DayBreaks for 8/01/17 – Deus Incognita

DayBreaks for 8/01/17: Deus Incognita

From the DayBreaks archive, July 2007:

I must confess, I am deeply troubled by the lack of theological understanding and inquiry among Christians today.  I include myself in that statement.  It causes me to fear for the faith of future generations of the church – and then I’m reminded that it is Jesus’ church, and He has promised that the gates of hell will not prevail against it.  But that doesn’t mean that we can slide willy-nilly into mindless oblivion about our faith.  The enemy’s attacks grow bolder each and every day – partly, I believe, because as Christians, our ability to defend the faith through the Spirit and knowledge of and about the Truth has reached low ebb.  We’re too busy watching television, renting movies, playing with our iPods or Nintendo’s to pull the bible off the shelf and read it for an hour each day (or longer, as our ancestors in the faith did), or even to read the thoughts and lessons learned by the brilliant saints who have lived and died throughout history. 

Do you remember what the Jews call the Shema?  It goes like this: Deut. 6:4-5 – Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.  Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.  You know that by heart, probably.  We like to think about that, and my guess is that when we do, more often than not, we focus on the heart and strength aspect of the verse.  That’s not a bad thing – but there’s one other thing that we often overlook.  It’s the bit about loving Him with all our “soul.”  The Greek word is psyche and is also translated “mind”.  We are to love God, not just with our hearts (emotions) and strength, but also with our minds.  

From Mark Buchanan’s Hidden In Plain Sight – the Secret of More: “In old medieval maps, the cartographer typically inscribed uncharted areas with the words, Terra Incognita, “Unknown Earth.”  A convention then developed to add a warning, Hic Sunt Dracones, “Here be dragons.”

Terra Incognita was honest.  It was an admission of ignorance, an invitation to further exploration.  It awakened inquiry.  Hic sunt dracones was mere speculation, laden with superstition.  It was a covering up of ignorance with wild conjecture.  It warned off further expeditions.  It stifled inquiry.  It hid truth beneath a crust of myth making.

“This is easy to trip into, not least of all with our God talk.  When our theology is patchy, it’s best just to say so, and then set out to fill in the missing pieces.  But I find I’m prone to speculate, swap opinions, walk darkly.  I’m tempted to cover my ignorance with a flurry of razzamatazz and boondoggling.  Hic sunt dracones.

It’s a huge challenge, of course: this business of the study of God.  Unlike every other area of study in the universe, this is one course of study that will never be fully grasped, it’s depths will never fully be plumbed.  Physics is finite because it is a part of the finite universe.  Biology is finite, because it is about the study of the life of finite things.  Geology, paleontology, archaeology, astronomy…and any other science you can name, are all about finite things.  But theology is infinite because it is about that which is Infinite – God.  Could there be a more exciting, rewarding or important field of study?

How long have you spent this week in readying the word, or the thinking of those who have wrestled with these Infinite questions?  Maybe a better question would be this: why haven’t you spent time this week doing such things?  If you are a Christian, there is no more important course of study, and certainly no other line of research that will benefit you in eternity.

PRAYER:  Father, forgive us for letting our minds grow feeble and flabby through our laziness.  Help us to hunger and thirst after You and You alone.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

DayBreaks for 7/25/17 – The Wheat, the Tares – and the Line Through the Heart

DayBreaks for 7/25/17: The Wheat, the Tares, and the Line Through the Heart

Matthew 13:24-30 (NLT) – Here is another story Jesus told: “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a farmer who planted good seed in his field. But that night as the workers slept, his enemy came and planted weeds among the wheat, then slipped away. When the crop began to grow and produce grain, the weeds also grew. “The farmer’s workers went to him and said, ‘Sir, the field where you planted that good seed is full of weeds! Where did they come from?’ “‘An enemy has done this!’ the farmer exclaimed. “‘Should we pull out the weeds?’ they asked. “‘No,’ he replied, ‘you’ll uproot the wheat if you do. Let both grow together until the harvest. Then I will tell the harvesters to sort out the weeds, tie them into bundles, and burn them, and to put the wheat in the barn.’”

Jesus’ parable about the wheat and tares seems strange. In that parable, the lesson is not to try separate the wheat and tares. In due time, they will be separate by the Judge of all. So, why wouldn’t Jesus want us to go out there are start sorting it all out? I think there are obvious reasons: what we think is a “tare” may in fact be wheat in its early stages. How many of us would have seen Saul of Tarsus (a believer in God, even before his conversion, no doubt) as wheat instead of a tare?

One preacher asked the people at his church to imagine what would happen if they adopted a policy of weed-pulling, drawing a circle around their little town and making a vow that no evil would cross that line, that no weeds would grow within that border. He told them, “You know, you and I could spend the rest of our lives protecting that boundary, standing shoulder to shoulder with pitchforks and clubs, making sure that we kept drugs and alcohol and pornography and gambling safely on the other side. I think it would take all of our energy and most of our time. But what if we did it? What if we succeeded? What would we have? We would have a town characterized by the absence of evil, which is not the same as a town characterized by the presence of good. And maybe this is what Jesus was talking about all along, that it’s better to have a wheat field with weeds in it than a field with nothing in it at all.”
When that church in North Carolina later began a ministry to the children of a nearby trailer park, they had to decide what kind of ministry it would be. They could have chosen to root out all the sources of evil in that place-to chase down the drug dealers and the deadbeat dads, to confiscate handguns and arrest child abusers. Instead, they chose to put up a basketball goal, to tell stories from the Bible, to put their arms around little children, and sing songs about Jesus. And two years after they started that ministry, two years of going out there Saturday after Saturday to do those things, the pastor got a note in his box at church with five words on it: “Adrian wants to be baptized.” Adrian. The terror of the trailer park. That little girl who had made their work most difficult during the previous two years. Who would have guessed?
Instead of pulling weeds in the field where she lived, they just tried hard to BE  wheat themselves, and somehow Adrian saw that and fell in love with it and wanted it for herself. After she was baptized, there was a little more wheat in the field. And because she was there, soon, there was even more.

I know far too many Christians who continually want to cull the field, making decisions on the basis of assumed or real belief, behaviors, attitudes, speech, political stances, etc. One pastor’s wife looked back into her genealogy and traced it back over 500 years. In the process, they that she had a relative who was burned at the stake in Switzerland. Why? Because he had a different understanding of baptism than those who tied him to the stake, that’s why. They weeded him out. Then they burned him up.
As for me, I don’t always know whether I am weed or wheat. I believe it was Alexander Solzhenitsyn who said: If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. That includes my heart and it includes yours, too. For all I know, I may even be the weed in somebody else’s garden. Perhaps in your garden.

If Jesus was content to let the weeds be, why shouldn’t I? He’ll sort it out when the time is right for he is far better qualified to do so than any human.

PRAYER: Forgive me for thinking my answers are all the right ones, that I am in any way qualified to separate the wheat from the tares! Let humility rise within us, Lord, and let us just get about the business of being wheat and not something else that is deceitful. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

DayBreaks for 5/22/17: He Is My All?

 

DayBreaks for 5/22/17: He Is My All?

There is a Christian song that we sing at church sometimes, in fact, we sang it just yesterday, titled All To Us. At the end of each verse are these words, “We believe, You’re all to us” (verses 1 & 2) and then verses 3 & 4 end with, “Jesus You, are all to us.”

We are told that when we sing we are to sing with both the Spirit and the understanding. I wonder how often we really do that. We know so many of the songs by heart that we can sing them in our sleep – and I fear that perhaps we are often sleeping through the words we are singing in worship as a result. It is a very powerful claim to be making that “Jesus, You’re all to us.” How I hope it is true – and I hope we aren’t singing those things mindlessly because God is listening and knows whether it is true or not. The person standing next to you probably can’t tell if it’s true or not, but God knows. Every. Single. Time.

As one of our worship leaders wrote: “When someone or something is our “ALL” or our “EVERYTHING”, it’s obvious to those around us. There’s no mistaking it. They are the topic of our conversations. They occupy much of our mental real estate. Our decisions hinge greatly upon this person or this thing. There is NO doubt when one is impassioned…driven…consumed.

“Now, fill in the blanks:

“I often find myself weaving ______ into my conversations.”

“Countless times a day I realize I’m lost in thought, thinking of ________.”

“When making a decision, I take _____ into account before deciding.”

“How do you fill in the blank: your family, a spouse, children, your job, your to do list? Was it money, status or climbing the ladder of success? Now, place “Christ” into the blanks. What does that look like?”

How did you do with that simple little test? When you make the claim that Jesus is everything to you, that he is all that matters, it should be obvious to everyone around us. Does putting the word “Christ” in those blanks really sound like the real you? Does it ring with truth, or does it reveal to your heart that perhaps He isn’t your all, your everything? Is it just something you sing or say mindlessly?

I realize that we must grow into loving someone or something as time passes. I have found in my own life that the love I had for my wife or children or grandchildren has only grown with the passage of time. Is the same true for my love of Christ? I hope and pray that it is so and that it will be even more true was each new day passes. Until then, perhaps I should be a bit cautious when bragging how much Jesus means to me until my life reflects it a bit more.

PRAYER: Jesus, for all the boastful things I have said about my love and devotion for you, please forgive me. Let it be true that someday I can honestly say that you are my everything. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2017 by Galen Dalrymple.

 

DayBreaks for 4/28/17 – Why Christ HAD To Rise

DayBreaks for 4/28/17: Why Christ HAD to Rise

Note: Galen is traveling this week.

From the DayBreaks archive, April 2007:

Easter is over, but Christ is still risen!  It seems that many forget in the hustle of everyday life that such an earth-shattering event really did take place.  Maybe saying it was earth-shattering is a bit strong – many alive on the face of the earth at the time never heard about it in their lifetimes – they just didn’t have that opportunity.  And being such scientifically minded moderns as we are, we find it a bit hard to believe that something that happened so long ago in the days of yore when science was, well, rather unscientific, we may be a bit skeptical about the resurrection. 

In John 20, it says (talking about the disciples after Jesus resurrection and before Jesus had appeared to them), They did not yet understand the Scriptures that Jesus had to rise from the dead.  I can hardly blame them, even though Jesus had told them numerous times, in very plain language, that he would rise from the dead on the third day. 

But this year, as I read that passage, I was struck by the simple word “had”.  It is a significant word – the writer could have said that they didn’t understand that Jesus would rise from the dead, but that’s not what he said.  John said Jesus “had” to rise from the dead.  And that got me thinking.  Why did Jesus have to rise?  Several reasons, I think:

FIRST: If Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, it would mean that there was something (death) in the universe that is more powerful than God, which is impossible given the definition of God and His omnipotence.  If Jesus (God with us) could not raise himself from the dead, he couldn’t possibly have been God.  But if he could raise himself from the tomb, then surely He must be God!

SECOND: Life has, in spite of appearances, always been stronger than death.  Consider how it works with a grain of wheat: one grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, but that one grain of wheat gives life eventually to thousands of grains of wheat in subsequent generations.  Think of the great people of the past and what comes to mind?  Is it not their life, and not their death?  We speak of such people as “living on” in their deeds, words, thoughts.  And, who hasn’t seen a seed that has sprouted and grown through inches of asphalt, cement or even rock?  Why?  Because life is stronger than death, and Jesus was “the Way, the Truth, and the LIFE.”

FINALLY: I preach and teach about the cross a great deal.  I make no apologies for that.  But recently I have wondered if I’ve emphasize that too much and underemphasized the resurrection of Christ.  After all, the apostles went everywhere teaching and preaching the resurrection.  Many people were crucified during the time of Christ – but what made him unique was the resurrection!  What good would it have been if Jesus had lived a sinless life and if God had accepted Jesus’ sacrificial death for us, but Jesus hadn’t risen?  Paul is clear in Corinthians: if Christ isn’t risen, then there is and will be no resurrection for anyone.  Here’s the point: if Jesus perfect life ended with the grave, our sins could have been forgiven, but so what?  If he didn’t rise, we won’t rise.  We’d lie in the grave and become dust and remain dust – eternally.  And those are some of the key reasons Jesus had to rise from the dead.

Let me share the brilliant observation by theologian Jaroslav Pelikan: “If Christ is risen from the dead, then nothing else matters; if Christ is not risen from the dead, then nothing else matters.”  You see, it all depends on Christ and his resurrection.

PRAYER: I thank You, Father, for the little word “had” – that Jesus “had” to rise from the dead.  Thank You that He did rise, and that because he has risen, nothing else in this universe really matters.  The reality of His resurrection is the dominant fact of all the universe.  May we live as if we truly believe He is risen from the dead!.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2017 by Galen Dalrymple.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright 2017 by Galen Dalrymple.

DayBreaks for 3/07/17 – Replicating the Story of Jesus

DayBreaks for 3/07/17: Replicating the Story of Jesus

From the DayBreaks archive, March 2007:

I was recently blessed to hear Eugene Peterson speak at a conference I attended.  He is a humble, thoughtful man of seemingly bottomless wisdom.  He is slow to speak – weighing his words carefully to be sure they convey truth from the Truth.  I greatly appreciated being able to sit at his feet for a while and learn.

At one point he was talking about the church and how it is perceived by the world.  There is much that can be said on that topic, but what Peterson focused on was how the church itself replicates the life of Jesus.  Consider how Jesus could have come into the world: with great fanfare and leaflets falling from the sky that was magically translated into whatever language was spoken by the person who picked them up.  He could have come with a PowerPoint presentation that flashed across the underbelly of the clouds above our heads, replete with musical background, bold and contrasting colors and maybe some video clips of what hell is like so we’d all be scared straight.  Or, he could have come and spent his entire time upon this earth turning rocks into bread and obliterating hunger and disease so that no one on earth would every go to bed hungry or wake up sick again.  Wouldn’t those things have been spectacular?!?!?!

But, that’s now how Jesus came, is it?  Not one of those things happened when he showed up.  Here’s part of the point: Jesus never, during his entire 30+ years of life on this earth, left the world of poverty into which he was born.  He spent his life as one of the “people of the land” – despised by the ruling religious hierarchy because they were unlearned, sweaty laborers who couldn’t ever seem to put two cents together at one time, but who were always scrambling for their daily bread.  He was humbled, he was broken, he was in the midst of a very sinful people, he seemed powerless before the forces arrayed and conspiring against him.  And, he bled…and bled…and bled…from his hands, back, feet and side.

The church, just like Jesus, could have come in a different way.  God could have preached the first gospel sermon on the day of Pentecost by shouting out loud from heaven so that all the entire universe heard and understood every single syllable and word.  He didn’t.  He used a human mouth (just like He did with Jesus).  The church (like Jesus) exists in the middle of a very sinful people (and the church itself, being made up of people, is sinful).  The church seems powerless against the stratagems of Satan, and is made up of badly fractured, dislocated and broken folk.  And (if the church is true to its calling to be the very body of Christ on earth), as the body of Christ literally bled, the church will bleed, too.  We will bleed out mercy and compassion on the downtrodden like the blood of Christ.  We will bleed because of our stand for faithfulness, to accomplish the will of the Father, even as Christ’s blood fell for the same reason. 

Do you ever wonder why the church has such a bad reputation in the world?  Granted, some of it we bring on ourselves with our hypocrisy and leaders who fall like dominoes, but here, I think, is the core reason: Jesus was a stumbling block because he was broken, bleeding, appearing powerless and as one who associated with sinners.  And that is EXACTLY what the church is to be about, too.  We are to be a broken people (because that’s what we truly are – and once our brokenness is seen and admitted – we cannot be hypocrites any longer).  We are to bleed literally and figuratively because of our love for Christ and for the lost that He loves.  And the church appears powerless.  So, why does the church stink to the world?  Because the church, as Jesus’ body, takes on His nature of being a stumbling block. 

Each of us as Christians are to be “little Christ’s”.  Let’s get on with replicating his story and stop publishing our own!

PRAYER: God, we’ve got a long way to go to be very good reflections of Christ.  As His body here on earth, we feel powerless, we feel bloodied sometimes and broken.  Even as we struggle with what we see in the church and in ourselves, let us remember that you see us differently because we are “in Christ.”  If we are to be stumbling blocks to the world and individuals in it, let it be for all the right reasons – because we are living the story of Jesus visibly, out loud, each day.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2017 by Galen Dalrymple.

DayBreaks for 2/16/17 – Rats in the Cellar and Slaps on the Cheek

DayBreaks for 2/16/17: Rats in the Cellar and Slaps on the Cheek

Matthew 5:39 (ESV) – But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.

This text from Matthew leads one to ponder the words of C.S. Lewis, Surely what a man does when he is taken off his guard is the best evidence for what sort of man he is. If there are rats in a cellar, you are most likely to see them if you go in very suddenly. But the suddenness does not create the rats; it only prevents them from hiding. In the same way, the suddenness of the provocation does not make me ill-tempered; it only shows me what an ill-tempered man I am.

Think about the reaction that Christ calls us to have if someone strikes us on the cheek. What kind of a person would that make us? To turn the other cheek and refuse to react with similar anger or malice shows the world we are Christian. After all, if someone walked up to you in the next 5 minutes without warning or provocation and slapped you hard across the cheek, what would your reaction be?

So if what we do when we are taken off guard is the best evidence of what sort of person we are, let us pray our reactions show that we are good Christians!

PRAYER: Lord, it is not natural for us to turn the other cheek when we’ve been smitten physically, verbally or emotionally. It is at moments like that when we most need your Spirit to dominate our response. Spirit, take up residence in us so that we might be like Jesus! In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

Copyright 2017 by Galen Dalrymple.