Faith of Our Fathers

Faith of Our Fathers

I admit it.  I was afraid of the prospect of changing diapers.  When my first child was born, I rushed to change that first diaper. I had to conquer my fear from the get-go.  But I had not done my homework.  I was not prepared for meconium. It was more than I had bargained for – much more.   

But meconium was not the most shocking aspect of becoming a father.  Most unexpected was the realization that my children would look at me, the way I had looked at my own father.  I never for an instant believed he did not know how to handle any and every situation. He always had a plan, seemed to have things under control – except, that is, when he attempted to fix household appliances.

But as a new dad, I was painfully aware that I did not know how to handle any and every situation.  I did not always have a plan, nor did I have things under control.   As a child my confidence in my father made the uncertain certain and made the impossible possible.  He taught me to plan, to write, to teach.  He taught me the importance of serving others, and in particular, of serving Christ. 

He had his faults to be sure, but I am thankful to be my father’s son.  His shoes were very big.  I sat with him as he drew his last breath in this life.  I was surprised by an overwhelming sense of being untethered as he left us.  Though I was almost fifty years old with seven children of my own, the thought of a world without my father seemed unexpectedly daunting.

Our fathers define us.  Either by their place in our lives, or by their absence.  Some infused us with strength and confidence, while others saddled us with weakness and insecurity.   In one way or another we are all shaped by fatherhood.  Dads, how are you shaping your family? What legacy will you leave? And what mark will your family make upon the world as it unfolds into history?   Genealogy, the study of our generations, is often more about where our family is going than where it started.  Where is your family going? What will be its legacy?

Genealogies in the Bible often seem quite out of place, interrupting great stories just as they reach a high point.   They can be tedious.  And often they are the bane of our daily Bible reading plan.   But they are no less “breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16) 

Tucked in among unpronounceable Hebrew names and begats are some very important theological and practical truths.   God is a God of real people and real history.   God works through families and generations.   God sees, knows, hears, and directs parents, spouses, children, and outsiders toward his grace through their relationships.   No one falls through the cracks.  No one is unknown or unnoticed.   And no one is found among ancestors or descendants who ‘has it all together.’  Every generation needs a savior and looks to Christ.

As Moses prepares to confront Pharaoh and initiate the most awesome display of spiritual power the ancient world had seen in the plagues, the Holy Spirit presses the pause button. He gives us a genealogy and reminds us of the importance of being faithful men and women, boys and girls, following Christ and leaving a legacy of following Christ.   Join us this week as we examine Exodus 6:14-30 and consider the formative power of the ‘Faith of Our Fathers.’

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 Trustworthy Name

The Trustworthy Name

A promise is often trusted more fully when you can trust the the name behind the promise.  When you shop for a product or you see an infomercial explaining why satisfaction is guaranteed if you buy a particular item, that guarantee is more likely to persuade you if you know the brand name and know it is trustworthy.  But even these promises often fail.  

In Exodus 6, Moses is nearing despair as Pharaoh has increased the burdens of the people of God.  This seems to Moses and to the people to go directly against God’s own promise to deliver the people.  But the Lord responds to Moses graciously.  He reminds him of His own invincible sovereignty and that Pharaoh will do what God ordains, and He also reminds him of His Name and of His covenantal faithfulness.  

Exodus 6:2-3 reads, “God spoke to Moses and said to him, ‘I am the LORD.  I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, as God almighty, but by my name I did not make myself known to them.”  Moses received a fuller revelation than even Abraham, Isaac and Jacob as he is more aware than they of the significance of God’s Name, as God had revealed Himself in the burning bush.  God is the One who is self-existent.  God is the One who is self-sufficient.  God is the One who is faithful to His covenant promises, and in His Name we are reminded of these truths.  Moses can trust in the character of God, and Moses can trust in the Name of God.  His promises never fail.

The people of Israel fail to trust in the Lord at this time as they themselves are despairing.  Moses himself is on the cusp of despair as he sees the condition of the people.  And yet, in spite of their lack of trust in Him, the Lord is still faithful.  

Has there ever been a time in your life in which no matter what good news you heard or what you knew to be true, it seemed as if you just could not listen or could not  believe?  Perhaps you need the reminder of Exodus 6 that God is faithful and that His promises are certain.  Will you join us this Lord’s Day evening for worship at The Commons at St. Andrews Church in Little Rock as we consider these truths?  Click here for directions or contact us for more information. We meet at 5 PM, and you can  also watch on FacebookLive@RiverCityARP and 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

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

Signs and Seals

Signs and Seals

Selecting a wedding band was once a straightforward affair.   The only real decisions regarded size and engraving.   A gold band was a gold band.   Larger or smaller, bought at a pawn shop or jeweler, it was adiaphora – a matter of indifference.    And as a pastor, the language used in the wedding service at the giving of the rings was also straightforward.

The ring is a visible symbol of the spiritual covenant that you are making today before God.  The ring will serve for you, and for your children, and for all who see it as a reminder of the purity and the permanence of your marriage covenant.  

Like the gold in the ring which symbolizes purity and beauty, your love for one another is to be pure — unmixed and uncompromised by any other priorities, second only to your love for Christ.   And like ring whose shape, the circle, has neither beginning nor end, you are covenanting today, before God, to enter into a marriage that is permanent and unbreakable.

The gold in your ring may get scratched from time to time, but its beauty and luster will endure.  In the same way there will be trials in your relationship as you learn what it means to live as one-flesh, but your ring will be a constant testimony to you that God has brought you together for keeps. 

But now, during pre-marital counseling, I know to ask “what type of ring will you have?”  While the significance of the ring has nothing to do with what it represents, the liturgy must accommodate the wide diversity of materials now used in wedding bands.   Gold is no longer a given.  Millennials opt for titanium, silicone, and even tattoos.    Nothing says ‘permanence’ like a tattooed wedding band.

While I don’t jibe with everything the in her blog, I appreciate what Laura Ulveling writes in a post promoting GrooveLife alternative rings.

Your ring is simply a universally recognized symbol to show the world and each other that you have committed your life to someone. Whether the wedding ring you chose is cheap or extravagant, gold or platinum, diamond or silicone, its design has no impact on its value.

Even if you decide to exchange traditional wedding rings at the altar, you can still order a set of Groove rings for your adventurous days so you don’t lose your diamonds while you’re climbing waterfalls or deep-sea diving on your honeymoon!

A ring’s design has no impact on its value.  Signs illustrate.  Seals authenticate.  A wedding ring is a sign and seal of the covenant of marriage.   The ring does not make you married and the absence of one does not remove that covenant.   But the ring does point you, and everyone else, to the unbreakable fact that you belong to someone.  The ring can’t make you a spouse, but it can make you a liar.  You have made and received promises.  And those promises define everything about your life.  

One of the pervasive analogies of faith in the Bible is that of husband and wife.  Throughout the Old Testament, the Lord says to his people, “I will be your God and you will be my people.”   This is the wedding vow of the ancient world.   God is the husband to his people.  The New Testament picks up this analogy.  The church is the bride of Christ.   God makes a covenant of grace with his people.  A promise is made and sealed with his own blood in the person of Jesus.   And this promise changes everything.  

But there are days when life crashes in.  When experience seems to contradict or nullify God’s promises.   Can we trust his promises?  Can we trust him?  Is God a faithful spouse?   And when I am not faithful, will he still love me and keep his vows?   Psalm 103 declares that the Lord knows our “frame, that we are but dust.”  Yet, even in our spiritual fragility, he has compassion on us and shows steadfast, unwavering, unbreakable love.    To shore up our flagging faith and soothe our doubts, he gives us signs and seals – reminders of what he has promised and assurances that he is as good as his word.

In the Old Testament God gave repeated sacrifices and sacred spaces to teach the people to expect a once-for-all savior who would secure all God’s gracious promises.   Now, God has given us clearer signs and seals – baptism and the Lord’s Supper.  But their purpose is the same, to point us to his promises and assure us of his faithfulness.

Moses experience at the burning bush was intense.   God spoke and called Moses to deliver his people.   Moses had waited a lifetime for this opportunity.   But in is waning years, was it too late?  Moses’ response is unexpected.   The man who forty years ago rose quickly and decisively to right every wrong and to seek justice for every injustice, now wavers.   Four times Moses makes excuses and offers objection after objection.   Finally, he simply asks God to find someone else.    But God’s call is a command not an offer – a promise, not a proposition.  

A promise given to Abraham and renewed generation after generation to Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Amram, and now to Moses.  A promise guaranteed by God’s Word and Character and signed and sealed by circumcision.  Moses answers God’s call but we see hesitancy and unfaithfulness.   In one of the Bible’s most enigmatic passages the Lord meets Moses’ family on their way to Egypt with a mortal threat.  Why?  Because they had despised the signs and seals of God’s promise.   Moses is on his way to claim the temporal promises of the covenant of grace, but neglected to place its sign and seal upon his family.

How important are covenant signs?   Are they means of grace to be diligently used or nostalgic rituals to be casually employed?   The story of Zipporah and the ‘bridegroom of blood’ is no literary detour from the exodus, but gets to the heart of our faith.   Join us as we examine Exodus 4:18-26 and consider the importance of covenant ‘signs and seals.’

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