DayBreaks for 6/20/17: The Wonder of Wonder Woman

DayBreaks for 6/20/17: The Wonder of Wonder Woman

OK, I’m not ashamed to admit it: my wife and I went to see Wonder Woman over the weekend. It was a rollicking good time, and I think I enjoyed it every bit as much as my wife did – and she loved it a lot! I love stories where there is a strong woman character – always have, I guess.

Anyway, after the movie, we were reflecting on the movie and we were both thinking along the same lines. There were many parallels (some really strong, others a bit more of a stretch) to the gospel story. Perhaps – unwittingly – that’s why so many people have loved the movie. It makes me wish they understood the true reason the story resonated with their imaginations and heart!

A few years back, John Eldredge wrote a short book, Epic, and had a video series to accompany it that I believe explains what I’m talking about. Here’s the excerpt from Amazon.com’s description of Epic: Life, for most of us, feels like a movie we’ve arrived to forty minutes late. Sure, good things happen, sometimes beautiful things. But tragic things happen too. What does it mean? We find ourselves in the middle of a story that is sometimes wonderful, sometimes awful, usually a confusing mixture of both, and we haven’t a clue how to make sense of it all. No wonder we keep losing heart. We need to know the rest of the story.

For when we were born, we were born into the midst of a great story begun before the dawn of time. A story of adventure, of risk and loss, heroism . . . and betrayal. A story where good is warring against evil, danger lurks around every corner, and glorious deeds wait to be done. Think of all those stories you’ve ever loved―there’s a reason they stirred your heart. They’ve been trying to tell you about the true Epic ever since you were young.

In Wonder Woman, as in Titanic, Gladiator, Lord of the Rings, Braveheart and nearly every other movie that is grand and epic in scale, the story is the same, only told with different characters, somewhat different circumstances and settings. It goes like this: there was something grand and glorious, but something horrible happens and a hero has to rise to make things right and to rescue what has been lost – usually at great cost to her/himself. But in the end, things wind up restored.

In Wonder Woman, Diana is supposed to be half-human and half-god (I didn’t realize that before seeing the movie) who lives in a peaceful, beautiful place that is separated from the world of trouble, but one day, that is shattered. Diana feels compelled to do something about it – so she journeys to the broken world to fix things in spite of the fact that she’ll never be able to return to her original home again. While there, she fights to overcome evil – and to some extent she does, but she also learns that there is something fundamentally broken inside of human beings that she cannot fix.

Do you begin to see the parallels? Jesus was in heaven – he didn’t have to come, but he chose to – driven by compassion. He wasn’t half-human and half-God, he was 100% human and 100% God. He entered into the broken world because he felt compelled to do so out of love and compassion. He fights against the lord of this world, against the chaos and suffering and it cost him dearly. But, the victory is won and in the end, it turns out OK.

There are differences, too, and one in particular that I think is well worth noting. While I was intrigued by the final battle in Wonder Woman where Diana fights against Ares (the Greek god of war in mythology), she had to struggle to obtain victory. Not so with Jesus – at least not in the final battle. In the final battle, the fate of mankind won’t hang in the balance when Christ returns. It won’t be a struggle with the outcome uncertain. It won’t take several minutes for the enemy to be defeated. When God decrees the end – the victory will be instantaneous, unilateral, unequivocal and total – in the time it takes God to say “It is finished!” Satan will collapse like the pretender that he has been for millennia, his vaunted strength revealed to be nothing more than a trifle by the power of the One Who speaks.

Wonder Woman was fascinating entertainment. Jesus is the real thing.

PRAYER: Jesus, we long for you to glorify yourself at your return and to see you absolutely, totally and forever crush the enemy in an instant. Thank you for things that remind us of the epic story of which we are a part! In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

DayBreaks for 5/24/17 – The Shout of Victory!

DayBreaks for 5/24/17: The Shout of Victory

John 19:30 (NIV) – When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

The final words of Jesus from the cross have often been misconstrued.  Some movies have pictured Christ, with uplifted eyes, croaking out softly, resignedly, “It is finished” and then bowing his head and dying.  I don’t believe that is an accurate picture at all, and here’s why: when we compare the four gospels we find a very interesting thing. The other three do not tell us that Jesus said, “It is finished.” But what they do tell us that he died with a great shout upon his lips.  John doesn’t speak of a great shout, but instead tells us that Jesus’ very last words were, “It is finished.”  We can safely conclude that the great shout and the words “It is finished,” are one and the same thing.  In Greek, “It is finished” is one word — tetelestai — and that’s what Jesus shouted.  It was no meek or resignedly defeated word that he spoke.  He didn’t say, “It is finished,” in weary defeat; he shouted it out just like a person shouts for joy because the victory is won!  He seemed to be broken on the Cross, but he was NOT!  He was victorious on the cross!
Just in case you think I might be wrong, there’s another strong clue that makes this concept even more certain.  John says that Jesus bowed his head and gave up his spirit. The word that John uses is the word that was often used to describe someone setting their head back upon a pillow and entering into rest.  For Jesus the strife was over and the battle was won; and even on the Cross he knew the joy of victory and the well-deserved rest of one who has completed his task and can lean back, content and at peace.

What a wonderful picture – not of a quiet, broken Jesus on the cross, but of one who knows that it is finished, that it has been finished well, that it will never have to be repeated again.  The price for my sin has ALL been paid!

Do you believe that? That everything that it took for you to be saved and forgiven is finished? That there’s nothing more that you can add to make it more sure? That there’s nothing more that God needs to do for it to be true? That you, too, can rest your head knowing that it is all finished? Maybe the next time we get discouraged in our walk and relationship with Jesus, we would do well to shout out, “It is finished!”

PRAYER:  Will we ever really grasp the victory that was won on Your cross, Lord?  We hang our heads in shame that you had to pay such a price for us, yet we lift our eyes to you in gratitude and wonder for your love.  May we echo your words, “It is finished!” regarding our sinfulness.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2017 by Galen Dalrymple.

 

DayBreaks for 5/08/17 – Don’t Let Being Human Stop You

DayBreaks for 5/08/17: Don’t Let Being Human Stop You

From the DayBreaks archive, May 2007:

One of the most frustrating things that I hear is people who say, “I hope I’m good enough to go to heaven.”  Of course, the corollary to it is: “I’m afraid I’m not good enough to go to heaven.”  Those statements drive me nuts.  Of course you’re not good enough to go to heaven!  None of us are good enough…but that doesn’t mean we won’t go there, thanks to the grace and mercy of God and the sacrifice of the Savior!

Grace.  What a wonder it is, and how little we believe in it!  For those of us who grew up in grace-challenged environments, when the first breath of grace blows through the soul it is like a world that has been dead and frozen for so long has suddenly thawed!  It reminds me of the scene in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe where spring finally breaks in Narnia after a long, long time.  The warmth of the sun is once again felt, the buds open, the flowers appear and the birds sing once again.  Grace.  How little we know of it!

Our world is not fond of grace.  Our world is more than happy, thank you very much, to point out on a constant basis the failures and faults in our lives.  At work you probably hear more about what you’ve done wrong than what you’ve done right.  At school, they mark up your papers with your mistakes, not your successes.  And if you don’t hear it from other folks, there’s that nagging little voice inside your head that says something like this: “I knew you couldn’t do it.  You’re not much good for anything are you?  You can’t even do the simplest things right, can you?  Why don’t you just give up and quit?”  I’ve heard that voice…I’ve had the conversation with myself many, many times.

In Hearing God, Dallas Willard wrote: “The humanity of Moses, David and Elijah, of Paul, Peter and Jesus Christ himself – of all that wonderful company of riotously human women and men whose experience is recorded in the Bible and in the history of the church teaches us a vital lesson: our humanity will not by itself prevent us from knowing and interacting with God just as they did.

Do you think that Moses, David, Elijah, Paul and Peter never made it to heaven?  They were just every bit as human as you and I.  But no one I know thinks that any of those folk are not in heaven.  They’re not there because they were better than anyone else, because they weren’t “too bad” to go, or because they were “good enough.”  There will be a lot more Bob’s, Mary’s, Jane’s and Joe’s in heaven than Moses, Peter or Paul.  And they won’t be there because they’re better, or even as good, as Moses, David and Elijah.  They, like those great names mentioned earlier, will be there because God loves them and they put their trust in His promised son, Jesus.  That’s the only basis for anyone to get there.  Stop hoping and wishing that you were better so you could “get there.”  Start practicing your belief in God’s promises!

John 18:9 (NLT) – He did this to fulfill his own statement: ‘I have not lost a single one of those you gave me.

PRAYER: Father, we listen to the subtle whisperings of the enemy far more than we do to You.  We believe his words of condemnation rather than live in Your victorious grace.  May we become people who trust more in Your Word than in the voices in our head.  In Jesus’ name, Amen

Copyright 2017 by Galen Dalrymple.

 

DayBreaks for 2/13/17 – Neither Do I Condemn You

DayBreaks for 2/13/17: Neither Do I Condemn You

Most readers of DayBreaks are familiar with the story from John 7:53 – 8:11 about the encounter of Jesus with the woman who was caught in the act of adultery. But, in case you’re not, the scribes and Pharisees brought the woman to Jesus. They wanted Jesus to stone her. Jesus’ reply no doubt took them back a bit: Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her. Because of Jesus’ comment, the religious leaders backed off and went away. When you read the story, it is clear that the religious zealots rejected this women and were quick to condemn her. So, what would Jesus do? How will he handle this ticklish situation? Since Jesus knew that her accusers had no right to condemn her (because of their own sins), Jesus turned his attention to the woman after her accusers had left and said five words that must have put her at great ease: Neither do I condemn you.

As a former pastor, I can’t start to tell you how many people I’ve talked with over the years who felt condemned by God. They believed He had turned his back on them because of something they’d done or not done, and the words, “neither do I condemn you” are as foreign to them as someone speaking Martian. Why? Because their view of Christianity is that if you “perform” right, God is for you, and if you don’t, you’re on his “bad” list and you’d better now walk outside for fear of being hit with a lightning bolt.

Think about the story for a minute. Did the woman deserve forgiveness? No. Did she deserve justice? Yes. Did she come groveling to Jesus begging mercy? No! But she found it anyway because that’s what Jesus longs to give to us all. 

Of course, the question will always be raised: “Does this mean we can we can do whatever we want? No, because Jesus followed up his statement to her with “Go and sin no more.” But that doesn’t in any way diminish he extravagant statement of grace and mercy.

Perhaps you are in need of hearing both of those statements from Jesus: “Neither do I condemn you – go, and sin no more.”

Then, when you do sin, as you inevitably will, hold on this promise: 1 John 1:9-10 (ESV): If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Perhaps today you need to hear the voice of Jesus saying, Neither do I condemn you. Why? Romans 8:1 (NLT) So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.

Do you belong to Jesus? If you do, there is no condemnation and he does not condemn you. Rest in that knowledge!

PRAYER: Jesus, thank you for this story in Scripture and the hope that it offers to each one of us who need to know that you do not condemn us! In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2017 by Galen Dalrymple.

DayBreaks for 1/31/17 – Broken

DayBreaks for 1/31/17: Broken

1 Corinthians 15:53-55 (ESV) For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.”

Adapted from our worship bulletin for 1/29/17:

“It’s the message you do and don’t want to hear. I was ready for my flight to take off for an important visit. We were loaded, bags on board, seatbelt fastened. The pilot came on the intercom and said, ‘We have a small lead in the hydraulic. Until maintenance clears us, we will not be able to depart.’

“Ugh. Now I faced the immediate future sitting with a bunch of other people who were ready to depart. No, I did not start sharing the gospel because in a flash the pilot made it works. ‘This plane is not fixable, so  you all have to deplane and we will get you another one as soon as we can!’

“So, we got off, sat and waited. In fact, as I write, I am still sitting. You see this is an unfinished story, Not every story has a neatly tied bow. Some are open ended.

“The good news is someone saw the flaw before a catastrophe happened. So, I am thankful for that. I will arrive, just later than I thought.

“So, where do you want to go? What are you pressing towards? Do you feel stuck? Do you feel like the plane to take you to your destination had arrived, and it broke? Are you having to wait? If so, now is the time to look around at your present surroundings but more importantly, look up! He knows where you are. He providentially has you there. Further, there are unseen and mysterious things going on that you don’t see. The best place for you, in His economy, is where you are. Eventually, you will move, so enjoy the grounding.”

Galen’s thoughts: I’ve been in that same spot – waiting for a broken plane to be fixed. I, too, was grateful that they found the problem while on the ground. Broken things lead to delays and they can be deadly unless the are addressed and rectified.

Life is like sitting on the tarmac. We are waiting the launch into the air, but we are broken. We need fixing first or otherwise the result will be catastrophic. Jesus is in the process of fixing us so that we can safely take wing and fly.

It calls for patience. It involves some pain and frustration. But the eventual outcome is that we will reach the destination that we long for. And it will have been worth the wait!

PRAYER: Help us wait patiently for the perfection you are creating in us! In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2017 by Galen Dalrymple.

DayBreaks for 12/8/16 – Taking the Joy Out of Christmas?

DayBreaks for 12/08/16: Taking the Joy Out of Christmas?

John the Baptist was born just shortly before Jesus, so I’m sure that he never preached a Christmas sermon in his life. But he did do a lot of preaching. His preaching wasn’t the warm, fuzzy, feel-good gospel. In fact, John couldn’t have had a very good grasp on the gospel itself until Jesus began to proclaim it – no one could have. Glimmers at best, flashes of what was coming, I’m sure, but not really any fine detail. And John’s message was one of repenting. His role was to prepare the people for the coming of the Messiah, much like preachers try to do at Christmas time nowadays.

If John felt that the best way to prepare people for the arrival of the Messiah was to talk about repentance, perhaps we should learn that we, too, should prepare for Christmas by repenting. Repenting in the Biblical sense is more than having a change of heart or a feeling of regret. It is more than a New Year’s Eve resolution. Repentance is a turning away and a turning back. A turning away from sin and a turning back to God.

Not quite a year ago, I stood in Bethlehem shortly after Christams and we saw what is known as Shepherd’s Field. Some time ago, bishop Joe Pennel of the Virginia Conference of the United Methodist Church, attended a Christmas worship service at Shepherd’s Field. As he heard the songs of the season, he thought to himself and later wrote: I did not look to God and say: See how virtuous I am. I did not utter: God, pat me on the back for all of the good things I have done. I did not pretend by saying: God, look at all of my accomplishments, aren’t you proud of me? Indeed, I found myself asking God to forgive me of my sins. That is how it works. The more we turn away from Christ the more enslaved we become to the power of sin. The more we turn to Christ, the more free we become from the bondage of sin. Turning toward Christ enables us to repent.

Someone once said half jokingly: If we are not careful, John the Baptist can take all of the fun out of Christmas. On the contrary, I think that it is John’s message that puts the joy into Christmas. For it is his message that calls us not to the way that Christmas is, but that the way Christmas ought to be. Christmas ought to be free from guilt and self-absorption. For that to occur there must be repentance. And then we are open to the good news that follows!

PRAYER: Jesus, as we draw near to the celebration of your birth, may we repent so that we are prepared to receive the joyous, good news that You bring to earth! In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2016, Galen C. Dalrymple.  All rights reserved.

DayBreaks for 10/31/16 – Forgiveness and Present Realities

DayBreaks for 10/31/16 – Forgiveness and Present Realities

From the DayBreaks archive, October 2006:

NOTE: Galen is taking a short vacation.

Psalm 79:8-9 – Oh, do not hold us guilty for our former sins! Let your tenderhearted mercies quickly meet our needs, for we are brought low to the dust. Help us, O God of our salvation! Help us for the honor of your name. Oh, save us and forgive our sins for the sake of your name.

As I read and meditated on this passage, I found it interesting that David pleads with God to not hold us guilty of former sins.  What about the present ones?  What about all our future ones still waiting to be born? 

Surely, the plea is that God not hold us guilty at all, for we haven’t committed present or future sins yet – and at some point they will all be “former” sins – certain when we stand in judgment they will all be former!  Yet in a way, I suppose that we can only ask for forgiveness for the things that we have done – not for things we may yet do.  Our confession should be specific.  We cannot confess the truthful, yet painful, details of sins we’ve not yet committed. 

The Psalmist makes no claim to deserve such favor from God, only holding on to the “tenderhearted mercies” that belong to God, which David is confident will be quickly poured out to meet the needs of those who have humbled themselves.  Interestingly, his plea for God’s help is not for our sake or benefit, nor is it because we deserve it, but for the honor of God’s name.  Have you thought about how it would look if the Lord’s people are destitute forever, if there is no relief from the guilt and shame of sin, no ultimate vindication for those who cling to their faith like a drowning man holds to a piece of wood?  If such were the case, why would anyone want to be a follower, to be able to say “O God of OUR salvation”?  At some point, salvation must become a much more present reality than the way we experience it today, else there is nothing to draw us to it.  So, it is for the sake of the Lord’s name that we pray for His mercy to be poured out.

The day will come when the present reality is, pure and simple, the eternal reality.  At that time, all my sins will be in the past, already forgiven.  As I struggle through this life, that truth gives me strength to face another day full of hope and reassurance.

I am far too prone to see the benefits of God’s mercy and forgiveness and favor for my own benefit and comfort.  I need to learn to seek his mercies for the sake of His name.  How often do my reactions to unpleasant things in this life dishonor his name?  If I truly learn to celebrate His mercies for His name’s sake, I’ll be much better off and He will be glorified.

PRAYER:  Father, sometimes it is hard to believe that You forgive us so freely, for we know that there is nothing in us that could cause You to love and forgive us.  Help us to understand that You forgive us for Your own honor and sake, and that regardless of Your motive in forgiving us, that Your forgiveness is real and eternal.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2016 by Galen C. Dalrymple. All rights reserved.