Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Thanksgiving

As you know, our Thanksgiving Day is just around the corner. One week from this Thursday. I’ve noticed that shiny advertisements are urging us to make our lists and check them twice. Not for Santa, but for us to be certain every little detail for “the meal” is in place. And at a good price in their store. There are table settings to admire or wish for, the pictures of families gathered in Norman Rockwall fashion with the just-right turkey gracing the lovely serving platter, and presented to all the cheerful family gathered ‘round Grandma’s bountiful table. This is Thanksgiving Day, according to what we are being told by what we are being shown.

But wait! Is this what we are to hope for, get our hearts set on and dream about as Thanksgiving Day approaches? Or do these suggestions that we can have it all here and now just set us up for disappointment—with others, with ourselves and perhaps with God? Some will have an empty seat at their table and some will have an empty place in their heart for one who is far away either emotionally or spatially. Or in that “far country,” away from the Father.

Others will miss the way things were, or miss the lack of resources—energy, proximity, money, time or know-how—to make this perfect picture their picture.  Always there is the possibility of unexpected circumstances and/or people we can’t control to make our dreams come true. That is, if we’re dreaming what our culture tells us is the true picture to strive for on Thanksgiving Day. Our culture is not our friend.

As I think and ponder reasons events such as Thanksgiving Day can sometimes lead to us to be disheartened and discontent, it occurs to me that, like in all of life, we have an Enemy. He comes to distort our vision, causing us
to focus on the wrong things,
     to believe the lie we can “make it happen” or
         to believe we can “have it all here and now.”

Of course, the main lie that sneaky snake continues to promulgate is that God is holding out on us. We don’t just need what the Father has graciously given but we also need that apple! We don’t just need the Father’s presence, comfort and strength, His mercy and grace to meet each need, but we also need that shiny thing and every piece of the puzzle to fit into place NOW. We forget that there is a here-and-now, and also a not-yet. Heaven is later.

So how can we take Thanksgiving Day back? As I have struggled at times from not remembering to remembering, these are a few of the things God is continuing to teach me.

1. Unlike the world, we have Someone to thank.

It’s not just an “attitude of gratitude,” but a heartfelt thanks to the One who loves me and has done so much for me, the One who walks beside me. He is the One I can look to as He prepares a table for me in whatever wilderness I might be in. Especially on Thanksgiving Day. He has given His Best for me. He invites me to come to Him and trust Him. He can and will help me in even this. I can ask for His daily bread and remember “He has not forgotten the recipe for manna!” God is in my picture. How thankful I am that I have Someone to thank.
2. God understands our deepest longings and our deprivations. In a way they are nostalgia for things that will be.  Someday there will be a Thanksgiving Feast where all is perfect. All are gathered around Him. He gives me hope that will not disappoint. I can remember the joy set before me, following Jesus’ example in His journey Home. I am thankful for hope that will not disappoint, for it is in Him, both today and tomorrow to everlasting.
3. With God’s help (and He wants to help) I can change my focus. A friend told me this week she is choosing the focus on the things she does have, rather than on the things she does not have.  What a good outlook, especially since God is the lens through which we focus. Not pretending nothing hurts, but with eyes wide open to Him. And then to the blessings He has given in things like the blue sky, the good memories, the warm home, the too-many-to-count things we dohave. As we count these let us first, give thanks for the Giver of all good gifts.

This morning as I was thinking of some who will grieve this year, even as they hope. I was also thinking of some of the emptiness around our own table, some who will be missing, some things that will never be the same. I was aware of the Enemy and his schemes and so before I opened my eyes, I began to think Psalm 23 to myself. Reminding myself of truth and all my Shepherd is to me. As I was focusing on my Shepherd the words of an old song started playing in my mind. A confirmation of the help He can give, for I had not thought of these words for a long time. A wonderful focus God gave me as I turned to Him. May this be your focus as Thanksgiving Day draws near. A beautiful song to sing to myself. A beautiful picture indeed. 

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace! 

Thanks for praying for me and mine this Thanksgiving and as I want to pray for you,

Carolyn

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

As Servants of God

"As servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: by great endurance...through honor and dishonor, through slander and praise..." (2Corinthians 6:4,8).

After twenty-four years of faithful service to his church in Northampton, Massachusetts, Jonathan Edwards was honored by an all-expense-paid, month-long sabbatical in the Hamptons. 

No, actually he was fired, the victim of slander, a marvelous example of the old adage: No good deed goes unpunished.

It’s worth noting that Edwards was the pastor of one of the largest churches in the colonies, was America’s premier theologian and philosopher, was one of the prime movers of The Great Awakening, and, if the ability to attract youth is a criterion to be advanced, had over three hundred young people in his church. Nevertheless his congregation sacked him.

Those who observed Edwards in the days that followed were amazed at his equanimity: he was calm and quiet and showed no displeasure toward those who demanded his dismissal. As one biographer put it, "His happiness was out of the reach of his enemies" (Iain Murray). 

How can we maintain our composure in the face of such egregious injustice? Paul answers: By remembering that we are first and foremost "servants of God."

Many years ago, a friend of mine told me about a board meeting in which he was being viciously maligned. At one point one of his detractors shouted, "Don't forget, son, you work for us; we pay your salary and we can fire you at will!" My friend absorbed the rebuke quietly and replied. "Yes sir," he said. "You do pay my salary and you can fire me at any time, but I don't work for you. I am a servant of Jesus Christ." 

I wasn't present on that occasion, but his words have indelibly marked my own thoughts about the work that we do: We are servants of Jesus Christ.

That doesn't mean we can be cavalier about our employment and use it as an oportunity for indolence or autocratic leadership. It does however free us from worry about what others think of us, say about us, or do to us. We can endure dishonor and slander and we can do so with joy, "knowing that from the Lord (we) will receive the inheritance as (our) reward. For we serve the Lord Christ" (Colossians 3:24). 

David Roper
11.13.18



Monday, November 12, 2018

 Where's the Beef?

"He gave them exactly what they asked for—but along with it they got an empty heart (Psalm 106:15 The Message).

The incident the poet had in mind is described in the Old Testament book of Numbers: "The riff-raff among the people had a craving and soon they had the People of Israel whining, 'Why can't we have meat? We ate fish in Egypt—and got it free!—to say nothing of the cucumbers and melons, the leeks and onions and garlic. But nothing tastes good out here; all we get is manna, manna, manna'" (Numbers 11:4-6). 

"So, you want meat," Moses sighed. "God will give you meat—not just for a day and not two days, or five or ten or twenty, but for a whole month. You're going to eat meat until it comes out of your nose (Yuck!) You're going to be so sick of meat that you'll throw up at the mere mention of it" (11:19,20). 

So God sent an off-shore wind that swept a large flock of quail into Israel’s camp: "(Quail) piled up to a depth of about three feet and as far out as a day's walk in every direction. All that day and night and into the next day the people were out gathering the quail—huge amounts of quail; even the slowest person among them gathered at least sixty bushels” (11:33,34). God gave them “exactly what they asked for.”

But they all got sick and some died. The place forever-after bore the eponymous name, "The Graves of Those Who Craved Meat," because that's where they buried the folks that got what they asked for.

The take-away? I must think about what I crave and what I ask for. I might get it. 

David Roper

Sunday, November 11, 2018


Two Roads

"Man proposes, but God disposes” —Thomas à Kempis. 

"The king of Babylon stands at the fork in the road and decides by divination which of two roads to take. He draws straws, he throws dice, he examines a goat liver. He opens his right hand: The omen says, 'Head for Jerusalem!' So he's on his way with battering rams, roused to kill, sounding the battle cry, pounding down city gates, building siege works" (Ezekiel 21:20-22, The Message)

The Babylonian army stands at a crossroad awaiting directions: One branch of the highway leads east to the city of Rabbah in Ammon; the other leads west to Jerusalem in Judah. Which way shall they go? 

The diviners ply their trade. All signs point to Jerusalem. 

Yet, Ezekiel reveals a hidden truth: There is a cause behind all causes: God had said, "I have drawn my sword out of it’s sheath (against Jerusalem)” (Ezekiel 21:1–5. 15). 

It wasn’t the king and his counselors that determined the strategy and tactics of the Babylonian commanders. It was Israel's God, confirming once again the biblical paradox: Men and women enjoy freedom of choice yet God determines the outcome.

This is indeed a mysterious, yet a hopeful thought in that it enables us to be at peace with the all-too-often, ill-begotten schemes of our leaders. We fear their decisions, but they are not running amuck. Everything is under control.

David Roper

Friday, November 9, 2018

Where's the Beef?

"He gave them exactly what they asked for—but along with it they got an empty heart (Psalm 106:15 The Message).

The incident the poet had in mind is described in the Old Testament book of Numbers: "The riff-raff among the people had a craving and soon they had the People of Israel whining, 'Why can't we have meat? We ate fish in Egypt—and got it free!—to say nothing of the cucumbers and melons, the leeks and onions and garlic. But nothing tastes good out here; all we get is manna, manna, manna'"(Numbers 11:4-6). 

"So, you want to eat meat," Moses sighed. "God will give you meat—not just for a day and not two days, or five or ten or twenty, but for a whole month. You're going to eat meat until its coming out of your nose. You're going to be so sick of meat that you'll throw up at the mere mention of it" (11:19,20). 

A wind swept an enormous flock of quail in from the sea. "They piled up to a depth of about three feet in the camp and as far out as a day's walk in every direction. All that day and night and into the next day the people were out gathering the quail—huge amounts of quail; even the slowest person among them gathered at least sixty bushels." (11:33,34). "God gave them exactly what they asked for."

But they all got sick and many died. The place ever after bore the eponymous name, "Graves-of-Craving," because that's where they buried the people who demanded meat.

The take-away? Be careful what you ask for. You might get it. 

David Roper

Sunday, November 4, 2018

New Creations

"From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. If anyone is in Christ he is a new creation" (2Corinthians 5:16, 11).

Jesus and Paul were contemporaries and therefore Paul undoubtedly heard Jesus preach in the streets of Jerusalem. If so, he must have considered him to be an ignoramus from the back-country of Galilee.

But on the road to Damascus Paul experienced a radical change of heart: he saw Jesus as he really was, the son of God. From that point on, Paul did not evaluate Jesus by human criteria (“according to the flesh").

Viewing Jesus from that perspective also changed the way he looked at others: he no longer evaluated them according to the flesh, but as potentially in Christ and as radiant new creations.

Think of the worst person you know and imagine that person as an authentic follower of Jesus. What would that person be like if he or she was filled and flooded with God's Holy Spirit?

I wonder to what extent I judge others by merely human standards? What financial, physical, ethnic, educational and political criteria do I employ? Or do I view them as they could be if they would but give their hearts to Jesus? Can I think of the worst person I know in that way?

Speaking for myself, that would take a lot of prayer.

David Roper
11.2.18





Wednesday, October 31, 2018

From CAROLYN
Good Morning, Friends, Beloved of God,
I have a dear friend who is going through lots of stuff in her life. You know the kind of things I mean:

~concern for an adult child,
~health issues,
~a big change coming,
~an overwhelming amount of life-details,
~and so many people to care about.

Well, my sweet friend had asked me to pray for a couple of specific things and I wanted to do so. When I talked with her recently she brought up something she had been and was still concerned about. Something big and time-sensitive I had promised to pray about this with her.

But guess what. I forgot! Certainly I had been lifting her up with some of the things I knew about. But this one thing I forgot. I told her and then wrote this issue down in my prayer list under her name. She is one of my Tuesday gals to pray for.

Then I also told my friend that God does not forget.

God has promised to remember.

Zion said,”The Lord has forsaken me, and the Lord has forgotten me.”
“Can a woman forget her nursing child, nor have compassion on the child of her womb?
Even these may forget but I will not forget you. Behold, I have you inscribed on the palms of My hands.” — 
Isaiah 40:15,16

God does not just make a note of you in His note pad. He has your name written on the palms of His hands,

always present,
always on His mind,
always in His heart.

Do you ever feel forgotten or have you really been forgotten? Well, not by God, the One who so loves you.

And as for prayer, we have this assurance:

...the Spirit helps us in our weakness: for we do not know how to pray as we should but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groaning too deep for words; and He who searches the hearts know what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the true believers according to the will of God.  — Romans 8:26,27

At times I believe our prayer can become an idol. We think if we just get it right (because after all it all depends on us!), then God will do as we ask. However, His understanding and His love is far beyond mine in any prayer endeavor.

So of course, I want to keep my word. But when I forget, He does not. When I pray amiss, He is interceding in the right way.

The lesson for me is that while I want to pray for my friends and loved ones, God will always remember them and know what is best. He will address hidden issues I have no way of knowing. He has got me covered and He has got His other children, my friends, covered too. He invites me to participate with my prayers. He invites me to know He is the One who moves the stars at night and He is the One who is ultimately concerned for those I am concerned about. He knows the heart-needs.

 Therefore, all the glory and praise goes to Him who does not forget and who knows what to pray for much more than I do..

I still pray and want to. And I also rest in Him to be the ultimate One who remembers and prays. I believe this rest is pleasing to my Heavenly Father. He is God and I am not. One of the best things I can pray for my friends is, “Into Thy Hands I place this one.”

With love and prayers,
Carolyn

Thanksgiving As you know, our Thanksgiving Day is just around the corner. One week from this Thursday. I’ve noticed that shiny advertise...