Our Banner

Our Banner

Almost everyone you talk to who lived in 1969 remembers the moon landing. Many watched this event on television, as the men landed on the moon and planted the U.S. flag in the ground. There have also been those who have climbed great mountains, such as Mt. Everest and planted their nation’s flag in the ground. People do this when they want to claim a discovery or a victory of some sort. But when we look at the Israelite’s victory over the Amalekites in Exodus 17:8-15, we see that they do not attribute this success to themselves. Rather, as Moses builds an altar he says in verse 15, “The LORD Is My Banner.”

In this remarkable passage, the Lord gives victory to His people as Moses holds the staff of God with his hands raised. This raised hands posture shows us the principle that their trust was in the Lord to give them this victory. As he holds the staff with which the Lord has used in giving His people freedom from the Egyptians, the raised staff represents that the Lord is the One who is triumphant.

Every Christian can look to their hope and confidence and say that the Lord is the one who is triumphant. It is God who has sent Christ into the world to be the Banner of every believer in Christ. The word that is translated “banner” in our passage has reference to the staff–the raised staff is pointed us to the great Savior Jesus Christ who would conquer the greatest enemy of His people, the enemy of sin and ultimately give triumph to His people.

At the same time, as the people of God trust in Him, this does not serve as an excuse for laxity when it comes to obedience. Joshua carefully obeys the command of Moses to gather an army to fight against the unprovoked attack from the Amalekites. Moses carefully obeys by raising his hands, and Aaron and Hur assist him in keeping his hands raised. They put forth effort–so in the Christian life, we are called to fight against sin, to wage war on our sin. We are to pursue holiness, yet with the confidence not in ourselves, but in God to give the victory.

Join us this Lord’s Day evening for worship at The Commons at St. Andrews Church at 5 PM as we consider these things 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 Health.com, 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

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