First Steps

First Steps

A baby’s first step is a big deal.  That one small step for baby-kind is a giant leap for growth, maturity, and independence.  That first step begins with learning to roll over.  Then comes the ‘army crawl.’   Then pulling up and letting go.  Finally, that first tentative step is taken.   Every eye is riveted on baby as she lets go and wobbles forward in a tenuous rapture.   And in that instant of confidence, she takes her first step.

Parents hold their breath, fumbling for phones to capture the moment.  And as they cheer exuberantly from the sidelines the moment quickly passes.   Overwhelmed by attention, baby becomes self-aware of the uncertainties of walking upright.   Like Peter walking on the Sea of Galilee, her faith wavers and she sinks down to the floor. 

Her parents revel in the accomplishment.  They text videos to grandparents and friends.  Put stickers in the baby book.  And tearfully journal that their baby is growing up.   Then in a flash of prescience, the full weight of what just happened dawns on them.   That first step has been taken.  It is the step that leads to climbing, to running ahead, and to learning the power of ‘no.’   Much more has changed than mere mobility.

First steps mark more than the end of infancy.  They mark the beginning of freedom.  Children learn to trust and obey parents, not because they must, but because they should.  First steps lead to experience and peril beyond a child’s maturity to assess or navigate.  Those first steps are physically significant, but even more significant relationally and spiritually.

For the Israelites, the deliverance through the Red Sea is just the beginning.   As God’s people, their infancy is over.  Now it is time to take the first steps of new life in Christ.   Steps that call on them to endure trial.   Steps that require the continual exercise of faith.   And steps that teach them to enjoy the Lord.  God’s saving act in their lives, as in ours, is never the telos, but the ontos.   Deliverance is just the beginning.   By faith we must take our first steps and follow Christ, step by step, wide-eyed, and full of tenuous rapture.

But these first steps are not without peril.  We are told to count the cost.  God’s Word is filled with examples that embolden and warn.   No sooner had God delivered the people from certain death on the shores of the Red Sea, littering the beach with the bodies of their enemies, than the people failed at the very first test of faith.   The people were finally free of Pharaoh’s death grip.  But three days in the desert without water is serious. 

For a single lost traveler, three days without water is dire.  But for over two million refugees and their livestock, it is a humanitarian crisis.   They had followed the pillar of cloud and fire, but it led them only to bitter water.  And their lack of faith makes their hearts, minds, and speech bitter as well.   Their memory is short.   And their faith even shorter.   Yet, despite their faithlessness, God is faithful.  He graciously slakes their thirst.  And gives them something more important – his promise.

There the Lord made for them a statute and a rule, and there he tested them, saying, “If you will diligently listen to the voice of the Lord your God, and do that which is right in his eyes, and give ear to his commandments and keep all his statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you that I put on the Egyptians, for I am the Lord, your healer.”

Exodus 15:25-26

On the far shore of the Red Sea faith and worship come easily.  But at the edge of Marah’s bitter waters, faith is tested.  But faith also grows.  When you are in the bitter place will you “diligently listen to the voice of the Lord your God, and do that which is right in his eyes, and give ear to his commandments and keep all his statutes?”  Or is that when you grumble and turn away?  Obedience is not the path that leads to grace, it is the road that leads out from it.   Obedience teaches us how to enjoy God, which is why we exist.

Do you enjoy the Lord even when the water is bitter?  When the children and the livestock are crying for thirst will you cry out to him or against him?  When the Lord, himself, leads you to a dead end, will you trust him even then?   The Christian life begins with deliverance.  But that is only the beginning.  Like the disciples in the gospels, we too are called to follow — to endure trials, to exercise faith, and to learn to enjoy God in any and every circumstance.   

Have you taken those first steps of faith to follow Christ?  Join us as we examine Exodus 15:22-27 and consider God’s gracious work of sanctification in the life of the believer as he teaches us to endure trial, exercise faith, and enjoy him, no matter what.

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 Song of Moses

The Song of Moses

Often times momentous occasions are marked by song. Many events throughout history are commemorated by songs that were written by people who were present or by those reflecting upon those events. In Exodus 15:1-21, Moses and the people of God sing as they reflect on what God has just done in miraculously delivering the people of God at the crossing of the Red Sea.

We may wonder why it is we sing in church. As we look at this song, we realize that God’s character and all that He has done undergird its content. This is what biblical worship is and where biblical worship leads. Biblical worship is reflective of who God is and of His mighty deeds, and it drives us more and more to consider who God is and what He has done. Often in our world, worship can become about us and our preferences, and this is not only a problem out there–we ought to ask ourselves if we tend to slip into this way of thinking. Passages such as this one serve as a needed corrective and should be a formative influence upon us with regard to praise and worship.

We will speak about much of the content of this song more fully this Lord’s Day evening, but one of the truths we can begin to consider now is that Moses is quite clear that the salvation of God’s people has been all of His work of grace and deliverance. It had nothing to do with what they had achieved, but it had everything to do with God and His purposes. Moses was confident that God had accomplished their deliverance. As a Christian, you have the confidence that your redemption has been accomplished in the work of Christ, and because of this, your soul will never be destroyed.

Join us this Lord’s Day evening as we consider this passage together. We meet for worship at 5 PM at The Commons at St. Andrews Church in Little Rock. For directions, click here, or contact us for more information. You can also watch on FacebookLive@RiverCityARP or on YouTube.

Piling On

Piling On

The cool, crisp air.  The crunching of fallen leaves. And the low amber lighting of late afternoon means Fall is in full swing.  Hands down, Autumn is my favorite season.  So many fond memories cluster around Fall, its traditions, and its holidays.   It takes me to many happy places in my past.  My mother preparing seasonal feasts.  My wedding day.   Raking mountains of hickory and white oak leaves with my Dad.  And drives through Arkansas’ highways and byways in awe of God’s artistry.   But Fall also reminds me of football.

No, not the hours spent with my Dad listening to Larry Munson call Georgia Bulldog games or any organized league play.   But the informal neighborhood league that existed in suburban Stone Mountain where I grew up.   Colony East and Indian Forrest and my own enclave, Inca Court, put together small 3 to 4 man elite squads which battled it out on a field behind the Stripling’s house for regional bragging rights.  Don, Alan, and I and sometimes Norman, were the pride of Inca Court.  

We practiced every day after school until the light faded or our moms called us for supper.   We cut down small trees to fashion our own goal post.  We were the only neighborhood venue that offered the opportunity to kick ‘real’ extra points.  Though, admittedly, retrieving the balls from the surrounding woods was sometimes a challenge.   It was sandlot ball at its finest.  And we took it seriously. 

Of course, there were no referees and few rules. Controversial plays were resolved by “do-over.”  And every running play inevitably resulted in ‘piling on.’   Even if the ball carrier was clearly down.  The play was not over until every man on the field was added to the pile.   Learning to survive being piled-on was a non-negotiable skill.

In organized play, piling on is a serious offense.  It is a personal foul and carries lengthy penalties.  It is considered excessive force, gratuitous violence.  A vindictive adding of insult to injury.   But for us, piling on was the glorious privilege of every man on the field.  We relished its place in our gridiron heroics.

‘Piling on’ in our idiom has negative connotations.   It denotes addition to a load that is already unbearable, especially harsh or excessive criticism.  It is akin to “kicking them when they are down.”   It speaks of what is gratuitous or excessive beyond what is sufficient.   But ‘piling on’ need not always be a bad thing. 

God delights to pile on.   Not excessive demands or requirements, but grace upon grace, blessing upon blessing, provision upon provision.  We see this both implicitly and explicitly in the Scriptures.  Jesus taught, “give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap.” (Luke 6:38) And John, the beloved disciple, said of Jesus, “For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.” (John 1:16)

In Exodus 14, we see his grace upon grace, God’s piling on blessing upon blessing through the deliverance of Israel through the Red Sea.   He protects and delivers his people.  He destroys their enemies.  He comforts and assures them with his presence.  He watches over them.  He grants them faith.   The only things piled higher than the waters of the Red Sea are the blessings of God’s grace upon grace to an unworthy but elect people.  But even this is not all.  With the pillar of cloud and fire, there is another tremendous gift.  The Angel of the Presence.  The one who is very God of very God, yet would one day take on flesh to deliver us from a greater enemy than any ancient king.

God is no miser of grace.  When he sets his love upon you, he lavishes you with grace upon grace.   He holds nothing back.  “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?”  His love is higher, wider, deeper and more expansive than you can possibly imagine.  Join us as we examine Exodus 14:15-31 and consider this grace upon grace.

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

10/02/2022 | “Moving Day” | Exodus 13:17-22

10/02/2022 | “Moving Day” | Exodus 13:17-22

Few things are more difficult than Moving Day. In Exodus 13, Israel is on the move. To prepare them to travel God gives three things – a plan, a promise, and his presence.  All to make it easier for them to follow. Things we also need as we follow Christ.  Join us as we examine the departure of Israel from Egypt in Exodus 13:17-22.  And as we consider some critical truths about following God when he brings us to our own Moving Day. 

09/25/2022 | “Keeping the Feast” | Exodus 12:43-13:16

09/25/2022 | “Keeping the Feast” | Exodus 12:43-13:16

At the climax of the exodus, we see more instruction than action. God instructs Israel to keep Passover with diligence and sincerity. We too are instructed to keep the feast. To celebrate Christ our Passover at the Lord’s Table. Are you keeping the feast? Coming in faith? Carefully prepared?  Join us as we examine Exodus 12:43-13:16 to consider God’s instructions to his ancient people and to us to keep the feast.