DayBreaks for 2/23/17 – Why the Gospel Makes No Sense

DayBreaks for 2/23/17: Why the Gospel Makes No Sense

1 Cor. 1:23 – (KJV) – But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness…

2 Cor. 2:15-16 (NLT) – Our lives are a fragrance presented by Christ to God. But this fragrance is perceived differently by those being saved and by those perishing. 16 To those who are perishing we are a fearful smell of death and doom. But to those who are being saved we are a life-giving perfume. And who is adequate for such a task as this?

If you listen to the hucksters on TV, the show that’s on Monday evenings called “Heroes” is a “smash hit.”  Interesting.  I’ll admit that I’ve seen it, and I do find it interesting – more for the characters than anything else (the story seems to drag on endlessly and I wonder if it will ever get to the climax of the story at all!)  The premise of the show is that there are various people in the world who have some sort of super power to do different kinds of things – and they are all needed to save the world.  The key seems to be a young blonde cheerleader who has the gift of being able to not be killed.  She has even “killed” herself several times to prove to someone else that she has the gift – she’s thrown herself off towers, intentionally crashed her car, etc., and while she should be dead, she instantly “cures” and is fine.  A bit far fetched?  You bet it is.

And that’s just why the gospel is so hard for some folks to believe.  It makes no sense.  The passages above in Paul’s letters to the Corinthians describe the extremely difficult task of the gospel: to Jews, the crucifixion of Jesus was a stumblingblock because only the most perverse criminal would be hanged on a tree and the Messiah would never die anyway.  To the Greeks, who were very logical thinkers that needed to understand the reason and logic behind something, to say that one other person’s death could remove all the sin of the entire world was ludicrous, foolish, if you will.

In the second passage, Paul says that our lives are a fragrance presented by Christ to God.  It’s not a fragrance we present – Christ presents it, reminding us of the incense that would be burned in the temple that rose to God to please Him, symbolizing prayer.  Our lives are to be a prayer to God, that Christ presents.  But, just as not everyone likes the smell of Chanel No. 5, not all like the scent we give off.  To those who are dying without Christ, we, well, how can I put this bluntly?  We smell like dead, decaying flesh – repulsive, the kind of smell that would make anyone turn away and throw up.  But those who are being drawn to God smell it as the sweetest, most precious perfume.  And then the stunning question: Who is up to such a task? 

Why doesn’t the gospel make sense?  I think Andy Crouch hit it on the head when he summarized it in one sentence: “There is no culture where the gospels horizons make sense – because it starts with the resurrection of a dead man.”  Why does Christianity smell like death?  That’s why…it starts with a dead man – much like the little cheerleader who dies and comes back, and who would believe it?  But somehow, some do…through the work and calling of the Spirit that transforms the smell of death into sweet perfume. 

It’s not our job to make the gospel smell like perfume.  It will smell like what it is to different people.  The catch is that we never know who will smell it as perfume and who will perceive it as a foul stench.  What if no one had told you about Christ crucified?

PRAYER:  Our minds seek to understand and reason things out, Lord, and sometimes in so doing, we wind up destroying ourselves and others.  Thank you that you have allowed us to smell the fragrance of life in Christ.  Help us to carry that scent to others, trusting in you to make it beautiful.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2017 by Galen Dalrymple.

DayBreaks for 2/22/17 – Searching for the Light

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DayBreaks for 2/22/17: Searching for the Light

NOTE from Galen: Sorry about the inconsistent delivery of DayBreaks lately. We’ve been battling internet issues (still are)!

John 18:2-3 (NIV) – Now Judas, who betrayed him, knew the place, because Jesus had often met there with his disciples. 3 So Judas came to the grove, guiding a detachment of soldiers and some officials from the chief priests and Pharisees. They were carrying torches, lanterns and weapons.

Oh, my goodness!  How many times, O Lord, have I read this passage and not seen it?  Sometimes the most amazing truths of scripture are in the most innocent and innocuous phrases and words.  The passage, of course, describes the horrible moment when Judas leads the soldiers and officials out from Jerusalem, across the Kidron valley, to the garden of Gethsemane to earn his 30 pieces of silver for betraying Jesus.  It is not Judas alone – but an attachment of soldiers (quite a few according to the other gospel accounts.)  But that’s what I’ve always known…but notice the last sentence: “They were carrying torches, lanterns and weapons.” 

Do you see the great irony?  Loaded with torches and lanterns, they go seeking for the One who is the Light of the World.  How many lessons are here?  I don’t know, but here’s a few thoughts:

FIRST: it is easier to see light in the darkness.  It would have been easier to find Jesus if they had put their own lights out long ago and heard the seen the message that was Jesus.  “The light shines in the darkness” John had written.  He wasn’t in hiding.  The darker the night the brighter the light shines.  On this night, the light was at its brightest, even as darkness raged in the flickering shadows.

SECOND: they carried weapons.  We know they had at least one sword among them – and almost certainly, many more than one.  But the deadliest weapons they carried that night weren’t swords and spears, but hatred, prejudice, learnedness, jealousy and envy.  Those are the weapons that take lives away from the living and leave them as walking corpses! 

THIRD: Jesus was not in hiding.  They didn’t need to search for him.  They didn’t need the lanterns and torches to find him, not really.  Lanterns and torches are merely aids to help feeble human eyes to get past the darkness, to be able to apprehend what is at the edge of our vision.  What is it that we bring when we search for Him?  Are we bringing armfuls of human creations, human reasonings as we come looking for the Light of the World?  Would we not be better to come, as the old song put it: “Nothing in my hands I bring, simply to thy cross I cling”?  What we need most to bring to Jesus is not the light of human mind or thought, nor even human will, but to simply bring our darkness and the night of our blighted souls to Him to be seen and healed by the Light Himself.

PRAYER:  God, we are so evil and wicked.  And sometimes we come to Jesus armed with all sorts of human creations, even those we have made to make ourselves look or seem more presentable to You.  Help us to understand that what you wish us to bring to the Light of the world is our darkness, to leave it with Jesus and to remain in the Light all the days of our lives.  Forgive us for our foolish pretension and prideful arrogance.  May we come to you humbly in our brokenness.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2017 by Galen Dalrymple.

DayBreaks for 2/10/17: A Fresh Grave, A Fresh Garden

DayBreaks for 2/20/17: A Fresh Grave, A Fresh Garden

From the blog of Doug Dalrymple, 2/07/07:

Why should you be surprised that the human race’s wickedness can hinder the fertility of the earth? For our sake the earth was subject to corruption, and for our sake it will be free of it. It exists solely for us, to serve us. Its being like this or like that has its root in this destiny… What happens to the world happens to it for the sake of the dignity of the human race. – John Chrysostom

If the current occupant of the throne in the Phanar has earned for himself the title of “Green Patriarch,” perhaps he’s simply following in the steps of his sainted predecessor. Perhaps. But Chrysostom’s is a different sort of environmentalism, isn’t it?
God is the true life of man. St John suggests that man is, in turn, the life of the created order. It depends upon us. It follows us into exile like a devoted slave, rejoicing in our honor, glorying in our beauty, weeping in our sorrow, dying in our death.
The created order is a mirror of man. Eden has fallen because Adam has fallen. When we look upon the world we behold our own conflicted reflection: an image of God, full of dignity and glory, obscured through sin, fallen into decay and dissolution, a field of conflict, a fresh grave, but sprouting with flowers.
“What happens to the world happens to it for the sake of the dignity of the human race.” This sounds absurd to us. But I wonder: if Adam wept when he left the Garden, perhaps his tears were due in part to a transformation -difficult for us to conceive but utterly apparent to him- which he had wrought upon creation through his disobedience, the abdication of his calling to “tend and keep.”
“…[F]or our sake it will be free…” Scripture teaches us that all things in heaven and on earth will be brought together and transformed in the God-Man, Jesus Christ. The whole creation, we read, groans under the burden of our fallenness, in anticipation of the revelation of the Sons of God, which is mankind resurrected, made fully alive, a royal priesthood, a new creation in Christ.
Eden was a seed entrusted to a child; heaven is the full-grown garden promised to the man.

PRAYER: Lord, in our fall we have marred your world, and mar it still.  Forgive us.  We long for the full-grown garden.  Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2017 by Galen Dalrymple.

DayBreaks for 2/16/17 – Rats in the Cellar and Slaps on the Cheek

DayBreaks for 2/16/17: Rats in the Cellar and Slaps on the Cheek

Matthew 5:39 (ESV) – But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.

This text from Matthew leads one to ponder the words of C.S. Lewis, Surely what a man does when he is taken off his guard is the best evidence for what sort of man he is. If there are rats in a cellar, you are most likely to see them if you go in very suddenly. But the suddenness does not create the rats; it only prevents them from hiding. In the same way, the suddenness of the provocation does not make me ill-tempered; it only shows me what an ill-tempered man I am.

Think about the reaction that Christ calls us to have if someone strikes us on the cheek. What kind of a person would that make us? To turn the other cheek and refuse to react with similar anger or malice shows the world we are Christian. After all, if someone walked up to you in the next 5 minutes without warning or provocation and slapped you hard across the cheek, what would your reaction be?

So if what we do when we are taken off guard is the best evidence of what sort of person we are, let us pray our reactions show that we are good Christians!

PRAYER: Lord, it is not natural for us to turn the other cheek when we’ve been smitten physically, verbally or emotionally. It is at moments like that when we most need your Spirit to dominate our response. Spirit, take up residence in us so that we might be like Jesus! In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

Copyright 2017 by Galen Dalrymple.

DayBreaks for 2/15/17 – How Far Would He Go?

DayBreaks for 2/15/17: How Far Will He Go?

From the DayBreaks archive, 2007:

John 13:2-5 (NIV) – The evening meal was being served, and the devil had already prompted Judas Iscariot, son of Simon, to betray Jesus. Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.

It was the night of Passover – the holiest night of all for the Jews.  In a small room, Jesus met with his disciples, knowing that later that night he would be betrayed by Judas and his horrific ordeal would begin.  If I were in those circumstances, I’d be doing anything but sitting down to share a meal with friends.  I’d be trying to run, to hide, to find some way out – but not Jesus.  There was work to be done, and he was committed to seeing it through, but first, there were important things to pass along to his disciples.

And so it is that Jesus washes the feet of his disciples.  No one else rose to do the job that belonged to the lowest slave/servant.  So Jesus, as always, does what no one else wanted to do.

Peter, bless his heart, is humiliated when he realizes what Jesus is doing.  He realizes that this is grossly out of place, improper and that someone else (perhaps himself?) should be the one doing the washing.  Why?  Because Peter knew that Jesus was the Holy One.  Peter’s problem is that he felt that Jesus didn’t know how to act – that Jesus was doing something inappropriate and needed to be stopped.  To wash someone’s feet, you have to kneel before them, and kneeling is a symbol of the act of worship.  Throughout all the long ages of the Jewish people, it was the worshipper who kneels before the Worshipped One, but here, now, in the upper room…Peter knows it has been reversed – and in his opinion, it was wrong. 

Peter’s problem, you see, is that he thought Jesus was “acting.”  He wasn’t.  He was totally and completely sincere.  Luke 12:37 describes perhaps the most shocking scene in Scripture when it describes the feast of the Lamb in heaven: It will be good for those servants whose master finds them watching when he comes. I tell you the truth, he will dress himself to serve, will have them recline at the table and will come and wait on them.

How would you have felt if you had been one of the disciples and had Jesus wash your feet?  I cannot imagine that I would have reacted any differently than Peter did – I would have wanted to stop Jesus from washing my feet.  But if I understand the passage in Luke, the day will come when Jesus will have us sit at the table and HE WILL SERVE US.  I want to cry with Peter: “Never, Lord!” 

How far Jesus was willing to go to redeem us?!?! He was willing to go as far as necessary!

PRAYER: I am humbled, Lord, that You should serve any of us – yet that is exactly what you did while here.  It is incomprehensible to think that You should wash our feet, yet you have done so – washing us not with water, but with the blood of Christ.  May we learn to serve one another in the sincere imitation of Jesus.  Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2017 by Galen Dalrymple.

DayBreaks for 2/14/17 – And It Is Awesome

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Hidden Lake, Glacier National Park, Montana. By Galen C. Dalrymple.

DayBreaks for 2/14/17: And It Is Awesome

From the DayBreaks archive, 2007:

Where is your favorite place in the world?  What is the most beautiful place you’ve ever seen?  I’ve not traveled that much outside of the United States, but my favorite place is Glacier National Park at the very northwest corner of Montana at the Canadian border.  If you have never been there, you’ve really missed out.  There is a road that winds through the center of the park, starting at the park entrance on the south, and traversing up through the park, over the pass, and down through the southeastern border of the park.  The road is fairly flat for the first few miles, winding along the side of Lake McDonald.  As you drive along, you are struck by the vistas of mountains behind the far end of the lake, and eventually pass along a mountain stream that is gorgeous.  But after a while, you start heading upward through lots of turns and curves, and with every passing moment, a different vista appears to take your breath away.  Just when you think it can’t get any more awe-inspiring…it does.  Finally, at the top of the pass is a visitors center where you can park and even hike up over a ridge to the left of center to Hidden Lake.  And that’s even more beautiful than what you’ve seen so far.  There is a 16-mile stretch of the road that has been called the most beautiful roadway in the world.  Whether that’s true or not, I couldn’t say, but it is the most spectacular and impressive scenery my eyes have beheld.   

We have beautiful sunsets behind the hills to our west.  I love to see the colors of the clouds as the sun dips into the unseen Pacific Ocean – about 20 miles due west of our home.  I love the colors of the vineyards below us in the fall as the leaves turn flaming reds, yellows and oranges.  And perhaps there’s nothing as beautiful to me as the faces of my grandchildren, hand crafted by God.

I know, I know.  As beautiful as the mountains, the ocean, the leaves, the sky are…they are all marred and flawed because they are a part of a fallen world, defaced by our rebellion against our Creator.  What would these things look like if they were still perfect, in an unfallen state?  I can’t imagine.

Yet, when you consider it, God is the only unfallen, perfect, non-flawed thing in the entire Universe.  We get teeny, tiny glimpses of His glory in all the things we see in this world that captivate and capture us with their beauty and awesomeness.  Of course, the place where we see the true glory of God is in the cross and resurrection of Christ.  Jesus himself said that the time of his glory had come on the night before his crucifixion.  As Christians, all of us should be able to echo the words of Bernard of Clairvaux: “I have seen a fraction of God’s glory, and it is awesome.”

PRAYER:  Almighty God, how our hearts long to see You more clearly!  Lift the scales from our eyes that prevent us from seeing Your glory all around us – not just in the mountains, trees and skies, but in the people You have created in Your image.  And may we be better reflections of Your glory to this physical realm.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2017 by Galen Dalrymple.

DayBreaks for 2/13/17 – Neither Do I Condemn You

DayBreaks for 2/13/17: Neither Do I Condemn You

Most readers of DayBreaks are familiar with the story from John 7:53 – 8:11 about the encounter of Jesus with the woman who was caught in the act of adultery. But, in case you’re not, the scribes and Pharisees brought the woman to Jesus. They wanted Jesus to stone her. Jesus’ reply no doubt took them back a bit: Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her. Because of Jesus’ comment, the religious leaders backed off and went away. When you read the story, it is clear that the religious zealots rejected this women and were quick to condemn her. So, what would Jesus do? How will he handle this ticklish situation? Since Jesus knew that her accusers had no right to condemn her (because of their own sins), Jesus turned his attention to the woman after her accusers had left and said five words that must have put her at great ease: Neither do I condemn you.

As a former pastor, I can’t start to tell you how many people I’ve talked with over the years who felt condemned by God. They believed He had turned his back on them because of something they’d done or not done, and the words, “neither do I condemn you” are as foreign to them as someone speaking Martian. Why? Because their view of Christianity is that if you “perform” right, God is for you, and if you don’t, you’re on his “bad” list and you’d better now walk outside for fear of being hit with a lightning bolt.

Think about the story for a minute. Did the woman deserve forgiveness? No. Did she deserve justice? Yes. Did she come groveling to Jesus begging mercy? No! But she found it anyway because that’s what Jesus longs to give to us all. 

Of course, the question will always be raised: “Does this mean we can we can do whatever we want? No, because Jesus followed up his statement to her with “Go and sin no more.” But that doesn’t in any way diminish he extravagant statement of grace and mercy.

Perhaps you are in need of hearing both of those statements from Jesus: “Neither do I condemn you – go, and sin no more.”

Then, when you do sin, as you inevitably will, hold on this promise: 1 John 1:9-10 (ESV): If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Perhaps today you need to hear the voice of Jesus saying, Neither do I condemn you. Why? Romans 8:1 (NLT) So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.

Do you belong to Jesus? If you do, there is no condemnation and he does not condemn you. Rest in that knowledge!

PRAYER: Jesus, thank you for this story in Scripture and the hope that it offers to each one of us who need to know that you do not condemn us! In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2017 by Galen Dalrymple.