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Wednesday, March 30, 2016

On My Eighty-third Birthday

O God, from my youth you have taught me,
and I still proclaim your wondrous deeds
So even to old age and gray hairs,
O God, do not forsake me,
until I proclaim your might to another generation,
your power to all those to come (Psalm 71:17,18).

I vaguely recall George Carlin's routine about aging—how we "make it" to 60 years and then we "hit" 70. I think he ran out of verbs at age 80, but today I can say that I have been "given" 83 years. I’m here solely by the grace of God.

God has indeed taught me from my youth. I was raised in a home where Jesus was honored and I cannot think of a day when I did not love him. I can say with John that I know and believe the love he has for me.

I live today in a spirit of thanksgiving to God for the years he has given me. “Most people my age are dead these days,” as Yogi Berra famously said. There must be a reason for me to hang around, for God has a good reason for everything that he does. 

One thing I know: I can continue to grow. There are parts of me that are unconverted, vast areas to be conformed to the likeness of God's Son. I want to continue to hear his word every day and ask for his help while he finishes the work he has begun. 

I look to many of my aging friends for encouragement. Their strength in weakness, their endurance in illness and  pain, their love despite sorrow and weariness, their faith and hope in the face of death—encourage me to become like them when I’m grown. 

And I know God has other things for me to do. Certainly to love and to pray, for these have long been the works of the aged. And much can be said for just "being" and resting in the love of God. Perhaps in these and other ways I can "proclaim God's might to the next generation; his power to all that are to come." 

In the meantime, God has promised that he will never forsake me. He has been my shepherd for 83 years now, holding me with his strong hand, guiding me with his wise counsel, and one day soon he’ll “receive me into glory” (Cf., Psalm 72:23,24). 

"Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow." Who could ask for anything more?

Growing old but not retiring,
For the battle still is on;
Going on without relenting
Till the final victory’s won.  —Anon.

David Roper
3/30/2016


Monday, March 14, 2016

Check Your Knots

"Let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall"(1 Corinthians 10:12).

I have a friend who roams the Pacific Northwest looking for lunker trout. I got this note from him a few months ago:

I just returned from a few days at Henry's Fork, at Harriman’s State Park. The challenge of hooking a fish there is great. You scan the water looking for feeding fish. If there is one and you decide to go for it, you carefully wade out and position yourself up stream to make a dead drift down to the feeding fish. Presentation is everything at Henry's Fork.  All the changing, shifting currents, and boiling water makes it quite difficult to get the fly over the fish where it is feeding. Observing the fish’s feeding pattern and what it is taking is a skill in itself. Several insects may be on the waters surface at the same time. Selecting the right fly for the moment is key. One may only have a short window of time to select the right fly before the fish stops feeding. Time is of the essence. If you select the wrong one and present it well you still might put the fish down. If you are fortunate to present the right fly, at the right place, at the right time and the fish takes it, I have often pulled it out the fish’s mouth in the moment of excitement or set the hook too hard and broke him off.  Relax, Relax on the hook setting. Controlled set, wait just long enough for the fish to take it, set the hook but not too hard, especially with a larger fish. If all goes well it's fish on and playing and landing him is a story itself.

I know all the above is not new for you. You have been there a thousand times. It never seems to get dull or tiresome hunting for that "big" lunker. I had one really nice fish take my fly. The hook was set and within an instant he was off. When I checked my leader, I discovered a faulty leader knot. I felt like a school boy. Back to the basics. Check your knots for stress.

Indeed, I thought. What areas of my life are easily broken? What are the situations that bring me to the breaking point? Where am I most apt to fall?

“Temptations are sure to come,” Jesus said. It is better to know my weakness than to stumble on it in mock–strength only to fall into greater folly.

Better check my knots for stress.

David Roper  

3/7/16

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Acton's Axiom

“Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” —Lord Acton

This is probably one of the most–invoked, but least understood lines in literature. Acton truly believed that power corrupts, but his more important point is that power also corrupts those who are enamored of the powerful.  

The quote occurs in a letter Acton wrote to Anglican bishop Mandell Creighton. Creighton had asked Acton to review a history book he was writing, in which he was sympathetic to the Reformation era popes, most of whom were very bad men. Acton wrote in response…

I cannot accept your canon that we are to judge Pope and King unlike other men, with a favorable presumption that they did no wrong. If there is any presumption it is the other way, against the holders of power, increasing as the power increases. Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely… 

There is no worse heresy than that the office sanctifies the holder of it. Here (in the papacy of that day) are the greatest names coupled with the greatest crimes; you would spare those criminals, for some mysterious reason. I would hang them higher than Haman, for reasons of quite obvious justice… The inflexible integrity of the moral code is, to me, the secret of  authority. If we debase the currency for the sake of genius, or success, or rank, or reputation… we serve the worst cause rather than the purest.

In other words, we should not excuse moral failure because that person is prominent or powerful. It is beyond absurd to say that what one believes about good and evil has nothing to do with his or her ability to lead. Character matters. Therefore, we can and should hold kings, priests, popes, politicians, pastors, and others in positions of authority, to what Acton called “the inflexible integrity of the moral code.”

I think of certain athletes whose off–field behavior is reprehensible, yet they get a pass because they “get it done” on the field of play. 

And I think of certain celebrities and politicians whose personal lives are fetid and foul, yet they likewise get a pass because they “get it done” in their field of endeavor. 

In both cases it is those who approve them that are corrupted—absolutely. 

David Roper

3/9/16