Thursday, March 29, 2018

The Waiting Place
Psalm 70

“Waiting for a train to go, or a bus to come, or a plane to go, or the mail to come, or the rain to go, or the phone to ring, or the snow to snow, or waiting around for a Yes or No, or waiting for their hair to grow. Everyone is just waiting.”—Dr. Seuss

In his book, Oh, the Places You’ll Go, children’s author, Dr. Seuss, describes a location called "The Waiting Place.” It sounds like the place most of us inhabit. David writes for all of us:

Make haste, O God, to deliver me!
O LORD, make haste to help me!—Psalm 70:1

Waiting is hard. Why must we live in this awkward circumstance, with this difficult person, with this embarrassing behavior, with this health issue that will not go away? "How come history takes such a long, long time when you're waiting for a miracle?" Bruce Cockburn asks. Why doesn't God come through?

Sometimes, the answer is, "Wait awhile."

Waiting is one of life's greatest teachers in that we learn the virtue of...well, waiting—waiting while God works in and for us. F.B. Meyers wrote, “So often we mistake God and interpret his delays as denials. What a chapter might be written of God’s delays. It is the mystery of educating human spirits to the finest temper of which they are capable.”

It's in waiting that we develop endurance, the ability to trust God's goodness, even when things aren't going our way (Psalm 70:5). Waiting is the time for soul–making, the time to develop the quieter virtues—humility, patience, endurance, and persistence in well-doing. These  virtues take the longest to learn, are the last to be learned and, it seems to me, can only be learned through waiting, the circumstance we’re most inclined to resist. “Waiting is never easy and haste is ever the sin of Adam,” Carlo Carretto said.

But waiting does not have to be dreary, tooth-clenched resignation. We can "rejoice and be glad" while we wait (Psalm 70:4). And we can wait in hope, knowing that God will deliver us in due time—in this world or in the next. God is never in a hurry, but He's always on time.

LORD! Show mercy and be merciless to my foe my flesh;
make straight my path ignore my whimpering self-pity;
starve my hunger until the sharp pain of raging need
becomes the dull ache of wanting now the feast that comes later.
LORD! Show mercy and give me hope to wait.

—Karen Debaghian


Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Not Like Yesterday

"Man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD" (Deuteronomy 8:3).

When our grandson, Jay, was a small child his parents gave him a Pokémon tee-shirt for his birthday. He put it on and proudly wore it all day. When he appeared the next morning in his Pokémon shirt, his dad asked him, "Jay, does that shirt make you happy?" "Not as much as yesterday," Jay replied.

That's the problem with material acquisition: Even the good things of life cannot give us the deep, lasting happiness we so ardently desire.

The world offers happiness through material accumulation: new clothes, a new automobile, an update to our iPhone or Apple Watch. But no material acquisition can make us as happy as it did yesterday. That's because we were made for God and nothing less will do.

One day, when Jesus was fasting and faint with hunger, Satan approached him and tempted him to satisfy his hunger by creating bread. Jesus countered by quoting the text above: “Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4).

Jesus did not say that we “should not live on bread alone.” He’s rather stating a fact: We are spiritual beings and thus we cannot exist on material good alone.

That's why so many of us, though we have many possessions, are still unhappy.

David Roper

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Celebrating Our Incompetence

“For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” —1 Corinthians 1:26-31

God surrounds himself with a bunch of incompetents. The people he uses have rarely been great people, nor have great people been the people God uses. It’s not that he has to make–do with fools. He chooses them. 

Oh, to be sure, some of God’s children are rich and famous, but there aren’t many. (Lady Hamilton, a member of the British noble family, once quipped that she was saved by the letter “m,” for, as she put it, “Paul said ‘not many are called.’ He did not say ‘not any.’”) Most of us are ordinary people, unimportant, and unnecessary in the eyes of the world. Few of us have much clout; we’re neither super–stars nor super–saints. Like St. Francis’ “Jesters” we’re the joke God is playing on the world. 

But therein lies our strength. Paul, who was inclined toward paradoxes, put it this way: “When I am weak, I am strong” “If I must boast,” Paul continues, “I will boast of the things that show my weakness. The God and Father of the Lord Jesus, who is to be praised for ever, knows that I am not lying. In Damascus the governor under King Aretas had the city of the Damascenes guarded in order to arrest me. But I was lowered in a basket from a window in the wall and slipped through his hands” (2 Corinthians 11:30-33). 

Paul came to Damascus thinking he create a revival but precipitated a riot. The folks there put him in a fish basket, lowered him over the wall and sent him packing, pleading with him not to return lest he undo all that God had been doing in the city.

What a bitter embarrassment! It was the worst of days and the best of days. It was the day that Paul learned that he was, as he later put it, “nobody” (2 Corinthians 12:11). 

But not to worry! Paul became “somebody.” He rounds out the picture this way: “We have this treasure (God) in jars of clay (our bodies) to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. (2 Corinthians 4:7). Deity in humanity—God’s presence in ordinary vessels of clay. 

And so it comes to this: nothing that comes from us is a source of hope; nothing is worth defending; nothing is special and worth admiring. Every virtue, every endearing quality, every proclivity toward goodness comes from God. Without him we can do nothing. When we accept that fact we can rest in him who alone is our wisdom, righteousness and power.

God has promised to use us for his intended purposes, but first we must admit our uselessness and cast ourselves on him. In the words of an old hymn, “All that he requireth is to feel our need of him.”

David Roper


Wednesday, March 21, 2018

The Ten Words

"So Moses cut two tablets of stone like the first" (Exodus 34:4).

Why two tablets? The commands are few and Hebrew script can be written small. One tablet would have sufficed, all the more since the stones were inscribed on both sides.

God wrote two copies for the same reason contracts are written in duplicate today: both parties keep a copy on file because contracts imply mutual responsibility.

But here’s the difference: God kept both copies of this contract on file—locked in the Ark of the Covenant under the mercy seat, where the blood of the lamb was sprinkled. He did so because he knew Israel would not, indeed could not hold up their end of the deal. God Himself must see to it that the contract remained in force. 

Peter says we are set apart "for obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ" (1Peter 1:1,2 ). God has asked us to be like Jesus—an impossible high demand. He has given us strength for compliance but immediate forgiveness when we fail to comply. He is, "a God of demand, a God of demand ready to be a God of grace" (Walter Brueggemann).

David Roper

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Take My Life!

"Take my life, Lord; I'm of no use to anyone..." (1 Kings 19:4).

Elijah thought he was used up; good for nothing. Little did he know that he was about to begin his most enduring work: shaping a young man whom God would use for the next fifty years to bring salvation to his nation.

And so it can be for you and me...

It's important to remember that simple fact, for we tend to lose heart as we grow older. Few motives are operative then. Our ambitions are sated, our strength has abated; we may feel useless and of no value to anyone, much less to God. Everything in us may say, "back off, take it easy, leave well enough alone," but that's old folk's talk. Those who think that way wither away. "No wonder awaits them," Byron said.

God has a better idea: invest your life, your heart, your time, your wisdom in a young believer. Knowledge, wisdom, and character are cumulative, all things considered. It follows, then, that those who have loved God and walked with him through time will reach maturity rich in wisdom and understanding of his ways. Everything that has gone before—all the questioning, suffering, and hard learning—has been mere preparation. Now you can begin. You can pass on the sacred truths and solemn secrets; you can declare "God's power to the next generation, his might to all who are to come" (Psalm 71:18).

Mathew Henry wrote in his final years, "If only I may be instrumental to make others wise and good, wiser and better, more watchful against sin and more careful of their duty both to God and man...more in love with the Word of God, I have all I desire, all I aim at."

Who can ask for anything more!

David Roper

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