DayBreaks for 5/18/17 – Courageous Faith

DayBreaks for 5/18/17: Courageous Faith

John 12:42-43 (ESV) – Nevertheless, many even of the authorities believed in him, but for fear of the Pharisees they did not confess it, so that they would not be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God.

Who doesn’t love glory? Who doesn’t love to receive praise and recognition and, yes, honor? On our birthdays we pretend to not care that we’re the center of attention, but we are inwardly pleased to be recognized as having achieved yet another milestone (especially as we get older and the milestones become more significant!) But this is entirely different. Though many leaders of the Jews believed in Jesus (how could they not given all he’d done and how he taught?), they didn’t confess him.

When I read today’s passage, my heart and mind instantly jump into judgement mode: “Shame on them! What cowards!” And to make it worse, I then jump almost instantly to boastful mode, “I wouldn’t have done that! I’d have boldly proclaimed my belief in Jesus – no matter the cost!” But would I really?

We don’t know who these “authorities” were who believed, though we might surmise Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus were among them. But there were others, for John says there were “many” who believed in Jesus. To be a Jewish authority, you HAD to be part of the synagogue, part of the heart and soul of the nation’s faith and religion. To proclaim faith in Jesus would have been religious, social, political and even economic suicide to these men – and those who depended on them. When I think of it in that light and think about my own insecurities about my livelihood and finances, I find myself less than certain that I would have stood up to be counted as a follower of Christ.

It is lessons like this that put my weak faith into perspective. In spite of how I might try to honor my own faith by thinking how great or strong it is, if I insert myself into the shoes of those “many” authorities, I realize how weak my faith may truly be. Are you ready to take a stand for your faith in Jesus if it means the loss of your job, your reputation, your income – perhaps even your ability to ever find and hold work again? That’s what was at stake for these men. That doesn’t mean that they made the right choice – but this lesson in human frailty is sobering to me.

One other thing makes it easier to seek the praise of men rather than God. The praise of this world is immediately accessible as long as I do what the world wants me to do and think. God’s praise is primarily held in reserve for the day I stand before His throne. But His approval is the only approval that will endure and that will matter on that day. He won’t give me approval for following the ways of the society and world, but He will give me approval for even my weak faith in Jesus – and that will make all the difference.  

PRAYER: How we need greater, fearless faith, Jesus! Give us bold hearts and the vision necessary to see that it is only the praise of the Father than matters – and then to live courageous faith. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2017 by Galen Dalrymple.

 

DayBreaks for 4/6/17: Join the Winners???

DayBreaks for 4/6/17: Join the Winners???

What does a Christ-like mind look like as we live in the world? We can see it clearly in the great saints and martyrs, such as Mother Teresa or Albert Schweitzer. I’m drawn as well to the idea William Placher suggests in his book Narratives of a Vulnerable God as he uses an illustration from the world of basketball. Professor Placher writes, “In basketball the players who are always asking, ‘How am I doing? Am I getting my share of the shots?’ Those are the ones who never reach their full potential. It is the players who lose themselves who find themselves. And it’s that kind of self-forgetfulness that makes the best players.” And isn’t that the case with all of us in whatever we do?

I read about one of the fastest growing churches in the world, with branches in 32 countries already. It is called the Winners Church, and according to its leaders, it lives by a motto that comes from America’s religious culture. Here’s the motto: “Be happy. Be successful. Join the winners.” People flock to that kind of church.

But it all depends, doesn’t it, on how we define winning? I wonder what kind of church you would have if your motto were “Whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant.” Or about this one for a motto, “Those who want to save their lives will lose them and those who lose their lives for my sake, will find them.” Or one more, “Take up your cross and follow Him to Calvary!”

Those were Jesus’ mottos. I’m not sure he’d recognize the mottos of some churches today.

What is the “motto” of your life? What are you striving for? When you take your last breath, will it have been worth it or merely chasing after wind?

PRAYER: Jesus, your calling and mottos are hard. They are hard to hear and much harder to accept and live out. Give us the kind of hearts that realize that we only win in and through you and that whatever else we pursue other than that saving relationship with you is foolishness. In Jesus’ name, Amen.  

Copyright 2017 by Galen Dalrymple.

 

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.