Monday, January 29, 2018

Awesome Grace

"Na, na, I’ll never preach again!” whispered James to the soutar (shoemaker), as they  rose from their knees.  
"I winna be a’tegither sure o’ that!” returned the soutar."

—George MacDonald in Salted with Fire

"David mustered the army and went to Rabbah and captured it" (2 Samuel 12: 29). A brief report, a throw-away line…that celebrates God's awesome grace. 

Joab, David's commander, sent word to David that Rabbah, the royal city of the Ammonites, was about to fall. Joab had seized control of the outskirts of the city, but the acropolis was still standing and David was given the honor of capturing it. Accordingly, he gathered his army, besieged the stronghold and seized it. But here is the grace note: This conquest occurred very soon after David’s horrendous  fall (cf., 2 Samuel 11:1-27).

Treacherous, adulterous, murderous David! You would think that God would turn away from him, but this is not his way. God forgives, restores and reinstates repentant sinners. Thus Jesus met the apostle who denied him and gave him this commission: "Go feed my sheep." 

As soon as David said, “I have sinned,” Nathan said, ”The Lord has put away your sin," and David was given the task of conquering Rabbah, the principle city of the Ammonites, Israel’s archenemy.

Perhaps you think that God is through with you, can’t stand you any longer, will never use you again, but a broken and contrite heart brings full pardon, even if you have been very wicked (Psalm 51:17). In his everlasting love, God will have mercy on you and in his own time he will use you again. Awful sins are fully forgiven for his grace is equally “awful.” (His nature is forgiveness.) Where sin abounds, grace much more abounds!

David Roper

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Fluff and Other Impairments

"If the person you are talking to doesn't appear to be listening, be patient. It may simply be that he has a small piece of fluff in his ear" (Winnie the Pooh).

I read this today: "'I will bring you into the land that I swore to give to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. I will give it to you for a possession. I am the Lord.’ Moses spoke to the people of Israel, but they did not listen to Moses, because of their broken spirit and their hard lives" (Exodus 6:8,9).

"There are some people who, if they don't know, you can't tell them, Yogi Berra alleged. I don't know if Berra actually turned that phrase—I suspect that most of his so-called sayings are apocryphal—but even if he didn't say it the saying is true. There are some people who won't listen no matter what you do, even when listening and heeding your counsel would be to their advantage. 

It may be that their reticence is nothing more than a small piece of fluff in their ear, or there may be another dynamic at work: some people don't listen because they don't want to listen, but some people don't listen because they are broken.

The phrase, "broken in spirit" in Hebrew is literally "short of breath," and is an idiom for weary discouragement. That being the case, intransigence calls for compassion not censure. How can we write off a wrecked and ravaged soul? 

What then should we do? Winnie the Pooh's words enshrine wisdom: "be patient.” God is not finished; He is working through their sorrow, our love and our prayers to get their attention. Perhaps, in His time, He will open their ears to hear. 

Be patient.

David Roper

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Nobody Knows My Name

“As unknown, and yet well known…” (2Corinthians 6:9).

Are you worried that no one knows your name? Consider the nameless individuals whose stories appear on the pages of scripture: the woman at the well; the boy who offered his loaves and fishes to Jesus; the widow who gave her last mite; the woman who anointed the feet of Jesus; the repentant thief on the cross. All these folks live in anonymity; nobody knows their names.

Perhaps you too are unknown. You toiled for years in obscurity, in some small place, overlooked and unrewarded by church or community, while others made a name for themselves.

Rejoice! Your name is written in heaven!

God knows who you are and what you’ve done for his sake. You may have received little or no recognition in this life, but on the day when you stand in our Lord’s presence you will receive unqualified praise (1Corinthians 4:5). He will say to you as he will say to all who have loved and served him, “Well done my good and faithful servant” (Matthew 5:21).

Unknown? No, you are well known in the highest circles! 

David Roper


Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Loaves and Fishes

"Toward evening the disciples approached him. 'We're out in the country and it's getting late. Dismiss the people so they can go to the villages and get some supper.' But Jesus said to them, 'They need not go away; you give them something to eat'" (Matthew 14:15,16).

Jesus’ disciples were flummoxed by this request. A little boy gave his lunch to Jesus and by it fed the crowd (Matthew 14:13-21).

One school of progressive thought contends that the little boy's generosity simply moved others in the crowd to share their lunches, but Matthew clearly intends us to understand that it was a miracle and an important miracle at that, in that the story appears in all four Gospels.

What can we learn?

Family members, neighbors, friends, colleagues and others stand around me in various stages of need. Should I send them away to someone more capable than I.

Certainly some people’s needs exceed our ability to help them, but not always. "They need not go away," Jesus would say. "You give them something to eat.” Whatever you have—a hug, a kind word, a listening ear, a brief prayer, some wisdom you've gathered over the years— give it away and see what I can do."

Little is much when God is in it. Give what you have to Him and see what He will do (Ephesians 3:20)

David Roper


Saturday, January 20, 2018

 Rise And Shine

“As long as it is day, We must do the work of him who sent me.”—John 9:4

If you woke up in this morning and saw the light of day, God has work for you to do.

Perhaps your work is to love and to pray, laboring fervently in prayers, that others "may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God” (Colossians 4:12).

Your work may be to listen quietly and attentively to those that are weary and speak words of comfort to them. Or it may be to endure pain with cheerful endurance, and gratitude for those who serve you. If you've done nothing more than this you’ve done the work of him who sent you. 

Do you think you're too old, too sick, too weary to do God's work? "He is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work” (2 Corinthians 9:8).

Years ago I read an introduction to a commentary by Matthew Henry that states well my thoughts as I write: “If I may but be instrumental to make others wise and good, wiser and better and more in love with God and His word, I have all I desire, all I aim at.”

Who could ask for anything more?

David Roper


Thursday, January 18, 2018

I Have a Dream 

“Delight yourself also in the Lord, And He will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalms 37:4).

Forty years ago I read J.R.R. Tolkien's short story "Leaf By Niggle" for the first time and was strangely moved by it, though at first I didn't know why. I've since read it a half-dozen times or more and each time have experienced a sudden awareness of truth, especially now that I'm much closer to my own long journey.

In the story, an artist named Niggle, longs to finish an enormous canvas of a great Tree in the middle of a forest. He invests each leaf of his Tree with obsessive attention to detail, making every one uniquely beautiful. Niggle ends up discarding all his other artworks, or tacks them onto the main canvas, which becomes a single embodiment of his dream—a dream he longs to complete before he takes his long journey.

But, despite Niggle’s efforts to accomplish the task, his crippled neighbor, Parish—who calls on him for help at the most inopportune times— endlessly interrupts him. At one point Niggle has to sacrifice part of his canvas to patch Parish’s leaking roof and this, along with other distractions, frustrates his great work—until he takes his long journey and reaches his final destination. There “before him stood the Tree, his Tree, finished. If you could say that of a Tree that was alive, its leaves opening, its branches growing and bending in the wind that Niggle had so often felt or guessed, and had so often failed to catch. He gazed at the Tree, and slowly he lifted his arms and opened them wide. ‘It's a gift!’ he said. He was referring to his art, and also to the result; but he was using the word quite literally.”

In the end Niggle is rewarded with the realization (the making-real) of his great dream
,[2] a far better thing than the flawed and incomplete form of his own desires.

Perhaps you too have a wondrous dream—a holy task to be completed before you take your long journey—but interruptions and distractions continually frustrate you. Be encouraged. “The Lord will perfect that which concerns (you)” (Psalm 138:8). Delight yourself in the Lord this day and he, in good time, will “make real” your desire—in this life, perhaps, or surely in the life to come, where all our dreams come true.

David Roper

[1]The story is largely autobiographical, reflecting Tolkien's absorption with finishing The Lord of the Rings in the midst of constant interruption. In a letter to a friend he wrote: "I should say that, in addition to my tree-love—the story was originally called "The Tree"—it arose from my own pre-occupation with TLOR, the knowledge that it would be finished in great detail or not at all, and the fear (near certainty) that it would be 'not at all.'"

[2] Or, if you prefer, Niggle's Tree was ultimate reality and always existed; he simply reflected it in 

Just for You: Beloved Christmas Reflections: Waiting 11.30.18 Good Morning, Friends, I love Christmas. It seems I always have. Th...