Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Masking Up—Again?


 

Face masks are inconvenient  They fog up my glasses, hang up on my hearing aids and mess up my beard. Nevertheless, before I refuse to wear one, there are things I need to consider.
 
The first has to do with obedience to those God has placed over me. Paul wrote, “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God” (Romans 13:1). 
 
There are some folks, I know, that are concerned about the heavy hand of the state, but we must remember that Paul issued this command to Christians living under the despot Nero and the totalitarian rule of Rome. I may not agree with the authorities that mandate masks, but unless they compel me to act contrary to God’s will I must obey, lest I add to the spirit of lawlessness in the land. 
 
Secondly, though the science remains uncertain, the best rationale for masking these days seems to be source control. The CDC and others have said that asymptotic and presymptomatic cases account for over half of the transmissions of the virus and masks can be preemptive. In other words, we mask up for others
 
Again, Paul writes, “Let each of us please his neighbor for his good….” (Romans 15:2). This being true, love compels me to set aside my own rights and mask up again “for even Christ did not please himself” (15:3). 

That settles the issue for me.
 
David Roper
6.27.21

Monday, July 26, 2021

Anywhere With Jesus

"Do not be afraid…the LORD will be with you.’”—2Chronicles 20:17

A number of years ago, when our son Brian was very small, I took him with me to pick up a babysitter. As I approached the house where our sitter lived I noticed that their dog, usually penned in the back yard, was lying on the front porch in front of the door. 
 
The dog looked benign, but to my alarm he sprang to his feet and attacked Brian, who leaped for my leg, shinnied up my back and somehow ended up wrapped around my head and shoulders. 
 
I, on the other hand, was left to fend off the dog that now turned his full attention to me. 
 
The dog and I danced for a while—I trying to get in a kick and he a bite—until, to my relief, the dog’s owner came around the house and called off the beast. All of us—boy, dog and I—escaped relatively unscathed.
 
Later, as we were walking to the car, Brian looked up at me and said, “Dad, I’ll go anywhere with you.” 
 
His confidence was misplaced, of course, for I lucked out on that occasion, but I’ve often thought of those words when I’m called upon to enter frightening circumstances or face furious assaults. “Father, I’ll go anywhere with you.” 
 
Anywhere, anywhere! Fear I cannot know;
Anywhere with Jesus I can safely go.
 
David Roper 
6.26.21

Sunday, July 25, 2021

With Justice For All

Ancient Christian writers, Augustine and Thomas Aquinas, drawing on Plato and other Greek classical philosophers, distinguished four Cardinal Virtues, two of which were prudence (phrónēsis) and justice (dikaiosýnē). Prudence, they said, is the knowledge of "the good.” Justice is the "doing of it.” 

Justice (dikaiosýnē) appears in the language of Jesus and his Apostles, but it's almost always translated in the New Testament as “righteousness.” Justice and righteousness are interchangeable terms in almost every context in the New Testament. 
 
This principle of easy transference is also true of the Old Testament. The Hebrew word for "justice” and "righteousness” is the same (ts’daqa.) You can substitute one word for the other in any context. It was the translator’s personal preference that made the call. 
 
The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia makes this observation: "ts'daqa;  dikaiosyne: The original Hebrew and Greek words (for justice) are the same as those rendered righteousness.' This is the common rendering, and in about half the cases where we have ‘just and ‘justice' in AV, (Authorized Version), the ARV Authorized (Revised Version) has changed to righteous' and 'righteousness.' It must be constantly borne in mind that the two ideas are essentially the same."
 
When we think of justice, thus, we should think of personal righteousness—doing the right thing. 
 
The biblical concept of justice, thus, is much broader than the way we use the term these days and one that, at least for most of us, is more doable. It may encompass some aspects of social justice, and God in his sovereign will has called some—MLK, William Wilberforce and a host of others—to give their lives to that cause[1]. But in the main, justice in the Bible refers to the good that I do to the individual  standing in front of me. I must do the right thing for this brother or sister before I look abroad.
 
To put a new point on an old saw: Justice begins at home. 
 
David Roper
6.24.21

[1] It’s worth emphasizing that not all are called to engage in social justice as we define it today, Paul insists that there are differences of gifts...differences of ministries…and differences of activities” (1 Corinthians 12:1-11). James puts his own imprimatur on “visiting widows and orphans,” and personal holiness (James 1:27).

Friday, July 23, 2021

Faces "R" Us

 
For the look on their faces bears witness against them; 
they proclaim their sin like Sodom; 
it cannot be hidden (Isaiah 3:9).
 
"By the age of fifty, everyone gets the face he deserves," George Orwell claimed, an idea reflected in Dante's notion that the faces of the dead are made of an airy, malleable substance that shapes itself according to the state of each person's soul.
 
We are given the faces our souls merit. Live long enough, and we become on the outside what we have been all along on the inside. It's not Dorian Gray's portrait, but our own faces that will bear the marks of virtue or vice, greed or charity, kindness or bitterness,and reflect the person we have become. 
 
Apropos of this thought, Paul writes, "We all with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit" (2 Corinthians 3:18). 
 
Spend time in Jesus' presence every day. Read and reflect on his words and ask him to make you a reflection of the virtue you see in him. In time you will begin to bear his likeness—within and without—an inexorable process that will continue until you see his face in full (1 John 3:2).
 
Magic? Mysticism? My own “main strength and awkwardness?” as my father used to say. No, ”this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit“ who is within you. 
 
David Roper
6.23.21

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

He is Not Far From Us

“And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps grope their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us (Acts 17:26,27). 

In my younger days I had a friend who had an uncanny ability to discover people who were looking for God. I asked him once how he knew. “I ask ‘em,” he replied.
 
With that profound insight in mind I determined to ask the next man, woman or child that I met, assuming that it was an appropriate time and place, if they were interested in talking about God. 
 
The very next day I was driving home from work and saw a disheveled, hirsute young man standing on the side of the road with his thumb in the air and God said, “There’s a man.” “Are you sure?” I thought. Nevertheless, with some trepidation, I stopped and offered him a lift.
 
We chatted along the way and I discovered, among other things, that he was a graduate student in philosophy at UC Berkeley and was on his way back to school after spring break. 
 
Having put off the question as long as I could, I finally turned to him and asked if he had an interest in talking about spiritual things. “Yes,” he said, as he turned toward me. “I’ve been looking for God all my life. Can you tell me how to know God?” 
 
This was, without doubt, an unusually dramatic encounter, a special occasion in which God put his imprimatur on my clumsy efforts to speak the gospel. But more than that, it was an enduring example of the truth that God is seeking those that are seeking him and has sent his messengers—you and me—to guide them (Acts 8:26-40). 
 
David Roper
6.21.21

Friday, July 16, 2021

HOW THE WEST WAS WON

It was not to better their condition that the missionaries came, for they left good, comfortable homes. It was no desire for wealth that enticed them, for they sought not wealth. It was not the allurements of gold, for they were ignorant of the existence of gold in the very hills that afterward produced millions of it. They had the love of Christ in their hearts, and they came solely to bear a message of Him to others.” —Eliza Spalding Warren, daughter of missionaries to the Nez Percé and the first white child born in what is now Idaho.


---
 
In 1832, four Nez Perce Native Americans journeyed 3,000 miles from Northern Idaho to St. Louis, Missouri and petitioned General William Clarke (of Lewis and Clarke fame) to send someone to their people to teach them about God. They reminded Clarke, who was now Superintendent of Indian Affairs, that their fathers had heard of God’s book through him many years before when he and the Corps of Discovery wintered with them in 1805.
 
One of the best sources for this meeting is William Walker, an interpreter for the Wyandott Indian Nation, who wrote the following letter to a friend, G. P. Dishoway of New York. It was later published in The Christian Advocate and Journal of the Methodist Episcopal Church, in January 19, 1833. 
 
Immediately after we landed in St. Louis on our way to the west I preceded to Gen. Clarke’s, Superintendent of Indian Affairs, to present our letters of introduction from the Secretary of War, and to receive the same from him to the different Indian agents in the upper country.
 
While in his office and transacting business with him, he informed me that three chiefs from the Flathead Nation were in his house and were quite sick, and the one (the fourth) had died a few days ago. They were from the west of the Rocky Mountains…The distance they had traveled on foot was nearly three thousand miles to see Gen. Clarke, their great father, as they called him, he being the first American officer they ever became acquainted with, and having such confidence in him, they had come to consult him as they said, upon very important matter…
 
Gen. C. related to me the object of their mission and, my dear friend, it is impossible for me to describe to you my feelings while listening to his narrative. I will here relate it as briefly us I can. It appeared that some white man had penetrated into their country, and happened to be a spectator at one of their religious ceremonies that they scrupulously perform at stated periods... He informed them that men toward the rising of the sun had been put in possession of the true mode of worshipping the Great Spirit.
 (He informed them that) they had a book containing directions how to conduct themselves in order to hold converse with him; and with this guide no one need go astray, but everyone that would follow the directions laid down there would enjoy, in this life, his favor, and after death would be received into the country where the Great Spirit resides and live with him forever.
 
Upon receiving this information they called a national council to take this subject into consideration. Some said, “If this be true, it is certainly time we were put in possession of this mode and if our mode of worshipping be wrong and displeasing to the Great Spirit, it is time we had laid it aside. We must know something more about this, it is a matter that cannot be put off.”
 
They arrived at St. Louis, and presented themselves to Gen. C. The latter was somewhat puzzled being sensible of the responsibility that rested upon him; he however proceeded by informing them that what they had been told by the white man in their own country was true. Then went into a succinct history of man, from his creation down to the advent of the Savior; explained to them all the moral precepts contained in the Bible... (and) informed them of the advent of the Savior, his life, precepts, his death, resurrection, ascension, and the relation he now stands to man as a mediator, that he will judge the world, etc. Poor fellows, they were not all permitted to return home to their people with this intelligence. Two died in St. Louis,[1] and the remaining two, though somewhat indisposed, set out for their native land. Whether they reached home or not is not known… If they died on their way home, peace be to their manes. They died inquirers after the truth.
 
Yours in haste,
 
Wm. Walker
 
In the spring of 1832, the two survivors took passage for home on the steamboat, TheYellowstone, and George Catlin, the celebrated explorer and artist, who was a passenger on this boat, painted portraits of the two men, the originals of which now hang in the Smithsonian. 

 
One of these pilgrims, the man known as "No Horns on His Head," died en route. Only the young man, "The Rabbit Skin Leggings," lived to reach his home on the Clearwater River.
 
Catlin remarked on that occasion:
 
Hee-oh'ks-te-kin (Rabbit Skin Leggings) and H'co-a-h'co ah'cotes-min (No Horns On his Head) are young men of (the Nez Perce) tribe. These two young men…were part of a delegation that came across the Rocky Mountains to St. Louis, a few years since, to enquire for the truth

Two old and venerable men of this party died in St. Louis, and I traveled two thousand miles, companion with these two young fellows, towards their own country, and became much pleased with their manners and dispositions. The last mentioned of the two (No Horns on His Head), died near the mouth of the Yellow Stone River on his way home, with disease which he had contracted in the civilized district; and the other one I have since learned, arrived safely amongst his friends, conveying to them the melancholy intelligence of the deaths of all the rest of his party; but assurances at the same time, from General Clarke, and many reverend gentlemen, that the report which they had heard was well founded; and that missionaries, good and religious men, would soon come amongst them to teach this religion, so that they could all understand and have the benefits of it.”

One of the first to answer the call was Rev. Samuel Parker, a teacher in a girl’s school in Ithaca, New York. Parker read the article in the Christian Advocate and Journal and determined that he would be the one to go.
 
Parker wrote the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions on April 10, 1833, volunteering to explore the western regions, but the ABCFM decided because of his age and other concerns it could not approve Parker's application. Undaunted, on January 6, 1834, he addressed the congregation of the Ithaca Presbyterian Church on the need to establish a mission in what was then the Oregon Territory. They voted to sponsor the endeavor. After one aborted start in which he missed his connection with his guides, he traveled to St. Louis and accompanied the American Fur Company party as far as the Rendezvous on the Green river in what is now the state of Wyoming. 
 
Several years ago I came across a first-edition copy of Samuel Parker's journal in the archives of the Idaho Historical Society's Library in Boise. I found it intriguing because it referenced landmarks that were very  familiar to me:  Pierre’s Hole (the Teton Basin), Henry’s Fork of the Lewis River (the Snake River), the lava beds (Craters of the Moon National Monument), Three Buttes, Fort Hall, Birch Creek, the Nez Perce Trail, and other sites. As I read, however, I realized I was hearing again the “Macedonian call” and reading the diary of an unsung hero. 
 
A few years after finding Parker’s diary, my sons and I relived a portion of his journey, following his path across the Magruder Corridor, the old Nez Perce trail, through the Selway-Bitteroot Wilderness, reading from his journal along the way. Historian George Bancroft said of that rugged region, “It was the common judgment of the first explorers that there was something strange and awful in the scenery and topography of (that wilderness).” Parker was an older man, unaccustomed to wilderness living. He was a city dweller, a “flatlander,” in mountain parlance, yet he was willing to endure any hardship to seek and to save the lost. 
 
From the Green River, Parker and his small party crossed into Idaho through the Teton Basin. From there he followed the Teton River northwest to Cote's Defile (Birch Creek). There he rested for a few days.
 
On the morning of September 5th, 1835 a hunting party of Nez Perce joined them at their campsite. Parker notes, “Providentially there came to us this afternoon a good interpreter from Fort Hall, so that tomorrow I can preach to the people.”  That evening, Parker met with Charlie, the principal chief of the Nez Perce and arranged to speak to the group the next day.  The chief, Parker reported, welcomed his coming and said, “I have been like a little child, uneasy, feeling about in the dark after something, but not knowing what; but now I hope to learn something which will be substantial, and which will help me to teach my people what is true."
 
The next day, the Nez Perce constructed a shelter one hundred feet long and twenty feet wide, and placed buffalo rugs on the floor. Between four and five hundred men, women, and children gathered to listen while Parker spoke.
 
Parker writes,  “I stated to them the original condition of man when first created, his fall, and the ruined and sinful condition of all mankind...and then told them of the mercy of God in giving His Son to die for us, and of the love of the Savior... I never spoke to a more attentive assembly, and I would not have changed my audience for any other upon earth and I felt it was worth a journey across the Rocky Mountains, to enjoy this one opportunity... I hope, that in the last day it will be found, that good was done in the name of Jesus.”
 
Some days later, Charlie came to Parker’s tent: ”I have been like a little child, uneasy, feeling about in the dark after something, but not knowing what..." he said. “But now, I know God. What you have told us is indeed “tois” (good).”
 
I think of Paul's conviction: "(God) has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their pre-appointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him...” —Acts 17:26,27

To be continued someday...
 
David Roper

[1] The two men who died were buried in St. Louis. Their burial records read:
 
The 31st of October, 1831, I, undersigned, did bury in the Cemetery of this Parish the body of Keepellele, or Pipe Bard of Nez Perce of the tribe of the Chopoweck Nation called Flat Heads, age around 44 years, administered Holy Baptism, coming from the Columbia river beyond the Rocky Mountains. Edm. Saulinier. Priest
 
The seventeenth of November, 1831, I, undersigned, did bury in the Cemetery of this Parish the body of Paul, savage of the Nation of the Flat Heads, coming from the Columbia River beyond the Rocky Mountains. Roux. Priest.

Thursday, July 15, 2021

The Mystery of Lawlessness

“The line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either—but right through every human heart—and through all human hearts. This line shifts. Inside us, it oscillates with the years… But even in the best of all hearts, there remains an un-uprooted small corner of evil… Since then I have come to understand the truth of all the religions of the world: They struggle with the evil inside a human being (inside every human being). It is impossible to expel evil from the world in its entirety, but it is possible to constrict it within each person.” ― Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
 
“And the fifth angel blew his trumpet, and I saw a star fallen from heaven to earth, and he was given the key to the shaft of the bottomless pit. He opened the shaft of the bottomless pit, and from the shaft rose smoke like the smoke of a great furnace, and the sun and the air were darkened with the smoke from the shaft…" (Revelation 9:1,2).
 
John’s description of a pit from which demonic forces emerge, suggests that evil is provisionally contained in something like a black hole—a place of anti-matter, chaos and confusion. John did not, of course believe that there was an actual abyss somewhere answering to this description. It was a symbol, the point being that the full manifestation of evil is now contained, but a day is coming when God will remove every restraint and wickedness will be manifest in full.
 
This is what the Apostle Paul called “the mystery of lawlessness”—the revelation that there are evil, demonic forces under the surface of every culture waiting for an opportunity to appear. The containment of these forces is the restraint posed by God’s Spirit, natural law and the forces of law and order, restraints that are under assault today. When that “which is restraining” is taken out of the way, all hell will break loose. (2 Thessalonians 2:7). Literally. We may be very close to that day. 
 
Jesus in the Gospels spoke of another “black hole” out of which “evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, blasphemy, pride, and stupidity” emerge (Mark 7.1–23). “Even in the best of all hearts there remains an un-uprooted small corner of evil.” Wickedness is not color-coded; red and yellow, black and white—"all have sinned” (Romans 3:23).
 
Containment is impossible. Only a new creation will do (2 Corinthians 5:17; John 3: 1-19). 
 
David Roper
6.14.21

  

Masking Up—Again?

  Face masks are  inconvenient   They fog up my glasses, hang up on my hearing aids and mess up my beard. Nevertheless, before I refuse to w...