Friday, July 20, 2018

 The God-Man

“If ever we get hungry to see God, we must look at his picture.” 
“Where is that, sir?” 
Ah, Davie… don’t you know that, besides being himself, and just because he is himself, Jesus is the living picture of God?” (George MacDonald, Donal Grant).

Jesus shows us God.He is the “living picture” of God that God himself has drawn—“the image (eikon=portrait) of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15). "He that has seen me has seen the Father," Jesus said (John 14:9).

So, if you want to know what God is like, look at the picture God has drawn. Read the Gospels—Matthew, Mark, Luke and John—and accompany Jesus as he makes his way through an average, ordinary day. Listen to his words. Take in his wisdom. Observe his actions. Consider his love. This is God—exactly.  Jesus is God–like; God is Jesus–like. 

But that's not the whole story: Jesus also shows us Man[i]and what he can be.

“Know yourself,” Greek philosopher Aristotle wrote, knowing better than anyone of his age that we are unknowable. (“Know yourself,” meant “Known that you do not know.”)  Despite the fact that we know more about ourselves these days than ever before, “What is man?” is still the question.

All the social sciences—anthropology, economics, history, political science, psychology, and sociology—are skewed in their foundational assumptions and thus their conclusions are skewed, for they assume that Man, as he exists today, is the norm, not knowing (or not choosing to know) that modern Man is a caricature of himself—an intellectual, physical, social deviant—one who has strayed from the norm. 

And so, I would suggest, with sincere apologies to Alexander Pope, that the proper study of mankind is not man, but Jesus. If you want to know what authentic man looks like, look at Jesus. He, and he alone, shows us what it means to be a Man in full. 

“Know yourself,” Aristotle suggested. “Sir,” another Greek seeker said to Phillip, Jesus’ apostle, with greater wisdom, “We want to see Jesus” (John 12:21).

David Roper
7.20.18


[i]Yes, I know. “Man" is gender insensitive, I try to be more sensitive when I’m speaking, but in writing I find that most gender circumlocutions seem awkward and contrived. (Put me down as an old Duffer.) Most people know that Man is a perfectly good English word and has no gender implications at all. By "Man" we mean humanity, the human race, mankind, or "male and female" as in the Creation Story: "So God created manin His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and femaleHe created them" (Genesis 1:27). I capitalize Man to make that point.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Hunky-Dory?

Life is not always "hunky-dory," as David Bowie and my father would say. Jesus agrees: "I did not come to bring peace but a sword. For I have come to 'set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law’; and a man's enemies will be those of his own household" (Matthew 10:34-36).

Sometimes, in our paltry efforts to live out our faith, misunderstandings arise and separate us from those we love. We may think that others need to be set right, and that may be true—"all have sinned"—but more often then not there are things in us that need to be done. 

And the "doing" of it can be extremely painful.

Keep in mind, however, that our Lord always has our highest good in mind: "All things work together for good," Paul insists, a "good” spelled out in the verses that follow: All things are to the end "that we may be conformed to the image of His Son," and enter into eternal glory (Romans 8:28-30). God is remaking us in the image of his Son that we may share his beauty forever. This is the purpose for which all things—even the most wearisome and vexatious things—exist. 

In the meantime, we can be encouraged by the thought that Jesus fully understands our frustration and sorrow when love for a loved one is thwarted. "He came to his own, but his own did not receive him." When Jesus became a man he became a man in full and "took his own medicine" (Dorothy Sayer).

David Roper

Saturday, July 14, 2018

What God Has Promised

LORD, you hear the yearning of the afflicted; You will strengthen their heart; you will incline your ear to do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed, so that man who is of the earth may strike terror no more (Psalm 10:17–18).

Justice is promised, but it is almost always deferred. It’s a given that we will suffer for a while. But one promise is never deferred: God will strengthen your heart

God hath not promised skies always blue
Flower-strewn pathways all our lives through; 
God hath not promised sun without rain, 
Joy without sorrow, peace without pain.

God hath not promised we shall not know
Toil and temptation, trouble and woe;
He hath not told us we shall not bear
Many a burden, many a care.

God hath not promised smooth roads and wide,
Swift, easy travel, needing no guide;
Never a mountain rocky and steep,
Never a river turbid and deep.

But God hath promised strength for the day 
Rest for the labor, light for the way; 
Grace for the trials, help from above;
Unfailing sympathy, undying love.

—Annie Flint Johnson

David Roper

7.14.18

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Troubled

"I'm troubled. LORD (6:3).
"I am greatly troubled" (6:4).
"All my enemies shall be...troubled" (6:10).

David enemies were spreading malicious lies. Humiliated and emotionally exhausted, he was reduced to tears (6:6).

But, as David reminded himself, a day is coming when his enemies themselveswill be "troubled." David knew he could never mollify his critics, but he trusted that God would deal with them in due time. He would do so out of His great love for His child (6:4).

Jesus, when he was reviled "did not revile in return... but kept entrusting himself to the One who judges justly"(1Peter 2:21). We too must let people chatter, but that's not the end of the story: Our Father, who loves us dearly, will have the last word.

The only other thing we need is patience since God usually takes His  time (6:3).

David Roper

Monday, July 9, 2018

Supplantings of Grace

"Know ye the land where the cypress and myrtle
Are emblems of deeds that are done in their clime?" —Lord Byron

"Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress tree, And instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle tree..." —Isaiah 55:13


It's not enough to eradicate thorns and thistles. God does more: He causes the cypress and myrtle to flourish where nettles and weeds encumber the ground (55:13). It’s not enough that God removes our vices. He does more: He replaces them one by one with solid virtues, so that the old site of evil becomes a place of rare beauty. 

Where cynicism abounded, hope and optimism begin to emerge; where harshness and sarcasm flourished, kind, gentle words appear; where malice and anger produced anxiety and turmoil, forbearance, tranquility and peace start to surface; where lust grew rampant and unrestrained, pure love springs up. This is the supplanted life, the living and lasting sign of God’s work, the only memorial that matters (13b). 

And how does this transformation take place?

Just ask him. "Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near." (55:6). God can be “found,” when we grow tired of ourselves and our efforts to be good children. Then God calls us, reminding us that he's at hand.

Turn to him, act “before desire shall fail," A.E. Houseman said—turn from all your strategies to sanctify yourself to One who loves you to death—literally. “And he will have mercy on (you)." (55:7).

Sink your roots into God's word and ask him to make his words true in you for, “as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth, making it bear and sprout, so shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, But it shall accomplish what I please, And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it" (55.10,11). 

Pray God's words into your heart and it will begin to bear fruit. You can count on it. God's grace will "come down" and beauty will "spring up"; his word will accomplish the purpose for which he sends it. 

"My ways are not your ways,” God says, “nor are my thoughts your thoughts” (55.8). Unlike our ways to make ourselves better, God’s ways work!

David Roper
7.9.18



Sunday, July 1, 2018

Loners

The man who separates himself seeks self-gratification; he bares his teeth against sound judgment (Proverbs 18:1)

Idaho is famous for its loners: Free Press Francis, Buckskin Billy, Cougar Dave, Dugout Dick to name a few—all mavericks who chose to separate from the crowd. I've read their diaries and talked to people who knew them. In almost every instance these men and women became, well...wacky.

Loners can turn into unbalanced people, a principle underscored by the proverb above. (You'll note that there is no conjunction between the couplets, a grammatical nuance that connects antisocial withdrawal with irrational behavior.)

A proverb is not an absolute; it's a general rule, and there can be exceptions to the rule. Some loners are as sane as one can be in this world. But in general, those who seek to gratify themselves and save their souls through isolation will lose them in the end. It’s an application of the time-tested axiom: he who would save his life will lose it. 

I've always gravitated toward a solitary lifestyle; it's in my genes. I'd be happy to have a permanent job in a fire lookout tower or an offshore lighthouse, and that inclination has become more attractive as I’ve aged. People wear me out. It’s too easy for me to withdraw from the world and it's troubles.

But I know what isolation would do to my soul; it would wither away. I need someone apart from me to give myself to. Without the daily grind and rub of sinners and saints God cannot make the most of me. I would never learn to love. 

David Roper
7.1.18




Wednesday, June 27, 2018

The Would–be Woodcutter
2 Kings 6:1–7

One year, when I was in college, I cut, stacked and delivered firewood. Other than a summer spent shoveling gravel, it was the hardest job I ever had. Thus I have a good deal of empathy for the hapless logger in this story.

Elisha’s school for prophets had prospered, and their meeting place had become too small. Someone suggested that they go into the woods, cut logs and enlarge their facilities. Elisha agreed and was invited to accompany the workers.
The party made its way up the Jordan Valley to the spot where they planned to fell trees and float them downriver to the building site. Things were going well until, as Matthew Henry put it, “one of them, accidentally fetching too fierce a stroke (as those who work seldom are apt to be too violent), threw off his ax–head into the water.” 
“Oh, my lord,” the man cried, “it was borrowed!” 

“Where did it go?” Elisha asked. 

When the man pointed to the place, Elisha cut a stick, reached with it into the water, and “made the iron float.” 

“Lift it out,” Elisha said. The man “reached out his hand and took it.”

Some have suggested that nothing miraculous happened, that Elisha simply probed in the water with his stick until he located the ax–head and dragged it into sight. That would hardly be worth mentioning, however. 

No, it was a miracle: Elisha caused the axe-head to “flow” as the text actually says. The axe-head was set in motion by God’s hand and drifted out of deep water into the shallows where the workman could retrieve it.
The simple miracle enshrines a profound truth: God cares about the small stuff of life—lost axe-heads, lost coins, lost keys, lost files, lost contact lenses, lost lunker trout, the little things that cause us to fret. He does not always restore what was lost—he has good reasons of his own—but he understands our loss and comforts us in our distress. 
Next to the assurance of our salvation, the assurance of God’s love is essential. Without it we would feel that we are alone in the world, exposed to innumerable perils, worries and fears. It’s good to know that He cares; that He is moved by our losses, small as they may be; that our concerns are His concerns as well. 

I think of those times when my children grieved over some small loss and my heart was touched by their grief. The broken or mislaid thing had no significance for me—it was some trifling thing—but it wasn’t trifling to them. It mattered to me because it mattered to them and my children mattered to me. 
And so it is with our Heavenly Father. Our small worries mean everything to Him because we mean everything to Him. We can cast our care upon Him because he cares about us (1 Peter 5:7). 

His grace is great enough to meet the great things,
The crashing waves that overwhelm the soul,
The roaring winds that leave us stunned and breathless,
The sudden storms beyond life’s control.

His grace is great enough to meet the small things,
The little pin–prick troubles that annoy,
The insect worries, buzzing and persistent,
The squeaking wheels that grate upon our joy. —Annie Johnson Flint

David Roper

Excerpted from my Flavord with Salt, Discovery House Publishers

 The God-Man “If ever we get hungry to see God, we must look at his picture.”  “Where is that, sir?”  “ Ah, Davie … don’t you know ...