DayBreaks for 12/31/15 – Here Everything is Extraordinary

 

DayBreaks for 12/31/15: Here Everything is Extraordinary

Extraordinary.  It’s rather a strange expression.  It almost seems to me that rather than describing something that is superior to the ordinary, it would be saying that something is rather even more ordinary than usual.  But that’s not how we use the word.  We use it to describe something super-ordinary, above and beyond that which is normal.  I’ve had days (sadly, far too few!) when my golf game was extraordinary (at least for me!)  I’ve seen places of extraordinary beauty – like Glacier National Park or the back country of Yosemite, Yellowstone or the Grand Canyon.  I’ve heard extraordinary music – like a Bach organ recital in the University Chapel at Stanford University.  Some people are possessed of extraordinary talent in medicine, science, sports or music.  We are drawn to extraordinary things as a general rule, because they impress us and inspire us.

Listen to these words: “I know men, and I tell you that Jesus Christ is not a mere man. Everything in Christ astonishes me. His spirit overawes me, and his will confounds me. Between him and whoever else in the world there is no possible term of comparison. He is truly a being by himself. One can absolutely find nowhere but in him alone the imitation or the example of his life. I search in vain in history to find a [being] similar to Jesus Christ, or anything which can approach the gospel. Neither history, nor humanity, nor the ages, nor nature offer me anything with which I am able to compare it or to explain it. Here everything is extraordinary.”

Those words were spoken by Napoleon Bonaparte during a conversation with one of his generals while he was in exile on St. Helena. There are on record other remarkable things that Napoleon said about Christ. It is almost certain that he became a Christian during his days of exile.

I’m sure that we believe that in heaven everything will be extraordinary.  In fact, there will be nothing about heaven that is “ordinary”, I don’t believe.  But when we get so fixated on heaven as the goal and only see this worldly life as “ordinary”, I think we’ve missed out on something truly wonderful.  Wherever Jesus is, it is holy ground.  Wherever He goes, it is truly changed from an ordinary place to an extraordinary one.  The top of the mount of transfiguration was just a mountaintop until Jesus went there and then it became a place shining with the glory of God.

I don’t know where my paths, or yours, will take us in the coming year.  But I do know this: I want to see more of the extraordinariness that accompanies Jesus, and since he always is with us, that means that wherever we go, we should see and wonder and marvel in how he changes things and transforms the ordinary into the sublime.

TODAY’S PRAYER: God, we pray for your power to help open our eyes to the incredible wonder that surrounds us and the even greater Wonder that is always with us.  Forgive us for thinking that what You have made can ever be anything except extraordinary.  Let us bear witness to your wonder and greatness!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

DayBreaks for 12/30/15 – Great Expectations

DayBreaks for 12/30/15: Great Expectations

In just two days the new year will come screaming in like a newborn baby. We don’t have much choice about it – there’s nothing we can do to stop its arrival. You may face the coming year with a bit of anxiety or even fear. No one can tell you what the new year will hold for you and your loved ones. We shall have to wait and see.

But that doesn’t mean we don’t all have hopes for the new year, and dare I say it, even expectations? Most all of us expect that our health will probably be about the same as it was in 2015. Most will be correct about that expectation. Some will not. Most of us expect to have another Christmas season to spend with our loved ones, but some will not have that blessing. Most expect that they’ll continue to be employed, but some will certainly receive pink slips in the coming year. Some who are sick now may be better by the end of 2016. Some who are now single will find love and life-time companions for the journey. Some are expecting little bundles of joy and will receive them.

Expectations are common to all of us. But what happens when our expectations are not fulfilled? How will you deal with the frustrated expectations you will experience this coming year? They may be related to your marriage, your children, your work, your school, friendships or other matters. One thing for sure is that you will have some unmet expectations.

Let me suggest this: don’t let them shatter your faith! Dreams may be broken, but that doesn’t mean you faith needs to be busted and destroyed. It is important to remember this about expectations and faith: faith increases when Jesus, rather than an expected outcome or result, is the object of our faith.

Here’s one expectation that we would all do well to hold tightly to this coming year: Jesus will never either leave us or forsake us. We may feel at times during this coming year that he is not there – but that’s more a problem with our expectation of how we sense his presence than the reality of his presence and concern.

Don’t let broken expectations break your faith. Hold tightly to it – and to Jesus!

TODAY’S PRAYER: Father God, as we prepare for what the coming year may hold, we ask you to keep our expectations in check and our response to unmet expectations serve to strengthen our faith rather than weaken or destroy it. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

DayBreaks for 12/29/15 – Visited By Jesus

DayBreaks for 12/29/15: Visited By Jesus

Luke 1:76-79 (ESV)And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give knowledge of salvation to his people in the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.

Yes, I know Christmas is over, but I learned something about this passage and wanted to share it with you.

In verse 78, the prophet said “the sunrise shall visit us from on high”…obviously talking about Christ. But what’s interesting is the word, “visit”. The original Hebrew word doesn’t just describe someone dropping by, but someone who is coming for someone else. In particular, it was used of a superior who is coming to visit a subordinate. But there’s still more: the superior is coming with a purpose – they are coming in order to do something that will change the subordinate and their situation forever.

Think about that in the context of the prophecy of the coming Christ child. The true Superior was coming, but not in a way that he would have been recognized at all if not for the wise men, the star, the angels on the hillside and messages from the angels to Mary and Joseph.

You see, if anything was ever going to change for us, we had to be visited. God had to visit us for our condition to improve, for us to be changed in a forever sort of way.

We have been visited. We can be changed as a result. This is truly good news!

TODAY’S PRAYER: Thank You, Father, for visiting  us…and for doing so much more than just stopping by on this planet for a chat! Thank you, Lord, In Jesus’ name, Amen.

DayBreaks for 12/28/15 – In HIS Name, Not Mine

DayBreaks for 12/28/15: In His Name, Not Mine

“In Jesus’ name, Amen.”

That’s how Christians have ended their prayers for nearly two thousand years now.

Shakespeare once asked the question: “What’s in a name?”

Christmas is over, but my guess is that during Christmas you heard and/or read the name of Jesus many, many times. I think that’s a good thing. The name of Jesus isn’t a magical talisman, but it is important. Why? Because there is power in His name!

Jesus said: You can ask for anything in my name, and I will do it, so that the Son can bring glory to the Father. Yes, ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it! John 14:13-14 (NLT)

Let me suggest two illustrations that talk about what it means to as for something in the name of Jesus:

  • A pastor once shared about how he’d had one of those weeks when he lacked spiritual discipline. He’d prayed very little, didn’t read his Bible, didn’t talk to anyone about Jesus. At the end of the week he prayed, “I know I don’t have any right to come before you.” He then was stricken with the powerful sense that God was replying, “Well son, let’ suppose you prayed and read your Bible hours a day, served and led many to me. Would you feel like praying then?” The pastor thought to himself: I sure would! Then God said, “Son, you’re praying in your own name. If you had done all those things and more, you would have no more right to come to me than you do right now. You come in the name of my Son, you don’t come in your own name.”

Do you feel that if this past week you’d been more devout or disciplined, you’d have a “right” to pray, give, serve, etc.? If that’s how you feel, that’s self-righteousness. And, on the other hand, if you haven’t prayed because you’ve not been as devout or disciplined as you wish you had been, that’s self-righteousness, too.  The reason in both cases is you’re depending on your own merit to approach God, rather than the merit of righteousness of Christ.

  • Aaron Shust was recently describing how things work at his concerts. If his children are there, his little son likes to come back stage to see his daddy. He explained it this way: if his son comes with his own name tag on, he will be prohibited from coming back stage. But if he comes with his daddy’s name tag that says “ALL ACCESS” on it, he is let right through. Why? The difference is explained by understanding in whose name he comes.

The same is true with praying in Jesus’ name. We have no right to access the throne room of God if we come in our own righteousness or in our own name, but when we come to the Father with the ALL ACCESS pass that bears Jesus’ name, we are more than welcome!

It bothers me when I hear Christians pray but they never in the entire prayer say that they are coming or asking in Jesus’ name. There is power in a name – just ask Shakespeare.

TODAY’S PRAYER: Jesus, thank you for giving us the access pass to the Father. Guard our hearts against self-righteousness that thinks we can either come on the basis of our own goodness, or that we are too unworthy to come, but think we could have been if we’d been more devoted. Thank you, Lord, In Jesus’ name, Amen.

DayBreaks for 12/25/15 – God’s Rosetta Stone

DayBreaks for 12/25/15: God’s Rosetta Stone

For thousands of years people struggled to learn and read the ancient Egyptian hieroglyphic writing, but all had failed.  What had perhaps been the greatest ancient civilization ever had been rendered mute by mankind’s failure to decipher her literature.  And then, finally, a dark stone was uncovered in the sands of Egypt that had the same text in Greek, ordinary Egyptian script, and the previously unreadable hieroglyphics.   By comparing the translations side by side (since the ancient Greek was well understood), linguists mastered hieroglyphics and could now begin to read and understand about a world that up until that time was shrouded in fog and secrecy. 

Richard Niebuhr insightfully likened the revealing of God through Christ to the Rosetta stone. The simple truth is that no matter how much God revealed about himself to the ancient prophets, we just couldn’t understand him. Our vision of God was blurred by fog and the great barrier between the spiritual world and the physical world.  Physical eyes simply cannot comprehend spirit very well.  And so we were faced with a great dilemma: we sensed and understood that there was something great to be understood, to be revealed and explored, but we were helpless to tear down the veil. 

And then, God in wisdom we can’t begin to fathom, took on a form that physical eyes could see and comprehend.  And for the first time, it was possible to see and understand that which had been hidden since time began.  And then the words were spoken that made it all clear: “If you have seen me, you have seen the Father.” 

Niebuhr goes on to say that in Jesus, we are allowed to reconstruct our faith.  If we can trust Jesus, we can trust God.  If we can love Jesus, we can love God.  If we can question Jesus, we can question God.  If we can believe in Jesus, we can believe in God.  And, if we doubt God, or find him incomprehensible, unknowable or invisible – the very best cure for us is to gaze steadily at Jesus, who not only is the Son of God, but who is the Rosetta stone of faith – making the incomprehensible understandable to mere humans.

Merry CHRISTmas, everyone!   

TODAY’S PRAYER: Father, at Christmas may we clearly see not only Your love for us by Your Gift to us, but help us to see You in the baby in the manger, to understand that Your will and His will, Your love and His love, are one and the same.  And may we welcome You as we welcome the Christ child.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

DayBreaks for 12/24/15 – Lessons from Bethlehem

DayBreaks for 12/24/15: Lessons from Bethlehem

From Bishop Robert Barron, Word On Fire blog, 12/23/15:

“The prophet Micah says that Bethlehem-Ephratha is “too small to be among the clans of Judah” but “from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel” (Micah 5:2). Micah is himself one of the minor prophets and so it is only appropriate that he speaks of a small city, little Bethlehem, from which the great Messiah would come. 

“How common this is in the Bible: the reversal of expectations, the little giving rise to the great, wonderful things coming where you least expect them. The stuttering Moses speaks up to mighty Pharaoh, the slaves face down the Egyptian army, tiny David kills the giant Goliath.

“And this last connection is the important one here. Bethlehem is the city of David, the city of the shepherd King. When Samuel came to that town to find the new king, he went through all of Jesse’s splendid sons and then was told there was one more, little David out in the fields. And it was this overlooked one whom God anointed.

“This just seems to be God’s way, and that’s why the Messiah would be born in that tiny town, in an out of the way cave under the earth, because there was no room for him in the inn. Yet, through God’s amazing grace, great things can happen, including the birth of the Messiah.

“Looking at the small, insignificant town of Bethlehem teaches us three great messages: greatness comes from smallness, never give up hope, and trust always. With those three convictions in our hearts, we’re ready for Christmas.”

Galen’s Thoughts: it certainly does seem that God delights in little things and in exalting them. That’s one of the things that is the most amazing about the story of the Incarnation – that God in glory looked down through the incredible vastness of the universe to a planet that is no more than a dust speck in the great cosmos He’d created, and He saw tiny, puny, weak humans – and He loved us enough to go to incredible lengths to save such small things. But I guess that’s the way it is with great love – it doesn’t have to fasten itself onto something big and grandiose, but is drawn to the object of its love for the simple reason that he just can’t help himself but love us! In some ways, love is very irrational. And that just makes the mystery of it even greater!

TODAY’S PRAYER: God, you are a great mystery to us and your love for us is even more difficult to comprehend. Thank you that you didn’t find us too small to attract not just your attention, but to capture your heart! In His name, Amen.

Copyright 2015 by Galen C. Dalrymple.

DayBreaks for 12/23/15 – L’Enchante

DayBreaks for 12/23/15: L’Enchante

“There is a beautiful story recounted every Christmas in the forests of Provence in southern France.  It’s about the shepherds who came to Bethlehem to see the child.  One brought eggs, another brought bread and cheese, the third brought wine.  And the fourth brought nothing at all.  People called him L’Enchante.  The first three shepherds chatted with Mary and Joseph, commenting on how well Mary looked, how cozy was the cave and how handsomely Joseph had appointed it, what a beautiful starlit night it was.  They congratulated the proud parents, presented them with their gifts and assured them that if they needed anything else, they had only to ask.  Finally someone asked, ‘Where is L’Enchante?’  They searched high and low, up and down, inside and out.  Finally, someone peeked through the blanket hung against the draft, into the crèche.  There, kneeling at the crib, was L’Enchante – the enchanted one.  Like a flag or a flame taking the direction of the wind, he had taken the direction of love.  Through the entire night, he stayed in adoration, whispering, ‘Jesu, Jesu, Jesu – Jesus, Jesus, Jesus.’” – Brennan Manning, The Lion and the Lamb

I wonder what I would have done had I been one of the shepherds?  Would I have scrounged up some gift out of my pack to take with me to Bethlehem?  If so, what would I have taken?  After all, what gift could a poor shepherd have that the child Jesus would need, or could use?  Certainly, they could not take anything like the gifts which the magi bore on their caravan.

But perhaps, if there is anything to the ancient story (and even if there is not), L’Enchante had something to take but thought better of it.  Perhaps L’Enchante realized that no matter what he had, there was nothing marvelous enough on this earth to lay at the feet of the baby Jesus.  And in that moment, he had grasped a great truth.  I think, perhaps, that he realized that what this baby deserved was not gifts which were so inadequate, but our wonder and our worship.  And so, L’Enchante took the only thing with him to the manger that the baby would ever want: his heart.  Hour after hour, pouring out worship, gazing in amazed and overwhelmed wonder at the Miracle that lay on the hay, too enchanted to talk about trivialities.

May we all be overwhelmed with the enchantment that Jesus brings with him.  May we all give him our wonder and love and worship.  May we avoid the trivialities that are so frivolous and meaningless and focus on the one thing that is needful – to worship the One who is our Savior.

TODAY’S PRAYER: Heavenly Father, we live in an age where it is hard for us to be amazed at anything that is good.  It seems that the evil that is present in the world is still able to amaze us when we hear about our cruelty to one another, but seldom do we fall to our knees in amazement.  Help the Christmas Truth to enchant us and capture our hearts anew this week.  May we truly worship Jesu!  In His name, Amen.

Copyright 2015 by Galen C. Dalrymple.