DayBreaks for 10/31/17 – Where Things Go to Die

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DayBreaks for 10/31/17: Where Things Go to Die

Yeah, I know it’s Halloween, and there will be “zombies” walking around carrying buckets and bags for candy tonight. There will be other “undead” creatures wandering the sidewalks and streets, but this DayBreaks doesn’t really have anything to do with dead things like that. But it does have to do with where things can go to die.

I lived on the farm as a kid, and it wasn’t unusual for a cat or a skunk to go into a crawl space that ran under the side of the corn crib when it came their time to die. You typically wouldn’t see them – you’d smell them before you noticed that they were no longer around. And even for us humans, we have places we tend to die: at home, in a hospital, at a convalescent center. After all, we will all die and we need a place where we can do that.

But what I’m interested in today is a lyric from a song in worship on Sunday that talked about the place where all our sin and shame goes to die. That place? The cross of Jesus, of course!

What does it mean that our sin and shame can truly go there to die? It means that I don’t need to feel crushed any longer by the sin in my life, no matter what that sin may be. It is dead. It is nailed to the cross. And I also no longer have to be weighed down with my shame for all that I’ve done, and all the good that I know I should have done, but which I left undone. That shame, the reports of those things, will never be revealed as I’ve been washed clean and carry the shame of my deeds and thoughts no longer. And if my shame were to be revealed, rather than being embarrassed by it, I should exult in the greatness and completeness of His forgiveness and grace. Instead of dying of my shame, my shame died so I can exalt His greatness!

Some dead things, like cats in a crawl space, stink. My sin and shame is dead, too, and the scent of the grace of Jesus accompanies my soul. In the Father’s eyes, it is as if those things never happened for the price was paid that took those things away…forever!  

PRAYER: Thank you for providing the perfect place for our sin and shame to die and be hidden for eternity! In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2017 by Galen C. Dalrymple.

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DayBreaks for 10/30/17 – Moving Boundary Stones

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DayBreaks for 10/30/17: Moving Boundary Stones

From the DayBreaks archives:

Long ago, Israel had settled into the promised land and grew fat and content. Well, not quite. Some were content, but others were ambitious. They wanted more and more land for themselves – at the expense of their brethren. How did they solve the problem? Hosea tells us how some did it, in Hosea 5:10: “Judah’s leaders are like those who move boundary stones. I will pour out my wrath on them like a flood of water.”

As you can tell from the passage, their actions did not please God. He hates injustice and greed. Many had become corrupt. Why didn’t God just ignore it and pretend it didn’t happen? Because when leaders go wrong, it isn’t long before the masses go wrong.

I was fortunate enough to attend my youngest son’s college graduation last June at Stanford. The guest speaker was Ted Koppel, the guy from ABC. I have to tell you that I was very impressed with the challenge that he gave the students. He’d been invited by the president of the university, Gerhard Caspar, to talk on “that mess in Washington” and Caspar’s concern about intrusion into the privacy of the President. Caspar got more than he bargained for. Koppel, rather than sharing Caspar’s concern over “privacy”, delivered a very eloquent and impassioned plea for a return to morality. His words were powerful, but perhaps no more powerful than in this statement as the ending summary of his speech: “Aspire to decency. Practice civility toward one another. Admire and emulate ethical behavior wherever you find it. Apply a rigid standard of morality to your lives; and if, periodically, you fail ­as you surely will ­adjust your lives, not the standards.”

We have a tendency to explain away our own improper behavior by “changing the rules”. Changing the rules is “moving the boundary stones” – deciding that the old limits no longer apply and then redefining them to meet out wishes. Koppel’s advice is right on: when we fail morally, “as you surely will – adjust your lives, not the standards.”

When we fail, don’t try to disavow God’s law by saying His standard has become old and outdated – a relic of an ancient age long gone by. God’s law is unchanging. We dare not move the boundary stones for our own benefit!

PRAYER:  Lord, help us to faithfully observe the boundaries that You have set in place, may we glorify You by our obedience.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2017 by Galen C. Dalrymple.

DayBreaks for 10/27/17 – How Could He Not Have Sinned?

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DayBreaks for 10/27/17: How Could He Not Have Sinned?

Hebrews 4:15 (ESV) – For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.

Yesterday, I wrote about Peter’s denial and how God used stories like that to encourage us in our human weakness – not to encourage us to be weak – but to know that in spite of our failures He still loves us. We are just like Peter. There is only One who lived a sinless life.

So, how did Jesus do it? How did he manage to live sinlessly?

Philosophers and theologians like to debate subjects which may seem trivial at times. And they like to sound like they know what they’re talking about. My guess is that philosophers probably come closer to knowing what they are talking about because I’m not convinced that finite human minds can really begin to grasp God and His mysteries very well.

One such subject in the theological realm is the peccability of Christ. Peccability means “liable to sin, susceptible to temptation”. In a nutshell, the argument is about whether or not Christ could really have sinned. The NT is clear he was human: he had to learn, grow, he got hungry and tired, he ate, he was tempted just like us, he cried, he bled, he died. It is equally clear that he was God: “I and the Father are One”, “If you have seen me, you have seen the Father”, etc.

So, if he wasn’t just half human and half divine, but fully human and fully divine, how could he have not sinned?

I think it must be the case that in his humanity he could have sinned, the divine nature was so much stronger (as one would expect) that he was able not to sin. It boils down, I think, to this: He was led by and in constant harmony with the Spirit that dwelt in him fully. And the strength of that Spirit because of Jesus’ walk in the Spirit was able to defeat every temptation.

And there’s the rub, isn’t it? Aren’t we supposed to have that same Spirit in us? Yes. So why don’t we live flawlessly? Because we are not in constant harmony with that Spirit. We don’t have the 100% God nature that Jesus had that enables him to overcome.

The secret to overcoming sin is to walk in the power of the Spirit. I wish I had a magic wand that would let me and you do that. My experience is that I’m not sufficiently in tune with the Spirit to overcome sin always – let alone often.

Should I despair over this sad state of affairs? Well, I certainly should repent when I fall and pray for the power of the Spirit to be unleashed more in my life, but I don’t think God wants us to despair over it. I believe that the same divine nature that was able to prevent sin in Jesus will, through the blood of Jesus, present me to God sinless and pure on the day of Judgment. And that’s something not to despair over, but to rejoice in!

PRAYER: Jesus, we all need to walk more in the power of Your Spirit. Mortify the fleshly desires that lead us into sin, and help us cry out for help when we are tempted rather than stifling Your power to keep us from sinning. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2017 by Galen C. Dalrymple.

DayBreaks for 10/26/17 – Ask Not for Whom the Cock Crows

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DayBreaks for 10/26/17: Ask Not for Whom the Cock Crows

John 18:25-27 (ESV) – Now Simon Peter was standing and warming himself. So they said to him, “You also are not one of his disciples, are you?” He denied it and said, “I am not.” One of the servants of the high priest, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, asked, “Did I not see you in the garden with him?” Peter again denied it, and at once a rooster crowed.

I have often wondered why God put some of the things He did in Scripture. Like today’s text, for instance. There can be no doubt that Jesus and Peter were very close friends. There can be no doubt that they loved one another deeply. And yet, here we have it: Peter’s denial recorded in black and white for people to read and ponder.

If I had been the one determining what would be written, I would have left things like this, and David’s dalliance with Bathsheba, and Noah’s drunkenness out of the pages of holy writ. I would have wanted to save Peter, David, Noah and countless others the embarrassment of having their failures recorded and paraded in front of people for thousands of years. And you’d think that God would have wanted to save them the embarrassment, too. But it wasn’t up to me. And that’s a really good thing.

I believe that God put those things into Scripture to encourage us in our humanity. Let me explain: there hasn’t been any human who has ever endeavored to live the Christian life who hasn’t found themselves despairing over their own failures in ethical, moral and all other ways. Imagine how difficult and discouraging it would be if all we had were stories off the great triumphs: the saving of humanity in the ark, the victory over the giant Goliath, Peter’s great ministry and brave martyrdom. And if we were only to have those stories and compared ourselves to them, we’d be devastated. So, God in His great wisdom, knew we needed to hear of the failures of the great men and women of faith so we wouldn’t be discouraged.

And here’s another thing: Scripture shows us that God deeply loved all those flawed characters, and that gives me hope, too, that He can love a sinner like me.

We shouldn’t gloat over the fact that we’ve not done like Peter did, for we have all denied and betrayed the One who would die for us. We should never ask for whom the cock crows, for it crows for each of us!

PRAYER: Thank you for the stories of Scripture – good and bad – and showing us that even our failures can’t overcome your plan for us nor your love for us.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2017 by Galen C. Dalrymple.

DayBreaks for 10/25/17 – What We Are

DayBreaks for 10/25/17: What We Are

From the DayBreaks archive, October 2007:

What are we?  Ask that question to a variety of “experts” and you’ll get different answers:

A biochemist would probably say that a human is composed of 65% oxygen, 18% carbon, 10% hydrogen – and then goes into a myriad of other atomic components in various trace amounts.  99% is made up of those three, plus nitrogen, calcium and phosphorus.  Whoopee!

One philosopher’s definition follows: “I believe a human being is a creation containing two unique parts, equally important for our ability to interact with everything that surrounds us along an endless mysterious path known as time. One part is crystal clear; it is the physical and material matter occupying space, known as the body. This form of matter has size, shape, and dimensions and can be experienced empirically. The other part of the human being is harder to understand since it has no shape, size, or dimensions and cannot be experienced by empirical knowledge, it is the mind.”

A theologian might say: “The psalmist would say that the riddle of ben-‘adam is hidden in the mystery of God. Only faith can envision the point of convergence. Humankind recognizes itself fully only in the recognition of the Being from whom all reality arises.  The claim of the psalm is that we can say “human being” only after we have learned to say “God.”

Here’s another one that I won’t even venture to try to classify, other than to say it sounds very new-agey: “Human being may be defined as the humantrue life of the individual, lived according to her or his own supraconsciousness of fulfilled intellect, so that the co-operative being of humanity is this undeniable humantrue awareness on the part of, and between, each and every individual, with no authority, meaning or faith above or beyond that. The human individual is a mind and body of the human species, led by the mind. Human being is being fully and truly human.  The second and most important objective is to point out that true human being is to be defined by supraconsciousness – that when both our thinking and activity submits to the guidance of the postconscious which is also embodied in the structure of our society, then will we be wholly fulfilled, i.e., humantrue.”

Yuck.  Drives me nuts.  It appears that there is great confusion about what it is to be human.  We focus on our humanity a lot, but is that the right thing to do? 

I like (very much) this view of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, quoted in Philip Yancey’s Rumors of Another World: We are not human beings having a spiritual experience, but spiritual beings having a human experience.  We are so focused on our flesh and bone that we neglect the spirit and soul.  We think we are humans who, every once in a while, have spiritual insights or spiritual encounters with God, Jesus and the Spirit.  They may be wonderful moments of ecstasy and inspiration…but they are not as present and real to us as the flesh, muscle, blood and sinew that courses through our veins. 

De Chardin would have us remember our origin, and our true definition: that we are spiritual, formed in the image of the One who was and is and is to be, and that we are destined to return to Him and to live as spirits (albeit with some form of incorruptible body, it would appear) eternally.  It is our humanness that is fleeting, it is our humanness that is nothing more than a cloak that hides the spirit.  We would do well to remember our true nature and to concentrate our efforts, attention and affections accordingly.

Ecclesiastes 12:6-7 (NIV) Remember him–before the silver cord is severed, or the golden bowl is broken; before the pitcher is shattered at the spring, or the wheel broken at the well, and the dust returns to the ground it came from, and the spirit returns to God who gave it.

PRAYER: In spite of all appearances, Lord, help us to live wisely in our temporary coats of flesh, so that our spirits, the real us, may live with You forever.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2017 by Galen C. Dalrymple.

DayBreaks for 10/24/17 – Adapt, Improvise, Overcome

DayBreaks for 10/24/17: Adapt, Improvise, Overcome

From the DayBreaks archive, October 2007:

I can read some things and never be moved by them.  I fly by them like a bat flying by in the dark of night – quickly, silently, invisibly.  And then there are things that I read that strike me in either a positive or negative way, evoking some response.  I came across such a thing just last week, when I read the following quotes from a CNN chat that was posted on GetReligion.org on 10/08/07.  The article was about the president and his faith and things he’s said.  Just to set the stage, in one speech, the president stated that Timothy McVeigh (the Oklahoma City bomber), professed to be a Christian.  The chat set the discussion straight on that point, but it was the last part of the quotation that struck me.  Here’s a bit of the chat:

“Um, someone might want to let President Bush know that Timothy McVeigh professed no religious belief. Lou Michel, the author of a well-researched book on McVeigh (he spent countless hours interviewing the terrorist before he was executed), had this to say during a CNN chat:

“Question from chat room: Does McVeigh have any spiritual-religious beliefs?

“Lou Michel: McVeigh is agnostic.  He doesn’t believe in God, but he won’t rule out the possibility.  I asked him, “What if there is a heaven and hell?”

“He said that once he crosses over the line from life to death, if there is something on the other side, he will – and this is using his military jargon – “adapt, improvise, and overcome.”

McVeigh’s answer is very sad, yet it seems to echo a concept that is misguided and misplaced.  It is misplaced because it shows that he is totally trusting in himself and his abilities to manage his own eternal destiny, to even be able to manipulate in the afterlife (if such, according to McVeigh, exists).  It is misguided because it doesn’t take into account the Word of the Lord concerning the importance of choosing in this life to follow Christ. 

Mr. McVeigh crossed over the line from life to death a long time ago now (June 11, 2001).  I’m confident that he’s since learned that he can’t change things, and that he cannot overcome the will of God and whatever sentence God has pronounced on his soul.  But I fear it appears that he learned that a bit too late.

Personally, I’m interested in crossing over the line from death to life.  And that’s what happens to us first of all when we accept Christ, and ultimately when we awaken from our deathbed in heaven’s glory. 

John 5:24 (NLT) – I assure you, those who listen to my message and believe in God who sent me have eternal life. They will never be condemned for their sins, but they have already passed from death into life.

PRAYER:  Jesus, I pray that the blindness of arrogance will be lifted from our eyes and that we will realize that today is the day of decision – not after we’ve died.  Help us to understand the urgency of our response to your offer of salvation.  We put our trust in you to carry us from this world of death to an eternity of life.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2017 by Galen C. Dalrymple.

DayBreaks for 10/23/17 – Whose Face Would It Be?

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DayBreaks for 10/23/17: Whose Face Would it Be?

What do you think the future of Christianity is in the United States?  Or in the world, for that matter?  There have been some recognizable faces that the world has come to know as “Christians”.  Among those who come readily to mind are Mother Theresa and, of course, Billy Graham.  There are others, too, but many of the “old guard” of the faith have been, or are close, to departing this world for their eternal reward. 

The question has been asked of me: if you had to think of someone who is a Christian that you could point to that is respected by everyone, who is a living witness to the Christian faith, who would it be?  For me, the answer was fairly quick: Billy Graham would be my first choice.  He seems to have managed throughout all these years, to keep himself “unspotted from the world.” 

But, Billy Graham is old and certainly the time for his own departure is near.  Then who, like Elisha taking up the mantle of Elijah, will be the “face” of Christianity in the world?  It’s not an easy question to answer, but I was struck by this brief comment from the Opinion Journal (Wall Street Journal Online), 10/8/07, by James Taranto, about some statements made by an avowed atheist who was chastising Christians for their unwillingness to engage in public “dialogue”.  The first paragraph is taken from Ms. Lalli’s statement, and the second paragraph is Mr. Taranto’s musings on what she said:

Ms. Lalli: I have a question for the Christians out there: If you could pick one living person to be the face of the entire Christian faith, who would that person be?  Even if you could pick three, or even five people, it would still be a challenge.  I imagine it would be hard to figure out whether you wanted to pick those Christians who think most like you, or if you would pick people who could better represent the many colors of Christianity, the subtle differences and big-picture similarities.

Taranto: We lived in Brooklyn for a time in the early 1990s.  Back then, at least, there were Christians there, and it seems unlikely that all of them have left.  Lalli should see if she can find one so that she can ask her question directly.  We’re pretty sure the answer will be Christ.  OpinionJournal, 10/8/07, James Taranto

Can there be a better ambassador for Christianity than Christ?  Certainly, the answer to that is and unequivocal, “No!”  He is by far the best example of Christianity that there ever will be.

Still, I’m forced to ponder the question: if not Billy Graham, who?  And why should we automatically assume that all believers couldn’t be effective ambassadors – that you who read this, and I who write it, can’t be equally as strong of “advertisements” for what a real Christian is like?  After all, isn’t that what we’re ALL called to be and to do?

PRAYER:  Lord, we know that within us dwells no good thing – except for Jesus.  Help us to be better illustrations of the truth of Christianity, of the life of Christ, than we have been in the past.  May we all resolve to live as if the world depended on our resemblance to Jesus.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2017 by Galen C. Dalrymple.