Sunday, November 19, 2017

Weariness

"Jesus, wearied as he was from his journey, was sitting beside the well. It was about the sixth hour [high noon] " (John 4:6)

I have a well-established circadian rhythm. I'm good for the first six to eight hours of the day, but from 2:00 to 5:00 p.m. I'm toast. 

I'm in good company, however: I read somewhere that animals, plants and even fungi have a few bad hours every day. 

I'm inclined to feel guilty about my weariness. Shouldn't I be doing something useful: studying, writing, teaching, counseling? Is my apathy a sign of spiritual acedia?

Not necessarily.

Some years ago a few of my friends began wearing bracelets bearing the initials "WWJD," an acronym for "What would Jesus do?" I ask myself, what did Jesus do when he was weary? 

Well, on at least on one occasion, he passed up an opportunity to go into the city of Samaria with his disciples to heal the sick and raise the dead. He stayed by a well outside of town and rested. 

And Jesus wasn't eighty-four years old!

I've always been intrigued by the story of Elijah sitting under his little broom tree. Over-adrenalized by his encounter with the Baal priests on Mount Carmel, frightened out of his wits by the contract Jezebel put on his life, he fled into the desert where the Angel of the Lord found him, weary, dispirited and ready to take his own life.

And what did the Angel of the Lord do? Chide him for his lethargy? No, he fed him a square meal and put him to sleep (1Kings 19:4-8).

Sometimes, the most spiritual thing we can do is to take a nap. 

This weariness of mine, may it not come 
From something that doth need no setting right? 
Shall fruit be blamed if it hang wearily 
A day before it perfected drop plumb 
To the sad earth from off its nursing tree? 
Ripeness must always come with loss of might. 
The weary evening fall before the resting night.

—George MacDonald

David Roper

11.19.17

Friday, November 10, 2017

Pressing On

"Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have arrived; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Therefore let us, as many as are mature, have this attitude..." (Philippians 3:12-15).

Many years ago, when our son Brian was a small child, he came home from kindergarten and proudly announced, “I've learned how to snap and whistle. Now all I have to learn is to tie." 

Snapping his fingers and whistling were important developmental tasks for Brian. When he learned to tie his shoes, he would have mastered all there is to know. 

Some of us think that way: We know the doctrines of the Christian Faith and have our theologies ship shape, tied down, secure and squared away and thus have nothing left to learn. Contrary to Paul's attitude, we're "already perfected."

No, Paul would say. Christian maturity is not knowing stuff (that's Gnosticism), but knowing Jesus and becoming like Him in all that we think, do and say (Philippians 3:8-11), and not one of us has that "developmental task" squared away. 

But we can "press" toward that goal, pursue it with all our mind, heart and will, and that attitude, Paul assures us, is "maturity" (3:15). Progress toward Christ-likeness and not perfection is the goal.

David Roper
11.10.17

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Beyond Need

"There is nothing on earth that I desire besides You" (Psalm 73:25).

I walked into a local fly fishing shop some years ago and marveled at all the gadgets, gimcracks and doodads I could buy to support my fishing habit. The proprietor, who knows me well, sauntered over and asked if he could help. "Oh, I'm just looking to see if I need anything, John.” I said.

"Roper," he drawled, “you're way beyond need." Exactly.

John's answer set me to thinking of all the rods, reels, lines, patterns, vests, wading staffs, shoes and waders that graced my garage and the back of my truck. Brand names like Winston, Sage, Orvis and Simms danced through my mind. Why do I need one more thing?

Odd, the years it has taken me to learn one simple fact, that the next purchase, the next excursion, the next publication—all the things that surely hold the key to my satisfaction—will never suffice. Despite my efforts to find contentment and joy, I will never know complete satiety in this present life. There will always be one more thing to do, or to possess, one more person to know, one more place to go. 

What is this voice that keeps telling me that I need something more?  Well, you may be surprised to know this, but our discontent is actually God’s voice longing for us, calling us. He is both the source and the satisfaction of our deepest needs.

“My soul thirsts for God, for the Living God,” David said (Psalm 42:2). That’s the long and short of it. God and His love is all I need.

David Roper

11.9.17

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Light Dawns

“Darkness cannot see, of course,” George MacDonald, History of Photogen and Nycteris

"Light dawns for the righteous..." —Psalm 97:11

Truth and moral order are imbedded in the universe: "The heavens proclaim (God's) righteousness" (97:6) No one has to teach us the knowledge of good and evil. We know. For that reason, most objections to truth are nothing more than smoke screens to cover our flight from God. 

That's a ruinous expedient, however, for when we turn away from what we know to be true we begin to descend into deeper darkness. And soon there is no end of the evil that we do. (Harvey Weinstein comes to mind.)

On the other hand, "light dawns for the righteous." The more we open our hearts to the truth and seek to obey it, the more truth we will know. Truth eludes those that oppose it, but the simple, the humble, the childlike understand. It's the pure in heart that see God.

Having trouble with God? The place to begin is to ask Him to align your will with His. If you want to do His will you will know (John 7:17). “What you see and what you hear depends a good deal on where you are standing," C.S. Lewis said. "It also depends on what sort of person you are" 


David Roper

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

What God Has Promised 

In the day when I cried out, You answered me,
And made me bold with strength in my soul.—Psalm 138:3

"Some folks' lives roll easy as a breeze..." Paul Simon said, but for most of old folks it's more of a push, or a "stumble." 

And, truth be known, there are no biblical promises that life will get easier as we get along in years, that God will, of necessity, transport us to the skies in flower beds of ease. No, in fact, though I'm loath to say it, the harder tests may be further along. That's certainly been my story. I'm not a dispensationalist, but I must say, sometimes old age feels like the Great Tribulation.😋

Here's the thing: God has not promised that you and I will Be delivered from every dire circumstance. But He has promised that He will give us grace to be strong and brave in the face of that circumstance. God, on the basis of His undying love, made David "bold with strength in (his) soul," though, as he later put it, David was still "walking in the midst of trouble" (138:7,8). 

Jesus, in Gethsemane, "offered up prayers and supplications, with vehement cries and tears to Him who was able to save Him from death, and was heard..." (Hebrews 5:7). Yet His Father did not save Him from the pain and humiliation of the cross. Instead He gave Him courage to endure it to the end and to think nothing of its shame. 

No...

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

God has 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
11.7.17

Monday, November 6, 2017

Tears

By the waters of Babylon,
there we sat down and wept,
when we remembered Zion. —Psalm 137:1

I was raised on the creed of the stiff upper lip, but I've learned that there's no shame or weakness in weeping. The best and manliest of men, on one occasion, burst into tears (John 11:35).

The world is full of happy surprises, but it's also a vale of tears. It's unrealistic to suppress our sorrow. Solomon [and Pete Seeger] aver, "There is a time for weeping" (Ecclesiastes 3:4). 

George MacDonald describes sorrow as "a wandering woman, a kind of gypsy, always  going about the world, and picking up lost things. Nobody likes her, hardly anybody is civil to her; but when she has set anybody down and is gone, there is often a look of affection 
and wonder and gratitude sent after her." 

I don't understand the dynamic, but it seems to be true: Tears can relieve our sorrow. Quite often, MacDonald continues, "tears are the only cure for weeping."

Tears are not forever, however. One day the last teardrop will fall and  sorrow "will be forgot, love’s purest joys restored.” God will have wiped away every single tear.

In the meantime, a little crying might do us some good. 

David Roper

Kept

The Lord will keep you from all evil; He will keep your soul."  —Psalms 121:7

Psalm 121 is a song for pilgrims on their way to the City of God, a journey through mountain passes and perilous places, ambush sites, bandits and brigands all around. Pilgrims need protection! Thus, "keeping" is the theme of this psalm.

The centerpiece of the psalm is verse seven: "The Lord will keep you from all evil; He will keep your soul."  The parallelism establishes the only protection God has promised. He has not said that he will keep me from danger in the coming years but He has promised that He will keep my soul—the part of me that I call "myself," the "me" that is timeless and eternal. As Jesus said with such fine irony (and humor, I suspect): "Some of you will be put to death... But not a hair of your head will perish" (Luke 21:16).

The psalm is very personal. (The pronouns "you" and "your" are singular throughout.) "Hey, YOU," the poet says, "I'm speaking to you. You, the one listening to this song. Hear this: 'The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth, and forevermore'" (119:8). 

"Forevermore" is just that: From here to eternity. "He is able to keep you from stumbling, and to present you faultless, before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy" (Jude 25). 

"Rivers know this,” says Winnie the Pooh. “We shall get there someday."

David Roper
11.5.17

Weariness "Jesus, wearied as he was from his journey, was sitting beside the well. It was about the sixth hour [high noon] " ...