Friday, September 7, 2018

The Rain

"(God) loads the thick cloud with moisture; the clouds scatter his lightning. They (the clouds) turn around and around by his guidance, to accomplish all that he commands them on the face of the habitable world. Whether for correction or for his land, or for love he causes it to happen. Hear this, O Job;
stop and consider the wondrous works of God too (Job. 37:11–14).

Rain occurs when water vapor in the air condenses into droplets that are too heavy to resist the force of gravity. Or from another perspective, God "loads" the thick cloud with water and though the clouds swirl “around and around,” he guides them to the place he chooses. That's a more inclusive way to look at rain.

But Elihu went beyond first causes to the ultimate purpose for rain: God causes it to fall "for instruction, for the land, and for love” (37:13).

Rain falls for our instruction. Rain, the lack of it, or too much of it, reveals our human limitations and teaches us humility. For all our progress in science and technology, who of us can make rain, or stop the rain? For these actions we’re solely dependent on God.

Rain falls for the sake of the land. Rain is God visiting the earth, watering it, and enriching it: "You water its ridges abundantly, You settle its furrows; You make it soft with showers, You bless its growth" (Psalm 65:9,10). God loves the land and blesses it with showers.

Finally, rain falls because God loves us and brings rain for our delight. I recall a World War II cartoon by Bill Mauldin depicting GI Joe in a muddy fox hole with rain pelting down on his helmet. “Don’t you love the sound of rain on a tin roof,” Joe muses. Rain is, well… delightful. At one point in my childhood I had a twin roof over my head and remember well the sound of rain at night, and the peace it brought to this child. And I remember how much fun it was (and is) to play in the rain. 

Earth is the only planet in our solar system on which rain falls as a blessing. Rain falls from clouds on other planets, but it's not water. On Venus it rains sulfuric acid.

So... the next time it rains on you, don't be vexed, "Stand still and consider the miraculous work of God"—indeed, the miracle that is rain (Job 37:14).

David Roper

8.31.18

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

JUST FOR YOU
Words from Friends: Good Work 

It was a simple question. A follow-up to a prayer request actually. My friend Jani Ortlund had been given a contract to write a book, which she was eager to do. For some time she had thought about the subject and had been working out the concepts in her life and on paper.  She was ready to answer this call of God on her life and she had asked me to pray with her about her writing. Which I did.

So on that day when I inquired of Jani how the book was coming along, her words left a deep impression on me. Jani said, “I have put the book aside, because I have so much other good work to do right now.” So much other GOOD work to do. I had an inkling of what that other “good work” entailed. (And Jani did it well, for by God’s grace this new responsibility bore much fruit in the years to come.)

What impressed me about Jani’s words was her attitude of seeing her new responsibility, one she did not choose, to be GOOD work. Jani was not grumbling  and complaining as she set aside her desire to write this book. She looked at her new responsibility and called it good!

Jani’s response was a challenge to my thinking as I considered the tasks God had for me then and has for me now. I immediately thought of Paul’s words to the Ephesians— For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.(Ephesians 2:10.) Jani called this new responsibility good because she saw that it was God-given.

But here’s where I often go astray. At times I do not recognize the “good” in the work I have to do. Nor do I automatically remember that it is God who has prepared the particular tasks that are in front of me at this time in my life, and in this very day. I am His workmanship and He knows the good He desires for me, and the good He desires for me to do, even though it may not seem good to me at the moment. His plans and His perspectives are much wiser, more fitting and more necessary for His kingdom than my plans.

Perhaps you have had to set aside your heart’s desire to do “something for God,” like writing a Bible study, a blog, a sermon, a book or even a note to a friend. Perhaps you have needed to give up your peaceful private and quiet space where you meet with God in order to take on another responsibility. Perhaps you have had your activities curtailed and can no longer reach out in ways you once could. Perhaps your ministry of serving, in your church or elsewhere, has been taken by away or taken by another. Perhaps your family role has changed. So now what?

Whether it is cleaning tables in a rest home after seeing your church fold, caring for a child, a grandchild or another who needs you, waiting with a restful spirit when a door has been closed, mopping up the overflow from the shower when friends are on the way, running errands, running the copy machine, running back for something, sitting calmly in traffic, forgiving someone who hurt or overlooked you, or....you fill in the blank—all of these are GOOD works God has planned at various times for you — and for me.

To remember and acknowledge our responsibilities as GOOD work is to honor our good God and to see ourselves as His workmanship. Even as He gives good work He is working for our good because we are His. This is the beginning then of peace and joy for us in whatever task is at hand. As we let go of what was and see what is as part of the good work God is calling us to, we are becoming more like Jesus in the beauty of holiness.

Of course there can be sorrow and disappointment. Of course we can weep and sometimes we will fail. (I speak from experience!) Our privilege then is to turn in contrition and hope, back to the One who so loves us and who again sets us to the task He has planned for us. And in this turning we will then walk and work in God’s mercy which is ever new, ever available.

God does not need our work but He delights in our decision to call each God-given responsibility GOOD.

Thanking God for good words from good friends like Jani who point me in the right direction. Right back to God.
Carolyn Roper
9.2.18

Where Do Babies Come From? 

"As you do not know the way the spirit comes to the bones in the womb of a woman with child, so you do not know the work of God who makes everything" (Ecclesiastes 11:5).

Stephan Hawking wrote, "Philosophy is dead. Philosophy has not kept up with modern developments in science, particularly physics. Scientists have become the bearers of the torch of discovery in our quest for knowledge" (The Grand Design).

In other words, science has a final answer for every question.

But that's not science; it's scientism, the worship of science. Science does not have universal adequacy. Scientists, however learned, cannot explain everything. They deal with the observable world—"the things that are seen—and do not have a method for looking into the world of unseen things. 

One obvious example: Scientists "do not know the way the spirit comes to the bones in the womb of a woman with child." They cannot explain the origin of the human soul and the mysterious growth of little human beings, cradled in their mothers’ wombs. 

Apropos of which: Carolyn and I have two brand-new great-grandchildren and another on the way. I gaze at those little ones (or the baby bump) with awe. 

A few months ago they didn't exist. Anywhere. Now here they are: Tiny miracles. Little human beings, made out of nothing. Creatio ex nihilo. "Where did you come from?" I ask; "How did you get to be you?"

Where did you come from, baby dear?
Out of the everywhere into here.
Where did you get your eyes so blue?
Out of the sky as I came through.
What makes the light in them sparkle and spin?
Some of the starry spikes left in.
Where did you get that little tear?
I found it waiting when I got here.
What makes your forehead so smooth and high?
A soft hand stroked it as I went by.
What makes your cheek like a warm white rose?
I saw something better than anyone knows.
Whence that three-cornered smile of bliss?
Three angels gave me at once a kiss.j
Where did you get this pearly ear?
God spoke, and it came out to hear.
Where did you get those arms and hands?
Love made itself into hooks and bands.
Feet, whence did you come, you darling things?
From the same box as the cherubs' wings.
How did they all just come to be you?
God thought about me, and so I grew.—George MacDonald

David Roper
9.5.18



Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Tested and Approved

"(God) knows what he's doing; when he has tried me, I shall come out as pure gold" (Job 23:10). 

Job's premise was a prodigious leap of faith for he was in the dark: "Thick darkness covers me," he lamented (Job. 23:17). Job couldn't understand God's odd behavior because he wasn't privy to the scene in Heaven with which the book began (Job 1,2). He had no idea that God intended to display his handiwork to Satan through Job and his "trials" (Job 1:6-12).

[I think here of sculptors that hide their work under a shroud until the "showing," at which time they snatch off the cover to reveal their work. Job's test was his "showing," when the adversary would see what sort of man Job had become under God's shaping.]

Job's trials were not the means by which he became a godly man; he was already "blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil" (Job 1:1). Nor was his "trial" a discipline  for sin, though his friends insisted that it was. Rather, the trials were the means by which God revealed the work he had been doing in Job's soul. (The metaphor is drawn from metallurgy and the "trying" of precious metals to reveal their worth.)

There is an echo of this "trying" in the New Testament Greek word, dokímion a word found inscribed on the bottom of clay jars in ancient times. It was an early "Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval," signifying that the jar had been "tested and approved." 

[The same idiom occurred in the Latin world. Unscrupulous potters would fill the cracks in faulty pots with wax and glaze over the imperfections. "Trying" them in a furnace would melt the wax. Pots that passed the test would be stamped, sine cera (without wax), or, as we would say, they were sincere.]

Peter enlarges on the Greek metaphor dokímion in his first letter: "In this (salvation) you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials (peirásmos, fiery ordeals) that the tested genuineness (dokímion) of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire (dokimázō) may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ..." (1Peter 1:6,7)

So it was for Job. His tests were designed to show the world of demons and men the work that God had been doing in his soul. Job endured and was approved. Throughout his trials, though he struggled mightily, he clung to God and treasured his word (23:11,12). He was God's man from head to foot. "Though he slay me," Job said, "yet will I trust him" (Job 13:15). Job made the grade; Satan shuffled away like the villain in a western melodrama: "Curses, foiled again." 

And so it can be for you. Your quiet faith and joyful endurance in the face of persecution, disappointment, pain and sorrow is an evident sign to men and demons that God is at work in you, making you a kinder, gentler, more loving, more courageous version of yourself, despite your suffering and grief. And there is no end to God's efforts: Sweet old age, despite severe limitation and loss, is one of God's crowning achievements.

But, you say, I may go bad. What will prevent me from growing bitter and restive in my trials?

If you will but keep yourself in God's love and in his hands for his shaping he will complete the work he has begun in you. Job knew that: "Who can thwart him? What he desires, he will do! For he will complete what he has in mind for me..." (23:13,14).

Paul echoes Job's conviction: "I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will complete it at the day of Jesus Christ" (Philippians 1:6).

David Roper

8.27.18

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Afterward!

"I know that my Redeemer lives, and afterward he will stand upon the earth. And afterward, when my skin has been taken off, in my flesh, I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall gaze at Him, and He will not be a stranger. My heart leaps for joy! [Lit: "my kidneys jump into my chest!] (Job 19:25-27). 

Job, under attack by his ersatz friends, argues with remarkable prescience that God will vindicate him in this life, or in the next

The Old Testament, contrary to expectations, has much to say about the "afterward,"—the “hereafter,” or "afterlife," we would say (e.g., Psalm 73:23,24: "You hold me by my right hand. You guide me with Your counsel, and afterward you will receive me into glory.") Here, in what may be the oldest book in the Bible, Job boldly affirms his faith in the life to come. 

The risen Job is the old Job, the thinking, feeling, knowing, remembering, loving Job who writes, “I shall see him; I shall gaze at him with my own eyes, and I shall know him; he will not be a stranger."   

We too shall see our Redeemer. We shall gaze upon him with our eyes and he will not be a stranger. We shall know him by the prints of the nails in his hands. 

That prospect makes for "colossal joy," C.S. Lewis said, or as Job would say, "It makes my kidneys jump into my chest!" 

David Roper 
8.25.18 

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Reasons

"The sacrifice of the unrighteous is an abomination; How much more when he brings it with an ulterior motive!" (Proverbs 21:27).

T.S. Eliot said that the greatest treason is "to do the right thing for the wrong reason."

Reasons are tricky. Why do I write? Why do I serve? Why do I love? Why do I do whatever I do? Is it my desire to serve God purely, or do I have my own selfish interests in mind—to be affirmed, to be respected, to be reimbursed? I know my heart is "deceitful above all things and desperately wicked." My motives can be and often are unworthy. I get caught up in morbid introspection: Am I doing the right things for the wrong reasons?

Thankfully, ”God is greater than (my) heart, and knows all things" (1John 3:20). He knows my heart and my conflicted motives far better than I and has forgiven the sinful inclinations of my heart. I can do what I do without scrutinizing my motives and receive God’s grace for the reasons.

"Thou—greater than ever my heart can be; For my sinful heart give Thyself to me!"—Annie Johnson Flint

David Roper

8.22.18

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Gathering My Thoughts

"Unite my heart to fear (reverence) Your name” 
—Psalm 86:11

Gather my thoughts, dear Lord, they fitfully roam
    Like children bent on foolish wandering,
Or vanity of fruitless wayfaring
    O call them home.

See them—they drift like the wind-scattered foam;
    Like wild sea birds, they hither, thither fly,
And some sink low, and others soar too high
    O call them home.

Wherever, Lord, beneath the wide blue dome
    They wander, in Thy patience find them there:
That, undistracted, I may go to prayer. —George Herbert

Plato said our minds are like aviaries and our thoughts are like birds. It’s an apt metaphor as I age. I reach for a thought and it eludes me; I grasp at another and I frighten it away. I can only pray...

“Gather my thoughts, dear Lord, to worship and adore.”

David Roper

8.18.18

The Rain "(God) loads the thick cloud with moisture; the clouds scatter his lightning. They (the clouds) turn around and around by...