Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Playing the Fool

“God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6).

My most humiliating experience EVER was the day I addressed the faculty, students, board members and friends of my seminary on the occasion of the fifty-year anniversary of its founding. I had been asked to speak on the subject: “What We Can Expect From Our Culture In The Next Ten Years.” Why they asked me to speak on that topic I will never know. I’m not a prophet, nor am I the son of a prophet. 

I approached the lectern that morning with my manuscript in   hand and looked out on a sea of a thousand or more friendly faces, but my eye then fell on a row of distinguished professors seated on the front row, garbed in academic capes and gowns and looking very serious. I immediately took leave of my senses. 

My mouth dried up and detached itself from my brain. I fumbled the first few sentences of my lecture and then for some inexplicable reason, I began to extemporize. Then, since, I had no idea where I was in the manuscript, I began to turn pages frantically, looking for my place, while talking a line of nonsense that baffled everyone. The perigee came when one of my professors put his pen and notepad away and closed his eyes. I hoped against hope that he was praying for me.

Somehow, I made it through the rest of the lecture, crept back to my chair, sat down in it (though I wanted to crawl under it) and stared at the floor. The emcee got up and mumbled, “That was….um…an interesting example of…um…exposition.”  

I wanted to die. 

I must say, however that humiliation is good for the soul if it leads us to humble ourselves, for humility is the key that opens God’s heart. He himself has said, “This is the man to whom I look, he that is humble and contrite in spirit, and who trembles at my word” (Isaiah 66:2). God resists the proud, but he cannot resist the humble. He showers them with grace. 

Humiliation and shame bring us to God for his shaping. When we fall, we have fallen into his hands. 

David Roper
4.21.19

Monday, May 20, 2019

The Dumbest Philosophy In The World

"What is most desirable in a human being is love” (Proverbs 19:22) 

The dumbest philosophy in the world is the idea that we’re sent into this world to make a lot of money, accumulate a lot of stuff and retire in style. It's a belief that's certain to end in dissatisfaction and disaster, yet it permeates and drives our culture. 

No, love is what we're all about. Jewish exegete Rashi said that this proverb (19;22) tells us that love is what marks a man as a man. If we’re not learning to love God and our neighbor—a virtue that takes an entire lifetime to learn—no matter what else we may accomplish, we will have missed the purpose for which we were created and wasted our entire lives. ”We will have made all A's but flunked life,” educator and philosopher Walker Percy said.

Love is an exotic. It doesn't occur naturally in human nature. Only God is love. We have to get it from him. Love can come from us, but only as it first comes from him. We love because he first loved us. ”Grace perfects nature,” Saint Thomas said, and that goes for human nature as well.

So, stay close to God all day and keep asking him to pour his love into your heart so you can pour it out to others (Romans 5:5). The end is peace and joy. 

BTW: Love is something you can do even when you’re very, very old. 

David Roper
4.20.19

Sunday, May 19, 2019

The Divine-Human Endeavor

"And the LORD said to him: “I have heard your prayer and your supplication that you have made before Me; I have sanctified this house which you built to put My name there forever, and My eyes and My heart will be there perpetually" (1 Kings 9:3 NKJV).

Here is the mystery of divine-human endeavor: Solomon "built" the house: He hired artisans and architects from Tyre, gathered exotic building materials from afar, erected the structure, crafted the furniture, embellished the walls and pillars with sheets of hammered gold—but the house was just another house until God made it holy. 

We labor over a text to understand it, utilizing the exegetical tools at our disposal, crafting our thoughts to maintain the integrity of the text, thinking through the needs of our people and linking truth to life. But our words amount to nothing if God does not invest them with holiness.

We envision a mission, impart the vision, train the workers, send them into the field and support them as they carry on the work. But it's wasted effort if God does not imbue that work with holiness. 

And how do we bring God's holiness into our work? Through prayer (9:3). Prayer is the highest expression of our utter dependence on God and the means by which we work in concert with Him. It is the way he puts his name on all that we do. Apart from him we can do nothing (John 15:5).  

David Roper
4.19.19



Thursday, May 16, 2019

Winning the Prize

"Do you remember how, on a racing-track, every competitor runs, but only one wins the prize? Well, you ought to run with your minds fixed on winning the prize! Every competitor in athletic events goes into serious training. Athletes will take tremendous pains—for a fading crown of leaves. But our contest is for a crown that will never fade" (1 Corinthians 9:25, 26, J.B. Phillips).

I ran track in high school—100 and 200 meter hurdles. When I got to college, however, I realized that almost everyone in the Southwest Conference could run faster than I and turned in my spikes at the end of my freshman year.

One thing I learned at that level: "Every competitor in athletic events goes into serioustraining."

That analogy is often applied to the Christian life with inducements to establish a set of dreary asceticisms like rising at 4:00 a.m. to pray, a "discipline" that only made me grouchy. Thankfully, however, that's not how Paul applies it.

Paul argues that though we have been endowed with certain inalienable rights, we can, out of our love for Jesus, impose limits on ourselves—discipline ourselves, if you will—to give up those rights in order to bring others closer to him, which is what Paul means when he writes, "I run the race with determination. I am no shadow-boxer, I really fight!"(9:27). (Here Paul uses a technical boxing term that evokes memories of  Mammy Yoakum's fabled "Goodnight Irene" knockout punch.)

Stern discipline indeed: To set aside our rights to gain the greatest prize—the spiritual good of another. It's what Jesus did: He set aside his rights as Almighty God and humbled himself to bring salvation to us. He was willing to give up life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness and every other right to seek our highest good. There is no greater discipline. There is no greater love.

David Roper
4.16.19

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Abide

"This is what I mean, brothers: the time has grown very short. From now on... let those who mourn live as though they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though they had no goods, and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it. For the present form of this world is passing away" (1Corinthians 7:29-31).

"This world is passing away." My goodness, is that not true! If I had to render one opinion on my life I would have to say that it is the speed with which the past eighty-six years have passed away. It seems only yesterday that I was young and now I am old. Tempus fugit.

Indeed history is speeding to its consummation, which is what Paul had in mind, but more existential is the realization that our days are "soon gone and we fly away." Therefore we shouldn’t cling to the stuff of this life because it's all small stuff in the end.

Looking back I have to say that the things I mourned and the things that brought me happiness were very small things indeed—passing events that now have no importance. I recall a position I wanted and lost. The loss was quite troubling at the time. Today it has no significance at all. 

Paul's underlying concern in 1Corinthians 7 is the unending human quest for "something more," the urge to move up or move on. Paul's counsel is to "abide with God"—find your satisfaction in Him. 

"Do you want to be married?" Paul asks. Get married, but don't think that marriage alone will satisfy you. "Do you seek freedom?" (Paul was thinking of Roman slaves.) By all means, gain your freedom if you can but don't think that this alone will cure your anxiety. "Is there something you want to buy?" Buy it, if you must, but tomorrow the shine will be off of that shiny thing. Did you lose out on a promotion? Not to worry. In time you'll see that upward mobility, in itself, is a just another small matter. Do you clamor for beauty and glamor? In a few years they will mean nothing at all. The only lasting satisfaction comes from a life of undivided devotion to Jesus. Abide in him (John 15:4).

Our son Josh has a one word plate on his pickup: "ABIDE,"  drawn from Sam Eliot’s line in the cult flick, “The Big Lebowski” ("The dude abides..."). Each time I see the truck I think of Paul's simple anodyne: "Abide with God" (1Corinthians 7:24). 

I pray that this dude will abide. 

David Roper

5.13.19

Friday, May 10, 2019

Just for You: Welcome
 Ask and Receive 
 5.10.19
My friend and I have been going through a book together, one that has been sectioned according to themes. This past week we were discussing “Meek.” Along with the author’s thoughts there were relevant Scripture passages to consider and discuss. As I prepared at home before our meeting I read and pondered Philippians 2: 3-11 and Titus 3:1-7.  Quickly, God brought to mind a situation where I had not been meek, at least not in my thoughts towards another. This was a perfect time to turn in repentance and confession and give praise for God’s abundant supply of mercy that washed over me. As I reveled in a fresh perspective of how His mercy and kindness was abundantly available to me and to the other, I walked with much more freedom.  My friend and I prayed each of us would have more of this quality of meekness by His grace. Our desire is to reflect Christ to God’s other children. Of course this begins in our thoughts. We asked.
Several days later it happened. God graciously gave me another opportunity to walk in the humility of meekness. At the time I did not recognize what I heard as an opportunity. What I heard left me feeling displaced, dismissed, overlooked and unregarded.  You know the kind of message that can have this affect. Perhaps it is a ministry opportunity that was denied or given to another. Or taken by another. Perhaps it was a relational situation where you were not included. Perhaps your words were dismissed when another’s “better” way was presented.   
I called my friend and asked her to pray for me, realizing our Lord uses the prayers of others to augment our desires for change. I knew she understood meekness, as we had just studied this theme.  I wanted the right attitude, especially towards the others involved. I did desire to see His life and light come first in my thoughts, and then in my actions and reactions. My friend joined me in asking.
This morning as I came before the Lord, the situation and people I mentioned above were not on my mind at all. I picked up a book of essays looking for something else. What I received was God’s answer to yesterday’s asking.
Elizabeth Canham wrote: “Each of us is a mystery. Today we are encouraged to psychoanalyze, understand, and fix the problems that have contributed to our sense of alienation or disease. We forget that we will never plumb the marvelous depths of our own being. What we see and know is like the tip of the iceberg. Below the surface is God’s handiwork in all its richness and depth. We are strangers to ourselves and the most appropriate posture we can adopt is awe and a willingness to allow the Spirit to reveal more of what is hidden below the surface. This pilgrimage, a journey of discovery and surprise, and the welcomed stranger within enables us to honor the mystery of the others who travel with us. On pilgrimage we travel light, discarding the heavy load of judgment and appreciating the gifts of those we meet along the way. Sharing resources, stories, and needs creates hope. In an inequitable world dominated by fear, those who follow the Christ-path will embody pilgrim hope—the hope that on this journey together God has not ‘forgotten the recipe for manna.’ There is enough for us all and together we are invited to sit at God’s table in an ever-widening circle of belonging.”
God prompted me to ask for change. I did.
God tells me I will receive an answer. I did.
Today, aided by the Spirit using my friend to ask with me, and aided by the Spirit using another’s words, I learned three lessons from this experience. 
* First, as I see myself as the “welcomed stranger within” with mysteries I don’t yet understand, I can see others in the same light and appreciate their gifts.
* Next, since on this pilgrim journey “God has not forgotten the recipe for manna,“ therefore, there is enough to go around for all of us, including me. Enough value, love, direction, places to serve or whatever good I am seeking. 
*Third, God says ask. After I have asked, I want to stop and “be still and know” that He is God. He hears. He answers.   Maybe not right away or in the way I expected, but He does answer by His Spirit and in accordance with His Word and His good and perfect will. Most often I can leave it with Him. I will receive an answer. 
Thanking God for His heart that welcomes me, 
invites me to ask and to receive, 
 especially if what I ask for is a heart and perspective like His,
Carolyn Roper

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Just For You: Welcome
Y’all Come!
5.3.19

“Beloved!” This was the word I chose to focus on last year. The concept and truth that I am, you are, a beloved child of God is the core of who I am. It’s the core of who you are. This is not what our culture tells us but it is what God tells us by His actions and in His Word. As Henri Nouwen puts it “Before your were loved or wounded by your parents, your teachers, your friends, you were God’s beloved child.” Therefore, as I turn to Him with a grateful heart, I can be confident and rest in who I am in His sight.  I can also grow in looking at each other person in this same light.

    “Welcome!” This is the word I choose to focus on this year. “Beloved” helps me know who I am. “Welcome” helps me know who God is.

    Richard Foster says, “To think rightly about God is, in an important sense, to have everything right. To think wrongly about God is, in an important sense, to have everything wrong.”  A.W. Tozer comments, “Nothing twists and deforms the soul more than a low or unworthy conception of God.”

    God’s welcoming heart astonishes me. Indeed, He demonstrates amazing welcome as He calls me under His warm, protective and cozy wings. God welcomes me to rest on Him as a weaned child rests on her mother. He welcomes me to “Come to Him.” Especially when I am weary. Especially when I am worn out. Jesus pictures God as the Waiting Father,  ready to welcome a wandering child home from the far country. And then what? Why this Welcoming Father throws a party. As my husband recently said to a returning friend, “Break out the robe, the ring and the fatted calf. Let’s party!” No condemnation there. No censure. No regaling the past or looking down on the one who turns and returns. (When we do that we’re in Elder Brother territory. May God help us to see ourselves and become more like our Father.)

    Back where “The stars at night, are big and bright....deep in the heart of Texas,” we had a saying—“Y’all come!” Jesus came bringing this invitation from the Father. Jesus’ welcoming heart to all showed us the Father’s heart. Jesus, as He walked on to the cross, opened the door for us  to come on in, to come to Him. And as Hebrews says we can now draw near with confidence.

    The invitation and welcome is there. The question is do I see the Father as He is and will I dare to draw near? I draw near as I pray and tell Him all that’s on my heart. Not what should be on my heart but what is on my heart. He knows me inside and out. He longs to have His children home. He longs for me to tell all. He listens and He hears.

    He is a Faithful Friend who welcomes me to not only come the first time, but to want to spend time listening to Him and talking to Him. To know Him better. To let Him into my life. David and I have no delight greater than having one or more of our sons come and spend time with us. But we are only a dim reflection of the way our Father desires each of us to come to Him.  I find that when I know I am welcomed into someone’s presence, it’s a magnet drawing me to that one. And I usually leave with a lighter step as I walk into my day. I know I am heard and cared for by the One who so loves me in such a welcoming manner.

    Always God is saying, “Come closer. I know your name. You are welcome in my heart and in my presence. Y’all come!”

   Thanking God for His welcoming heart and kind invitation to come,

Carolyn

Playing the Fool “God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6). My most humiliating experience EVER was the day...