Friday, September 7, 2018

The Rain

"(God) loads the thick cloud with moisture; the clouds scatter his lightning. They (the clouds) turn around and around by his guidance, to accomplish all that he commands them on the face of the habitable world. Whether for correction or for his land, or for love he causes it to happen. Hear this, O Job;
stop and consider the wondrous works of God too (Job. 37:11–14).

Rain occurs when water vapor in the air condenses into droplets that are too heavy to resist the force of gravity. Or from another perspective, God "loads" the thick cloud with water and though the clouds swirl “around and around,” he guides them to the place he chooses. That's a more inclusive way to look at rain.

But Elihu went beyond first causes to the ultimate purpose for rain: God causes it to fall "for instruction, for the land, and for love” (37:13).

Rain falls for our instruction. Rain, the lack of it, or too much of it, reveals our human limitations and teaches us humility. For all our progress in science and technology, who of us can make rain, or stop the rain? For these actions we’re solely dependent on God.

Rain falls for the sake of the land. Rain is God visiting the earth, watering it, and enriching it: "You water its ridges abundantly, You settle its furrows; You make it soft with showers, You bless its growth" (Psalm 65:9,10). God loves the land and blesses it with showers.

Finally, rain falls because God loves us and brings rain for our delight. I recall a World War II cartoon by Bill Mauldin depicting GI Joe in a muddy fox hole with rain pelting down on his helmet. “Don’t you love the sound of rain on a tin roof,” Joe muses. Rain is, well… delightful. At one point in my childhood I had a twin roof over my head and remember well the sound of rain at night, and the peace it brought to this child. And I remember how much fun it was (and is) to play in the rain. 

Earth is the only planet in our solar system on which rain falls as a blessing. Rain falls from clouds on other planets, but it's not water. On Venus it rains sulfuric acid.

So... the next time it rains on you, don't be vexed, "Stand still and consider the miraculous work of God"—indeed, the miracle that is rain (Job 37:14).

David Roper

8.31.18

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

JUST FOR YOU
Words from Friends: Good Work 

It was a simple question. A follow-up to a prayer request actually. My friend Jani Ortlund had been given a contract to write a book, which she was eager to do. For some time she had thought about the subject and had been working out the concepts in her life and on paper.  She was ready to answer this call of God on her life and she had asked me to pray with her about her writing. Which I did.

So on that day when I inquired of Jani how the book was coming along, her words left a deep impression on me. Jani said, “I have put the book aside, because I have so much other good work to do right now.” So much other GOOD work to do. I had an inkling of what that other “good work” entailed. (And Jani did it well, for by God’s grace this new responsibility bore much fruit in the years to come.)

What impressed me about Jani’s words was her attitude of seeing her new responsibility, one she did not choose, to be GOOD work. Jani was not grumbling  and complaining as she set aside her desire to write this book. She looked at her new responsibility and called it good!

Jani’s response was a challenge to my thinking as I considered the tasks God had for me then and has for me now. I immediately thought of Paul’s words to the Ephesians— For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.(Ephesians 2:10.) Jani called this new responsibility good because she saw that it was God-given.

But here’s where I often go astray. At times I do not recognize the “good” in the work I have to do. Nor do I automatically remember that it is God who has prepared the particular tasks that are in front of me at this time in my life, and in this very day. I am His workmanship and He knows the good He desires for me, and the good He desires for me to do, even though it may not seem good to me at the moment. His plans and His perspectives are much wiser, more fitting and more necessary for His kingdom than my plans.

Perhaps you have had to set aside your heart’s desire to do “something for God,” like writing a Bible study, a blog, a sermon, a book or even a note to a friend. Perhaps you have needed to give up your peaceful private and quiet space where you meet with God in order to take on another responsibility. Perhaps you have had your activities curtailed and can no longer reach out in ways you once could. Perhaps your ministry of serving, in your church or elsewhere, has been taken by away or taken by another. Perhaps your family role has changed. So now what?

Whether it is cleaning tables in a rest home after seeing your church fold, caring for a child, a grandchild or another who needs you, waiting with a restful spirit when a door has been closed, mopping up the overflow from the shower when friends are on the way, running errands, running the copy machine, running back for something, sitting calmly in traffic, forgiving someone who hurt or overlooked you, or....you fill in the blank—all of these are GOOD works God has planned at various times for you — and for me.

To remember and acknowledge our responsibilities as GOOD work is to honor our good God and to see ourselves as His workmanship. Even as He gives good work He is working for our good because we are His. This is the beginning then of peace and joy for us in whatever task is at hand. As we let go of what was and see what is as part of the good work God is calling us to, we are becoming more like Jesus in the beauty of holiness.

Of course there can be sorrow and disappointment. Of course we can weep and sometimes we will fail. (I speak from experience!) Our privilege then is to turn in contrition and hope, back to the One who so loves us and who again sets us to the task He has planned for us. And in this turning we will then walk and work in God’s mercy which is ever new, ever available.

God does not need our work but He delights in our decision to call each God-given responsibility GOOD.

Thanking God for good words from good friends like Jani who point me in the right direction. Right back to God.
Carolyn Roper
9.2.18

Where Do Babies Come From? 

"As you do not know the way the spirit comes to the bones in the womb of a woman with child, so you do not know the work of God who makes everything" (Ecclesiastes 11:5).

Stephan Hawking wrote, "Philosophy is dead. Philosophy has not kept up with modern developments in science, particularly physics. Scientists have become the bearers of the torch of discovery in our quest for knowledge" (The Grand Design).

In other words, science has a final answer for every question.

But that's not science; it's scientism, the worship of science. Science does not have universal adequacy. Scientists, however learned, cannot explain everything. They deal with the observable world—"the things that are seen—and do not have a method for looking into the world of unseen things. 

One obvious example: Scientists "do not know the way the spirit comes to the bones in the womb of a woman with child." They cannot explain the origin of the human soul and the mysterious growth of little human beings, cradled in their mothers’ wombs. 

Apropos of which: Carolyn and I have two brand-new great-grandchildren and another on the way. I gaze at those little ones (or the baby bump) with awe. 

A few months ago they didn't exist. Anywhere. Now here they are: Tiny miracles. Little human beings, made out of nothing. Creatio ex nihilo. "Where did you come from?" I ask; "How did you get to be you?"

Where did you come from, baby dear?
Out of the everywhere into here.
Where did you get your eyes so blue?
Out of the sky as I came through.
What makes the light in them sparkle and spin?
Some of the starry spikes left in.
Where did you get that little tear?
I found it waiting when I got here.
What makes your forehead so smooth and high?
A soft hand stroked it as I went by.
What makes your cheek like a warm white rose?
I saw something better than anyone knows.
Whence that three-cornered smile of bliss?
Three angels gave me at once a kiss.j
Where did you get this pearly ear?
God spoke, and it came out to hear.
Where did you get those arms and hands?
Love made itself into hooks and bands.
Feet, whence did you come, you darling things?
From the same box as the cherubs' wings.
How did they all just come to be you?
God thought about me, and so I grew.—George MacDonald

David Roper
9.5.18



Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Tested and Approved

"(God) knows what he's doing; when he has tried me, I shall come out as pure gold" (Job 23:10). 

Job's premise was a prodigious leap of faith for he was in the dark: "Thick darkness covers me," he lamented (Job. 23:17). Job couldn't understand God's odd behavior because he wasn't privy to the scene in Heaven with which the book began (Job 1,2). He had no idea that God intended to display his handiwork to Satan through Job and his "trials" (Job 1:6-12).

[I think here of sculptors that hide their work under a shroud until the "showing," at which time they snatch off the cover to reveal their work. Job's test was his "showing," when the adversary would see what sort of man Job had become under God's shaping.]

Job's trials were not the means by which he became a godly man; he was already "blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil" (Job 1:1). Nor was his "trial" a discipline  for sin, though his friends insisted that it was. Rather, the trials were the means by which God revealed the work he had been doing in Job's soul. (The metaphor is drawn from metallurgy and the "trying" of precious metals to reveal their worth.)

There is an echo of this "trying" in the New Testament Greek word, dokímion a word found inscribed on the bottom of clay jars in ancient times. It was an early "Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval," signifying that the jar had been "tested and approved." 

[The same idiom occurred in the Latin world. Unscrupulous potters would fill the cracks in faulty pots with wax and glaze over the imperfections. "Trying" them in a furnace would melt the wax. Pots that passed the test would be stamped, sine cera (without wax), or, as we would say, they were sincere.]

Peter enlarges on the Greek metaphor dokímion in his first letter: "In this (salvation) you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials (peirásmos, fiery ordeals) that the tested genuineness (dokímion) of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire (dokimázō) may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ..." (1Peter 1:6,7)

So it was for Job. His tests were designed to show the world of demons and men the work that God had been doing in his soul. Job endured and was approved. Throughout his trials, though he struggled mightily, he clung to God and treasured his word (23:11,12). He was God's man from head to foot. "Though he slay me," Job said, "yet will I trust him" (Job 13:15). Job made the grade; Satan shuffled away like the villain in a western melodrama: "Curses, foiled again." 

And so it can be for you. Your quiet faith and joyful endurance in the face of persecution, disappointment, pain and sorrow is an evident sign to men and demons that God is at work in you, making you a kinder, gentler, more loving, more courageous version of yourself, despite your suffering and grief. And there is no end to God's efforts: Sweet old age, despite severe limitation and loss, is one of God's crowning achievements.

But, you say, I may go bad. What will prevent me from growing bitter and restive in my trials?

If you will but keep yourself in God's love and in his hands for his shaping he will complete the work he has begun in you. Job knew that: "Who can thwart him? What he desires, he will do! For he will complete what he has in mind for me..." (23:13,14).

Paul echoes Job's conviction: "I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will complete it at the day of Jesus Christ" (Philippians 1:6).

David Roper

8.27.18

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Afterward!

"I know that my Redeemer lives, and afterward he will stand upon the earth. And afterward, when my skin has been taken off, in my flesh, I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall gaze at Him, and He will not be a stranger. My heart leaps for joy! [Lit: "my kidneys jump into my chest!] (Job 19:25-27). 

Job, under attack by his ersatz friends, argues with remarkable prescience that God will vindicate him in this life, or in the next

The Old Testament, contrary to expectations, has much to say about the "afterward,"—the “hereafter,” or "afterlife," we would say (e.g., Psalm 73:23,24: "You hold me by my right hand. You guide me with Your counsel, and afterward you will receive me into glory.") Here, in what may be the oldest book in the Bible, Job boldly affirms his faith in the life to come. 

The risen Job is the old Job, the thinking, feeling, knowing, remembering, loving Job who writes, “I shall see him; I shall gaze at him with my own eyes, and I shall know him; he will not be a stranger."   

We too shall see our Redeemer. We shall gaze upon him with our eyes and he will not be a stranger. We shall know him by the prints of the nails in his hands. 

That prospect makes for "colossal joy," C.S. Lewis said, or as Job would say, "It makes my kidneys jump into my chest!" 

David Roper 
8.25.18 

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Reasons

"The sacrifice of the unrighteous is an abomination; How much more when he brings it with an ulterior motive!" (Proverbs 21:27).

T.S. Eliot said that the greatest treason is "to do the right thing for the wrong reason."

Reasons are tricky. Why do I write? Why do I serve? Why do I love? Why do I do whatever I do? Is it my desire to serve God purely, or do I have my own selfish interests in mind—to be affirmed, to be respected, to be reimbursed? I know my heart is "deceitful above all things and desperately wicked." My motives can be and often are unworthy. I get caught up in morbid introspection: Am I doing the right things for the wrong reasons?

Thankfully, ”God is greater than (my) heart, and knows all things" (1John 3:20). He knows my heart and my conflicted motives far better than I and has forgiven the sinful inclinations of my heart. I can do what I do without scrutinizing my motives and receive God’s grace for the reasons.

"Thou—greater than ever my heart can be; For my sinful heart give Thyself to me!"—Annie Johnson Flint

David Roper

8.22.18

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Gathering My Thoughts

"Unite my heart to fear (reverence) Your name” 
—Psalm 86:11

Gather my thoughts, dear Lord, they fitfully roam
    Like children bent on foolish wandering,
Or vanity of fruitless wayfaring
    O call them home.

See them—they drift like the wind-scattered foam;
    Like wild sea birds, they hither, thither fly,
And some sink low, and others soar too high
    O call them home.

Wherever, Lord, beneath the wide blue dome
    They wander, in Thy patience find them there:
That, undistracted, I may go to prayer. —George Herbert

Plato said our minds are like aviaries and our thoughts are like birds. It’s an apt metaphor as I age. I reach for a thought and it eludes me; I grasp at another and I frighten it away. I can only pray...

“Gather my thoughts, dear Lord, to worship and adore.”

David Roper

8.18.18

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Loved!

"God so loved the world..." —John 3:16

Imagine a little girl born with a cleft palate—a misshapen lip, a crooked nose, lopsided teeth, garbled speech. Teased and taunted at school, she knew that no one could ever love her. 

There was, however, a teacher in the second grade that all the children loved—a short, round, jolly lady full of good humor and affection.

The school conducted hearing tests each year in which the teachers examined every child. The child stood on one side of the room, across from the teacher who would whisper a question: “What color are your shoes?” or “Do you have a new dress?” and the child would answer. 

When it came the little girl’s turn she waited anxiously for the teacher to whisper and heard these words: “I wish you were my little girl.” 

This was a turning point in her life, she later said, for she realized that day that she could be loved by someone who mattered.

Do you know that God loves you like that? You may be flawed, misshaped, unattractive in your own eyes, but He wants you to be his child. 

There's a idea someone gave me some years ago. I think of it when I pass through our kitchen. "If God had a refrigerator, my picture would be on it."


David

Thursday, August 16, 2018

The Best Thing

“Love will never end... " (1Corinthians 8:2,3).

“But when I am quite old, and words are slow, 
Like dying things that keep their holes for woe, 
And memory's withering tendrils clasp with effort vain?  
Then as now, no less wilt be my life...”—George MacDonald

Memory loss is disconcerting. Think of the time, energy and money we expend acquiring knowledge—only to lose it in the end.

But knowledge is not the best thing and therefore to lose it is not the worst thing. Love is the best thing because, it's the most god-like thing we can do, and it “will never end." It's what we'll be doing for the rest of our lives. 

So you’re a few slices short of a loaf. No matter. You can love.

David Roper
8.14.18

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Good Old Charlie Brown 




"Love...hopes all things" (1Corinthians 13:8).

Charlie Brown, ever hopeful, lines up a field goal with Lucy van Pelt as the holder. Lucy assures Charlie that she will not yank the ball away, but she does and Charlie Brown lands on his backside—again. 

It does us no harm to be Charlie Brown, hoping  for the best in those we love. Folks will break your heart, of course, but it's better to have your heart broken than to be the one that broke it. 

It's better to be Charlie Brown.

David Roper
8.15.18

Friday, August 10, 2018

Ageless Delight

“That I may finish my course with joy!” (Acts 20:24).

A number of years ago, when Carolyn's mother was still living, we attended an event at her retirement home. There we saw two centenarians dancing! "Lucky stiffs," was the phrase that floated through my mind. 

A few fortunate senior citizens, like this couple, grow old with very few parts out of order, but for most of us, aging exacts a heavy toll. We don't get around much anymore.

But to think of all the things we used to do and can’t do only makes a body feel worse. It’s much better to poke fun at ourselves rather than grumble and complain. Thomas Aquinas said, “Those without a sense of fun, who never say anything ridiculous, and are cantankerous with those who do… are called grumpy and rude.”

Stiff joints, arthritic backs, hearing and memory loss, failing eyesight and stumbling gait are no fun, but we can survive them by managing to see them, despite everything, as desperately funny.

How can we gain and keep that perspective? Well… it’s a matter of trust: accepting our Father’s "wise bestowment" (our present condition, what the Bible calls our “lot”); reveling in His unconditional love and kindhearted care in the present; and counting on His unbreakable promise that someday soon He will take us home where He will cure all that ails us and Love will enfold us forever. 

These are the truths that satisfy and sustain us as we age, and enable us to finish our course with joy. 

David Roper

8/10/18

Wednesday, August 8, 2018


"And It Came to Pass..."

Weeping may tarry for the night,
but joy comes with the morning —Psalm 30:5

“Trouble doesn't come to stay; it comes to pass,” the old preacher said, basing his premise on Mark's connecting phrase, "and it came to pass”(Mark 1:9 et. al.). His hermeneutic was faulty, but his thesis was sound: Weeping, like an overnight guest, may "spend the night" (the literal meaning of the verb), but he packs up his gear in the morning and goes on his way. Yes, in general we can say that sorrow doesn't come to stay.

Yet, I must also say, for some folks this world is a vale of tears. Sorrow upon sorrow is their lot; their “life is spent with grief; their years with sighing" (Psalm 31:10). What can we say about a grief that will not go away? 

Consider David’s conviction: “Joy comes in the morning.” David’s "morning" may be tomorrow morning, but it may rather be that “great gettin'-up morning,” when sorrow for all time will flee away. Some day very soon our Lord will come for us, or we will go to him and our "mourning will be turned into dancing" (30:11). Sadness may have it's day, but it’s not forever. It will be taken away.

"Our sorrow is not our own," Samuel Rutherford wrote. "It is lent to us for just a little while that we may use it for eternal purposes. Then it will be taken away and everlasting joy will be our Father’s gift to us, and the Lord God will wipe away all tears from our eyes.”

David Roper
8.8.18

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

One Day Nearer Home

"For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed" Romans 13.11b)

I remember lengthy, family trips when our road-weary children would sigh, "Are we there yet?" "No," we'd say, "but we're nearer than we were." 

It occurs to me that this is the perspective that can give us hope and cheer when our days are weary and long, for our salvation is nearer to us today than when we first believed.

Some of you rise each morning to endure hours of sickness and pain. Others face loneliness and seclusion. Still others see nothing ahead but long days of mindless endeavor and weary plodding. Look up! This may be the day that Jesus will come for you, or you will go to him.

But if not, know this: Your salvation is nearer to you this day than when you first believed. You're one day nearer home. 

Just one day nearer home, 
As shadows of the night descend. 
Just one day less to roam 
As fading twilight colors blend. 
Beneath that starry dome 
I'll rest beside my Guide and Friend, 
With each day's tramping, nightly camping, 
One day nearer Home.  Harry D. Loes


David Roper

Friday, July 27, 2018

Things That Are Excellent

“And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment,  that you may approve the things that are excellent, —Philippians 1:9,10

The Stoic philosophers of Paul’s day spoke of ta diapheron. Diapheron, in classical ethics, were those subtle aspects of character that set one person apart from others. Paul must have had this distinction in mind when he wrote of “things that are excellent” (ta diapheronta).

The “things that excellent” have to do with manner, demeanor, bearing, voice inflection, and facial expressions. It is what we do, but also how we do it. “A man ranks according to how he does a thing,” George MacDonald wrote.

I think that's what Jesus had in mind when he queried his disciples: “what do you do more than others? (Matthew 5:47). The “others,” in this case, were the Pharisees who were “good,” but whose goodness was unpleasant. True goodness is winsome, and wonderfully attractive in that it attracts others to the beauty of our Lord. 

Jesus said, “The good (and here he uses a Greek word that means “beautiful”) person brings goodness (beauty) out of the goodness (beauty) stored up in him (Matthew 12:35). This is the beauty of holiness, a radiance that comes from within, from the One who dwells there, who is incomparably lovely, and who, in his quiet love will gradually turn our actions into something excellent. 

Our part is to ask and ask and ask again...

Let the beauty of Jesus be seen in me
All his wonderful passion and purity
Oh, Thou Spirit divine, all my nature refine
Till the beauty of Jesus be seen in me

        —Albert W. T. Orsborn


David Roper

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Without Cause

"We’ve got to look after ourselves,” said the farmer. “Parson used to say there was One as took that off our hands!" replied Sarah—George MacDonald, The Cleric's Awakening

For without cause they hid their net for me;
without cause they dug a pit for my life...
They hate me without cause—35:7,19

Some folks will hate you though you're trying to do the right thing. Here's King David's take on his situation:

They repay me evil for good; my soul is bereft. When they were sick I wore sackcloth; I afflicted myself with fasting; I prayed with head bowed on my chest. I went about as though I grieved for my friend or my brother; as one who laments his mother, I bowed down in mourning. But at my stumbling they rejoiced and gathered; they gathered together against me; wretches whom I did not know
tore at me without ceasing; like profane mockers at a feast,
they gnash at me with their teeth" (35:12-16).

What then can we do when we're judged unjustly?  

David shot up a prayer, which is always the first thing to do: "Awake and rouse yourself for my vindication, for my cause, my God and my Lord! Vindicate me, O LORD, my God according to your righteousness” (35:23,24). 

Put your situation in God's hands for His resolution. Don’t try to vindicate yourself. Self-defense is a null set, as the math guys say: It amounts to nothing. Let God take up your cause. He is just and will bring justice in due time (35:17).

Meanwhile, our Father "delights" in us (35:27). Who gives a fig what others say?


David Roper

The Rain "(God) loads the thick cloud with moisture; the clouds scatter his lightning. They (the clouds) turn around and around by...