DayBreaks for 3/31/17 – Warmed by the Wrong Fire

DayBreaks for 3/31/17: Warmed by the Wrong Fire

From the DayBreaks archive, 2007:

John 18:17-18 –  “You are not one of his disciples, are you?” the girl at the door asked Peter.  He replied, “I am not.” It was cold, and the servants and officials stood around a fire they had made to keep warm. Peter also was standing with them, warming himself.. As Simon Peter stood warming himself, he was asked, “You are not one of his disciples, are you?”  He denied it, saying, “I am not.”

I’ve been preaching through the gospel of John for a bit over a year now (I’m sure the congregation is about ready for something different!), but as we’ve gotten into the final 5 chapters, I’ve been touched and amazed again by the drama and scenes of the final hours of Christ.  The washing of the disciple’s feet, the establishing of the Lord’s Supper, the prayers for the disciples, for you and I, the encounter in Gethsemane, the trials, crucifixion and resurrection.  Is there any story in all of human history that can compete with these events?

When Jesus was inside the home of the high priest, John went in with him, because John was an acquaintance of the high priest but Peter, apparently, was not. He stayed outside, away from close proximity to Christ.  It was night in Jerusalem, and it gets cold at night – every cold.  And this night was no exception.  You know how when you’re really tense and nervous about something how it makes you shake and shiver?  No doubt Peter was shivering – and not just from the temperature. 

Peter drew close to the fire to warm himself…John mentions that twice.  What can we conclude?  Peter was cold, but the greatest coldness was that which was in his heart, not that which surrounded his body.  Rather than following John into the chief priest’s home where his soul could be warmed by the presence of the Lord, he chose an earthly fire made of mere wood. 

We often get cold.  This is a cold world – and we need warmth.  We can stick with Jesus at those times, drawing our warmth from the One who is a consuming fire, the Light that will forever illumine all eternity, or we can turn to some earthly solution for our warmth.  What is your tendency?  When your world gets cold, do you seek to draw closer to him? 

PRAYER: God, we get so cold in this world sometimes.  Please help us to recognize where genuine warmth and comfort comes from, and to stay with Jesus through thick and thin.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2017 by Galen Dalrymple.

 

DayBreaks for 3/30/17 – Who Do You Really Want?

DayBreaks for 3/30/17: Who Do You Really Want?

John 18:3-4 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. Jesus, knowing all that was going to happen to him, went out and asked them, “Who is it you want?”

Of course, Jesus knew the answer to the question he asked, but as he always seemed to do, the question was not to gain knowledge for himself, but to cause those who had come to arrest him to consider their actions and what they were doing.  They had the right answer: “Jesus of Nazareth.”  They wanted Jesus, all right, but not for the right reasons.  They didn’t want him as Lord or even as a rabbi.  They wanted him as a captive – a prisoner.

The question is very valid nearly 2000 years later, and it is still Jesus who asks it: “Who is it you want?”

Let’s not be too quick to chime in, as did the soldiers: “Jesus of Nazareth.”  That’s the obvious Christian answer, the expected response that upholds our status as believers.  But do we want Jesus as a captive who we would put in a box and call him forth to perform for us on demand?  Do we want a Jesus of Nazareth that is a construction of our own mind and wishes, or are we willing to accept the Jesus of Nazareth that calls us to carry our cross daily, to die to ourselves, to be poured out for others even as He was poured out? 

I fear that far too many of us, indeed all of us, have distorted visions of Jesus.  American culture has made him a warm, fuzzy creature, a best buddy.  And there is some truth to that, but American culture doesn’t want much, if anything, to do with the other part of Jesus: a Lord that confronts us with demands. 

Who is it that you want?  Why do you want him?  He refuses to be a magic genie or talisman that we can pull out when we want him.  We must surrender to him.  Are we really willing to do that?

PRAYER: Jesus, we often don’t really mean it completely when we say that we want you.  We want you as our Savior, but not necessarily as our Lord.  Help us to learn that your greatest blessings are reserved for those who obey you and submit themselves to you.  Give us submissive hearts that want you just because of who you are in all your fullness.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2017 by Galen Dalrymple.

 

DayBreaks for 3/29/17 – How We View the World

DayBreaks for 3/29/17: How We View the World

What is your general attitude toward the world you live in, towards life?  Do you generally see life as a trudge through the mud, or as an exciting and fulfilling adventure?  I know that there are days when we are overwhelmed one way or another, but as a general rule, how do you see the world and your life in it? 

You might not think that how you generally feel about the world is all that important.  After all, who does it affect but you, right?  Wrong.  I think that the way Christians (and others) feel about the world around us and our role in it makes a huge difference.  I was recently re-reading Viktor Frankl’s book, Man’s Search for Meaning, and he described one event that occurred one dark, cold night in the Auschwitz concentration camp.  Frankl wrote: I shall never forget how I was roused one night by the groans of a fellow prisoner, who threw himself about in his sleep, obviously having a horrible nightmare.  Since I had always been especially sorry for people who suffered from fearful dreams or deliria, I wanted to wake the poor man.  Suddenly I drew back the hand which was ready to shake him, frightened at the thing I was about to do.  At that moment I became intensely conscious of the fact that no dream, no matter how horrible, could be as bad as the reality of the camp which surrounded us, and to which I was about to recall him.

I dare say that none of us have ever been in a situation as horrifying as Frankl.  He found himself in a horrible dilemma: do I compassionately awaken the man who was having such frightening nightmares, or would the reality of the world of the prison camp be even worse than the imagined world taking place in the mind of the dreamer?  What would I have done?  I don’t honestly know.  But I know this: my world is nowhere as terrifying as a concentration camp.  My life and world is really, all things considered, very pleasant and tolerable.  Even beautiful. 

But here’s my point for today: if I view my world as being a horrible thing, chances are that I won’t do anything to “wake people up” who may be sleeping their way through life.  But if I can learn to see the beauty of the life that God has given me, the beauty of God through His creation, I will be more likely to do what I can to help people who are sleeping to wake up and see the beauty of the life lived with the Lord.

The Presence of the Lord can turn the desert into a well-watered land.  Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me.

PRAYER: Father, help us to see the truth about our lives.  We have hard times, but help us not to turn them into high drama that isn’t warranted.  May we see and experience the beauty of life lived in fellowship with You, and may we have the wisdom and courage to awaken the sleeper and help them see the glory of the Lord!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2017 by Galen Dalrymple.

DayBreaks for 3/28/17 – Watch Out for the Snake

DayBreaks for 3/28/17: Watch Out for the Snake

CHINA – “When arriving at the bottom of a tequila bottle after a long night with the guys, someone is always dared to take down the worm. However, very rarely, if ever, does the worm fight back. In China, alcoholic drinks such as rice wine contain preserved snakes or other creatures in place of the ever-popular worm. As a man named Li cracked open a bottle during his lunch break, the pickled snake lunged out of the bottle and bit him in the neck. The victim was taken to a hospital where he was not believed to be in any danger. According to the Xin Bao newspaper, the bottle’s stopper was made from wood or cork and allowed air in the vessel, helping the snake to survive in the bottle for a year.”

You know, I find that there are things in my life that I thought were dead and gone, but then they come back to bite me.  It seems to be at a time when I’ve been thinking, “Whew…I’m glad I’ve got that licked!” that they often raise their ugly head once again.  Such is the my constant need for reminders that I’m not so good or strong as I’d like to think. You’d think that at some point I’d learn how weak I really am.

Sometimes I wonder if it’s that I’m that weak or that evil is that powerful.  And when I reflect on it that way, I think that both are true.  I am far weaker in the flesh than I’d like to be, or than I want to admit to being.  But Satan is not a novice at this game – he’s been around the block more than once since the days of Adam and Eve.  And it’s not just me – everyone has fallen to his schemes.  It’s no excuse, though, for stronger than Satan is Jesus, and God won’t let me get away with excuses.

It only took a small fracture in the cork to allow enough air into the bottle to keep the snake alive.  Sadly, sometimes in our lives we don’t just leave a little crack for Satan to slither through, we leave the door wide open and hang out the “Welcome – come on in!” sign.  Would that we shut the door entire to Satan and opened the door wide for Jesus!

Beware – the snake will be on the prowl until his head is crushed one final time.

PRAYER: Help us to learn from our mistakes, to love You more, and to be alert to our enemy.  May we open the door of our hearts fully to Your Spirit!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2017 by Galen Dalrymple.

DayBreaks for 3/27/17 – A Bunch of Aliens

DayBreaks for 3/27/17: A Bunch of Aliens

John 17:14 (NIV) I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world.

Aliens.  Whether you’re talking about illegal aliens, or aliens from outer space, the main point is the same: they’re not from around here.  Usually, it also is used to mean that they are different somehow – not necessarily in either a good or bad sense, but just different, unusual, perhaps they don’t speak the same language and have trouble communicating.  I actually have a cousin who thinks that they were once abducted by an alien (and no, I’m not going to tell you who it is!)

What an incredible statement by Jesus about mere humans!  At the risk of sounding flippant, Christians are aliens!  We are “different”, or should be!  This is to be the characteristic of His followers. 

Here’s the really mind-stretching point of what Jesus is saying: we are not of this world any more than He himself was from or was of this world.  What does he mean?!?!  We’d have no trouble recognizing that Jesus isn’t from nor “of” this world, but when we look at one another, we see other humans, born of the dust of the earth, destined to return to it.  I think part of what Jesus is getting at here is that he calls us his brothers and sisters, a statement of fact that means we have the same home as He does…and the same Father.  As his own brothers and sisters, we come from the same place – and ultimately, we’ll return to that place once again.  One thing is very clear: Jesus never spoke of this world as being his home, he always talked about going “home” – back to heaven.  And that’s our home, too, if we are his disciples. 

That doesn’t mean that we get to get out of here right now.  In fact, in John, Jesus specifically doesn’t pray for his followers to be removed from the world, but rather that the Father, as a strong, silent Sentinel, will Himself take personal responsibility to protect us and watch over us so we aren’t crushed by the stratagems of Satan. 

Why does he ask essentially that we be left here for the time being? Because as God sent Jesus to the world, the text in John 17 says Jesus sends his followers out into the world.  God loved the world – he sent Jesus to share that love.  Jesus loves the world – he sends us, his followers, out to share that love in every and any corner of the world where there is pain and suffering, where people are enslaved by sin.  There is no corner of the world where we are not to go to share the love of Jesus.  The people of India are just as precious to Jesus as my grandchildren, my wife or my children – in fact, because God truly understands the preciousness of each soul, and the reality of ultimate eternal destinies, He loves each human more than I ever have or ever will love anyone. 

Jesus never would have approved of a religion where believers stay at home, surrounded by the comforts of this world while turning down our hearing aids to the cries of those in distress and darkness.  In fact, he commands his followers to go out into the world to preach the gospel, teaching, healing, loving.  Jesus wants none of a stay-at-home and mind your own business faith.  Yet as we go, we must remain and act as his brothers and sisters, always doing what Jesus did: bearing in mind the will of the Father, seeking only to bring glory to Him!

PRAYER: Lord, if we have come to look too much like residents of this world, forgive us.  Help us to regain our distinctiveness, our “different-ness”.  Let us be true to our real Father, our real family, and lead us safely home to our real home after we have completed all that you want us to do in this alien place.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2017 by Galen Dalrymple.

DayBreaks for 3/24/17 – Once Again, Lord

DayBreaks for 3/24/17: Once Again, Lord

NOTE: Galen is traveling this week. This week’s DayBreaks will be from the May 2007 archives.

How many times in my life have I had a conversation like this with God: “Oh, God.  I’m so sorry.  I’ve done it again.  I’ve failed you.  I’ve let you down.  I’ve sinned again even after I promised you that I wouldn’t.  You must hate me.  I don’t understand why you continue to forgive me instead of striking me dead – which you have every right to do.  I’ve let you down so many, many times.”  If I had a penny (let alone a nickel) for every time I’ve had that conversation, I’d own all of North America by now.

It gets old, wearisome.  I know that God doesn’t want to hear that from me any more – I figure he must be at least as tired of hearing it as I am of saying it.  I am so grateful that He is a merciful and patient God!

Eugene Peterson recently was talking about this line of thinking and he had an interesting perspective on it that helped me.  Apparently, he, too, has had that conversation with God over and over and over.  He found himself saying it again to God not too long ago, when he said that he had an epiphany, and the Spirit set him straight about one thing.  He said it was as if God spoke these words to him: “No, you never let me down.  You never held me up.  I’m the one who holds you up.”

Wow.  Do you see how, even when we are in the midst of our conviction about our dreaded sinfulness and weakness, that we make it all about US in our human pride?  “I (capital, first person singular) let you down, God.”  It isn’t about me.  The story of the glory of salvation isn’t about my stopping letting God down.  That’s not it at all.  The glory of salvation is that He holds us up, covered in the blood of the Lamb, cleansed and forgiven. 

How foolish to think that I can hold God up, and I’d have to hold him up in order to let him down!  No, He is the lifter of my head, he is the lifter of my soul, the restorer of things broken.  May we learn to shift our thinking from what we can and have done, to glory in what God does!

PRAYER: Oh Lord, you are truly great!  We are nothing more than the sheep of your hand, the clay you have formed and fashioned, and that you have redeemed.  Thank you for lifting us up, for holding us up, for your glory!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2017 by Galen Dalrymple.

 

DayBreaks for 3/23/17 – I Have Revealed You

DayBreaks for 3/23/17: I Have Revealed You

NOTE: Galen is traveling this week. This week’s DayBreaks will be from the May 2007 archives.

John 17:6 (NIV) – I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word.

“I have revealed You.” 

For millennia, people have looked up at the sky and observed the world around them and pondered what God (or the gods) were like.  At times, from external appearances, God didn’t seem to be too friendly.  Billions of unanswered questions were flung skyward, and yet God couldn’t be seen or known or understood.  Droughts, fires, storms, earthquakes, volcanoes, diseases, death suggested that perhaps God wasn’t too good, too friendly, nor was it a good idea to get too close to Him.  And who can blame them for coming to such conclusions?  Let’s be honest here: life is tough.  It’s hard.  Even today, when a Katrina or a tsunami strike, one of the first questions out of the mouths of people is: “Why did God do this?  Either he must not be a good God, or he must not be strong enough and powerful enough to prevent such things.”  Their doubts lead some to the conclusion that God is vengeful, angry with all of mankind, or that maybe at some point, like Nietzsche, they concluded in their own reasoning that God kicked the bucket at some time and that’s why these things happen. 

Honestly, these are tough questions.  What I think we should understand from the text is that Jesus came partly to correct our many wrong conceptions about God and to answer some of our questions about Him.  Notice, I didn’t say he came to answer all our questions, because God is infinite – and quite frankly, our human minds can’t any more capture all that there is to know about God than a paper cup could hold the entire contents of the Pacific Ocean.  But He showed us God…and He showed us enough of God to show us that God isn’t like what we thought He was like at all. 

What did Jesus reveal about God to us?  His nature.  We see God by seeing Jesus.  What did Jesus do when he was confronted with suffering?  NOT ONCE is it recorded that he refused to allow suffering to move him in his heart and soul – he didn’t scold those who were suffering or say that they lacked sufficient faith to be healed, he didn’t say “You’re suffering because you’re a horribly sinful person” or “Because God’s mad at you.”  In fact, when asked whose fault it was someone was handicapped, or who was to blame for a tower at Siloam falling and killing people, Jesus said it was the work of the enemy – not God.  And then Jesus proceeded to show his disciples, and us, what God is like and how He feels about such things: he healed, removing the suffering.  In every case where Jesus was personally asked for healing, he healed!  That is God’s nature – to heal all that is broken – in His time.  Did Jesus heal everyone who was sick while he was on earth?  No, he did not.  Why?  Again – that’s a topic for another time, and it’s an answer we can only speculate about – but what Scripture does make clear about God is that he will fix it all eventually, when the time is right.  And then no one will be complaining any more, or suffering.  “I have revealed you” is wonderful news.

The question that haunts me, though, isn’t about Jesus and his revealing of God.  No, it’s much more personal.  Has my life revealed Him, or obscured Him?  What does my life say about Who God is and what He is like?

PRAYER: Lord, thank you for revealing the Father to us.  Thank you for showing us that God is a GOOD God, a trustworthy God who is eternally interested in our good.  Help us, as week and sinful as we are, to emulate Jesus and reveal God to those who witness our lives each day.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2017 by Galen Dalrymple.