DayBreaks for 10/31/18 – Pick and Choose Morality

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DayBreaks for 10/31/18: Pick and Choose Morality

From the DayBreaks archive, 10/09/98:

James 3:11-12: Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.

Our country is suffering a real trauma. For months, accusations against President Clinton were on the front pages, along with denials from the president himself. As events have sadly shown, they weren’t just accusations or rumors – they were true (by the president’s own admission). It is sad and heartbreaking. We need to pray for the president just as we would for anyone who has been overtaken by sin – pray for true repentance so forgiveness can be given. But I don’t really want to focus on the president or the political issue per se. In J. Budziszewski’s article in the August 22 issue of WORLD magazine, he was discussing the president’s situation and the fact that many Americans believed Mr. Clinton was lying, but many go on to say he was doing a good job as president. Budziszewski asked, “What could they be thinking?” and then went on: “Through diligent listening, I’ve compiled some possibilities: ‘Who am I to judge?’, ‘Everyone lies about sex’, ‘All I care about is the economy’, ‘The other politicians are just as bad’, ‘If his wife can put up with it, so can I,’, ‘I’m so disgusted I’ve stopped paying attention.’ “Have these thoughts any common thread? Yes: they all express the idea that character doesn’t count – that you can be a bad man and yet a good statesman. I doubt that many people would swallow that notion whole. But they do tend to swallow a big part of it – the belief that you can be a bad man in some ways, yet a good statesman.”

Budziszewski calls this the “Pick and Choose Delusion”. It is a disease I think we all suffer from. He says, “We believe that we can pick and choose our sins; persistent disobedience to God in one area of life leaves the others unaffected. This delusion is like thinking, ‘I’m not going to do anything about my cancer. After all, it’s only in my lymph glands!’ The truth is that we cannot pick and choose our sins. Untreated by repentance, disobedience to God spreads from organ to organ until it reaches the heart.”

We can’t pick the areas of our life that we are willing to let God clean. We can’t choose to be holy in some areas and unholy in others. In fact, it is precisely those areas that we might choose to be “unholy” that God most wants to clean in us. You can’t be a good Christian but a bad father or mother, or a faithful follower of God and be unfaithful to your husband or wife. Yes, we all sin and all need forgiveness, but we can’t pick and choose morality. “No man can pick and choose his sins, because sin is never satisfied. Like the fire, it spreads; like the leech, it devours.” And like the cancer, it kills. “Choose for yourselves this day who you will serve….

PRAYER: You know our secret sins and weaknesses even better than we do, Lord. We need your help to be clean! In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2018 by Galen C. Dalrymple.  ><}}}”>

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DayBreaks for 10/30/18 – On Account of Me

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DayBreaks for 10/30/18: On Account of Me

From the DayBreaks archive, October 2008:

Yesterday, I shared from Matthew 11:4-6 where Matthew recorded the story of John the Baptist’s moments of doubt.  He’d dispatched followers to find out if Jesus was the one that they had been expecting, or if they should be on the lookout for someone else.  Jesus invited them to stay long enough to see and hear for themselves the great things that Jesus was doing – evidence of a Divine power that no human alone could exercise.

But at the end of the time the followers were with Jesus, he commissioned them to return to John with this kind of report from Mt. 11:4-6: Jesus replied, “Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor.  Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me.

Did you get that last little bit?  “Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me.”  What did Jesus mean?  Why would anyone fall away after witnessing the great miracles Jesus was doing – giving sight, making legs strong, fixing eardrums, curing diseases and even raising the dead?  It would seem that those things would have exactly the opposite effect: they would keep one from falling away. 

Not so, apparently.  Remember the context: John’s in prison, awaiting his beheading for antagonizing King Herod by telling him he was an adulterer.  John had done great things for Jesus, publicly proclaiming at the Jordan: Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world!  He had prepared the way for Jesus excellently.  Jesus had said no man ever born of woman was greater than John.  That’s very high praise.  But here’s John, stinking up the dungeon, and after all that John had done for Jesus, would it be too much to think that when Jesus got word of John’s plight, that he’d come to see John at the very least, or perhaps even to get him out of prison?  And so John had waited.  Jesus didn’t show up.  He didn’t write to John.  He didn’t send messages to him via his own disciples to encourage John to stay strong.  No, none of that.  Jesus was off preaching far away from the dungeon in which John found himself.  And it makes John wonder: “Was I wrong about this guy?  Why is he out there doing great things for others but not for me?  I’m his cousin, for Pete’s sake, and I spent my life preparing Israel for Jesus’ ministry!

Could Jesus have been saying: “Blessed are you, John, if you don’t fall away for what you perceive I have failed to do for you.”  Did John want a deliverance?  I think so – he was human.  But he didn’t get it, not even in what appears to be his hour of greatest need.  And Jesus simply says, “Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me.” 

Perhaps you are in a dungeon of your own, or someone else’s making right now, and your doubts have surfaced and bit into your faith a bit.  You wonder why Jesus hasn’t come to help you, or that person you love that you’ve been praying for.  And you wonder, “Is this Christianity real or not?”  Take courage from the words of Jesus that preceded this difficult statement: look at what Jesus has done, and is doing.  Can anyone other than the Son of God do those things?  No.  God’s favor rested on Jesus.  Like John, we at times must be reminded of the great things Jesus does, but also remember that we are blessed if we don’t fall away on account of Jesus – and what he has not done for us in this world. 

John didn’t get his miracle of deliverance.  But he got his answer, and it was enough to see him through faithfully into eternity.  You may not get your miracle of deliverance from disease, divorce, economic ruin, a job loss or anything else.  But you don’t need it: “Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me.”

PRAYER: I fear, sometimes Lord, that we believe we should have special treatment in this world and that we shouldn’t be subject to the same kinds of disasters that strike others.  At times of our struggle, help us to remember that those who never saw you or touched you after your resurrection and still believe are even more blessed than those who did touch you and see you with their own eyes.  Help us to never fall away on account of something You do, or don’t do, for us.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2018 by Galen C. Dalrymple.  ><}}}”>

DayBreaks for 10/29/18 – He’s the One

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DayBreaks for 10/29/18: He’s the One

It’s dark.  The air stings the lungs and is filled with the smells of unwashed bodies, human waste, wet straw.  The scrabbling sounds of rats in the darkness interrupts one’s ability to sleep.  There is little water and what food there is is not even fit for the rats.  The chains chafe on the wrists and ankles, digging into the flesh, creating bloody wounds that draw even more rats.  And John sits there, in the dungeon of King Herod, after a remarkable career serving the Messiah.  But John is alone now, the Messiah is no where to be seen.  John hears that the Lord is in Galilee (the backwater part of Israel), preaching to the rabble there.

The hours wear slowly and seem more like days than mere hours.  For how long John sat there, we don’t know…but we do know this: at some point, the soaring courage and fearlessness in this man began to flag, and so he commissioned some of his followers to go to Jesus with a simple question: “Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?” 

John’s followers go and find Jesus.  We don’t know how long they stayed, but they apparently stayed a while, based on Jesus’ response to their question from Mt. 11:4-6: Jesus replied, “Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor.  Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me.

The disciples of John had apparently stayed long enough not just to hear Jesus’ answer, but to hear and see for themselves then to go back to John with their report.  “John, you should have been there!  We saw blind people see for the first time in their lives!  We saw cripples dance and leap!  Leprosy went away and skin was made pink and whole by just a word from Jesus!  The deaf hear the sound of their children’s voices!  But John, there was a little dead girl – and Jesus just told her to ‘Get up, little one!’, and she did, John, she did!  We wouldn’t have believed it if we’d not seen it with our own eyes, John.  And you should have seen her parents – their joy was so incredible – they were speechless and could only fall and hold Jesus’ feet and weep tears of joy and say, ‘Thank you, Jesus!  Thank you, Lord!’ over and over and over again!  And the words, John…you’re a great preacher, but no one ever spoke like Jesus does!”

John had his answer.  Jesus is the One.  He still is today.

PRAYER: Jesus, we believe that You are the Holy One, the One and only sent from the Father above.  In the times of our doubting, remind us of this eternal truth!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2018 by Galen C. Dalrymple.  ><}}}”>

DayBreaks for 10/26/18 – The Hunger to Be Somebody

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DayBreaks for 10/26/18: The Hunger to Be Somebody

What does success look like to you?

Winning the championship over all the other teams in your sports league?

Checking off every item on your to-do list?

Getting that new job or promotion you were hoping for?

Putting the kitchen in order after making a homemade meal from scratch?

To James and John, success looked like sitting next to Jesus, each on one side of their Lord, basking in his reflected glory. And that’s not particularly bad, is it? Don’t we all long to be next to Jesus? But there’s a problem: perhaps they imagined him as a king seated on a great throne with themselves as his trusted advisors on thrones that were just a little less glorious. Whatever their mental image, their longing for success was so strong that it overcame any reluctance they might have had in approaching Jesus.

At least the way they opened the conversation suggests some hesitation on their part. “Teacher,” they began, “we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” Instead of asking Jesus directly, James and John seemed to test him out first. Like children coming to Mom and Dad with something they know isn’t quite right, they apparently hoped that he would say yes first and ask questions later. But Jesus wisely and quite rightly responded with a question of his own: “What is it you want me to do for you?

Finally the two brothers made their request, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” No wonder they had tried to approach Jesus in such a roundabout way. They hoped to be singled out for places of honor above everyone else, even above their fellow disciples.

Everybody wants to be somebody. Since the dawn of history, human beings have been trying to move up the scale of importance. The clincher used by the serpent to tempt Adam and Eve was “when you eat of [the tree of good and evil], your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Gen. 3:5). Henri Nouwen says that ever since then, we have been tempted to replace love with power. “The long painful history of the church is the history of people ever and again tempted to choose power over love, control over the cross, being a leader over being led.” This is a theme running through the Bible, through human history and through our own psyche. Do you see it in yourself?

PRAYER: Lord, help us to be content with our identity as your beloved children and choose love rather than dominion or favor!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2018 by Galen C. Dalrymple.  ><}}}”>

DayBreaks for 10/25/18 – Three Poison Pills

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DayBreaks for 10/25/18: Three Poison Pills

During the American Revolution a man in civilian clothes rode past a group of soldiers repairing a small defensive barrier. Their leader was shouting instructions, but making no attempt to help them. Asked why by the rider, he retorted with great dignity, “Sir, I am a corporal!” The stranger apologized, dismounted, and proceeded to help the exhausted soldiers. The job done, he turned to the corporal and said, “Corporal, next time you have a job like this and not enough men to do it, go to your commander-in-chief, and I will come and help you again.” With that George Washington got back on horse and rode off.

Where did Washington learn such leadership skills? I have no doubt he learned them here in these words of Jesus: Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant. The young corporal had these words modeled to him from the man at the top. The disciples, likewise, receive from their leader a picture of servant hood.

Mark 10:35-37 (ESV) – And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came up to him and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” And he said to them, “What do you want me to do for you?” And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.”

This heartbreaking text comes at a crucial time in the life of Jesus – and by now you’d think the disciples might be imitating their leader just a bit. But when this happens, it is only five days before Jesus’ crucifixion. Four days before his betrayal and trial. One day before the clearing of the temple. A few hours before the Triumphal Entry. If the disciples are going to start appropriating Jesus’ teachings in their life it ought to be now. But it doesn’t happen. Moments before the most crucial events in their life they are a bickering, petty, bad-tempered quarrelsome lot. We need to learn from this not-so-flattering moment in the life of the disciples.

How is it that critical moments can be so close at hand and we are wondering what’s in this for me? It has to do with the three poison pills of position, prestige, and power.

Let’s all check ourselves to see if we’ve swallowed any of those poison pills.

PRAYER: Lord, keep us from pursuing position, prestige and power. Let us recognize poison when we see it!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2018 by Galen C. Dalrymple.  ><}}}”>

DayBreaks for 10/24/18 – The Last Word

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DayBreaks for 10/24/18: The Last Word

From the DayBreaks archive, October 2008:

Last things.  A final word.  A last goodbye.  A condemned man’s last meal.  A final hug of a pet or loved one.  Last things stick in our minds and it should be so.  Last things are important.  Maybe more important than first things, and as such they deserve our attention.

As humans, we are conditioned to think of last things as being the end, the swan song.  We are conditioned to think in terms of time and space, possibilities and impossibilities, probabilities and improbabilities.  In this, as in all other things, we need to have our minds reshaped by the power of the Spirit to see things that our human minds cannot perceive on their own.

Enter Revelation – that book that is revered and feared, loved and hated, and sadly, all too often ignored by believer and unbeliever alike.  Revelation is the last book of the Bible and the last one which was written – another of those “last things.”  And as such, it deserves our attention.

Revelation is not about prediction: Jeanne Dixon and Nostradamus were into prediction.  Predictions may or may not come to pass.  Revelation is not a book of prediction, but of eschatology.  Most think of eschatology as being about “last things” and rightly so, for that is what the word itself means – the study of last things.  But if Revelation is eschatological, it is only eschatological in the worldly sense, for in the great book of John, the key eschatological message is that as the last breath of the earth is gasped out, the heavenly reality is that the future is breaking in upon us. 

In Reversed Thunder, Eugene Peterson (note: Eugene passed to glory on 10/22/18, with his last words reportedly being, “Let’s go!”) noted: Eschatology involves the belief that the resurrection appearances of Christ are not complete.  This belief permeating the Revelation makes life good, for when we are expecting a resurrection appearance we can accept our whole present and find joy not only in its joy but also in its sorrow, happiness not only in its happiness but also in its pain.  We travel on through either happiness or pain because in the promises of God we see possibilities for the transient, the dying and the dead.

How are your expectations today?  Are you living in great expectation of another post-resurrection appearance of the Christ, or have you resignedly condemned yourself to a life of mundane trivialities?  The expectation of his appearing and of the infinite possibilities his coming hints at are worthy of our meditation and great expectation that this day, as likely as any other day, can be changed from an ordinary day into a day and lifetime of endless anticipation.

PRAYER: Lord, teach us to expect not just Your power through the Spirit, but the appearing of the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.  Let this expectation transform us from victims into victors, from depressed creatures buffeted by life into glorified saints full of joyful exuberance.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2018 by Galen C. Dalrymple.  ><}}}”>

DayBreaks for 10/23/18 – So Alike Yet So Different

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DayBreaks for 10/23/18: So Alike Yet So Different

From the DayBreaks archive, October 2008:

On 10/18 my wife and I flew back from Boston where we were visiting our youngest son (middle child) and his family – including our newest granddaughter, Sophia.  She was 3-1/2 weeks old when we got there and the amount she changed during the two weeks we were there is astonishing.  But, rest assured that during the entire time we were there she was the perfect addition to our family, and we now have another blessing from God to love and serve as grandparents.

While I was there, I couldn’t help but be struck by several things:

FIRST: It’s fascinating to see just a tiny bit of myself, my wife, our son and his wife, in the looks of Sophia.  Sure, she’ll change a lot as she grows and gets older, but she’s got her mother’s eyes and hair, our son’s (and grandmother’s) hairline, and arguably she has some aspects of my appearance, too (although most would argue she’s way to beautiful to have anything in common with her Pop-pop [that’s me]!)  As I thought about that, I thought about how in each of us there are glimpses of our Father.  Yes, they can be very hard to see and sometimes we may not be able to perceive them at all, but there is no way that we can avoid some of His characteristics.  They may only be seen when we’re at our very best (which still isn’t very good!), and it may be necessary to look long and deep to identify them, but they are there.  In the most distressed appearance you could imagine, Mother Theresa saw Jesus.  Who do you see?  Do you even try to see Jesus, or some semblance of the Father, in each person He’s created?  If we did, instead of just seeing things we don’t like, we might find this world a much more fascinating and beautiful place.  Some folks just need a bit of help to let those resemblances blossom and flourish.  Maybe we can help them.

SECOND: It’s easy to forget how tiny and small new babies are.  I was amazed at how tiny the little hands, fingers and toes were – how short the little arms are.  Compared to Sophia, I’m a huge monster.  She’s not a little baby – she was eight pounds something when she was born, and she’s been packin’ on the chub ever since – but she’s SO TINY!  And that made me think of how we must appear to God.  With a baby as small as Sophia is at present, it creates a desire inside of me to want to protect her, to hold her, to keep her safe from bumps, bruises and the hurts the world could inflict without even noticing.  As I looked at Sophia, I felt like a giant.  When God looks at us, He must be even more impressed with how tiny and fragile we are.  And yet, He picks us up and holds us ever so gently so as not to break us.  Anyone who can call a universe into existence simply through the power of a spoken word is so far beyond us in power and strength that we can’t begin for one second to wrap our little minds around His greatness and power.  And He’s put that power at our disposal so that when we are walking in harmony with Him, there’s no limit to what He can do through such tiny little babies as us.

THIRD: It’s easy to forget how helpless little babies are.  It’s not that Sophia doesn’t want to be able to feed and clothe herself.  I quite honestly don’t know if she does or not, but when she’s hungry and wants to eat and she can’t feed herself – she lets the world know.  But she just isn’t able to do that yet.  She is still trying to figure out what those things are that show up near her face every once in a while that have five little worm-like things on each one (her fists).  She can’t do a single thing for herself except cry.  Once again, God looks at us and sees people who are totally helpless, who are dependent on the Father for everything – whether they realize it or not.  Does Sophia know that she’s dependent on mom and dad?  No, she just knows when she needs changing or is hungry or when something hurts.  But the concept of dependence, I’m convinced, hasn’t yet developed in her mind.  Hopefully, someday she’ll come to recognize her dependence on the great and perfect Father.  The Father, meanwhile, sees us thrashing wildly around, helpless to do the things that must be done…and so He has undertaken to do those things for us.

Praise be to God, the Father of us all!

PRAYER: Your gentleness is overwhelming with us, Lord.  Thank you for your tender yet powerful hands that pick us up when we fall.  Thank you that you’ve done for us all the things we cannot do, and for remembering our frailty and smallness.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2018 by Galen C. Dalrymple.  ><}}}”>