Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Kosher

“This man has said that the law against living on the Fixed Island is different from the other Laws, because it is not the same for all worlds and because we cannot see the goodness in it. And so far he says well. But then he says that it is thus different in order that you may disobey it. But there might be another reason… I think He made one law of that kind in order that there might be obedience. In all these other matters what you call obeying Him is but doing what seems good in your own eyes also. Is love content with that? You do them, indeed, because they are His will, but not only because they are His will. Where can you taste the joy of obeying unless He bids you do something for which His bidding is the only reason?” CS Lewis in Perelandra

Leviticus 11:1-47

We are no longer under Israel's dietary laws, but the system remains a puzzlement to me. For starters, why did God allow his people to eat animals that had cloven hooves and chewed the cud, but not animals that chewed the cud and did not have cloven hooves? Why must Israel avoid animals that had cloven hooves and did not chew the cud. On what basis were these animals pure or impure? Scholars have long pondered that question. 

Some suggest that a few creatures are just inherently disgusting. I get that. I’ve never considered owls or eels haute cuisine. 

Others claim that certain animals were off the table for cultic reasons: They were used in Israel's day for pagan worship, or to represent pagan gods. This may be true in some cases–cooking a lamb in it’s mother’s milk is thought to be a pagan ritual—but cattle and sheep were "clean" in Israel, even though they were used in Baal worship.  

Others suggest a hygienic reason for the laws and argue that certain animals were classified as impure because they could cause disease if not properly cooked—pork, for example. But many of the pure animals are equally dangerous if undercooked and why would the New Testament later allow these animals to be eaten (Acts 10:9-16)? If health were a consideration, why would God rescind these laws?

Finally, some sources suggest a symbolic interpretation for the laws: Animals that chewed the cud made the cut because they reminded Israel to meditate on the law. The filthy habits of pigs spoke of the “filth of iniquity.” While most things can be made into metaphors, this approach has always struck me as whimsical and I‘ve never been able to take it seriously.

Why then the dietary laws? 

I've pondered this question for sixty years or more and I've come up with an answer: I don't have a clue! There are just some things God wanted His people to do, for which He did not provide a rationale.

Even so today, curiosity asks, why? Why must I do this thing that God is asking me to do? Love answers, "Just do it, child and trust me. Even if I explained it, you wouldn't understand."

David Roper
2.21.18


Tuesday, February 20, 2018

By Itself

“The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground. He sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how. The earth produces by itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. But when the grain is ripe, at once he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come” (Mark 4:26-29)

I remember my father sowing fields by hand. We had a seed drill, but if the plot was small it was hardly worth breaking out the tractor, so he would strap on an old Burpee seed bag, walk the furrows and manually scatter the seed on the ground.

I never saw him lose sleep afterward, pacing the floor, wringing his hands and worrying that a crop might not grow. He knew that life is inherent in the seed and in time the earth would produce "by itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear."

Because Carolyn and I have been at this business for awhile, we're sometimes asked how it works. I usually shrug and say, "Beats me"—my version of the saying, "he knows not how." We just love and pray and teach the Word—simply, honestly, humbly, one hopes—and leave the results to God. The harvest, if it comes, will come of itself,  "automatically" to use Mark's word.

"Outcomes are of the Lord," Dallas Willard used to say. Don't  worry about results or how they happen. Just "proclaim the word; do it whether you feel like it or not" (1Timothy 4:2). Scatter the seed hither and yon, and see what God will do. 

David Roper
2.20.18

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Come and Get It

Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters;
and he who has no money, come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without price.

Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread,
and your labor for that which does not satisfy?
Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good,
and delight yourselves in rich food.

Incline your ear, and come to me;
hear, that your soul may live;
and I will make with you an everlasting covenant,
my steadfast, sure love for David. —Isaiah 55:1-3

I peeked over the grape-stake fence that encloses our backyard. There, I saw folks running, jogging, walking, shuffling around the track that surrounds the park behind our home. "I used to do that," I thought. And a wave of dissatisfaction washed over me. 

Later, reading the Lenten passage for the day, I came across the text above and realized again that dissatisfaction (“thirst") is the rule, not the exception in this life. Nothing, not even the good things of life can fully satisfy. If I had legs like a Sherpa something would still be amiss. 

Our culture is always telling us in one way or another that something we do, buy, wear, spray on, roll on or ride in will give us endless pleasure. But that's a lie. You “can’t get no satisfaction” from anything in the here and now, no matter what you do. 

Rather Isaiah invites us to come again and again to God and His Word and hear what he has to say. And what does he say? His love for David of old is everlasting, "steadfast and sure." (55:3). And that goes for old David Roper as well!

Whom have I, Lord, but Thee, 
Soul-thirst to satisfy?
Exhaustless spring! 
The waters free! 
All other streams are dry.

Our hearts by Thee are set
On brighter things above;
Strange that we ever should forget
Thine own most faithful love. —Mary Bowley

David Roper
2.19.18

Friday, February 16, 2018

Without Cause

For without cause they hid their net for me;
without cause they dug a pit for my life...
They hate me without cause—35:7,19

Some folks will hate you even though you're trying to do the right thing, indeed because you're trying to do the right thing. That's something wise people have always known.

They repay me evil for good; my soul is bereft. When they were sick I wore sackcloth; I afflicted myself with fasting; I prayed with head bowed on my chest. I went about as though I grieved for my friend or my brother; as one who laments his mother, I bowed down in mourning. But at my stumbling they rejoiced and gathered; they gathered together against me; wretches whom I did not knowJtore at me without ceasing; like profane mockers at a feast,Thhey gnash at me with their teeth" (35:12-16).

Ingrates! What's the matter with these people? 

Well...what can we say: some people hate goodness. (I think here of Joy Beher's recent, unprovoked attack on Mike Pence's faith, equating it to mental illness.) What then should we do?  

David shot up a prayer, which is always the first thing to do: "Awake and rouse yourself for my vindication, for my cause, my God and my Lord! Vindicate me, O LORD, my God according to your righteousness” (35:23,24). Put your case in God's hands for His resolution.

Self-defense is a null set, as math guys say: It amounts to nothing. Let God take up your cause. He is righteous and just and will bring justice in due time (35:17).

Our Heavenly Father "delights" in us (35:27). Why then do we care what others think of us?

David Roper

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Happiness is...

Faces along the bar
Cling to their average day:
The lights must never go out,
The music must always play,
All the conventions conspire
To make this fort assume
The furniture of home;
Lest we should see where we are, 
Lost in a haunted wood,
Children afraid of the night
Who have never been happy or good.

—W.H. Auden 

David writes, "What man is there who desires life and loves many days, that he may see good... Let him turn away from evil and do good."—Psalm 34:12,14. 

The good life is the good life. Happiness is doing the right thing—something wise men and women have always known
The world is constantly telling us, in one way or another, that happiness is doing our thing, but that's a gigantic lie. It only leads to emptiness, anxiety and heartache. 

Happiness is doing God's thing, a fact that can be empirically verified every day. Just try it and you'll see, which is what David meant when he said, "taste and see that the Lord is good” (34:8a).

We say, "Seeing is believing." Show me a proof and I will believe it. That's how we know stuff in this world. 

God puts things the other way 'round. "Believing is seeing" ("Taste and then you will see.") Trust God, take Him at his word, do the very next thing he asks you to do, and you will see good. If you ask for his help he will give you grace to do the right thing and more: He will give you himself, the only source of enduring happiness and peace.

"Oh, the blessedness (happiness) of those who take refuge in Him!" (34:8b)

David Roper

2.13.18

Sunday, February 11, 2018

God’s Eyes

"Behold, the Lord's eyes are on those...who trust in His love." —Psalm 33:18

God finds you fascinating! His eyes find and follow you all day long—like one of those paintings in which the subject’s eyes seem to follow you around the room.

That’s because you, by faith in Jesus, have been adopted into His Father’s family, and like all good fathers, He dotes on His children.

Such devotion would be worrying if you had to do something to deserve it, or earn it, or keep it, but all that God asks of you is that you "trust in His love." Believe it: You are his belov├ęd. "He loves, though all hate; He delights, though all abhor; He remains, though all forsake."

David Roper

2.10.18

Kosher “This man has said that the law against living on the Fixed Island is different from the other Laws, because it is not the same...