DayBreaks for 9/19/17 – In the Midst of Doubt

DayBreaks for 9/19/17: In the Midst of Doubt

Note: Galen is traveling this week.

From the DayBreaks archive, 9/2007:

Doubts.  Uncertainties.  This past Thursday morning I was in a meeting with other pastors and we were discussing a particular aspect of doctrine.  Now you might think, “Wow, that really sounds exciting…a real snoozer!”  Normally, I’d have to agree with you.  As one of the pastors put it, “Doctrine, schmoctrin! I’d rather talk about Jesus!”  Right on!  Part of the reason that we struggled with the conversation so much was that we all recognized and admitted our own imperfect knowledge and understanding.  I think that one of the reasons that God chooses to save us by faith in Christ and not by passing a theological or doctrinal test is that He knows not one of us would ever get any, let alone all, of it perfectly right.  And so, while some discussions of doctrine are at least important, and some are very interesting, our doctrinal certainties are not the basis of our salvation. 

I have no doubts in my mind about who Jesus is.  I have no doubts in my mind about what He can do (although since it’s far beyond our ability to imagine or comprehend, I don’t know ALL that He can do, so I just say, “He can do anything!”).  But every once in a while, something comes along that tends to knock the tracks off the tank of our life’s smooth progress and we begin to question, to ask (even if just for a fleeting moment), “Do I really believe this stuff?  Does it make any sense to believe it?”  Sometimes those thought-provoking questions come as the result of a cataclysm of worldly proportions (tsunamis, earthquakes, etc.), sometimes as a result of the fall of a man or woman of God who seems to have lost or abandoned all they ever held true for a momentary dalliance with sin.  Sometimes they come tip-toeing into my mind for no apparent reason at all. 

I am not the kind of person who is free from doubts.  I have had people tell me that they have never doubted for a moment the eternal existence of God.  Many times, such people also tell me that they’ve never felt the need to read any of the outstanding books that wrestle with the questions of God’s existence, evidences for it, for the resurrection, for the virgin birth, for the miracles, etc.  More power to them.  I’m glad that God has given them such a simple, yet strong and resolute faith.  Maybe someday I’ll reach a point where I never even have the thought or shadow of a doubt pass across my mind.  But for now – every once in a while, I wonder.  I ponder.  I question.  I think God can handle that just fine.  And, I feel stronger for having to wrestle with those things.  I think Thomas’ faith was stronger after he wrestled with his doubts about the resurrection and then had it confirmed as a result, don’t you?  Jesus said that Thomas was blessed because he believed – but those who have never seen and believed are at least equally blessed.  Jesus didn’t knock Thomas for the doubt.

So, what do you do when you are faced with doubts, when the moving picture of life beats you up one side and down another like an automated car wash? Here are some thoughts from my youngest son, Tim: 

“…I always recommend that in the midst of doubt, one continue to go to the places where one has met God before–it only makes sense.  But what’s most important for you to understand is that you do not need to “come back” to God.  God is not “back there” somewhere, as though you have left Him behind, and He is only in one place.  God has been right there with you all along, right beside your bed, with His hand on your shoulder as you wept.  We do not worship an abstract philosophical God.  We worship a God who cared about us in the midst of our suffering so much that He became human so that he could stand before suffering and death alongside us.  We worship a God who “so loved the world” that He gave Christ in order that whoever trusts in Him “should not perish but have everlasting life.”
Without realizing it, I can see that this is what I do when I question.  I got back to the place where I met God before – and find He’s still there.  The patriarchs made a habit of every so often revisiting places where they and their predecessors had encounters with God (Bethel, for instance).  There’s a lot to be said for that.  There is something about familiar surroundings that can help resolve the doubts.  And so I read the words and life of Jesus again, and there I’m struck down and reminded of what a great God He Is and why I believe in Him.  The answers that I found to the questions I’ve asked still hold water.  And I can’t avoid those answers – they are solid, like the Rock Himself. 

PRAYER:  Thank you for being patient with our shaky faith and deep-rooted questions, Lord.  Thank you for the story of Thomas and how you blessed him after his faith was confirmed.  Thank you for solid places upon which we can regain our footing when our faith falters.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2017 by Galen C. Dalrymple.  ><}}}”>

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DayBreaks for 9/18/17 – Living With an Intruder

DayBreaks for 9/18/17 – Living With an Intruder

Normally, I try to hold DayBreaks to a spiritual bent.  While today’s message is about spiritual things, it’s also about physical things.  Dick Peterson and his wife, Elizabeth, have been married for 37 years and they live in South Carolina.  They are fellow Christians, and today I’m sharing some of Dick’s writings.  For a number of years now, they have been living with an intruder: Elizabeth has MS.  This is just a part of the article, but I found it to be profound and thought-provoking.  It has certainly caused me to do some soul searching of my own.  I think that you may benefit from the part of it that I’m including.  You seldom find such gut-wrenching and soul-searching honesty. – Galen

“We both pray for healing.  With our families and our church, we agonize before God for a return to the day when Elizabeth can offer an open handshake instead of a permanently clenched fist, or take a flight of stairs without thought.

“But if we only grieve the loss, we miss the gain—that what this disease does to us may also be done for us.  Even as the MS steals abilities from Elizabeth’s life, a healing grows almost undetected inside.  When we talk about this, Elizabeth wonders aloud, “Did it really take this to teach me that my soul is more important to God than my body?”

“And I ask, “Is this what Jesus meant when he taught his disciples to serve?  When he washed their feet, did he look 2,000 years into the future and see me washing my wife’s clothes and helping her onto her shower seat to bathe?  Did it really take this to teach me compassion?”

“Could it be that God in his wisdom and love gives Elizabeth and me this disease to heal us from the inside out in ways he considers far more important than how efficiently nerve signals travel from her brain to her muscles?

“Whom do I love more?

“God’s healing can be sneaky.  We pray that Elizabeth will resume her old life; he wants her to assume a new life.  We long for change on the outside; he desires change on the inside.  We pray for what we want; he answers with what he knows we need.

“Is it wrong to want a whole, functioning body?  Not at all.  But though we focus naturally on the flesh, this disease compels Elizabeth and me to turn our minds to the Spirit.  The apostle Paul said, “For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace” (Romans 8:6, NASB).  How unexpected is that?

“Truth be told, Elizabeth and I are still learning the realities of that revelation.  She tells me that when she had no choice but to submit to multiple sclerosis, she learned how to submit to her Lord.

“And he has made me question whom it is I love.

“When I pray for healing, is it for Elizabeth?  Or is it because her healing would make life so much easier for me?  I challenge, “Aren’t you the God who heals?  I love her and I want her well.”  But in the back of my mind I know I also want her healed for me.

“In response to my challenge, Jesus asks me as he asked Peter, “Do you love me more than these?”  I think, He wants me to love him more than my wife?  So I reply with Peter’s words, “Yes, Lord, You know that I love You.”

“Tend My lambs” (John 21:15), he tells me.

“I care for Elizabeth.  She’s his lamb.  Doesn’t that show I love him?

“But what is he really asking?  He’s asking if I love him more than these things I say I want, the things I’d have if this disease would just go away.  Now my answer’s not nearly as glib.  Can I actually love God more than my wife, but not more than these things I say I want?  They’re not bad things: a happy, healthy life together, a stroll on the beach without a wheelchair to become bogged down in the sand, getting to church on time because she can dress herself.

“The exposure shames me.  Do I love him more than these?” – Dick Peterson, Christianity Today/Marriage Partnership Magazine, 2007

PRAYER:  Father, I am humbled by this couple and the lessons you’ve been teaching them, and us through them.  These questions gnaw at my inner being.  I can’t answer them, and although I can’t find the answers in myself, Lord, You know…You alone know how I would react, and whether or not I love you “more than these.”  Hear our humble confession and help us to learn what love truly means and does.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

DayBreaks for 9/15/17 – Your Garden of Gethsemane

DayBreaks for 9/15/17: Your Garden of Gethsemane

From the DayBreaks archive, 9/2007:

Have you ever stopped to think how many decisions you will make in any given day?  We make decisions all the time without even thinking about it.  When we think of decisions, we tend to think of the weightier matters of life – and that’s a good thing.  Weighty matters deserve lots of thought as we try to decide what to do.  Hopefully, if you are a Christian, the very first thing you contemplate is whether or not the thing you are doing is in God’s will.  Regardless of whatever other factors you choose to apply to decisions you are facing and making, that one should be the most prominent. 

How do you know His will?  I’m not going to try to provide an exhaustive list here, but certainly His revealed and written Word is our primary tool for discerning his will.  If we cavalierly throw that out the window, we have no solid basis for a decision.  God expects us to follow the Word when we are facing decisions.  That means we have to accept it as truth, not try to explain it away or rationalize why it doesn’t apply to us.

One of my favorite stories about the life of Jesus has to do with his night in the garden of Gethsemane, my favorite place in the Holy Land.  I am moved by that story – even more, I think, that by the story of the crucifixion itself.  Physical pain is one thing, but spiritual pain can be far worse.  It was in the garden that we’re told Jesus was in agony – not on the cross.  (I’m not minimizing what happened upon those old timbers – I am sure there was incredible agony there, too.)  It was in the garden that he wrestled with both flesh and blood and principalities and powers in the heavenly places.  Why?  Because in the garden he was faced with the decision that would form the crux of his life.  It all culminated there, in the shadows of the olive trees, as the Son of God knelt down in the dirt and made the most crucial decision in all of history: would he do things his way, or God’s way?

There are times and decisions in our lives that are seemingly insignificant (although I’d like to argue that one with you – notice I said “seemingly insignificant”), but then there are moments that clearly rise into the stratosphere in terms of importance.  At those times we are faced with our own garden of Gethsemane.  We must decide whether our prayer will be, “Nevertheless, my will not Thine be done,” or if we’ll echo Jesus’ words: “Nevertheless, not my will but Thine be done.” 

You may be wrestling with a decision today that has life-altering potential, that once made may not be able to be undone ever.  Have you considered what God’s Word would say about it?  If you know how God feels about it, what will you do about it?  You may be facing your own garden of Gethsemane right now.  What will your prayer be?

PRAYER:  Spirit, help us not to fail the test in moments of crisis.  Strip away Satan’s deceptions from our eyes so that we can see what is at stake in the decisions of life!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2017 by Galen C. Dalrymple.  ><}}}”>

DayBreaks for 9/14/17 – The Voice on the Battlefield

DayBreaks for 9/14/17: The Voice on the Battlefield

NOTE: Sorry for the missing DayBreaks yesterday. We just got our power back Wednesday morning and the internet Wednesday night!

From the DayBreaks archive, 9/2007:

It isn’t by accident that the Bible often uses terminology relating war to human life.  It’s a battle all the way, no matter who you are or where you live.  For some, each day is literally a battle for life and death – for food, water, running from roving bands armed with machine guns.  For others (and most  Americans), it’s a different kind of battle, but it’s still a battle.  We struggle with boredom, depression, busyness, with too many choices and perhaps too much opportunity.  Living in luxury has it’s own perils.

But by God’s good grace, one thing remains constant: whether we live and die in an African desert or in an American home or hospital, there is someone who is seeking us out:

“A famous military officer used to tell a story of an aged Quaker named Hartmann, whose son had enlisted in the army.  There came the news of a dreadful battle, and this old father, in fear and trembling, started to the scene of conflict that he might learn something concerning his boy.  The officer of the day told him that he had not answered to his name, and that there was every reason to believe that he was dead.  This did not satisfy the father, so, leaving headquarters, he started across the battlefield, looking for the one who was dearer to him than life.  He would stoop down and turn over the face of this one and then the face of another, but without success.  The night came on, and then with a lantern he continued his search, all to no purpose.  Suddenly the wind, which was blowing a gale, extinguished his lantern, and he stood there in the darkness hardly knowing what to do until his father’s ingenuity, strength and affection prompted him to call out his son’s name, and so he stood and shouted, “John Hartmann, your father calls you.”  All about him he would hear the groans of the dying and someone saying: “Oh, if that were only my father.”  He continued his cry with more pathos and power until at last in the distance he heard his boy’s voice crying tremblingly, “Here, father.”  The old man made his way across the field shouting out, “Thank God! Thank God!” Taking him in his arms, he carried him to headquarters, nursed him back to health and strength, and he went on to live a long life.” – J. Wilbur Chapman

We live on a battlefield, and the fallen are all around us.  Some of them may be your own children, your husband or wife, perhaps you yourself have fallen and lay on the battlefield, marred and disfigured – in desperate need of recovery.  Upon the battlefield that is this world, this life, on this day walks Jesus Christ, the Son of God, crying out to all who are wrecked by this awful, twisted world, “Your Father is calling you!”   He listens for the slightest response to his plea, eager to scoop us up in his arms and carry us into heaven.

Perhaps you have never trusted in Christ, but have been thinking of doing so.  Let me ask: what other alternative do you have that could be better?  Answer his call before he moves on.  Perhaps you are a believer, but have fallen by the wayside, disregarding the Word and the claim of God upon your life – choosing to go your own way instead of his.  Answer his call before you bleed to death.  Time is of the essence.

PRAYER:  We praise you that you come to search out our broken lives in the middle of this world, Lord.  Thank you that you have made the journey from heaven to earth to find us.  Give us ears to hear your voice and hearts willing to respond!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2017 by Galen C. Dalrymple.  ><}}}”>

DayBreaks for 9/12/17 – Take This Poor Indian, Too!

DayBreaks for 9/12/17: Take This Poor Indian, Too

From the DayBreaks archive, 9/2007:

When you go to the grocery store (or sporting goods store!) the next time, if you buy something, you have to give something in exchange to get it.  It may be currency that you hand over, it may be a debit or credit card – but one way or another, in order to get what you want, you have to give up something.  It is at that moment that you make a decision about the value of what you want.  Is it worth $10?  $20?  Are you willing to part with the price that is demanded to get what you want? 

We’re used to having to pay for things.  In fact, most of us who are Baby Boomers grew up really struggling to receive anything as a gift.  There’s a pride in us that blocks our being able to be gracious recipients of anything that we haven’t had to pay for.  We often talk about having to “swallow our pride” in order to take a handout.  Sad, but true, I fear. 

And so it is that when it comes to Christianity, perhaps this is the biggest stumbling block of all.  We want to pay for our salvation.  We just can’t get it through our heads that we can’t do that.  That salvation has to come to us as a gift, freely given, to be freely received. 

An incident is related of a missionary who came into contact with a proud and powerful Indian chief.  The chief, trembling under conviction of his sin, approached the missionary and offered his belt of wampum as atonement.  “No!” said the missionary, “Christ cannot accept a sacrifice like that.”  The Indian departed, but soon returned offering his valuable rifle and the most beautiful skins he had taken in hunting.  “No!” was the reply, “Christ cannot accept those either.”  Again the Indian went away, only to return with a conscience more troubled than ever.  This time he offered his wigwam, together with his wife and child—everything for peace and pardon.  “No,” was the reply even to this, “Christ cannot accept such a sacrifice.”  At this the chief seemed utterly oppressed; but suddenly he somehow sensed the deficiency, for, lifting up tearful eyes, he cried out, “Here, Lord, take this poor Indian too!”

The chief in the story had to weigh values and what he was willing to part with.  He began with a simple wampum belt, escalated to a rifle and skins, only to be rebuffed.  At the next encounter, the chief thought he was giving all he had – his home, wife and child – truly a costly thing.  But even that wasn’t enough.  What God wanted was the man himself.  And when the chief finally understood that all God wanted was “him”, salvation came to that man. 

We’re often willing to part with things that aren’t all that important to us.  Thank goodness God didn’t feel that way.

PRAYER:  I fear, Lord, that I’m not very generous when it comes to giving up my own life and ways.  We’ve grown comfortable in our skins.  We’re willing to pay some price, but often we’re not willing to pay the full price to follow you.  I thank you that salvation cannot be earned, for our striving would become cause for pride.  Help us to open our hands to receive the gift of your life, and in gratitude to give you the gift of ours.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2017 by Galen C. Dalrymple.  ><}}}”>

DayBreaks for 9/11/17 – As Though It Were Not Serious

DayBreaks for 9/11/17: As Though It Were Not Serious

From the DayBreaks archive, 9/2007:

You know how it is when you receive bad news about someone you love.  It may have come as the result of some tests they were having run – is there a tumor or not?  If so, is it malignant?  Or, someone has been in an accident and you hear their voice through the phone, “I’ve been in a crash – and I’ve got some injuries – but nothing serious.”  Until you get that last little bit of information “It’s nothing serious,” you’re on pins and needles.  Until the lab report comes back clear, you contemplate the possible cessation of your life.  Those words, “It’s nothing serious,” can be some of the most comforting words we’ll hear. 

Sometimes, though, those words can be deceptive.  Consider the diagnosis that comes back and says all will be well, only to later discover that the diagnosis was wrong, that the test results were incorrect.  “It’s no big deal,” is another way of saying about the same thing.  Nothing to worry about…but while it may not be a big deal to that person, someone else who was affected by it may think it is a huge deal.

We have different ways of seeing things, and I understand that.  I suppose it is inevitable.  But it disturbs me deeply when Christians are divided on things that Scripture clearly calls sin.  We’ve heard the culture decrying religious thought and beliefs for so long that we’ve bought into a brain-washed mindset.  Somehow, in our arrogance, we’ve bought the lie that just because the laws of our land (or any other) say that something is legal that it means it must be okay and that it can’t therefore possibly be sin.  Even when the Bible is point-blank on the subject! 

We would do well to remember that God says judgment will begin not with the heathen, but with those of His own house (1 Peter 4:17).  When His own people have become indistinguishable with unbelievers there is great cause for fear.  When His own people cannot tell right from wrong, it is totally incorrect to say, “It’s not serious, it’s no big deal.”  Listen to these words, spoken by God, to His great prophet Jeremiah: (6:14-15) – They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious. ‘Peace, peace,’ they say, when there is no peace.  Are they ashamed of their loathsome conduct? No, they have no shame at all; they do not even know how to blush. So they will fall among the fallen; they will be brought down when I punish them,” says the LORD.  In context, God is talking to His own people, addressing them about what is about to happen because they have minimized the Word of the God and its authority.  Why was God so angry at his people?  We get a pretty good clue in verse 10: To whom can I speak and give warning? Who will listen to me? Their ears are closed so they cannot hear. The word of the LORD is offensive to them; they find no pleasure in it.

It seems that the people of the Lord had chosen not to listen to God’s Word any longer.  Why?  Because they found it offensive.  What was offensive about it?  They didn’t like what it said – it called sin, sin – it pointed out their evil and the evil in the cultures that surrounded them.  And they didn’t like it because they loved the culture more than they loved the Word of the Lord.

How I fear for modern American Christians who can’t see the truth when it’s printed on the pages of the Bibles right in front of them.  And that includes me.

It is serious.

PRAYER: Father, we are so blinded by our human desires and selfishness that we don’t love Your Word and honor its truth.  We close our ears because your word offends us with it’s demands for holiness and righteousness and for turning away from the sins we love so much.  Help us once more to find pleasure in Your Word, to love truth more than convenience and even more than our own lives.  Pour Your Spirit of revelation out upon us that we can have our eyes opened and ears unclogged once more to perceive and practice truth.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2017 by Galen C. Dalrymple.  ><}}}”>

DayBreaks for 9/08/17 – God’s Glory

DayBreaks for 9/08/17: God’s Glory

From the DayBreaks archive, 9/2007:

I love to read the passages of Scripture that describe God’s glory and greatness!  I think we all like to read about those aspects of our God.  They are all at once awe-inspiring, comforting, intimidating, exhilarating and terrifying.  There is something within most of us that loves adventure – and life with God is certainly that!

But when we talk about the glory of God, what do you think about?  Do you recall the story of Moses after he came down from the mountain and found the Israelites worshipping the golden calf?  He was upset and angry…and seemingly he got depressed.  So, what did he do?  He talked to God and he made what seems to be a very strange request given the circumstances.  He said, “Show me Your glory, I pray.”  It’s not too surprising that Moses would ask, in the middle of his depression and discouragement, to see God’s glory.  It makes perfect sense, actually. 

But what, I wonder, did Moses expect to see?  He’d already seen the burning bush and the miracles in Egypt.  Did he expect to see a display of lightning and thunder such as the world had never seen?  Did he expect to feel the earth shake under his feet, to see the mountains smoking, to see shooting stars even in the middle of the desert daylight?  Did he expect to hear mighty noises?  I don’t know.  But I don’t think that Moses got what He expected.

Amazingly, God agrees to Moses’ request, however, notice carefully what God said: “I will cause My goodness to pass before you.”  Do you see it?  God agreed to show Moses His glory…and He proceeds to show him His goodness.  What is God’s glory?  It is His unlimited goodness.  The most glorious thing about God is that He is so good!  This sheds new meaning on John’s words in the first chapter of his gospel.  Describing how Christ came to earth in the incarnation, John wrote: “And we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of God.”  What did humans see when they saw Jesus?  They saw his goodness – his love, compassion, healing, mercy, grace – all GOOD things, all God things.  They didn’t see Christ in his heavenly glory – no man could and live – but they saw his goodness, and that is God’s glory!

No, I don’t think Moses got what he expected to see when he asked to see God’s glory.  But I don’t think we was disappointed.  He got so much more than he’d expected – and he learned something valuable about God in the process.

PRAYER: Thank You, God, for Your ceaseless goodness.  May we reflect your glory, your goodness, this day.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2017 by Galen C. Dalrymple.  ><}}}”>