05/16/2021 | “PPE” | Revelation 11:1-14

05/16/2021 | “PPE” | Revelation 11:1-14

The gospel is sweet, but first it is sour.    The truth sets men free.  But first it makes them mad.   It exposes their condition before applying the remedy.   And to worldly men, this exposure is torment.    They will hate the one who dares expose their condition.   Sharing the gospel is a deadly dangerous business.   But it is a deadly dangerous business that God calls us to take up.   What PPE is there for us against the world’s hate for the truth of the gospel?

In Revelation 11, John sees a second vision.  A vision of the two witnesses.    Witnesses who symbolize boldness and power.   Witnesses who faithfully finish their testimony.   And witnesses who meet abuse and death for their message.   But their suffering is short-lived.  Death is not the last word.   The God who protected them in life, gives them eternal life and calls them home.   And a world so eager to be rid of them, realizes too late the terror of a world without the gospel.  Join us this week as we examine Revelation 11:1-14 and consider God’s protection and care for faithful witnesses.

“PPE,” Revelation 11:1-14

05/09/2021 | “Sweet and Sour” | Revelation 10:1-11

05/09/2021 | “Sweet and Sour” | Revelation 10:1-11

Many of the joys of life depend upon a mixture of extremes — pleasure and pain, joy and sorrow, discomfort and comfort.   We even see this in the Bible and the gospel.   Before we can accept God’s mercy, we must accept that we deserve only His condemnation.   The gospel does not make good men better, it saves the unsavable.   It is sweet, but first it is sour.    The truth sets men free, but first it makes them mad.   It wounds, then heals.  It tears, then binds up.   It is sweet in the mouth and bitter in the stomach. 

How willing are you to say hard things to soften hard hearts?   God’s Word can be bitter, but it is also sweet.  Jesus has the keys to Death and Hades and gives these gospel keys us.   But will we use them?  Listen as we examine Revelation 10 and consider our calling to share the gospel boldly.

“Sweet and Sour,” Revelation 10:1-11

Sweet and Sour

Sweet and Sour

Money was scarce when I was ten.   An ‘allowance’ was not a part of my parent’s parenting theory.  They were firmly in the ‘pay-for-performance’ camp.   And there was too little of either – pay or performance.   The few chores my father considered pay-worthy were indexed to his Depression era pay scales.  

If I was going to make any serious coin, I would have to look elsewhere.   But without a mower, my options were limited.   While there were always the odd neighbor jobs – moving gravel piles, feeding dogs, and clearing kudzu.   These were hit-or-miss.   Collecting glass Coke bottles from the roadside for a nickel each was my only reliable source of income.   In those days we were less conscious of the moral duty not to throw trash on the roadsides, so this was surprisingly profitable.

I was careful with what I earned.   A tenth to church, half to savings, and the rest to 7Eleven.   On summer days, neighborhood kids, young and old, would mount their spider-bikes and trek to the 7Eleven up on the highway.   I’m sure our parents assumed there was safety in numbers.  But looking back, I’m not so sure.   But as old-timers are apt to say, “times were different then.”

Topps baseball cards, packs of candy Marlboro cigarettes, and Now-or-Laters were always in the bag.  And righteousness could not be fulfilled without a Cherry Coke Slurpee and its accompanying spoon-straw.   But my go-to item was the giant SweetTart.  Unlike chewy ones sold today, vintage giant SweetTarts were hard and looked like enormous dishwasher tablets.  Only as the tart gave way to the sweet could you even open your eyes.   Eating too many would make your tongue raw for days.   They were intense – the mother of all complex candy flavors.  

But it was that complexity, sweet and sour, that made them so good.   Many of the joys of life depend upon a mixture of extremes.   Our loves often offer both pleasure and pain, joy and sorrow, discomfort and comfort.   We even see this in the Bible and the gospel.   Before we can accept God’s mercy, we must accept that we deserve only His condemnation.    The gospel does not make good men better, it saves the unsavable.   The words of the Old Testament prophet, Hosea, are poignant.

Come, let us return to the Lord;
    for he has torn us, that he may heal us;
    he has struck us down, and he will bind us up.
After two days he will revive us;
    on the third day he will raise us up,
    that we may live before him.

HOSEA 6:1-2

The Bible is both sweet and sour.   Paul described it as “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 Bible speaks sweetly of mercy, but everywhere reminds us that this mercy comes through the bitterness of judgment poured out on Christ.    Those who reject this find that the gospel’s sweet promises bear bitter fruit in unbelief.  

John’s vision in Revelation 10 underscores this.   Judgements unfold against those without the seal of the living God.   The church is excluded, yet still present in the world.   What is her role?   In the interlude between the Sixth and Seventh Trumpets, John sees a vision directed to the church.   He is instructed to take a little scroll and to eat it.  Though sweet in the mouth, it is bitter in his stomach.  And in this vision, we have a picture both of the nature of the gospel and of our duty to proclaim it.  

Acts of God’s judgement are raining down on the unbelieving world.   But judgement alone will never bring men to repentance.   Without the kindness of God in the gospel, they will only be hardened.    Like a lamp on a stand, the church shines the kindness of God into a world that knows only the bitterness of the fall.   The gospel is sweet, but first it is sour.    The truth sets men free, but first it makes them mad.   It exposes their condition before applying the remedy.   It wounds, then heals.  It tears, then binds up.   It is sweet in the mouth and bitter in the stomach.

How willing are we to proclaim this sweet-and-sour gospel?   Every person deserves God’s wrath and curse.  This horror should ignite a sense of urgency.   Those you love, those you serve, those who serve you, who are not sealed through faith in Christ, will fall under horrific judgements.   They will seek for death and not find it.  And when it comes, it will not relieve.   Their only hope is the sweet-and-sour gospel.   How willing are you to say hard things to soften hard hearts?   Leon Morris puts this into perspective.  

“The true preacher of God’s Word will faithfully proclaim the denunciations of the wicked it contains.  But he does not do this with fierce glee.   Telling forth of ‘woes’ will be a bitter experience….  The wickedness of man grieved God at His heart (Genesis 6:6), and the true preacher of God’s Word enters to some degree into this suffering.” 

LEON MORRIS, REVELATION.

God’s Word can be bitter, but it is also sweet.  Jesus has the keys to Death and Hades and gives these gospel keys us.   But will we use them?  Join us this week as we examine Revelation 10 and consider our calling to share the gospel boldly.

Due to a forecast for rain and thundershowers this Sunday evening, May 9, we will meet at The Arkansas Dream Center located at 1116 Daisy L Gatson Bates Drive in Little Rock. 

Join us in person from 5:00 pm to 6:30 pm for worship and fellowship. You can also join us on Facebook Live @RiverCityARP or on YouTube.

WEATHER PERMITTING, we will meet next Sunday evening, May 16, OUTSIDE on the Pavilion at St. Andrews’ Church.  Click here for directions. Get the latest updates on our venue at our Facebook Page

05/02/2021 | “Sense of Urgency” | Revelation 9

05/02/2021 | “Sense of Urgency” | Revelation 9

It is easy to read Revelation with satisfaction as the enemies of Christ receive justice from God’s hand.  But does the justice of God awaken our sorrow for the lost?   All mankind deserves God’s justice and will, indeed, receive it unless they find grace in Christ.  Does the horror of this thought ignite a sense of urgency?   Those you love, those you serve, those who serve you, who are not sealed through faith in Christ, will fall under these horrific judgements.   They will seek for death and not find it.  And when it comes, it will not be relief or release, but intensification of pain.    But the Lord Jesus has the keys to Death and Hades.  And he gives these gospel keys to his church.  

Do you have a sense of urgency regarding the lost?   Jesus came to seek and to save the lost.   As his people, is that not our purpose as well?   God has given us this word for comfort, but also to make us uncomfortable with the condition of the lost.  Join us this week as we examine Revelation 9 and reflect on our own sense of urgency.

“Sense of Urgency,” Revelation 9:1-21

Sense of Urgency

Sense of Urgency

When everything is urgent, nothing is urgent.   When every priority is the top priority, there are, in reality, no top priorities.   Management theory is awash in theories about how to “create a sense of urgency.”  Mantras such as “establish and outcome-focused culture” and “secure stakeholder input and buy-in to the strategy” add zest and sparkle to a middle-management PowerPoint, but are simply manipulation in the eyes of the managed.

When a group has a diversity of core values, it will struggle with a shared sense of urgency.   It may pull together as ‘co-belligerents’ from time to time, but this is only an illusory alliance.   Despite appearances, everyone has their own agenda.  And nothing reveals this like a disaster.   Adversity tests conviction to shared core values.  Without shared core values, each person’s sense of urgency is reduced to ‘every man for himself.’   Everyone has a different top priority – himself.  

This is often vividly portrayed in disaster films.    Doomed airplanes and ships, calamitous meteor strikes, and pandemics show men at their worst, fighting to survive at the expense of others.   We like to think we would act differently, but would we?   And what if the disaster was even more dramatic – the end of the world as we know it — cataclysmic divine judgement that afflicts mankind, body, soul, and spirit.  

The Book of Revelation is often avoided, because its scenes of unrelenting, divine judgment poured out on the world are terrifying.   Its imagery is intense and unnerving.   While it declares victory for the Lamb and vindication of believers, the trajectory is described as a Great Tribulation.   It affirms what we read in Acts 14:22 that we enter the kingdom of God “through many tribulations.”  As we read through the Apocalypse is our thought for ourselves, alone?   Is our sense of urgency for our survival?  Does this prophecy awaken in us a sense of fear and suspicion toward the unbelieving world?

As Jesus opens the Seven Seals, we see the unfolding effects a fallen world where men, given over to their sin, suffer war, bloodshed, famine, injustice, and persecution.   Everyone is affected.  Believers and unbelievers alike.   The only difference is that believers endure, because they have hope.  They pass through the valley of the shadow by drawing close to the shepherd, not by fleeing from him.   For Christians, the scroll of God’s Unfolding Purpose tells a difficult, but gracious story.   And while this story brings comfort in adversity, it should evoke something else as well.

When the Seventh Seal is opened in Revelation 8, there is silence in heaven.   The constant praise which fills every vision of heaven thus far, now falls silent as the “wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.” (Romans 1:18)   Nothing interrupts a party like a tragedy.   Judgement against the unbelieving world begins to unfold.  

The seals and trumpets are not sequential, but share the same frame of history.   Yet they do so from a different perspective.   There are similarities in the cycles.   The first four in each series are directed against earth, sea, and heavens, while the fifth and sixth are in the spiritual realm.  But there are important differences as well.  The seals speak of the natural consequences of sin, while the trumpets are very clearly, acts of God.   Also, the seals effect all mankind, believer and unbeliever alike, while the trumpets, particularly the final ‘woes,’ are directed only toward those who do not have the seal of the Living God.

The physical suffering of unbelievers is great, but the woes of the fifth and sixth trumpet in Revelation 9 speak of unrelenting spiritual horror.  Those not sealed by the Living God through grace, are subject to pain that even death cannot take away.   And while there is a note of vindication at the righteous justice of God, this passage is given to the church – a church described as a lampstand to the world – to grasp a sense of urgency.   Urgency to speak the gospel to every creature under heaven.   Without the gospel the horrors of these woes await our neighbors, families, coworkers, and those we meet every day.

It is easy to read this passage with satisfaction as the enemies of Christ receive justice from God’s hand.  But does the justice of God awaken our sorrow for the lost?   All mankind deserves God’s justice and will, indeed, receive it unless they find grace in Christ.  Does the horror of this thought ignite a sense of urgency?   Those you love, those you serve, those who serve you, who are not sealed through faith in Christ, will fall under these horrific judgements.   They will seek for death and not find it.  And when it comes, it will not be relief or release, but intensification of pain.    But the Lord Jesus has the keys to Death and Hades.  And he gives these gospel keys to his church.  

“I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

MATTHEW 16:19

Do you have a sense of urgency regarding the lost?   Jesus came to seek and to save the lost.   As his people, is that not our purpose as well?   When you read of these judgements are you relieved for your own deliverance or sorry for those who will find no relief?   Should it not be both?   God has given us this word for comfort, but also to make us uncomfortable with the condition of the lost.  Join us this week as we examine Revelation 9 and reflect on our own sense of urgency.

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.