“If You Are Standing Fast”

“If You Are Standing Fast”

The letter to the Thessalonians is written in the midst of trial.  The Thessalonian Christians faced opposition to their faith in God, and so did the Apostle Paul.  And as Paul has written to the Thessalonians, he expresses concern that perhaps the Thessalonian Christians have drifted.  One of the things we notice about Paul throughout his writing is that he cares deeply for the Christians that God has allowed him to serve and to impact.  He had seen the Thessalonian Christians converted and had a major role in establishing that church.  But here he is clearly concerned that in the midst of opposition, perhaps the Thessalonians would not remain fixed on the firm foundation of Christ.

            But as Timothy, one of Paul’s co-laborers goes to visit them, he brings back word that they are indeed growing and still have a deep affection for Paul and a love for the gospel that he had preached.  And Paul says something very interesting in light of this.  He writes in verse 8, “For now we live, if you are standing fast in the Lord.” (English Standard Version)  He has such an affection for the people of God, for this congregation that he has been separated from for so long, that he ties their faithfulness to the Gospel in with his very life.

            But Paul is a God-centered pastor.  He knows that their continued faithfulness depends not ultimately on their own ability or even on his own pastoring, but in the power of God to keep them.  That is really the hope of every Christian.  How do you know that you will remain in the faith, that you will persevere?  It is grounded in the power of God.  That is where our chapter concludes, with Paul’s confidence in the Lord: “Now may our God and Father himself, and our Lord Jesus, direct our way to you,  and may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you, so that he may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.” (Verses 11-13)

We meet from 5:00 – 6:30 pm at The Arkansas Dream Center 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.

Photo by Kalen Emsley on Unsplash.

Missing Out

Missing Out

“What did I miss?”   We scarcely need ask this anymore.   Modern life comes with a pause button.   In a digital world can put all our stories on hold while we attend to the tyranny of the urgent.    But ‘back in the day,’ you only had one shot to catch the latest episode of your favorite story.   If you missed it, you missed it.  

Such was my lament over Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer.   It aired only once a year – the first Sunday of December at 8 pm.    There were no video tapes, no streaming video, no second chances.  If you missed it, you missed it.   And while my father was not completely opposed to me watching it on a Sunday evening, the problem was – we were never home.   Sunday evening was a time for “Training Union” (i.e. discipleship) and evening worship.   The service ended at 7:00 pm, the church was 32 minutes from home. 

Allowing for modest post worship conversation, getting home in time was always technically doable, but we made it.   Invariably, my father would have deacon’s meeting, or a visitor would appear and my parents would engage in lengthy ‘get-to-know-you’ conversation. Of course, my parents had chosen the ‘better things.’  Looking back, the claymation of Rudolf was sub-par, the story’s ideology reprehensible, and the once-venerable Santa recast as a selfish, unrepentant bigot.   But at the time, watching Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Frosty the Snowman were required to fulfill all righteousness at the festive season.   I was an adult before I saw the opening sequences.   

Perhaps, in retrospect, it is better that I missed Rudolf and got to see my father’s service and hospitality!   Sometimes it is better to miss something than make it.    Robert Corrigan of Clam Point, Massachusetts discovered this when he overslept and missed his flight to LA.   He arrived at the departure gate just as his plane was pushing back.   An hour later, he was still at the airport, waiting for a standby flight, when he saw the news that his flight, United #175, had crashed into the South Tower of the World Trade Center.  Missing that flight saved his life. 

Revelation 15 unfolds the final chapter of the drama of redemption.  Seals have revealed God’s judgements and Trumpets have announced them.   All men deserve these judgements.   But a great and marvelous sign appears, a woman from whom would come a redeemer, a Lamb, slain, who saves and seals his own with the seal of the living God, the Holy Spirit.   Every last sealed saint is brought safely to salvation.   Despite the fury of the dragon and his beasts, nothing overcomes them.   They are the overcomers.  The final judgements of God are about to be poured out.  With them, the wrath of God is finished.  But like the Israelites of Goshen, those who belong to the Lamb miss these terrible plagues.

Revelation 15 begins with a great contrast.  The saved and sealed sing of the mercy and grace of God, even as a righteous and holy God sets the stage for His wrath to be poured out against a warned world.   Scripture says that we are all, by nature, children of wrath.   But only through faith in Christ, will we become children of the King and escape from the wrath to come.   What about you?  Are you still a child of wrath?  Are these terrible bowls in your future?  Or will you miss out – miss out on unrepentance, on wrath, on judgement, and on eternal death.    Some things are better to miss.   Join us this Lord’s Day as we examine Revelation 15:1-8 and consider the great joy of missing out on the righteous and holy judgement of God.

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

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

Care Instructions

It is proverbial that ‘a picture is worth a thousand words.’   And while no one can deny the power of illustration, a picture without a word of explanation is worthless.  Words have a level of precision in communication that pictures can never attain.  We call pictures, illustrations, for just that reason.  They adorn or clarify words, but never replace them – a fact lost on the author/illustrators of modern instruction manuals.  Words have been replaced with undecipherable instructo-glyphs.  Yet no decoder ring or Rosetta Stone can be found in the packaging.

Pictographic laundry care labels are equally mysterious, especially for men, who already struggle with the basic idea that more than one load is ever needed.  Left to our own devices, all our clothes would be two sizes too small and a dingy, grey shade of pink.  Men are by nature insensible to the significance of laundry care.  But any man who has loved and lived with a woman recognizes the importance of making this important.   You only get one, or maybe two, chances at shrinking your wife’s perfect fitting top before you tempt her to keep a record of wrongs.   So men, take time to learn the laundro-glyphic arts and treat the sorting and laundering of clothes with utmost care.  Because how you care for your wife’s laundry is directly related to your care for your wife.

This principle has an important analog in spiritual life as well.  Intimate relationships require great care and attention.  They cannot be neglected or treated carelessly.  In a very strange passage of scripture in thirteenth chapter of Jeremiah, God compares his people, Israel, to a linen loin cloth.  As is the occupational hazard of biblical prophets, Jeremiah acts out the illustration.  The linen loin cloth is a precious garment.  The prophet is instructed to handle it carefully and not even wash it.  Just as the loin cloth is designed to be worn, clinging intimately to its owner, so God’s people are made to cling to him.  When this intimacy is treated with great care and attention it brings glory to God and joy to man.

But God shows the people the effects of carelessness, apathy, and neglect on this relationship.  He tells the prophet to make the long journey to the Euphrates River.  There he is to bury the linen garment in the cleft of a rock along the riverbank and to leave it for some time.   Placed in a harsh environment and neglected, it predictably spoils.  And as anyone who has owned a linen garment knows, if it suffers neglect and abuse it is impossible to restore.  God’s people had not protected and cared for their intimate relationship with their creator.  They were created for him and him alone.  They were made, perfectly fitted, to cling closely.  But when this intimate fellowship is neglected and abused, how can it be restored?  There is a warning here for us.  We were made to glorify and enjoy our Creator.  We were spoiled beyond hope by sin, yet God’s grace reclaimed us, restored us, and called us to cling to him.  Like Jacob and Peniel, we are not to let go.

But how careful are we to heed these “care instructions?”  Have we become careless and neglectful in the intimate relationship with Christ to which we have been called?  Have we put ourselves in the clefts of other rocks? Or buried ourselves into other pursuits? Or allowed other things to flow in and through us apart from a love for Christ?   How carefully are you heeding the instructions to care for your spiritual life?  Are you more careful with your woolens than your relationship to Christ?

Join us this Sunday, October 27 as we examine this important reminder from Jeremiah 13 to guard and cherish with care our intimate fellowship with God through Christ.  We meet from 5:00 – 6:30 pm in The Commons at St. Andrews Anglican Church at 8300 Kanis Rd in Little Rock.  Click here for directions. Come with a friend and join us for fellowship and worship. We look forward to seeing you there.

Accepting the Call

The sound was unmistakable.  I can still hear it in my memory.  The sound of a wooden spoon stirring pancake batter in a Tupperware bowl.  It was the sound of Saturday morning.  My father did not cook often, but Saturday morning was his time to shine in the culinary arts.  My father loved pancakes — tall stacks of pancakes drowned in maple syrup.  But these pancakes, garnished with sausage, had a deeper significance.  As much as my Dad loved piles of carbs drenched with more carbs, pancakes prepared a man for work.   And work was the order of the day on Saturdays.   The early morning sound of pancake batter was the clarion call to wake for work.

For my childhood friends, Saturday morning was a time to sleep in and focus on the business of play.  But in our house, my father cast another vision.  His vision involved rising early, eating a hearty breakfast, loading the car with gardening tools and making the hour-long drive to our “property” to tend the tomatoes, squash, corn, string-beans and watermelons.   I was not an enthusiastic gardener, but I loved to be with my father.  I am quite sure my father could have gotten more done without me, but he took me because he wanted me with him in his work.

The challenges were great.  The roto-tiller was like a rodeo bronc.  Pulling weeds from the hard-baked Georgia clay bloodied my fingers.  The broiling hours under the summer sun seemed interminable.  And I can still hear the sound of the cicadas that formed the soundtrack of gardening adversity.   But there were great rewards — hearing the stories of my forefathers, seeing “the old places” where my family’s history unfolded, sharing peanut butter and banana sandwiches with my dad and the world’s coldest “Co-cola” (Georgian for Coca-Cola) from Mr. Crow’s General Store.   And the coup-de-grace was my father’s declaration at the end of the day that I had done a solid day of man’s work.  The call that came with the wooden spoon striking Tupperware was reluctantly heeded at the day’s dawning, but at day’s end, I was thankful for I had accepted the call.

That is often what God’s calling is like.  At first it is daunting and dreaded, filled with thoughts of adversity and self-doubt.  And often it is just as hard as we expected.  However, it is never a call merely to do a job, but to spend time at work with the Father.  While God does not need us to accomplish his plan and purpose, he delights to have us with him at work.  He chooses to call us to go with him.

We see this vividly in God’s call to the prophet Jeremiah.   God has work for Jeremiah to do.  He tells him to “gird up his loins” and get dressed for work, but first he tells him that even before he formed Jeremiah in his mother’s womb, he knew him and set him apart to declare the gospel to perishing men, women, boys and girls.   The language is tender, as of a father lovingly planning for a child yet unborn.  And most importantly, God is not just sending Jeremiah, pushing him out of the nest to face the cold, harsh realities of a world hostile to the gospel.  Notice the promise that animates Jeremiah’s call.  Twice the Lord tells the reluctant prophet, “do not be afraid … for I am with you.”

Jeremiah’s calling reveals important truths about our own callings.  God never merely send us out to work for him, but invites us to join him where he is in what he is doing.  Is it intimidating?  Is there self-doubt?  Of course, but we have the promise of his power and his presence.   Have you accepted God’s call?  His call to come to him through faith in Christ and then his call to join him in his work?

Join us this Sunday, June 30, as we examine Jeremiah’s call in Jeremiah 1:4-19 and consider what this teaches us about God’s call to us.  We meet from 5:00 – 6:30 pm in The Commons at St. Andrews Anglican Church at 8300 Kanis Rd in Little Rock.  Click here for directions. Come with a friend and join us for fellowship and worship. We look forward to seeing you there.