Friday, May 22, 2020

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 stretched out over all the nations. For the LORD of hosts has purposed, and who will annul it? His hand is stretched out, and who will turn it back?”—Isaiah 14:26-27

This remarkable text follows on the heels of God’s promise to put an end to Assyria’s plan for world domination and is a model for all that God has determined to do on the earth. His strategies and tactics alone are purposed and perfected: “The LORD of hosts has purposed, and who will annul it?” (Vs. 27).

This is a solid fact to hold fast in the face of the current gaggle of conspiracy theories. We’re told, for example, that Facebook, Amazon and Google are an unholy trinity contriving to unite us under a one-world government. Efforts to quarantine church-goers during the Corvid-19 pandemic are attempts to isolate them from the fellowship of believers and a first step toward shuttering all places of worship. Plots and counterplots abound.

Some of these schemes could exist, I suppose, though eighty-seven years of living have taught me that no collection of flesh-governed individuals can hold their stuff together very long. Evil is inherently unstable and centripetal. The best laid plans of mortal men soon fall apart at the seams. 

So Isaiah warns us, “Do not call conspiracy everything this people regard as conspiracy. Do not fear what they fear” (Isaiah 8:12). We’re encouraged to look past our fear to God, who has the first and last word on everything that happens here on earth. History is His-story from beginning to end. 

So, we can be at peace when rumors of sedition swirl around us, for we believe and know that our Father in Heaven controls every “purpose that is purposed.” Thus his children need not fear. 

David Roper

Monday, May 18, 2020

They Were There”

“It made no difference whether the Cloud hovered over The Dwelling for two days or a month or a year, as long as the Cloud was there, they were there”(Numbers. 9:22 The Message)

I see that the beaches in Florida and other places have re-opened, largely due to the demands of the young and restless. I suspect, however that these folks will be no less restless on the beaches. Contentment has nothing to do with one’s circumstances. It’s a matter of the heart.

The secret to contentment is seeing God in every place, knowing that he is with us in all that we endure. We can embrace every hardship with joy because he is present. The author of Hebrews has written, “Be  content with things as they are, for God Himself has said, “I will never leave you; I will never forsake you‑forever” 

David Roper

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Some Thoughts On Kerfuffles While Sheltering

More in number than the hairs of my head
are those who hate me without cause;
mighty are those who would destroy me,
those who attack me with lies…
O God, you know my folly;
the wrongs I have done are not hidden from you (Psalm 69:4,5).

Funny how prayer works. I begin to recite and bewail the wrongs done to me and discover the wrong-doing in me.

That’s the value of putting my plight before God: I see myself—my lack of wisdom and the beam in my own eye (Matthew 7:5). 

So… the first step in regaining perspective in an angry dispute is repentance. “It is a consoling thought that no matter what others do, I am always in the wrong” (Søren Kierkegaard).

David Roper

Friday, May 15, 2020

He Goes Before

“When I lead my sheep out, I go before them” (John 10:4).

A few years ago Carolyn and I were making our way up a winding mountain road into the Sawtooths when we came across a large band of sheep moving down the road toward us. A lone shepherd with his dogs was in the vanguard, leading his flock out of summer pasture into the lowlands and warmer winter quarters. 

We pulled to the side of the road and waited while the flock swirled around us, and watched until it passed out of view. 

Sheep are the embodiment of all that is feeble and helpless. I wondered: “Do they fear change, movement, new places?” 

Like most old folks, I like the “fold”—the familiar circumstances and surroundings. Like the aging Hobbit, Bilbo, I like continuity, “I miss my meal at noon.” 

But all is shifting and changing around me; Carolyn and I are being led out, away from familiar surroundings and into a vast unknown. This a “novel” virus, they say. No one has been this way before. 

I wonder: What new limits will overtake us? What nameless fears will awaken? Jesus’ words come to mind: “When I lead my sheep out, I go before them (John 10:4). 

I may well be dismayed at what life holds for us this year and next and the next, but the Good Shepherd knows the way. 

He will go before us, picking the way. He will not lead us down paths too steep for us to negotiate; He knows our limitations and will strike a leisurely pace. He knows the way to green pastures and still water; all we have to do is follow. 

Thus I need not fear tomorrow, or take on its obligations, for tomorrow will take care of itself. God knows all the trouble that lies before me. It “must pass through Him before it gets to me” (F. B. Meyer)..

Doubt has cast its weird, unwelcome shadows o’er me
Thoughts that life’s best and choicest things are o’er. 
What but His word can strengthen and restore me.
And this blest fact: that still He goes before.

—J. Danson Smith

David Roper

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

“Spring Up, O Well”

“The Lord answered Moses, ‘Go out in front of the people. Take with you some of the elders of Israel and take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. I will stand there before you by the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it for the people to drink.’ So Moses did this in the sight of the elders of Israel” (Exodus 17:5,6, cp., Numbers 20:11).

Some of the subtlety of the original command was lost on Moses the second time around (Numbers 20:10-12). The rock had already been broken. There was no need to strike it again.

Missing from both accounts is the rousing tune that the congregation sang that accompanied Moses’ actions: When he struck the rock, “Israel sang this song: ‘Spring up, O well’” (Numbers 21:17). 

The New Testament unpacks the metaphor revealing that the rock is Christ (1Corinthians 10:4), and the “water” is that sense of blessedness (wholeness and spiritual well-being) that brings satisfaction and joy to our days. Jesus said, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me. And let him who believes in me drink. As  Scripture has said, ‘Out of His (Christ’s) heart will flow rivers of living water’” (John 7:38). 

So…when the days get dreary, sing out again and again to the rock: “Spring up, O well!” Rivers of living water will flow (John 4:14). 

David Roper

Saturday, May 9, 2020


“Poor little bird, you can’t fly.”
“No, but I can look up.”—George MacDonald

Ancient Israelites were instructed to attach tassels to the four corners of their garments, and to weave a cord of blue into each tassel. “You will have these tassels to look at,” Moses said,so you will remember…that I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt to be your God (Numbers 15:37-41).

We don’t necessarily wear blue-tinted tassels these days, but we still have reminders: a mountain lake, a glacial crevice, a mountain bluebird, a jewel–wing damselfly, an alpine forget–me–not, a hyacinth, the eyes of a loved one, a cloudless, cerulean sky—all these visible things remind us to lift our eyes from our loneliness and the four walls of our cloister to that invisible realm where eternal love and compassion await us (Psalm 103:4).

This is the end of life: To be loved and loved and loved.

David Roper

Good Morning, Friends,
Recently I saw a meme on Facebook. It went like this:

"Some days I amaze myself. Other days I put the laundry in the oven.”

I couldn’t stop laughing. I understood. Now I can’t say that I have amazed myself on many days, especially with all the newness and stress brought on by our social distancing, wearing masks and washing every thing in sight from my hands to the groceries, to the door knobs and the Amazon packages. All this on top of everyday life. But, metaphorically speaking I have had days when “I put the laundry in the oven!” Or worse. So who am I really, one or the other?

This brought to mind one of my favorite poems by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a man so many admire for his writings and stance again the Nazi regime. A stance that lednot to his release from prison, but to his execution days before the end of World War II. Bonhoeffer grappled with this same question, not when he was in a pandemic, but when he was in a Nazi prison. This poem fits us anytime, and especially these days.

Who am I?

Who am I?  They often tell me
I stepped from my cell's confinement
Calmly, cheerfully, firmly,
Like a Squire from his country house.

Who am I? They often tell me
I used to speak to my warders
freely and friendly and clearly,
as through it were mine to command.

Who am I? They also tell me
I bore the days of misfortune
equably, smilingly, proudly,
like one accustomed to win.

Am I then really that which other men tell of?
Or am I only what I myself know of myself?
Restless and longing and sick, like a bird in a cage,
Struggling for breath, as though hands were compressing
My throat, yearning for colors, for flowers, for the voices of birds,
thirsting for words of kindness, for neighborliness,
tossing in expectation of great events,
powerlessly trembling for friends at an infinite distance,
weary and empty at praying, at thinking, at making,
faint, and ready to say farewell to it all.

Who am I? This or the Other?
Am I one person to-day and to-morrow another?
Am I both at once? A hypocrite before others,
And before myself a contemptible woebegone weakling?
Or is something within me like a beaten army
Fleeing in disorder from victory already achieved?

Who am I? They mock me, these lonely question of mine,
Whoever I am, Thou knowest, O God, I am Thine."

“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine!” Isaiah 43:1

O Lord, our God and Redeemer, we entrust ourselves as we are to You, because You have said, “You are Mine!” Enable us to keep this in the eyes of our heart today. We praise and thank You that now we belong to You, in our joyful moments and in those which are darker.” Because of Jesus we draw near in confidence to You. Amen


Friday, May 1, 2020

From Carolyn...
Yesterday I engaged Our Father God with a request and a question.

The request was—
“Dear Lord, I believe I will see You in this day!”

“I am dependent on You to keep me alert and aware of Your presence and the ways in which You will show up this very day.  I desire to be able to say, ‘I spy You’ during the day and certainly at the day’s end. For You are a Living God.”

Below are some of the ways I can say I spied God yesterday. I reflected with thanksgiving this morning as I again talked with my Father.

1. I saw God yesterday when He called Home our dear and very good friend Neil Smith.

Neil and his wife Melanie were like our children. We met Melanie when she was in high-school in Palo Alto and David met Neil when Neil was a student at San Jose State. They were interns in the college ministry, learning from and teaching David. David married them and later Neil was on staff at Peninsula Bible Church after attending Dallas Theological Seminary. They were often in our home and always in our hearts. Before we left California Neil and Melanie moved to Sequim Washington where they pioneered a church and saw it thrive. When our son Brian and his family moved to Sequim Neil was their pastor. Brian says he was humble and loving. Neil was also a careful student of Scripture, a caring shepherd and one who loved deeply Melanie, his two sons and all his family. When he was treated badly we never saw any resentment in Neil or Melanie. They trusted the Lord. Melanie was a ministry partner all the way, using her own special gifts to augment Neil’s gifts. God called Neil out of the pastoral ministry and he and Melanie began OPM, Olympic Peninsula Ministries to serve pastors and their wives in their area and similar to IMM. Neil invested eagerly in the lives of many there on the Olympic Peninsula often driving long distances to have lunch with pastors in isolated areas. These last years were difficult years as Neil had renal failure, which lead to a kidney transplant, followed later by Alzheimer’s. Then recently Neil had a hard fall which left him in excruciating pain with no surgery options. Last Saturday Melanie was able to bring Neil to their home and with the help of his sister, a retired nurse who moved in with them, loved Neil and cared for him. Early Thursday morning Melanie and his sister were with him, holding his hand when his breathing slowed and stopped. God said “Come Home.”

2. I saw God show up in Melanie yesterday as she said she was “smiling through tears” knowing Neil had been “promoted to Glory.” I saw this dear one’s unwavering hope, because of her faith and trust in the God they had followed together for so many years.

3. I saw God show up as my friend Kathy, who had been praying for Neil and Melanie, told me yesterday that on Wednesday she had thought of the song, “Lead Gently Home.” And God did that on Thursday for Neil.

4. I saw God show up though the kindnesses of friends. Some wrote, some prayed. To one I mentioned an errand our sons were not available to do. Bob said, “I have been wanted to know how to help you two! I want to do this for you.” And he did. His generous cheerful spirit of wanting to help was a touch of kindness from God. And an incentive to me. I know why “God loves a cheerful giver!” He gives cheerfully and wants me to do the same. (Actually the errand was part of a mistake I made the day before, so even that was God’s way of protecting us from a small disappointment. Well, it wasdisappointing but God turned it into an opportunity!)

I would really love to hear how God shows up in your life today, if that is something you want to consider.

Today I will continue to watch and see how God shows up, and as I start my day i will also ask—

God, what do You have in mind for me today?
Hmmm. I wonder how His plans for me will play out? I can think of a few things He has in mind but I will save that for tomorrow!

With love and prayers to the One who has called us to a Living Hope,

My remarks about Neil and Melanie Smith don’t begin to touch the surface of what a godly, uncomplaining and loving couple they were. Or how much we love and care for them. Or how much love they have offered us and our family. We are forever thankful for Neil and Melanie. We sorrow but with sure hope because of Jesus and his love for them and for us.
Carolyn Roper

Sunday, April 26, 2020

On His Shoulders

“Let the beloved of the Lord rest on him (God), for he (God) shelters him all day long, because he (the beloved) has found a resting place, riding on his (God’s) shoulders" (Deuteronomy 33:12).

I remember days when our boys were small and their little legs would grow weary when we were out walking. They would hold up their hands, and ask, “Hey, Dad, can I have a ride?” I readily picked them up and carried them home on my shoulders. 

I woke up this morning feeling “thin and stretched” like the old Hobbit Frodo, facing a long, weary day. Then I read this verse and saw what I must do. I held up my hands and asked. “Hey, Lord, can I have a ride?”

“This is your resting place today,” he replied, "riding on my shoulders.”

David Roper

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Undoing the Deeds of the Devil
Surely He has borne our sickness
And carried our pain… (Isaiah 53:4a). 

Is there healing in the atonement? Of course there is. Jesus bore our sickness on the Cross and carried away our pain. 

But the healing is not necessarily in the here and now. 

Certainly God heals in the present through medicine and the medical arts, by the healing properties in our own bodies, and by occasional acts of direct healing.

But our ultimate healing will be in Heaven—what ancient spiritual writers called athanasias pharmakon (the medicine of immortality), the final cure for all that ails us. There, God himself will wipe every tear from our eyes; there will be no more sickness or sorrow; there will be no more pain (see Revelation 21:4). 

In the meantime, while we wait for our healing, a bit of sickness and pain can do us some good. John Piper writes, “I dare say the greatest earthly blessing that God can give to any of us is health, with the exception of sickness If some men that I know of could only be favored with a month of rheumatism, it would, by God's grace mellow them marvelously.”

David Roper

Monday, April 20, 2020

Covid–19 and the Wrath of God

Someone asked me the other day if Covid-19 is the wrath of God against sinners. The question reminded me of another man who sat across the table from me one morning and asked if 9/11 was the wrath of God against gays.” Both questions sent me to a situation Luke mentions in his Gospel. 

Some folks had come to Jesus asking about “certain Galilean Jews whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices” (Luke 13:1). It seems that Pilate’s troops had surrounded and slaughtered a number of visiting Galileans as they were worshipping in the temple. We know nothing about the massacre, but it’s in keeping with what we do know of Pilate’s character. 

Jesus’ answer was wholly unexpected: “Do you think these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish” (Luke 13:2-5).

These folks thought that these tragedies must be God’s wrath on a certain set of god-awful sinners. They perished in their own sins. “No,” Jesus replied, “Unless you repent you toowill perish in your sin.” Jesus’ answer laid their hearts bare. 

We, like the folks who brought this question to Jesus, are fixed on first causes: When folks suffer catastrophe we reckon that they must deserve it. But personal tragedy is no more an indication of wrong-doing then the absence of tragedy is an indication of personal righteousness. Whether our lives are tragic or tranquil we are all, as Martin Luther insisted, “dust and ashes and full of sin.” And all of us are in need of repentance. 

The question, then, is not “What about that sinner over there?” but, “What about me, this sinner under my own hat?” (Cf., Luke 18:9-14). Jesus said, “Unless you repent, you too will perish”

Repentance, In the New Testament, is metanoeo, “to change one’s mind.” The word in the Old Testament is shuv, “to turn around.” It occurs in the Song of Songs to describe the Shulamite’s dance as she twirls around: shuvi, shuvi—"turn around, turn around”( Song 6:13).

In both testaments the word repentance means something like changing one’s mind about the direction you’re going, turning around and going in another direction. As some wag has suggested, repentance is a shuv in the right direction.

Repentance does not require tears, or feelings of sorrow and remorse. It is the simple recognition that we have been going the wrong direction our entire lives and for our own salvation we must turn around and follow another.

And here’s the Good News: When we turn around we find, to our everlasting surprise and joy, that Jesus has been standing there all along, waiting to forgive and receive us with open arms. “He is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). 

David Roper

Friday, April 17, 2020

The Little Door

"The one who offers thanksgiving honors me, and establishes a way by which I may show him the salvation of God!” (Psalm 50:23).

Gratitude is one way God brings salvation to us; the means by which He lavishes upon us all he has in mind for us. 

I forget to say, "Thank you" to the One who has graciously given me "all things richly to enjoy”; I’m much too busy complaining about what I don’t have in sequester, in consequence of which I fail to enter into the fullness of God. In fact, if I read Romans 1 right, an ungrateful heart can lead me away from God and into all sorts of god-awful behavior (Romans 1:21-23).

I picked up a copy of Alice in Wonderland the other day and read this: "Alice came upon a low curtain she had not noticed before, and behind it was a little door about fifteen inches high: she tried the little golden key in the lock, and to her great delight it fitted! Alice opened the door and found that it led into a small passage, not much larger than a rat-hole: she knelt down and peeked along the passage into the loveliest garden you ever saw."

Gratitude is the "little door” that leads us into a fabulous place, the means by which we enter into a more complete, intimate relationship with God, the way by which we “more of His saving fullness see; more of His love for you and me.”

"Alice tried to squeeze through the little door, but she was much too large." Humble gratitude is the only way in. You have to become very small. (“Go ask Alice, when she's  ten feet tall.”) 

Footfalls echo in the memory
Down the passage which we did not take
Towards the door we never opened
Into the rose-garden. —T.S. Eliot

David Roper

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Sheltering in Peace
Blessed is everyone who fears the LORD, who walks in his ways!
You shall eat the fruit of the labor of your hands;
You shall be blessed, and it shall be well with you.
Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house;
your children will be like olive shoots around your table.
Behold, thus shall the man be blessed who fears the LORD.
The LORD bless you from Zion!
May you see the prosperity of Jerusalem all the days of your life!
May you see your children's children!
Peace be upon Israel!  —Psalms 128:1-7
This is a picture of a “functional” family, sheltering in place, gathered in peace, sharing God’s blessings around the table and facetiming the grandkids (seeing their “children’s children.”)
There are number of things we can do to stay safe these days. Social distancing, personal protective gear, hand washing and other prophylactic measures are necessary precautions for us. But none of these actions can, of themselves, free us from our deepest anxiety. Our only sure protection from fear is the “fear of the Lord.”
The “fear of the Lord,” is not craven fear, but worship, devotion, glad adoration and a desire to do God’s will. This is our safety and our peace.
Under His wings I am safely abiding.
Tho' the night deepens and tempests are wild,
Still I can trust Him; I know He will keep me.
He has redeemed me, and I am His child.
Under His wings, under His wings,
Who from His love can sever?
Under His wings my soul shall abide,
Safely abide forever. —William Cushing 

David Roper

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

The Problem of Evil
Many years ago, I was slogging through a mosquito-infested meadow with a gaggle of kids when one of them asked me, “Why does God put up with mosquitoes?”
I was stumped.
The question these days would be, “Why does God put up with Covid-19?
I’m still stumped.
Both questions go to the problem of evil: If God is both good and all-powerful why does he permit evil to exist? 

The final answer to that question awaits Heaven, but I have it on good authority that “all things work together for good,” a good Paul spells out in the rest of the chapter as the salvation, sanctification and glorification of human souls (Romans 8:28-30).  
As theologians put it, everything God does or allows is salvific, i.e., it leads to salvation. He, in jujitsu-fashion, takes the worst that evil can do and turns it into eternal good, though that good is not always revealed, or realized at the time. 
The Cross is the best example.
David Roper,

Monday, April 6, 2020

 Sometimes Mountains Move

“The mountains may move,
and the hills may be shaken,
but my love will never be removed from you,
and my covenant of peace will never be shaken,”
This is what the Lord says—the one who has compassion on you.
(Isaiah 54:10).

Sometimes mountains move, but God’s love will never be shaken or taken from us. Jesus, the Servant of the Lord bore our punishment and made peace (Isaiah 53:5), a covenanted reality more steadfast than the earth’s crust, rooted in our Lord’s compassion. Nothing can separate us from his love.

To rejigger the words of an old Gershwin tune...

In time the Rocky’s may crumble,
Gibraltar may tumble,
They're only made of clay.
God's love is here to stay!

An old friend, Len Sunukjian, wrote this: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword, or Corvid-19. No, despite all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us (Romans  8:35). 

This is our heritage from the Lord (54:17).

David Roper

Saturday, April 4, 2020

Calling It

“Who, like me, can call it?” (Isaiah 44:7).

Colorful National League umpire, Bill Klem, on one occasion, delayed calling a pitch. “Well,” complained the player, “is it a ball or a strike?” Most umpires would simply acknowledge the facts, but Klem was made of sterner stuff. “Sonny,” he replied, “it ain’t nothing ’til I call it.”

So it is: Nothing ain’t nothing (or better yet, nothing is nothing) until God “calls it.” But when he does, the word becomes fact and flesh and history, an idea so firmly imbedded in biblical thought that the Hebrew word dabar, in certain contexts, can mean at the same time both word and event. 

History and current events are not "one damn thing after another,” as Henry Ford insisted, but the end product of God’s infinite wisdom. There are no maverick molecules (or viruses) in the universe. 

Therefore, “Don’t be afraid…” (Isaiah 44:8). 

David Roper

Thursday, April 2, 2020

"When You Think You Have To Worry…”

“Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his life span?” (Matthew 6:26-27).

What Jesus precludes is not work but worry. Birds spend a lot of time and energy scratching up food, but they don’t worry about the product. Food is there to be found, provided by our Father. So, our Father provides for us. 

To be honest, our chief anxiety these days is not groceries—we can order them online and have them delivered. Our greatest concern is our “life span.” Will we pass through the corona crisis unscathed? 

Even so, our Lord tells us not to worry. Anxiety can’t add even 18” to our lifespan. (The ancients applied linear measurements—handbreadths and arm lengths—to time lines.) Worry, in fact can shorten our lives.

It’s best then to cast those anxieties on the Lord, knowing that he really, truly cares …all of which reminds me of an oft-quoted poem:

Said the robin to the sparrow,
“I should really like to know,
Why these anxious human beings
Rush about and worry so.”
Said the sparrow to the robin,
“Friend I think that it must be,
That they have no Heavenly Father,
Such as cares for you and me.” 

—Elizabeth Chaney

If you have trouble believing that your Father in Heaven cares for you don’t worry. Rather ask him to help you believe. Everything, even faith, comes, in due time, from above. (Ephesians 2:8,9). 

David Roper

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Passengers to the Grave

And he will swallow up on this mountain
the pall that is cast over all people,
the shroud that is spread over all nations.
He will swallow up death forever;
and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces, —Isaiah 26:7

“We are all passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys." —Charles Dickens

We normally don’t think about death, which, as I think about it, is a very odd thing not to think about. Don’t we know that we’re all going to die someday? Six hundred thousand Americans die each year from cancer; six hundred thousand from heart attacks. If the Corona virus doesn’t get us, something else will. It’s just a matter of time. According to an unexpectedly philosophical one-liner I heard on Sports Center the other day: “He (a noted sports figure) is listed as day-to-day, but then again, aren’t we all?”

But not to worry Isaiah said, pointing up to Mount Zion’s summit just outside the walls of Jerusalem—a hilltop later called “Golgotha,” and “Calvary. “ On that mountain, Isaiah said, “the pall that is cast over all people, the shroud that is spread over the nations” will be swallowed up forever.

Indeed it was: Jesus, beat death by dying on that mountain to bring us life and immortality. Death was “swallowed up in victory” (1 Corinthians 15:54). 

“Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never, ever die. Do you believe this? (John 11:25,26).

David Roper

Saturday, March 28, 2020

On Eagle’s Wings

Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The LORD is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
his understanding is unsearchable.
He gives power to the faint,
and to him who has no might he increases strength.
Even youths shall faint and be weary,
and young men shall fall exhausted;
but they who wait for the LORD shall renew (exchange) their strength;
they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
they shall walk and not faint. (Isaiah 40:28-31)

I’ve often watched eagles soar o’er the Owyhee River, rising out of the canyon on thermal updrafts, scarcely flapping their wings, peerless examples of effortless strength and grace—reminding us that we too can rise above our busy days and duties; we can “run and not become weary.”

But, it’s worth noting, we can also “walk and not faint.” We can plod through monotonous, pedestrian days when we’re sheltering in place, distanced from family and friends, living in a house full of restless moppets, or living by ourselves—alone. In that place, as we rest in him we can “renew” (Heb: "exchange") our strength. 

Our weariness and exhaustion for God’s inexhaustible strength. Ours for the asking. Such a deal we got!

David Roper

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Sheltering In Place II

"Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, 'Surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it’" (Genesis 28:16).

Jacob was on the lam, fleeing from Esau’s wrath, and came to “no particular place,” as the Hebrew text suggests. As night was falling, he cleared a spot in the rubble-strewn ground, and found a flat rock on which to lay his head. He soon lapsed into a deep sleep in which he began to dream. In his dream Jacob saw a stairway, rising from the stone at his head, connecting heaven and earth. 

The traditional ladder is such a favorite image it’s a shame to give it up, yet the picture of angels in ungainly apparel scrambling up and down the rungs of a ladder leaves much to be desired. The term usually translated “ladder” actually suggests a stairway or stone ramp like those that led to the top of ziggurats, the terraced pyramids raised to worship the gods of that era. The ziggurat with its steep stairway was a symbol of man’s efforts to plod his way up to God. It was hard work, but there was no other way to get help when you needed it (see Genesis 11:1–4). 

It’s odd how that pagan notion has found its way into our theology. Some early Christian writers used the ladder as an analogy for spiritual progress, tracing the steps of Christian faith from one stage to another, rising higher by self effort. Walter Hilton’s literary classic The Ladder of Perfection is based on that notion. The  old camp-meeting song “We Are Climbing Jacob’s Ladder” draws on that association. 
In each case the emphasis is on the ascent of man. 

What arrested Jacob’s attention, however, was the fact that God had descended. He had come down the stairway and was standing next to him, for that’s the meaning of the adverb in 28:13. (“And behold, the LORD stood beside him.” The same Hebrew word is translated “nearby” in Genesis 18:2 and  “in front of,” in Genesis 45:1.) 

God was standing beside him. The God of Jacob’s father, Isaac, and grandfather, Abraham, was in this lonely place with him, contrary to Jacob’s expectations and far from the traditional sites he normally associated with God’s presence. “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I was not aware of it,” Jacob declared with wide-eyed, childlike astonishment. “This [place] is none other than the house of God.”

Jacob got the message, but God was taking no chances. He highlighted the picture with a promise that would sustain Jacob through the long, weary days ahead: “I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go . . . I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised” (Genesis 28:15).
His promise is your promise as well. “God has said, ‘I will never leave you; I will never forsake you’” (Hebrews 13:5). He is present with you today—in the house or room where you find yourself sequestered, sheltering in place, isolated and alone. You can say of every site and circumstance, “Surely the Lord is in this place.”

G. K. Chesterton was asked by a reporter what he would say if Jesus were standing beside him. “He is,” Chesterton replied with calm assurance.

David Roper

Adapted from the chapter “Jacob’s Ladder” in The God Who Walks Beside Us

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

No Way Out but Through

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you will not be burned, and the flame will not consume you” (Isaiah 43:2).

We might wish that Isaiah had said, “You will never pass through floods or walk through fire,” but God has not promised to keep his children out of trouble. No, “we must through much tribulation enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22)

I’m not wise enough to know the reasons for the present crisis, but if it is the judgment of God on the earth his children will of necessity suffer along with the world—in which case, there’s no way out of our trouble but through.

Nevertheless our Lord is with us when we walk through the fire and pass through the flood, lending his strength to our weakness, giving us peace in our unrest. The flood will not overwhelm us; we will not be consumed. We can pass through this crisis not somehow but triumphantly. We are “more than conquerors through him who loves us” (Romans 9:37).

Oh, we may be swept up in the virus and die, but, I remind us once again, not one of us will lose a single hair from his or her head! (Luke 21:18).

David Roper

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