The Stricken Rock

The Stricken Rock

It would be quite a scene to see a judge take the place of a guilty party in a courtroom, yet this is what we see in Exodus 17:1-7. The people of God now camp at Rephidim at the Lord’s command. He is the One who has led them there, and the people have already seen the Lord provide for their needs in miraculous ways. In Exodus 15, in spite of the grumbling of the people, He made the bitter water sweet for them so that they could drink it. In Exodus 16, also in spite of the grumbling of the people, He gave them bread from heaven so that they might be nourished and have something to eat. Now, in Exodus 17 they come to a desert land in which there is no water, but instead of trusting the Lord to provide for them again, they grumble against Him.

We ought to make no mistake–to grumble against the Lord’s plans is to rebel against God Himself. The people were in essence seeking to be the judge of God’s character and accusing not only Moses, but the Lord of injustice. This was a serious thing. Yet, once again, the Lord shows grace and mercy to His grumbling people. He tells Moses to take the staff and go before the people. This staff is the staff that was used in judgment against the Egyptians as the Lord sent plagues upon them and ultimately defeated them at the Red Sea. This is a staff that represents judgment.

We might expect that the Lord would use this staff against His people for their grumbling, but that is not what the Lord does. Instead, He tells Moses, “Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock at Horeb, and you shall strike the rock, and water shall come out of it, and the people will drink.” Not only will the Lord provide for the needs of His people again, but the rock will be stricken instead of them. Paul elaborates on this in 1 Corinthians 10:4 when he says, “and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ.” The striking of the rock in the wilderness points us to our Savior who would be the Rock stricken in the place of His people, dying as a substitute for them. In Him, His people receive living water. Join us for worship this Lord’s Day at The Commons at St. Andrews Church in Little Rock as we consider these truths together. For directions, click here, or contact us for more information. You can also watch on FacebookLive@RiverCityARP or on YouTube.

On Being Hangry

On Being Hangry

Language is never static.  It always has a backstory.  Languages are living things, constantly changing to reflect a culture.   Like rings on a tree, linguistic change charts cultural change.  Words indexed to outdated ideas or behaviors become, ‘archaic.’  And new words are created to reflect cultural realities our forefathers could not have imagined.   This process can occur very quickly, especially as technological change accelerates the use of jargon.   

The English language often grows most prolifically by the addition of new verbs formed out of old or proper nouns.   For example, we ‘google’ and we ‘message.’   But it also grows through the conflation of adjectives to express multiple attributes in a single word for the sake of emphasis.   We see this in new super-adjectives such as “ginormous” and “hangry.”

“Hangry” is a conflation of hungry and angry to make a new word which means to be “bad-tempered or irritable as a result of hunger.”   Being hangry is not usually the result of real or sustained hunger, rather the American version of hunger – I don’t have what I want, when I want it.   Being “hangry” is an expression of simple whiny discontent.   While the word “hangry” has been around for over a century, it has only come into popular usage in the last few years as our culture has become increasingly discontent.

Recent studies have attempted to understand the relationship between being hungry and being ill-tempered.  In an article for, Deena Adimoolam, assistant professor in the Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes, and Bone Disease at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, observed.

“When we do not eat, blood sugar goes low. When your blood sugar falls, the hormones cortisol and epinephrine are released in an attempt to raise it back to normal. But those hormones also happen to lead to irritability.”

Scientists posit other possible connections between hunger and anger as well.  Yet the real problem is not one of cortisol and epinephrine, but discontent and lack of self-control.   Or worse, a lack of faith.

As Israel trekked toward Mt. Sinai, they were not really hungry.   But they were “hangry.” God delivered them through the midst of the Red Sea.  He slaked their thirst in the middle of a desert with a log and a bitter pool.   He directed their every step with a pillar of cloud and fire from one grace to another.  

Yet as days, stretched into weeks and weeks into a month the land became more inhospitable.   No forage appeared.   They began to worry and grumble.   They had flocks and herds, plenty of livestock, and perhaps even some remnants of their unleavened dough, but their anxiety got the better of them.

They became hangry.   And they took it out on Moses and Aaron, even though the pillar of God’s own presence stood right in front of them.  The Song of the Sea had faded from their lips and ears.   The miracle at Marah was quickly forgotten.   The Red Sea was out of sight and out of mind.   Though free, they continued to think like slaves.  Grumbling, always grumbling.   Longing for slavery with security rather than freedom with faith.

The Christian life ever suffers from the temptation to walk by sight, not by faith.   And this makes us spiritually hangry – bad-tempered and irritable because things have not happened as we expected.  Malcontentment is warned against throughout the scripture.  While contentment is encouraged.  Not because it is a meritorious virtue, but because it is a measure of our faith.   It is a thermometer, not a thermostat of our faith.   It flows out of a living faith and trust in God’s promises.   Phillip Ryken puts it bluntly.

Our complaints really are never caused by our outward circumstances.  Instead, they reveal the inward condition of our hearts.  [The Israelites] complaining went far beyond griping about their menu.  They were rebelling against God’s plan for their salvation.

Are you a complainer?  Is whining your first response to every crisis of belief?   Are you discontent with what God has brought to pass.  Are you rebelling against His way of saving and sanctifying you?   The people of Israel were not hungry.   They had not exhausted their provisions.   And more than that, God had promised to care for them even though their prospects looked bleak.   They were not hungry, but they were hangry.   And their “hanger” threatened to cause them to turn back from the promises and care of their God and Savior.  

Are you spiritually hangry?  Bad-tempered and irritable because God has not made you what you want to be?  Not given you what you desire?   Or led you into a bleak, monotonous, or unpromising situation?   Join us as we examine Exodus 16 and consider the dangers of complaining and the gracious means God gives to deliver 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

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