DayBreaks for 2/27/15 – Two Kinds of Dogs

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DayBreaks for 2/27/15: Two Kinds of Dogs in Worship    

If you are a Christian, chances are good that about 48 hours from now, you’ll be headed to worship somewhere.  At least, for God’s sake (and His glory!), I hope so.  Worship is challenging.  True worship is very challenging.  We forget what it is about and why we do it.  But I thought that this illustration was a good one and might be helpful:

There are two kinds of dogs in this world. There are the dogs who eat everything and anything (like our yellow Lab!) – toss them a scrap of anything, meat, cauliflower, mushrooms, shoe leather – and they will literally snap it out of the air and scarf it down without hesitation – in the twinkling of an eye!

Then there are the dogs that approach every tidbit offered to them with suspicion. They stop, they sniff, they consider, and then they finally — they either accept the goodie offered to them or simply turn and walk away.  The spoiled doggie message being sent here is that the gift you offer is accepted with the attitude that “I am doing you a favor by eating this.”

The “scarf hounds” joyously gulp down whatever comes their way from our hands because they trust that we are always offering them something good, something that they want and they need.

The “spoiled dogs” also show up for treat time, but they convey an attitude that suggests that we need them to be there and, indeed, are fortunate that they did us the favor of showing up to entertain us. These pampered pooches take their invitation as a given, and their finicky feeding manners emphasize that they are “gracing us” with their presence and their acceptance of what we offer to them.

When you go to worship on Sunday, will you be going as a “scarf hound” or as a “spoiled dog”? Will you be there because your soul trusts in God’s providence and presence, and hungers for the divine gift of being able to draw near to God? Or are you here because you are doing God a “favor” by showing up? Do you somehow imagine that God needs your presence and the witness of your worship in order to validate God’s divinity?

PRAYER: May we all be hungry for our encounters with You!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

© 2015, Galen C. Dalrymple.

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DayBreaks for 2/26/15 – Powdered Christians

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DayBreaks for 2/26/15: Powdered Christians    

From the Lenten devotion of Fr. Robert Barron about the second temptation of Jesus:

“You might remember comedian Yakov Smirnoff. When he first came to the United States from Russia he was not prepared for the incredible variety of instant products available in American grocery stores. He says, “On my first shopping trip, I saw powdered milk — you just add water, and you get milk. Then I saw powdered orange juice — you just add water, and you get orange juice. And then I saw baby powder, and I thought to myself, “What a country!”

“Smirnoff is joking but we make these assumptions about Christian Transformation — that people change instantly at salvation. Some traditions call it repentance and renewal. Some call it Sanctification of the believer. Whatever you call it most traditions expect some quick fix to sin. According to this belief, when someone gives his or her life to Christ, there is an immediate, substantive, in-depth, miraculous change in habits, attitudes, and character. We go to church as if we are going to the grocery store: Powdered Christian. Just add water and disciples are born not made.

“Unfortunately, there is no such powder and disciples of Jesus Christ are not instantly born. They are slowly raised through many trials, suffering, and temptations. A study has found that only 11 percent of churchgoing teenagers have a well-developed faith, rising to only 32 percent for churchgoing adults. Why? Because true-life change only begins at salvation, takes more than just time, is about training, trying, suffering, and even dying (adapted from James Emery White, Rethinking the Church, Baker, 1997, p. 55-57).

“Peter took Jesus aside and rebuked him. Why? Peter believes the kingdom of God can be obtained instantly by force. Peter has a worldly view of the Kingdom and Jesus is speaking about a heavenly kingdom. For a moment I would like you to listen to this story with new ears and see Jesus through the eyes of Peter and the rest of the disciples. Get rid of all your notions about who Jesus is. Take away from your mind Jesus as the Son of God. Strip from your memory that he died on the Cross and that he did that for your sins. Forget that Jesus ever said love your enemies or love your neighbor.

“Now I want you to think of Jesus only as a military leader. Imagine that your country has been invaded and is being ruled by godless men. Sense, now, that the tension is mounting and you are about to go into battle. That you are about to conduct a coup d’etat. That you and this band of ruffians are going to attempt to overthrow this government by a sudden violent strike. That the odds are stacked against you but you have a very strong belief that God is on your side despite the overwhelming odds.

“Now you are thinking like Peter…”

The Kingdom cannot be forced or perhaps not even instantly grasped.  It takes time, struggle, successes and failures.  But don’t let them disillusion you.  It’s part of the sanctification process – and while it may be painful, it produces the results within us that He desires. 

PRAYER: Help us be patient as the Kingdom is formed within us!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

© 2015, Galen C. Dalrymple.

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DayBreaks for 2/25/15 – A Subtler Game

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DayBreaks for 2/25/15: A Subtler Game    

From the Lenten devotion of Fr. Robert Barron about the second temptation of Jesus:

“Having failed at his first attempt to tempt Jesus in a direct and relatively crude way, the devil plays a subtler game: “The devil took him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a single instant.”

“This is the more rarefied, more refined temptation of power. Power is one of the greatest motivating factors in all of human history. Alexander the Great, Caesar, Augustus, Marcus Aurelius, Charlemagne, the Medicis, Charles V, Henry VIII, Louis XIV, Napoleon, Nixon, and Kissinger – all the way down to your boss at work. These are all people who have been seduced, at one time or another, by the siren song of power.

“We notice something very disquieting in the account of this temptation: the devil admits that all the kingdoms of the world have been given to him. He owns and controls them. That is quite a sweeping indictment of the institutions of political power. But it resonates with our sense that attaining high positions of power and not becoming corrupt is difficult to do.

“It might be useful here to recall the two great names for the devil in the Bible: ho Satanas, which means the adversary, and ho diabolos, which means the liar or the deceiver. Worldly power is based upon accusation, division, adversarial relationships, and lies. It’s the way that earthly rulers have always done their business.

“A tremendous temptation for Jesus was to use his Messianic authority to gain worldly power, to become a king. But if he had given in to this, he would not be consistently a conduit of the divine grace. He would be as remembered today as, perhaps, one of the governors of Syria or satraps of Babylon (and do you remember the first-century satrap of Babylon?)

“No, Jesus wanted to be the one through whom the divine love surged into creation, and so he said to Satan, It is written: ‘You shall worship the Lord, your God, and him alone shall you serve.

Who are you worshiping?  Who are you serving?

PRAYER: Jesus, it is perhaps because of our lowly estate that we so hunger for power.  Thank you for demonstrating how to deal with this temptation and give us the discernment to recognize when we are being tempted in this way!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

© 2015, Galen C. Dalrymple.

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DayBreaks for 2/24/15 – The Big Lie

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DayBreaks for 2/24/15: The Big Lie

I grew up in a church (they refused to consider themselves a denomination) that didn’t celebrate Easter, didn’t make any ties between Christmas and the Christian faith nor did they observe anything like Lent.  I think that not observing those key times as Christian observances was a loss in my life. Perhaps that’s why I’m more interested in Lent now as I get older.  When I come across a good Lenten thought, I think I’ll share it with you.  I think today’s is one such reflection, from a Catholic priest, Fr. Robert Barron:

“Our God is a living God, and God wants us to share his life. This is why “God planted a garden in Eden…and he placed there the man he had formed.” In Eden he gave us near total freedom as a sign of his good will and his desire that we fulfill ourselves in every direction. Politics, art, science, literature, philosophy, music, sports, entertainment – all that conduces to human flourishing is desired by God.

“But then enters the serpent. Like us, the serpent is a creature of God. He is totally dependent on God for his life. He is not some sort of co-equal rival to God. The Church has always taught that evil is parasitic on the good, not a substantive opponent.

“Nevertheless, he is a wily opponent. He forces Eve to wonder about the prohibition: “Did God really tell you not to eat from any of the trees in the garden?” When she clarifies, he says, “You certainly will not die! God knows well that the moment you eat of it you will be like gods knowing good and evil.”

“This is the great temptation and the great lie. The serpent places in the minds of Adam and Eve the conviction that unless and until they determine the meaning and purpose of their lives, they will not be free. To put it in modern terms, their lives will not be lived to the fullest.

“But the knowledge of good and evil is the godlike prerogative to set the agenda for one’s life, to determine the difference between right and wrong. And this belongs to God alone. Just as he breathed life and being into us, so he breathes moral and spiritual purpose into us.

“When we convince ourselves that we live on our own terms, we cease to be truly free and alive.

“When Adam and Eve grasped at this knowledge, they were expelled from the garden, not because God is vindictive, but because it is the natural consequence of making oneself into God.

“When we grasp at divinity, whatever life we have dries up. We become small souls, locked in the prison of our egotism, victims of the Great Lie.”

PRAYER: Lord, let us be content in our creatureliness and not grasp for what is not, and can never be, rightfully ours!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

© 2015, Galen C. Dalrymple.

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DayBreaks for 2/23/15 – 10,000 Years

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DayBreaks for 2/23/15: 10,000 Years    

 

In worship on Sunday, we sang a version of the beloved hymn, Amazing Grace/I’ve Been Set Free and it was wonderful.  We’ve sung it before, and I’ve sung the traditional Amazing Grace since I was knee-high to a grasshopper, but for some reason, a part of it that has always been my favorite struck me with even greater force today than before.  It’s the verse that says, “When we’ve been there 10,000 years, bright shining as the sun…”

I don’t know why, but for some reason, I pictured my dad while we sang that today.  My dad has been “there” over 17 years now.  And as we sang today, I pictured my dad bright and shining.  It was a wonderful moment for me.

I’m sure that my dad, just as Moses’ face shone after being in God’s Presence for just a short while on Sinai, now glows with the reflected glory of the Lord.  And then, I began to wonder what we will look like after we’ve been there 10,000 years.  At what point will that glory max out?  I don’t think, though I’m not sure, that it will.  Consider this verse: 2 Corinthians 3:18 (NIV) – And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

I grant you that I’m not much to look at now.  And, quite frankly, neither are you.  But can you imagine what we will look like after having been in God’s Presence after 10,000 years, or 100,000 million years – if the glory is ever-increasing? 

As CS Lewis put it: There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations – these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit – immortal horrors or everlasting splendors. This does not mean that we are to be perpetually solemn. We must play. But our merriment must be of that kind (and it is, in fact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously – no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption.

That brother or sister that you struggle to put up with here – imagine them after 10 billion years of glory is visible on their face.  Maybe we’d treat each other better if we did.

PRAYER: Lord, thank You for being generous with Your glory.  I pray that even a bit of it might light upon each of us now and that we will see one another as we will be, not as we are.  And, Lord, give my dad my regards!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

© 2015, Galen C. Dalrymple.

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DayBreaks for 2/20/15 – A Failure For the Ages

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DayBreaks for 2/20/15: A Failure For the Ages   

From the DayBreaks archive, February 2005:

John 6:66-71 (NLT) – “At this point many of his disciples turned away and deserted him. 67 Then Jesus turned to the Twelve and asked, “Are you going to leave, too?” Simon Peter replied, “Lord, to whom would we go? You alone have the words that give eternal life. 69 We believe them, and we know you are the Holy One of God.”  Then Jesus said, “I chose the twelve of you, but one is a devil.” 71 He was speaking of Judas, son of Simon Iscariot, one of the Twelve, who would betray him.”   

Sometimes it is easy to know why things go haywire.  But at other times, it is a great mystery.  Why do people who seem to have everything going for them (like the leaders of Enron, sports or entertainment big-wigs, or even people like the Bakker’s or Jimmy Swaggart) sometimes seem to go terribly wrong?  Children from families where they are loved and cared for are still subject to going off the deep end in rebellion, drug or alcohol abuse or a life of crime. 

But perhaps the greatest “failure” of all time can be found in the life of Judas.  This man spent something like 3 years with Jesus.  He saw miracle after miracle, heard sermon after sermon from the greatest teacher that ever lived.  He saw the blind receive sight, saw the lame walk, saw the lepers healed – and saw the dead rise (several times).  So how could he have wound up being the betrayer of the Lamb of God?

It is hard to understand.  Was it merely greed that led him to this despicable action?  Was it disillusionment when it became clear that Jesus’ kingdom wasn’t one that was destined to overthrow Rome, but rather to overthrow the dark rule of evil in the hearts of women and men?  I don’t know.  There is another possibility, too, that should not be overlooked.  Perhaps Judas never was a true follower.  Perhaps he was one of those people, like many today, who work under the “grace by association” principle.  He may have thought that he was in good standing with God because he was one of the 12 – the handpicked few.  It had to be a pretty heady thing to be chosen personally by Jesus. 

Many people today suffer from this “grace by association” principle, believing that because they go to church, they have a relationship with God.  What they don’t understand is that it is the other way around: we have a relationship with God, therefore we go to church to worship Him and glorify Him as a family of believers.  Judas may have had it backwards.  Just being in Jesus’ presence isn’t enough.  We need to have Jesus alive and breathing the breath of life into our being, in short, we need Jesus presence within us.

Copyright by 2005 Galen C. Dalrymple.  ><}}}”>

PRAYER: Let our discipleship be genuine and real, Lord! Breathe life into us!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

© 2015, Galen C. Dalrymple.

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DayBreaks for 2/19/15 – The Clock Turned Back

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DayBreaks for 2/19/15: The Clock Turned Back   

Twice a year, most of us here in North America (at least the US) go through a ritual where we change the time on our clocks.  “Spring forward, fall back” is how I keep it straight when to lose an hour or when to gain an hour.  Of course, we don’t really lose anything because the sun keeps on going as usual.  It’s a human invention.  We talk about turning the clock back an hour, but that doesn’t give us the ability to really re-live the past hour or undo things we did during that time.  We all wish we could be the master of time on occasion, I’m sure.  There are even movies about the ability to time-travel or go backwards and change things, especially things related to relationships.  I suspect that is a fairly universal human wish from time to time.

I recently read this and I thought it deserved your attention.  This is not about me and my dog, but the point is every bit as valid:

“My dog, Copper – an Irish Setter – will probably be dead by the time this is published; he is over fourteen years old, nearly blind, partially deaf, has arthritis, and a chronic infection that flares up every now and then. Only his nose seems to work well; it still takes over when I turn him loose in our backyard.

“But frequently I remember the first time I turned him out into the backyard of another home; he had never been off a leash during the first six months of his life. He gingerly stepped off our back step into the first snow of a Minnesota winter. He took a few tentative steps in the snow and then, suddenly, he discovered that he was not on a leash this time. He began to run wildly, in circles, and he dashed around the large, fenced-in backyard, leaping into the air, twisting and turning in a glorious dance of freedom and joy. He was meant to have this kind of life – free from ropes and leashes, free from people who would not let him run as he was meant to. (He wasn’t even bothered by the four-foot-high fence that he would later attempt to leap over.)

The next morning, when I put him out again, I discovered that his paw prints, and body prints where he had rolled over in the snow, seemed to be everywhere. Hardly a spot in the backyard failed to show the marks of his previous night’s jubilant romp in the snow. How I would love to see him do that again! But I know it is not to be, he can’t turn his physical time-clock back fourteen years.

“You and I are different, because Christ turned the clock back to the very beginning, to the Garden that God created, and has renewed our broken relationship with his Father and ours so that we really have new life in and through him, our Lord.”

And that, my friends, is perhaps the greatest miracle of all time…

PRAYER: Thank You, Lord, for reclaiming for us what we gave away in the Garden!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

© 2015, Galen C. Dalrymple.

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