DayBreaks for 9/06/18 – Great Liars

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DayBreaks for 9/06/18: Great Liars

From the DayBreaks Archive, September 2008:

I have recently had a very precious sister in the Lord tell me that she wouldn’t be coming to church anymore because she felt the Lord was calling her to a time of withdrawal and study.  I must say, I’m perplexed.

I know people who, when I call them, will tell me that they just didn’t “feel” like going to church on the Sunday past.  I must say, I’m perplexed.

I know people who see someone in need but will pass them by, and if asked why, will respond with something along the line of “I didn’t feel led to help.”  I must say, I’m perplexed.

Perhaps I shouldn’t be.  For in all those instances, and hundreds more that could be spelled out, people these days seem to be more interested in their “feelings” about things than about God’s commands.  We might be tempted to say, “It would be dishonest for me to go to a place of worship and praise God when I don’t feel like it.  I would be a hypocrite.”  Yet, when I look at Psalm 122: 4 (NIV), the motivation that Israel was to have to go up to the temple to worship was not because they FELT like it, but because it was according to God’s COMMAND: That is where the tribes go up, the tribes of the LORD, to praise the name of the LORD according to the statute given to Israel.

In his book, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction, Eugene Peterson said this: “I have put great emphasis on the fact that Christians worship because they want to, not because they are forced to.  But I have never said that we worship because we feel like it.  Feelings are great liars.  If Christians worshiped only when they felt like it, there would be precious little worship.  Feelings are important in many areas but completely unreliable in matters of faith.  Paul Scherer is laconic: ‘The Bible wastes very little time on the way we feel.’

“We live in what one writer has called the ‘age of sensation.’  We think that if we don’t feel something there can be no authenticity in doing it.  But the wisdom of God says something different: that we can act ourselves into a new way of feeling much quicker than we can feel ourselves into a new way of acting.  Worship is an act that develops feelings for God, not a feeling for God that is expressed in an act of worship.”

Pause now for a few moments of reflection.  As you look at your life and your activities – do you determine what you will do based on how you feel, or on what God’s Word decrees?

PRAYER: Holy God, forgive us for letting our feelings become conditions on obeying Your commands!  Let us be led not be our feelings, but by all Your truth.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

COPYRIGHT 2018 by Galen C. Dalrymple. All rights reserved.

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DayBreaks for 9/03/18 – The Missing Son

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DayBreaks for 9/03/18: The Missing Son

Matthew 21:28-32 (CSBBible) – What do you think? A man had two sons. He went to the first and said, ‘My son, go work in the vineyard today.’  He answered, ‘I don’t want to,’ but later he changed his mind and went. Then the man went to the other and said the same thing. ‘I will, sir,’ he answered, but he didn’t go. Which of the two did his father’s will?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God before you.
For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you didn’t believe him. Tax collectors and prostitutes did believe him; but you, when you saw it, didn’t even change your minds then and believe him.

If this passage doesn’t trouble you, you’ve missed the point. If it is just another parable to you, you’ve missed the application.

What we see here are two sons. One is outwardly rebellious, much like the prodigal son in the parable by the same name. He shows no respect for his father, is arrogant and deceitful. He flatly refuses to his father’s face to go work in the vineyard.

The second son appears respectful and says he’ll go – but it was a lie – he never gets to the vineyard to work for the father.

In context, the first son was like the tax collectors and prostitutes – they initially may refuse the invitation to work for the Lord, but when they have a change of heart they do his bidding. The second son was representative of the religious leaders (think pastors and elders of our day) who say all the right things but then don’t do them.

Why is this so disturbing? Because my guess is that we all see ourselves as having said yes to Jesus’ calling, but have we really done what we say and sing we’ll do?  “All to Jesus I surrender..”  “Lord, you are my everything, the Lord of my life!”…but then is he really? What about when saying yes to him causes us to lose the favor and respect of others? What about when saying yes will cost us financially? What about when saying yes will cost you time and energy you feel you cannot spare? How many of  us sit in services, sing the songs and pat ourselves on the back thinking our relationship with the Father is so wonderful, but when called on to demonstrate in action and word that He truly is “everything to me”, pull back? So one huge question is: which son/daughter am I REALLY?

But there is a missing son here, too. The son who says yes and then goes immediately into the father’s vineyard and gets to work no matter what it costs. If you look high and low and try to find this son between the lines, but he’s not there. But he is. That son was the one who was telling the story. He is the son who, when the Father asked him to go work in his vineyard (the world) said, “Yes!” and immediately went regardless of the cost. That is the son/daughter we want to be like who says, “Here I am, father, send me!” 

PRAYER: Help us be true sons and daughters who say yes and then go into the world just as the One who told this story long ago. In Jesus’ name, Amen

COPYRIGHT 2018 by Galen C. Dalrymple. All rights reserved.

DayBreaks for 8/17/18 – The Hummingbird and the Vulture

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DayBreaks for 8/17/18: The Hummingbird and the Vulture

There are two birds that fly over our nation’s deserts: one is the hummingbird and the other is the vulture. The vultures find the rotting meat of the desert, because that is what they look for. They thrive on that diet. But hummingbirds ignore the smelly flesh of dead animals. Instead, they look for the colorful blossoms of desert plants. The vultures live on what was. They live on the past. They fill themselves with what is dead and gone. But hummingbirds live on what is. They seek new life. They fill themselves with freshness and life. Each bird finds what it is looking for. We all do.

That is the essence of Paul’s teaching: In life, there are two birds. The one bird looks for foolishness and stupidity, the other looks for wisdom. The vultures seek to fill themselves with the rotting flesh of drunkenness and debauchery, the hummingbird sobriety, freshness, and the Spirit. In the desert of this world you have your scavengers who are angry and ungrateful, but you also have those who hum a grateful hymn of thanksgiving. The irony is that you find what you are looking for.

In the fifth chapter of Ephesians Paul outlines proper behavior for good living. In this short passage he admonishes his readers to be careful how they live. He is brief and to the point. Three things we must do: be wise, be sober, and be thankful. It’s a short list but if we can orient our daily lives around these three-be wise, be sober, be thankful-we will transform not only our lives but also the lives of our family, friends, church, and neighbors.

PRAYER: Father, help us choose the things that are beautiful to you and that lead to life! In Jesus’ name, Amen.

COPYRIGHT 2018 by Galen C. Dalrymple. All rights reserved.

DayBreaks for 6/26/18 – The Measure of Success

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DayBreaks for 6/26/18: The Measure of Success

From the DayBreaks Archive, June 2008:

How can you tell if someone has been a successful person or not?  There are those who are considered successful if they attain some position or career or relationship that they have pursued.  There are those who don’t seem to have accomplished much in terms of prestige, money or honor, but who have been considered successful: Mother Theresa’s life could hardly be pointed out as a failure, not even in the world’s eyes. 

As we are about eight years into the 21st century, I wonder what success would look like for companies that I’ve worked for, for employees who have been near and dear to my hearts, from family (children, grandchildren), for the country that I live it.  I would think that we could ask a wide range of people to describe what would look like success in this century and get an even wider range of responses. 

But perhaps the most crucial question is this: what would be a measure of success for the church of Jesus in the 21st century?  Would it be necessary to convert a quarter of the world’s unbelievers to be successful?  50%?  95%?  100%?  Would the church still not be considered successful, even if that happened, because there would still be poverty and hunger in the world?  Would success demand not only conversions, but full bellies in all the world?  No more killing?  Peace?

I am not wise enough to really answer those questions.  I know that there are those who see only a dim, bleak future for the church as we are still in the infancy of the millennia.  I can understand that point of view.  Things do look rather bleak and dark.  But that’s when God has always done His best work – when it’s bleak and dark.  At the beginning of the creation of the world, it was darkness that covered the face of the deep, and God did pretty good work in making the Himalaya’s and Pacific, didn’t He?  It was dark in the tomb of Lazarus and later on, in Jesus’ own tomb, and God did more than just “pretty good work” in those instances.  God can work just fine in the dark – and in fact, when it’s dark, the light is all the more visible.

We tend to forget what it was like for the brand new church in the early century or two after the church’s birth at Pentecost.  The first 4 centuries of the church were a time when our first brothers and sisters faced odds of success more incredibly difficult than ours.  And yet, as J. P. Moreland so wonderfully put it in The Kingdom Triangle, “…yet they were so victorious that today we name our children Peter and Paul and our dogs Caesar and Nero!” 

Yes, that’s a certain measure of success.  We see dark times, but we forget that in the past 50 years, there has been an incredible explosion of Christianity all over the world.  It’s happening everywhere in the world except for one place: Western culture.

Don’t give up.  Success is guaranteed by God’s own promise.  I will build my kingdom, and the gates of hell cannot prevail against it.  Just remember this: the kingdom of God begins in the hearts of men and women just like you.  The enemy has laid siege works against your heart to discourage and depress you.  Don’t let him prevail when God’s success is just ahead.

PRAYER: Holy One, let us see some of Your victories in our own lives and the lives of those around us that we may be filled with the encouragement of what You are doing in this world!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

COPYRIGHT 2018 by Galen C. Dalrymple. All rights reserved.

DayBreaks for 5/31/18 – God’s Dike

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DayBreaks for 5/31/18: God’s Dike

Much of Holland was once part of the ocean; but the industrious Dutch built great dikes far out in the shallow sea, and so reclaimed the land. As their dikes hold the ocean back, on the landward side the people occupy their homes, farmers till their land, and the wheels of commerce turn.

Many of the rural lowlanders have a quaint way of referring to Sunday, the Christian sabbath. They speak of it as God’s dike. Why? one might ask. Because what God’s people do on this day each week serves society in the same way a dike serves the land. As the dike holds back the sea, so does Sunday and the worship experience help to hold back the flood of evil which is forever threatening to overflow the people.

God interposes the instruction and inspiration of Christian worship as a bulwark against wrong. The Christian sabbath is civilization’s strongest social buttress against the overwhelming flood of evil and fear and despair which are forever pressing hard upon us. By means of it, the forces of righteousness are made stronger against all the powers that would undo us.

What we do in worship every Sunday is to strengthen our dikes, to help keep them in good repair. When we go to worship, we are not merely doing something for ourselves – we are also doing something for the world. We are taking part in an unceasing effort which involves many millions of people and stretches over many centuries of time. Let’s be aware of the vast enterprise we’re involved in, and let’s be glad we’re in it.

PRAYER: Lord, protect us through our worship, and change the world because of it. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

COPYRIGHT 2018 by Galen C. Dalrymple. All rights reserved.

DayBreaks for 4/26/18 – Why Sin Vanished from Our Vocabulary

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DayBreaks for 4/26/18: Why Sin Vanished from Our Vocabulary

From the DayBreaks archive, April 2008:     

When is the last time that you heard the word “sin” actually spoken outside of a church – other than in a sneering derisive way?  I don’t know if I can honestly recall.  In fact, one wonders if perhaps the word is spoken very often inside churches these days.  Why is that?  No less than 50 years ago, the word could be heard at least every once in a while from politicians, businessmen, teachers, professors and certainly in churches.  Why no more?

It has to do with the shift in our thinking from the realm of spiritual things being relegated to nothing more than personal belief without anything to recommend it to a serious thinker or scholar as being more than just superstition.  When the Bible as God’s special revelation was thrown out, and when the real historical Jesus was made into a farce by the “Historical Jesus movement”, and when universities began teaching that anything the wasn’t scientifically provable should be thrown on the dust heap as so much gibberish, then there was to sin anymore, no mark that we would be missing.  Because, you see, God can’t be scientifically proven, therefore He must not exist. 

So, if you ask most people in our culture what, if anything, they think of sin, Don Everts in The Smell of Sin suggests it would be like asking them what they think of unicorns.  (In fact, I suspect that some might give more credence to the existence of unicorns – perhaps even if only in the past – than they do to the existence of God, although there’s far more evidence for the latter!)  Still, most people know that unicorns are a myth.  As Everts says, “So the debate is: is it a cute myth or a silly myth or a destructive one?  Sin really has joined the ranks of Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny in our culture: something that you once believed in as a child but have since grown out of…So, what does sin smell like to most of our neighbors?  Nothing.  Air.”

Has sin vanished from your vocabulary?  Have you relegated it to something other than what it is?  Have you developed cute names for it (“goof-up”, “mistake”, “slip of the tongue”, “mis-step”, “an oops”)?  God calls it sin.  And He reminds us very clearly: (Ezekiel 18:4, NIV) – For every living soul belongs to me, the father as well as the son–both alike belong to me. The soul who sins is the one who will die.

PRAYER:  Father, keep us from believing fairy tales and give us the wisdom to believe You.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

COPYRIGHT 2018 by Galen C. Dalrymple. All rights reserved.

DayBreaks for 4/24/18 – They’ve Never Been There

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DayBreaks for 4/24/18: They’ve Never Been There   

The story is told of the explorer who some years ago had just returned to his country from the Amazon. The people at home were eager to learn all about the vast and mighty river and the country surrounding it. How he wondered, could he ever describe it to them – how could he ever put into words the feelings that flooded into his heart when he saw the exotic flowers and heard the night sounds of the jungle. How could he communicate to them the smells the filled the air and the sense of danger and excitement that would come whenever he and his fellows explorers encountered strange animals or paddled through treacherous rapids?

So the explorer did what all good explorers do – he said to the people, “go and find out for yourselves what it is like”, and to help them he drew a map of the river pointing out the various features of its course and describing some of the dangers and some of the routes that could be used to avoid those dangers.

The people took the map and they framed and hung it on the wall of the local science museum so that everyone could look at it. Some made copies of it. After a period of time many of those who made copies for themselves considered themselves experts on the river – and indeed they knew its every turn and bend, they knew how broad it was and how deep, where the rapids where and where the falls. They knew the river and they instructed others in what it was like whenever those people indicated an interest in it.

I think that many people today are in the same situation. We know the scriptures but we do not understand them. And we do not understand them because we have not been there. We must not simply look at the scriptures and their meaning, we must go there. We must experience what it means to repent of our sins and allow God to forgive us. Would you this morning take the map down from the wall and go to the river with me. See what is there. Allow Christ to open your mind, to breathe his Holy Spirit upon you, and make you a disciple from the heart.

PRAYER: Let us drink deeply from the sweet well of your word and Spirit that we may know you from experience and not just from printed page! In Jesus’ name, Amen.

COPYRIGHT 2018 by Galen C. Dalrymple. All rights reserved.