DayBreaks for 10/26/16 – Superhero Heaven

DayBreaks for 10/26/16 – Superhero Heaven

From the DayBreaks archive, October 2006, written by one of my sons:

The true explanation of all these questions is still stored up in the hidden treasure rooms of Wisdom, and will not come to the light until that moment when we shall be taught the mystery of the Resurrection by the reality of it; and then there will be no more need of phrases to explain the things which we now hope for. Just as many questions might be started for debate amongst people sitting up at night as to the kind of thing that sunshine is, and then the simple appearing of it in all its beauty would render any verbal description superfluous, so every calculation that tries to arrive conjecturally at the future state will be reduced to nothingness by the object of our hopes when it comes upon us.
– St. Gregory of Nyssa

My dad (that’s me, Galen!) employed several standard and sub-standard tricks to keep us kids in line during long summer road trips.  From the “sub-standard” category: When things got loud and out of hand in the car, he’d suggest we play a round of “First-Sleep-Longest-Sleep.”  This was a game of his own devising, a game which could only have been born of fatherly vexation on a long drive across the barren desert with three hollering, diminutive barbarians in the back seat.  The game’s objectives, of course, were two: 1) to fall asleep first; and 2) to wake up last.  You could “win” by doing either, but to achieve both was the ultimate triumph.  Needless to say, our enthusiasm for the game waned considerably after the very first round.
As an alternative to “games” like First-Sleep-Longest-Sleep, my dad would sometimes pose theological questions for us kids and invite us to speculate on them -and I know he took a real interest in our answers.  One question that cropped up frequently was: “What do you think heaven will be like?” Initial replies typically included:

“We’ll be with Jesus.”
“We’ll each live in our own mansion.”
“In heaven the streets are made of gold and the gates are made of giant pearls.”
“Nobody is ever sad or sick.”
“We’ll get to talk with Adam and David and Elijah.”

But though things started out tame enough, inevitably, as I recall, we’d begin to speculate about what super-powers we might possess in the hereafter.  Would we be able to walk through walls?  Would we be able to read each other’s thoughts?  Would we be indestructible?  Invisible?  Would we have superhuman strength?  Would we be able to fly?  We answered all of these in the affirmative.  How could it not be like that?  Heaven, as we imagined it, was a brightly lit playground where we could enjoy all the super-powers possessed by each of the members of the Super Friends and Justice League at once.

Heaven was where we all get to be superheroes – only without having to fight villains.  We get to rocket through the atmosphere just for thrills.  We get to sneak up and surprise people by suddenly materializing before their eyes.  We get to move mountains without breaking a sweat (with a flick of the wrist rather than by faith).  In heaven, it seemed to me, we got to play rough without the consequences.  No wonder we were anxious to get there; Superhero Heaven was where all little boys wanted to go.

Mostly, I think, this was harmless daydreaming, though I imagine my dad had to rein us in now and then.  But kids (okay, adults too) have a way of losing themselves in imaginative self-indulgence.  Like everyone raised in a Christian family, as I grew older I had to revisit and re-imagine such things.  Eventually, in college, I traded Superhero Heaven for a practically Buddhist or neoplatonic vision of the annihilation of the self in the One, or, alternately, a disembodied, semi-conscious state of beatitude in a realm of pure spirit.  Later, however, I came to understand that in some sense my childhood speculations about heaven, silly as they were, were actually more Christian than the subtle, ethereal visions of the philosophers and the Far East.  Superhero Heaven, at least, was tangible, incarnate, even if the rules of strictly earthly life didn’t apply.
The Christian doctrine of the Resurrection, difficult and vague as it is (cf. St Gregory’s quote above), is not compatible with visions of a state of pure spirit, or with the annihilation of the self.  The creedal affirmation of faith in the actual and literal “resurrection of the body” is non-negotiable Christian dogma.  We insist, there is continuity between our creation and our redemption: The God who created us holy and good in our flesh and bones by the dust of the ground and His “breath” is the same God who saves us by taking on and re-hallowing our flesh and bones and the dust of the ground, breathing out his Spirit upon us.

I don’t know if I’ll pose my father’s theological stumpers to my own children on our future summer road trips (though I’m sure to try out First-Sleep-Longest-Sleep).  Perhaps I will.  But in any case, I’ll do what I can to gently steer them away from Superhero Heaven.  And when my kids ask me from the back seat, Papa, what is heaven like? I’ll answer: “If you want to know what heaven is like, just look at Jesus.”  –  Look at Christ’s flesh and blood: crucified, resurrected, deified, at the right hand of the Father yet in our midst, tangible, taste-able. Our portrait of Christ is our portrait of heaven.

Beloved, we are God’s children now; it does not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that when he appears we shall be like him… (I John 3:2)

PRAYER:  We are humbled by Your greatness and confess we are eager to know more about You and Your home.  Give us understanding, Lord, that we may serve You faithfully throughout this life.  And thank you that there really is a Superhero in heaven that gave Himself for us and by Whose power we will rise from the dust we are made of to become the heavenly creatures You long for us to be.  May we glimpse bright heaven’s glories, bright heaven’s Son!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

DayBreaks for 10/25/16 – The Problem is on the Inside

DayBreaks for 10/25/16 – The Problem is on the Inside

From the DayBreaks archive, October 2006:

I was downtown at our local newspaper just this past week, dropping off some articles about an upcoming community wide seminar that we’ll be hosting at church in November.  It was just slightly after 2 in the afternoon, and I walked up to the door and found it locked, even though there were people inside.  The owner/editor of the paper saw me and came running to the door and unlocked it.  It seems that they were having problems with their burglar alarm and the repair man was there to work on it.  It reminded me of a story that I read by Max Lucado that I’d like to share with you.  In When God Whispers Your Name, Max Lucado writes:

“I rolled out of bed early—real early. I’d been on vacation for a couple of weeks, and I was rested. My energy level was high, so I dressed to go to the church office. My wife, Denalyn, tried to convince me not to go.

“It’s the middle of the night,” she mumbled. “What if a burglar tries to break in?”

“There had been an attempted break-in at the office a few weeks previously.  Ignoring my wife’s concern, I drove to the church, entered the office complex, disarmed the alarm, and then re-armed it.

“A few seconds later the sirens screamed. Somebody is trying to break in! I raced down the hall, turned off the alarm, ran back to my office, and dialed 911. After I hung up, it occurred to me that the thieves could get in before the police arrived. I dashed back down the hall and re-armed the system.

“They won’t get me,” I mumbled defiantly as I punched in the code.

“As I turned, the sirens blared again. I disarmed the alarm and reset it. I walked to a window to look for the police. The alarm sounded a third time. Once again I disarmed it and reset it.

“Walking back to my office, the alarm sounded again. I disarmed it. Wait a minute; this alarm system must be fouled up. I called the alarm company.

“Our alarm system keeps going off,” I told the fellow who answered. “We’ve either got some determined thieves or a malfunction.”

“There could be one other option,” he said. “Did you know that your building is equipped with a motion detector?”

“Then the police arrived. “I think the problem is on the inside, not the outside,” I told them, embarrassed that I was the culprit setting of the alarm.

“Am I the only one to blame an inside problem on an outside source?

“Alarms sound in your world as well. Heaven knows you don’t silence life’s alarm by pretending they aren’t screaming. But heaven also knows it’s wise to look in the mirror before you peek out the window.”

Let’s face it: there’s lots of temptation all around us, but that’s all it is: temptation.  The sin is inside our imaginations, minds and hearts.  When we sin, it is a problem that comes from inside us, and it will continue to be a problem until we learn not to blame everything and everyone else – and begin to confess our need to the One who can give us new hearts and minds that are hungry to please Him. 

PRAYER:  We confess, Lord Jesus, that there is really nothing good within us as humans.  It is only as Your Spirit lives in us that we can be freed from the power of sin.  Help us to want to do what is right, to bring you glory, to stop hurting you through what we do and think and say.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

DayBreaks for 10/24/16 – Another Ram in the Thicket

DayBreaks for 10/24/16 – Another Ram in the Thicket

From the DayBreaks archive, October 2006:

The story of Abraham and Isaac has always intrigued and fascinated (and horrified) me.  There are obvious lessons to be learned from the story: the faith of Abraham, the obedience of Abraham, the trust of Isaac (even when it became apparent that he was the “sacrifice”), the importance of trusting God.  I’m not sure if Abraham or Isaac was the most relieved when the angel stopped Abraham’s hand and they saw the ram caught by its horns in the thicket.  And I have searched the haunted halls of my heart asking myself if I could have ever done what Abraham did – and I’m driven to my knees in humility by the answer.

But, perhaps instead of taking the extreme case of sacrificing a child, we need to look at other things that are much more close to home.  As Chuck Swindoll put it in Fascinating Lives of Forgotten People: “What it is that you are gripping so tightly?  A possession?  Your vocation?  A dream?  A consuming relationship?  The Lord may be in the process of taking it from you.  He’ll gently tug on it at first, giving you the opportunity to release your grip.  If you resist, He’ll eventually have to pry your fingers away…My advice?  Voluntarily release it.  Trust the Lord to provide.  He has another ram in the thicket.  You can’t see it right now, but He has it waiting.  Only after you have placed your sacrifice on the altar will you be ready to receive God’s provision.”

We all grip tightly to things in our world and in our lives.  I seriously doubt that God is asking any of us right now to sacrifice a child.  But I don’t doubt for a moment that He’s asking each of us to let go of something that has become a god in our life.  What do I mean?  Anything that we put our confidence and trust in is an idol, a god, if you will.  And we all have confidence in something in this world that pulls us away from trusting Him entirely and completely.  Do you know what those things are in your life?  I think that they’re probably the things that we fear happening the most: losing jobs, a stock market crash, losing our health, losing a friend that may not be a positive influence. 

What are you afraid of the most?  Is it possible that right now God is trying to teach you to surrender that to Him, trusting Him completely for all that you need today, tomorrow and forever?  As Chuck said, “He has another ram in the thicket.”  Do you believe that?

PRAYER:  Thank you, God, for all that You have entrusted to us.  Help us to recognize that You are the source of all good things and that we have been given all we have to benefit others.  May we hold our possessions with very loose hands.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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



DayBreaks for 10/21/16 – The Wells of Salvation

DayBreaks for 10/21/16 – The Wells of Salvation

Michael Card is a tremendous singer, composer, author and student of the Word. My wife and I have been fans of his for years and years. We were blessed this last January to go to Israel and be part of a tour group he was leading. I love his insights into Scripture, human nature and the history related to the Bible. Just earlier this week, he shared this:

“The Jewish holiday known as Sukkoth, or Tabernacles, falls on the 16th to the 23rd of October this year. That last day should be of particular interest to Christians. Of all the remarkable things Jesus said and did, it was on the last day of Tabernacles, John tells us in 7:37, that Jesus stood and shouted, If someone is thirsty, let them come to me and drink! 

“According to the Mishnah, the High Priest has just poured out a pitcher of water in front of the large crowd, quoting Isaiah 12:3, With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation. (Mishnah, Moed, Sukkah 4:9-5:2)  So this Sunday, October 23, get your family together and read this passage. Remember that Jesus is standing in the midst of a crowd where there are men who have vowed to kill him (Jn. 7:13) He is our fearless Savior. He is the One who provides the Living Water of His Spirit.”

Do you see the symbolism? Even as the High Priest has emptied his pitcher of water, Jesus offers to be the replacement. And just as the water was poured out of the pitcher, so would the Living Water be poured out into the dead souls of men and women for their cleansing and salvation!

Jesus also is making a very explicit claim. Right after the first words: With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation, Jesus fearlessly claims to be that very well of salvation!

I hope you will remember this on Sunday…and drink deeply of the Living Water.

PRAYER: Thank You for being the Living Water that refreshes, cleanses us and leads us to salvation! In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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



DayBreaks for 10/20/16 – The Race I’m In

DayBreaks for 10/20/16 – The Race I’m In

I ran across an amazing story. I don’t know this woman, nor have I met her or anyone who knows her, but I must say that I admire her! Why? Because one day, at age 42, in beautiful(?) downtown Cleveland, she ran a marathon by accident (yep, all 26 miles, 385 yards of it). Her name was Georgene Johnson. Still is. On the day of the race, she accidentally lined up with the wrong group at the starting line. She meant to line up with the runners for the 10K group, where she belonged. Not the 26 mile group, where she didn’t.

It wasn’t until she hit the four mile mark that she realized her mistake. So, what did Georgene Johnson do? She just kept going, finishing the race in four hours and four minutes. But it’s what she said later (by way of explanation) that really impressed me. Said Georgene: “This isn’t the race I trained for. This isn’t the race I entered. But, for better or worse, this is the race I’m in.”

Isn’t that true of most of us? Relatively few of us are exactly where we figured we’d be in life, or even where we planned to be….doing exactly what we figured we’d be doing. But we are where we are, and (for better or worse) we’re keeping our feet moving.

You may be disappointed, feeling you somehow got in the wrong race. You didn’t. You’re in a race that God chose for you. You may have gotten there by getting in a wrong line somewhere once upon a time, but God knew you would get in that line. The question is, what will we do? We can throw up our hands and just sit on the curbside and quit moving, or like Georgene, we can look around us, admit we’re not where we thought we should be, but keep on going.

How do you think Georgene felt after she finished the race? I bet she felt tired, but terrific. That’s how most people feel when they don’t give up, when they don’t grow weary. After all, He helped Georgene mount up as if on eagle’s wings, and if you keep at it, you, too, shall soar!

PRAYER: It is easy for us to not be very happy with where we are and to give up instead of working through difficulties, Lord. Remind us that you, too, worked through many difficulties and your word even says you “learned obedience” by the things you suffered! Help us to have firm resolve and to keep on moving until we find our feet on the streets of gold!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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



DayBreaks for 10/1916 – If You Do, Then You Aren’t

DayBreaks for 10/19/16 – If You Do, Then You Aren’t

The famous actor Gregory Peck was once standing in line with a friend, waiting for a table in a crowded Los Angeles restaurant. They had been waiting for some time, the diners seemed to be taking their time eating and new tables weren’t opening up very fast. They weren’t even that close to the front of the line. Peck’s friend became impatient, and he said to Gregory Peck, “Why don’t you tell the maitre d’ who you are?” Gregory Peck responded with great wisdom. “No,” he said, “if you have to tell them who you are, then you aren’t.”

That’s a lesson that the Pharisee in our gospel reading apparently had never learned. His prayer, if it can be called that, is largely an advertisement for himself. He’s selling himself to God. Little wonder that Luke describes him in the way he does, “The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself.” That’s a very apt description, isn’t it — he prayed with himself. He would have done better had he had Gregory Peck there to whisper in his ear that if he had to remind God who he was, then he wasn’t.

The tax collector, on the other hand, didn’t have to tell God who he was. He knew who he was and he knew that God knew who he was. His prayer is not an exercise in self-promotion, but a confession and a plea for mercy. He is not selling himself, but opening himself. And Jesus says, “It is this man who went home justified.” To be justified means to be declared “not guilty.” It means to be declared right. The tax collector is declared to be in the right relationship to God while the Pharisee, who is so certain of his own righteousness, is shown to be in the wrong relationship with God. He is not justified before the bar of God’s justice which is the court of ultimate consequence.

Let’s note, however, that all this doesn’t mean that the Pharisee was a bad person and the tax collector really a good person. There’s no suggestion of that in this parable. It flat out doesn’t say. But we do know that God loves the humble and resists the proud. We also know that Scripture says there is no such thing as a “good” person, so it’s a moot point. But, the contrast between these two couldn’t be clearer. Both were “bad” persons (as we all are biblically), but one of the bad ones had a right relationship with God and God was pleased to justify the humble man. Just because the Pharisee told God how great he was didn’t mean he was great or righteous. The Lord loves a penitent heart!

He’ll be glad to justify any of us…if we’re willing to admit who and what we are.

PRAYER: We are all great sinners, Lord. I’m thankful that you justify even people like me! And please keep us from being proud of any level of humility we may have. Thank you!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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



DayBreaks for 10/18/16 – What Christian Hope Means

DayBreaks for 10/18/16 – What Christian Hope Means

Every pastor has been touched and troubled when there have been those in the congregation who suddenly have faced unemployment. Like an ambush from two sides, unemployment attacks us with the fear of financial insecurity on the one side and the loss of self-esteem on the other. Job searching can deepen both. In just such a moment I encountered Brian. He is a competent and creative person whose skills and personality cannot be long overlooked. “It will work out, Brian,” I said. “God does provide.” “I hope so!” he replied. From the inflection of his voice, I knew he did not “expect” so.

One is reminded of Lucy’s encouragement to Charlie Brown in one of the Peanuts cartoons. “Look at it this way, Charlie Brown,” she consoles. “These are your bitter days. These are the days of your hardship and struggle …” The next frame goes on: “… but if you just hold your head up high and keep on fighting, you’ll triumph!” “Gee, do you really think so, Lucy?” Charlie asks. As she walks away Lucy says: “Frankly, no!”

Hope is like that. We speak of it more often than we believe in it. Hope is not a strong word for us. It has more to do with “wishing” than “expecting.” It has the sound of resignation, an inability to bring about, influence, or even believe that a desired event or goal might ever come to be. “Well, I hope so” has in its whimsical sound the same negation of the words that we hear in the sarcastic “Sure it will!” or “Well, I guess!” Hope, as we understand it, is not a word of excitement and expectation. It speaks of resignation and helplessness. “Well, I hope so …”

How then can we understand the New Testament’s strong use of the word? Repeatedly Paul writes about hope. To the Thessalonians he writes of the armor of God, including the “hope of salvation” as a helmet. To the Colossians he writes of the “hope laid up in heaven,” and of the “hope of glory.” Peter writes in his first letter that “we have been born anew to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and to an inheritance which is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, held in heaven for you.”

Given our understanding of the word, shivers run up our spines as we think about it. “Is that all we have?” we want to shout. “Is ‘hope’ all we have after all? Just … hope?”

In the NT, hope means more than wishful thinking. The action of hoping has nothing to do with a speculative desire. It is, rather, a fully confident anticipation of deliverance, won through the person and work of Christ. If you’ll pardon this rather simplistic explanation, it is like a child who is waiting for Christmas. They know it’s coming, they know it will come, but they can hardly stand the wait because they know it will be so wonderful when that day arrives! Our hope is even more sure than the fact that Christmas is coming, because for any one of us, we may die before Christmas or Christ may return before Christmas Day 2016. There is nothing that will stop the arrival of Jesus, there is nothing that will prevent him from making all things new, there is nothing that can force him to abandon his plan or change his mind about us. Our hope is assured, fully confident that Jesus can, and will, do all that he has promised to do and that we will be the recipients of that grace and goodness!

That is what hope means. Without hope we wouldn’t make it from one day to the next. With the Christian hope we can make it through anything.

Romans 5:5 (NLT) – And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.

PRAYER: Jesus, we believe that you are as good as your word to us. Sometimes we struggle to hope for better things because things in this world so often disappoint us. Remind us daily that you will never fail or disappoint!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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