DayBreaks for 12/9/16 – Make Way

DayBreaks for 12/09/16: Make Way

Can you imagine complete silence? It’s hard to in our culture today, isn’t it? We have televisions, radios, cell phones, etc. that are constantly blaring at us, demanding our attention. It used to be that we might listen to an album on a cassette tape or CD, but now you can stream music endlessly with a break! It’s hard to imagine complete silence for even a minute, let alone an hour. But try 400 years?!?!?! 

When John showed up on the scene, a silence of 400 years is broken. Don’t misunderstand me, not everyone was silent during this period. Women and men were talking, boys and girls were talking, animals were making their sounds, but for 400 years there was no prophet speaking the Word of the LORD. No one was truthfully saying, Thus says the LORD…

In reality two silences are broken when John began to preach and Jesus came to him at the Jordan to be baptized. One was the 400 year period without a prophetic Word from God and the other was a gap of approximately 30 years in the life of Jesus. Matthew skips directly from his birth and infancy narrative to an event that occurs approximately 30 years later. Both of those silences, however, were broken by the sound of John’s voice.

John the Baptist could rightly be called the last of the Old Testament Prophets. He is functioning as a Herald by announcing the coming of the King. In the ancient world, a herald was one who went ahead of a king’s chariot to prepare the road. He would command a crew which would smooth out the usually rough roads of that day by filling potholes and removing boulders. The herald would also go before the king shouting, “Make way, the King is coming!”

We now have less than 3 weeks until Christmas. What are the potholes and empty places in your life that need to be filled this year? What boulders are blocking your progress toward God that need to be shoved to the side? Are you ready to dig in and prepare the way for your King to come?

PRAYER: Lord, preparation is not fun – it is hard work. Often we think that we can just let the joy of the season come to us and we forget that the real challenge before us isn’t to be filled with joy per se, but to be ready for your arrival at each moment of each day in our hearts. Help us to fill the potholes and move the boulders out of the way so you can come into our lives and hearts more fully this year. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2016, Galen C. Dalrymple.  All rights reserved.

DayBreaks for 12/8/16 – Taking the Joy Out of Christmas?

DayBreaks for 12/08/16: Taking the Joy Out of Christmas?

John the Baptist was born just shortly before Jesus, so I’m sure that he never preached a Christmas sermon in his life. But he did do a lot of preaching. His preaching wasn’t the warm, fuzzy, feel-good gospel. In fact, John couldn’t have had a very good grasp on the gospel itself until Jesus began to proclaim it – no one could have. Glimmers at best, flashes of what was coming, I’m sure, but not really any fine detail. And John’s message was one of repenting. His role was to prepare the people for the coming of the Messiah, much like preachers try to do at Christmas time nowadays.

If John felt that the best way to prepare people for the arrival of the Messiah was to talk about repentance, perhaps we should learn that we, too, should prepare for Christmas by repenting. Repenting in the Biblical sense is more than having a change of heart or a feeling of regret. It is more than a New Year’s Eve resolution. Repentance is a turning away and a turning back. A turning away from sin and a turning back to God.

Not quite a year ago, I stood in Bethlehem shortly after Christams and we saw what is known as Shepherd’s Field. Some time ago, bishop Joe Pennel of the Virginia Conference of the United Methodist Church, attended a Christmas worship service at Shepherd’s Field. As he heard the songs of the season, he thought to himself and later wrote: I did not look to God and say: See how virtuous I am. I did not utter: God, pat me on the back for all of the good things I have done. I did not pretend by saying: God, look at all of my accomplishments, aren’t you proud of me? Indeed, I found myself asking God to forgive me of my sins. That is how it works. The more we turn away from Christ the more enslaved we become to the power of sin. The more we turn to Christ, the more free we become from the bondage of sin. Turning toward Christ enables us to repent.

Someone once said half jokingly: If we are not careful, John the Baptist can take all of the fun out of Christmas. On the contrary, I think that it is John’s message that puts the joy into Christmas. For it is his message that calls us not to the way that Christmas is, but that the way Christmas ought to be. Christmas ought to be free from guilt and self-absorption. For that to occur there must be repentance. And then we are open to the good news that follows!

PRAYER: Jesus, as we draw near to the celebration of your birth, may we repent so that we are prepared to receive the joyous, good news that You bring to earth! In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2016, Galen C. Dalrymple.  All rights reserved.

DayBreaks for 12/7/16 – Bad Reception

DayBreaks for 12/07/16: Bad Reception

I’m sure that you’ve had some version of this discussion if you have, or ever have had, a cell phone:

“I have full signal, it must be you.”

“No, it must be you, I haven’t moved and I have 5 bars.”

How often have you received a call back from the person you thought you were talking to and with great frustration you ask, “At what point did I lose you?”

Or maybe it goes more like this:

“Do you have reception? How many bars to you have?”, or:

“Can you hear me now?”

What do all these things have in common? They’re people talking about the quality of reception (or lack thereof) that they have on their cell phones. Why? Because bad reception causes interruption to communication. Sometimes we even get so frustrated with dropped calls that we stop trying any more.

Those things are all understandable when we talk about cell phones, but what about our spiritual reception? What causes a “bad signal” or blocks the exchange of information in our communication efforts with God? You may not want to take the blame, but chances are, it’s YOU! You can be sure that God always wants to hear from you, so He’s not going to be the one who creates the static on the line.

There’s another factor that enters into this equation, though, and it is this: for there to truly be communication, not only must there be someone who is communicating something, but there must also be someone who is listening. And that, I’m convinced, is where a great deal of our problem with prayer comes into play. We’re too busy talking, or thinking about other things, to hear the “still, small voice” of God.

Perhaps you are frustrated with your prayer life…feeling that you just “aren’t getting through”, that you’ve got a bad connection. Please, don’t let what you perceive as a “dropped call” stop you from reaching out. Keep “dialing”, but be sure that you’re also ready to listen for His voice at all the other times of your life, too…not just when you reach out to Him. It seems to me that there are as many instances in the Bible when God spoke to people when they weren’t praying as times when He responded directly to a prayer request. If we’re not listening, we won’t hear Him under any circumstances.

PRAYER: Teach us the sound of Your voice, let us recognize when You speak and listen closely to what You are saying. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2016, Galen C. Dalrymple.  All rights reserved.

DayBreaks for 12/6/16 – Addition, Subractaion and the 10 Commandments

DayBreaks for 12/06/16: Addition, Subtraction and the 10 Commandments

Our math lessons start with addition and subtraction. If we don’t get that down right, we’ll be in a mess our entire lives. It is foundational. I took courses through trigonometry and calculus (first year) and I have to say that I don’t believe I’ve ever used a think I learned in either of those classes…but addition and subtraction? All the time!

Our preacher right now is doing a series on The Loveable Law – and it’s about the 10 commandments. Sure, there are many who might wonder why he is calling it the “loveable law” because all they see in it are prohibitions and they think they’re intended to crush the joy and fun out of life.

Such is not the case, however. It is a loveable set of laws because the motivation behind them being given was love – and a desire to see the highest possible good for humans.

The first commandment, he posited, is about addition: Exodus 20:3 (ESV) You shall have no other gods before me. “Before” can equally be translated “besides” which gives the meaning of “in addition to”. For who knows how long, mankind has tried to add to God by creating other gods, as if there was something lacking in the one true God. But how can you add anything to something that is already infinite?

The second command is about subtraction: Exodus 20:4-5 (ESV) – You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me…  These verses aren’t about art for art’s sake, but about attempts to create something that will aid us in worshipping, something that attempts to capture an attribute of God. For example, in the wilderness, the golden calf (much more likely a bull) was fashioned, the text says, to remind them of the God who led them out of Egypt. They just seen a huge display of God’s power and the bull was fashioned to remind them of the power of God. But here’s the problem: is God’s strength like that of a bull? Bulls get tired, bulls die. God doesn’t, so the golden bull was taking away from God’s greatness, not exalting it. And what about other aspects of the “bull”: have you ever seen a bull of compassion? A bull demonstrate mercy? Wisdom? No!

So our idols can never properly represent God, and when we try too hard to picture him in human likeness, or in the image of an ox or lion, those things will by definition diminish Him. God wants us to have a true concept of Him (at least as true as humans can have of an infinite Being) because it is only when we have a true image of Him that we will have the proper worldview and live properly.

Do you have other gods besides Him – ones that you’ve “added”? Do you subtract from His greatness by statues or images that can never capture the truth about Him – not even in the slightest?

PRAYER: Let us learn that there is nothing to be added to Your greatness and cautious that we don’t take anything away from it, either, Lord! In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2016, Galen C. Dalrymple.  All rights reserved.

DayBreaks for 12/5/16 – Traveling to the Unexplored Land

DayBreaks for 12/05/16: Traveling to the Unexplored Land

Jeremiah 29:11 (NLT) – For I know the plans I have for you,” says the LORD. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.

My oldest son was always captivated by maps. He would draw maps of imaginary places when he was younger, though I don’t think he does any more. Perhaps you’ve seen ancient maps of what were the unexplored portions of the world? Maps that portrayed the prevailing ideas of what lay beyond, the unexplored lands and the uncrossed seas? Maps from before the adventures of Marco Polo and Christopher Columbus and Ferdinand Magellan? How grotesquely inaccurate those maps were! How vastly they differed from what the explorer eventually found! How fantastic were the notions the ancients had about what was out there – a dropping-off-place, mammoth sea serpents to swallow up ships. But as things turned out, it wasn’t that way at all. You know, if Columbus had believed half the maps and legends of his time he would never have lifted an anchor!

Well, we are all on a journey traveling into the unexplored land, and we ought to be careful how we map it until we’ve traveled there. Certainly we shouldn’t let the future do things to us it never meant to do. For many, the future is a terrifying place – they don’t believe anything is there, or whatever it may be that lurks there is most likely, in their view, to be unfriendly at best.

It is my faith that the future means to be friendly; and I don’t think we ought to treat it as an enemy. If we do, and start in to do battle with it, I can tell you this: it’s a battle we can never win. Let those who believe never suspect it of standing over us with a club waiting for a chance to clobber us into the ground, or of lurking in the shadows to pounce upon us around the next dark corner. If the verse for today says anything, it says that we can, and should, look towards the Unexplored Land with joy and great anticipation, not just during this season, but always.

PRAYER: Father, I believe that when we travel to the Unexplored Land that it will be full of delights and surprises we cannot even imagine. Let it stir up in us excitement as our arrival in Your land draws closer and may it spur us onward until we are Home! In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2016, Galen C. Dalrymple.  All rights reserved.

 

DayBreaks for 12/02/16 – Pizza and Perfume

Aroma…

DayBreaks for 12/02/16 – Pizza and Perfume

15 For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, 16 to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things? – 2 Corinthians 2:15-16

A mother tells a story of how her daughter used to work for a pizzeria.  At the end of the daughter’s shift, Mom would pick her up from the pizzeria.  There was only one problem: when her daughter would get into the car she’d smell so much like pizza that often times Mom would go back into the store and buy a pizza.

I see in this an analogy of our life with Christ.  When we give our life to him, when we spend much time with Christ and seek first to live for him; when we let His love, grace and forgiveness wash over and permeate us, then we’ll have the aroma of Christ surrounding us in our daily lives.  His love will spread and shine through us for others to see and breathe in. And when we live like that, our lives become an invitation and others will be compelled to seek him and ask questions about our faith.

When is the last time your life compelled someone to ask you about your faith?  If it hasn’t happened for a long time, perhaps it’s because we’ve not spent enough time in the presence of the Master.

PRAYER: Let us draw so close to you that the sweet aroma of Jesus’ love is so present in our lives that it cannot be ignored and others are compelled to investigate the Lord of Life!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2016 by Galen C. Dalrymple.

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DayBreaks for 12/01/16 – Like a Kid with Ice Cream

 

DayBreaks for 12/01/16 – Like a Kid with Ice Cream

John 13:34 (KJV) – A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.

If you study the life and words and parables and sermons and actions of Jesus, you will find an eternity’s worth of things you should do. It is easy to feel overwhelmed, swamped and rather hopeless.  Just look at the incredibly high standards set in the Beatitudes if you are tempted to disagree!  But there was precisely just one thing which was so vital that Jesus actually went so far as to phrase it as a command, and that was to love each other. We are to love one another, cherish one another, even lay down our lives for one another if need be, and it is all an extension of being a branch on Jesus the true vine.

Apparently Jesus knew that if we could do just this one commandment, everything else would follow. If you bring a child to an ice cream parlor, you won’t need to start issuing rules which insist that the child order a cone, eat it, enjoy it, find it delicious, and so just generally have fun! Once the child gets to the parlor, the rest follows. So also with love: if we can’t do this, nothing else will work, either. If we can, the rest follows.

PRAYER: Teach us to love one another as You have loved us! In Jesus’ name, Amen.

© 2015, Galen C. Dalrymple.

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