Wednesday, October 31, 2018

From CAROLYN
Good Morning, Friends, Beloved of God,
I have a dear friend who is going through lots of stuff in her life. You know the kind of things I mean:

~concern for an adult child,
~health issues,
~a big change coming,
~an overwhelming amount of life-details,
~and so many people to care about.

Well, my sweet friend had asked me to pray for a couple of specific things and I wanted to do so. When I talked with her recently she brought up something she had been and was still concerned about. Something big and time-sensitive I had promised to pray about this with her.

But guess what. I forgot! Certainly I had been lifting her up with some of the things I knew about. But this one thing I forgot. I told her and then wrote this issue down in my prayer list under her name. She is one of my Tuesday gals to pray for.

Then I also told my friend that God does not forget.

God has promised to remember.

Zion said,”The Lord has forsaken me, and the Lord has forgotten me.”
“Can a woman forget her nursing child, nor have compassion on the child of her womb?
Even these may forget but I will not forget you. Behold, I have you inscribed on the palms of My hands.” — 
Isaiah 40:15,16

God does not just make a note of you in His note pad. He has your name written on the palms of His hands,

always present,
always on His mind,
always in His heart.

Do you ever feel forgotten or have you really been forgotten? Well, not by God, the One who so loves you.

And as for prayer, we have this assurance:

...the Spirit helps us in our weakness: for we do not know how to pray as we should but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groaning too deep for words; and He who searches the hearts know what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the true believers according to the will of God.  — Romans 8:26,27

At times I believe our prayer can become an idol. We think if we just get it right (because after all it all depends on us!), then God will do as we ask. However, His understanding and His love is far beyond mine in any prayer endeavor.

So of course, I want to keep my word. But when I forget, He does not. When I pray amiss, He is interceding in the right way.

The lesson for me is that while I want to pray for my friends and loved ones, God will always remember them and know what is best. He will address hidden issues I have no way of knowing. He has got me covered and He has got His other children, my friends, covered too. He invites me to participate with my prayers. He invites me to know He is the One who moves the stars at night and He is the One who is ultimately concerned for those I am concerned about. He knows the heart-needs.

 Therefore, all the glory and praise goes to Him who does not forget and who knows what to pray for much more than I do..

I still pray and want to. And I also rest in Him to be the ultimate One who remembers and prays. I believe this rest is pleasing to my Heavenly Father. He is God and I am not. One of the best things I can pray for my friends is, “Into Thy Hands I place this one.”

With love and prayers,
Carolyn

Monday, October 29, 2018

An Old Clay Pot

"We have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us" (2Corinthians 4:7). 



Over the years I've acquired a number of old clay pots. The one pictured above was excavated from a site dated at Abraham's time (circa 15th century B.C.)—at least one item in our home that is older than I

It's not much to look at: stained, cracked, chipped and in need of a good scrubbing. It's very fragile. If I dropped it, it would shatter into useless shards. 

I keep it on my desk to remind me that I'm an old clay pot, a man made out of mud, of little value apart from the transcendent treasure that the pot contains. "We have this treasure (Jesus) in earthen vessels."

Paul continues: “(As earthen vessels), we are pressured from every side, yet not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed…” (4:8,9).

"Pressured." “Perplexed,” “Persecuted." "Struck down." These  are the pressures the pot must bear.

"Not crushed." “Not in despair.” “Not forsaken.” “Not destroyed." These are the effects of the counteracting strength of our indwelling Lord.

"...always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus." (4:10a). This is the attitude that characterized Jesus who died to himself every day. And this is the attitude that must characterize us—a willingness to die to self–effort, trusting solely in the sufficiency of the one who indwells us. "Not I, but Christ."

“... that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our body“ (4:10b).   This is the outcome: the beauty of Jesus made visible in an old clay pot. 

Pressed out of measure and pressed to all length.
Pressed so intensely it seems beyond strength;
Pressed in the body and pressed in the soul,
Pressed in the mind till the dark surges roll;
Pressed by foes, and pressured by friends;
Pressure on pressure, till life nearly ends;
Pressed into loving the staff and the rod,
Pressed into knowing no helper but God.

—Annie Johnson Flint

David Roper



Friday, October 26, 2018

The Terrible Speed of Mercy

Here lies Martin Elginbrod
Have mercy on my soul, Lord God
As I would do were I Lord God
And Thou were Martin Elginbrod

—Scottish Epitaph

"The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I have received mercy..." (1Timothy 1:15,16a).

Years ago, I read a story about a fractious congregational meeting in which a young man rose to his feet and shouted “I demand my rights!" An elderly gentleman seated in the pew behind him, tugged on his shirt tail and muttered, “Sit down, son. If you had your rights you'd be in hell.“

Exactly. If God gave me what I rightfully deserve I would be in one of the nine circles of Dante's Inferno. "But I have received mercy."

That thought clears my head when I think that I'm entitled to the good life, or at least one better than the one I have. No, my salvation and every other good thing that comes my way is mine not because I deserve it, but because "I have received mercy." 

How then can I be angry at friends who disappoint me when it's by God's mercy that I have any friends at all? How can I envy old folks that enjoy better health than I when it's solely by God's mercy that I enjoy the measure of health that I have? No, if I got what I deserved I'd be in pure hell. But, thank God, through the Cross, "I have received mercy!"

And, dear reader, so have you!

David Roper
10.26.18

As I wrote this morning I thought of Flannery O’Connor’s would-be hellfire and damnation prophet, Francis Marion Tarwater, who received his long-awaited commission from a burning bush: “Go warn the children of God of the terrible speed of God's mercy.” As Miss O’Connor herself might say, “May God strike you down thisaway.”




Wednesday, October 24, 2018

 Some Low, Unworthy Thing

Why is it that so often I return 
From social converse with a spirit worn, 
A lack, a disappointment—even a sting 
Of shame, as for some low, unworthy thing?

—George MacDonald

An inspired apostle enjoined Timothy to “flee from youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart" (2Timothy 2:22).

"Youthful passions," in this context (2 Timothy 2:22-26), are not sexual passions, but the immature impulse to wrangle and win. To engage in "foolish and ignorant controversies" that engender strife and ill-will (2:23). These are the ends the unfledged achieve. 

Mature men and women seek righteousness (right thinking and living); faith (trust in God's wisdom and power); love (for God and neighbor); and peace (tranquility and rest)—attributes they long to see in others.

I ask myself, "Have my words and manner achieved those ends?" Or have I left behind some "low, unworthy thing”?

David Roper
10.25.18

Wednesday, October 17, 2018


The Mouse That Roared

"The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet"  —Romans 16:20

A number of years ago our boys and I spent a week driving across the Magruder Corridor, a hundred-mile long jeep track through the Selway–Bitterroot Wilderness in Northern Idaho, one of the least populated areas in the lower forty-eight.

It's grizzly bear country so we took precautions, but anticipated no major difficulties. 

One evening, in the middle of the night, Randy give a blood-curdling yell and scrambled to his feet while still in his sleeping bag. I frantically felt around in the darkness, located my flashlight and aimed it into the woods, expecting to see an outraged bear. 

There, sitting upright on its haunches and waving its paws in the air…

…was a field mouse about 4” tall with Randy’s watch-cap clenched in its teeth. The little creature had pulled the cap from his head. Randy yelled at the mouse; it dropped the cap and scampered away. 

But my heart kept pounding.

Everyone else went back to sleep, but I couldn’t. I was so adrenalized I lay awake for several hours. With nothing else to do I began to consider another predator: the devil.

We do well to be aware of the devil. Jesus said he is “a liar and a murderer. His goal is to destroy the human race and his strategy is deceit. He is not to be taken lightly.

We Christians are not dualists, however, believing in two equal and opposite spiritual powers. The devil is a mere created being. His only power is the power that fear gives him. Indeed, as Luther said, "one little word shall fell him."

Consider the temptations of Jesus (Matthew 4). On each occasion, Jesus' countered Satan's enticement with a word. Here is the third temptation:

The devil took Him up on an exceedingly high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to Him, “All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me.”Then Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve'” (Matthew 4:8-10).

It's important to understand what's going on here. Jesus is not quoting scripture to Satan. (That brings to mind an old Sunday school song about the “gospel gun”: “Shoot it at the devil if you want to make him run.”) 

No, Jesus is quoting scripture to himself! Satan offered Jesus the whole world if he would serve him. Jesus, quoting from the Old Testament (Deuteronomy 6:13), reminded himself what God has said and asserted that he would not act contrary to it. It was Jesus' utter submission to God's word that caused Satan to flee (4:11).

That's why it's so important to know God's word and store it in our minds: "Your word (Oh, God), have I hid in my heart that I might not sin against you,” the psalmist wrote (Psalm 119:11).

And though this world, with devils filled,
should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear, for God hath willed 
His truth to triumph through us
The Prince of Darkness grim, 
we tremble not for him;
His rage we can endure, 
for lo, his doom is sure,
One little word shall fell him—Martin Luther

David Roper

10.17.18

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Christ plays...

“God—who is establishing us in Christ, has anointed us"  (2Corinthians 1:20).

Paul loved paradoxes: "When I am weak, I am strong.” And puns: “God—who is establishing us in Christ (the anointed) has 'Christed’ (anointed) us.”  

Thus...

Christ plays in ten thousand places, 
Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his 
To the Father through the features of men's faces" (G.M. Hopkins).

We are "Christs"—manifesting his beauty in arms that hug, eyes that crinkle and smile with compassion, faces that are as love-filled as his, feet that carry the good news of God’s love to the weary and heavy–laden. In this way Christ “plays” in ten thousand places, in gentle influence wherever his children go, a witness to goodness, truth and beauty that cannot be ignored. As Paul himself wrote, “I live, yet not I; but Christ lives in me.” 

May Christ so “play" in you and me.

David Roper

10.14.18

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Showing Up

"But as God is faithful, our word to you was not ‘Yes’ and ‘No’" (2Corinthians 1:18). 

Woody Allen said that "Eighty percent of success is showing up." I would add, "on time." 

I once had a friend who was always late for appointments. He justified his tardiness by saying he had so much to do. I 'lowed as to how, if he couldn't keep his word, he was busier than God. 

God always keeps his word: He doesn't say “Yes” and mean “No.” 

Nor should we. 

David Roper

10.13.18

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Goodness Personified

"May the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all...so that he may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father…” (1Thessalonians 3:12,13).

It is as we grow in love that we become holy. How can that be? Well, it's because love “is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (1Corinthians 13:4-7). 

Holiness of life is made perfect in and through love. Aim at holiness and you'll become a fusty, finger-wagging prude. Aim at love and by God’s grace and in due time you will become holy—goodness and beauty personified. 

David Roper

10.10.18

Thursday, October 4, 2018


Two or Three

“And it came to pass, when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted his eyes and looked, and behold, a Man stood opposite him with his sword drawn in his hand. And Joshua went to him and said to him, ‘Are you for us or against us?’

‘No!’ the Man said…” (Joshua 5:13,14a).

As an individual I have opinions about political issues and vote accordingly; but as a spokesman for the Church, I don’t take sides. If folks ask me if I’m on one side or the other I just say, “No.” Like the Man.

For one thing, I don’t want to limit my witness to members of one party. If I lean left how will my brothers on the right hear the gospel? If I lean right what will happen to those on my left. “How shall they hear without a preacher?” (I wonder how many Christians consider that issue when engaged in angry debate over some moot political point? They may win the debate and lose that soul for the gospel. That’s tragic.) 

Additionally, I don’t embrace one political system or the other because I don’t believe that there is one human system that is necessarily biblical. Every human system is a combination of good and evil. The key to a good society is good men and women. Good people can make a bad system good; bad people can make a good system bad. Character matters.

(For the record, the only political system the Bible endorses is a benevolent monarchy.)

But I do want to address an issue that has political implications because I have a bit of pastoral concern. It has to do with the issue of uncorroborated witness and the way we relate to one another as brothers and sisters in Christ. I’m not thinking of a particular individual involved in the current debate, but of a principle applicable to all. 

The evidentiary principle of corroborated witness is well-established in our judicial system in the West. Some say the concept has its roots in Roman law, but actually the principle is sourced in scripture and predates Roman law by 1500 years or more.

“A single witness shall not suffice against a person for any crime or for any wrong in connection with any offense that he has committed. Only on the evidence of two witnesses or of three witnesses shall a charge be established” (Deuteronomy 19:15).

"But," you say, “that's Old Testament thinking. We're free from the Law." Indeed, but the principle is restated in the New Testament: "By the mouth of two or three witnesses every word shall be established” (2Corinthians 13:1). 

Paul quotes this old text because he is preparing for a showdown with the Corinthians. Some of the leaders there had questioned his authority as an apostle and considered him a charlatan. They wanted the church to put him on trial. Bring it on, Paul says, but let's be true to the scriptures: "Any charge against me must be supported by the evidence of two or three witnesses."

The same requirement is incorporated into Jesus' instructions to his disciples (Matthew 18:16), and occurs in other contexts in the New Testament (John 8:17; 1Timothy 5:19; Hebrews 10:8).

This principle, imbedded in the Old Testament and reiterated in the New applies to us as Christians and is relevant to personal relationships as well as judicial proceedings. It’s a biblical mandate. 

For me there is another biblical idea that is equally apropos: “Love believes all things, hopes all things” (1 Corinthians 13:7). This is the Law of Love. 

Love is not naive, but it does assume the best of others and does not judge a brother without compelling evidence of wrong-doing, a biblical parallel to the legal principle that we are innocent until proven guilty.

All of which goes to the notion that we must not permit our culture to establish our parameters. We have a higher standard. 

David Roper

10.3.18

Two or Three

“And it came to pass, when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted his eyes and looked, and behold, a Man stood opposite him with his sword drawn in his hand. And Joshua went to him and said to him, ‘Are you for us or against us?’

‘No!’ the Man said…” (Joshua 5:13,14a).

As an individual I have opinions about political issues and vote accordingly; but as a spokesman for the Church, I don’t take sides. If folks ask me if I’m on one side or the other I just say, “No.” Like the Man.

For one thing, I don’t want to limit my witness to members of one party. If I lean left how will my brothers on the right hear the gospel? If I lean right what will happen to those on my left. “How shall they hear without a preacher?” (I wonder how many Christians consider that issue when engaged in angry debate over some moot political point? They may win the debate and lose that soul for the gospel. That’s tragic.) 

Additionally, I don’t embrace one political system or the other because I don’t believe that there is one human system that is necessarily biblical. Every human system is a combination of good and evil. The key to a good society is good men and women. Good people can make a bad system good; bad people can make a good system bad. Character matters.

(For the record, the only political system the Bible endorses is a benevolent monarchy.)

But I do want to address an issue that has political implications because I have a bit of pastoral concern. It has to do with the issue of uncorroborated witness and the way we relate to one another as brothers and sisters in Christ. I’m not thinking of a particular individual involved in the current debate, but of a principle applicable to all. 

The evidentiary principle of corroborated witness is well-established in our judicial system in the West. Some say the concept has its roots in Roman law, but actually the principle is sourced in scripture and predates Roman law by 1500 years or more.

“A single witness shall not suffice against a person for any crime or for any wrong in connection with any offense that he has committed. Only on the evidence of two witnesses or of three witnesses shall a charge be established” (Deuteronomy 19:15).

"But," you say, “that's Old Testament thinking. We're free from the Law." Indeed, but the principle is restated in the New Testament: "By the mouth of two or three witnesses every word shall be established” (2Corinthians 13:1). 

Paul quotes this old text because he is preparing for a showdown with the Corinthians. Some of the leaders there had questioned his authority as an apostle and considered him a charlatan. They wanted the church to put him on trial. Bring it on, Paul says, but let's be true to the scriptures: "Any charge against me must be supported by the evidence of two or three witnesses."

The same requirement is incorporated into Jesus' instructions to his disciples (Matthew 18:16), and occurs in other contexts in the New Testament (John 8:17; 1Timothy 5:19; Hebrews 10:8).

This principle, imbedded in the Old Testament and reiterated in the New applies to us as Christians and is relevant to personal relationships as well as judicial proceedings. It’s a biblical mandate. 

For me there is another biblical idea that is equally apropos: “Love believes all things, hopes all things” (1 Corinthians 13:7). This is the Law of Love. 

Love is not naive, but it does assume the best of others and does not prejudge a brother unless there is compelling evidence of wrong-doing, a biblical parallel to the legal principle that one is considered innocent unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

All of which goes to the notion that we must not permit our culture to establish our parameters. We have a higher standard. 

David Roper

10.3.18

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

It’s about Time

High notions of oneself are annihilated
by a glance in the mirror.

—Nobel Poet, Czeslaw Milosz                                                           
A Botox cosmetic ad appears on our television screen every once in a while that features a stunningly beautiful young model who smiles at her audience and murmurs, “It’s about time.” Exactly! 

Time is the enemy. We invest in vitamin supplements, serums, tightening concentrates, firming creams, cellulite removers—a plethora of pills and potions—in an effort to stave off the effects of free-radical damage and try to iive, or at least look alive as long as possible. We battle every age spot, blemish, and bulge, but nothing works very well, or very long. The hours "ill our brow with lines and wrinkles," Shakespeare lamented. Time overwhelms us. We look our age and it’s not a pretty sight to see. 

Which is exactly the point: time takes away whatever measure of “good looks” we enjoy.  Jeremy Taylor, writing in the seventeenth century, put his finger on the issue. “First, age takes those parts that serve for ornamention.” Thus, “every day calls for a reparation of that portion which death fed on all night.” Each morning we have to repair the damage that was done the night before. As an old friend of mine says: “A little powder, a little paint, makes a girl seem what she ain’t.” 

And don’t think for a minute that men are immune to this compulsion. We too are appalled by what we see in the mirror, and each morning must give ourselves to restoration. But no matter what, the trend is down. It’s about time.

Those who have decided to follow Jesus, however, are not about time. The God of all grace has called us to eternal glory! (1 Peter 5:10). In the end, our bodies will be rescued from the tyranny of change and decay, and we will share in the glory that belongs to us as the children of God! When Christ is revealed, we will be revealed in everlasting splendor (Colossians 3:4).  If we could but see ourselves today as we shall be then, we would be left speechless in awe and wonder. (I must add, however, that then, we’ll not be self-conscious at all, but consumed with admiration for the beauty that we see in others.) 

In the meantime, though the outward person is perishing, we can invest in inward loveliness. The more we center on inner beauty, the less preoccupied we’ll be with that external glory that is inexorably fading away.  

Here’s the thing: What I hold in my mind will, in time, show up in my face, for as the old Scot George MacDonald put it, the face is “the surface of the mind.” If I cling to bitterness and resentment, if I tenaciously hold a grudge, if I fail to forgive, my countenance will begin to reflect those angry moods. My mother used to tell me that a mad look might someday freeze on my face. She was wiser than she knew.   

But in the same way, a generous and charitable heart, one filled with grace and forgiveness, will find its way to the surface—for goodness cannot be hidden—and show itself in kind eyes and a face that is gentle and wise.

So my task is not to try to fix my face and make it good (that would be hypocrisy), but by God’s grace and with His help set about killing the ugly things that come out of my heart—“so ugly that they make the very face over them ugly also” (MacDonald). No one but God can drive my self-centeredness away. So I must ask Him by His power to fulfill every desire I have for goodness. 

I have a friend, a Catholic priest, who served as Mother Teresa’s translator when she was here in the United States to address the United Nations. I was in his study one day and spied a picture of the two of them standing together on the streets of New York. I marveled again at her ancient, wrinkled, leathered, lined face, utterly unadorned. Wisdom had softened her face; character had drawn its lines. Gazing at those marks of courage and kindness, I thought: Is there anyone more homely—or more beautiful?
Hers was the beauty of holiness. May it be ours as well. 

David Roper
From The Idaho Statesman, 
Religion Column, 9.30.18

Monday, October 1, 2018

”An enemy has pursued my soul.”

For the enemy has pursued my soul;
he has crushed my life to the ground. —Psalm 143:3

Major General George Picket is best remembered for "Pickett's Charge," his disastrous assault on Union positions on Cemetery Ridge at Gettysburg. Years later, when asked why his charge failed Pickett drawled, "Well, I always thought the Yankees had something to do with it."

I must remember that thought when I fall. Satan and his minions had something to do with it. ”An enemy has pursued my soul. He has crushed me to the ground.” 

It comforts me to remember that any loss is but one loss in a battle that has already been won. God will never give up on me until He has destroyed “all the adversaries of my soul” (Psalm 143:12).

It's good to know that I'm worth fighting for. 

The devil, the world and God all wish to enter me,
Of what great lineage my old heart must be. —Angelus Silesius

David

10.1.18

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...