DayBreaks for 9/19/17 – In the Midst of Doubt

DayBreaks for 9/19/17: In the Midst of Doubt

Note: Galen is traveling this week.

From the DayBreaks archive, 9/2007:

Doubts.  Uncertainties.  This past Thursday morning I was in a meeting with other pastors and we were discussing a particular aspect of doctrine.  Now you might think, “Wow, that really sounds exciting…a real snoozer!”  Normally, I’d have to agree with you.  As one of the pastors put it, “Doctrine, schmoctrin! I’d rather talk about Jesus!”  Right on!  Part of the reason that we struggled with the conversation so much was that we all recognized and admitted our own imperfect knowledge and understanding.  I think that one of the reasons that God chooses to save us by faith in Christ and not by passing a theological or doctrinal test is that He knows not one of us would ever get any, let alone all, of it perfectly right.  And so, while some discussions of doctrine are at least important, and some are very interesting, our doctrinal certainties are not the basis of our salvation. 

I have no doubts in my mind about who Jesus is.  I have no doubts in my mind about what He can do (although since it’s far beyond our ability to imagine or comprehend, I don’t know ALL that He can do, so I just say, “He can do anything!”).  But every once in a while, something comes along that tends to knock the tracks off the tank of our life’s smooth progress and we begin to question, to ask (even if just for a fleeting moment), “Do I really believe this stuff?  Does it make any sense to believe it?”  Sometimes those thought-provoking questions come as the result of a cataclysm of worldly proportions (tsunamis, earthquakes, etc.), sometimes as a result of the fall of a man or woman of God who seems to have lost or abandoned all they ever held true for a momentary dalliance with sin.  Sometimes they come tip-toeing into my mind for no apparent reason at all. 

I am not the kind of person who is free from doubts.  I have had people tell me that they have never doubted for a moment the eternal existence of God.  Many times, such people also tell me that they’ve never felt the need to read any of the outstanding books that wrestle with the questions of God’s existence, evidences for it, for the resurrection, for the virgin birth, for the miracles, etc.  More power to them.  I’m glad that God has given them such a simple, yet strong and resolute faith.  Maybe someday I’ll reach a point where I never even have the thought or shadow of a doubt pass across my mind.  But for now – every once in a while, I wonder.  I ponder.  I question.  I think God can handle that just fine.  And, I feel stronger for having to wrestle with those things.  I think Thomas’ faith was stronger after he wrestled with his doubts about the resurrection and then had it confirmed as a result, don’t you?  Jesus said that Thomas was blessed because he believed – but those who have never seen and believed are at least equally blessed.  Jesus didn’t knock Thomas for the doubt.

So, what do you do when you are faced with doubts, when the moving picture of life beats you up one side and down another like an automated car wash? Here are some thoughts from my youngest son, Tim: 

“…I always recommend that in the midst of doubt, one continue to go to the places where one has met God before–it only makes sense.  But what’s most important for you to understand is that you do not need to “come back” to God.  God is not “back there” somewhere, as though you have left Him behind, and He is only in one place.  God has been right there with you all along, right beside your bed, with His hand on your shoulder as you wept.  We do not worship an abstract philosophical God.  We worship a God who cared about us in the midst of our suffering so much that He became human so that he could stand before suffering and death alongside us.  We worship a God who “so loved the world” that He gave Christ in order that whoever trusts in Him “should not perish but have everlasting life.”
Without realizing it, I can see that this is what I do when I question.  I got back to the place where I met God before – and find He’s still there.  The patriarchs made a habit of every so often revisiting places where they and their predecessors had encounters with God (Bethel, for instance).  There’s a lot to be said for that.  There is something about familiar surroundings that can help resolve the doubts.  And so I read the words and life of Jesus again, and there I’m struck down and reminded of what a great God He Is and why I believe in Him.  The answers that I found to the questions I’ve asked still hold water.  And I can’t avoid those answers – they are solid, like the Rock Himself. 

PRAYER:  Thank you for being patient with our shaky faith and deep-rooted questions, Lord.  Thank you for the story of Thomas and how you blessed him after his faith was confirmed.  Thank you for solid places upon which we can regain our footing when our faith falters.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2017 by Galen C. Dalrymple.  ><}}}”>

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DayBreaks for 9/18/17 – Living With an Intruder

DayBreaks for 9/18/17 – Living With an Intruder

Normally, I try to hold DayBreaks to a spiritual bent.  While today’s message is about spiritual things, it’s also about physical things.  Dick Peterson and his wife, Elizabeth, have been married for 37 years and they live in South Carolina.  They are fellow Christians, and today I’m sharing some of Dick’s writings.  For a number of years now, they have been living with an intruder: Elizabeth has MS.  This is just a part of the article, but I found it to be profound and thought-provoking.  It has certainly caused me to do some soul searching of my own.  I think that you may benefit from the part of it that I’m including.  You seldom find such gut-wrenching and soul-searching honesty. – Galen

“We both pray for healing.  With our families and our church, we agonize before God for a return to the day when Elizabeth can offer an open handshake instead of a permanently clenched fist, or take a flight of stairs without thought.

“But if we only grieve the loss, we miss the gain—that what this disease does to us may also be done for us.  Even as the MS steals abilities from Elizabeth’s life, a healing grows almost undetected inside.  When we talk about this, Elizabeth wonders aloud, “Did it really take this to teach me that my soul is more important to God than my body?”

“And I ask, “Is this what Jesus meant when he taught his disciples to serve?  When he washed their feet, did he look 2,000 years into the future and see me washing my wife’s clothes and helping her onto her shower seat to bathe?  Did it really take this to teach me compassion?”

“Could it be that God in his wisdom and love gives Elizabeth and me this disease to heal us from the inside out in ways he considers far more important than how efficiently nerve signals travel from her brain to her muscles?

“Whom do I love more?

“God’s healing can be sneaky.  We pray that Elizabeth will resume her old life; he wants her to assume a new life.  We long for change on the outside; he desires change on the inside.  We pray for what we want; he answers with what he knows we need.

“Is it wrong to want a whole, functioning body?  Not at all.  But though we focus naturally on the flesh, this disease compels Elizabeth and me to turn our minds to the Spirit.  The apostle Paul said, “For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace” (Romans 8:6, NASB).  How unexpected is that?

“Truth be told, Elizabeth and I are still learning the realities of that revelation.  She tells me that when she had no choice but to submit to multiple sclerosis, she learned how to submit to her Lord.

“And he has made me question whom it is I love.

“When I pray for healing, is it for Elizabeth?  Or is it because her healing would make life so much easier for me?  I challenge, “Aren’t you the God who heals?  I love her and I want her well.”  But in the back of my mind I know I also want her healed for me.

“In response to my challenge, Jesus asks me as he asked Peter, “Do you love me more than these?”  I think, He wants me to love him more than my wife?  So I reply with Peter’s words, “Yes, Lord, You know that I love You.”

“Tend My lambs” (John 21:15), he tells me.

“I care for Elizabeth.  She’s his lamb.  Doesn’t that show I love him?

“But what is he really asking?  He’s asking if I love him more than these things I say I want, the things I’d have if this disease would just go away.  Now my answer’s not nearly as glib.  Can I actually love God more than my wife, but not more than these things I say I want?  They’re not bad things: a happy, healthy life together, a stroll on the beach without a wheelchair to become bogged down in the sand, getting to church on time because she can dress herself.

“The exposure shames me.  Do I love him more than these?” – Dick Peterson, Christianity Today/Marriage Partnership Magazine, 2007

PRAYER:  Father, I am humbled by this couple and the lessons you’ve been teaching them, and us through them.  These questions gnaw at my inner being.  I can’t answer them, and although I can’t find the answers in myself, Lord, You know…You alone know how I would react, and whether or not I love you “more than these.”  Hear our humble confession and help us to learn what love truly means and does.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

DayBreaks for 9/15/17 – Your Garden of Gethsemane

DayBreaks for 9/15/17: Your Garden of Gethsemane

From the DayBreaks archive, 9/2007:

Have you ever stopped to think how many decisions you will make in any given day?  We make decisions all the time without even thinking about it.  When we think of decisions, we tend to think of the weightier matters of life – and that’s a good thing.  Weighty matters deserve lots of thought as we try to decide what to do.  Hopefully, if you are a Christian, the very first thing you contemplate is whether or not the thing you are doing is in God’s will.  Regardless of whatever other factors you choose to apply to decisions you are facing and making, that one should be the most prominent. 

How do you know His will?  I’m not going to try to provide an exhaustive list here, but certainly His revealed and written Word is our primary tool for discerning his will.  If we cavalierly throw that out the window, we have no solid basis for a decision.  God expects us to follow the Word when we are facing decisions.  That means we have to accept it as truth, not try to explain it away or rationalize why it doesn’t apply to us.

One of my favorite stories about the life of Jesus has to do with his night in the garden of Gethsemane, my favorite place in the Holy Land.  I am moved by that story – even more, I think, that by the story of the crucifixion itself.  Physical pain is one thing, but spiritual pain can be far worse.  It was in the garden that we’re told Jesus was in agony – not on the cross.  (I’m not minimizing what happened upon those old timbers – I am sure there was incredible agony there, too.)  It was in the garden that he wrestled with both flesh and blood and principalities and powers in the heavenly places.  Why?  Because in the garden he was faced with the decision that would form the crux of his life.  It all culminated there, in the shadows of the olive trees, as the Son of God knelt down in the dirt and made the most crucial decision in all of history: would he do things his way, or God’s way?

There are times and decisions in our lives that are seemingly insignificant (although I’d like to argue that one with you – notice I said “seemingly insignificant”), but then there are moments that clearly rise into the stratosphere in terms of importance.  At those times we are faced with our own garden of Gethsemane.  We must decide whether our prayer will be, “Nevertheless, my will not Thine be done,” or if we’ll echo Jesus’ words: “Nevertheless, not my will but Thine be done.” 

You may be wrestling with a decision today that has life-altering potential, that once made may not be able to be undone ever.  Have you considered what God’s Word would say about it?  If you know how God feels about it, what will you do about it?  You may be facing your own garden of Gethsemane right now.  What will your prayer be?

PRAYER:  Spirit, help us not to fail the test in moments of crisis.  Strip away Satan’s deceptions from our eyes so that we can see what is at stake in the decisions of life!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2017 by Galen C. Dalrymple.  ><}}}”>

DayBreaks for 9/06/17 – Traveling the Circle

DayBreaks for 9/06/17: Traveling the Circle

From the DayBreaks archive, 9/2007:

From “The Scrivener”, a blog by Doug Dalrymple:

“I’m reminded of a passage in Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities. Sydney Carton, habitually unhappy, is pondering a great act, a beautiful act, which if carried out will certainly cost him everything.  Setting aside his customary bitter tone, Sydney suddenly asks the elderly Jarvis Lorry, ‘Does your childhood seem far off?  Do the days when you sat at your mother’s knee seem days of very long ago?’  Venerable and wizened, and having spent his days in simple, loving dedication to others, the octogenarian Lorry replies:

‘Twenty years back, yes; at this time in my life, no.  For, as I draw closer and closer to the end, I travel in the circle, nearer and nearer to the beginning.  It seems to be one of the kind smoothings and preparings of the way.  My heart is touched now by many remembrances that had long fallen asleep, of my pretty young mother (and I so old!), and by many associations of the days when what we call the World was not so real with me, and my faults were not confirmed in me.’

“I recently asked my father a similar question: Whether or not, as he’s grown older, his memories of childhood seem to fade or grow more vivid? He replied, ‘a little of both.’  By Jarvis Lorry’s measure this suggests my father has yet to complete his circuit and that my children and I will enjoy the blessing of his company here below for years to come.  I do pray, however, that aging becomes for me (and for each of us) less a process of alienation from the child I once was, and more a process of recovery.  God willing that I should grow old and gray, I hope some day to gaze into the mirror and through the fog of outward appearances to apprehend the faint outlines of that seven-year-old boy, fully inhabiting the old man’s frame, secretly supplying him with joy and wonder and curiosity in the world, in his Maker, and especially in those given to him to love.”

Galen’s Thoughts:

I’ve mused on this kind of topic before, but my son has a wonderful way with words that express things far better than I can.  I like the idea of traveling in the circle – and that as we get nearer and nearer to the end, we are actually getting nearer and nearer to the beginning.  And is it not so?  We came from God, and we shall return to Him.  While that is a comfort to those who have come to know Him and His Son, it is also a very sobering reminder.  We tend to think that as we age we are further and further removed from our origin.  But such is not the case.  It is precisely at the midway point in our lives (whatever that may be for a given individual) that we are the farthest from the origin.  As we get older, the period of our alienation here upon earth grows shorter and short and the time of our arrival on eternity’s doorstep grows ever shorter and nearer.  And in eternity dwells the One who is our Origin, our Creator, our God and our Father. 

When my younger son (Tim, not Doug) was a competitive gymnast, at the end of a day he’d be somewhat exhausted – sometimes very exhausted.  My advice to him was always the same (and I’m sure he got tired of hearing it): “Finish well.”  What kind of horrible tragedy will it be for us to get so close to the finish line, to completing the circle and returning to our Maker, if we lose our heart for Him and His Word toward the end?  If we suddenly stop and turn away from the truth He taught us throughout the first part of our journey around the circle?  I’ve been through my mid-life crisis, and I’m here to tell you that it was no fun.  I came close to chucking it all out the window a number of years ago.  But I think one thing, more than any other, made me hold on: my life would have been a waste and my testimony a sham if I turned away. 

I want to finish well.  I want to complete the circle in such a way that when I put my foot on God’s doorstep, He’ll open the door and say, “Well done, good and faithful servant…enter into the joy of your Lord!”  I pray you will finish well, too.

PRAYER: Oh, Lord.  Help us not to grow weary or to lose sight of the end.  May we be ever more mindful each and every passing moment that we are drawing close to the completion of this life’s journey and that when we pass from this world, we will stand before You.  May we hear Your voice filled with pleasure when we awake from our sleep!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2017 by Galen C. Dalrymple.  ><}}}”>

DayBreaks for 8/24/17 – On Rough Water, #3

DayBreaks for 8/24/17: On Rough Water #3

They say that the best way to tell if someone has learned anything is whether or not there has been a change in behavior. I’ve written twice recently about Peter and his adventures in water walking. And yesterday, I suggested that perhaps what Jesus meant when he said “O, you of little faith” to Peter wasn’t so much about Jesus power to keep Peter walking on the water (after all, Peter did cry out to a man walking on the water to save him!), but about whether Jesus might be willing to save a man who started sinking.

So, did Peter learn from this episode? I think he did. Consider:

FIRST: remember that Peter was the one who asked the Lord to invite him to walk on the water in the first place. Perhaps the last instance where Peter and Jesus interacted at the lake was after Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection, after the denial. Peter and the disciples had left Jerusalem and returned to Galilee as Jesus had instructed them…and they then went fishing. Early one morning as they were out on their boats, they witnessed someone walking on the shore who tells them to cast their nets on the other side of the boat and they take in a huge haul of fish. Jesus, we’re told, was on the shore cooking fish. As soon as Peter recognized it was Jesus, he didn’t shout out to Jesus to invite him to walk on the water to the shore. I think that this is a sign that he had learned some things about himself and his weaknesses.

SECOND: in the instance during the storm, Peter asked Jesus to invite him to come to him on the water. Not this time, however. Peter jumped right in and swam to shore. What that tells me is that Peter had learned something about the love that Jesus had for him…and he couldn’t wait to get to Jesus. Peter got wet the second time, but he was so eager to get to Jesus that he got wet of his own volition the second time.

Why did Peter now trust in the Lord’s love? After all, the denial had been sandwiched in between the walking on the water and jumping in to swim to Jesus. You’d think that if Peter had doubted Jesus’ love the first time, he’d surely doubt it after the denial. But he doesn’t appear to doubted at all. Why? What had changed? The crucifixion…the crucifixion changed everything. No one who stood there that day who had the slightest inkling of what was going on could ever doubt God’s love.

We who are alive today couldn’t stand on Golgotha the day Jesus died so we could see with our eyes the length and breadth of Jesus love. We can only see it through eyes of faith. Even though he stood far off, Peter saw it firsthand. And he never doubted Jesus’ love again. Neither should we.

PRAYER: Jesus, I wonder how much more we’d understand your love if we’d stood on Calvary’s hill as you died. Help us to see it with the eyes of our souls so we will leap into the water and swim to you rather than fear rejection. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2017 by Galen C. Dalrymple.  ><}}}”>

DayBreaks for 8/23/17 – On Rough Water, #2

DayBreaks for 8/23/17: On Rough Water #2

Matthew 14:26-31 (ESV) – But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” and they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”

Why did Peter sink? Of course, we know the answer because the passage tells us. He was afraid when he took his eyes off Jesus and looked at the wind. So let’s not waste time on that question when I think there’s a better question to ask.

Why does Peter call out to Jesus? If Peter really was a man of little faith (as Jesus says), why did he call out to Jesus? In what way had Peter demonstrated a lack of faith? After all, he’d stepped out of the boat, walked on the water, and when he got in trouble, he called out to Jesus! All of those things cry out “faith!” to me, and probably to you, too. So, why would he have called out to Jesus if he didn’t have faith that Jesus could do something about his sinking situation?

On Sunday, I think I heard an answer. It wasn’t a question of whether nor not Jesus could do something. All Peter had to do was look at Jesus walking securely on the water to know that Jesus could do anything he wanted to do! I think that is was a question of whether or not Jesus would do something. It wasn’t a question of ability but of willingness. Peter wasn’t sure that Jesus would be willing to save him. Why? Not sure, but I suspect it revolved around several things: 1) Peter knew he had in some sense “failed” because he was sinking; 2) Peter wasn’t sure enough about Jesus’ love for him given not just this failure, but others that Peter and Jesus were certainly aware of.

I believe Peter had all the faith in the world about Jesus’ ability, but like us, he’s prone to doubt Jesus’ willingness after we’ve blown it yet again. After all the promises to God to never to that thing again – we do it. After all the times when we’ve thought evil thoughts, after all the times we’ve failed tests that God has sent our way…we don’t believe that Jesus loves us enough to help. And that is why Jesus says Peter is a man of little faith.

Do you see it? When we doubt that Jesus could possibly love us enough, we’re being just like Peter. We’re expressing lack of faith not in Jesus’ ability, but his willingness to save a “wretch like me”.

So what does Jesus do when Peter cried out: immediately he reached out and grabbed Peter. Will we learn from that, will we come to believe that Jesus loves us enough to reach out to us in spite of our bazillion failures? Peter came to believe it. I hope we do, too.  

PRAYER: Lord, when we are tempted to doubt that you love us enough to rescue sinking people like us, remind us of your willingness to bear the awful crucifixion for us. Whenever we begin to doubt that you could possibly still love us in spite of our failures, let us remember the lengths you went to in order to show us your endless and immeasurable love. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2017 by Galen C. Dalrymple.  ><}}}”>

DayBreaks for 8/21/17 – On Rough Water #1

DayBreaks for 8/21/17: On Rough Water #1

Matthew 14:22-27 (ESV) – Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but the boat by this time was a long way from the land, beaten by the waves, for the wind was against them. And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” and they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”

I’ve been blessed to go to Israel and see the Sea of Galilee. In fact, I’ve crossed it in a boat. When we were there it was pretty peaceful, but strong winds can come up from the south that are funneled into the lake and they can be fierce…and deadly. It is amazing how having been there makes a story like this come alive.

The sea is about 13 miles long and 8 miles wide. There are several other key facts that we must understand before diving into this story.

  1. We don’t know what time of day it was when Jesus put the disciples into the boat, but presumably it was still light as he’d just finished feeding the 5000. We know it was in the afternoon or evening because the feeding of the 5000 takes place late in the day. And the disciples had just witnessed that miracle.
  2. We don’t know what time of year it was so it may have been nearly dark when the disciples set out.
  3. We know that there were fishermen among those in the boat – men who had been on the lake for probably several decades with their dad’s, and now in their own boats.
  4. We don’t know how far the boat had been able to go in the storm, but they were a long way from land…certainly too far to swim in a raging storm.

So, now, somewhere between midnight and 3 a.m. (we know that because it was “the third watch”) these seasoned sailors and fishermen were desperate. The storm must have truly been fierce because it is only 8 miles wide at the widest spot and they’re still far from land. Try to imagine their weariness from fighting the storm, their growing fear for life and limb. And then, an apparition comes toward them across the water.

They believe it is a ghost, perhaps sent to collect their own souls. I don’t blame them for being terrified. I would have been, too. When is the last time you saw someone in a corporeal body walking atop the water?!

So, they cry out. I can picture them pointing as the apparition gets closer and closer. They can’t make out who it is – perhaps they were too afraid to look closely. They scream it is a ghost. And what is Jesus’ response? It says Immediately, Jesus spoke to them, “Take heart, it is I! Do not be afraid.

Yeah, right. If you read just a bit further, you’ll see they’re still not convinced about who it is, for Peter says, rather timidly, Lord, if it is you…invite me to come to you on the water.

What is important here isn’t Peter’s response, but how Jesus responded to their fear. He did so Immediately…and then he told them something that should have settled their fears: …it is I. In the Greek, what Jesus uttered were the words, “I AM”…the name of Almighty God. And he did so immediately to help quell their fears.

So, why should a name have quelled their fears? Because this is the One who made the wind and the waves. He doesn’t bow to them…they bow to Him.

But even more meaningful is what Jesus does NOT do: he doesn’t change their circumstances. Why? Good question. He could have just spoken the word or thought the thought: “Be still!” and it would have happened. He did it before and it worked.

No, I think perhaps he didn’t change the circumstances because he didn’t want them to trust in the circumstances when they change, but in Him. He wanted them to learn to trust in I AM, not in the wind dying or the waves decreasing.

I don’t know about you, but when I am afraid, I want God to change my circumstances. Sometimes he does, sometimes not. What God wants me to do is to trust I AM.

PRAYER: Lord, when we are afraid we hope and pray for things to change rather than praying for more trust in You. Help us remember that I AM is the master of all and that what is really important is trusting you is and not in changing circumstances. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2017 by Galen C. Dalrymple.  ><}}}”>