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Friday, March 31, 2017

The Unlearning

“Whatever gain I had, I count as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord." (Philippians 3:7)

Much of what I spent a life-time and a lot of money learning seems to be slipping away. I’m unlearning now what I once knew. It’s a bit unsettling.

But I came across an old poem a few weeks ago that greatly helped me:

To learn, and yet to learn, whilst life goes by, 
So pass the student's days;  
And thus be great, and do great things, and die,  
And lie embalmed with praise.  

My work is but to lose and to forget,  
Thus small, despised to be;  
All to unlearn—this task before me set;  
Unlearn all else but Thee

—Gerhard Ter Steegen


David Roper

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Staying in Touch

Moses, Aaron and Samuel "called to the LORD, and he answered them" (99:6).

These three men were hardly paragons of virtue, but God "was a forgiving God to them” (99:8). He always answered when they called.

We don't have to be perfect to be on speaking terms with our God. Because of Jesus, He is, and always will be, "our God." (3x in vs. 8,9). He wants to hear from us, even when we're far away.

That's the way it is with fathers, you know: They like to hear from their children every day.


David Roper
3.29.17

Monday, March 27, 2017

Remembrance


Then those who feared the Lord spoke to one another,
And the Lord listened and heard them;
So a book of remembrance was written before Him
For those who fear (worship) the Lord
And who meditate on His name.
“They are Mine,” says the Lord of hosts… (Malachi 3:16).

Some years ago the boys and I spent a week on an abandoned backcountry ranch on the Salmon River. One day, exploring the ranch, I came across anancient grave with a wooden marker. Whatever inscription the marker may have borne, it had long since weathered away. 

Someone—I think it was Tolstoy—said the best of us is remembered for about 100 years. The rest of us are soon forgotten. 

“What are our markers,” I thought, “but monuments to the forgetfulness of the living?” The memories of past generations, like our own gravestones, quickly crumble away.

No matter. We can love the Lord and serve Him in our generation and leave the remembering to Him.

David Roper
3.27.17 

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Evergreen
Psalm 92

The righteous flourish like the palm tree
and grow like a cedar in Lebanon.
They are planted in the house of the Lord;
they flourish in the courts of our God.
They still bear fruit in old age;
they are ever green and full of sap.

Psalm 92:12-14

"Tell me this," said Peter: "why do people talk about going down hill when they begin to get old? It seems to me that then first they begin to go up hill." —Curdle and the Princess, George Macdonald

Aging is perfectly fine. It's God’s way of getting us to slow down and take more time for Him. 

I love the picture the poet draws of those that are growing old with God. Imagine the towering majesty and beauty of a palm tree, the massive strength of a giant sequoia. Beauty and strength—the attributes of those that are "planted in the house of the Lord," rooted in God and in His love, bearing the fruit of His Spirit—love, joy, peace, gentleness, goodness, et. al.

Other trees, when they get old, stop bearing, but not God’s trees. They flourish...

They still bear fruit in old age;
they are ever green and full of sap.

David Roper
3.27.17

Friday, March 24, 2017

The Waiting Place
Psalm 70

Waiting for the fish to bite, or waiting for wind to fly a kite, or waiting around for        Friday       night, 
Or waiting perhaps for their Uncle Jake, or a pot to boil, or a better break,
Or a string of pearls, or a pair of pants, or a wig with curls or another chance. 
Everyone is just waiting.—Dr. Seuss

God is never in a hurry—or so it seems. "God has His hour and delay (horas et moras)" is an old saying and true. Thus, we wait.

Waiting is hard. We twiddle our thumbs, shuffle our feet, stifle our yawns, heave long sighs and fret inwardly in frustration. Why must I live with this awkward person, this tedious job, this embarrassing behavior, this health issue that will not go away? "How come history takes such a long, long time when you're waiting for a miracle?" Bruce Cockburn asks. Why doesn't God come through? 

God's answers: “Wait awhile and see what I will do."

Waiting is one of life's best teachers for in it we learn the virtue of...well, waiting—waiting while God works in us and for us. It's in waiting that we develop endurance, the ability to trust God's love and goodness, even when things aren't going our way (70:5). 

But waiting is not dreary, tooth-clenched resignation. We can "rejoice and be glad" while we wait (70:4). We wait in hope, knowing that God will deliver us in due time—in this world or in the next. God is never in a hurry, but He's always on time.

LORD! Show mercy and be merciless to my foe my flesh;
make straight my path ignore my whimpering self-pity; 
starve my hunger until the sharp pain of raging need
becomes the dull ache of wanting now the feast that comes later. 
LORD! Show mercy and give me hope to wait. —Karen Debaghian

David Roper
3.24.17

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Relief
Psalm 94

The world had a hopeful beginning,

But man spoiled his chances by sinning.
We trust that the story will end in God’s glory,
But at present the other side is winning. —author unknown

Old folks in every generation have told us that the world is going to hell in a hand basket, but, by golly, this time they may be right: It does indeed seem that "the other side is winning." Who will be our champion? "Who will rise up against the wicked? Who will stand up against evildoers?" (94:16).


"The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice,” Martin Luther King said. The saying is true, not because history necessarily bends  toward justice, but because God is in control of the moral universe and He determines history's course and outcome. He is our hero!


Evil does seem to have the upper hand these days, but that's only the appearance of things. In reality, wicked men and women are even now suffering the consequences of their wrong-doing—sin leads to misery—and in due time God will "wipe them out" (94:23). Kaput!


But we must wait...


Meanwhile there is a promise imbedded in the psalm, a beatitude that calms us in our waiting: "Blessed is the man... You teach out of your law, to give him relief in days of trouble until a pit is dug for the wicked" (Psalm 94:13). 


The word translated “relief” means "to be quiet and undisturbed"—to be at peace while we wait for justice on the earth. The Jerusalem Bible translates, “His mind is at peace though things are bad" —a calming word in these unsettled and unsettling times. May the Lord teach us and give us "relief" as we wait.


David Roper

3.22.17

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Try, Try again!
Psalm 60

Who will bring me to the fortified city?
Who will lead me to Edom (Psalm 60:9).

David's main force was with him on the Euphrates, fighting the Syrian army when the Edomites launched a sneak attack on Judah from the south. David dispatched Joab and a portion of the army to put a stop to Edom's advance, but reports from this second front indicated that the battle was not going well. David laments that God seems to have abandoned them: "Have you not rejected us, O God? You do not go forth, O God, with our armies" (60:10). 

David's lament ends in a plea for renewed help: Oh, grant us help against the foe..." (50:12).

Joab and his army eventually drove the Edomites from Judah, though the campaign was lengthy and bloody and final victory was hard-earned.

Here’s the take-away: When we fall we can always ask for God’s help and begin again. C. S. Lewis wrote, 

“You must ask for God’s help. Even when you have done so, it may seem to you for a long time that no help, or less help than you need, is being given. Never mind. After each failure, ask forgiveness, pick yourself up, and try again. Very often what God first helps us towards is not the virtue itself but just this power of always trying again. For however important chastity (or courage, or truthfulness, or any other virtue) may be, this process trains us in habits of the soul which are more important still. It cures our illusions about ourselves and teaches us to depend on God. We learn, on the one hand, that we cannot trust ourselves even in our best moments, and, on the other, that we need not despair even in our worst, for our failures are forgiven” (Mere Christianity).

Despite failure—even repeated failure—you are God's "beloved" (60:5). He is on your side, fighting with you. Pick yourself up, dust yourself off and try again. Never give up! Never give up! Never give up!

David Roper
3.17.17

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Our Defense
Psalm 59

My defense is God himself—
The God who loves me (Psalm 59:17).

The verse reads like a koan. Or a tweet. Terse, punchy phrases. A nimble response to a vicious attack.

David describes his adversaries as a pack of ravenous, feral dogs:

Each evening they come back,
howling like dogs 
and prowling about the city,
Human predators, snarling invectives,
drawn daggers in their teeth.
They think they'll never get caught (59:6,7).

I can't think of a better description of contemporary social media in which cowardly internet trolls hide behind anonymous online identities, spewing out poisonous screeds. Their bullying can kill.

But David had a ready response: He replied to each "tweet" with one of his own: "God loves me!"

Who cares what others say!

David Roper
3.16.17