DayBreaks for 6/18/19 – Practical Atheism

 

DayBreaks for 06/18/09: Practical Atheism

From the DayBreaks archives, June 2009:

George Barna is a Christian “poll-taker” who researches attitudes of and about Christians and Christianity.  His findings are often very insightful – and often downright frightening.

In a recent article he was being interviewed about the 7 “faith tribes” in America (which includes all the major world religions), Barna noted that 66% of Americans are what he called, “casual Christians” and 12% were “captive Christians.”  Here’s how he described “casual Christians” and their brand of Christianity: “Casual Christianity is faith in moderation. It allows them to feel religious without having to prioritize their faith. Christianity is a low-risk, predictable proposition for this tribe, providing a faith perspective that is not demanding. A Casual Christian can be all the things that they esteem: a nice human being, a family person, religious, an exemplary citizen, a reliable employee – and never have to publicly defend or represent difficult moral or social positions or even lose much sleep over their private choices as long as they mean well and generally do their best. From their perspective, their brand of faith practice is genuine, realistic and practical. To them, Casual Christianity is the best of all worlds; it encourages them to be a better person than if they had been irreligious, yet it is not a faith into which they feel compelled to heavily invest themselves.”  The key attraction to be a casual Christian: “The comfort that this approach provides. It offers them life insights if they choose to accept them, gives them a community of relationships if they desire such, fulfills their inner need to have some type of connection with a deity, and provides the image of being a decent, faith-friendly person. Because Casuals do not view matters of faith as central to one’s purpose or success in life, this brand of Christianity supplies the multi-faceted levels of satisfaction and assurance that they desire.”

Captive Christians, on the other hand, are characterized as follows: “Captive Christians are focused on upholding the absolute moral and spiritual truths they glean from the Bible…The lives of Captive Christians are defined by their faith; their worldview is built around their core spiritual beliefs and resultant values. Casual Christians are defined by the desire to please God, family, and other people while extracting as much enjoyment and comfort from the world as possible. The big difference between these two tribes is how they define a successful life. For Captives, success is obedience to God, as demonstrated by consistently serving Christ and carrying out His commands and principles. For Casuals, success is balancing everything just right so that they are able to maximize their opportunities and joys in life without undermining their perceived relationship with God and others. Stated differently, Casuals are about moderation in all things while Captives are about extreme devotion to their God regardless of the worldly consequences.”

Tony Woodlief, writing in the April 28 issue of WORLD in an article titled “Practical Atheism”, was considering the same topic when he wrote: ‘“Hypocrisy in one age,’” warned Joseph Addision, ‘“is generally succeeded by Atheism in another.’”  Consider this in light of charges that America is becoming, according to a Trinity College survey, less Christian.  It’s not that Americans are converting to other religions, it’s that they are more willing to avow nothing.”  He continued: “What we are in danger of – in our country, in our churches, in ourselves – is practical atheism.  This is not considered embrace of godlessness.  It is instead the slow slide into lives where God is irrelevant…Practical atheism isn’t limited to people who abandon church; it extends to all we who drift from Christ, even as we dutifully attend Sunday services.  It’s in the brief morning prayer that eventually becomes no prayer at all.  It’s in the way we emulate men rather than the God-man.  It’s in the way we brood, as if the things that vex us don’t pass through the hands of a loving God.”

‘Nuff said.  Let us beware, however, of the tendency to bemoan practical atheism and jumping to the conclusion that we are not part of that 66% of “casual Christians”.  Let us invite the Spirit to search our hearts and determine if we uphold Biblical truth, if our worldviews are built around core spiritual beliefs and resultant values, if we define a successful life as an obedient one, or just a comfortable one that allows us to wear a label without having to pay for it. 

Prayer: Search our hearts, O God, and reveal to us the depth of our own depravity, revealing to us the shortcomings in our own practice of faith.  May we consider deeply the questions of faith and obedience and the consequences of practical atheism in our own lives.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2019 by Galen C. Dalrymple.  ><}}}”>

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DayBreaks for 5/30/19 – Love or Hate?

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DayBreaks for 5/30/19: Love or Hate?

From the DayBreaks archive, May 2009:

How many times has someone spoken to you about a “loved one” that they are fearful are not believers?  Almost certainly, you have loved ones yourself that are not disciples of Jesus.  And it seems that when that is the case, many times the believers in their lives are afraid to say anything to their friends about their spiritual condition.  That may be just due to not really knowing how to tell someone about Jesus, but I think that more often than not, there’s another reason.  To tell someone about Jesus isn’t complex: just tell them what Jesus has done for you.  You don’t have to make erroneous claims such as “I’ve never been tempted by sin again after I became a disciple,” or “Everything has been great since I became a Christian.”  Please don’t say such things: they identify you right away as a liar.  Be honest about your sin, be honest about your present struggles and how hard it is to live a Christian life, but tell them about the peace and joy and love and hope that has taken over your heart because of HIS goodness, and HIS promises…not your goodness or perfection.

Sometimes God has used unbelievers to make some of the most significant statements about faith and people of faith that I’ve ever read.  Take Nebuchadnezzar, for one, Darius for another.  Even the demons make amazing statements: “I know who Jesus is, but who are you?”  They know, all right.  And even they call Jesus “Lord”.

I recently ran across this statement by Penn Jillette, who is not only an atheist, but a foul-mouthed comedian to boot.  But this is worth reading because perhaps it shows us that perhaps our fears of telling someone about Jesus need to be replaced by something else: a recognition that failure to tell them about Jesus shows that we really don’t love them very much at all. 

“Atheist Penn Jillette is one half of Penn and Teller, a duo that has been headlining Vegas shows for years with comedy and the art of illusion. Penn has never been shy about his disbelief in God, often writing about his conviction in articles and best-selling books. Yet in an on-line video blog that can be found on YouTube, Penn shares a story about the time a gracious Christian businessman gave him a Bible as a gift. Penn goes on to use the story as an opportunity to point out that Christians who don’t evangelize must really hate people. Here’s the direct quote from his video blog:

“I’ve always said, you know, that I don’t respect people who do not proselytize. I don’t respect that at all. If you believe that there’s a heaven and hell, and people could be going to hell or not getting eternal life or whatever, and you think that, uh, well, it’s not really worth telling them this because it would make it socially awkward—and atheists who think that people shouldn’t proselytize, [saying] “Just leave me alone and keep your religion to yourself”—uh, how much do you have to hate somebody to not proselytize them? How much do you have to hate somebody to believe that everlasting life is possible and not tell them that? I mean, if I believed beyond the shadow of a doubt that a truck was coming to hit you, and you didn’t believe it, and that truck was bearing down on you, there’s a certain point where I tackle you. And this is more important than that.”  – Bill White, Paramount, California; source: “Penn Says: A Gift of a Bible,” YouTube.com 

More important, indeed.  Let’s get our perspective right and start to tell people about Jesus!

Prayer: Oh, Father, we invite your Spirit to search our hearts and to convict us of our great need to share Jesus with those we know and love – in fact, with everyone we possibly can!  Let our hearts burn hot with enough love that we will tell the truth and entrust the results to You!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2019 by Galen C. Dalrymple.  ><}}}”>

DayBreaks for 5/29/19 – Recognizing Heresy

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DayBreaks for 5/29/19: Recognizing Heresy

From the DayBreaks archive, May 2009:

I fear for the church – greatly.  It’s not because I think that somehow the devil and his minions will come up with some new “super weapon” that will allow him to prevail against the church (Jesus has already promised us that such a thing won’t happen). There will be no super weapon devised that will overthrow the rule of God.  What I fear are the same old weapons that Satan has used so effectively in the past.  And the weapon that has probably wreaked more destruction than any other is ignorance of believers when it comes to knowing what the Word has to say.  I’ve recently been engaged in a bit of blog banter with some other believers on the topic of whether it’s good for believers to try to understand the thinking of people such as Richard Dawkins, etc.

I’ve had many people tell me before that they don’t think a Christian should read anything but the Bible (interestingly, often I find such people eager to read “Christian fiction” of dubious quality and debatable, at best, theology), but they feel that certainly we should never study what unbelievers think.  It seems that some folks are afraid that if they read what unbelievers think, they may become unbelievers.  (This doesn’t seem to me to give much credit to the Spirit, nor to Jesus’ ability to keep us safely in His family.)  Perhaps that’s why I found the following interesting as a “case in point” using a non-Biblical, non-Christian example to make a spiritual point:

“A popular misconception—perhaps a Christian urban legend—is that the United States Secret Service never shows bank tellers counterfeit money when teaching them to identify it. The agents who do the training, so the legend goes, show bank tellers only examples of genuine money so that when the phony money appears before them they will know it by its difference from the real thing. The story is supposed to make the point that Christians ought to study truth and never heresy.

“The first time I heard the tale as a sermon illustration I intuited its falseness. On checking with the Treasury Department’s Minneapolis Secret Service agent in charge of training bank tellers to identify counterfeit money, my suspicion was confirmed. He laughed at the story and wondered aloud who would start it and who would believe it. At my request he sent me a letter confirming that the Secret Service does show examples of counterfeit money to bank tellers.

“I believe it is important and valuable for Christians to know not only theological correctness (orthodoxy) but also the ideas of those judged as heretics within the church’s story. One reason is that it is almost impossible to appreciate the meaning of orthodoxy without understanding the heresies that forced its development.”  – Roger Olsen, The Story of Christian Theology (InterVarsity Press, 1999), pp. 20-21

If we don’t know the Word, we won’t know heresy when we hear it.  That’s why our FIRST obligation and responsibility is to STUDY the Word, to consume it thoroughly, until we are able to wield it as a sword…and only then to delve into trying to understand why unbelievers feel as they do.  How can we find the flaws in their reasoning and their “faith” if we don’t even understand what they believe and why? 

As I’ve said before, the truth never has anything to fear from untruth.  It is the Truth that will survive and untruth will be destroyed.

Prayer: Forgive us for being such lazy students of Your Word.  May we consume it and internalize it and be consumed by it – so that we are equipped to recognize Satan’s tools of heresy which are often very subtle.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2019 by Galen C. Dalrymple.  ><}}}”>

DayBreaks for 4/05/19 – The Shape of Christian Victory

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DayBreaks for 4/05/19: The Shape of Christian Victory

From the DayBreaks archive, April 2009:

Wars are fought over silly things: oil, power, insults, a beautiful woman (remember Helen of Troy?), perceived slights – for these things and many others like them, blood has been spilled and lives sacrificed.  It is a sad, strange business this thing called war.

Wars in ancient days were fought with crude weapons such as stones, axes, spears, bows and arrows.  In all modern man’s “wisdom”, we’ve managed to create ever more deadly and accurate weapons.  While once upon a time a man had to stand in front of the other man and look him in the eye as he tried to kill him, we now can launch a missile and destroy millions of people on the far side of the world – never being confronted with their faces and the look in their eyes as they realize they are about to die.  War has become impersonal.  Indeed, remote control aircraft are being used in Iraq and Afghanistan to fire missiles at cars, gatherings of suspected terrorists, etc., and they are piloted by “pilots” sitting in front a computer monitor in the United States…how like a video game we have made war!!!

At the end of World War II, the shape of victory was the mushroom clouds that rose over Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  Thankfully, due to the horrible nature of those weapons, to date the world has never seen a repeat of their use.  There is no guarantee that this will always be the case, however. 

Of all the battles ever fought, the greatest victory of all time was won on a God-forsaken hillside outside of Jerusalem on a spring day as a carpenter from Nazareth was stripped and nailed to a tree.  His blood, like that of so many before him, watered the earth, turning dust into a red, muddy paste.  How strange that to the Romans and religious leaders that the shape of victory that day was a cross.  Even more bizarre is that the very same cross was also the shape of victory for the God who hung on it and for all who would believe on Him.

As Christians, the shape of our victory is not a mushroom cloud or a sword or a spear or a howitzer or the Gatling gun strapped on the side of an attack helicopter.  No, the shape of our victory is cruciform: What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all–how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died–more than that, who was raised to life–is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. – Romans 8:31-37 (NIV)

Prayer: For the victory of the cross we honor You!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2019 by Galen C. Dalrymple.  ><}}}”>

 

DayBreaks for 2/6/19 – The Pathway to Rain

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DayBreaks for 2/06/2019: The Pathway to Rain

From the DayBreaks archive, 2009:

Jeremiah 14:1-11 (NLT) – This message came to Jeremiah from the LORD, explaining why he was holding back the rain: “Judah wilts; her businesses have ground to a halt. All the people sit on the ground in mourning, and a great cry rises from Jerusalem. The nobles send servants to get water, but all the wells are dry. The servants return with empty pitchers, confused and desperate, covering their heads in grief. The ground is parched and cracked for lack of rain. The farmers are afraid; they, too, cover their heads. The deer abandons her newborn fawn because there is no grass. The wild donkeys stand on the bare hills panting like thirsty jackals. They strain their eyes looking for grass to eat, but there is none to be found.”  The people say, “LORD, our wickedness has caught up with us. We have sinned against you. So please, help us for the sake of your own reputation.  O Hope of Israel, our Savior in times of trouble! Why are you like a stranger to us? Why are you like someone passing through the land, stopping only for the night?  Are you also confused? Are you helpless to save us? You are right here among us, LORD. We are known as your people. Please don’t abandon us now!” So the LORD replies to his people, “You love to wander far from me and do not follow in my paths. Now I will no longer accept you as my people. I will remember all your wickedness and will punish you for your sins.”  Then the LORD said to me, “Do not pray for these people anymore.”

We are in the middle of a drought right now here in California.  How foolish if we think that the Lord no longer holds back the rain for the same reason He withheld it in the past!  Yes, he sends rain on the just and unjust, but He is also equally able to withhold it at any time He chooses. 

But what I found especially intriguing about this passage was in verses 7-9 where the people plead with the Lord to help them.  It is a wonderful sounding plea, also reflecting some of our own doubts and confusion about why God acts as He does.  I know there have been plenty of times when I was confused by what God was doing or not doing, when it seemed He was a stranger or powerless to do anything (that, by the way, is a horrible assumption – just because He doesn’t act certainly doesn’t mean He’s powerless to do so!)  Pay careful attention to the reason the people approach the Lord: they say that their wickedness has caught up with them and that they’ve sinned, but they beg for His help for the “sake of Your own reputation.”  They never ask for forgiveness – they only get as far as a confession, which is short and not very convincing.  They never get past the confession to asking for forgiveness and they show no inclination towards repentance.  Instead, it is as if they are trying to convince God that it’s in His own best interest to just forgive them and send them rain.   

How many times have I tried to appeal to God’s self-interest thinking I could manipulate Him into a certain desired behavior?  I’m not even sure that God can have “self-interest”!  My repentance had better be real.  True repentance moves the heart of God but fake repentance, even when there are lots of fine sounding words, never does.  And if God’s mercies don’t rain down upon us, we will all die of the drought.

PRAYER: Father, we say things hoping we can get You to “fall” for them as if You were another human from whom we can hide the truth.  Lord, we have sinned against you.  We ask you for forgiveness.  We desire to repent from the evil we do and to experience once again the refreshing mercies that fall from Your throne of grace.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2019 by Galen C. Dalrymple.  ><}}}”>

DayBreaks for 2/05/19 – Three Kinds of Faith

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DayBreaks for 2/05/2019: Three Kinds of Belief

From the DayBreaks archive, 2009:

In his recent book, Faith & Doubt, John Ortberg describes three kinds of “faith” and suggests we all practice three kinds of faith (or hold three kinds of convictions, if you please).

FIRST: Public faith/conviction: these are the things we say we believe when we’re surrounded by others, like what politicians say in order to win favor, curry votes and get elected.  No sooner is someone put into office than they backtrack on the things they said that they believed at one point or another in their campaign speeches.  A Biblical example of this kind of faith is King Herod, who told the wise men that after they’d found the baby Jesus, to come back to him and tell him where Jesus was so that “I can go and worship him, too.”  After all, it never would have endeared Herod to anyone if he’d said, so that “I can go and kill that baby.”  This is very hypocritical faith at best.  It changes based on who we’re around because we’re trying to impress them and make ourselves feel good.  And it can happen a LOT in churches and in Christian fellowships!

SECOND: Private faith/convictions: these are tricky because they are things that we truly believe that we believe, but when circumstances change, we find out that we really don’t believe it very much after all.  These are often things that we desperately WANT to believe, and we may even fool ourselves into thinking we do believe them.  A biblical example is Peter, “Lord, I’ll never deny you.”  I truly believe that Peter believed that of himself…but Jesus knew Peter’s heart better than Peter did.  And so, when the circumstances changed from the warm and friendly confines of the upper room to a courtyard of the high priest after Jesus’ arrest and shouts of “Kill him!” filled the air, Peter found out what he really believed at that point in time.  And it isn’t what he would have wanted to believe about himself, but it was the truth.

THIRD: Core faith/convictions: these are what we believe deep down inside, in spite of circumstances or surroundings.  These are the things for which we are willing to lay down our lives, if necessary. Ortberg says, we always act in accordance with what we truly believe when the chips are down.  That means we must become students of our own behavior – analyzing how we live, how we act, what we do in a wide range of circumstances and settings – and from that we’ll find out what we really believe.  Peter’s private faith became a core conviction later in his life when he was martyred for Jesus. 

So, here’s a brief summary:

Public faith/conviction: what we say we believe;

Private faith/conviction: what we think we believe;

Core faith/conviction: what we really believe as evidence by what we do.

What’s the point?  I fear that many of the things we think we believe are not core convictions.  For example, we say we believe God is everywhere and sees everything, right?  But, do we live as if we’re aware of His eye on us at ALL times?  Or, do we do things in secret that are shameful…and we do them because we really don’t believe He sees us while we’re doing them? We say we believe we should obey the law, yet did you speed today when you were driving?  We Christians say, “I’ve accepted Jesus as the Lord of my life,” but have we really?  If so, why don’t we obey him in caring for the needy (instead of pretending we don’t see them)? Scary, isn’t it, when we stop to contemplate what it is that we TRULY believe – even what we TRULY believe about God and Jesus.

In some things, we don’t know for sure what is a private conviction and what is a core conviction until our conviction is tested – and then it is revealed for what it truly is. 

PRAYER: Oh, Lord, with David we ask you to search our hearts and see if there is any deceitful way in them, reveal to us the truth about our faith that we might cling more tightly to Your Son and the forgiveness He gives us.  Help our private convictions regarding Jesus to become core convictions, and if necessary, to even survive the fires of martyrdom.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2019 by Galen C. Dalrymple.  ><}}}”>

DayBreaks for 1/24/19 – Truth from the Burning Towers

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DayBreaks for 01/24/2019: You Were Made for More

On that tragic morning of September 11, 2001, The Brooklyn Tabernacle lost four of its members. One victim was a police officer. The officer’s funeral was held at the church building, and Rudy Giuliani, then mayor of New York City, had been asked to share a few thoughts. Here’s what the mayor had to say:

“You know people, I’ve learned something through all this. Let me see if I can express it to you. When everybody was fleeing that building, and the cops and the firefighters and the EMS people were heading up into it, do you think any of them said, ‘I wonder how many blacks are up there for us to save? I wonder what percentage are whites up here? How many Jews are there? Let’s see—are these people making $400,000 a year, or $24,000, or—?’

“No, when you’re saving lives, they’re all precious. And that’s how we’re supposed to live all the time. How would you want the cops to treat you if you were on the seventy-fifth floor that day? Would you want them to say, ‘Excuse me, but I’ve got to get the bosses out first’? Not exactly.

“I confess I haven’t always lived this way. But I’m convinced that God wants us to do it. He wants us to value every human life the way he does.”

The words of the mayor moved everyone who had gathered that day for the funeral.  Jim Cymbala was there as Giuliani spoke, and had this to say afterward: “I sat there thinking, My goodness, the mayor is preaching a truth that has eluded so many of our churches throughout New York and the country! He may have stood for other policies that I could not agree with, but on that day, he was right on the mark. The truth of what he said penetrated my heart.

“The world you and I live in is falling apart before our eyes. We are God’s only representatives on the planet and simply cannot take time to pick and choose who needs help. They all need help. They all need the love and forgiveness of Jesus Christ. They all need to be rescued from the horror of an eternity apart from God.” – Jim Cymbala, You Were Made for More (Zondervan, 2008), pp. 94-96

Will you do your part to be the love of Jesus living in this world?

Prayer: As we see people around us, Lord, may we see every human being as those desperately in need of the love and forgiveness You offer – and may we see and admit that need in our selves!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2019 by Galen C. Dalrymple.  ><}}}”>