DayBreaks for 8/31/16 – Seeing the Real Jesus

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The “gates of hell” at Caesarea Philippi (photo by Galen Dalrymple, January 2016)

DayBreaks for 8/31/16 – Seeing the Real Jesus

It is interesting how art depicts Jesus so differently from one culture to another. Anglo-Saxon descendants tend to portray him as a white man while African-Americans portray his with their skin color. Asians presume to think of his as Asian. The Lakota Sioux described Jesus as “the buffalo calf of God.”

There are those who love Jesus – and there are those who deeply hate him. No other person throughout history has evoked such a wide range of emotions. You’d think that for someone who lived 2000 years ago that this would no longer be the case – but it is. Why? Because there is something different about Jesus. He wasn’t just a Caesar or rabbi or prophet – he claimed much more for himself than that.

In Matthew 16, Jesus takes his disciples to Caesarea Philippi toward the northern end of Israel. It was a center of pagan worship – most notably of the god, Pan. In the time of Jesus, a great, deep cave shielded by a massive roof of rock was there that dropped seemingly straight down into the center of the earth and it was referred to as “the gates of hell”. Pan worshippers would make human sacrifices there by tossing people into the abyss. If the water from a nearby stream started to flow red with the blood of the sacrifice(s), the worshippers assumed the gods were pleased. If not, more would be thrown in until the water did turn red.

Jesus chose this setting to ask his disciples who they thought we was. Simon Peter makes his famous confession there at that place and said: You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. Jesus blesses Peter for that confession, and perhaps looking at the rock over the gates of hell, says that Peter got it right and that upon that rock, Jesus would build his church.

Soon thereafter, though, Jesus reveals that he must go to Jerusalem to die. Peter is disturbed and pulls Jesus aside, telling him that he cannot do that. Instead of blessing Peter for trying to save him, he calls Peter “Satan”. I’m sure Peter didn’t see that coming! 

Why did Jesus say this? Because the Jews had been subjugated for most of their history: Egyptians, Syrians, Assyrians, Babylonians, Philistines, Greeks, Romans…all had dominated and ground the Jews into the dust. And the Jews were waiting all that time for the deliverer, the Messiah, to come and grind the enemy into dust. That’s what Peter wanted – that’s what they all wanted. But Jesus calls Peter “Satan” because of Peter had a predetermined end in mind for Jesus, Peter and the rest of the Jews, and Peter wasn’t about to let Jesus do something else.

Here’s the point: many may make the right declaration about Jesus, but still only see him as a means to an end instead of the end (Alpha/Omega) himself. Peter would have to learn to trust Jesus. We must learn to trust him, even when things seem horribly off track. That’s not easy when the pain sears our hearts and souls like a red-hot poker being shoved through the middle of us. But we must be careful not to construct our own little vision for Jesus and what he will do and won’t do and when and why he does anything. We must learn, as Peter would have to learn, to simply trust that Jesus knew what he was doing. After all, Jesus was going to die for Peter’s sake – something that would be far better for Peter than grinding the Romans into fine dust.

Can I learn to trust Jesus? Isn’t that what this Christian life is about? Accepting His Lordship, His RULE, and the fact that He knows what He is doing and He will get it done in the way that is most beneficial for us!

Remember: Jesus isn’t the means to our end – he is the end for which we are destined!

PRAYER: Jesus, thank you for the great challenge you put before us with the question you asked Peter – and which you ask us! I pray, Lord, that you will keep us from our own vision of who you are and what you must/should do and learn to trust in your work and vision for us! In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2016, Galen C. Dalrymple. All rights reserved.

 

DayBreaks for 8/30/16 – Choose Your Song Carefully

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DayBreaks for 8/30/16 – Choose Your Song Carefully

We live in a time where music is readily available everywhere. Couples talk about “our song” that represents their love and life together. Athletes in baseball have “walk-up songs” that plays when they come to bat or go out to pitch. People work out at the gym with earbuds while they listen to workout music. And these songs are chosen because of their appeal to the listener.

In the great classical piece of literature, Homer’s Odyssey, one can find the story of Odysseus, a great hero who was sailing toward his destiny and finds himself confronting a dangerous dilemma. As he is on his way, he must sail through a very narrow passage. It isn’t the passage itself, that is the problem, it is the sirens that are the inhabitants of the place. They were said to be beautiful, mythical creatures – part woman and part bird – that lured sailors with their enchanting music and lovely voices long enough that their ships would strike the rocky cost of the land. Later writers said that they would then eat the shipwrecked sailors who gave in to the siren song that lured them to their death.

Odysseus was warned of this peril, and not wanting to shipwreck himself or his crew, settled on a seemingly shrewd stratagem: he instructed his men to fill their ears with beeswax so that they could not hear the song. He, himself, would not do so – he wanted to hear this strange, beautiful song and so he asked his men to bind him steadfast to the mast of the ship so that he could not steer the ship into danger, but he could hear the sirens because he longed to hear the siren song.

The other character who encounters the sirens in ancient literature is Jason. He, too, must sail past the location of the sirens. But rather than filling his men’s ears with beeswax and being tied to the mast, he is advised to bring Orpheus, the greatest musician, with him aboard ship so that as they pass the island of the sirens, Orpheus could play his music that would be so wonderful and louder than the song of the sirens that Jason and his crew could safely pass – and they do. Orpheus’ music was so overwhelming that they didn’t even hear the siren song that would lure them into death.

What’s the point of these stories? To me, they represent some choices that we must make in life as believers. We say that we belong to Jesus, yet sometimes we want to hear the siren song and are so captivated by it that it can destroy us. We want to hear it – to get as close as we can to the danger without actually giving in. In the case of Jason, he didn’t want to hear the siren song – he believed that something more beautiful and haunting could and would overpower the siren song and drown it out.

We can listen to many different songs: the songs of power, position, passion, money, immorality, infidelity or one of many others – and they can drive us mad. We think we can survive unscathed by “tying” ourselves while letting the songs of these competing things enter our ears and hearts and minds.

Or, we can replace these other songs with the song of Jesus that is far superior to anything the world would use to lure us away from the safety of the Father’s presence.

Which will we choose? What “songs” have you been listening to?

PRAYER: God, I don’t know why it is that we so often try to get as close as possible to giving in to the siren songs of the world when we have You and Your song of love for us. Help us listen constantly to the music that is You and the son of love and grace You sing to us! In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2016, Galen C. Dalrymple. All rights reserved.

 

DayBreaks for 8/29/31 – Jesus’ Fiancee

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DayBreaks for 8/29/16 – Jesus’ Fiancee

Let us rejoice and exult and give Him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His Bride has made herself ready; it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure – for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints. – Rev. 19:7-9

In Revelation, we (the church) is pictured as the Bride of Christ getting ready for the wedding day. That means that you and I are his fiancees! But what does that mean, practically speaking?

It means, above all else, that our relationship with Him is supposed to be our “first love”, not so much in terms of time, but in terms of importance. It is to take priority over ALL other loves. Earlier in Revelation, the church at Ephesus  was told by Jesus that they had abandoned their first (primary) love – namely, Him. We might be surprised – they had done great works, kept to the truth, persevered, were pure and had made a great impact on their city – but they had become complacent and let other loves take priority. They were just going through the motions as far as Jesus was concerned – going all the right things but without love for Jesus as the motivating force behind those things.

So, Jesus as the good physician gives them this recipe for getting right with him again: 1. Repent – realize the truth about themselves and turn from their present attractions; 2) Remember the passion and zeal of when they first fell in love with Jesus; 3) Repeat what they did in the beginning (being their whole hearted love for their fiancée – and keep at burning furiously.

Think about how a bride approaches her wedding day. As it gets closer and closer, her heart is filled with adoration for her soon-to-be husband, and she tells him over and over how much she loves him. She loves talking with him, being with him as much as possible, never tiring of their closeness. She eagerly does things for him not out of obligation, but as demonstrations of her love. When she talks with others, she can’t stop talking about him, she takes pride in introducing others to him. And when he’s not present, she longs for him to return.

We can do all those same things for Jesus as His fiancée. We tell him of our love through our worship. We talk to him through prayer and listening for the sound of his voice.  We can serve him out of love – not out of obligation. We can brag about him and tell others all about him.

As the Spirit searches your heart and mine today, how is our first (primary, most important) love? Is it burning hotter today than last year? Does it grow decade by decade, or has it dwindled? We need to be reminded that we may be doing all the right things, but unless we have stayed true to our first love and not wandered off to other loves by giving them priority over Jesus, we might receive the same kind of letter that the Ephesians did. And I am sure that wasn’t a comfortable letter for them to read. I wonder how they responded. Even more, I wonder how we will respond!

PRAYER: Jesus, we confess that we may have taken comfort in what we do instead of how we love you! We may have lost our first love’s passion. We ask you to help us remember the fire of the early love and to repeat our acts of love and devotion to you as in the beginning. Grow our love for you each day, each month, each year and decade into a pure, hot flame! In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2016, Galen C. Dalrymple. All rights reserved.

 

DayBreaks for 8/26/16 – The God Who Weeps

DayBreaks for 8/26/16 – The God Who Weeps

Jesus wept. – John 11:35

This is probably the first verse that most of us ever memorized. Why? Because it was short and easy. But short and easy can make it more likely that we’ll miss the incredible power of God’s word to tell us something important in just 9 letters combined into two words.

I have often wondered why Jesus wept. I’ve heard many different interpretations, but the most common are that 1) he was moved by the grief of his friends; 2) he was grieving himself over the loss of Lazarus; 3) he was agonizing over the effects of the fall on humanity – and death was included as part of that fall. I don’t know for sure why he wept, but I rather doubt it was the second one – after all, Jesus knew perfectly well what he was going to do in Bethany that day. But whatever we do, we shouldn’t let our not knowing why Jesus wept distract us from the fact that he did weep.

The shortest verse in the Bible is probably also one of the most poignant and important verses of all time. Some ancients believed that the gods lacked emotions. Their reasoning was that if the gods had emotions then they could be swayed by people and events and that they would no longer be gods. So, they held that the gods must be stoic and untouched emotionally from human affairs. Jesus destroys that notion. Jesus shows us a God who weeps. This is important for at least two reasons: 1) it gives me hope that my prayers can move God, just as God was moved by the requests of Moses and David and many others throughout history; 2) it comforts me to know that Jesus understands heartbreak caused by living in the human condition. It makes me able to go to him and know he “gets it”. And it gives me hope that when I weep, he weeps with me, even as he wept with his friends in that cemetery in Bethany.

You may need someone to weep with you, to share your sorrow and grief. Jesus is that Person you need. He is “the man of sorrows”, “acquainted with grief.” Scripture doesn’t tell us those things just to be telling us facts about Jesus, but to know he sympathizes with us to the point of sitting beside us and crying himself.

PRAYER: Holy Spirit, thank you for inspiring John to record that Jesus wept. May all who weep today find comfort in His Presence beside them! In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2016, Galen C. Dalrymple. All rights reserved.

 

DayBreaks for 8/25/16 – Lazarus’ Unexpected Experience

DayBreaks for 8/25/16 – Lazarus’ Unexpected Experience

In spite of all the “near death experiences” and stories about what happens after you die, we really just don’t know. There are those who say that at least some of these experiences are real…and then there are those who say they are nothing more than the dying embers of the brain firing on whatever cylinders are left. As Christians, we believe in life after death. I know, I certainly do. But do I know precisely what happens when one dies? I’m not talking about the physical process of dying – I think I understand that fairly well. I’m referring to the question of will we be conscious or not?

There are clues scatted around the bible that might cause us to believe we’ll be conscious (like the story of Lazarus and the rich man, etc.), but there are others that tend to imply that we won’t be conscious. I don’t know. I rather suspect we will be conscious, but that’s all beside the point.

In the story of Lazarus’ resurrection in John 11, I would be willing to bet that when Lazarus drew his last breath that he didn’t expect his next experience to be hearing Jesus’ voice call him back to life. But because we have that story in Scripture, I can also know that if I am unconscious after I die that the next voice I may hear will be the voice of Jesus calling me out of my grave, too, or his face greeting me on “the other side”.

Sort of puts a bit more excitement and anticipation into the concept of dying as I see it!  

PRAYER: Jesus, while we don’t know what it will be like to die, it is tremendously comforting to know that your face or your voice will be our next conscious experience! In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2016, Galen C. Dalrymple. All rights reserved.

 

DayBreaks for 8/24/16 – The Power of Outward Appearance

DayBreaks for 8/24/16 – The Power of Outward Appearance

We live in a world that is obsessed with outward appearance. You can see it without even trying at the gym where I work out. People sweating and straining to make their bodies look better (I like to think that I’m just there so I’ll be healthier, but I know in my heart that I, too, am vain about my appearance!) Advertisements for botox injections for just $8 per unit (whatever that means!!!) I noticed a new ad the other day for something that will take away a double-chin…for a fee.

As I was having some time in the Word this past week, I was struck by a passage from John 10:22-24 (ESV) – At that time the Feast of Dedication took place at Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the colonnade of Solomon. So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.”

I love how John puts it so matter-of-factly…Jesus was walking in the temple, in the colonnade of Solomon. He could have said “Peter was walking in the temple” and it would have been just as nonchalant.

Get it: John is say that God walked along the colonnade of Solomon in winter in the temple. It wasn’t just a man who was walking through the temple that day – God was walking there! He had a physical presence that could be seen but his glory was masked by the tent of human skin and bone. Yet make no mistake about it – it was God who walked in their midst…the very God who had parted the sea, kept a boat afloat in the greatest storm the world has ever seen, who slew giants, who dispatched an angel to slay thousands of Assyrians. This was the very God who had healed the sick, given sight to the blind, raised the dead, and yet the question remained in their hearts, Are you the Christ?

The power of outward appearance is immense…for good or bad. The physical presence hid the glory of God as Jesus walked through that colonnade that day. And that raises a terribly vexing question in my mind: How often does my outward appearance hide His glory from others? I’m not really talking about my physical appearance, but my actions and words that people see expressed through my physical appearance. My doubts and fears hid his presence in me. My insecurities mask my true identity in Christ as a child of God. My lack of faith, my explicit sin, my lack of compassion certainly hides the glory of God that is meant to be so visible in all His children.

I think they truly didn’t know if he was the Messiah or not, in spite of all he’d done. I’d like to think that if they did know he was the Messiah that surely they would not have killed him, would they? Maybe they would. They were so focused on what they believed was good for themselves that they didn’t really care. And maybe I am more like than I want to admit.

PRAYER: Jesus, would I recognize you if I saw you walking in the mall today? Would I believe if you looked just like me? Help me to learn from this – that my outward appearance and actions often hide your glory and make it impossible for others to see you in me. Forgive me! Let me look more like your true nature! In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2016, Galen C. Dalrymple. All rights reserved.

 

DayBreaks for 8/23/16 – How Do You Define Peace?

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DayBreaks for 8/23/16 – How Do You Define Peace?

The Olympics are over. They are to be a peaceful celebration…a chance to act towards one another in a more civilized way. But, what is peace? How much peace do you have in your life? Do we even know what peace is all about?

“Peace” comes from the Latin, pax. To the Romans, it meant a stoppage of hostilities between the conqueror and the vanquished, with the conqueror dictating terms to the defeated. Pax, even in Rome, was temporary because it depended on who was in a position fo strength. One day it might be one group, the next day someone else.

The Hebrew word for peace, shalom, mean much, much more. It has a rich meaning: wholeness, completeness, soundness, health, safety and prosperity. It carries the idea not or transitoriness, but of permanence.

To Christian, shalom is the state of those who are assured of their present and future salvation in Christ. It gives contentment to those who have it – no matter their earthly lot or circumstance.

Note these differences between pax and shalom:

One person can dictate peace (pax); shalom is a mutual agreement.

Pax is temporary; shalom is a permanent covenant.

Pax is the absence of commotion; shalom the presence of serenity and wholeness.

I think that this is true: sometimes we are more than ready to just settle for détente. And when we aim so low, we miss what is best.

Don’t settle for anything less than shalom – not with relatives, friends, neighbors, employers…but most of all, not with God.

Where do we find shalom? Isaiah 9 tells us Jesus is the Prince of Peace…and of the greatness of his governance and peace there will be no end!

How is his peace different? Isaiah 53 tells us that ..the punishment that brought us SHALOM was on him and by his wounds we are healed.

It seems a bit strange to say this, perhaps, but without war there can be no shalom. Isaiah says to: the punishment that brought peace was laid on him. The full war came raging down on Jesus as the spiritual weapons of mass destruction pummeled Him…because of our sin. The war of God on sin was waged on the cross of Christ. Justice was served. War over!

Shalom came on that day by mutual agreement of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It is what we have been freely given. If you want shalom, you can find it in the Prince of Peace. It will enable you to fear nothing from God – and to be content with your earthly lot – whatever that lot may be.

PRAYER: Prince of Peace, fill us with your shalom! In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2016, Galen C. Dalrymple. All rights reserved.