DayBreaks for 10/17/17 – A Worldwide Competition

DayBreaks for 10/17/17: A Worldwide Competition

From the DayBreaks archive, October 2007:

We’re fond of talking about winning a world championship when it comes to our sports here in the United States.  We tend to assume that anything we do in the sports world is better than anything anyone else can do anywhere else in the world.  Consider: it’s almost time for the October Classic – otherwise known as the World Series.  But think about that?  How can it be the “World Series” when only teams from the United States and a few Canadian teams are involved?  What about all the baseball played in the Caribbean, in Japan, or other places around the world?  “Sure,” I can hear you say, “but they’re not as good as American teams.”  I don’t know – that may be true.  But remember – we felt that way about our National Basketball League players who were defeated in a few past Olympics.  So much for the assumption that we just naturally the best, the world champions.

Then, of course, there are folks like my wife.  I love her dearly, and over the years we’ve been married, we’ve developed some similar tendencies, but we’re also very different people.  In some things, I LOVE competition.  In anything, she HATES it.  When you’re dealing with an area that I know something about and have some skills developed, I don’t mind competing – at least as long as the competition is friendly.  But, take me out of my comfort zone, or put me in an arena where I don’t know the competitors or spectators, and I may tend to withdraw out of fear of failure.  Fear of failure probably keeps more people from competitive activities than anything else.  We don’t want to look stupid or to embarrass ourselves.

In his book, Hearing God, Dallas Willard describes a conference he attended, when someone asked him what was the human issue that Jesus came to address (as opposed to theological issue, I suppose).  He answered: “Jesus came to respond to the universal human need to know how to live well.  He came to show us how through reliance on him we can best live in the universe as it really is.  That is why he said, I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly (Jn. 10:10).  His supremacy lies in the greatness of the life he gives to us.  Putting Jesus Christ into a worldwide competition with all known alternatives is the only way we can give our faith a chance to prove his power over the whole of life.”

I must confess, I’d never thought about “putting Jesus Christ into a worldwide competition” before.  But stop and think about it for a minute.  Why are we afraid of putting Jesus front and center into the marketplace of thought and ideas and belief systems that are targeted at helping people live better lives?  Could it be because we are projecting our fears of failure on Him?  That we’re afraid that when it comes right down to the nitty-gritty, that He somehow won’t pass the test?  That the life He tries to teach us to live isn’t perhaps the best life that there could possibly be? 

I fear that we let our fears keep us from putting Christ into a competition with anything that the world has to offer.  We are to “contend earnestly for the faith” – contending is a term from warfare and from competition.  Are we afraid that Christ will somehow fail to win in a competition against lies, deceit and falsehood?  It won’t happen.

How can you put Jesus front and center on the stage of the world in which you live?

PRAYER: Father, help us to have full and complete faith and trust in You.  Help us to not project fears about our failures onto Your ability to contend for the hearts and minds of those who don’t know You.  Give us spirits of boldness and courage to carry Your name with us wherever we go!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2017 by Galen C. Dalrymple.

Advertisements

DayBreaks for 10/13/17 – Living in Spite House

A Spite House in Boston, MA

DayBreaks for 10/13/17: Living in Spite House

There once was a millionaire who owned a lot in an exclusive residential area of New York City. This particular lot presented a very unusual problem. The lot was five feet wide and about a hundred feet long. He couldn’t do anything with such an odd sized lot, so he decided to sell it one of the neighbors on either side. But when he went to the neighbors, they didn’t want to give him anything for it. They basically said, “Look, you can’t build on it and you can’t sell it to anyone else. So take our offer or leave it.” The millionaire was so angered by their refusal and rebuttal that he decided to get even.

He hired an architect and a contractor, and had a house designed for that weird shaped lot. It was five feet wide and ran the entire length of the property. He moved in and set up house in this narrow house. Each room was barely wide enough for a single piece of furniture. His hatred for the people on either side of this small lot made him decide to ruin the look of the entire area.

The neighbors complained that it was a blight to the neighborhood. But the city fathers couldn’t find any code forbidding it. This millionaire moved into it, and lived there the rest of his life. The only one who was really punished was him. He moved into a long narrow little house that held only hate and discomfort. The house became known throughout the neighborhood as “Spite House.” It still stands to this day as a monument to one man’s hatred.

When I heard this story, I thought, surely this is an exaggeration. So, I did some checking and not only did I learn it was true, but what was even more shocking is the fact that there are at least twelve “Spite Houses” to be found in a simple search online.

There’s one in Carlsbad, New Mexico, built to block the Mayor’s view and annoy him. There are two in San Francisco; One at Deadman’s Point, Maine; one in Huntsville, Alabama; one in Boston, one that is supposed to be haunted and has been turned into a Bed & Breakfast in Fredrick, Maryland; and a triangle shaped “Spite House” in Montlake, Washington, a suburb of Seattle.

Isn’t that silly?

But here’s the question: are you living in a “spite house”? If so, confess it, move out and never go back again!

PRAYER: Jesus, protect us from the heart of bitterness and spite! Let us be bigger and better people than to erect houses of spite against those around us! Keep us from this ugliness! In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2017 by Galen C. Dalrymple.

DayBreaks for 9/20/17 – Who Are You Afraid Of?

DayBreaks for 9/20/17: Who Are You Afraid Of?

Note: Galen is traveling this week.

From the DayBreaks archive, 9/2007:

Some time ago I shared a DayBreaks about a prayer walk I participated in through downtown San Francisco.  I shared that when we came to the Tenderloin part of town that I had some fear.  The people were unkempt, it is an area given to violence.  The looks in their eyes were contemptuous and hard. 

In reading further in Deitrich Bonhoeffer’s book, The Cost of Discipleship, chapter 25 talks about the decision that people must make to be disciples.  Here’s what he had to say: “They (disciples) must not fear men.  Men can do them no harm, for the power of men ceases with the death of the body.  But they must overcome the fear of death with the fear of God.  The danger lies not in the judgment of men, but in the judgment of God, not in the death of the body but in the eternal destruction of body and soul.  Those who are still afraid of men have no fear of God, and those who have fear of God have ceased to be afraid of men.”

This is, indeed, the crux of the issue.  We are too attached to our bodies – we are so attached to this life that we fear losing it.  No one would say that we would rather lose this life than the one to come.  In hearing “…the power of men ceases with the death of the body” we find ourselves yelling out, “Yes, but that’s what I’m afraid of!  I’m afraid of what may lead up to the death, too!”  No one wants to suffer.  If and since we all have to go, we all want to go quietly and peacefully.  But to some, and to increasing numbers in our day and age throughout the world, He grants the privilege to suffer and die for Him.  What gives Him the right to ask someone to do that?  The fact that He first suffered and died for us.  For you.  For me.  God has never asked us to do anything that He hasn’t first done Himself.   

We live in a day and age filled with growing fear.  We’re afraid of violence on the streets, of robbers breaking and entering, of rape in a dark parking lot, of terrorism striking into our community, of random shootings.  We don’t like to admit that we are afraid.  But it’s true.  Jesus himself said we SHOULD be afraid in Luke 12.5: But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after the killing of the body, has power to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him.  Did you notice – after He has told us to fear the great Judge of all mankind, He reiterates it in case we missed it: Yes, I tell you, fear him.  

But doesn’t “perfect love cast out fear”?  Yes.  But in our culture, we’ve gone so far to the side of not fearing God, of seeing Him simply as a white-haired old gentleman with a toothless grin and kindly eyes, that we have forgotten His demand of holiness, of the fact that He can, and will, carry out judgment against sin and vengeance.  God hates sin.  All sin.  It doesn’t matter what the sin is – He hates it.  It must be punished.  It must be paid for.  Every single one of us deserves to be banished to outer darkness with Satan and his angels forever.  Not one of us can stand on our own two feet before God’s throne, look Him in the eye and tell Him, “I deserve to be let into heaven!”  On that day, no one will dare do such a thing.  No, I have a feeling that when we stand before Him and are confronted with the absolute Holiness that is His alone, even though we are believers and His children, that we will fall on our faces in shame and yes, fear.  But then – oh, praise God!!! – then, His very own Son will step forward and show God His nail-scarred hands and feet and say, “I’ve paid the price for this one.  Let him/her in.”  Then God will smile, nod His head in perfect and absolute agreement, Jesus will gently lift us up and tell us, “Welcome home!” as tears of joy stream down His face and mingle with our own tears of relief and thankfulness. 

That day will come.  We will stand before Him.  Jesus holds our destiny in His hands.  Thank God they are nail-scarred!

PRAYER:  May we live boldly in the holy fear of You and You alone.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

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.