Under Pressure

Under Pressure

One of creation’s great wonders is water.   The earth and its inhabitants are made of it.   Unlike most matter, water rebels against convention as it moves from liquid to solid.   While most substances become denser when they freeze, water expands.    And in a world teeming with aquatic life, that difference is crucial.  Ice floats.   If it sank, aquatic life would be forced to the surface as lakes, ponds, and rivers froze, depriving plants and creatures of warmth and oxygen.  But in God’s remarkable design, ice floats, insulating and preserving aquatic life.

This past week, however, many discovered that what is a blessing to fish, is not so great for plumbing.   Added to the sounds of children sledding and car wheels spinning, was the groaning of pipes and the rushing of water.   The pipes under our house burst.   Or rather should I say, one pipe burst.   The rupture to a single span of copper pipe was only half an inch long.   Yet the force and volume of the leak was prodigious.  The sound was like the sound of many rushing waters.   The pressure required to get water from lake to tap is immense.  And in a frozen instant, that pressure can bring unbelievable destruction.

And, so it is with the circumstances of our lives.   We live under the pressure of uncertainty.  We try to prepare, to plan, to insulate and anticipate.   Yet we can never get it quite right.  We all think want to know the future.  That is, until we do.   The older you get, the more you realize that prescience is not a panacea.   Foresight, when we get it, frustrates because we rarely have the power to alter or avert what is foreseen.   Foreknowledge without omnipotence easily leads to paralysis.    A pastor once commented that “anxiety comes from an awareness of our finitude.”   Hence, we say “ignorance is bliss.”  Or as Wendell Berry expressed it through Port William resident, Mat Feltner, “The mercy of the world is that you don’t know what’s going to happen.”   But ignorance is only mercy if you know and trust the one who is neither ignorant nor impotent regarding the future.

Jesus’ message to the Church in Smyrna in the Revelation is remarkable.   It contains neither commendation, nor condemnation.   Jesus never says, ‘nevertheless, this I have against you.’   This brief message has but one message, “hold fast!”   No matter what comes, “hold fast!”  The pressures building against Christians in Smyrna were dire and intense.   And worse, they were betrayed by those who ought to have been brothers.    Jesus words are concise and succinct.   “Be faithful unto death.”   How would you like to receive this message?   No matter what happens do not break with your faith.  Do not turn away.   Do not compromise.   Rest in the Faithful One, the first and the last, who died and came to life.

Persecution comes in all different shapes, sizes, and intensities.  We do not get to pick our cross.  We are only instructed to pick it up and carry it.   Paul wrote to Timothy, “all who live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.”  (2 Timothy 3:12)   Perhaps that is not what you signed up for when you gave your life to Christ.  But there it is.   We may seek compromise to avoid it.  Or seek mere relief rather than peace.   But consider the words of Ralph Erskine.  ”Some may bless themselves they were never assaulted by the devil and yet they are but sleeping, as it were, in the devil’s cradle and he is rocking them.”

What is your response to persecution?  To the intense pressure that comes with taking up a cross and following Christ?   Where will you seek rest?  In the promises of the Faithful one or the devil’s cradle?  Join us this week as we continue our survey Revelation as we examine the message to the Church in Smyrna in Revelation 2:8-11 and its encouragement to persevere in the face of extreme pressure.

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.

02/21/2021 | “Falling Out of Love” | Revelation 2:1-7

02/21/2021 | “Falling Out of Love” | Revelation 2:1-7

How do we measure our health as a church?  By growth in numbers?  By increased giving?  By broader ministry reach into our community?  By powerful, theologically rich teaching?   Or by proven, solid leadership?   All these things are important.   But without love – growing love for Christ and for one another, all these excellent attributes are, in the words of Paul, “a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.”  Has the church abandoned its first love to pursue self-love?   Have you abandoned love for Christ and for one another in order to love and serve yourself?  

Join us this week as we continue our survey Revelation as we examine the first of the “Letters to the Seven Churches” in Revelation 2:1-7 and consider Jesus’ serious warning of the danger of abandoning the love we had at first.

“Do You Love Me?” Revelation 2:1-7

02/07/2021 | “Moving Pictures” | Revelation 1:9-20

02/07/2021 | “Moving Pictures” | Revelation 1:9-20

All of us have been moved to sorrow, joy, reflection or action by an iconic song, picture or story.  But no story has more moving pictures than the story of redemption, unfolded in the Bible, with its themes of mercy and grace and good triumphing over evil.  A living and active story of a mighty hero who through self-sacrifice and great power defeated the arch-enemy of all men, sin and death.  In every vignette, every chapter, this story is unveiled.

Painted in the words of Scripture, these moving pictures reveal the presence and power of a Savior who is “God with Us.”  While Scripture never describes what Jesus looks like, it thoroughly describes what Jesus is like.   Nowhere is this idea more vividly portrayed than in John’s inaugural vision in the Revelation.   Join us this week as we continue our survey Revelation as we examine Revelation 1:9-20 and consider how this opening vision reveals, not what Jesus looks like, but what Jesus is like so we might fix our eyes on Him, know Him, and run with endurance.

“Moving Pictures,” Revelation 1:9-20

01/31/2021 | “Nom de Plume” | Revelation 1:4-8

01/31/2021 | “Nom de Plume” | Revelation 1:4-8

When writers attempt to gain credibility by assuming a false identity, this only exposes their fraud.   When a real author writes under his own name his life authenticates his work.  This is what makes the Bible so powerful.   Though God worked through human agents by the process of inspiration, the thoughts and the words are His thoughts and His words.  We see this powerfully in the Book of Revelation.   John is merely seer and scribe.  The comfort of these words flows not only from its vivid imagery, but from the character of its author.   As John pens the greeting, he is careful to describe the letter’s Divine Author. 

Join us this week as we continue our survey of the book of Revelation, examining Revelation 1:4-8 to consider how the letter’s greeting gives us key insights into the letter’s divine sender – insights which give needed comfort when our faith is challenged. 

“Nom de Plume,” Revelation 1:4-8

Moving Pictures

Moving Pictures

Occupational therapy!  That’s what my CrossFit workouts resemble.  Occupational therapy teaches you how to do familiar things in a new and easier way in order to accommodate physical weaknesses or limitations.  I have come to accept that I am, almost without exception, the oldest guy in our CrossFit box.  I am the king of what they call “modifications” and “scaled” workouts.  Rare is the WOD in which I can click Rx on my results.   One modification, I have yet to be able to make, however, is to get the rest of my Wod-mates to accept and acknowledge that 80’s rock is the best music to set the pace for the workout.  My hips don’t hop, and the only pop I am concerned about is the pop in my knee.      

One of my favorites from those BC days was Rush.  Their innovative musicality coupled with evocative lyricism resonated with me as a teenager.   A favorite album was Moving Pictures.  The album’s concept was the great power of poetry and music to tell moving stories – moving pictures. 

Probably all of us have been moved to sorrow, joy, reflection or action by an iconic song, picture or story.  But no story has more moving pictures than the story of redemption, unfolded in the Bible, with its themes of mercy and grace and good triumphing over evil.  The Bible is no mere moralistic litany, it is a living and active story of a mighty hero who through self-sacrifice and great power defeated the arch-enemy of all men, sin and death.  In every vignette, every chapter, this story is unveiled.

Everywhere you look in scripture you see moving pictures of Jesus.  With Abraham on Mt. Moriah, Jesus is there.   With Mephibosheth at David’s table, Jesus is there.   With fearful disciples on the stormy Sea of Galilee, Jesus is there.   And in the midst of seven Asian churches facing persecution and turmoil, Jesus is there.   Painted in the words of Scripture, these moving pictures reveal the presence and power of a Savior who is “God with Us.” While Scripture never describes what Jesus looks like, it thoroughly describes what Jesus is like.  

Nowhere is this idea more vividly portrayed than in John’s inaugural vision in the Revelation.   This vision of Christ among the golden lampstands, is, as pastor Richard Phillips noted.

… representative of God’s intention for the entire book.  John is suffering oppression because of his faith in Jesus.  This first vision sets before him the sovereign glory of Christ, complete with emblems of his triumphant, saving work, so that John will be encourage to endure in worship of and service to his Lord.” 

Reformed Expository Commentary on Revelation, Richard Phillips.

We must fix our eyes on the mighty and victorious Jesus revealed only in Scripture.   Not just the Jesus who was, but the Jesus who is and who is to come.  The one who is the same yesterday, today and forever, the Living One, who died, but is now alive forevermore.  The One who holds the keys to death and hell.   As the author of Hebrews encourages us.

Run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

Hebrews 12:2-3

Adversity is ingrained in the Christian life.   Victory is gained not through avoiding, but overcoming it.   John Calvin observed, “the church of Christ has been so divinely constituted from the beginning that the Cross has been the way to victory, death the way to life.”  Strength to endure adversity, tribulation, and turmoil, comes not from some place deep within us, but from the depths of knowing Christ.  

Join us this week as we continue our survey Revelation as we examine Revelation 1:9-20 and consider how this opening vision reveals, not what Jesus looks like, but what Jesus is like so we might fix our eyes on Him, know Him, and run with endurance.

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.