Friday, June 16, 2017
This One Thing
I will not give sleep to my eyes
Or slumber to my eyelids,
Until I find a place for the Lord,
A dwelling place for the Mighty One of Jacob." —Psalm 132:3-5
The first hundred days of a leader's tenure are closely scrutinized, for they establish his or her priorities. David's first act as Israel’s king was to search for the Ark of the Covenant for, he said, "We did not seek it in the days of Saul" (1 Chronicles 13:3).
Saul was a secular man. He cared nothing for the ark, but abandoned it, left it to rot for forty years in an overgrown field. David, however, could not rest until he retrieved the ark and brought it up to Jerusalem and placed it in the little tent that became it's "dwelling place" (2 Samuel 6:1-15).
The ark, as you know, was a little box about the size of an army footlocker. It had no intrinsic value, or magic power, Raiders of the Lost Ark, not withstanding. It was merely a symbol—a visible reminder of the invisible, enduring presence of God, the reality of which dominated David's thoughts and prayers.
David wrote in another place, “One thing I ask of the LORD, this is what I seek: That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, that I might gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his tabernacle” (Psalms 27:4).
Obviously, David didn't plan to spend the rest of his life sequestered in a little tent, staring at a box. No, this was his way of saying that he treasured God and His love above all else—above mother, brother, friends, money, health, love or life itself. God was the "one thing" necessary—indeed the only thing. This was the measure of his greatness—and ours.
Thursday, June 15, 2017
Several years ago, Carolyn and I were driving up a mountain road into the Sawtooths when we came across a large band of sheep moving down the road toward us. A lone shepherd with his dogs was in the vanguard, leading his flock out of summer pasture into the lowlands and winter quarters.
We pulled to the side of the road and waited while the flock swirled around us—and watched them until they were out of sight.
I wondered: Sheep are the embodiment of all that is feeble and helpless. Do they fear change and new places?”
Like most old folks I like the “fold”—the old, familiar regimens Like Bilbo, the aging hobbit, “I miss my victuals at noon.” But all is shifting and changing these days; I’m being led out—away from familiar surroundings and into a vast unknown. I wonder: What new limits will overtake me this year? What nameless fears will wake? Jesus’ words come to mind: “When I lead my sheep out, I go before them (John 10:4).
I may be dismayed at what life has in store for me this year and next, but my shepherd knows the way I’m taking and He goes before. He will not lead me down paths too steep, too arduous for me; He knows my limits and will strike a leisurely pace. He knows the way to green pasture and good water. “He knows the way through the wilderness; all I have to do is follow.”
Thus I need not fear tomorrow, or take on its obligations, for tomorrow will take care of itself: Tomorrow “must pass through Him before it gets to me”
Doubt casts its weird, unwelcome shadows o’er me
Thoughts that life’s best and choice things are o’er.
What but His word can strengthen and restore me.
And this blessed fact: that still He goes before.
—J. Danson Smith
Tuesday, June 13, 2017
WHAt’s A Parent to do?
Lord, I will straighten all I can and You; take over what we parents cannot do.
Lord, I will straighten all I can and You; take over what we parents cannot do.
—Ruth Bell Graham
When our children make unwise choices: when they abuse alcohol, do drugs, get pregnant, drop out of school, turn their backs on family and God, we ask ourselves, in one way or another, “What did I do that I should not have done?” “What should I have done that I did not do?” We collapse into self–doubt and condemnation. We feel like failures, our children the tragic victims of our mismanagement.
There is, however, no absolute correlation between the way people parent and the way their children turn out. Good parenting does make a difference, but it does not guarantee that the product will be good.
We’re all are acquainted with families where cruelty, abuse, neglect, violence and alcoholism are the normal state, yet the children turn out remarkably well. They have good friends, they do well in school, they get jobs and hold them, they end up in stable marriages and handle their parental responsibilities with wisdom and love.
On the other hand we all know of families where the parents are warm, nurturing, kind, firm, wise and giving and yet there is at least one prodigal and sometimes more than one.
It’s certainly better to be one kind of parent than the other, but the fact remains that despite our best efforts sometimes our children choose to go the wrong way.
But, you say, what about the proverb: “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it” (Proverbs 22:6)? That sounds very much like a guarantee—except it’s not.
The biblical proverbs are not promises; they are premises—general rules or axioms. Proverbs 22:6 is a statement of general truth much like our contemporary saying: “As the twig is bent so the tree is inclined.” It’s an adage, a saying that sets forth a truth applicable in most cases, but not necessarily so. There are always exceptions to the rule.
The reason there are exceptions is that children are not mindless matter that can be shaped and formed at will, but thinking, choosing individuals who may, even with the best of parenting, choose to go his or her own way. Even God, who is the perfect parent, has had trouble with his children—Adam and Eve to name only two. (You and me to name two others.)
You and I cannot produce godly children and if we believe that by applying certain techniques and rules we can secure good behavior we may be in for bitter disillusionment and heartache. No one can determine nor can they predict what their offspring will do. It was Joaquin Andujar, poet and pitcher for the St. Louis Cardinals, who said you could sum up baseball in one word: “You never know.” His word count was off, but he captured the essence of childrearing as well as baseball.
Given that uncertainty the question we should ask ourselves is not, “How can I produce good children?” but rather, “How can I be a good parent?” The two questions appear to be the same, but they’re not. The first has to do with results; the second with process. The first puts the responsibility on us; the second leaves the results to God. The first is concerned with matters beyond our control; the second with things that are well within our control.
If our focus is on process rather than results the questions then become, “How can I deal with my impatience, my temper and rage, my selfishness, my resentment, my stubbornness, my defensiveness, my pride, my laziness, my unwillingness to listen? How can I deal with my addictions? How can I strengthen my marriage? How can I develop my parenting skills? How can I build bridges of grace, forgiveness and acceptance, that make it possible for my prodigal to return?” And more important than all, “How can I grow in love for my Father–God and become much more like him in all that I do?”
These are the matters that ought to occupy us—the things that we can do. And then we must leave the consequences to God.
David Roper (With a a lot of help from psychiatrist, Dr. John White)
Monday, June 12, 2017
Rooted and Grounded in Love
For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height—to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.—Ephesians 3:17-20
There’s an ancient, gnarled cherry tree in our back yard that has seen better days. Its bark is dark and creased with age; its limbs are sparse and spindly and it leans about 15 degrees to the east. A couple of years ago I had to cut off several large branches on one side and the tree lost its symmetry. Two winters ago, we had several sub–zero days in a row and I thought we had lost it for sure. The man that sprays our trees was convinced it was dead.
Yet, it came to life last spring and continues to do so every year. Each April it shrugs off winter and puts out blossoms—fragrant white flowers that grow in profusion, that beautify and perfume our yard. Carolyn wants to cut it down, but I can’t do it. I love that old tree.
The tree endures because its roots are deep into the soil. It draws its life and strength from a hidden, subterranean source.
And so it is with us: our ability to endure—no, to flourish—is dependent on our “rootedness” in Christ. Those who read and reflect upon His Word and pray it into their souls continue to bear fruit—the fruit of the Spirit—even into old age. As the psalmist promised, “Those who are planted in the house of the Lord shall flourish in the courts of our God. They shall still bear fruit in old age; they shall be fresh and flourishing” (Psalm 902:14).