Luminescence

Luminescence

We can’t resist it.   It draws us without fail.   Light was the first element of creation — the first thing spoken by God into the visible world.   Though sinful men love darkness, we were made for light.   We may scoff at the foolish moth, incapable of resisting it.   But we are the same.   Light draws us.  We can’t resist it.

Light reveals what the darkness conceals.   When we are afraid, we turn on the light.   When we are lost, we look for lights.   When we need safety, we find a well-lighted place.  All life on planet earth depends upon light.   And we are comforted by the fact that with God, even the darkness is light.   We are counseled to walk in the light as He is in the light.   Jesus described himself as the ‘light of the world.’  “If any man follows me,” he said, “he will never walk in darkness.”   And the Bible describes heaven as a place where, “night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light.”

Light brings life, comfort, clarity, truth.   But it sometimes brings danger as well.   For there are counterfeit lights, lights that are not what they seem.    When someone says they finally see the “light at the end of the tunnel” the pessimist opines, “I hope it is not a train.”   The Bible warns us of counterfeit lights when it tells us that the devil “masquerades as an angel of light.”   Ironically, the name Lucifer means ‘light-bearer.’   But the light he bears brings darkness and death to everyone who approaches.   He is like the deep-sea anglerfish.

The Deep-Sea Anglerfish is a deceiver.  In the deep dark places of the ocean, it attracts both prey and mates with a bioluminescent lure.   Unsuspecting victims are drawn to its light and beauty in a place where darkness makes all else invisible.   Yet this light is not a place of beauty or refuge, but a place of death.   Enormous teeth and a cavernous maw make this ‘Black Sea-devil’ a grotesque and lethal light post.    

Through trickery and deception, they lure and devour their prey.   Like many things in the physical world, the devilfish mirrors the spiritual world.   Satan is like the devilfish.   He appears as an angel of light only to devours us.   He draws us with subtlety and rationale.   Consuming us with his lies.   And when temptation and deceit falter, he tries despair.

The devil, tries repeatedly to overthrow God’s redemptive plan.  He fails at every turn.   Yet his failure never wearies his fury.   Revelation 12:17 warns us of his attacks.

Then the dragon became furious with the woman and went off to make war on the rest of her offspring, on those who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus. And he stood on the sand of the sea.

Revelation 13 then unfolds what this fury looks like.   Two beasts emerge.  One from the sea and one from the earth.  An unholy Trinity of counterfeits to Father, Son, and Holy Spirit emerge in the persons of the dragon, the beast from the sea, and the Beast from the earth.   They are poor counterfeits indeed, but they lead the world astray and mobilize the cultures to make war against the Church.

In this well-known narrative, the Lord Jesus calls us to endurance and faith.   Conquest belongs to the Church, but it comes at a cost.   Satan’s fury is intense.  His warfare unrelenting.  When we face his rage, it is easy to despair.   Revelation 13 drives this home, but makes it clear that this counterfeit trinity will never conquer.  Martin Luther put it well.

And though this world with devils filled, should threaten to undo us
We will not fear for God hath willed, His truth to triumph through us
The Prince of Darkness grim, we tremble not for him
His rage we can endure, for lo his doom is sure
One little word shall fell him

That Word above all earthly pow’r, no thanks to them abideth;
The Spirit and the gifts are ours through Him who with us sideth;
Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also;
The body they may kill; God’s truth abideth still,
His kingdom is forever!

A Mighty Fortress Is Our God

We are all afraid of the dark, but sometimes what appears to be light is even darker.  Join us this week as we examine Revelation 13:1-10 and unpack God’s comfort for trying times.

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

Pastoral Faithfulness

Pastoral Faithfulness

The Apostle Paul is often referred to as the greatest missionary in the history of the church.  It is also clear from the Scriptures that Paul was a loving pastor.  There were many churches with whom Paul had a close pastoral relationship, and the church in Thessalonica was one of these churches.  In chapter one of 1 Thessalonians, we see that Paul possessed a gospel thankfulness, and in  chapter 2 we see something of Paul’s gospel faithfulness. 

As Paul proclaimed his message to the Thessalonian Christians, he recognized that he was not ultimately bringing his own words to them, but God’s Word (see verse 13).  Faithfulness to God and His Word drove his ministry to them.  And, as noted in chapter one, this was effective because God’s Word is indeed powerful, and because the Spirit of God worked through the preaching of the Word to awaken the Thessalonians unto the grace and mercy of God.  We see this even more clearly displayed as Paul recounts not only his ministry to them, but also the fruit of that ministry among them.  The Thessalonian Christians had received Paul’s message and lived according to it.

But as is regularly the case with faithful ministry, there were those who sought to oppose the Gospel.  The Gospel message will see many responses—there are those who respond in faith.  There are also those who respond with apathy.  And there are those who respond with hostility.  It is in the context of great opposition to the gospel that Paul writes this letter, to encourage the Thessalonian Christians to remember his faithful ministry.  But again, it is not ultimately because it is his ministry that Paul writes this, but because he comes as an Apostle set apart by God, given a true message from the living God. 

As we consider this context of 1 Thessalonians, consider your own response to the Gospel message.  Consider what role that message plays in your life.  The Bible is the very Word of God.  Have you believed it, and have you seen the glory of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in it?  And do you rest on Him as your eternal hope? 

Join us as this Lord’s Day at 5 at the Arkansas Dream Center located 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.  For the order of service, click here.

Photo by John-Mark Smith on Unsplash.

Gospel Thankfulness

Gospel Thankfulness

The Apostle Paul was known as a thankful person.  This is undoubtedly due to the fact that he was aware of the grace of God shown to him in Christ Jesus.  He had been a persecutor of the church of Jesus Christ and an enemy of the Gospel, and yet by grace God had opened his eyes and his heart and made him an Apostle of Jesus Christ.  Paul’s attitude of thankfulness flows through many of his letters and especially his greetings and introductions.  Paul and Silvanus and Timothy send greetings and write, “Grace to you and peace.”  (1 Thessalonians 1:1, English Standard Version)  The grace and peace of which they speak is that which is found in Christ Jesus.  Jesus Christ, the gracious Savior, has given His people peace with God by His work on their behalf.  It is by knowing the Person of Christ who has done this work that the people of God have grace and peace. 

The introduction to the letter goes on to commend the Thessalonians, with Paul noting his thankfulness.  While Paul is thankful for these believers themselves, we may note that the thanks he expresses is ultimately based upon what God has done in the lives of the Thessalonians.  This is a Gospel thankfulness, a thankfulness based on the Good News of Jesus Christ and the ways in which God Himself has transformed these believers.  Paul writes in verse 4,  “For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you…”  Paul is thankful for what God has done.  The Thessalonians are faithful and an encouragement to the Apostle Paul because God has chosen them.  This is the same choosing grace that Paul himself knew well.  As Paul had at one time been opposed to Christ, God chose him and drew him unto himself.  Paul next references the way in which God has specifically saved and worked in  the Thessalonian Christians in verses 5-7, writing, “because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction. You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake.  And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit,  so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia.”  When the Thessalonian Christians heard the Gospel preached by Paul and his company, the Lord called them irresistibly to Himself, changing them from the inside out.  Paul rejoices at their conversion that God wrought and also at their continued growth in grace. 

Are we marked by Gospel thankfulness?  Are we thankful for the work God has done in our lives and also in the lives of fellow believers?  Do we long, as did Paul, to see the lost converted? 

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.  For the order of service, click here.

Photo by Pro Church Media on Unsplash.

Here Be Dragons!

Here Be Dragons!

I confess! I am not adventurous.   I like things predictable, manageable, consistent.   I see no reason to add colors to my wardrobe.  Blue and khaki always coordinate.   And while menus have options, the ‘old favorites’ are favorites for a reason.  Sure, mystery might be exciting, but I am not a huge fan.   Especially when it comes to travel.  

The internet is a boon for the non-adventurous traveler.  Every detail can be examined, anticipated, and planned.   Not only can I plot every course — and every alternate route — but with GoogleEarth, I can view the landscape and landmarks as well.   Travel should be like a Swiss watch — smooth and accurate.  No broken cogs or gears, no unexpected cancellations, no alternate routes, no field retrofits.  And certainly, no uncharted territory.

I completely understand the anxiety of ancient mariners whose maps ended short of their destination.   No comfort comes from drawings of beasties labeled, “here be dragons!”   As if the prospect of sailing off the edge of the world was not enough.   Thankfully, most places we travel are now mapped.  And despite the History Channel’s best attempts, no dragons have been found.   Or have they?

Some journeys do, indeed, boast dragons.   The Bible, the map that guides our spiritual journey through this life, does indeed warn of a dragon.   A vile beast who appears as an angel of light.  Jesus described as “a murderer from the beginning, [who] does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” 

He is no mere abstract idea.  He is described as real and personal.    He prowls about like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour.  He longs to enslave us with a lifelong fear of death.  He plots our ruin.  He seeks to lead us to sin, then accuses us before God’s justice.   He is the enemy of all righteousness, full of all deceit and villainy.   He hates anything that gives glory to God, and everything made in God’s image.  He is at enmity with all mankind and at war with the people of God.

Revelation portrays him as an enormous dragon, with seven crowned heads.   He is the Great Pretender to the throne of the universe, a vicious tyrant who hates all his subjects.   He is a defeated foe, but his defeat has only made him more malevolent.  Revelation 12:7-12 describes his current condition.

And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death. Therefore, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!”

He is defeated, but not to be ignored.   The futility of his conflict has not led him to surrender.  He is the enemy of the church and is at war with her.  We read that “the dragon became furious with the woman and went off to make war on the rest of her offspring, on those who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus.” 

Revelation is a book of comfort, not discomfort, but “forewarned is forearmed.”   Christ has broken the power of the Devil.   Satan cannot triumph, but he is carrying out a war of terror.   Revelation 12 paints this picture with vivid colors and bold brush strokes.   Using a palate from Exodus, Daniel, and Zechariah, the Holy Spirit creates a stunning spiritual view of the persecuted church.   Satan tries to destroy both Christ and His Church.   But fails at every turn.  

God’s word tells us that our journey is marked with “here be dragons!” But that is not the last word. The Bible tells us that, “the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8) and that God “disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in [Christ].” (Colossians 2:15) Join us this week as we examine Revelation 12:1-18 and consider a call to vigilant, yet victorious life in Christ.

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.  For the Order of Service, click here.

Thy Kingdom Come

Thy Kingdom Come

“Son, always know what your signing – a man’s word is his bond.”  My father’s advice was sage.   And I tried to live by that maxim.  That is, until, I purchased my first house.   The number of pages to sign appeared greater than the number of dollars borrowed.   I was overwhelmed.   My settled conviction to read everything before signing ran headlong into practical reality.   Sensing my crisis, the loan officer quipped.  “Let me to make it easy.   If you pay you stay, if you don’t you won’t.   It all boils down to that.”   With that abridgement, I signed like an author at a book signing.  And we were done by lunch.  

This experience prepared me for the digital age.   Every website, download, and upgrade come with a cornucopia of legalese.   It’s all there in black and white — all terms of use, privacy agreements, and obligations.   Of course, we are free not to sign, but then we are also not free to use.   We all agree that we should read, but do not.    Virtually every part of our digital life demands the sacrifice of my father’s maxim.  We check the box and click “I agree” in a New York second.   Then Google, Amazon, Apple, Microsoft and the NSA have us dead-to-rights.   But we did get free email and shipping.

Failing to pay attention to what we read has consequences.   But so does failing to pay attention to what we say.    We are quick repeat what we hear without careful reflection.  With a single click we can ‘share’ our lack of reflection in a dozen ways.   And what is a problem for conversation is deadly for prayer.  How much do we reflect on what we pray?  Jesus warned us about “vain repetition” in prayer.     

“And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. Pray then like this: ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven…’” 

Matthew 6:7-10

Many Christians pray this regularly.   Perhaps you pray it each week in worship.   And though the Lord’s prayer is both a prayer to be prayed and a pattern for be followed, it can easily be vainly repeated.    How serious are we about the Father’s kingdom coming?  Not some time in the distant future in a galaxy far, far away but here and now.   How eager are we for God’s will to be done on earth as it is in heaven?    Sure, we want our daily bread and forgiveness for our debts, but how about the reign and rule of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit in our day-to-day life and the world we inhabit.  Has this cry become a vain repetition?  A word we utter, but pay no attention?  

In Revelation 11:15 the persistent prayer of the church is answered.  “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever.”

In this answered prayer we are reminded that God delights to answer our prayer.   Even the most remarkable request.   The vision of the Seventh Trumpet declares that we are not forgotten by our God.   Our prayers are not in vain.   Therefore, we ought to pray boldly, earnestly, and expectantly.   Not vainly or carelessly.   Join us this week as we examine Revelation 11:15-19 and consider the prayer God delights to answer – that His kingdom come and His will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

We meet from 5:00 – 6:30 pm, outside on The Pavilion 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.  For the Order of Service, click here.