we feared the depths.  Who loosed the grip of fear that paralyzed us?  What fear paralyzes you?  Keeps you stuck in place, unable to step out, to move forward?  

The Apostle Paul wrote, “When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.”  When we were young it was the fear of jumping into the pool, or perhaps what waited noiselessly under our beds at night.   Then we grew up.  We put away childish fears.  But new ones took their place.  

Fear of change, and of not changing.  Fear of not being accepted, or not measuring up.   Of not being recognized or valued.  Fear of financial uncertainty.   Fear of losing our edge, our abilities, our independence.    The fear of fading away unremembered.  Fear of not being known, loved, cared for?  Fear of prolonged sickness, suffering, and yes, death.  And the fear that everything in the world that we believe secure will become insecure – our world turned upside down. 

What fear paralyzes you?  Keeps you stuck in place, unable to step out, to move forward in following Christ?   The imperative “Fear Not!” is common in scripture.   But how can we obey it?  After all fear is a response to circumstances we cannot control.   Our finitude creates anxiety.   We are not in control.  We never were.   But what God commands, He provides.   The remedy for fear is faith in the one who is in control.    

Jesus’ disciples were fearful men.   They feared Pharisees.  They feared insignificance.  They feared service.  Peter feared servant girls and “men from James.”  Thomas feared false hope.  They all feared the raging sea.  And sometimes they feared Jesus.  Yet God gave them a faith that turned the world upside down.  Their persecutors observed that “being with Jesus” made them bold. 

As Jesus prepared to return to the Father, He prepared his followers to face fears and carry the gospel to the ends of the earth.   Leaving the Temple on the Tuesday before his crucifixion, Jesus declares “their house desolate.”     The temple was the most secure thing in their world.   Its destruction would be like the end of the world.   Like men of Jeremiah’s day, the men of Jesus’ day believed the Temple inviolable.  It was a wonder of the ancient world.  Tacitus wrote that it was “immensely opulent.”   Its stones weighted up to a hundred tons.  It was a marvel of engineering.  Yet Jesus declares, “not one stone will be left on another.” 

The Jewish leaders, the crowd, and the disciples were astonished.  Such was inconceivable.  And in turn asked him to explain.  “When will these things be?  What signs will we see?”   And so, in Luke 21:5-19, Jesus responds.  But he does not answer what they asked, but what they should have asked.  Questions we should ask?  Not when? Or what? But how?  How can the gospel advance in the face of such opposition?  How can we live by faith and not fear? 

This passage, so filled with catastrophe, is actually one of assurance and victory.   Join us as we examine Luke 21:5-19 and consider how God equips us to advance the gospel through tremendous assurance.

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

Raising a Stink

Raising a Stink

You can’t take them anywhere.   Friends, family, coworkers, acquaintances whose presence always creates drama.  Then trauma.   Nothing is satisfactory.  And everyone must know it.  The food is too hot, cold, slow, soggy, poorly plated.  The seats are too crowded, in the sun, in the shade, far away, too close.   The route is too twisty, trafficked, poorly designed.   Whatever is, is not acceptable.   They raise a stink about anything and everything.   And invite contempt to our merry parties, family gatherings, and joyful assembles.

‘Raising a stink’ is an apt phrase. To ‘raise a stink’ means to be vocal in one’s displeasure or to make a scene about something; to complain or object very angrily. Nit-pickiness, implacability, malcontentedness is like a bad smell.  It offends and repels. It sickens and induces strong reactions.   It is the smell of death – the death of friendships, relationships, fellowships.  

‘Raising a stink’ is an ancient idiom.  Before refrigeration smells were a matter of life or death.  By its smell, food was tested before it was tasted.   And people were identified by their savour, whether sweet or malodorous, as much as their appearance. We see this in the stories of the Bible.  

After the flood, Noah offered a burned sacrifice of thanksgiving to the Lord and we read, “and when the Lord smelled the pleasing aroma, the Lord said in his heart, ‘I will never again curse the ground because of man.’”  Isaac commented that the Esau smelled like “a field which the Lord has blessed.” And in Revelation 8, saints prayers are compared to sweet incense rising to the Lord.   The scent of some is sweet.  But the scent of others raises a stink.  

Genesis 22:1 records that God ‘tested’ Abraham.  The word translated ‘tested’ comes from an ancient word which means to examine the integrity of meat by smelling it.  In Genesis 34, after Jacob’s sons murder the men of Shechem, Jacob says, “you have brought trouble on me by making me stink to the inhabitants of the land.”  And in Exodus 5:21, the people complain against Moses after his failed interview with Pharaoh. 

“The Lord look on you and judge, because you have made us stink in the sight of Pharaoh and his servants, and have put a sword in their hand to kill us.”

EXODUS 5:21

In Exodus 4, Moses and Aaron met with the elders.   Quickly and completely, God’s Word produced faith in an unbelievable promise.  Moses had worried no one would believe him.  But without controversy all the elders and all the people believed God’s Word and responded.   Now it was Pharaoh’s turn.  But Pharaoh’s heart was hardened.  He not only refused Moses’ demands, but made the peoples’ lives more bitter.   And they complained to Moses. He had raised a stink.  

It is true that God’s Word always raises a stink with unbelievers.  The Bible is not a matter of indifference.  It makes demands.  It reveals what we are.  And what we are not.   The hubris of unbelief cannot tolerate God’s Word.  It always raises a stink.   Paul describes this well in the New Testament.

For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life.

2 CORINTHIANS 2:15-16

The gospel is always pungent.   For some a pleasing aroma.  To others it raises a stink.  The gospel raised a stink with Pharaoh.  And it raises a stink with unbelievers in your life.  Moses and the people complained against God because of Pharaoh’s reaction.   What is your response when the gospel raises a stink?   Will you complain that God’s promises have failed?  Will you blame him for exposing you to persecution?   Will you value peace with lost men more than their peace with God? 

The gospel raises a stink.  But Moses raised a stink as well.   Pharaoh’s is not the only unbelief in this passage.   When the gospel did not act how and when Moses thought it should, he raised a stink.   How do you handle disappointment when the Lord does not act as you expect?  When His promises seem out of reach?   When following Christ appears to makes life worse, not better.   Exodus has much to say about disappointment.   Join us this Lord’s Day as we examine Exodus 5:1-23 and consider how we respond to disappointment.

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

04/10/2022 | “Behold Your King!” | Luke 23:26-49

04/10/2022 | “Behold Your King!” | Luke 23:26-49

Luke’s gospel gives scarcely any details about the crucifixion, but focuses on the reactions of those Jesus encountered on his Via Dolorosa.   He was met with pity, mockery and bitter anger, but also remarkable and unexpected faith.

What is your response to the cross?  Does it evoke pity, mockery, or despair?  Or does it call you to faith and repentance? Listen as we examine Luke 23:26-49 and see the Kingship of Christ, powerfully declared, brazenly rejected and savingly believed. 

Ordinary

Ordinary

Who has time for anything less than extraordinary?  Only the most extreme, the newest, the hottest and the freshest will do.   Anything less is unacceptable.   All adjectives must be superlatives. ‘Fine’ used to mean exceptional, now it translates to barely acceptable.   To merely ‘meet expectations’ at work is an insult.  Any restaurant that hopes to survive must have an experimental kitchen and a menu forever in flux.  And advertising that promises anything less than the moon falls on deaf ears.   We have no room for the ordinary.   It does not matter what anyone claims so long as they claim to be extraordinary.

But most of life is lived in the ordinary.   To despise the ordinary and pine for the extraordinary is to despise most of our days, hours, moments, relationships, experiences, and blessings.   Jesus taught powerfully, but most of his illustrations were drawn from the ordinary things of life — plants, seeds, livestock, coins, and neighbors.  In both creation and providence God delights in the ordinary.

The Bible tells us that the Lord does not ‘despise the day of small things.’  But we usually do.   We want bigger, better, faster, sooner.  And this leads us to prize novelty.   We long for a life different from the one God placed us in.  The old, the tried and true, is passe. What is needed is a newer, better, shinier thing.   Surely the ‘new things’ has power to captivate and capture the heart.

Unfortunately, the church has bought into this love of novelty.   But this love of the new thing is not a new thing.   The ancient prophet Jeremiah warned the people of his day to “ask for the ancient paths.”   And the church today tries to attract the world by offering the extraordinary – the newest, most powerful, most dynamic experience possible.  And yet, She is declining and losing influence in our culture.   Perhaps in our pursuit of the extraordinary, we have lost sight of the power and joy of the ordinary.

Following Pentecost the church experienced extraordinary works of the Holy Spirit, but its most explosive growth resulted from the ordinary means of grace God had appointed. 

And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved. 

Acts 2:42-47

Wonders and signs followed the Word, fellowship, worship, prayer and the sacraments.   Ordinary means produced extraordinary results.   The same is true today.   But do we believe it?  Can we trust the means that God has given?  Do we believe what our catechism teaches us to believe?

The outward and ordinary means whereby Christ communicates to us the benefits of redemption are, His ordinances, especially the Word, sacraments, and prayer; all which are made effectual to the elect for salvation.

– Westminster Shorter Catechism, Question 88

Or is something more needed?   Can we improve on God’s appointed means?   Are they enough?   We often struggle with these questions.   But so did Moses.   He did not believe that the elders of Israel would believe God’s Word.  To accommodate weak faith, God gave signs to confirm His Words.   And against his objections, Moses returned to Egypt, doubtful anyone would believe the Lord.  Yet at the end of Exodus 4, we have a remarkable picture of the power of God’s Word to bring faith.

Then Moses and Aaron went and gathered together all the elders of the people of Israel. Aaron spoke all the words that the Lord had spoken to Moses and did the signs in the sight of the people. And the people believed; and when they heard that the Lord had visited the people of Israel and that he had seen their affliction, they bowed their heads and worshiped.

Exodus 4:29-31

Quickly and completely, God’s Word produced faith in an unbelievable promise.   God’s means are always enough.  The Word never returns void.   The gospel is the power of salvation.  And ‘faith comes by hearing, hearing the Word of Christ.’   Not gimmicks, not slick ad campaigns, not moralism – but it is through the outward and ordinary means of grace that Christ communicates to us the benefits of redemption, delivers sinners, and grows His church.   Do you believe this?

Join us this Lord’s Day as we examine Exodus 4:27-31 and consider the power of the ordinary means of grace to save sinners and grow the Church.

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