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Monday, January 23, 2017

Groans

“Poor little things! You can’t fly,” said the Lark.
“No, but we can look up,” said Tricksey.

—George MacDonald

" Listen to my words,” David prays, “Understand my groans” (Psalm 5:1,2).

God’s eyes are always upon us, and His ears are open to our cries. One upward glance is all it takes.

Prayer can be a groan, a wish, a ragged cry. “Groans are quick, and full of wings, And all their motions upward be; And ever as they mount, like larks they sing, The note is sad, yet music for a king” (George Herbert).

God knows more of all our needs than all our words can tell. He knows what we need before we ask Him. He reads our anxious, unscripted thoughts and turns them into prayer.

Paul put it this way: "If we don't know how or what to pray for it doesn't matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans” (Romans 8:26,27, The Message).

David Roper

1.5.17

Thursday, January 19, 2017

A Money Grubbing Man

J. Paul Getty was asked how to make money. “Some people find oil. Others don’t,” he replied. 

Case in point: Some years ago my father bought a few hundred acres of scrub brush in North Texas. Two years later the Corps of Engineers raised  the level of a nearby lake and turned his little piece of dirt into valuable lakefront property. Shrewd planning? No, dumb luck. 

On second thought, not really. Money–making isn’t happenstance, but Providence, according to Moses: “God gives the power to make wealth” (Deuteronomy 8:17,18). That’s true across the board. But, I hasten to add, God doesn’t give the power to make wealth to everyone. It can be the worst thing that ever happened to us: Money–grubbing can ruin our souls.

If God gives us money we should be thankful and use our wealth wisely, but “Those who want to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.” 

Lust for wealth can corrode and corrupt our hearts and turn them away from God. “The heart is ravaged by the same moth and rust that devour the treasure!” George McDonald said. How can we who follow Jesus possibly believe that the chief end of our lives is to make money? Who of us could stand before our Lord, “who for our sakes became poor,” look Him in the face and say, “I want to be rich and buy stuff?”

In the opening scene of the musical “Fiddler on the Roof,” poverty–stricken Tevya prays, “Oh, dear Lord, it’s no shame to be poor, but it’s no great honor, either. So what would have been so terrible if I had a small fortune?" Then he goes on to sing, “If I Were A Rich Man,” the last four lines of which are these:

God who made the heavens higher than the land,
You decreed me surely what I am,
Would it spoil some vast eternal plan, 
If I were a wealthy man?

Jesus would say, “Maybe.” 

David Roper
1.21.17

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Deflated

Our neighbors installed an inflatable Santa Claus in their front yard last Christmas, but when the season had run its course, the Santa deflated, a condition that epitomizes our over-blown Christmas dreams. 

There’s no time of the year like Christmas to develop unrealistic expectations. We enter the season with bright hope, but something always goes wrong. Even when things go right, our wished-for happiness never arrives. We close the season empty and yearning for that elusive “something more.”

Carolyn and I had an experience some years ago that underscores our disenchantment with Christmas. It took place at Boise’s Festival of Trees, an event we attended with our grandchildren. 

As we moved from one brightly lit Christmas tree to the next, pointing and exclaiming, our littlest granddaughter, surfeited by splendor, lost interest—until she came to a tiny manger scene. She paused transfixed. 

We tried to move on, but she lingered, pressing closer to the child. Finally, reluctantly, she agreed to leave, looking back over her shoulder to get one more glimpse of the crèche through the trees. 

As we left the building Melissa took my hand: “Papa,” she whispered. “Can we go see the baby again?” So we returned to the manger and I waited while she gazed adoringly at the Child. I thought to myself, ”How easy it is to overlook Jesus amidst the trees.”

Christmas comes and goes and we ask, ”Is this all there is?” For, you see, our deepest longings are for something more than Hallmark moments and memories. We long for God and His love. The child in the manger is that for which we’ve been looking all our lives. 

It’s been said over and over, but it needs to be said again: Jesus is the reason for the season. Nothing else will do. Christmas, as our culture defines it, will always disappoint us, but Jesus never will. 

David Roper
12/28/16

Thursday, December 29, 2016

A Painful Grace

"But as grace operates, it cannot (save through a miracle of that same grace) be other than painful."

—Francois Fénelon

C. S. Lewis, in his chronicle, The Horse and His Boy, tells the story of a Calormene noblewoman, Aravis, and her conversion from arrogance and selfishness to humble and compassionate nobility. 



The story begins with Aravis’ escape to Narnia and the North to avoid an arranged marriage to Ahoshta Tarkaan, a repulsive, elderly tyrant. To flee, she drugs a servant girl who was in league with her wicked stepmother. 



“And what happened to the girl—the one you drugged?” Shasta, her companion (the “Boy”), asks when he hears her story.



“Doubtless she was beaten for sleeping late,” replies Aravis coldly. “But she was a tool and spy of my stepmother’s. I am very glad they should beat her.”



“I say, that was hardly fair,” Shasta responds in reaction to her indifference to human suffering.



Is it good to be glad that another human being suffers harm, even when they have harmed us? Should we be happy about it? No, because it’s always wrong to repay evil for evil: “Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing,” an Apostle reminds us, “because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing” (1 Peter 3:9). 



But this is merely the word. How do we come to know this? In Aravis’ case, Aslan himself must teach her that indifference to human suffering is wrong. 


As Lewis tells the story, a great lion attacked Aravis outside the gates of Anvard and “jabbed at Aravis with its right paw. Shasta could see all the terrible claws extended. Aravis screamed and reeled in the saddle. The lion was tearing her shoulders.” Shasta was able to rescue her by driving away the beast, but Aravis’ wounds were deep and painful and required much time to heal.



Much later, when Aravis and Shasta reached Narnia, Aslan called the young princess to him: “Draw near, Aravis my daughter. See! My paws are velveted. You will not be torn this time.”



“This time, sir?” said Aravis.



“It was I who wounded you,” said Asian. “I am the only lion you met in all your journeyings. Do you know why I tore you?



“No, sir.”



”The scratches on your back, tear for tear, throb for throb, blood for blood, were equal to the stripes laid on the back of your stepmother’s slave because of the drugged sleep you cast upon her. You needed to know what it felt like.”



It’s always wrong to take pleasure in another person’s suffering, even when that person has wronged us deeply. Aslan does not argue his case; he simply shows Aravis that her gloating is wrong. Now she knows what her servant girl felt like, for she herself has felt great pain. 



This is the mercy of God: In his love he allows us to experience profound suffering that we may grow in humility, tenderness and mercy. Our pain, however severe, is a means of grace: it is meant to make us kinder, more compassionate children. 



David Roper

12.29.16

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

How Sweet It Is!

Behold, how good and pleasant it iswhen brothers dwell together…
It is like the dew of Hermon,
Coming down on the mountains of Zion!
For there the LORD has commanded the blessing... —Psalm 133 

How sweet it is when "brothers dwell together." How bitter when we don't.

"Why can't we all just get along?" Rodney King’s question still resonates. Roommates, spouses, close associates, long-time friends fuss and fight. Why must relationships unravel?

The solution is found on Mt. Zion, the place where God dwells, for it is “there” that God provides the blessing. Conflicts can be worked out as we humble ourselves in His presence. Put simply, people that pray together tend to stay together.

Occam's Razor is a principle in logic that states: "When you have several competing hypotheses, the simplest solution is the one you should select."

Having trouble working through a relationship? Try praying together. It can't get more simple than that.

David Roper

12.14.16