Sunday, April 30, 2017

Friends

I will look with favor on the faithful in the land,
that they may dwell with me;
he who walks in the way that is blameless
shall minister to me. —Psalm 101:6.

Every relationship has consequences: "Bad company ruins good morals" Paul wrote, quoting Menander, a Greek playwright (1Corinthians 15:33). Thus it's important to be discriminating in our friendships for we're all influenced by our friends.

David sought out "the faithful in the land." In the same way, it's good for us to seek those who seek God and who will direct our thoughts toward Him. There's an old Quaker saying: "Cling to those that cling to God that they may draw you unto God."

This is not to say that we can't be friends with those that do not seek God; Jesus was "the friend of sinners." But if our heart's desire is to know and love God then our closest friends and those we follow most closely should be so inclined.

There are some folks that will never be good friends: "Whoever slanders his neighbor secretly... Whoever has a haughty look and an arrogant heart I cannot endure" (101:5).

We should avoid those who tear down the reputations of others. They're insecure, threatened people and can be very dangerous. You can count on it: If they slander their neighbors they will slander you.

The translation "arrogant heart" is an attempt to render a Hebrew idiom, "a broad heart"—someone full of himself, I suppose. Thus we need to avoid entangling alliances with self-centered people.

There are who come to me, and write, and send,
Whom I would love, giving good things to all,
But “friend”—that name I cannot on them spend:
‘Tis from the centre of self–love they call. —George MacDonald

"No one who practices deceit shall dwell in my house; no one who utters lies shall continue before my eyes" (Psalms 101:7). Honesty is not the best policy; it's the only policy. "One lie, you die," is an old saying, an indictment that may seem harsh, but it's a practical consideration. Once someone deceives us we can and should forgive, but it's difficult to fully trust them again.

Finally, to turn the matter around, I must begin, with God's help, to deal with my own arrogance and duplicity, for humility and honesty are indispensable attributes of a friend. The words of an old proverb come to mind: "If you want to have good friends, you must first be one."


David Roper

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Look At It This Way

Ben Patterson is a friend of ours who has blessed us with his presence and his words, both spoken and written. One of Ben’s books was written in a series called The Pastor’s Soul.  In this book, Deepening Your Conversation With God, Ben let’s us in on a conversation he had with a man about to retire from ministry. The man had been a mentor, friend and someone Ben worked under. In essence Ben asked the man what he would have done differently in his ministry. His answer came quickly, Ben says. “Don’t take it personally.”

Ben says his next question was, “Don’t take what personally?”

Here’s Ben’s description of the answer to that question: 
He told me not to take it personally when things get tough in the church, when I am attacked or tired or depressed. Things like that go with the territory. We’re in a spiritual battle. When a soldier is shot at, he isn’t shocked. His feelings aren’t hurt. He doesn’t peer over his foxhole at his adversary and shout, “Was it something I said?” He expects it, he plans on it.
Ben goes on to point out that in Ephesians Paul took for granted that any one following Jesus would be in a struggle with spiritual forces. What is true in every other sphere of life is also true in ministry. Our armor is described in Ephesians 6. Then Paul says as we expect the struggle, that very expectation is an alert, a call to prayer (Ephesians 6: 16).

So when my husband or I am misunderstood, undervalued, unappreciated or gossiped about I don’t have to take it personally.  When he or I am feeling down and almost out, when there is more gloom than joy in my heart, when there is friction in our home or in the ministry this is a call to prayer.  The Adversary is out and roaming about and He is the real enemy.  This calls for strength beyond my own. Our Champion is ready and wanting to supply what we need to go forward. 

Now, as I see it, there is one caveat to this approach. As I answer the call to prayer it is often the case that our God and Father will point out where have been wrong or reacted on my own with pride or retaliation or self-pity, or failed to listen to wise counsel. I may have set this skirmish in motion. The Adversary then will urge me to keep my eyes on myself and give up. Nothing would please this enemy more.  But with my God’s help I can thank Him for His faithfulness in revealing to me my sin. Then I can repent from the heart and walk humbly with my God. His mercy is new every morning. Wow! 

As someone has said, the battle is so much bigger than my personal humiliations. 

So whatever is thrown at you in life and specifically in ministry, don’t take it personally. It is a call to prayer. Lord, teach us to pray!
Praying for you and asking you to pray for me

Carolyn Roper (Originally written for pastors’ wives.)
4.27.17

Friday, April 28, 2017

Ambition

How know I if Thou shoulds’t me raise
That I would there raise Thee?
Perhaps great places and great praise
Do not so well agree. —George Herbert

My friend Ray Stedman told me one day that he made a vow when he was a young man that he would never do anything for money, fame or position—a lofty ambition both then and now.

If God chooses to exalt us we should be grateful, but we should never seek greatness for ourselves. "Do you seek to be great" Jeremiah asks. "Seek it not.” Selfish ambition is a terrible trait, one that can take away our spiritual vitality and intimacy with God. "Ambition dulls the prophet-eye; It casts the unseen out," George MacDonald said (The Mother of Zebedee’s Children).

There's a remarkably relevant New Testament text describing a day on which the Apostles fell into a debate around the question, "Who's the greatest of us all" (Mark 9:33-37). Later that evening, having reached their destination, Jesus asked his disciples what they had been arguing about along the way. They lapsed into silence, ashamed of the question, as anyone should be.

Jesus then gave his disciples the secret of authentic greatness: If you want to be great. He said, make it your ambition to be very, very small, loving and caring for the little people all around that have no power or influence, that cannot advance your ends at all.

Just then a little unwashed street urchin ran into the room, or so I imagine the scene. Jesus, catching him by his shirttail and wrestling him onto His lap, cradled him in his arms close to His heart.[1] "This is the way to be great,” He said.

David Roper
2.11.17


[1] Gk. enagkalisamenos: lit. "holding him in the crook of his arm"

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

The One and the Many

"I delight to do Your will, O my God" (Psalm 40:8).

I recall an occasion many years ago when Ray Stedman walked into a staff meeting holding an object behind his back. “I have a crooked stick behind my back,” he said. “Tell me what it looks like."

We couldn’t, of course, because a crooked stick has many “looks.” Had he said, “The stick is straight,” we could have described it with no trouble at all.

Vice has many "looks." Virtue is simple. “Vice forsakes the one for the many.” Aquinas said. “Virtue moves from the many to the one.” Some folks, like Legion, are “many”; others move toward David’s simplification: “I delight to do your will, O my God.” (Psalm 40:8).

"Purity of heart is to will one thing," Søren Kierkegaard said. What a marvelous simplification!

David Roper

2.24.17

Monday, April 24, 2017


Short and  Sweet

I made a posy, while the day ran by: 
“Here will I smell my remnant out, and tie 
                           My life within this band.” 
But Time did beckon to the flowers, and they 
By noon most cunningly did steal away, 
                           And withered in my hand. 

My hand was next to them, and then my heart; 
I took, without more thinking, in good part 
                           Time’s gentle admonition; 
Who did so sweetly death’s sad taste convey, 
Making my mind to smell my fatal day, 
                           Yet, sug’ring the suspicion. 

Farewell dear flowers, sweetly your time ye spent, 
Fit, while ye lived, for smell or ornament, 
                           And after death for cures. 
I follow straight without complaints or grief, 
Since, if my scent be good, I care not if 
                           It be as short as you. —George Herbert
   
Carolyn “made a posy” the other day—a spray of flowers that she placed on an antique carpenter’s bench that stands in front of our window on the world. It lasted a day or two and then was spent: the leaves wilted and the blossoms withered away.

Herbert’s poem, “Life,” came to mind. In it he mentions a posey he gathered and placed where he could catch its fragrance throughout the day. But “time did beckon to the flowers” and they withered away. 

The death of his flowers caused Herbert to think of his fatal day, but their lingering fragrance—an aroma that lasted long after their dying— “sug’red” (sweetened) that thought. He concludes: 

I follow straight (to my fatal day) without complaints or grief, 
Since if my scent be good, I care not, if
It (his life span) be as short as you (the flowers).

May we take "time's gentle admonition:" May our days, however short, be spent “sweetly”—a fragrance of Christ to God and to others (2 Corinthians 2:14). And may His fragrance linger long after our fatal day.

David Roper
4.24.17

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