DayBreaks for 10/17/17 – A Worldwide Competition

DayBreaks for 10/17/17: A Worldwide Competition

From the DayBreaks archive, October 2007:

We’re fond of talking about winning a world championship when it comes to our sports here in the United States.  We tend to assume that anything we do in the sports world is better than anything anyone else can do anywhere else in the world.  Consider: it’s almost time for the October Classic – otherwise known as the World Series.  But think about that?  How can it be the “World Series” when only teams from the United States and a few Canadian teams are involved?  What about all the baseball played in the Caribbean, in Japan, or other places around the world?  “Sure,” I can hear you say, “but they’re not as good as American teams.”  I don’t know – that may be true.  But remember – we felt that way about our National Basketball League players who were defeated in a few past Olympics.  So much for the assumption that we just naturally the best, the world champions.

Then, of course, there are folks like my wife.  I love her dearly, and over the years we’ve been married, we’ve developed some similar tendencies, but we’re also very different people.  In some things, I LOVE competition.  In anything, she HATES it.  When you’re dealing with an area that I know something about and have some skills developed, I don’t mind competing – at least as long as the competition is friendly.  But, take me out of my comfort zone, or put me in an arena where I don’t know the competitors or spectators, and I may tend to withdraw out of fear of failure.  Fear of failure probably keeps more people from competitive activities than anything else.  We don’t want to look stupid or to embarrass ourselves.

In his book, Hearing God, Dallas Willard describes a conference he attended, when someone asked him what was the human issue that Jesus came to address (as opposed to theological issue, I suppose).  He answered: “Jesus came to respond to the universal human need to know how to live well.  He came to show us how through reliance on him we can best live in the universe as it really is.  That is why he said, I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly (Jn. 10:10).  His supremacy lies in the greatness of the life he gives to us.  Putting Jesus Christ into a worldwide competition with all known alternatives is the only way we can give our faith a chance to prove his power over the whole of life.”

I must confess, I’d never thought about “putting Jesus Christ into a worldwide competition” before.  But stop and think about it for a minute.  Why are we afraid of putting Jesus front and center into the marketplace of thought and ideas and belief systems that are targeted at helping people live better lives?  Could it be because we are projecting our fears of failure on Him?  That we’re afraid that when it comes right down to the nitty-gritty, that He somehow won’t pass the test?  That the life He tries to teach us to live isn’t perhaps the best life that there could possibly be? 

I fear that we let our fears keep us from putting Christ into a competition with anything that the world has to offer.  We are to “contend earnestly for the faith” – contending is a term from warfare and from competition.  Are we afraid that Christ will somehow fail to win in a competition against lies, deceit and falsehood?  It won’t happen.

How can you put Jesus front and center on the stage of the world in which you live?

PRAYER: Father, help us to have full and complete faith and trust in You.  Help us to not project fears about our failures onto Your ability to contend for the hearts and minds of those who don’t know You.  Give us spirits of boldness and courage to carry Your name with us wherever we go!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2017 by Galen C. Dalrymple.

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DayBreaks for 10/16/17 – Forgiving Enemies Is Easy

DayBreaks for 10/16/17: Forgiving Enemies Is Easy

One of the things I like best about the New Testament is that it is so practical. It must have been the fact that Jesus had human beings called disciples always with him that forced him to speak in such everyday terms about everyday problems. Sometimes Christians disagree in the congregation of believers. Sometimes they quarrel. Sometimes they hold grudges against each other. The Scripture for today says that we must never tolerate any situation in which there is a breach of personal relationship between us and another member of the Christian community.

In the eighteenth chapter of Matthew, Jesus admits that disciples are going to have conflicts; but they are to resolve them.

It is very true today that the behavior of us church members on this very issue makes Christianity to the outside world either repulsive or attractive.

It isn’t a matter that Christians are perfect and will not have conflicts. There will always be quarrels, differences of opinion on how and who, disappointments with preachers and councils, hurt feelings, bent pride, loss of face, and lots of mistakes. It’s the idea that Christians can resolve these conflicts as no other fellowship can, that Jesus puts before us today.

Comus, a Duke of Florence, had a saying that indicated the limitations of his religion: “You shall read that we are commanded to forgive our enemies, but you never read that we are commanded to forgive our friends.” Isn’t that interesting? I think that sometimes it is harder to forgive our friends than it is our enemies because we expect better treatment from our friends to start with. Enemies we expect to take advantage and betray us, but not our friends. So it is doubly hard to forgive them – including our brothers and sisters in Christ.

We hear a lot from the pulpit talking about how Christians are admonished by Jesus Christ to love their enemies and to pray for their enemies. When in actuality, right there in the pew side by side are Christians who hold grudges, hang on to petty hurts, refuse to forgive and love each other within the fellowship. And when they do this, church and Christianity and the whole practice of religion for them is not the joyful experience it ought to be. They miss a large dimension of belonging to God’s family.

Have you forgiven your friends, your brothers and sisters? I don’t believe that the excuse, “You never said we had to forgive our friends!” will hold water, do you?

PRAYER: Jesus, help us to have the heart that you have shown for all mankind, and be quick and ready to forgive – enemies and friends alike, so we can be like you! In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2017 by Galen C. Dalrymple.

DayBreaks for 10/13/17 – Living in Spite House

A Spite House in Boston, MA

DayBreaks for 10/13/17: Living in Spite House

There once was a millionaire who owned a lot in an exclusive residential area of New York City. This particular lot presented a very unusual problem. The lot was five feet wide and about a hundred feet long. He couldn’t do anything with such an odd sized lot, so he decided to sell it one of the neighbors on either side. But when he went to the neighbors, they didn’t want to give him anything for it. They basically said, “Look, you can’t build on it and you can’t sell it to anyone else. So take our offer or leave it.” The millionaire was so angered by their refusal and rebuttal that he decided to get even.

He hired an architect and a contractor, and had a house designed for that weird shaped lot. It was five feet wide and ran the entire length of the property. He moved in and set up house in this narrow house. Each room was barely wide enough for a single piece of furniture. His hatred for the people on either side of this small lot made him decide to ruin the look of the entire area.

The neighbors complained that it was a blight to the neighborhood. But the city fathers couldn’t find any code forbidding it. This millionaire moved into it, and lived there the rest of his life. The only one who was really punished was him. He moved into a long narrow little house that held only hate and discomfort. The house became known throughout the neighborhood as “Spite House.” It still stands to this day as a monument to one man’s hatred.

When I heard this story, I thought, surely this is an exaggeration. So, I did some checking and not only did I learn it was true, but what was even more shocking is the fact that there are at least twelve “Spite Houses” to be found in a simple search online.

There’s one in Carlsbad, New Mexico, built to block the Mayor’s view and annoy him. There are two in San Francisco; One at Deadman’s Point, Maine; one in Huntsville, Alabama; one in Boston, one that is supposed to be haunted and has been turned into a Bed & Breakfast in Fredrick, Maryland; and a triangle shaped “Spite House” in Montlake, Washington, a suburb of Seattle.

Isn’t that silly?

But here’s the question: are you living in a “spite house”? If so, confess it, move out and never go back again!

PRAYER: Jesus, protect us from the heart of bitterness and spite! Let us be bigger and better people than to erect houses of spite against those around us! Keep us from this ugliness! In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2017 by Galen C. Dalrymple.

DayBreaks for 10/12/17 – A Kingdom of Power???

DayBreaks for 10/12/17: A Kingdom of Power?

Mark 9:1 (ESV) – And he said to them, “Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God after it has come with power.”

So, after you read the saying of Jesus in today’s verse, what do you think about the kingdom? Jesus said that there would be those present who heard his words first-hand who would not die until after the kingdom came with power.

Look around you. Does it seem to you that the kingdom has come with power? Does it seem to you that people are acting out and living according to kingdom principles and truth?

When you look at the death and destruction from recent hurricanes, earthquakes, terrorist attacks, the Las Vegas massacre, the fires in northern California that are like hell itself has been released on earth…does it seem to you that the kingdom has come with power? It sure doesn’t seem so, does it?

But, if we come to that conclusion, we would have to say that Jesus was either mistaken and didn’t know what he was talking about, or he’s a liar. I’m not willing to take either of those positions.

So, how can we explain it? A couple of thoughts come to mind:

FIRST: given the inclination of the human heart to sin and depravity, how can the fact that we don’t all kill, steal, rape and otherwise do the most horrible things be explained? I think some of it is because of the influence of the Spirit at work in creation. All I really have to do is consider my own darkest impulses and the fact that I don’t give in to them somehow is a testimony to the power of the Spirit in my life (not that I’m bragging, I’m just saying that it is only because of the power of the Spirit unleashed in my own heart that I don’t do all those bad things) and I have to say there is some power at work. Imagine what you might do if not for the restraining power of faith and the Spirit at work in you.

SECOND: how many believers have there been since the founding of Christianity? The number must be in the billions, in fact, Google says that in 2010, Christianity was by far the world’s largest religion, with 2.2 billion adherents. How does that happen if not by immense power?!! Scripture is pretty clear that left to our own, we can’t even come to faith.

The kingdom has come with power: power to change individual hearts, power to lead 2.2+ billion to faith in our present age, power to restrain evil individually and culturally. Yes, there is still great evil in the world, but what would the world be like without the kingdom? I shudder to even contemplate the thought!

PRAYER: Jesus, thank you for the Spirit and the power that is working in the world and in my own heart. May the power of the kingdom grow and expand in me, in my loved ones, in your church and in this world for your immense glory! In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2017 by Galen C. Dalrymple.

DayBreaks for 10/11/17 – The Real Opposites

DayBreaks for 10/11/17: The Real Opposites

From the DayBreaks archive:

Salt and pepper.  Day and night.  Love and hate (or apathy).  Men and women.  Freedom and slavery.  Good and evil.  God and Satan.  Hope and despair.  It seems that everything has its opposite.  Perhaps that’s part of the balance that the Creator put into the world at creation.  It sure seems like it. 

The past few Sundays I’ve been talking about faith.  It’s a topic that I suppose could never be plumbed, and as a preacher, it’s hard to know when to stop talking about it and to move on to another topic. 

Throughout the centuries, debate has raged between various camps in the Christian world.  Some push faith; others seemingly push works.  You can read what Paul had to say about faith and how works has nothing to do with it (otherwise we could boast about our role), and then turn to James and read how he seemingly stressed works and how important they are.  I don’t really think that the two are at odds with one another, they were just emphasizing different aspects of a singular truth. 

I think that perhaps Dallas Willard (once again) made some astute observations that are worth considering: “Faith is not opposed to knowledge; it is opposed to sight.  And grace is not opposed to effort; it is opposed to earning.  Commitment is not sustained by confusion but by insight.  The person who is uninformed or confused will inevitably be unstable and vulnerable in action, thought and feeling.” – Hearing God

I can’t help but think that both camps are right.  We are saved by grace through faith (Eph. 2:8-10).  No matter how many good works we might do, not a single one of us will ever be able to stand before God and demand, justifiably, that we deserve to be saved.  We’ll be dependent on grace when all else is stripped away before the eyes of the One who will judge us.  But we are also created for good works in Christ.  It seems to me that much of the confusion has to do with whether or not we’re talking about justification or sanctification.  (These are relatively new thoughts to me, so I hope I’m not off base here!)  Justification has to do with our salvation.  Scripture says that we “have been” justified – once and for all.  So that means that our salvation can’t have anything to do with ongoing works.  But sanctification – the process of becoming more and more set apart and Christlike – requires all kinds of effort and works.  Did Christ just sit around thinking about faith during his time here?  No, of course not!  He was working the will of the Father – healing, preaching, teaching, giving grace and forgiveness. 

I think the effort comes into play with sanctification…it’s why Peter in 2 Pet. 1 says we need to make “every effort” to add things to our faith so we can have the completeness of life God longs to give us.  No matter how hard I work, I can’t work my way into justification.  And even in sanctification, without the help of the Spirit I can’t become Christlike. 

Grace is not opposed to effort – only to taking credit, thinking we’ve earned something by our efforts.

PRAYER:  Thank you for your love, mercy and grace, and the work of your Son on the cross and for the work of the Spirit in the lives of your children.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2017 by Galen C. Dalrymple.

DayBreaks for 10/10/17 – Confidence Builders

DayBreaks for 10/10/17: Confidence Builders

From the DayBreaks archive:

Patrick O’Boyle once recalled the late-1940s Hyde Park “Speakers’ Corner” appearances of Frank Sheed, a Catholic author and publisher, with these words:

“Sheed could be devastating with hecklers.  Once, after Sheed had described the extraordinary order and design to be seen in the universe, a persistent challenger retorted by pointing to all the world’s ills, and ended shouting, “I could make a better universe than your God!”

“I won’t ask you to make a universe,” Sheed replied. “But would you make a rabbit—just to establish confidence?”

I suppose much of the human problem stems from the crazy idea that we could do things better than God.  We think we would make a world where there was no evil, no pain, no suffering; a universe where there are no hurricanes or stars that go super-nova – in short, we just think we could do better than God in just about everything. 

Have you ever really stopped to think how stupid such a thought is?  We who are as finite as a speck of sand in the entire universe are so proud and pretentious as to think we actually know better than God.  Hogwash! 

But when it comes to my own life, I’m really prone to think such things.  “God, having me suffer deprivation isn’t good for me.”  “God, there no good reason for what just happened to me!”  “God, I’m a faithful child of Yours, and things like this just aren’t right!” 

Maybe, when we have learned enough from life that we can see the interaction and inner-connectedness of every human thought and every human action on every other human, we would begin to get the tiniest bit of understanding about why things happen.  And, if we could see the eternal salvation that has come to who-knows-how-many-souls through hardship (which is usually God knocking on the top of our skull trying to get our attention!), we might think differently. 

At a Bible study I was teaching this past week, we were discussion Joseph and the period of time that he was left rotting in the prison after the cup-bearer was restored to his duties in the palace of Pharaoh.  It doesn’t seem fair to Joseph.  How could the cup-bearer forget the man who had interpreted his dream?  But, he did.  I’m convinced we should see God’s hand in that rather than just mere human frailty and forgetfulness.  Did Joseph have to learn more patience?  Did he need to learn to trust God more?  (Remember that Joseph had no inkling whatsoever that he would soon be the #2 man in Egypt.)  As I pondered those thoughts, another thought came to me: perhaps Joseph was left in the prison for another year or two (or longer) for the sake of some other human being, nameless and faceless and lost to humanity for about 3000 years now, who was also languishing in the prison? 

God’s ways aren’t our ways – but God can make rabbits, elephants and entire universes in the blink of an eye.  That should be a confidence builder for us to trust Him to know what is best for our individual lives!

PRAYER:  Father, thank you for all the things you’ve done to give us confidence in you.  Help us not to be so wise or smart in our own eyes that we think we can even begin to know better than you what is good for us.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2017 by Galen C. Dalrymple.

DayBreaks for 10/09/17 – Chasing the Source

Colca Canyon, source of the Amazon

DayBreaks for 10/09/17: Chasing the Source

From the DayBreaks archive:

One of the great quests of explorers was to find the source – the source of the Nile river or the Amazon, Yangtze or even the Mississippi.  Something drove these explorers to find where these great and mighty rivers began their journey.  Ponce de Leon sought the source, too – the fountain of youth, the source of eternal youth and vigor.  Goodness knows that there have been days when I wish I could find the fountain of youth again! 

There has always been something amazing about knowing you stood at the very beginning of something immense and incredible – arriving at the very source.  Wouldn’t you love to be able to travel back through time to the beginning of time – to witness as God’s incredible creative energy was turned loose and things began to spring into existence from nothing?

On this past Saturday, I was at our men’s breakfast fellowship and we were discussing faith and trust.  We were sitting at one of our member’s homes, out on their deck, right underneath a huge redwood.  The sun filtered lazily down through the canopy overhead, and the first chill hint of fall was in the air.  It was a glorious morning (and not just because the smell of fresh cooked bacon and eggs hung in the air!)  As we sat there talking about faith, someone commented that it is always easier to go with the flow than to move upstream. 

Hebrews 2:1 (NIV) talks about something like that: We must pay more careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away.  The terminology used is that of a boat that has been docked but which comes loose from its moorings and which starts to drift downstream.  It’s only natural, of course, that boats drift downstream with the current.  It takes a huge amount of energy to move upstream – against the current. 

When the great explorers of yesteryear were looking for the source of the great rivers, did they drift downstream?  No – going downstream takes you away from the source, not towards it.  To reach the source a lot of energy must be expended.  You have to fight against the raging currents and falling elevation.  In short, you have to bend your will and purpose to one end: to reach the beginning, the source.

Is that any different than what we’re told when we are to seek God will all strength?  He is the ultimate Source of not just rivers and galaxies, but of our lives.  Perhaps our desire to get back to God is part of the reason we so long to find the beginning of things, for in so doing, we are seeking our own Source, our Maker.  But here’s the catch: you’ll never reach your Source (God, the Father) until you bend all your will and energy and purpose to it.  The more energy we put into finding Him, the more of Him we will discover.  He’s not like the source of a river – which comes from one place and once you’ve seen it you’ve seen it all.  No, God is infinite in creativity, personality, love, time…we can spend an eternity at the Source and never fully understand or grasp all of Him. 

Are you willing to spend the energy and devote yourself to the pursuit of the only Beginning that matters?

PRAYER:  Lord, we believe that we were formed at Your word and by Your pleasure.  We find it far easier to drift downstream than to paddle upstream to reach You in Your fullness.  Give us strong backs and wills to commit ourselves to seeking You all the days or our lives, and to not think that once we’ve caught the barest of glimpses of You, to turn back to an easy life.  Give us joy in our discovery of You that drives us forward to even great discoveries of Your glories!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2017 by Galen C. Dalrymple.