Monday, December 10, 2018

Just for You: Beloved
Christmas Reflections: Waiting
11.30.18
Good Morning, Friends,

I love Christmas. It seems I always have. The reds, the greens, the lights and trees, the packages and cards, the music, decorations and festivities. The gathering of friends and family and the laughter and the surprises all can put a spring in my step and a smile in my life. I love the preparation and the anticipation. 

This year as I put away our fall trappings and the house was waiting for its Christmas dressing, I began to think of my Christmas heart as well as my Christmas house.  What would fill my heart this year at Christmas?  I took this to be a whisper from God, a good and godly question. And so as I heard the question, I was nudged to wait on the Lord for Him to tell me His plan, rather than to rush into my plans and preparations. 

As I sat with the Lord in stillness, I asked Him to show me His plans for me this Christmas. And I waited, counting on His presence and His caring. 

“Come, follow me,” is the first thing the Holy Spirit reminded me of that morning. Jesus invited His disciples to follow Him and He was inviting me to follow Him into my Christmas, both preparations and anticipations.
I wanted to do that, to follow Him So I questioned Him again, “Lord, what does that mean for me today and into this season?”

Very clear the answer came: “I want you to have a heart like Mine. A heart of compassion, mercy, reaching out, kindness, caring and freely giving. And I want you to start right behind your own front door. I want you to show My heart by your attitudes and actions to David. This is where I want your Christmas to begin as you follow Me. Then I want you to take this Heart of Mine with you out to your neighbor, that is anyone who I put into your day. ”

Other things came to mind that Jesus would want for me as I approached Christmas—

~a peaceful spirit, especially when things do not go my way,
 ~a focus on the Person this season is all about, 
~a priority of still time listening to His word and talking with Him, so that I can then practice His presence all day long, 
~a forgiving heart as I have been forgiven and so many more ways I can show Christmas in my home and to others.
 
I have found that when I am listening carefully He will show me step-by-step and day-by–day how I can follow Him. He will do the same for you this Christmas if that is what you desire.

Next I remembered that Jesus said, “Without Me you can do nothing.” Even at Christmas. Oh I can make a list, and order on Amazon, I can “set around” the pretties and color my home with red and green. I might even find a Christmas sweater that isn’t ugly! I could even “eat, drink and be merry.” For a time.  
But without Him I can do nothing that will last, nothing that will matter in the end. 

I cannot love over the long haul and in His way.
I cannot have peace that passes understanding.
I cannot heal another’s hurting heart.
I cannot have deep joy that goes deeper than the grief this world brings.
I cannot take away my guilt and shame just by looking the other way.
I cannot give hope that is not uncertain.

But He can! And as I draw near to Him, accepting His invitation and His gifts, as I bring Him into my day, my struggles and my delights, as I learn to trust His mighty hand and His generous heart, His timing and His mysteries, as I depend on Him who is the Living God and whose Spirit lives in my heart, by His grace I can shine a bit of His glory and goodness in a hurting world this Christmas. I can accept His invitation to “Come, follow Me.” And by my words and my life I can in small ways point others to the One who so loves, who came and is still present.

Come, follow Me.

Without Me you can do nothing.

This is how I began my Christmas this year.  As I waited in stillness and anticipation for His best for me this year, I heard His gentle guidance from His word for my Christmas heart. I encourage you to stop and wait on the Lord as you ask Him in stillness His plans for your heart and your hands this Christmas. It could be your best Christmas ever.

With love and always delighted to hear the thoughts God whispers to you,

Carolyn Roper

Sunday, December 9, 2018

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 read Saint Jude's letter.

I noticed that Jude never mentions the fact that he was Jesus' brother, though clearly he was a sibling (1Corinthians 9:5). (Our Catholic friends regard him as Jesus' older half-brother, Joseph's son by a prior marriage.) 

Jude describes himself as a "bond servant" of Jesus and "the brother of James," who was Jesus' brother, but he never mentions the fact that he was part of the family. Not even once—unlike Diotrephes, a contemporary Church leader "who loved to be first" (3John 9,10), and who went on to achieve prominence in the worst sort of way. He became a heretical gnostic bishop.

It’s hard to be overlooked and undervalued—when someone gets the credit for something we've done, or someone less qualified gains prominence and is promoted over us. We're told that Jesus honors those who "take" the lower seat, but we do get our knickers in a twist when someone gives it to us.

Those are the days that we have to look to Jesus, who was himself "despised and rejected," and ask him for the grace to stay at our post and carry on—joyfully, dutifully—and to do so out of our love for him. It's not easy, but that's how we learn to play second fiddle. 

David Roper

12.8.18

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Walk On

“O my lord, what shall be the outcome of these things?” (The angel) said, “Go your way, Daniel, for the words are shut up and sealed until the time of the end. Many shall purify themselves and make themselves white and be refined, but the wicked shall act wickedly. And none of the wicked shall understand, but those who are wise shall understand: From the time that the regular burnt offering is taken away and the abomination that makes desolate is set up, there shall be 1,290 days. Blessed is he who waits and arrives at the 1,335 days (Daniel 12:8-12).

Daniel asked, "What shall be the end (Hebrew: “the afterward”) of all these things" (i.e., “How long will our troubles last?”) The angel answered with numbers, typical of the cryptic nature of the book: “The end will come in 1290 days, plus 45 days.”

Uh, ‘scuse me?

Commentators have tried to make sense of these numbers for 2500 years or more, in general taking them to refer to the last days of the Greek king, Antiochus IV who, in a fit of pique desecrated the temple in Jerusalem by sacrificing a pig on the altar and burning the sacred scrolls. 

Most interpreters try to fit the “days” into the period between this desecration (the so-called, “Abominable Desolation”) and the rededication of the temple under the Maccabees, but the problem, without going into detail, is simply that the numbers don’t work. Perhaps someday we’ll uncover other data that will enable us to work with these numerical parameters, though we must remember that the angel did inform Daniel that “the words are shut up and sealed until the time of the end.”  

In the meantime, while the experts try to work out the problems of this text, can we not see here a gentle admonition to endure hardship joyfully, confidently, hopefully for days and days and days and then for a few days more? Did not Jesus pronounce a special blessing on those who keep on keeping on to the end (Matthew 24:45. 46).

In that spirit, then, there’s a word for old Daniel...and for you and for me: "As for you, go your way (“walk on”) to the end. And then you shall rest and stand in your allotted place at the end of the days" (Daniel 2:13).

Walk on, despite the moral darkness that surrounds you. Walk on, though your days are weary and long. Walk on thri=ough grief, fear, pain and loss. Walk on, “one foot up and one foot down: this is the way to London Town,” and to Heaven and to your eternal inheritance. And then, you will rest. 

“Those who are wise will understand” (12:8).

Up-Hill

Does the road wind up-hill all the way? 
   Yes, to the very end. 
Will the day’s journey take the whole long day? 
   From morn to night, my friend. 

But is there for the night a resting-place? 
   A roof for when the slow dark hours begin. 
May not the darkness hide it from my face? 
   You cannot miss that inn. 

Shall I meet other wayfarers at night? 
   Those who have gone before. 
Then must I knock, or call when just in sight? 
   They will not keep you standing at that door. 

Shall I find comfort, travel-sore and weak? 
   Of labour you shall find the sum. 
Will there be beds for me and all who seek? 
   Yea, rest for all who come. —Christine Rossetti

David Roper
12.4.18


Monday, December 3, 2018

Well Done!

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2Timothy 4:7)

Lynden High School, where our son Brian teaches and coaches, lost the Washington State football championship title game yesterday in a hard-fought battle. (Their opponent, Hockinson was 26-0 over the past two years.) 

I sent Brian a text to commiserate and received a typically laconic reply: "Kids battled." 

No blame: “You missed the extra point that would have won the game!" "You failed to block the guy that deflected the PAT!" Just praise for the things that could be praised.

We'll never hear harsh words of condemnation from our Lord if we have hidden ourselves in him. When he comes and we stand before him he will not point to our win and loss column, nor will he analyze and criticize our performance. I think he will say something like, "You battled! You fought the good fight.”

Life is a relentless struggle with a fierce, unyielding foe, devoted to our destruction. There'll be a few good wins, and some heart-breaking losses—God knows—but when we stand before him in the merits of his Son there'll be no recrimination or blame. We will each "receive his praise" (1Corinthians 4:5).

David Roper

12.2.18

Friday, November 30, 2018

His-story

British historian Arnold Toynbee's history of the world spanned 12 volumes. The prophet Daniel covered the same material in one sentence: "Four great beasts are four kings who shall arise out of the earth, but the saints of the Most High shall receive the kingdom and possess the kingdom forever, forever and ever" (Daniel 7:17,18).

There you have it. The sweep of history in 22 words (in his Aramaic text): Four great kingdoms will rise and fall until the kingdoms of this world become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah, who then will reign forever and ever (Revelation 11:15).

Interpretations of Daniel's vision are legion, but most commentators identify the four beasts in Daniel's scenario as the Babylonian, Medo-Persian, Greek and Roman empires, the four great powers that occupied the world stage before and after Daniel's day. The difficulty comes with the forth beast and the longevity of the Roman Empire. Some say we are living today in the remnants of the Roman world. (Western Civilization is essentially Roman.) Others say that Daniel's vision refers solely to historical Rome. 

I have my own thoughts, but I’ll spare you for it's all too easy to get lost in apocalyptic clutter and miss the point of Daniel's history. His pastoral purpose in reporting his vision was not to give us a historical time-line, but to free us from fear, to assure us that history is his (God's) story written by his finger from beginning to end and that history will end in the eventual triumph of God. 

Certainly there will be opposition to God's rule, and it may appear at times that the other side is winning, but "the Most High" is in control, even when his opponents seem most successful (7:24,25). 

No kingdom and no ruler is running amuck—not one. Authority is not "taken" by men, but "given" by God, a phrase that occurs often in Danial's revelation. Though lawless men and nations rise and fall, God “controls their rage and fury, so his children need not fear.”

Here we have the key to human history which, if taken to heart will free us from the anxiety and hysteria that pervades our society and, more's the pity, some elements of the Church. 

The media exacerbate our fears as night after night they stream bad news into our ears, but we need not fear "evil tidings" (Psalm 112:7). The story will end in God's glory. The kingdoms of this world will become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and we will reign with him forever, forever and ever.

Know well my soul, God's hand controls
whate'er you fear.
Round Him in calmest music rolls
whate'er you hear.

—FB Meyer

David Roper
11.30.18 

Thursday, November 29, 2018

On His Blindness

When I consider how my light is spent,
Ere half my days, in this dark world and wide,
And that one Talent which is death to hide
Lodged with me useless, though my Soul more bent
To serve therewith my Maker, and present
My true account, lest he returning chide;
"Doth God exact day-labour, light denied?"
I fondly ask. But patience, to prevent
That murmur, soon replies, "God doth not need
Either man's work or his own gifts; who best
Bear his mild yoke, they serve him best. His state
Is Kingly. Thousands at his bidding speed
And post o'er Land and Ocean without rest:
They also serve who only stand and wait."—John Milton

Former Los Angeles Dodger radio broadcaster Vin Scully gave currency to the last line of Milton’s poem by intoning it over players that were out of the game: "They also serve who only stand and wait." It's a useful idea for those of us who are getting along in years.

Milton asks, "Why This blindness, this inability to exercise my poetic talent and serve my Maker?” We ask, "Why this limitation, this inability to use the talent that God has given me." When He comes and asks for an accounting will he chide?"

Patience, that great teacher of the soul, answers, "God doth not need either man's work or his own gifts.” God has thousands of agents to do his bidding. He doesn't need my talent. 

How then can I serve him? "Who best bear his mild yoke, they serve him best." Mild yoke? Indeed, his yoke is easy for it rests on his shoulders as well as mine. His burden is light.  

So this is our task in our latter years: Not to "speed And post o'er Land and Ocean without rest," but to stand and to wait: to watch and to pray, to love and to be.

Such "quietism," as some would have it, "hastens" Jesus' coming. What greater service can we render to our Master? (2Peter 3:11) 


David Roper

Monday, November 26, 2018


Bruised Reeds—a Reprise

“And above all things have fervent love for one another, for ‘love covers a multitude of sins’” (1 Peter 4:8).

17th century English Puritan cleric, Arthur Dent (not to be confused with former Chicago Bears defensive end, Richard Dent), wrote a little book entitled, The plaine mans path-way to heaven: wherein every man may clearly see, whether he shall be saved or damned: set forth dialogue wise, for the better understanding of the simple. In it he describes a dialogue between Theologus (Theologian), and his friend Philagathus (Lover of Good). 

Theologos: Some of God’s dear children, in whom no doubt the inward work is truly and soundly wrought, yet are so troubled and encumbered with a crabbed and crooked nature, and so clogged with some master sin ; as some with anger, some with pride, some with covetousness, some with lusts, some one way, some another; all which breaking out in them, do so blemish them and their profession that they cannot so shine forth unto men as otherwise no doubt they would; and this is their wound, their grief, and their heart smart, and that which costs them many a tear, and many a prayer: and yet can they not get the full victory over them, but still they are left in them, as pricking the flesh, to humble them. 

Philagathus: Yet love should cover a multitude of such infirmities in God’s children. 

Theologos. It should do so indeed: but there is great want of love, even in the best; and the worst sort espying these infirmities, run upon them with open mouth and take upon them to condemn them utterly, and to judge their hearts, saying they be hypocrites, dissemblers, and there is none worse than they (i.e.. those who would thus judge a struggling brother.) 

I wrote yesterday, “God understands and makes special provision for damaged and difficult children.” Would that my love for them, like his, would "cover a multitude of such infirmities" 

David Roper

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Bruised Reeds

In the first month, on the first day of the month, you shall take a young bull without blemish and cleanse the sanctuary. The priest shall take some of the blood of the sin offering and put it on the doorposts of the temple… 

And so you shall do on the seventh day of the month for everyone who has been led astray or is immature (Ezekiel 45:18-20).

In Ezekiel's vision of future things he sees Israel’s high priest applying the blood of the sin offering to make In Ezekiel's vision of future things he sees Israel’s high priest applying the blood of the sin offering to make atonement for the sins of God's people, a symbol of the sacrifice for our transgressions that Jesus, our High Priest, made once for all on the cross. 

Then, the high priest singles out a select group, those who need special care and for whom a special offering is provided for “those who are easily led astray and immature (Hebrew: peti, clueless)" (Ezekiel 45:20). This is an “over and above” sacrifice for those who are struggling to keep up: failing, falling in their efforts to be good children.

C.S.Lewis says this of those who so struggle: “If you are a poor creature—poisoned by a wretched up-bringing in some house full of vulgar jealousies and senseless quarrels—saddled, by no choice of your own, with some loathsome sexual perversion—nagged day in and day out by an inferiority complex that makes you snap at your best friends—do not despair. He knows all about it. You are one of the poor whom He blessed. He knows what a wretched machine you are trying to drive. Keep on. Do what you can. One day He will fling it on the scrap-heap and give you a new one. And then you may astonish us all—not least yourself" (Mere Christianity).

Our Lord knows and understands and makes provision for his damaged and difficult children. He will never turn away from you, nor will he ever cast you aside. “A bruised reed He will not break, and a smoking flax He will not quench until he brings forth justice (sets things right)” (Isaiah 42:3). This is the sure and stedfast word of God. 

So keep on, do what you can, despite stupid, humiliating failures and prat-falls. Know that God has borne all your judgment, your sins—even sins not yet committed—are gone; forgiven, forgotten forever. None of us will get everything right in this world; we are not yet one with Jesus in thought and act. We "will breed contradiction, strife, and doubt, for Christ is not yet grown enough to cast them out" (George MacDonald). 

But he will—in due time. 

David Roper
11.25.18

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

The Final Exam

”The Lord tests the righteous...and the wicked" (Psalm 11:5)

“Why am I in this hand basket and where are we going?” 

Yes, I know, we old duffers have always thought the world is going to hell in a handbasket, and, by golly, this may be the year. (Not to be unduly gloomy, I hasten to add that G.K. Chesterton has pointed out that the world almost went to the dogs at least seven times throughout history, but each time it was the dog that died.) 

Given the state of our culture, some would offer the counsel of despair: "Flee like a bird to the mountain...When the (moral) foundations are being destroyed, what can good people do?” (Psalm 118:1-3). Perhaps I could get a permanent job in a lighthouse, or a forest service lookout tower, and let the world go—wherever its going.

Indeed, confronted by the collapse of good manners and common decency, what can good people do? Even God, who is righteous and loves righteousness is silent (11:7). Why does he allow this godawful stuff go on, and on, and on, and on...

God’s apparent inaction in the face of moral chaos is not a show of indifference, but patience, giving both the righteous and the unrighteous an opportunity to show the stuff they're made of. (Yes, Mrs. Moody[1], I know that’s bad grammar.) God's reluctance to put an end to evil is a "test" (11:5), to use David's exact word, to see if we're going to be good or bad children.

Here's the way I see it. Our crass, amoral culture forces us to take a stand: Will I, by God's grace, follow Jesus and become like him in my thoughts, words and actions, or will I follow the twittering, madding crowd?

David Roper

 [1] My 5th grade English teacher at Armstrong Elementary School.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Thanksgiving

As you know, our Thanksgiving Day is just around the corner. One week from this Thursday. I’ve noticed that shiny advertisements are urging us to make our lists and check them twice. Not for Santa, but for us to be certain every little detail for “the meal” is in place. And at a good price in their store. There are table settings to admire or wish for, the pictures of families gathered in Norman Rockwall fashion with the just-right turkey gracing the lovely serving platter, and presented to all the cheerful family gathered ‘round Grandma’s bountiful table. This is Thanksgiving Day, according to what we are being told by what we are being shown.

But wait! Is this what we are to hope for, get our hearts set on and dream about as Thanksgiving Day approaches? Or do these suggestions that we can have it all here and now just set us up for disappointment—with others, with ourselves and perhaps with God? Some will have an empty seat at their table and some will have an empty place in their heart for one who is far away either emotionally or spatially. Or in that “far country,” away from the Father.

Others will miss the way things were, or miss the lack of resources—energy, proximity, money, time or know-how—to make this perfect picture their picture.  Always there is the possibility of unexpected circumstances and/or people we can’t control to make our dreams come true. That is, if we’re dreaming what our culture tells us is the true picture to strive for on Thanksgiving Day. Our culture is not our friend.

As I think and ponder reasons events such as Thanksgiving Day can sometimes lead to us to be disheartened and discontent, it occurs to me that, like in all of life, we have an Enemy. He comes to distort our vision, causing us
to focus on the wrong things,
     to believe the lie we can “make it happen” or
         to believe we can “have it all here and now.”

Of course, the main lie that sneaky snake continues to promulgate is that God is holding out on us. We don’t just need what the Father has graciously given but we also need that apple! We don’t just need the Father’s presence, comfort and strength, His mercy and grace to meet each need, but we also need that shiny thing and every piece of the puzzle to fit into place NOW. We forget that there is a here-and-now, and also a not-yet. Heaven is later.

So how can we take Thanksgiving Day back? As I have struggled at times from not remembering to remembering, these are a few of the things God is continuing to teach me.

1. Unlike the world, we have Someone to thank.

It’s not just an “attitude of gratitude,” but a heartfelt thanks to the One who loves me and has done so much for me, the One who walks beside me. He is the One I can look to as He prepares a table for me in whatever wilderness I might be in. Especially on Thanksgiving Day. He has given His Best for me. He invites me to come to Him and trust Him. He can and will help me in even this. I can ask for His daily bread and remember “He has not forgotten the recipe for manna!” God is in my picture. How thankful I am that I have Someone to thank.
2. God understands our deepest longings and our deprivations. In a way they are nostalgia for things that will be.  Someday there will be a Thanksgiving Feast where all is perfect. All are gathered around Him. He gives me hope that will not disappoint. I can remember the joy set before me, following Jesus’ example in His journey Home. I am thankful for hope that will not disappoint, for it is in Him, both today and tomorrow to everlasting.
3. With God’s help (and He wants to help) I can change my focus. A friend told me this week she is choosing the focus on the things she does have, rather than on the things she does not have.  What a good outlook, especially since God is the lens through which we focus. Not pretending nothing hurts, but with eyes wide open to Him. And then to the blessings He has given in things like the blue sky, the good memories, the warm home, the too-many-to-count things we dohave. As we count these let us first, give thanks for the Giver of all good gifts.

This morning as I was thinking of some who will grieve this year, even as they hope. I was also thinking of some of the emptiness around our own table, some who will be missing, some things that will never be the same. I was aware of the Enemy and his schemes and so before I opened my eyes, I began to think Psalm 23 to myself. Reminding myself of truth and all my Shepherd is to me. As I was focusing on my Shepherd the words of an old song started playing in my mind. A confirmation of the help He can give, for I had not thought of these words for a long time. A wonderful focus God gave me as I turned to Him. May this be your focus as Thanksgiving Day draws near. A beautiful song to sing to myself. A beautiful picture indeed. 

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace! 

Thanks for praying for me and mine this Thanksgiving and as I want to pray for you,

Carolyn

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

As Servants of God

"As servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: by great endurance...through honor and dishonor, through slander and praise..." (2Corinthians 6:4,8).

After twenty-four years of faithful service to his church in Northampton, Massachusetts, Jonathan Edwards was honored by an all-expense-paid, month-long sabbatical in the Hamptons. 

No, actually he was fired, the victim of slander, a marvelous example of the old adage: No good deed goes unpunished.

It’s worth noting that Edwards was the pastor of one of the largest churches in the colonies, was America’s premier theologian and philosopher, was one of the prime movers of The Great Awakening, and, if the ability to attract youth is a criterion to be advanced, had over three hundred young people in his church. Nevertheless his congregation sacked him.

Those who observed Edwards in the days that followed were amazed at his equanimity: he was calm and quiet and showed no displeasure toward those who demanded his dismissal. As one biographer put it, "His happiness was out of the reach of his enemies" (Iain Murray). 

How can we maintain our composure in the face of such egregious injustice? Paul answers: By remembering that we are first and foremost "servants of God."

Many years ago, a friend of mine told me about a board meeting in which he was being viciously maligned. At one point one of his detractors shouted, "Don't forget, son, you work for us; we pay your salary and we can fire you at will!" My friend absorbed the rebuke quietly and replied. "Yes sir," he said. "You do pay my salary and you can fire me at any time, but I don't work for you. I am a servant of Jesus Christ." 

I wasn't present on that occasion, but his words have indelibly marked my own thoughts about the work that we do: We are servants of Jesus Christ.

That doesn't mean we can be cavalier about our employment and use it as an oportunity for indolence or autocratic leadership. It does however free us from worry about what others think of us, say about us, or do to us. We can endure dishonor and slander and we can do so with joy, "knowing that from the Lord (we) will receive the inheritance as (our) reward. For we serve the Lord Christ" (Colossians 3:24). 

David Roper
11.13.18



Monday, November 12, 2018

 Where's the Beef?

"He gave them exactly what they asked for—but along with it they got an empty heart (Psalm 106:15 The Message).

The incident the poet had in mind is described in the Old Testament book of Numbers: "The riff-raff among the people had a craving and soon they had the People of Israel whining, 'Why can't we have meat? We ate fish in Egypt—and got it free!—to say nothing of the cucumbers and melons, the leeks and onions and garlic. But nothing tastes good out here; all we get is manna, manna, manna'" (Numbers 11:4-6). 

"So, you want meat," Moses sighed. "God will give you meat—not just for a day and not two days, or five or ten or twenty, but for a whole month. You're going to eat meat until it comes out of your nose (Yuck!) You're going to be so sick of meat that you'll throw up at the mere mention of it" (11:19,20). 

So God sent an off-shore wind that swept a large flock of quail into Israel’s camp: "(Quail) piled up to a depth of about three feet and as far out as a day's walk in every direction. All that day and night and into the next day the people were out gathering the quail—huge amounts of quail; even the slowest person among them gathered at least sixty bushels” (11:33,34). God gave them “exactly what they asked for.”

But they all got sick and some died. The place forever-after bore the eponymous name, "The Graves of Those Who Craved Meat," because that's where they buried the folks that got what they asked for.

The take-away? I must think about what I crave and what I ask for. I might get it. 

David Roper

Sunday, November 11, 2018


Two Roads

"Man proposes, but God disposes” —Thomas à Kempis. 

"The king of Babylon stands at the fork in the road and decides by divination which of two roads to take. He draws straws, he throws dice, he examines a goat liver. He opens his right hand: The omen says, 'Head for Jerusalem!' So he's on his way with battering rams, roused to kill, sounding the battle cry, pounding down city gates, building siege works" (Ezekiel 21:20-22, The Message)

The Babylonian army stands at a crossroad awaiting directions: One branch of the highway leads east to the city of Rabbah in Ammon; the other leads west to Jerusalem in Judah. Which way shall they go? 

The diviners ply their trade. All signs point to Jerusalem. 

Yet, Ezekiel reveals a hidden truth: There is a cause behind all causes: God had said, "I have drawn my sword out of it’s sheath (against Jerusalem)” (Ezekiel 21:1–5. 15). 

It wasn’t the king and his counselors that determined the strategy and tactics of the Babylonian commanders. It was Israel's God, confirming once again the biblical paradox: Men and women enjoy freedom of choice yet God determines the outcome.

This is indeed a mysterious, yet a hopeful thought in that it enables us to be at peace with the all-too-often, ill-begotten schemes of our leaders. We fear their decisions, but they are not running amuck. Everything is under control.

David Roper

Friday, November 9, 2018

Where's the Beef?

"He gave them exactly what they asked for—but along with it they got an empty heart (Psalm 106:15 The Message).

The incident the poet had in mind is described in the Old Testament book of Numbers: "The riff-raff among the people had a craving and soon they had the People of Israel whining, 'Why can't we have meat? We ate fish in Egypt—and got it free!—to say nothing of the cucumbers and melons, the leeks and onions and garlic. But nothing tastes good out here; all we get is manna, manna, manna'"(Numbers 11:4-6). 

"So, you want to eat meat," Moses sighed. "God will give you meat—not just for a day and not two days, or five or ten or twenty, but for a whole month. You're going to eat meat until its coming out of your nose. You're going to be so sick of meat that you'll throw up at the mere mention of it" (11:19,20). 

A wind swept an enormous flock of quail in from the sea. "They piled up to a depth of about three feet in the camp and as far out as a day's walk in every direction. All that day and night and into the next day the people were out gathering the quail—huge amounts of quail; even the slowest person among them gathered at least sixty bushels." (11:33,34). "God gave them exactly what they asked for."

But they all got sick and many died. The place ever after bore the eponymous name, "Graves-of-Craving," because that's where they buried the people who demanded meat.

The take-away? Be careful what you ask for. You might get it. 

David Roper

Sunday, November 4, 2018

New Creations

"From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. If anyone is in Christ he is a new creation" (2Corinthians 5:16, 11).

Jesus and Paul were contemporaries and therefore Paul undoubtedly heard Jesus preach in the streets of Jerusalem. If so, he must have considered him to be an ignoramus from the back-country of Galilee.

But on the road to Damascus Paul experienced a radical change of heart: he saw Jesus as he really was, the son of God. From that point on, Paul did not evaluate Jesus by human criteria (“according to the flesh").

Viewing Jesus from that perspective also changed the way he looked at others: he no longer evaluated them according to the flesh, but as potentially in Christ and as radiant new creations.

Think of the worst person you know and imagine that person as an authentic follower of Jesus. What would that person be like if he or she was filled and flooded with God's Holy Spirit?

I wonder to what extent I judge others by merely human standards? What financial, physical, ethnic, educational and political criteria do I employ? Or do I view them as they could be if they would but give their hearts to Jesus? Can I think of the worst person I know in that way?

Speaking for myself, that would take a lot of prayer.

David Roper
11.2.18





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