Acts of God

Acts of God

Literally anything can be insured today.   Your health, your life, your car, your house, these have long been insurable.   But now anything you can buy on Amazon comes with an optional protection plan.  Asurion and SquareTrade will sell you piece of mind for any device imaginable.   No matter what happens, you’re in good hands.   These ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ plans promise to fix anything and everything for any reason.   Once plan declares,

…you’re covered from day one for damage caused by common accidents, including: knocking it off a table, dropping it in water, your dog chewing on it

[we] cover your device from all electrical and mechanical failures, including battery replacements if the original battery won’t hold at least a 50% charge. Drop it? Spill on it? No worries. We cover accidents caused by you and people you know.

Sounds like absolute security!   But, like all things legal and financial, read the fine print.   Theft, loss, and ‘intentional damage’ is not covered, along with other vague categories of disaster which create large liability loopholes.   And the list of coverage exceptions always ends with the coup de grace of limited liability, ‘Acts of God.’

Acts of God are serious.   No insurance can or will protect us from them.   There are things in life that just happen.   Things we expect.  Things which, though disastrous, we have come to expect.  But acts of God are those things so catastrophic and unexpected that they get our existential attention.  

For example, in 1755 an earthquake struck off the coast of Portugal triggering a Tsunami which ignited a massive firestorm in the city of Lisbon.   The consequences were devastating.   The death and destruction triggered by this act of God ignited an existential firestorm.   Enlightenment philosophers and churchmen fiercely debated the goodness of God and whether this world constitutes the “best of all possible worlds.”

There are things in our lives that just happen, and then there are acts of God.   Those are the things that confront us with the deep existential questions and keep us up at night.   Does God exist?  What kind of God is he?  What does he demand or expect of me?   Is he pleased or displeased with me?   Can I know the answers to any of these questions?  If so, how?

God has a plan and a purpose for the world.   The Book of Revelation pictures this plan as a scroll sealed with seven seals.   No mere man can open it or look into it.  The only one found worthy is the Lamb slain, who yet lives – the Lord Jesus Christ.   As he opens the seals in Revelation 6, we see a series of events that, for the most part, are a part of the common experience of men throughout history: conquest, bloodshed, famine, injustice, and persecution.    These things are devastating, but not unexpected.   They will sometimes draw men’s attention to the greater reality of God and our relation to him, but often men’s focus is more earthbound in such times.

But in Revelation 8, Jesus opens the final seal and reveals the contents of the scroll.   The judgements found there move from common experiences of men to remarkable acts of God.  While God’s providence extends to all his creatures and all their actions, some providences reveal more clearly his active agency in our lives.   Acts of God get our attention.  They provoke deeper questions than, “how do I survive.”   They provoke us to recognize God’s existence, nature, authority.  And to wrestle with our relationship to him.

But even in the dramatic judgements of Revelation 8, we see the grace of God shining through the terror the first four trumpets.   God acts in ways similar to the plagues against Egypt, signs given to warn men to abandon their false gods and to find deliverance in the Living God alone.  Signs that also warn us not to harden our hearts and flee from the Lamb.    But to flee to Him. 

The use of trumpets for these acts of God is significant.  Trumpets in the Bible are used to signify many things:  a call to battle, a warning of impending attack, to call Sons of Israel to the feasts, but the most significant use is to declare the year of Jubilee – to declare freedom for the captive and release from slavery.  The trumpets of judgement that begin to blow in Revelation 8 are acts of God that warn us and call us to flee to and not from God for deliverance from the slavery of sin and the righteous judgement we deserve.   These trumpets call us flee to the Lamb who was slain, who “by His blood has ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.”

When acts of God occur, we begin to ask questions.   But are we seeking answers?   In these trumpets, God is warning us to return to Him.   As the unfolding narrative of Revelation everywhere declares, “in wrath, He remembers mercy.”   Are you listening?   Will you flee from the wrath of the Lamb or flee to the Lamb in the midst of the throne who will be your shepherd, who will guide you to springs of living water and wipe away every tear from your eyes.  Join us this week as we examine Revelation 8 and consider God’s gracious warning to us through his undeniable acts of judgement.

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.

Photo by Josep Castells on Unsplash

Unbreakable

Unbreakable

The cool kids never got it — the fascination uncool kids have with graphic novels.   We called them comic books back in the day.   Their plot rarely varied.   A terrible accident exposes the ninety-pound weakling to some toxic power.   He escapes death, but is mysteriously mutated.  The power that should have killed him, becomes part of him.  As he learns when and how to use it, he brings justice to the unjust, care for the uncared for, and protection to the unprotected.   What should have killed him made him stronger.  And the zero becomes the superhero.

Every bullied kid wants to believe this can happen.    We all want to be the victor, not the victim.   To find some secret power to be an overcomer.   Especially when the deck seems stacked against us.   Abuse from those who despise us, disappointment with those who love us, and discontentment with ourselves all threaten to crush us beneath a load too heavy to shrug off.  If only we had a superhero power.  Then maybe we could stand against the weight of this fallen world.   But as it is, who can stand?   

Revelation 6 is a disquieting read.   As the Worthy One comes forward to open the book of ‘God’s Wonderful Plan for the World,’ the world and everything in it is coming apart at the seams.   The Lamb’s Book of Comfort is anything but comforting.   Conquest, wanton bloodshed, famine and social injustice, death, intolerance and persecution, and cosmic disintegration are all on the docket.   The worlds groans under the weight of the Fall. 

Kings and great ones, generals and the rich and powerful, for all they possess, offer nothing but despair.   Once victors, they are now victims.  In a dramatic scene, men flee from the wrath of the Lamb.  They would rather be crushed in caves than face God’s justice.   In hopelessness they cry out, “who can stand?”  For all their power they are powerless.  The weight of a fallen world is unbearable.  Who can stand?   

Though uttered in despair, this question is not without an answer.   The narrative of God’s unfolding judgement is paused by a remarkable picture of God’s grace.    Revelation 7 offers an interlude in the unfolding apocalypse.  And gives us a complementary vision of grace.  In wrath the Lord remembers mercy.   “Who can stand?”   Those who have the seal of the Living God, they will stand.   They stand victoriously in this world as the ‘Church Militant’ and in eternity before God’s throne as the ‘Church Triumphant.’  

Like characters in graphic novels, we too are marginalized by our sin.   Victims of Adam’s Fall and our own fallenness, we are dead in sins and transgressions.   “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ.” (Ephesians 2:4-5) 

By no power of our own, God graciously places in us a power greater than that in the world.    He makes victors out of victims.   He seals us with His Name and the Name of the Lamb, the name that is above every other name, the name that causes every knee to bow in heaven and on earth and under the earth.   Who can stand against those who are sealed with the Name of our God and of the Lamb?   No matter how the world tries to break those who belong to Jesus, they are unbreakable.   “God’s firm foundation stands, bearing this seal: The Lord knows those who are his.” (2 Timothy 2:19)

Are you broken?  Does your world seem to be coming apart at the seams?  Have you thought, “can I stand?”   Those who belong to the Lamb will stand, now and forever.   Simply come to Jesus in faith and repentance.   You are invited.  He said, “come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28) and “whoever comes to me I will never cast out.” (John 6:37)   Join us this week as we examine Revelation 7 and see how Jesus transforms the broken into the unbreakable.

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.

Photo by Yogi Ramadhan on Unsplash

Getting Noticed

Getting Noticed

Epidemiologists not longer classify COVID as a pandemic.  Now, apparently, we are in an ‘endemic.’   A disease becomes ‘endemic’ when it “persists in a population or region, generally having settled to a relatively constant rate of occurrence.”  In other words, the virus has become a part of the furniture of life and is no longer ‘going viral.  

The phrase ‘going viral’ used to carry only bad connotations.   But social media has made ‘going viral’ the goal of influences, extroverts, and narcissists of all stripes.   It means you are getting noticed.   And most of us want to get noticed.   Our style, our vibe, our pursuits all tend toward this end.   We want to be seen, loved, valued, cherished.   Yes, even introverts want to get noticed.   They just don’t want to have to talk with anyone about it.  Even Solomon recognized this need in the Proverbs when he wrote.

Let another praise you, and not your own mouth;
    a stranger, and not your own lips. 

Proverbs 27:2

But there are times we don’t want to get noticed.   When we prefer anonymity.  Times we would like to be an Invisible Man.  When we want to say, do, or think things we shouldn’t.  Or when we don’t want others in our business.   We try to fly under the radar.  Or at least deceive ourselves that we can.   The hard reality is that we never live outside scrutiny.  

While the Orwellian suspicion that ‘Big Brother is watching’ is increasingly plausible, there is without a doubt, an Eternal Father who is.  Nothing escapes his gaze.  The things we want to go unnoticed are not.  And the things no one else seems to notice, are.    The Chronicler’s words are both encouragement and warning.

For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward him.

2 Chronicles 16:9

Unbelievers hope God will not see.  Believers pray He will.   The temptation for both is to believe that God either cannot or prefers not to see and act.   But the Heavenly Father comforts his children with reminders that He sees, cares, and acts.    This theme repeatedly shows up in the tears and prayers of Psalmists.  

They pour out their arrogant words;
    all the evildoers boast.
They crush your people, O Lord,
    and afflict your heritage.
They kill the widow and the sojourner,
    and murder the fatherless;
and they say, “The Lord does not see;
    the God of Jacob does not perceive.”

Understand, O dullest of the people!
    Fools, when will you be wise?
He who planted the ear, does he not hear?
He who formed the eye, does he not see? 

Psalm 94:4-9

God does see.  God’s purposes are not thwarted.   He is not apathetic to the condition of the world.  The universe is not spiraling out of control.   Injustice does not have the upper hand.   Oppression is not the inevitable last word.   The English poet William Cowper struggled with God’s Providence.   His collaboration with John Newton on the Olney Hymns was repeatedly halted by bouts of deep depression.   Yet this collection, included some of the great hymns of the faith, including one which gave voice to Cowper’s own struggle.

God moves in a mysterious way,
    His wonders to perform;
He plants his footsteps in the sea,
    And rides upon the storm.

Deep in unfathomable mines
    Of never failing skill;
He treasures up his bright designs,
    And works His sovereign will.

Ye fearful saints fresh courage take,
    The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy, and shall break
    In blessings on your head.

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
    But trust him for his grace;
Behind a frowning providence,
    He hides a smiling face.

His purposes will ripen fast,
    Unfolding ev’ry hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
    But sweet will be the flow’r.

Blind unbelief is sure to err,
    And scan his work in vain;
God is his own interpreter,
    And he will make it plain.

God Moves in a Mysterious Way, William Cowper

Whether you recognize it or not.  You are getting noticed.   There is one who sees.   Who cares.  Who acts.   Does this give you comfort?   Or does this terrorize you?   Are you afraid God sees you?  That nothing is hidden from him?  You need to know Jesus, the Worthy One, who endured God’s wrath and justice for what we hope God will not see in us.   Believe in him and when God looks at your sin, he will see only Jesus’ righteousness.    

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 

2 Corinthians 5:21

In Revelation 5, this Worthy One comes forward to take a scroll from the hand of God.  This scroll is the book of God’s eternal decrees – the unfolding of redemptive history.   As Jesus opens the sealed book in Revelation 6, a series of visions remind us that any apparent delays in God’s fulfillment of His redemptive plan for this world are just that – appearances.   God is at work.   Everything is unfolding just as He intended.   The unjust are getting justice.   The people of God have not been forsaken.   And God is winding down the old heavens and earth to make way for the new.   God sees.  He cares.  He acts.   And this is comfort when everything we see seems to say otherwise.

Join us this week as we examine Revelation 6 and find comfort in the reminder that, “the Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.”

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.

Worthy?

Worthy?

I confess, I don’t like to part with my brass.  I’m not a miser.   If a thing is needful and worth what it costs, I am all in.  But I don’t get there quickly or casually.   In this, I am my father’s son.    My childhood Saturdays were consumed by running errands with my dad.   We drove all over town, comparing market prices on Borkum-Riff pipe tobacco.   My father was not about the convenience buy.   Before Google, he used gasoline to fuel his comparison shopping.   He would agonize over simple purchases and use yellow legal pads to analyze his options.   He would not part with his brass unless he could prove it was worth it.  As Wendell Berry noted, for my Dad, “the Depression was not over and done, but merely absent for a while.”

We all want to know that the things that are truly costly in our lives are ‘worth it.’  Our education, vocations, investments – our love, our deepest commitments, are they worth it?  Are the things that cost the most, worth the cost?   While true that “to love any good thing at a cost, is a bargain.”  All too often, this perspective can only be discovered in retrospect.   In the middle of the costliness of loving any good thing, the yellow legal pads are constantly analyzing.  ‘Is it worth it?  Is he or she, worth it?’   

The angst of that question, ‘Is he worth it?’ puts its finger on the pulse.  Deep love is deeply costly.   Self-love, or selfish love, view this question as one of convenience not cost.   But love and costliness are directly proportional.  As one grows, so will the other.   “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13).   Love and costliness track together.   ‘Is it worth it?  Is he or she worthy?’  How many times have you spoken this to the darkness?

In his Messages to Seven Churches in Revelation, Jesus had hard words for his beloved bride, the church.   Her love for him is costly.   And growing even more costly.   She must face external threat and internal turmoil.   She is tempted to love herself more than Him.  Or to love Him less than herself.   She struggles with purity and commitment and the purity of her commitment.   She is often complacent, apathetic, and neglectful.   She questions whether, ‘to love Him at a cost, is a bargain.’   ‘It is worth it?  Is He Worthy?’   

We ask the same thing.   Not out loud of course.  But in the quiet hours and in Valleys of Shadow.  Following Christ is costly.   Bonhoeffer rightly wrote, “when Christ calls a man, He bids him to come and die.”   ‘Is He worth it?  Is He Worthy?’  God is kind and gentle with his children.   He knows our anxious thoughts.   The Revelation paints a dramatic picture of sacrifice and final victory.   Through it, God reveals ‘what is and what is to come.’  But the climax of this picture is not in its last brush-stroke, but in its first.  In Revelation 5, the real question is posed – the question that answers all others.  “Is He Worthy?”  And the answer?  “He is!”

Join us this week as we examine Revelation 5 and answer the question, ‘Is He Worthy?’  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.

Change of Venue for Easter, April 4, 2021

Change of Venue for Easter, April 4, 2021

WEATHER PERMITTING, we will meet this Sunday from 5:00 pm to 6:30 pm for worship and fellowship OUTSIDE on the Pavilion at St. Andrews’ Church.  Click here for directions. Please bring enough chairs for your family plus extra for guests.

In case of inclement weather, we will meet at The Arkansas Dream Center located at 1116 Daisy L Gatson Bates Drive in Little Rock.  Get the latest updates on our venue at our Facebook Page

You can also join us on Facebook Live @RiverCityARP or on YouTube.