Tuesday, October 31, 2017

The Last Laugh

1. When the Lord brought back the captivity of Zion,
We were like those who dream.
2. Then our mouth was filled with laughter,
And our tongue with shots of joy.
Then they said among the nations,
“The Lord has done great things for them.”
3. The Lord has done great things for us,
And we are glad.
4. Bring back our captivity (Do it again), O Lord,
As the streams in the South.
5. Those who sow in tears
Shall reap in joy.
6. He who continually goes out weeping,
Bearing seed for sowing,
Shall doubtless come in with shouts of joy,
Bringing his sheaves with him. —Psalm 126:3-6

We laugh when our minds are subverted, when we encounter an unexpected turn and we are surprised. 

Here in this psalm, the poet remembers an historic, unnamed serendipitous deliverance from famine, plague, or siege when God delivered His people from "captivity," a wholly unexpected, happy surprise that brought shouts of joy and laughter (126:1-3). Surely, God had done great things for Israel!

The psalmist then prays that he and his people will laugh again, that their joy would be restored as rain refreshes a wadi in the wilderness (Psalms 126:4).

"Laugh again." I wonder: Can it be that all occasions of joy and laughter are mere foretastes of that great guffaw when we finally "get in"?

Life is hard; we pass through and on, weeping and burdened by sin and sorrow. But one day we shall come home and we will see what great things God has prepared for us. And then, or so I believe, surprised by joy, our sides will split with laughter!

David Roper

Monday, October 30, 2017

He'll Come Running

"Blessed are those whose way is blameless,
who walk in the law of the LORD" —Psalm 119:1

Psalm 119 is the longest psalm in the psalter, twenty-two stanzas arranged around the twenty two letters of the Hebrew alphabet. The psalmist affirms throughout his love for God's Word and his desire to "walk" in it. But the psalm ends with a whimper: "(Nevertheless,) I keep wandering off like a lost sheep" (119:176).

Nobody never sins. That's where grace comes in.

Julian of Norwich wrote, "When you are distressed by your failures, do not run from the Lord—as if any of us could hide from Him! Instead, run to Him quickly ... and say, ‘I have corrupted myself and made myself filthy, and I hate it because now I’m not like you. I cannot be clean again—I cannot be free from this corruption—unless you come and lift me and help me.' And He always comes!"—I Promise You a Crown

When you fall all you got to do is call, and He'll come running, wherever you are...

He whose day-life is obedient righteousness,
Who, after failure, or a poor success,
Rises up, stronger effort yet renewing—
He finds thee, Lord, at length, in his own common room.

—George Macdonald

David Roper

God's Steadfast Love

Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for he is good;
for his steadfast love endures forever! —Psalm 118:1,29.

What is the practical outcome of believing—really believing—that God loves us? 

Well.. among other things, His love will set us free from the need to look for human approval (118:6).

We don’t need to look into other people's eyes to see if we're okay. We won't be devastated by criticism and disapproval. We won't need to win or be in charge all the time. We won't worry so much about our appearance. We won't go looking for love in all the wrong places. We won't violate our conscience to be part of the crowd. We  won't have to be stronger than, smarter than, better than (whatever). We can relax and be what we are—God’s cherished children, the object of his utmost affection, "the apple of His eye."

It's said that life is a quest for three things: security, significance and love, but it seems to me that life is mostly a quest for love, for security and significance are by-products of the knowledge that someone loves us and will always love us no matter what we do.

It was Kermit the frog, I think, who said that wonderful things begin to happen to you when you know that someone loves you and will never let you go. 

David Roper

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Fathers and Sons

 “I just wish I could have told him in the living years.”—Mike and the Mechanics

My father was a good father, and, in most respects, I was a dutiful son. But I allowed my father to starve for the one thing I could have given him: myself. He was a quiet man; I was equally silent. We often worked for hours side by side and scarcely a word passed between us. He never asked; I never told him—my deepest desires and dreams, my hopes and fears. 

In time I woke up to my reticence. Perhaps the perception came when our first-born came into the world, or when, one by one, our sons went out into the world. Now I wish I had been more of a son to my father while I was under his roof. I think of all the things I could have told him. And all the things he could have told me. At his funeral I stood beside his casket for the last time, struggling to understand my emotions. “It’s too late, isn’t it?” Carolyn said quietly. Exactly. 

My comfort lies in the fact that I’ll be able to make things up in heaven, for is that not where every wounded heart will be healed? George MacDonald thought so: “What a disintegrated mass were the world, what a lump of half-baked brick, if death were indeed the end of affection! if there were no chance more of setting right what was so wrong in the loveliest relations! How gladly would many a son who once thought it a weariness to serve his parents, minister now to their lightest need! and in the boundless eternity is there no help?” (Home Again: A Tale).

Death is not the end of affection, but the beginning of timeless existence in which there will be no more misunderstanding and love will grow forever. Then, the hearts of sons will be turned to their fathers and the hearts of fathers to their sons (Malachi 4:6). 

David Roper


Wednesday, October 25, 2017

It's Not About Me

Israel's poet surveys the destruction of Zion, the City of God and pours out his lament, his anxiety, isolation, depression and despair. 

I am like a pelican of the wilderness;
I am like an owl of the desert.
I lie awake, 
And am like a sparrow alone on the house (102:6,7).

But then the poet looks past Zion's scattered "stones and dust" and his own distress to the day when God will "arise and have mercy on Zion" (102:13). He writes "for the generation to come, that a people yet to be created (born) may praise the Lord" (102:18). 

He writes of a day 600 years later when God acted in Christ on the cross and brought salvation to the world (102:19-28). [Psalm 102:25-27 is quoted in Hebrews 1:10-12 and applied directly to Jesus. They record the Father’s words to the Son as he contemplates the cross.]

The poet turns from his own distress and prays that the day of salvation will come, just as we pray for that Great and final Day of the Lord when He will come again and "the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea" (Isaiah 11:9).

And so, I see, it's not about me; it's about God and what He is doing. I must look beyond my transient distress to God's eternal plan, when “the people shall gather together and the kingdoms, to worship the LORD" (102:22). 

Thy kingdom come, O Lord; Thy will be done.

David Roper

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Through Paths Unknown

“By faith Abraham…obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.” —Hebrews 11:8

When Abraham was seventy–five years of age, God called him from his home in Ur of the Chaldees to move to Haran, to Shechem, to Bethel to Egypt, to the Negev, to Hebron… Rootless, homeless, “going…and not knowing.” That was the story of Abraham’s life. 

Age brings change, uncertainty and adjustment. It means transition from a familiar past to an uncertain future. It is movement from a much loved family home, to a smaller place, to a daughter’s home, to a retirement village, to a nursing home—the “final resort,” as one writer put it. So we, like Abraham, pass through paths unknown, making our way from one location to another, always traveling: “going…and not knowing.”

But we can be at home in any dwelling place, for our safekeeping lies not in the place in which we live, but in God Himself. We dwell in the shelter of the Most High; we rest in the shadow of His wings. In Him we take refuge; the eternal God is our dwelling place.

Others may choose our habitation, but God will be our companion and friend until traveling days are over and we reach our heart's true home. He will turn each dreary dwelling place into a house of grace in which we can shed the light of God’s loving kindness on other travelers—“light in His light to be” (Jesse Penn–Lewis)..

David H Roper

Monday, October 23, 2017


You shall not be afraid of the terror by night,
Nor of the arrow that flies by day,
A thousand may fall at your side,
ten thousand at your right hand,
but it will not come near you.  

I will be with him in trouble;
I will deliver him and honor him.
With long life I will satisfy him,
And show him My salvation.—Psalms 91:8,16

So much depends on what "it" means. 

God has not promised that He will deliver us from trouble. Toil and trouble may be our lot (Romans 8:25). God has promised, however, that He'll be with us "in trouble,” will deliver us from harm, dignify us with His love and satisfy our deepest longings for a "long life"—life that will never end. 

The real you—the remembering, feeling, thinking part of you that the Bible calls your soul and you call "myself"—is indestructible! It will be guarded forever. Arrows may fly, you may die, but "it" (death and destruction) will not come near you. No harm will come to your soul (1Peter 3:13).

Jesus expressed the same thought with a wry paradox: "Some of you will be put to death... But not a hair of your head will perish" (Luke 21:16-18).

David Roper

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Numbering Our Days

"Let the beauty of the LORD our God be upon us, And establish the work of our hands for us; Yes, establish the work of our hands" —Psalm 90:17.

Moses reflects on the brevity of life and our mortality: We live 80 years or so and then we "fly away" (90:10)—in which case, Moses cautions us against taking life lightly: “Teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom" (90:12). 

We have a few days to live and then we're gone, so we need to get life right the first and only time we go around. As educator Walker Percy said, it's possible to get all A's and flunk life. It would be tragic indeed to live one's entire life and miss the point of living. 

What are the things that matter and make our lives meaningful? The "beauty of the Lord" and "works" that endure forever (90:17). This is the “wisdom” we gain from numbering our days. 

The "beauty of the Lord" is His matchless beauty, manifest in us through His Holy Spirit. Put another way, it is the fruit of His Spirit growing in us, a quality of life that is patient, joyful, gentle, faithful, tranquil, merciful and strong.

"Enduring works" are those works that are done in Jesus' name and for His sake. It's not a particular thing that we do, but the manner in which we do everything. It can be teaching, counseling, coaching, attending a class, reading a book, cleaning house, chopping wood, preparing a spreadsheet, or writing up a report. But if done for Jesus' sake and as He would do it, it will endure forever. 

The character of Jesus and works done in His name. These are the things we take with us when we "fly." John heard a voice from Heaven saying, "Blessed are those who die in the Lord…for their deeds go with them" (Revelation 14:13). Everything else gets left behind.

How can I accomplish these things? Only by God's grace and through prayer: "Let the beauty of the LORD our God be upon us, and establish the work of our hands" (Psalm 90:17).

David Roper

Friday, October 20, 2017

True Greatness

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

“I wrote something along this line to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to be first, did not welcome my counsel” (3John 1:9).

If God chooses to exalt us we should be grateful, but we should never seek exaltation. "Do you seek greatness for yourself?” Jeremiah asks. “Don’t seek it” (Jeremiah 45:5). 

Selfish ambition is a ruinous trait, one that dulls our spiritual senses. "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 over 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 were 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 true greatness: If you want to be great make it your ambition to love and serve those that cannot advance your ends, that have no power or influence at all. 

Just then a dirty, street urchin ran through the room—or so I imagine the scene. Jesus, caught him by his shirttail, wrestled him onto His lap and cradled him in his arms close to His heart.1 "This is greatness," he said.

David Roper 

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

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

A Poor Wise Man

""It is amazing what you can accomplish if you don't care who gets the credit" (Harry S. Truman).

There was a little city with few men in it, and a great king came against it and besieged it, building great siege works against it. But there was found in it a poor, wise man, and he by his wisdom delivered the city. Yet no one remembered that poor man. Nevertheless, I say that wisdom is better than might, though the poor man's wisdom is despised and his words are not heard (Ecclesiastes 9:15,16).

Martin Luther, in his commentary on this verse, cites as an example the story of Themistocles, the Athenian soldier and statesman who commanded the Athenian squadron and through his strategy won the Battle of Salamis, drove the Persian army from Greek soil and saved his city. A few years later he was ostracized by his countrymen and banished from Athens. “Thus, Luther concludes, “Themistocles did much good for his city, but received much ingratitude," another confirmation of the ancient adage that no good deed goes unpunished. 

The crowd, for some perverse reason, will always prefer proud fools to humble, wise woman and men, and will quickly forget the good they have done. No matter. “Wisdom is (still) better than might” even if “the wisdom of the humble man is despised" (vs. 16). It’s better to be a humble, simple sage who, though forgotten, leaves much good behind, than a swaggering, vociferous fool who, though many applaud him, “destroys much good” (vs. 18).

Accordingly, what matters in the end is not the recognition and gratitude we receive for the work we’ve done, but the eternal souls of those in whom we’ve sown the seeds of righteousness. Jesus put it this way: “Wisdom is vindicated by the children she leaves behind.” (Luke 7:35). 

David Roper 


Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Death Thou Shalt Die!

Surely, this God is our God forever and ever. He will lead us through death (Psalm 48:14).

Psalm 48 is a national anthem praising Jerusalem, Judah’s capitol city. Jerusalem was a safe place, isolated on a mountain plateau, protected on three sides by steep ravines, enclosed and guarded by massive walls, towers and ramparts.

But the strength of the city lay not in her defense systems, but in the knowledge that God was “in the city” (48:1). New York City is known for her buildings, Seattle for her Sound. Jerusalem was known for the fact that God was there. Israel’s enemies looked at Jerusalem, saw God, panicked and ran away! (48:4-7).

The poet invites us to tour the city and take note of her strength and beauty: “Walk about Zion, go around her, number her towers, consider well her ramparts, that you may tell the next generation the story of God” (48:12,13).

And what is "the story of God"? "Surely, this God is our God forever and ever. He will lead us through death” (48:14).

What a strange conclusion to an otherwise straightforward poem about Jerusalem and her ramparts, but not when we understand that we are the citadel in which the eternal God dwells and will, in the end, deliver us from death, our last enemy. One glance at Him and death is shattered (48:4-7).

Death, be not proud, though some have called thee 
Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so;
For those whom thou think'st thou dost overthrow 
Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me... 
One short sleep past, we wake eternally
And death shall be no more; death, thou shalt die! —John Donne

David Roper


Playing Second Fiddle It's said that the hardest instrument to play is second fiddle. I thought of that old adage this morning as I...