DayBreaks for 4/08/20 – The Hallway Through the Sea, #14 – The Price of Faith in a Pandemic

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DayBreaks for 4/07/20: The Hallway Through the Sea #14 – The Price of Faith in a Pendemic

From Christianity Today and Tim Dalrymple, 4/07/20:

For today’s musical pairing, listen to this from Bach’s “Concerto in D Minor by Víkingur Ólafsson.

“Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: ‘If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.’
“‘Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.’’”
Luke 14:25–30

Meditation 14. 1,412,103 confirmed cases, 81,103 deaths globally.

There are times and places when the church lives in such peace and abundance that faith becomes an inexpensive thing. What cost another generation their lives and livelihoods costs us Sunday mornings and a modest tithe.

The temptation for those of us who wish to invite everyone into the fold of the faithful is to lower the cost of faith even further. Perhaps, we say, faith no longer requires so much sacrifice. Perhaps the time of suffering is past. In fact, there may be no cost to faith at all. Perhaps it’s the opposite. Perhaps faith paves the way to greater health and wealth.

Jesus was never so eager to keep a crowd that he minimized the costs of faith (see John 6:60–66). He could not have been clearer that following him requires enormous sacrifice. “Whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” Every person should count the cost.

Jesus understood something we have forgotten. When we lower the cost of faith, it becomes something other than faith. A cheap counterfeit. An elegant mantle of piety around the shoulders of an essentially secular life. If we lower the cost further still, it becomes something no one values. Eventually no one is willing to “purchase” what seems so common and unremarkable, what requires so little sacrifice.

The Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard wrote that the church had become filled with “admirers” when what Christ wants is “imitators.” As we enter into Holy Week as so many are suffering and dying in the pandemic, Jesus does not invite us to be mere admirers of the way he carried his cross nearly two thousand years ago. He invites us to be imitators, to carry our own crosses and follow in his footsteps today…(Click this link to read the rest of the meditation.)

PRAYER: Help us, O Lord, to be imitators and not merely admirers of Jesus. Help us to take up the cross for others, as you took up the cross for us. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Link to Christianity Today’s Facebook page

The Hallway Through the Sea is a series of daily meditations from the president and CEO of Christianity Today, written specifically for those struggling through the coronavirus pandemic. It will address our sense of fear and isolation and also the ways we find beauty and truth and hope—and Christ himself—in the midst of suffering. The title of the column alludes to the passage of the Israelites through the Red Sea. We are a people redeemed from our enslavement to sin, yet we find ourselves living between where we were and where we are meant to be. Danger looms on both sides, but our hope and our faith is that God will deliver us through the sea and into the land of promise. If you wish, you can follow Timothy Dalrymple on Twitter @TimDalrymple_

PREVIOUS THE HALLWAY THROUGH THE SEA COLUMNS:

Out of the Depths

Chosen in the Furnace

The First Word and the Last

More . . .

Link to video with facts, symptoms and prevention tips about coronavirus: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AITtaAAAdYc

Copyright by 2020 by Galen C. Dalrymple.  ><}}}”>

 

DayBreaks for 3/04/20 – Not Cast Down

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DayBreaks for 3/04/20 – Not Cast Down

From the DayBreaks archive, February 2010:

The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD: and he delighteth in his way. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down: for the LORD upholdeth him with his hand. Psalms 37:23-24 (KJV)

With the 2010 Winter Olympics taking place in Vancouver, Canada, February 12-28, chances are good that many of athletes performing on the biggest stage in the world will be dedicated Christians whose faith affects their preparation and participation in their specialized events. In an anthology entitled Finding God At Harvard: Spiritual Journeys of Thinking Christians, American figure skater and Harvard graduate Paul Wylie writes of his experience during a very trying moment in the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics:

“I set up for the first jump in my program, but as soon as I’m in the air, I know something is terribly wrong.  A flash later my hand touches the ice; the blade will not hold. I start slipping and now I realize it: I am falling. All I hear as I collapse to the ice is the empathetic groan of what seems like a million voices. I struggle to get up, hustling to get to the next move, thoughts racing through my mind as I try to cover the disappointments. There is no way of erasing a fall from the judge’s minds, nor can I jam the television transmissions to the living rooms of family and friends watching back home. This is live, and I have just blown it.

“I have four minutes left and one important choice to make. Either skate through the rest of the program believing that something constructive will come of the mishap, concentrating and performing through to the end, or continue to dwell on the fall and its consequences, inviting more mistakes caused by a negative frame of mind. A Scripture flashes through my mind that helps me with my decision: “The righteous shall fall, but they shall not be utterly cast down.” I suddenly grasp God’s perspective: he will use our successes and our failures to teach us about ourselves and to show the world his glory. “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28) I move on, accepting a new role. I admit imperfection and decide to skate “heartily as unto the Lord” for God’s glory rather than my own results.

“Paul Wyle would go on to finish tenth, but his lack of success at the 1988 Games did not deter him. He continued to compete in figure skating, learning from his setback. He eventually won the silver medal at the 1992 Olympics in France.” – Jerry De Luca, Montreal West, Quebec; source: Paul Wylie, “On Gravity and Lift,” in Finding God at Harvard: Spiritual Journeys of Thinking Christians (edited by Kelly Monroe Kullberf), InterVarsity Press, 2007

It is hard to fall down and not be down cast about it.  The wonderful news is that no matter what happens to us in this life, the Lord will lift us up in due time!

PRAYER: We all face hard times, Lord, times when we fall and are badly hurt.  Bring healing to us, remind us that in You we will NEVER be “utterly cast down!”  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2020 by Galen C. Dalrymple.  ><}}}”>

 

DayBreaks for 2/25/20 – Lazarus Laughed

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DayBreaks for 2/25/20: Lazarus Laughed

Early in his career, the great American playwright Eugene O’Neill wrote an imaginative play called “Lazarus Laughed” about Lazarus’s life after Jesus raised him from the dead. I’ve often wondered how Lazarus felt about being brought back, or the widow’s son, or Jairus’ daughter.  Were they happy to come back and get more time on this earth?  Or, if they had their druthers, would they have chosen to remain in the next “world”?

Near the beginning of the play, guests from Bethany are gathering for a banquet in Lazarus’s honor. They are all desperate to hear what Lazarus has to say about his experience (wouldn’t you love to hear such an account from one that you know was truly dead and raised directly by a voice command from Jesus?)

One guest says, “The whole look of his face has changed. He is like a stranger from a far land. There is no longer any sorrow in his eyes. They must have forgotten sorrow in the grave.”

Another guest, one who had helped roll the tombstone aside, recalls the scene after Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead: “And then Lazarus knelt and kissed Jesus’ feet, and both of them smiled, and Jesus blessed him and called him ‘My Brother’ and went away; and Lazarus, looking after him, began to laugh softly like a man in love with God. Such a laugh I never heard! It made my ears drunk! It was like wine! And though I was half-dead with fright I found myself laughing, too.”

I’ve not been physically raised from the dead – not yet, but someday I’ll have that experience.  Only when it happens for me and you, we won’t have to repeat the dying process ever again – the same cannot be said of Lazarus or the others mentioned above.  I have, however, been “raised with Christ.”  I have been dead (in my sins and transgressions) but been given new life!  And so, as I move in a crowd and sit at a banquet table with friends, acquaintances and family, can people hear and see in me a man who laughs softly because I am so in love with God?  Or do they see a grumpy face that because I’ve been raised with Christ, I can no longer just lie still?

Such a presentation of a living soul in communion with God would be powerful, indeed.  And it would certainly give others reason to pay attention to what has happened to us.

PRAYER: Let us laugh in the delight of what You have done for us with a laughter that is contagious so contagious that the world joins us in joyful rejoicing that we have been brought to life again!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2020 by Galen C. Dalrymple.  ><}}}”>

 

DayBreaks for 2/21/20 – The Other Side, Part 2

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DayBreaks for 2/21/20: The Other Side – Part 2

From the DayBreaks archive, February 2010:

In Mark 6, Jesus feeds the 5000 on the western, Jewish side of the Sea of Galilee.  They are in a remote place – no Burger King’s or McDonald’s in sight.  Not even stores with enough food to feed such a crowd are within miles and miles.  But the people don’t seem to mind – they’re listening to Jesus preach.  And he preaches all day.  At the end of the day, the disciples are moved with compassion on their Jewish friends and neighbors and they approach Jesus with the problem: what are we going to feed them?  Jesus, as you know, miraculously solves the problem.

Switch to Mark 8 and Jesus is back on “the other side” of the Sea of Galilee again – in pagan territory.  The last time he and his disciples had landed here, they had a welcoming committee of one: Legion.  But now it seems that the Man Formerly Known As Legion has been busy telling his story and a great crowd has gathered to welcome Jesus – to hear him and have their infirmities healed.  Jesus doesn’t disappoint them on either score.  He heals many, and he preaches.  And preach he does!  Day one and at the end of the day the crowd is still there – and the disciples say nothing.  Day two comes and goes and still the disciples have said nothing about the fact the crowd hasn’t been fed.  Day three is all that Jesus can bear – and at the end of the day, he tells the disciples (apparently seeing that they weren’t going to say or do anything about the crowd’s hunger) that he has compassion on them and wants them to feed the crowd. 

Do you see what happened here?  The disciples had plenty of compassion on those who were like them – on those who shared their religious and political positions, but not on the people from “the other side.”  Jesus, however, after watching his disciples fail this compassion test, shows them that he has compassion and that something must be done.  He’s setting the example for them for their eventual mission to the world – to take the gospel everywhere to every tribe, and people and language. 

But it moves me to wonder: who am I so prejudiced against that I don’t even feel compassion for them?  Who is the church so dead set against that we can’t be moved with mercy towards them?  Are we so judgmental that we condemn those with open, bleeding sores and diseases because we think they brought their problems on themselves with their wicked decisions?  Are we so blind that we can’t see this message in the contrasts of the feeding of the Jewish 5000 and the pagan 4000?  In the first case, 12 baskets of food were left over – the same number as the tribes of Israel.  Jesus was saying, “I’ve not forgotten my people.  I’ll take care of them and provide for them – in abundance.”  When he was done feeding the 4000, there were 7 baskets of food left over.  This wasn’t a co-incidence – it wasn’t 7 instead of 12 because Jesus had realized he’d overdone it the first time.  There were 7 baskets because there were 7 nation groups that lived in the Decapolis, in “the other side”…the very same nations that God had driven out of Palestine when Joshua took the land (Joshua 3:10; Acts 13:19).  What was Jesus saying with the leftover 7 baskets?  “I’ve not forgotten that these are my people, too.  I’ll take care of them and provide for them – in abundance.” 

On the cross, Jesus tore down all that separated “our side” from “the other side.”  They all now belong to Jesus, and it is time we started treating those on the “other side” as Jesus treated them!

PRAYER: Be merciful to us, Lord, and fill us with the heart of compassion that beat within your breast for all of mankind.  Forgive us our prejudices and our sinful tendency to think of our side and “our kind” as better than others!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2020 by Galen C. Dalrymple.  ><}}}”>

 

DayBreaks for 2/20/20 – The Other Side, Part 1

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DayBreaks for 2/20/20: The Other Side – Part 1

From the DayBreaks archive, February 2010:

After preaching in Galilee, Jesus told his disciples he wanted them all to go to the “other side”.  We read that as simply referring to the other side of the lake, and at one level, that is true.  But it was also a technical term that describes the area of the Decapolis – a heathen, pagan, non-God honoring region populated by the 7 tribes that God had driven out of Israel when the Hebrews took the Promised Land.  It would be like saying, “I’m going over to the Dark Side” in Star Wars terminology – to a place where evil and pride and badness rules, led by Darth Vader and the evil Emperor.  The disciples knew well what it meant. 

As they cross the lake, a storm comes up – a bad one.  What made it worse for the disciples is that the people of the Decapolis worshipped a pagan god that they believed ruled over the weather and the sea.  It’s a bad omen – to those who believe in such things.  Jesus, however, is fast asleep.  When awakened, he calms the storm and they land near Bethsaida in the Decapolis.  Their greeting party is huge, consisting of one man and an entire legion of demons that possess him.  Other than that, they were apparently alone. 

This poor man had been cast out by his people because of his possession.  Jesus heals the man and sends the evil spirits into a swine of 2000 pigs who commit mass suicide by running over a cliff into the water.  (By the say, the pig was part of their pagan worship, too!)  When the townsfolk hear about these going’s on, they ask Jesus and his disciples to get back in the boat they came in on and go back to the “other side” (isn’t it interesting how both sides think the “other side” is whatever side they’re not on?)  When Jesus humbly turns to get back into the boat, the Man Formerly Known As Legion begs to follow Jesus as his disciple.  To my knowledge, this is the only time in Scripture where Jesus tells someone, “No.”  Always, it’s been Jesus extending the invitation: “Come!  Follow me!”, but not now.  Though the man begs, Jesus stands steadfast: No.  You must go tell your story to your people.  Go. 

A couple of chapters later (Mark 8), Jesus returns again with his disciples to “the other side.”  Only this time, a great crowd is present.  Why?  Apparently because one man, formerly possessed, went and told his people what Jesus had done for him and what mercy he had received from the Christ.  All because, it appears, of one man telling his story. 

Couldn’t Jesus have been more effective if he’d stayed and preached after casting Legion out?  I don’t know.  All I know is that Jesus, filled with Divine wisdom, knew it wasn’t the best way.  The people of the Decapolis wouldn’t have been ready to hear Jesus if not for the story of Legion.  They knew this man and even though they’d thrust him out of their communities – he was still “one of us” to these Decapolis dwellers.  He didn’t make them suspicious.  Jesus and his disciples may have had the opposite result.

So, we see the power of telling the story of what Jesus has done for us and of the mercy we found at his outstretched hand. 

Who is on “the other side” from you?  Who is it that you alone, of all God’s many peoples, may be able to reach for Jesus? 

Wouldn’t it be great if when Jesus arrives on the shores of Planet Earth this next time he is greeted by you and by a great crowd to whom you’ve told your story and they’ve become his followers, too?

PRAYER: Help us to not think in terms of “our side” or the “other side”, but to focus on telling the story of the love of Jesus!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2020 by Galen C. Dalrymple.  ><}}}”>

 

DayBreaks for 2/13/20 – We Lepers

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DayBreaks for 2/13/20: We Lepers

From the DayBreaks archive, February 2010:

In his book, God is Closer Than You Think, John Ortberg relates the following story:

“Father Damien was a priest who became famous for his willingness to serve lepers. He moved to Kalawao—a village on the island of Molokai, in Hawaii, that had been quarantined to serve as a leper colony. For 16 years, he lived in their midst. He learned to speak their language. He bandaged their wounds, embraced the bodies no one else would touch, preached to hearts that would otherwise have been left alone. He organized schools, bands, and choirs. He built homes so that the lepers could have shelter. He built 2,000 coffins by hand so that, when they died, they could be buried with dignity. Slowly, it was said, Kalawao became a place to live rather than a place to die, for Father Damien offered hope.

“Father Damien was not careful about keeping his distance. He did nothing to separate himself from his people. He dipped his fingers in the poi bowl along with the patients. He shared his pipe. He did not always wash his hands after bandaging open sores. He got close. For this, the people loved him.

“Then one day he stood up and began his sermon with two words: “We lepers….”

“Now he wasn’t just helping them. Now he was one of them. From this day forward, he wasn’t just on their island; he was in their skin. First he had chosen to live as they lived; now he would die as they died. Now they were in it together.

“One day God came to Earth and began his message: “We lepers….” Now he wasn’t just helping us. Now he was one of us. Now he was in our skin. Now we were in it together.

Identification.  I don’t mean your driver’s license or social security number – I mean knowing who you are – is very important.  If I find myself in a struggle with something, I go to someone who I believe can identify with my struggle so we can speak a common language into one another’s ear.  I don’t go to someone who I believe will not have any sense of what I’m talking about or going through.  To do so would be foolish, at best, and downright harmful because we may get very incorrect advice!

Jesus knew when he came that he would have to become like one of us.  Not just someone with a physical body containing 2 legs, 2 arms, 2 eyes, a nose, ears and mouth.  He knew he would have to become JUST like us in all respects.  The writer of the Hebrew letter understood this: For this reason he had to be made like his brothers in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted. Hebrews 2:17-18

It wouldn’t be enough to just look like us and sound like us.  He had to be made like his brothers “in every way” so that He would understand the misery and despair and desperation of the human heart.  I find verse 18 interesting: he suffered when He was tempted.  Sometimes we may have the idea that Jesus rather easily and flippantly threw off temptation.  Perhaps he did, perhaps the “suffering” described in Hebrews 2:18 was generalized suffering brought on by the very nature of the Incarnation, but I believe this goes beyond generalized suffering. 

When we are tempted, really, truly tempted, and we resist it, we suffer an emotional and spiritual torment of sorts.  We WANT what is tempting us.  And we want it BADLY.  It is painful to say “No!”  It hurts to be obedient.  But it never hurts as badly as disobedience. 

In the final analysis, Jesus went a step beyond what we experience.  We experience sin as sinners.  Jesus didn’t just experience sin, but He “became sin” (2 Cor. 5:21).  It is in all these experiences that Jesus stands before the throne of the Father, pleading the case for us, “We humans…”.

PRAYER: We will never understand all that you took on to be our Savior, Lord – the humiliation, the pain, the suffering – all because your love refused to let us go.  Thank you!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2020 by Galen C. Dalrymple.  ><}}}”>

 

DayBreaks for 2/04/20 – Cod Liver Oil Evangelism

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DayBreaks for 2/04/20: Cod Liver Oil Evangelism

Jesus came preaching that “the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” What was there about that kingdom that got the fishermen and tax collector so excited that they left their livelihoods and even families behind to follow him? Maybe a more telling question is why are we not just as excited? Maybe we don’t understand what the kingdom is. Or maybe it just hasn’t been presented very well.  Maybe both.

There is a story of a woman who read somewhere that dogs were healthier if fed a tablespoon of cod liver oil each day. So each day she followed the same routine. She chased her dog until she caught it, wrestled it down, and managed to force the fishy remedy down the dog’s throat.

Until one day when, in the middle of this grueling medical effort, the bottle was kicked over. With a sigh, she loosed her grip on the dog so she could wipe up the mess. To her surprise the dog trotted over to the puddle and begin lapping up what had been spilled. THE DOG LOVED COD LIVER OIL. It was just the owner’s method of application the dog objected to.

Sometimes I think something like that has happened to the good news of the Kingdom of God. We present it so poorly that others are not captured by its attractiveness and its power. We have the most beautiful, wonderful story to tell the world. We don’t have to feel obligated to make people into Christians. The story, rightly told, has the power to do that through the Spirit. If even cod liver oil can be enjoyed, how much more the great news of God’s love for mankind! If we tell the story and no one responds, the problem isn’t with the story but in how it’s being told.

PRAYER: Let us tell the story in a way that is as beautiful and winsome as the story itself, Jesus! In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2020 by Galen C. Dalrymple.  ><}}}”>