DayBreaks for 9/05/19 – Imposing and Proposing

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DayBreaks for 9/05/19: Imposing and Proposing

NOTE: Galen is on vacation for the next couple weeks and may not respond to any comments until he returns on 9/9/19.

From the DayBreaks archive, September 2009:

I don’t think that there are many who would disagree that our culture has become very contentious.  It is clear in how the opposite sides of the political spectrum have labeled their opponents in the last election and in the current health care debate.  What has happened that Americans are now calling others “idiots”, “racists”, or insinuating that they are Nazi’s or worse because they don’t agree with the position and thinking of their opponents.  What has happened to civilized discourse, where women and men of conviction could respectfully and honestly disagree with one another without resorting to name-calling?  Have we become so immature as this would suggest? 

It isn’t just happening in the political world, either.  It happens to Christians – and sadly, sometimes Christians are not just the recipients, but the dispensers of such vitriol as well.  The balance of the world looks at Christians and labels us: ignorant, superstitious, old-fashioned, stupid, duped and the like.  Reminds me of Jesus’ words to us telling us to expect persecution because the persecuted him and the prophets before him.  And, he elsewhere told us that we’re blessed if we are persecuted for His name’s sake.

But is that persecution always without cause?  One of the most common complaints about Christians is that “You’re always trying to impose you views, beliefs and values on others!”  I fear that in some cases, that may be an honest and accurate description of how some Christians go about trying to Christianize the world.  And, I don’t believe, that’s Jesus’ model for evangelism.  Are we to share the gospel, and the Biblical worldview with others?  Absolutely!  It is not called the “Great Commission” for no good reason!  It is one, if not our greatest calling in this lifetime, to love others so much that we’d share truth with them about how they can be saved.  But that’s different than imposing one’s views.

Consider: how would you feel if you lived in a fundamentalist Islamic country, or in India where Hinduism is so strong, and you lived under a government that imposed those beliefs upon you as a Christian?  Simply put: we can’t impose our beliefs on others.  People must come to Christ freely – not by imposition nor by sword. 

So, what are we to do?  We are to propose a better way, not try to impose our viewpoint.  Jesus didn’t impose His view on the Pharisee or the apostle – He simply invited people to come and follow him and see if his way wasn’t better than what they had known all their lives.  In short, he proposed a better way.  We are to invite them to the marriage feast of the Lamb…not to put them in straight-jackets, truss them up like prisoners and force them to come.  It is “whosoever WILL…” that can come, not “whosoever is forced to come” that will find life.

As Rick Warren put it, as Christians (especially in our sharply divided culture in America today), we tend to see others as the enemy rather than as the mission field.  People are not our enemy – falsehood and Satan are the enemy.  People are simply lost…or found.  Let us be about the business of proposing a better solution.  We have nothing to fear from the honest exchange of ideas, for truth, handled rightly, will be seen for what it is.

PRAYER: Examine our hearts, Father, and reveal to us the attitude we have towards those who are not members of Your family.  Teach us to propose the truth and not to impose.  May Your Spirit give wings to the truth that we share!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

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DayBreaks for 8/26/19 – North Star People

 

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DayBreaks for 08/26/19: North Star People

NOTE: Galen is on vacation for the next couple weeks and may not respond to any comments until he returns on 9/9/19.

From the DayBreaks archive, August 2009:

Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever. – DANIEL 12:3

Due north in the sky is where you can find the star, Polaris.  Perhaps you know it by its more common name: the North Star.  For thousands of years now, when sailors or even astronauts are in need of directions or when they are lost, the first thing they do (assuming they don’t have GPS!) is to look for the North Star.  Once they’ve found it, it is possible for them to figure out where they are and how to get back on track. 

Surprisingly, the North Star (Polaris) is not the brightest object in the sky – in fact, it’s rather dim.  It’s slightly green (so I’m told).  Because it is at the tip of the very northern axis in the celestial view from earth, it doesn’t shift position throughout the night – it doesn’t move – it stays put.  It isn’t easy to find, but anyone can learn to find it.  A typical response by those who are shown where it is for the first time is to remark, rather surprisedly, “Huh.  I always thought it would be brighter than that.”

The point is this: we can be like the North Star to other people.  Shocking?  Perhaps, but here’s what Paul had to say about it in Philippians 2:14-16: Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life–in order that I may boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor for nothing.  (NIV)  There are several things worth noting about this verse:

FIRST: it is children of God that shine like stars in the universe – not just the “greats” like Peter, Paul, Mary, Esther and their ilk.  Every child of God can and should be shining like the northern star.

SECOND: it is in the dark world, a “crooked and depraved generation” that we are to shine.  We’re not supposed to wait until all is bright and airy – after all, can you see the stars when the sun is shining in its power?  Of course not!  It takes darkness for the stars (other than our sun) to be seen.  The day will come when we won’t shine – because the Son will be all the illumination that is needed when he appears.  But since the passage says we shine in a depraved generation – this verse isn’t talking about when we get to heaven or in eternity.  It is talking about shining NOW.

THIRD: how is it that we shine?  By the way we “hold out the word of life.”  That’s how we shine.  We hold out the Word of life by believing it, holding it out like we would a lantern or brilliant spotlight.  We hold it out so that others can grasp it.  We hold it out so that others can see by it and distinguish between the unfruitful works of darkness and the Light of the World that has come so that no one need stumble and fall again.

FOURTH: we can be like the north star in that we never change position.  We continually hold out the word of life…no matter what is going on in our lives.  Circumstances won’t change us…we should be stationary, steadfast.  As the words to the old song, O Thou Fount of Every Blessing put is, “Praise the mount, I’m fixed upon it, mount of Thy redeeming love!”  Fixed. Solid. Immovable.  The rest of the world may spin off into frenzied oblivion – the children of God won’t.

Right now, you are faced with a decision about how you’ll live this day.  You may be at work, college, high school – some other school – it matters not.  Wherever you are, if you are His child, you can shine like the north star and hold out the Word of Life to those all around you this day.  The question is: will you do it?

PRAYER:  Let us shine to this depraved generation, Lord!  Let us take the Word of Life into our hearts and hands and minds and hold it out to a world dying in the darkness.  Fix us as a star in the sky for all to see Your glory!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

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.  ><}}}”>

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.  ><}}}”>