Friday, February 21, 2020

The Days of Mourning

The Lord will be your everlasting light,
And the days of your mourning shall be ended.
Also your people shall all be righteous;
They shall inherit the land forever,
the branch of My planting, 
the work of My hands,
To the end that they may share my beauty.
—Isaiah 60:20,21

Did Isaiah know that these predictions would find their ultimate fulfillment in Heaven?  Perhaps he used what he knew—the promises made to Israel—to describe what he saw—Heaven and the hereafter. 

If so, there is a promise here that someday soon our righteousness will be perfected and our salvation and glorification will be complete. Further, the Vinedresser will “plant” us in the place he has prepared for us, to the end that we may share his beauty forever.  

All good, but the phrase that comforts me this morning is this: Very soon, “the days of your mourning will be ended.” 

It’s intolerable to think that sorrow will go on forever. But to know that our mourning shall be ended is to gain fresh hope and strength for the day. When we go to be with Jesus (or when he comes to be with us) our disappointment, grief and pain will be over, “sorrow forgot, love's purest joys restored.” Someday the last tear will fall and we will enter into joy. Our mourning will be turned into dancing—a hope that keeps us going in this present vale of tears. 

David Roper

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Being There

We who preach and teach tend to talk too much, or so it seems to me. We’re “word–mongers,” to use Augustine’s apt description—paid by the word. 

Some of the best healing, however, comes not from words, but from just being there, hearing and acknowledging the reality of someone’s pain.

Margaret Guenther, the author of Holy Listening” tells the story of the Scottish pediatrician who comforted her hurt and frightened child with a great enveloping bear hug and the words, “Och, poor wee thing!” The poor wee thing stopped crying at once for she realized that someone understood her pain. 

Guenther concludes, “I find myself guided by the unquestioning, all–encompassing compassion of that kind man with a burr. He brought healing just by being there.” 

Sometimes that’s all we have to do.

David Roper

Monday, February 17, 2020


“He who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin” (1 Peter 4:1)

I think of the weariness of those who have struggled with sin their entire lives, rising only to fall again. Is there no respite? 

Peter assures us that those who have “suffered in the flesh” have “ceased from sin” (1 Peter 4:1). Here, or so I believe, Peter is using the phrase “suffered in the flesh” to mean, physical death (as he does with reference to Jesus in 4:1 and 3:18). Accordingly, he is declaring that death puts a final end to our struggle against the world, the flesh and the devil. Then, our Father will deliver us from sin and its pollution.

To battle sin within and without, with no hope of deliverance, is demoralizing, but a day is coming when we will be “finished” with sin. (Peter’s verb tense suggests a completed action). We will be taken beyond sin’s seduction, gathered in and wholly sanctified. We shall see Jesus and be like him! 

That prospect of certain, final victory encourages us to live, as Peter puts it, “the rest of the time in the flesh not for human passions, but for the will of God” (1 Peter 4:2). In other words, we can be strong and battle bravely against our sins, for, though we may lose an occasional skirmish, final victory is assured. The good work that our Lord has begun will be completed. Sin will be finished with us and we will be finished with sin. 

English poet, George Herbert, has written a poem entitled “The Pilgrimage,” in which he describes his struggle with sin as a series of grueling ascents, assaulting and overcoming one mountain peak only to face another. “Can both the way and the end be tears?” he asks. Then he sees a final hill—one steep gradient and then eternal relief and consolation. “After so foul a journey,” he sighs, “death is fair, and but a chair.”

So, don’t give up in your battle against sin. Soldier on. “There is a rest for weary pilgrims, a calm for those who weep” (Herbert).

David Roper

Friday, February 14, 2020

My Favorite Valentine Story

The Golden Key, by George MacDonald, is my favorite love story. It's about a boy, Mossy, and a  girl, Tangle, who meet as children, fall in love, marry, enjoy numerous adventures as they age and journey together toward “the land from which the shadows fall.” (Tangle knows that she can safely travel with Mossy because he has in his pocket the golden key, a symbol of Jesus). In the end Mossy and Tangle are separated by death and Mossy must trudge on alone for seven long years. Finally, wearied by time and life, he comes to a great mountain that stands in his path and impedes his journey. On it he spies a door and a keyhole...
“Mossy tried the key. It fitted. It turned. A great clang and clash, as of iron bolts on huge brazen caldrons, echoed thunderously within. He drew out the key. The rock in front of him began to fall. He retreated from it as far as the breadth of the platform would allow. A great slab fell at his feet. In front was still the solid rock, with this one slab fallen forward out of it. But the moment he stepped upon it, a second fell, just short of the edge of the first, making the next step of a stair, which thus kept dropping itself before him as he ascended into the heart of the precipice. It led him into a hall fit for such an approach-irregular and rude in formation, but floor, sides, pillars, and vaulted roof, all one mass of shining stones of every color that light can show. In the centre stood seven columns, ranged from red to violet. 
And on the pedestal of one of them sat a woman, motionless, with her face bowed upon her knees. Seven years had she sat there waiting. She lifted her head as Mossy drew near. It was Tangle. Her hair had grown to her feet, and was rippled like the windless sea on broad sands. Her face was beautiful, like her grandmother's, and as still and peaceful as that of the old Man of the Fire. Her form was tall and noble. Yet Mossy knew her at once. "How beautiful you are, Tangle!" he said, in delight and astonishment. "Am I?" she returned. "Oh, I have waited for you so long! But you, you are the old Man of the Sea. No. You are like the old Man of the Earth. No, no. You are like the oldest man of all. You are like them all. And yet you are my own old Mossy! How did you come here? What did you do after I lost you? Did you find the keyhole? Have you got the key still? She had a hundred questions to ask him, and he a hundred more to ask her. They told each other all their adventures, and were as happy as man and woman could be. For they were younger and better, and stronger and wiser, than they had ever been before.”
I  think of E.B.Browning’s lines, words I quoted to Carolyn this morning: “I love thee with the breath, smiles, tears and all of my life and…I shall but love thee better after death.”

Monday, February 10, 2020

What God Has Promised
Psalm 91
You will not fear the terror of the night,
nor the arrow that flies by day,
nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness,
nor the destruction that wastes at noonday.
A thousand may fall at your side,
ten thousand at your right hand,
but it will not come near you.  —Psalms 91:5-8
So much depends on what “it" means. 
Old Nick would have us believe that God’s promises have failed when difficulties  come our way, but God never promised deliverance from trouble. "Tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, danger, and the sword" may be our lot (Romans 8:25). 
God has promised, however, that He'll be with us in our troubles and will protect our souls from destruction. The real me—the indestructible, immortal, remembering, feeling, thinking part of me that I call "myself"—cannot be harmed! 
Jesus expressed that thought with a wry paradox. "Some of you will be put to death... But not a hair of your head will perish" (Luke 21:16-18).
God has not promised that you and I will live untroubled lives. He has, however, promised that He will hear us when we call; He will be with us in our troubles; He will rescue us from evil-doing and “beautify” our souls through our struggles; and in the end He will satisfy our deepest longings with everlasting Love (91:15,16). Therefore, we “will not fear” and we will not fall. We will never know defeat; “it will not come near” us. No, in all our troubles we are more than conquerors through Him who loves us (Romans 8:37).
God has not promised skies always blue,
Flower-strewn pathways all our lives through;
God has not promised sun without rain,
Joy without sorrow, peace without pain.

God hath not promised we shall not know
Toil and temptation, trouble and woe;
He hath not told us we shall not bear
Many a burden, many a care.

God hath not promised smooth roads and wide,
Swift, easy travel, needing no guide;
Never a mountain, rocky and steep,
Never a river, turbid and deep.
But God has promised strength for the day,
Rest for the labor, light for the way,
Grace for the trials, help from above,
Unfailing sympathy, undying love. 

—Annie Johnson Flint

David Roper

Friday, February 7, 2020

Psalm 74

Direct your steps to the endless  ruins;
the enemy has destroyed everything in the sanctuary!
Your foes have roared in the midst of your meeting place;
they set up their own signs for signs.
They were like those who swing axes
in a forest of trees.
And all its carved wood
they broke down with hatchets and hammers.
They set your sanctuary on fire;
they profaned the dwelling place of your name,
bringing it down to the ground. 

This is a graphic description of the destruction of Solomon's temple by the Babylonian army in 587 BC. 

You’re there! You can hear the curses and profane shouts of the soldiers. You can see them swinging their axes against the pillars that support the building, razing it to the ground, reducing one of the architectural wonders of the ancient world to a pile of rubble. He invites you to “Lift your feet over these endless ruins. Pick your way across them.” (74:3).

The destruction of Israel’s temple? The place in which God said he would bring salvation to the world? An unthinkable catastrophe. But an event that J.R.R. Tolkien would call a "eucatastrophe" (a good catastrophe), a situation in which everything gone wrong goes irrevocably right.

With the words "God, my King" (74:12) the poet turns from the destruction of temple to an indestructible God and a rehearsal of his mighty deeds on behalf of his own. The  rest of the narrative (the Bible) tells us how he worked through history to restore Israel’s temple and give it a greater glory than ever before. The prophet Haggai wrote, “The latter glory of this house shall be greater than the former, says the Lord of hosts. And in this place I will give peace, declares the Lord of hosts” (Haggai 2:9).’” It was in this place that Jesus appeared in all his glory to bring salvation and peace to the world. A eucatastrophe indeed!

Are you walking through the rubble of your fondest dream?  I wonder what God is up to?

David Roper

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

God's Plantings

"Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord" (1 Corinthians 15:58).

In 1627, Samuel Rutherford penned a letter to Marion M'Naught, wife of William Fullerton, minister of a small Presbyterian church in Kirkcudbright, Scotland. Apparently things were not going well for William, and he had few to "speak a good word" for him. He wanted God to "transplant" him to another place.

Rutherford wrote. "All God's plants, set by His own hand, thrive well. Ask of God a submissive heart. Continue for the love of the Prince of your salvation, who is standing at the end of your way, holding up in His hand the prize and the garland to the race-runners. Your reward shall be with the Lord, although the people be not gathered (as the prophet speaks); and suppose the work do not shall not lose your reward.”

So you're not the best preacher in town, so people don't gather in large numbers to hear you speak and the work does not seem to be prospering. "Remain with God." (1 Corinthians 7:24). Pray, teach, listen, love, grow in grace and truth until God in His wisdom "extrudes you," to borrow Francis Schaeffer's colorful phrase.

Continue "for the love of the Prince of your salvation" (John 21:15-17). Never give up. "You shall not lose your reward."

David Roper

The Days of Mourning The Lord will be your everlasting light, And  the days of your mourning shall be ended . Also your people sha...