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

The Purpose That Is Purposed “This is the purpose that is purposed with regard to the whole earth, and this is the hand that is stretch...