DayBreaks for 1/20/17 – A Flower in Life

DayBreaks for 1/20/17: A Flower in Life

Note: Galen is traveling this week so he’s recycling some old DayBreaks.

FROM THE DAYBREAKS ARCHIVE, January, 2007:

There is a very poignant tale in chapter 19 of John about Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea.  These were two very prominent men – both part of the Sanhedrin (the Jewish ruling council in Jerusalem), and both were men who had opportunity to hear Jesus teaching.  Nicodemus even came to Jesus by night once to discuss matters relating to the kingdom of God but was confused when he was told that he needed to be born again.  Joseph is unknown to us until Jesus’ death when he boldly goes to Pilate and asks for the body of Jesus so he can bury him in his own unused tomb.

These men were not the typical Jewish leaders.  We are told that Nicodemus was a man seeking the kingdom of God.  That’s high praise coming from the gospel writers.  It indicates a heart that is searching for Godly things, for His will and His rule in the world and the hearts of men.  I think that they were good men who were secret admirers, perhaps even to some extent, secret followers, of Jesus.  And that is where the tragically sad part of this story begins.

In John chapter 19.38-42 we find Joseph taking the body of Christ and Nicodemus bringing burial spices.  This is, of course, after Jesus has been crucified and died.  Have you ever thought about what Nicodemus and Joseph did while Jesus was on trial before the Sanhedrin?  Why is there nothing in scripture that shows them standing up in his defense or speaking out to give him the benefit of the doubt?  Did they excuse themselves from that meeting or were they there but just too afraid to say anything?  Perhaps, though we don’t know, like many so-called leaders today, they didn’t have the courage to speak what they believed at critical times. 

Now, however, they are finally paying tribute to the one who they had failed to stand up for in life.  As William Barclay put it: How much greater would loyalty in life have been than a new tomb and a shroud fit for a king!  One flower in life is worth all the wreaths in the world in death.

How often am I like Nicodemus and Joseph?  I know who He is.  It is obvious to anyone who will really take the time to examine His claims and teaching.  Christ is on trial before my peers and the world every day.  What am I saying in His defense?  Am I saying nothing like Nicodemus and Joseph did?  Do I excuse myself from the discussion? 

Jesus wants us to live with him forever.  He waits for the day when he can hold us in his arms and welcome us home.  Those things will happen.  But he also wants my loyalty in this life – before I get to heaven.  Let us give him our tribute now and it’ll only make heaven that much sweeter!

PRAYER:  Lord, we need Your courage to stand for Jesus, to put our feet squarely on the ground and boldly proclaim the truth about Him.  Help us not to be afraid of what others may say, think, or do to us.  May we honor You not just in eternity, but in this life as well.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2017 by Galen Dalrymple.

DayBreaks for 1/19/17 – Admiration or Imitation?

DayBreaks for 1/19/17: Admiration or Imitation?

Note: Galen is traveling this week so he’s recycling some old DayBreaks.

FROM THE DAYBREAKS ARCHIVE, January, 2007:

I am constantly amazed at the diversity of God’s creation.  Why, there are enough breeds of dogs alone, to keep my little mind fascinated endlessly, let alone all the other kinds of animals.  Diversity can be good.  Too much of the same old thing is considered dull and boring – and we tire quickly of the “same-old, same-old.” 

As much as we might enjoy diversity and appreciate that it delivers us from boredom, there are times when we don’t really want it.  We don’t want to go to the jeweler to buy a ring and be told that it is 23k gold, only to find out that it’s not really gold, or not really 23k.  If you pay for an original “one of a kind” work of art, you’d be disappointed to find out that it wasn’t really “one of a kind”, or that it wasn’t really unique. 

When it comes to being a Christian, we would hope to only find the genuine article.  However, Soren Kierkegaard described two different kinds of Christians: those who imitate Jesus Christ and a second type, a much cheaper brand – those who are content to admire him.

I think Kierkegaard has struck a chord to which we need to listen.  It really isn’t hard to admire Christ.  Many in the world, even those who aren’t Christians, admire Jesus.  The ethical quality and spiritual nature of his teaching has never been equaled in the history of the world.  And so he is admired.  Admiration doesn’t cost us anything.  But imitation costs us our lives.

I have a hunch that Judas admired Jesus.  Would he have followed Jesus for 3-1/2 years if he didn’t at least admire him?  I think not.  Admiration of Jesus doesn’t make us disciples, nor does it make anyone a Christian.  It is only acceptance by faith of Jesus, and a life of discipleship – of imitation of the life of Christ – that makes us Christians.  To that extent, I think Kierkegaard was wrong – there is truly only one kind of Christian – one who imitates Christ in their thoughts, words and actions.  The other is a false Christian – the kind to whom Jesus would say, “Depart from me, I never knew you.”

What kind of Christian are you?

PRAYER:  Lord, we want to be true disciples, yet we are afraid at times of where You may lead us and what our discipleship may cost us.  Help us to believe the truth – that no matter what the cost, it will be well worth it for the wonder of truly knowing Jesus.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2017 by Galen Dalrymple.

DayBreaks for 1/18/17 – You Christians

DayBreaks for 1/18/17: You Christians

Note: Galen is traveling this week so he’s recycling some old DayBreaks.

FROM THE DAYBREAKS ARCHIVE, January, 2007:

As Christians, we talk the language of faith rather easily.  It spills from our lips without much effort.  Sprinkle in a few “praise God’s”, add some fancy terms like redemption, forgiveness, repentance, being “born again”, and we’re quickly in the realm of Christian-ese.  The computer business has its own language, as does nearly every discipline in the world.  What is so sad about that is that the “inside language” only communicates to those who are already “inside”.  Our words, quite honestly, are easy and cheap.  Our Christian life, a true Christian life, is not easy at all, but hard. Maybe that’s why Jesus suggested it involves a cross.

A 23-year old woman from the University of Paris was doing graduate work when she wrote this rather stinging critique of Christians: “To me a Christian is either a man who lives in Christ or a phony.  You Christians do not appreciate that it is on this – the almost external testimony that you give of God – that we judge you.  You ought to radiate Christ.  Your faith ought to flow out to us like a river of life.   You ought to infect us with a love for him.  It is then that God who was impossible becomes possible for the atheist and for those of us whose faith is wavering.  We cannot help being struck, upset, and confused by a Christian who is truly Christ-like.  And we do not forgive him when he fails to be.”

Ouch, ouch, ouch!  That hurts.  Why does it hurt so?  Perhaps because as we read it, we recognize our own failure to radiate Christ.  How much of a river of life flows out from you, from me?  Or is what flows out from us more closely akin to what flows out of a sewer or gutter?  When is the last time I’ve infected anyone with a love for Christ?  When is the last time you have personally felt truly infected by love for Jesus? 

Why is it that we, the church (especially in America), struggle to see people won to Christ?  Could it be because we aren’t infected with love for Him?  That we love our comforts, easy chairs, padded pews, pleasures and platitudes more than we love Jesus?  It reminds me of one of the letters to the churches in Revelation – the church that was full of good works, but which had lost its first love.  If there were one letter of the seven in Revelation that I believe Jesus would send to the churches (and Christians) of America (including me!), it might be that one. 

In countries where life isn’t so great and there isn’t much to love about life at all, people love Jesus – and people are won to Christ by the thousands, finding in him the love and hope that assuages their hunger and loneliness.  The world longs to find the answer to the great questions of life, and they hope, they really do, that we can help them find the answer.  But when we fail to do so, “we do not forgive him when he fails…”. 

Christ, and those who follow him, should cause unbelievers to be struck, upset and confused.  Jesus had that impact on the people of his day.  And if he lives in us, we will have that impact of the people of our day.  The extent that we don’t have that effect may be the most telling sign that Jesus is not the center of our life – and may not even be within us at all.

PRAYER:  For our failures to be reflections of Your love and grace, for our weak love for Your son, Jesus, we ask your forgiveness.  Infect us afresh with a love for Him that will cause us to confound and confuse those who greet us because we have become like our Master.  Help our “external testimony”, the evidence of a life lived in and by the Spirit, be an honor to You.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2017 by Galen Dalrymple.

DayBreaks for 1/17/17 – The Body of Truth is Bleeding

DayBreaks for 1/17/17 – The Body of Truth is Bleeding

We like to think of the stories of Jesus when he welcomed the little children, where he forgave the woman taken in adultery, where he speaks of the lilies of the field and birds of the air while reminding us that we don’t need to worry, for he is on our side.  Those are not only good stories, but they are true and reveal to us a lot about the nature of God that was fully contained in Jesus.  But those are not the only stories of Jesus in the Scripture.  And some of the other stories are less comforting and far more disturbing.

The cleansing of the temple (John 2:13-22) is an excellent case in point.  We don’t see “Jesus, meek and mild” in that story.  We see an enraged Savior.  He’s not acted impulsively – he took the time to “fashion” a whip – before tearing through the tables and corridors of the temple, tossing around the tables and undoubtedly the “earnings” of those who were selling things in the temple of God for exorbitant prices. 

We don’t like to contemplate that image of Jesus, do we?  How many people have you ever known who said that the cleansing of the temple is their favorite Bible story?  I know of no one who loves that story for its own sake. 

Jesus was a passionate man, and is a passionate God.  He loves goodness – and is passionate about it.  He hates evil and anything associated with it.  Perhaps more than anything else, he loves truth and hates falsehood.  Jesus loved the truth so much that he said, “I am the truth.”  How important does Jesus think the truth is?  It is as important as Jesus himself, for he is truth!

In The Importance of Being Foolish, Brennan Manning wrote: “In our society, where money, power and pleasure are the name of the game, the body of truth is bleeding from a thousand wounds.”  Jesus is bleeding from a thousand wounds, for he has been misrepresented (perhaps unintentionally) by those who would claim to show others what Jesus is like.  They portray only the soft, tender, gentle Jesus, but not the Jesus who is incensed by injustice, by unholy lives, by dilution and twisting of the clear truth of Scripture. 

How do we go about trying to be discerning about truth?  Again, I think Manning had something worth considering: “The first step in the pursuit of truth is not the moral resolution to avoid the habit of petty lying – however unattractive a character disfigurement that may be.   It is not the decision to stop deceiving others.  It is the decision to stop deceiving ourselves.”  We need to have the same passion for truth that Jesus held in his heart.  If we don’t, we are not true disciples and are only deceiving ourselves.

PRAYER:  God, open our eyes to truth and to our own self-deceptions.  Help us to love truth and hate deceitfulness and dishonesty.  Give us the discernment to recognize truth when we read it, see it or hear it – and to recognize falsehood in all its forms as the tool of evil.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2017 by Galen C. Dalrymple.  All Rights Reserved.

DayBreaks for 1/16/17 – Fish and Chips with Jesus in Galilee

DayBreaks for 1/16/17: Fish and Chips with Jesus in Galilee

Note: Galen is traveling this week so he’s recycling some old DayBreaks.

FROM THE DAYBREAKS ARCHIVE, January, 2007:

John 21:7-9 (NIV) – Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, ‘It is the Lord!’  As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, ‘It is the Lord,’ he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water.  8 The other disciples followed in the boat, towing the net full of fish, for they were not far from shore, about a hundred yards.  9 When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread.

The New Testament is full of wonderful stories.  I don’t know that I could pick out one of the great stories to call it my favorite, but I love the story of Jesus greeting the disciples in the morning of the Sea of Galilee.  I love to fish, and I especially love to fish in lakes.  There is something about the early morning stillness, the calm and cool before the heat of the day, the makes my blood tingle even with just the anticipation of such a scene. 

But this was no ordinary morning, and this is no simple story.  Sure, it can be read as a tranquil meeting on an early Galilean morning, but if we don’t grasp the greater implications, it remains just a nice story.  This was one of the few meetings of Jesus with the disciples after his resurrection, and it was filled with tension, for as far as the disciples could ascertain, there was still the issue of Peter’s denial hovering like an unwelcome specter in the background.  But in their hearts’ core, each disciple knew that it wasn’t just Peter who had denied Jesus.  In their own way, they all had – by running and hiding, fleeing from the garden and from the trouble, and not defending the Master when needed.  And so, as Peter identified the stranger on the shore, the disciples were filled with excitement, hope, and undoubtedly, some trepidation.  Why had Jesus come?

In his work, The Importance of Being Foolish – Learning to Think Like Jesus, Brennan Manning observed: “In Jesus’ post-Resurrection encounter with the apostles on the beach along the Sea of Tiberias, when one might have expected, as Raymond Brown says, ‘the impact of unbearable glory’, Jesus serves fish and chips.  There is no mention, apparently even no memory, of their betrayal.  Never a reproach or even an indirect reference to their cowardice in the time of testing.  No sarcastic greeting like, ‘Well, my fair-weather friends…’  No vindictiveness, spite, or humiliating reproach.  Only words of warmth and tenderness.  The same in the Upper Room as Jesus says, ‘Peace be to you.’”

Is the difference between us and Jesus any more pronounced than in how Jesus handled this situation?  We want, no – demand, apologies.  We slink around with hurt feelings, nursing them, wanting them to be understood, empathized with, for the pain we feel to be felt by those who hurt us.  Nothing could be more ungodly or un-Christlike.  If we’d been treated (by our friends, let alone our enemies) as Jesus had been, it is highly unlikely that we’d have taken the time to rise early, get fish, start a fire, and cook a meal for those who had hurt us.  We may not even have been willing to sit at table with those who hurt us.  But Jesus saw it as an opportunity to be with friends, to share some fish and chips, but mostly, to share in the love he felt towards these weak and flawed human friends.

Perhaps there is no trait that is more reflective of God than His forgiveness.  We don’t have to extort forgiveness from Him.  He gives it to us without us even asking for it (remember the Prodigal Son story?)  Make it a goal to this week reflect the forgiveness Jesus modeled on the seashore.  Make it your goal to be a forgiving woman or man, one in whom the image of Christ is clearly visible, one who shares the glory of a sunlit lakeside with those who may have hurt you.

Psalm 130:3 – NIV – If you, O LORD, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand?

PRAYER:  Father, forgive us for wearing our feelings on our sleeves, for taking such umbrage at anything that anyone does to us that we don’t like, or that hurts us.  May we learn the secret of the Spirit of love enables you to not keep a record of sins.  Make us like Jesus! In His name, Amen.

Copyright 2017 by Galen Dalrymple.

 

DayBreaks for 1/13/17 – The Man Who Drove the Nails

DayBreaks for 1/13/17: The Man Who Drove the Nails

FROM THE DAYBREAKS ARCHIVE, January, 2007:

The Bible doesn’t tell us the name of the man (almost certainly a Roman soldier) who drove the nails into the wrists and feet of Jesus.  The Bible tells us the name of the man who betrayed him, but not of the man who actually crucified him.  It isn’t likely that it was the centurion who stated, “Surely this man was the Son of God!” because centurions typically stood around and directed activities and left the work to the private or corporal.  I wonder, though, what the man must have thought as the afternoon wore on and the skies darkened, the earth shook and Jesus died.  I wonder if I’d have been able to sleep that night.  If my wife asked me, “What did you do today, honey?”, what would I have told her?

As I was browsing a book today in the Christian bookstore (it looked real good but I didn’t buy it yet – you know, cash flow!), I was captivated by a thought in one of the books I read.  The name of the book was When God Weeps (I think that was it), written by Joni Earickson Tada and Steve Estes.  At one point in the book, they were reflecting on the crucifixion of Christ and God’s willingness to endure suffering like one of us rather than to distance Himself from what we have to experience. 

Christ had all power – for in him dwelt the fullness of God.  He could have called legions of angels at any time to do his bidding, for how could one of his angels not have obeyed his command?  But what I’d never quite pictured or thought about was this: Colossians 1.16b-17 tells us that everything that exists was created by Christ.  That includes the mountains, lakes, skies, earth, you, me, our dog, and yes, even the person who pounded the nails into his hands was created by the Crucified One.  But Colossians 1.17 also tells us that “…and in him all things hold together.”  I think that means exactly what it says.  At a subatomic level, what is it that makes all the particles of an atom hold together?  Christ’s power.  What is it that makes atoms bond together to form molecules, compounds and chemicals?  Christ’s power.  What is it that holds people together?  Christ.  What holds the universe in control so the moon doesn’t go spinning off into space, or the earth go spinning into the sun?  Science would say gravity – I would say Christ. 

But here’s the thought that I read that struck me: not only did God have to be willing to suffer as a man for man’s sake, but the same God who was suffering as the nails pierced his flesh was holding together the atoms of the man’s body that was doing the crucifying.  With just one thought, Christ could have willed the man’s atoms to dissociate from one another and the man wielding the hammer would have disintegrated and been no more.  According to Colossians 1.17, Christ was the one who held the man together, who willed the man to stay together, to finish the task that he had begun with the first swing of the mallet.

Commitment to purpose.  Commitment to mankind.  Commitment to obedience.  Commitment to love, no matter what the cost.  “Be imitators therefore of Christ…”

PRAYER: Father, thank you for the commitment of Christ to see the job through, to not just start the ball rolling for our salvation, but to drink the cup to the dregs.  Teach us to be more committed to you and self-controlled.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2016 by Galen Dalrymple.

DayBreaks for 1/12/17 – The Power of Team

DayBreaks for 1/12/17: The Power of Team

Ecclesiastes 4:12 (AMP) –And though a man might prevail against him who is alone, two will withstand him. A threefold cord is not quickly broken.

On September 12, 2011, Brandon Wright, a 21-year-old Utah State University student, was driving his motorcycle en route to the school’s computer lab when a BMW pulling out of a parking lot collided with him. Both vehicles burst into flames. The BMW driver quickly escaped from the car, but Wright was trapped under the 4,000-pound sedan.

The horrific accident drew an immediate crowd of students and construction workers. One passerby walked around the burning vehicles to survey the situation and saw a motionless body, apparently dead, beneath the BMW. Another individual, testing his strength, attempted to lift the car, but without success. A handful of others joined the effort but could not budge the car. A young woman lay on the ground to peer under the car and saw evidence that the trapped victim was still alive.

The flames were intense at the front of the car, where the motorcycle also lay on the ground burning. Nevertheless, at this point a dozen members of the growing crowd joined shoulder to shoulder at the side of the car, lifted in unison, and tilted it high enough to allow another rescuer to pull Wright to safety. At that point the city’s emergency responders appeared on the scene. They doused the flames and transported Wright to Intermountain Medical Center, where he was treated for two broken legs and a fractured pelvis.

What one person could not accomplish alone, a team of people did. “Every one of those people put their lives in danger,” assistant Logan police chief Jeff Curtis said. “Those people are heroes. You can only speculate what the outcome would have been if they hadn’t lifted that car.”

I have often wondered how Jesus feels about how people from different denominations think about and treat those from other churches or traditions. I cannot imagine how sad it must make him when we spend more time judging on another because of silly trivialities instead of working together to save those who are pinned under the weight of sin, despair, loneliness and shame.

Are you part of a small group or team of some kind? Talk about this with them. Pray about it, and let His Spirit lead you to something you can do together that will bring someone to the Great Physician.

PRAYER: Help us not to worry about getting glory for ourselves, but for rescuing those who are trapped in the clutches of the evil one. Teach us to work together for Your glory and the greater good of Your kingdom. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2016 by Galen Dalrymple.