Thursday, July 2, 2015

An Evening Prayer

Came across a gem this morning: an evening prayer by Thomas Ken entitled, “Glory to Thee My God This Night.”

Thomas Ken is little known today, but in his day he was a highly regarded Bishop of the Church of England, Chaplain to the Court of William of Orange and Chaplain to the British Navy.

Most interesting to me was his friendship with Izaak Walton, the old angler. (His stepsister, Anne, was married to Walton). He was deeply influenced by the character of that good and gentle man. 

In the course of his life he penned a number of poems, one of which is this nighttime prayer—you’ll be surprised by the last stanza—an alternative perhaps to counting sheep, or “Now I lay me down to sleep…”

All praise to Thee, my God, this night,
For all the blessings of the light!
Keep me, O keep me, King of kings,
Beneath Thine own almighty wings.

Forgive me, Lord, for Thy dear Son,
The ill that I this day have done,
That with the world, myself and Thee,
I, ere I sleep, at peace may be.

Teach me to live, that I may dread
The grave as little as my bed.
Teach me to die, that so I may
Rise glorious at the judgment day.

O may my soul on Thee repose,
And with sweet sleep mine eyelids close,
Sleep that may me more vigorous make
To serve my God when I awake.

When in the night I sleepless lie,
My soul with heavenly thoughts supply;
Let no ill dreams disturb my rest,
No powers of darkness me molest.

O when shall I, in endless day,
Forever chase dark sleep away,
And hymns divine with angels sing,
All praise to thee, eternal King?

Praise God, from Whom all blessings flow;
Praise Him, all creatures here below;
Praise Him above, ye heavenly host;
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

—Thomas Ken (1637-1711)

David Roper

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Growing Eyes 

                          That Thou are nowhere to be found, agree 
                          Wise men, whose eyes are but for surfaces… 

—George MacDonald

Theologians tell us that God is transcendent: existing beyond the range of human perception. But, as they also say, he is immanent: in all things and existing everywhere at the same time. (A remote analogy would be the world’s oceans existing “in” a sunken ship and yet surrounding it.)

That’s cold comfort to me, however, unless I understand God’s immanence to mean that he is everywhere present in and around me, with me wherever I go and involved in all that I do. He is present in the quiet place in which I now write, or in the next difficult and dangerous occasion I face, be it a fractious board meeting, or a firing squad.

Read the story of Elisha at Dothan, how the Syrian army gathered at night to kill him. His servant, awakening, looked over the wall and cried out in panic, “Oh, my lord, what shall we do?”

“Don’t be afraid,” the prophet replied calmly—then prayed, “O Lord, open his eyes that he may see.”

The Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he saw God, and a gazillion angels,[1] guarding the city and protecting Elisha and his servant from harm. Then Elisha said, “See? There are more of us than there are of them.”  
As Yogi Berra said: “You can observe a lot by seeing.”


[1] Aquinas comments on this verse: “God fills (heaven and earth), not like a body fills a place... When God is in a place, others are not excluded from it” (Summa I, 8.3). Aquinas’ point is that while two material bodies cannot occupy the same space at the same time, spirits can be co–present with matter. This may be the origin of the famous question, “How many angels (spiritual beings) can dance on the head of a pin (a small space)?” It’s actually a very good question though often used to mock medieval philosophers. The answer? An infinite number of angels inhabit your small place.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Butte Creek Mill

"I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith." —Philippians 1:25 

There’s an old mill on Butte Creek in Eagle Point, Oregon that was built in 1872. It’s weathered and worn by the daily grind, but it’s still going strong, doing the work for which it was made.

You too were made for a purpose: to work for others “progress and joy in the faith.” Even when old and gray you can do the work for which you were created.

Perhaps you wonder why you’ve lingered so long. Like Paul you long to go home and be with the Lord. The reason you “remain and continue” is because you’re still needed—like Paul, you’re “necessary for the sake of others.” There are individuals to touch with the love of God through the words you speak, the counsel you give, the letters you write, the kindness and compassion you show.

“We are immortal,” Augustine said, “until our work is done.” The time of our death is not determined by anything or anybody here on earth—physicians, actuarial tables, or the average human life span. That decision is made in the councils of heaven. When your work is finished, then and only then will God take you home. “When David had served God’s purpose in his own generation, he fell asleep…” (Acts 13:36)—and not one second before!

David Roper

Monday, June 1, 2015

Random Acts of Kindness and Senseless Acts of Beauty

Why have I found favor (grace) in your eyes, that you should take notice of me, since I am a foreigner?” —Ruth 2:10

According to legend, American writer Anne Herbert scribbled the phrase "Practice random acts of kindness and senseless acts of beauty" on a placemat at a Sausalito, California restaurant in 1982. The sentiment has since been popularized through film and literature and has become a part of our cultural vocabulary.

The missing note is Why?Why should we show kindness to others?

For those who follow Jesus the answer is clear: Whether voiced or unvoiced the purpose of every act of kindness is to show the tender mercy and loving kindness of God. When acts of kindness are done in that spirit theres no end to the good we can do.

Theres an Old Testament analogue of that principle in the story of Ruth, the emigrant from Moab, a foreigner, living in a strange land whose language and culture she did not understand. Furthermore, she was desperately poor, utterly dependent on the charity of a people who took little notice of her

There was one Israelite, however, who showed Ruth grace and spoke to her heartas the Hebrew text puts it (Ruth 2:13). He allowed her to glean in his fields, but more than that simple charity, he showed her by his compassion and tenderness the tender mercy and loving kindness of God, the one under whose wings she could take refuge.

As you know, she became Boazbride and part of the family of God and one in a line of descendants that led to the One who brought salvation to the world (Cf. Matthew 1:1-16).

You never know what one act of kindness, done in Jesusname, will do (Mark 9:38).

David Roper

“You have not fulfilled every duty, unless you have fulfilled that of being
kind” (Charles Buxton).

Thursday, May 28, 2015


“My son, my son,” said Aslan. “I know. Grief is great. Only you and I in this land know that yet. Let us be good to one another.”  —C.S. Lewis. The Magician’s Nephew

Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth;
Keep watch over the door of my lips;
Let not my heart speak severely.[1]Psalm 141:3

When I was a child I was an ardent reader of L. Frank Baum's Land of Oz books. Id not seen a copy for decades until this week when I came across a
Gutenberg e-book facsimile of Baums Rinkitink in Oz with all the original artwork (

Imagine my delight!

I laughed again at the antics of Baum's portly, ebullient, irrepressible, goodhearted King Rinkitink, of the Kingdom of Rinkitink and was reminded of his downtoearth goodness.
Young Prince Inga describes him best. When Bilbil the goat excoriates Rinkitink as an incompetent fool, Inga replies, But his heart is kind and gentle and that is far better than being wise."

How simple and how sensible! Yet, who of us has not jarred the heart of someone dear to us by a harsh word, a sarcastic remark, an impatient gesture, a displeased look, a disapproving frown. In subtle ways we register displeasure, disturb the peace and quiet of the hour, and undo much of the good we have done that day. "A small unkindness, says Hanna More, is a great offense.

Grief is great. We must be good to one another, by soft endearments in common strife / lightening the load of life (John Keble). In a world in which love has grown cold, kindnessa kindness that comes from the heart of Godis one of the most helpful and healing things we can offer to others.

And heres the good news: Anyone can become kind. We may be incapable of preaching corking good sermons, fielding hard questions, or evangelizing vast numbers, but we can, in time, become kind.

How? As King David did: Through prayer, the only way to soften our “rubbled–over hearts”—Karl Rahner’s apt expression—the source from which severity and all other sins flow. Hard words flow from hard thoughts. Indeed, Lord, “Let not my heart speak severely.”

David Roper

[1] The sense of the Hebrew text (Brown, Driver & Briggs Hebrew Lexicon).

Monday, May 25, 2015

Feed My Sheep

If we are devoted to the cause of humanity, we shall soon be crushed and brokenhearted, for we shall often meet with more ingratitude from men than we would from a dog; but if our motive is love for Christ, no ingratitude can hinder us from service to our fellowman. Oswald Chambers

In 1627, Samuel Rutherford penned a letter to Marion M'Naught, wife of William Fullerton, a worthy clergyman doing his weary best in a small Presbyterian church in Kirkcudbright, Scotland. Things were not going well, and he had few to "speak a good word" for him.

Like most of us he occasionally wondered it was time to move on: He would most gladly have the Lord's call for transplantation," Rutherford wrote. However, he continued, all God's plants, set by His own hand, thrive well."
In other words, as the adage has it, bloom where you're planted.

Rutherford writes on, Ask of God a submissive heart. 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 your people do not gather in numbers and the work does not seem to be prospering, be content for now to remain,[1] to pray, to instruct, to listen, to love, and to grow in grace. 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."

Feed your sheep for love of Jesus and for no other reason (John 21:15-17). "You shall not lose your reward."

David Roper

[1] Remain until you're extruded, to use Francis Schaeffer's  colorful term.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Reflection on Psalm 130[1]

“Are the gods not the gods just?”
"Oh no, child. What would become of us if they were?”

― C.S. Lewis, Till We Have Faces

Psalm 130 is an ascent psalm, a psalm to get us up and get us going—especially on those days when we cry "out of the depths" of our troubled, sin-ridden souls, knowing that we will sin again—and again (130:1).

If God “kept a record of sins”—if he were solely just—what would become of us? (130:3). But—and here’s a lovely Old Testament grace note—with him “there is forgiveness,” for in due time God himself bore our sins, past, present and future, in his body on the Cross.[2] What can I say but “Awesome!” (130:4).

Thus, forgiven for all time and eternity, we await our final redemption from sin: ”I wait for the LORD, my whole being waits, and in his word I my hope; my soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning, more than watchmen for the morning" (130:5,6).

Morning is a sure thing and so is our ultimate salvation, but we must wait. There is no final deliverance from sin in this world, though there should be and will be progress in righteousness. But the promise holds: “With the Lord there is unfailing love (now) and with him is full [and final] redemption” (then) (130:7).

Now we are enveloped in his sure and certain love, and very soon, when he comes for us or we go to him, “he himself will redeem [us] from all our sins” (130:8). When we see him we shall be like him!

When Julian of Norwich asked God why sin entered world, she replied, "Sin is necessary, but all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well."

Lift up your heads. Your redemption is nigh!

David Roper

[1] It would be helpful to have the psalm in front of you.
[2] God’s forgiveness is based on the Cross, an event in time with timeless implications. Jesus “is the lamb having been slain from the creation of the world” (Revelation 13:8).