Friday, July 21, 2017


Arise, O LORD. Deliver me...
from men of the world whose portion is in this life.
You fill their belly with treasure;
they are satisfied with children,
And they leave their abundance to their infants.

As for me, I shall behold your face in righteousness;
when I awake, I shall be satisfied with your likeness. —Psalm 17:13-15

I heard a story years ago about a funeral at which a man was being buried in a solid gold Cadillac. “Man!” someone murmured, “that’s living.”

The rich and famous have “the good life,” or so they say. Don’t they know that someday they’ll die and leave everything to others? Chuck Swindoll observes, "I've never seen a U-Haul behind a hearse."

"As for me," David says, (in contrast to those who cannot see beyond this world) “I shall behold your face in righteousness; when I awake (from the “sleep” of death) I shall be satisfied with your likeness." Then, in contrast to those who are satisfied (17:14) with what they have in this life, he will be satisfied (17:15) with God Himself and His love. This the answer to David’s prayer, “Show us the miracle of steadfast love” (17:7).

Augustine imagines an occasion on which God appears and offers this deal: “l will give you anything and everything you ever wanted in this life—beauty, strength, fame, wealth, power, health, a powerful intellect in a perfect body… But you will never see My face again.”

Would I take up this offer? Would you? Jesus asks, “What will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his own soul?” (Matthew 16:26).

Good question.

David Roper

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Praise the Lord

Read: Psalm 148:7-13

Old men and children! 
Let them praise the name of the LORD... 148:12

"(Old folks) seem to have got left out of the old lists,” Tolkien’s Merry lamented. Yet the psalmist includes us:” Let old men...praise the name of the Lord!" (148;12).

Sun, moon, stars, clouds, sea creatures, fire, hail, snow, mist, mountains, hills, fruit trees, cedar trees, wild animals, livestock, creeping things and flying birds, all creatures great and small—give a shout-out to God each morning because He brought them into existence through His word (148:1-10).

We praise God for our existence as well, but more so for His redemptive love: He raised up a “horn”—a powerful deliverer—for us and brought us near (148:11-14). “Near so very near to God; nearer I could not be. For in the person of His Son, I am as near as He.” The love with which God loves His Son—such is his love for you and me.

Despite arthritic joints, aching backs and other discomforts, we can join with all creation and awaken each day with exuberant praise! ”God forbid that when all Thy creatures are greeting the morning with songs and shouts of joy, I alone should wear a dull and sullen face" (Olde John Baillie). 

David Roper

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Haste Makes Waste

You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased (Mark 1:11).

There’s this fellow I know who’s always in a hurry. I’ve forgotten his name, but I’ll never forget his pace. 

He’s involved in everything that goes on down at the church: He’s a chairman of committees, a leader of small groups, a teacher of small children, a whirlwind of pious fervor and activity. His life is full of bother and commotion. You can pick him out of any group: He’s the one who wrings his hands every fifteen minutes or so. Just being around him makes me tired. 

But his hectic pace doesn’t seem right to me. In the first place, I don’t see Jesus running around like that. He was never in a hurry! He had an infinite job to do and only 3 1/2 years to do it and yet He never seemed to be in a hurry. Even when people made impossible demands on him, his manner was measured and slow. 

Furthermore, Jesus didn’t make it his practice to tell others to hurry up. In fact, the only person he ever encouraged to do something “quickly” was Judas  (Jn. 13:27).

I keep wondering, therefore, why my friend imposes this tyrannical schedule upon himself. Perhaps he has something to prove to his father, to God, or to himself. 

I don’t know why my friend works so hard but I know why I do: Most of my self-esteem is determined by what I do. That’s why I get restless and unhappy when I’m inactive, and that’s why I have to do 
more than God or anyone else ever intended for me to do, more than God designed my body to do.  

Jesus, on the other hand, didn’t have to stay busy because he knew that God’s children don’t have to prove anything. Even when they’re doing nothing that seems to be significant, they are significant because they’re deeply and fervently loved. Jesus knew, and he teaches us to know, that our sense of self worth does not arise from what we do but from what we are: fully accepted children of God. 

Once after Jesus’ disciples returned from a mission and excitedly reported their success, he countered with the mild rebuke: “Do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven” (Luke 10:20). The disciples felt good about themselves because they had done well. Far better, Jesus observed, to get one’s joy from the knowledge that we are special to God: he knows our names and has them in his book!

The Bible everywhere teaches that God is underwhelmed by our best efforts and unimpressed with our most spectacular achievements. It’s  not what we do for him that matters nor should it matter much to us. What matters most is what we are to him. 

The Father’s  words at Jesus’ baptism are significant: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased” (Mark 1:11). What had Jesus done for the past thirty years that merited such unqualified acceptance? He had not yet delivered a sermon, delivered a sinner or done any of the things we normally associate with greatness. Jesus pleased the Father because he was His beloved son.

Our Father delights in us as well (Psalm 18:19). He loves us without boundary or limit. No matter what we do or don’t do he cannot stop loving us. Consequently, we don’t have to do anything to feel good about ourselves; we don’t have to be in a hurry. We can run in the slow lane. We can make time for the peace of God to rule our hearts and minds. We can take time each day to be alone with Him. We can take time to “Howdy” with our friends and neighbors. We can take a day off each week. We can take a vacation. We can miss a meeting or two. We can leave some tasks undone at the end of each day and go home. We can take time to talk and take long walks with our spouses and children. We can hunt, fish and golf with our friends. We can leave the world in God’s capable hands for a season and enjoy His rest—which reminds me a conversation between Philipp Melanchthon and Martin Luther:

Melanchthon: “Martin, this day we shall discuss the governance of universe.”

Luther: “this day you and I shall go fishing and leave governance of the universe to God.”

David Roper 
From A Burden Shared (revised), Discovery House Publishers

Monday, July 10, 2017

Bringing in the Name

“After this Paul left Athens and went to Corinth. And he found a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to leave Rome. And he went to see them, and because he was of the same trade he stayed with them and worked, for they were tentmakers by trade.  And he reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and tried to persuade Jews and Greeks” (Acts18:1-4).

As you may know, the original New Testament Greek texts were copied by hand so they could be distributed to the churches. On rare occasions individual scribes, hoping to illuminate the text, added explanatory notes which, though they’re not part of the received text, shed light on it. One of these variants is found in Acts 18:4.

The accepted text of The Acts of the Apostles reads as above: “And he (Paul) reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and tried to persuade Jews and Greeks.” An enterprising scribe at some point added a phrase: “And he reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, bringing in the name of the Lord Jesus; and tried to persuade the Jews and the Greeks.”[1]

“Bringing in the name of the Lord Jesus.” Interesting! It appears that this scribe, having heard Paul speak, was thinking of his method of expounding the scriptures.

Paul had little more than the Old Testament in his hands. The New Testament, apart from some of the Gospels, had not yet been written. Thus Paul argued almost solely from the Jewish scriptures that Jesus was the Messiah and did so by reading Messianic passages from the Old Testament, “bringing in (inserting) the name of the Lord Jesus” where it was appropriate to do so. It’s sound methodology and I commend the method as a way of reading the Old Testament.

I think of Isaiah 53:4,5:

“Surely Jesus has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.
Jesus was pierced for our transgressions; crushed for our iniquities. Upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and by Jesus’ wounds we are healed.”

Paul’s homiletic is especially apropos when we read the Book of Psalms for, as I believe, all the psalms are Messianic and all can be placed in Jesus' mouth or applied directly to Him. Accordingly:

When I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil, for you, Lord Jesus, are with me;
your rod and your staff, they comfort me (Psalm 23:4).

That puts a face on our companion as we walk through that dark valley. The Lord Jesus will walk with us though all others must turn back.

David Roper

[1] For those of you who care about this sort of thing, one 7th Century manuscript [D] and some versions of the Syriac and Vulgate have the variant: “και εντιθεις το ονομα του κυριου Iησου.”