DayBreaks for 3/29/17 – How We View the World

DayBreaks for 3/29/17: How We View the World

What is your general attitude toward the world you live in, towards life?  Do you generally see life as a trudge through the mud, or as an exciting and fulfilling adventure?  I know that there are days when we are overwhelmed one way or another, but as a general rule, how do you see the world and your life in it? 

You might not think that how you generally feel about the world is all that important.  After all, who does it affect but you, right?  Wrong.  I think that the way Christians (and others) feel about the world around us and our role in it makes a huge difference.  I was recently re-reading Viktor Frankl’s book, Man’s Search for Meaning, and he described one event that occurred one dark, cold night in the Auschwitz concentration camp.  Frankl wrote: I shall never forget how I was roused one night by the groans of a fellow prisoner, who threw himself about in his sleep, obviously having a horrible nightmare.  Since I had always been especially sorry for people who suffered from fearful dreams or deliria, I wanted to wake the poor man.  Suddenly I drew back the hand which was ready to shake him, frightened at the thing I was about to do.  At that moment I became intensely conscious of the fact that no dream, no matter how horrible, could be as bad as the reality of the camp which surrounded us, and to which I was about to recall him.

I dare say that none of us have ever been in a situation as horrifying as Frankl.  He found himself in a horrible dilemma: do I compassionately awaken the man who was having such frightening nightmares, or would the reality of the world of the prison camp be even worse than the imagined world taking place in the mind of the dreamer?  What would I have done?  I don’t honestly know.  But I know this: my world is nowhere as terrifying as a concentration camp.  My life and world is really, all things considered, very pleasant and tolerable.  Even beautiful. 

But here’s my point for today: if I view my world as being a horrible thing, chances are that I won’t do anything to “wake people up” who may be sleeping their way through life.  But if I can learn to see the beauty of the life that God has given me, the beauty of God through His creation, I will be more likely to do what I can to help people who are sleeping to wake up and see the beauty of the life lived with the Lord.

The Presence of the Lord can turn the desert into a well-watered land.  Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me.

PRAYER: Father, help us to see the truth about our lives.  We have hard times, but help us not to turn them into high drama that isn’t warranted.  May we see and experience the beauty of life lived in fellowship with You, and may we have the wisdom and courage to awaken the sleeper and help them see the glory of the Lord!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2017 by Galen Dalrymple.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright 2017 by Galen Dalrymple.

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

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

From the DayBreaks archive, March 2007:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright 2017 by Galen Dalrymple.

DayBreaks for 2/06/17 – Venture Out in Faith

DayBreaks for 2/06/17: Venture Out in Faith

Revelation 3:8 (ESV) –I know your works. Behold, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut. I know that you have but little power, and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name.

“One night at the end of a special Saturday night worship service,” writes Warren Hudson of Ontario, Canada, “a thunderstorm unleashed a bolt of lightning that plunged the church into darkness.” With the congregation seated in total darkness, the pastor felt his way to the kitchen to find some candles. The pastor handed out the candles to everyone present. Persons lit their candles in much the same way as many churches do on Christmas Eve, each person lighting the candle of the person next to them. The worshipers then made their way through the church’s winding hallways to the front door.

“Peering out, we could see the rain coming down in sheets,” Warren remembers. With traffic snarled, people were running for the nearest shelter. Looking around they realized that the entire city was in darkness. “There in the darkness we stood,” Warren writes, “a little band of Christians, each clutching a light, not sure whether to venture out into the storm or stay inside the church in hopes that the storm would soon blow over.”

There in the darkness the light of truth struck him. In this most dramatic way he realized what it means to be the “light of the world.” He writes, “It occurred to me then that this is the temptation I face every day. It is easy to play it safe and be a good Christian in church. It is a lot harder to venture out in faith into the storms of the world.”

It is easy to be a good Christian in church. It is not nearly so easy when we are outside the four walls of a comfortable building – but that is our mission. I suspect that if Jesus were to write a letter to us today he’d tell us that he’d much rather we were good Christians outside of the church building than inside.

Can you choose one thing this week that you will do “out in the storm” for Jesus and for the love of those around you?

PRAYER: Jesus, at the start of this new week, let us not be fearful of the surrounding storm but rather let us be good Christians and servants for you! In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2017 by Galen Dalrymple.

DayBreaks for 2/3/17 – Don’t Blame the House

DayBreaks for 2/03/17: Don’t Blame the House

I sometimes wonder what is going on with our country and the world. It’s not a pretty sight, no matter where you look. Things are dark and foreboding, broken and breaking down further, it seems. It is discouraging and it seems like everyone is looking for someone – or something – to blame.

John Stott, from Great Britain and one of the leading Reformed theologians before his death in 2011, had these challenging words to say to the church today:
“You know what your own country is like. I’m a visitor, and I wouldn’t presume to speak about America. But I know what Great Britain is like. I know something about the growing dishonesty, corruption, immorality, violence, pornography, the diminishing respect for human life, and the increase in abortion.
“Whose fault is it? Let me put it like this: if the house is dark at night, there is no sense in blaming the house. That’s what happens when the sun goes down. The question to ask is, “Where is the light?”
“If meat goes bad, there is no sense in blaming the meat. That is what happens when the bacteria are allowed to breed unchecked. The question to ask is, “Where is the salt?”
“If society becomes corrupt like a dark night or stinking fish, there’s no sense in blaming society. That’s what happens when fallen human society is left to itself and human evil is unrestrained and unchecked. The question to ask is “Where is the church?”

Are you looking for someone or something to blame for the way the world is today? Maybe, just maybe, we’ve been looking in all the wrong places.

PRAYER: Lord, have mercy on us, your church, for not being salt and light and influencing the world around us for good! In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2017 by Galen Dalrymple.

DayBreaks for 1/25/17 – The Danger with Eternal Youth

DayBreaks for 1/25/17 – The Danger with Eternal Youth

From Doug Dalrymple’s blog, dated 1/5/07:

A life devoted to instant gratification produces permanent infantilization: ‘At sixty-four…tastes are what they were at seventeen.’ In our society, the telescoping of generations is already happening: the knowledge, tastes, and social accomplishments of thirteen-year-olds are often the same as those of twenty-eight-year-olds. Adolescents are precociously adult; adults are permanently adolescent.  –  Theodore Dalrymple, ‘The Dystopian Imagination’

In the first sentence above, Dalrymple is quoting Mustapha Mond, a character from Huxley’s Brave New World.  In the novel, Mond is an ‘Alpha’ and the resident World Controller for Western Europe.  As I recall, he keeps a forbidden Bible in a safe and is one of only two living people known to have read Shakespeare (‘John the Savage’ being the other).  As Dr. Dalrymple notes, Mustapha Mond might as well have made his observation of our own day.  Last September I wrote:

“Perhaps this is the natural progress of a culture that idolizes youth and sex, that devours its children and discards its elderly.  The generation gap disappears while, from their respective ends of the ladder, adults descend and children ascend toward a universal, middle state of fragile, uncertain adolescence.”

Perhaps.  But why this idolization of youth and sex, this devouring of children and discarding of elderly, in the first place?  The celebration of youth and strength is nothing new, nor is lechery, nor resentment toward those to whom we owe much.  Why should it be so difficult for westerners in particular to reconcile themselves to growing old?  Is it, as Theodore Dalrymple suggests, a “life devoted to instant gratification” that produces “permanent infantilization?”  I suspect that’s begging the question again.  Perhaps it’s simply that the bogeyman of Death looms larger and fiercer as the image of the reconciling Cross and the Empty Tomb fades in the cultural memory.  With a specter like Old Bones gaping at us in the foreground, and no savior to precede us, we’re inclined to flee, as best we’re able, in the opposite direction.
In any case, let’s not be too hard on our young people: it’s not easy to grow up these days.  Those of us fortunate enough to have known living examples of well-adjusted maturity and reconciled old-age have less excuse, of course.  But for those with video-gamer grandpas who divorce at 60 to pursue younger prospects, and plastic-surgeried grandmas who dress and talk like sixteen-year-olds, what can we really expect of them?  That’s the trouble with eternal youth.  –  D. Dalrymple, Scrivener blog, 1/5/07

Galen’s Thoughts: the Western culture in particular idolizes youth and decries any mention of old age – let alone death in advanced years.  It almost seems that our culture finds something shamefully distasteful about white hair and creaky bones and minds.  We live in denial of advancing years and approaching death, and we “flee…in the opposite direction.”  And the problem with eternal youth is that we never grow up, we never get wiser, just more and more foolish.  Would it not be better to honestly face the future that awaits us all – whether we reach old age or not?  Death is our next door neighbor throughout our entire lives, you know.  We’d be wise to contemplate our meeting and how we wish to face “Old Bones”, for face him we shall.  In a culture where the cross and empty tomb are shuffled off into ancient lore and the realm of make-believe instead of accepted truth, we must not run to eternal youth as the answer, but to the Eternal One for THE answer: Jesus.

PRAYER: Help us to spend our days on this earth not seeking physical beauty, or a life of care-free mindlessness content to frolic during our time “upon the stage”.  Give us wisdom to contemplate our end, and our beginning, in You.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2017 by Galen Dalrymple.

DayBreaks for 1/10/17 – The Word Does The Work

DayBreaks for 1/10/17: The Word Does the Work

This was so good that I just had to share it. It’s from a blog by Mike Livingstone (mikelivingstone.com):

“The great heresy of the church today is that we think we’re in the entertainment business. A.W. Tozer believed this to be true back in the 1950s and 60s. Church members “want to be entertained while they are edified.” He said that in 1962. Tozer grieved, even then, that it was “scarcely possible in most places to get anyone to attend a meeting where the only attraction was God.”*

“More recently, David Platt has asked: “What if we take away the cool music and the cushioned chairs? What if the screens are gone and the stage is no longer decorated? What if the air conditioning is off and the comforts are removed? Would His Word still be enough for his people to come together?” (Radical)

“Would it be enough?

“Tozer got it right: “Heresy of method may be as deadly as heresy of message.”

 “Like Tozer, we should be concerned that so many people in our churches want to be entertained while they worship. We should be concerned when we no longer recognize the difference between the two. And we should be concerned by the growing belief that adding more entertainment value to worship is necessary for the church to accomplish its mission.

“I may stand alone, but it grieves me when I see worship services characterized more by props, performances, and pep rally atmospheres than by any sense of divine sacredness; and hallowedness giving way to shallowness.

“This is not about worship styles. The issue is not traditional versus contemporary versus blended worship. It’s not about organ versus worship band. That discussion misses the point completely. This is about the heart and focus and intent of worship. The real issues, for me, are these:

“1. Who or what is the spotlight really on? If the figurative spotlight in our church services is on anyone other than God, it is not worship. If the spotlight shines brighter on human performance than on the gospel of Christ, it is not worship. If anyone other than Jesus is receiving our adulation and applause, it is not God we worship.

“2. What message are we communicating? The message of the church—the message the world needs to hear from us—is not, “Come and have a good time,” “Come and be entertained,” or “Come and find your best life now.”

Tozer said: “Christ calls men to carry a cross; we call them to have fun in His name.” The message of the church is the message of the cross. Lest we forget, Jesus’ cross was a source of entertainment only for those who mocked Him as He hung on it.

“3. How are lives changed? “But our methods are attracting and winning people!” some will say. Tozer addressed that sentiment: “Winning them to what? To true discipleship? To cross-carrying? To self-denial? To separation from the world? To crucifixion of the flesh? To holy living? To nobility of character? To a despising of the world’s treasures? To hard self-discipline? To love for God? To total committal to Christ?”

“David Platt and the church he pastored, The Church at Brook Hills, decided to try to answer the question, “Is His Word still enough for His people to come together?” They stripped away the entertainment value and invited people to come simply to study God’s Word. They called it Secret Church. They set a date—on a Friday night—when they would gather from 6:00 in the evening until midnight, and for six hours they would do nothing but study God’s Word and pray. People came. A thousand people came the first time and it grew from that. Soon, they had to start taking reservations because the church was packed full. Secret Church now draws tens of thousands of people via simulcast in over 50 countries around the world—with no entertainment, no bells and whistles or smoke machines.

“Why do they come? Platt explained in an interview: “People are hungry for the Word. There’s really nothing special or creative about it. It’s just the study of the Word …. The Word itself does the work!”

“People are hungry. They are hungry for a diet of substance, not candy. More of the Word. Deeper into the Word. Less of what Tozer called ‘religious toys and trifles.’”

PRAYER: Lord, let our love of “worship” never supersede our love for You. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2016 by Galen Dalrymple.