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.  ><}}}”>

DayBreaks for 8/18/17 – Bronzing Your Flip Flops

DayBreaks for 8/18/17: Bronzing Your Flip Flops

From the DayBreaks archive, August 2007:

The Associated Press ran a story recently about a Virginia woman says she’s still alive because of 2 things: her faith and her flip-flops.  It seems that Marie Drackert was watching the weather on television in her York County home July 29th of this year when a bolt of lightning came down her chimney and shot out through her fireplace. The lightning fried appliances and sent a jolt of electricity through her body.

Ms. Drackert says that it was the rubber in her flip-flops that kept her grounded and her faith kept her going, even though the impact from the lightning strike was so strong that she believed a plane had crashed into the roof of her home. 

The lightning blew out Drackert’s washer and dryer, television, telephone, stereo, microwave oven, toaster, coffee pot and a brand-new air conditioning unit. Parts of her home’s floor and walls were also damaged.  After ravaging her home, the bolt shot out and damaged the homes of two neighbors as well. 

Drackert says she’s thinking about getting the flip-flops bronzed. 

I don’t know this lady and I’m not making judgments about her faith, but I found the story interesting.  I’m not sure what she meant when she said her faith “kept her going”, but instead of getting the flip-flops bronzed and instead of crediting them for saving her life, maybe a bit of praise and thanksgiving are in order.  After all, does she really think it was the flip-flops that saved her life, of the grace of the good Lord?  It could have just been the press that didn’t mention the name of Jesus in the article (that’s a very real possibility!), but when things like this (and things bigger and smaller) happen to us as believers, the more credit that we give to the Lord, the better.  The world needs to see the power of the Almighty God and to understand that nature is not God, and God is not nature.  There’s a reason He’s called “supernatural”.  He is far above nature – and can control it at will.

I find that I often flip-flop between acts of faith and praise and acts of cowardice and discontent.  I pray to have those kind of flip-flops removed.  They don’t deserve to be bronzed.

PRAYER: Jesus, please remove the flip-flops from my life that I can be a more consistent witness for You.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

DayBreaks for 7/27/17 – The Intimate Dance of Faith and Hope

DayBreaks for 7/27/17: The Intimate Dance of Hope and Faith

Preface: I’ve recently started reading Jurgen Moltmann’s Theology of Hope, and thus far I’ve found it to be a fascinating book.  Be on the lookout for numerous DayBreaks based on this work in the future.  

Christian hope has been the target of nay-sayers for a long, long time.  Some criticize the Christian hope as causing us as believers to live in a never-never land of make believe, as if we were children who hope for a cotton candy but who haven’t yet been told that the machine is broken and there will be none – not for good or bad little boys or girls.  And as a result, we’re considered foolish for hoping in something that those who don’t believe think doesn’t even exist. 

Others attack the idea and principle of Christian hope from a different angle: they say that it distracts us from the present realities, causing us to be disconnected from the only life that we shall ever possess and the urgent needs of the present world.  If all we Christians are good for, the thought goes, is being distressed in this world and focused on a future world where things are infinitely better, we won’t spend much time trying to make this place better.  Instead, we’d write it off as a colossal loss as we live in hope of something better. 

Of course, Moltmann would not agree with either of those two propositions.  In his introduction, he reveals some insights into the intricate relationship of faith and hope that help me understand it a bit better.  I’ll share some of those with you in the next few days.  For example: “Hope is nothing else than the expectation of those things which faith has believed to have been truly promised by God.  Thus, faith believes God to be true, hope awaits the time when this truth shall be manifested; faith believes that he is our Father, hope anticipates that he will ever show himself to be a Father toward us; faith believes that eternal life has been given to us, hope anticipates that it will in some time be revealed; faith is the foundation upon which hope rests, hope nourishes and sustains faith.”

“Thus in the Christian life faith has the priority, but hope the primacy.  Without faith’s knowledge of Christ, hope becomes a utopia and remains hanging in the air.  But without hope, faith falls to pieces, becomes a faint-hearted and ultimately a dead faith.  It is through faith that man finds the path of true life, but it is only hope that keeps him on that path.”

To put it in my meager terms, hope is what gives faith its wings, it’s feet.  Just because we believe God is true and will be so, it is the hope that someday that truth will be shown and recognized by everyone – even His enemies.  Through faith we accept that we are his “offspring” and our Father, it is hope that allows us to call Him the kind of Father that we can proclaim as “Abba” – a good, loving Father who will forever be so.

Hope and faith are joined at the hip.  Faith without hope would be interesting, but not very uplifting or encouraging.  Hope without faith is virtually a non-sequitur and a childish dream. 

In 1 Corinthians 13, Paul speaks of an unlikely trinity – certainly not one that an earth-bound mind would conjure up: Then abide these three: faith, hope and love…and the greatest of these is love.  Paul was speaking about what remains in this world I believe, and not in the one we hope for, because once that world is realized, there will be no more need for hope nor for that matter, faith.  We will see the object of our faith and walking by faith will be no more.  And, once we are in full possession of the heavenly blessings, what more is there to hope for beyond that ecstasy?  Nothing.  But love will remain – and it will remain throughout all eternity.  That shouldn’t cause us to relegate faith and hope to a backseat in our present walk, but it should enhance our appreciation of the necessity of both until they fulfill their purpose and deliver us to heaven’s portal.

Romans 5:4-5 (NLT) – And endurance develops strength of character in us, and character strengthens our confident expectation of salvation.  And this expectation will not disappoint us. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.

PRAYER:  Lord God Almighty, we thank You for the twin blessings of faith and hope.  Thank You for opening our eyes through faith to Your existence and for the hope that it gives us that our lives are not meaningless, but that we are destined for better things and that our hope will not disappoint us!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

DayBreaks for 7/06/17 – Caleb and Courageous Conviction, #4

DayBreaks for 7/06/17: Caleb and Courageous Conviction, #4

Our visit with Caleb comes to an end today, but there are a few more reflections I’d like to share.

Where does Caleb want as his inheritance? The hill country. That shouldn’t surprise most of us as we all love the hills and beauty of the mountains. But I don’t really think that’s why Caleb longed for this territory. Yes, he’d seen it before and gave a glowing report of the area 45 years or so earlier. He’d not forgotten what he’d seen there – and he longed to see it again. It had captured his heart and mind for four-and-one-half decades. But I think there are possibly deeper reasons for Caleb’s desire for this place.

But first, think about it for a minute. Caleb was 85 – get that and let it settle in – eighty-five years old! In order to take that hill country, what must you do?

FIRST: you must overcome the fear of the giants, the descendants of Anak, who lived there. Those very people had terrified the 10 spies 45 years ago and no one had yet routed them from their land. Yet Caleb wasn’t afraid. Why? The rest of the world looked at the giants there and said, “No way! We’d be slaughtered!” The Israelites looked at one another and said, “We’re like grasshoppers in their eyes!” Caleb looked at them and said, “They’re nothing compared to God!” It all depends on our focus, doesn’t it?

SECONDLY: to take hill country, you must attack uphill – and that, my friends, is the recipe for a military disaster. Yet Caleb’s 85-year-old heart and legs were crying out for just one more challenge – one more charge against the greatest of odds. He didn’t want to settle down in the lowlands and live a life of ease! He wasn’t afraid of the giants at the top nor discouraged by the steep slopes. As far as he was concerned, the victory was already won because God has promised it! He wanted one more adventure with God before he was finished. How hungry are you for adventures with Him?

So why did Caleb want this land? This is conjecture, but again, I think there were several reasons:

I think when he first saw it, he fell in love with the place. Who wouldn’t, after 400 years of slavery in Egypt and the hot burning sands of the Egyptian desert! Here was lush green, fertile land and beauty.

But I think there were far more significant reasons he may have wanted the hill country. I think he wanted the younger generations to learn something from the impending victory over the hill people giants. He wanted them to see and understand that nothing is ever impossible for those who have God’s promises in hand. They’d heard stories of the giants that terrified their parents and grandparents leading to the wilderness wandering. And here was an 85-year-old man with enough courage to take them on..uphill. This generation needed to learn from the older generation. And the younger generations today need to learn from us who are older. But that puts the onus on us, doesn’t it? What kind of example are we setting for them? Are we just getting old and long in the tooth and therefore we have quit attacking hills and giants when the Lord has said we should charge up the hill? Are we content now to settle into a pew and snooze quietly into the sunset? Our giants today are cultural and moral giants, but they can be defeated as surely as Anak’s descendants. No matter how old you are, you can still teach those who are younger about God’s faithfulness and goodness, about how He rewards the courageous who step out on His promises boldly with attack uphill, even in their old age. There is great power in an enduring witness of a life lived well to the end!

There’s an interesting historical note here. Many years after Caleb died, the hill country was still in the possession of his descendants. And finally, a young shepherd king rose to the throne of Israel and put his first capital in Hebron for a number of years. This was the land Caleb had conquered! Why did David choose Hebron? It was partly because of Caleb’s actions around 400 years earlier – it was conquered and secured territory. Jerusalem was not. Why? Because the hearts of the Israelites had grown faint again after coming into the Promised Land and they’d failed to remove the inhabitants of the Jerusalem area. It fell to David to take possession of what would become the new capital, Jerusalem.

One final thought before we say goodbye to Caleb for now. I was reading about endurance runners in Sports Illustrated and one of them made this comment (paraphrased): Endurance isn’t so much a matter of the legs – it is a matter of the heart and the mind.

Let us not think about the age of our limbs or the decades of our service to Christ, but rather about how we can finish well, like Caleb; of our how hearts can rise to a new challenge even now and how we can bless the younger generations as we do.

I don’t know about you, but I sure am looking forward to meeting Caleb who surely must be one of the most neglected heroes in the Bible!

PRAYER: Oh, God, how amazingly wonderful you are! Thank you for such a shining example that Caleb has set before us! Give us hearts and minds to rise to the challenge for as long as we live! In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

DayBreaks for 7/05/17 – Caleb and Courageous Conviction, #3

Hill country, Israel. 

DayBreaks for 7/05/17: Caleb and Courageous Conviction, #3

When I was young, I could run and run and run and seemingly never tire. So, for the most part, I ran longer races when I ran track in high school. And I was fairly good at it – though I knew it was not something I’d ever do as a living or career. Then, seemingly almost overnight, I didn’t enjoy the endurance races any longer. I don’t know why, but they just weren’t fun any longer.

Endurance is a hard quality to cultivate. As we get older, our endurance seems to get less and less physically. That is to be expected, I believe, as our bodies start to show the strains of the decades.

Caleb way a man of courageous endurance. When he approaches Joshua with his request to be given the hill country for his inheritance in the Promised Land, he was 85 years old. He was around 40 when he went into the land as a spy, and around 80 when they returned and finally entered the land. Now, at 85 he stands before Joshua and says, in Joshua 14:10-12 (NLT) – Now, as you can see, the LORD has kept me alive and well as he promised for all these forty-five years since Moses made this promise—even while Israel wandered in the wilderness. Today I am eighty-five years old. I am as strong now as I was when Moses sent me on that journey, and I can still travel and fight as well as I could then. So give me the hill country that the LORD promised me. You will remember that as scouts we found the descendants of Anak living there in great, walled towns. But if the LORD is with me, I will drive them out of the land, just as the LORD said.” That, my friends, is a man of endurance and conviction!

What can we learn from Caleb about this? Several things, I believe:

FIRST: passion for the good needn’t diminish as we get older. While for most of  us our physical strength will decline, our spiritual strength should be growing stronger day by day as we have mounting evidence of the Lord’s faithfulness. Caleb hadn’t forgotten the promise of the Lord concerning the hill country. Now, at 85, he was ready to claim that promise.

SECOND: Caleb recognizes that the victory will be won, but that it won’t be won by his own unabated strength: it will be won if the Lord is with me. I don’t for a second believe that Caleb felt that “if” was up for debate. He knew he’d drive the residents of the hill country out just as the Lord said.

THIRD: though the pathway may be long and arduous, there is a reward at the end of a life for courageous conviction. Caleb trusted in the Word of the Lord. He had seen it come true over and over and over – and had never once seen it fail. In spite of having to endure 40 years of struggle in the desert, Caleb had not forgotten the promise. He had not deserved the desert – he had not been one of the faithless 10 spies. Yet he had to endure it, then he had to survive the battles to take the majority of the promised land. Endurance must have been his middle name.

FOURTH: as time grows shorter for each of us, we need to lay hold of the things that God has promised us. For Caleb, it was the hill country. For you and I, we, too, must press on to take possession of the Promised Land that the Lord has promised us. The promises that the Father has made to us are no different than the promises He made to Moses, Joshua or Caleb. The Father that was faithful and made those promises come true is the same Father who has given you His promise. It may have been many years in the coming, but it will come. Stay strong like Caleb. There are multitudes of blessings for a life of courageous endurance – not the least of which is a place in the Promised Land.

PRAYER: Thank you, Lord, for men and women like Caleb who show us that we need not grow faint or weary in our journey. Thank you for being faithful to your promises then and now. Let us rise up to take the hill country you have set before us. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

DayBreaks for 6/27/17 – The Immaculate Infection

DayBreaks for 6/27/17: The Immaculate Infection

From the DayBreaks archive, 2007

Most Christians have heard of, and understand, what is referred to as the “immaculate conception” – the begetting of Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit rather than through the normal human means of reproduction.  It is a fundamental aspect of Christ’s divinity that cannot be bypassed or glossed over.  If Jesus was begotten through human agency rather than through the Holy Spirit of God that came upon the virgin Mary, well…Jesus then is just like the rest of us in our humanity and he would not have been divine.  It would have made God out to be a liar because His word said that a “virgin shall conceive”.  We should never underestimate the importance of the virgin birth and divine nature of Christ!

But there’s another interesting thing that we should consider about this Jesus that we worship and follow.  John Ortberg, with his brilliant insight, pointed it out in his book, Love Beyond Reason, when he was describing the leper that came to Jesus with a strange request: “If you choose, you can make me clean.”  There are several fascinating things about this story:

FIRST: it was the leper who approached Jesus, not the other way around.  (We shouldn’t take that to mean that Jesus wouldn’t have approached him, but some step of faith on our part is always welcomed by Jesus.)  By law, the leper’s job was to keep himself separated from those who were not infected with that horrible disease.  And, by practice, the rabbis who had so committed themselves to following the law in all its minute detail, made it a point to keep themselves separated from others lest they should become infected by the sinfulness of others.  But this man chose to ignore the demands of the law as taught by the rabbis…and he approached Jesus.  His faith was on display, but an even greater display of faith was on the horizon.

SECOND: what the man says to Jesus is fascinating.  He doesn’t say, “Perhaps you can make me clean.”  No, he’s much more honest and faith-filled than that.  He said, “If you CHOOSE you can make me clean.”  There was no doubting of Jesus’ ability or power.  This man believed with all his heart that Jesus could heal him.  The issue, as he saw it, was one of willingness on the part of Jesus.  “If you choose…”  Why was this the issue for the man?  Several points might be productive to consider: 1) maybe he’d seen Jesus operate before, noting that sometimes he chose to heal and at other times he didn’t – he recognized Jesus’ sovereignty; 2) he might have been unsure of Jesus’ willingness to be approached, perhaps fearful that Jesus would be repulsed by the leprosy and as so many other rabbis had done – shrink away and leave the man behind; 3) this man was used to being ignored and knew that nearly everyone he’d ever met had chosen not to be near him.  Would Jesus be the same?

THIRD: we see the heart of God on display.  Rather than being concerned about his own health and the risk of infection by leprosy, Jesus chose to infect the leprous man with Life!  It wasn’t like John Coffee in the movie, The Green Mile, who had the special ability to take disease away from someone and into his own body.  The man’s leprosy did not pass into Jesus, but as the text says, it was completely gone!  What did pass between the two men was life…and it flowed from Jesus into the body of the dying, diseased man.  This, Ortberg says, was “the immaculate infection.” 

It wasn’t just this man, however, who has been infected in such a way.  All who come to Jesus through faith, come saying “If you choose, you can make me clean!”  Praise be to God, Jesus chooses to do that very thing!   Let all that is within us praise God for the infection we’ve caught from Jesus!!!!!

John 5:24 (NIV) – I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.

PRAYER: Jesus, thank you that you choose to heal us even as we ooze and reek from sin!  Thank you that you choose us to infect us with your life!  May we, in turn, pass the infection on until all the world comes to know you as Lord and Savior!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

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.