DayBreaks for 6/18/19 – Practical Atheism

 

DayBreaks for 06/18/09: Practical Atheism

From the DayBreaks archives, June 2009:

George Barna is a Christian “poll-taker” who researches attitudes of and about Christians and Christianity.  His findings are often very insightful – and often downright frightening.

In a recent article he was being interviewed about the 7 “faith tribes” in America (which includes all the major world religions), Barna noted that 66% of Americans are what he called, “casual Christians” and 12% were “captive Christians.”  Here’s how he described “casual Christians” and their brand of Christianity: “Casual Christianity is faith in moderation. It allows them to feel religious without having to prioritize their faith. Christianity is a low-risk, predictable proposition for this tribe, providing a faith perspective that is not demanding. A Casual Christian can be all the things that they esteem: a nice human being, a family person, religious, an exemplary citizen, a reliable employee – and never have to publicly defend or represent difficult moral or social positions or even lose much sleep over their private choices as long as they mean well and generally do their best. From their perspective, their brand of faith practice is genuine, realistic and practical. To them, Casual Christianity is the best of all worlds; it encourages them to be a better person than if they had been irreligious, yet it is not a faith into which they feel compelled to heavily invest themselves.”  The key attraction to be a casual Christian: “The comfort that this approach provides. It offers them life insights if they choose to accept them, gives them a community of relationships if they desire such, fulfills their inner need to have some type of connection with a deity, and provides the image of being a decent, faith-friendly person. Because Casuals do not view matters of faith as central to one’s purpose or success in life, this brand of Christianity supplies the multi-faceted levels of satisfaction and assurance that they desire.”

Captive Christians, on the other hand, are characterized as follows: “Captive Christians are focused on upholding the absolute moral and spiritual truths they glean from the Bible…The lives of Captive Christians are defined by their faith; their worldview is built around their core spiritual beliefs and resultant values. Casual Christians are defined by the desire to please God, family, and other people while extracting as much enjoyment and comfort from the world as possible. The big difference between these two tribes is how they define a successful life. For Captives, success is obedience to God, as demonstrated by consistently serving Christ and carrying out His commands and principles. For Casuals, success is balancing everything just right so that they are able to maximize their opportunities and joys in life without undermining their perceived relationship with God and others. Stated differently, Casuals are about moderation in all things while Captives are about extreme devotion to their God regardless of the worldly consequences.”

Tony Woodlief, writing in the April 28 issue of WORLD in an article titled “Practical Atheism”, was considering the same topic when he wrote: ‘“Hypocrisy in one age,’” warned Joseph Addision, ‘“is generally succeeded by Atheism in another.’”  Consider this in light of charges that America is becoming, according to a Trinity College survey, less Christian.  It’s not that Americans are converting to other religions, it’s that they are more willing to avow nothing.”  He continued: “What we are in danger of – in our country, in our churches, in ourselves – is practical atheism.  This is not considered embrace of godlessness.  It is instead the slow slide into lives where God is irrelevant…Practical atheism isn’t limited to people who abandon church; it extends to all we who drift from Christ, even as we dutifully attend Sunday services.  It’s in the brief morning prayer that eventually becomes no prayer at all.  It’s in the way we emulate men rather than the God-man.  It’s in the way we brood, as if the things that vex us don’t pass through the hands of a loving God.”

‘Nuff said.  Let us beware, however, of the tendency to bemoan practical atheism and jumping to the conclusion that we are not part of that 66% of “casual Christians”.  Let us invite the Spirit to search our hearts and determine if we uphold Biblical truth, if our worldviews are built around core spiritual beliefs and resultant values, if we define a successful life as an obedient one, or just a comfortable one that allows us to wear a label without having to pay for it. 

Prayer: Search our hearts, O God, and reveal to us the depth of our own depravity, revealing to us the shortcomings in our own practice of faith.  May we consider deeply the questions of faith and obedience and the consequences of practical atheism in our own lives.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2019 by Galen C. Dalrymple.  ><}}}”>

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DayBreaks for 5/06/19 – Pocket God

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DayBreaks for 5/06/19: Pocket God

From the DayBreaks archive: May 2009

Have you heard about Pocket God? It’s one of the top-selling video game applications for Apple’s iPhone. Here’s the game description found on iTunes:

“What kind of god would you be? Benevolent or vengeful? Play Pocket God and discover the answer within yourself. On a remote island, you are the all-powerful god that rules over the primitive islanders. You can bring new life, and then take it away just as quickly.”

Seeing that game options include throwing islanders into volcanoes, using islanders as shark bait, bowling for islanders with a large rock, or creating earthquakes to destroy the islanders’ villages, designers seem to think players will only want to play the role of a vengeful god—which must mean they think that’s the only kind of god players can ever imagine being real.

This reminds me somewhat of a famous experiment that was done a number of years ago where college students were placed in positions of power (akin to being “god-like”) such that they could administer shocks to other students and could wield power over them.  They didn’t have to be mean to their “subjects”, but what the researchers discovered was that if one person was given power over another, they wound up using that power for not such altruistic purposes.

This is nothing short of horrifying.  For one thing, the God that I know and worship isn’t anywhere close to being like a “pocket God.”  The entire universe is not enough to contain Him.  Secondly, He doesn’t want to throw anyone (except Satan and his angels) into a volcano or pit of any kind, and He doesn’t use humans for bait.  I seriously doubt that God finds any humor at all in this “game.” 

Perhaps most disturbing is the image this creates in the minds of those who play the game.  I don’t care what anyone else says, it makes a difference.  Even if it does nothing more than make kids think that God is this way, it’s terribly destructive. 

Satan is not the Creator, but he is creative and innovative when it comes to trying to warp our minds.  Isn’t it time we stop to consider what we believe, and what we will tolerate, in light of the Word instead of our own opinions?  It’s time to take God back out of our pockets and put Him on the streets, taking Him with us “as we go” into all the world.

Prayer: Father, forgive us for we often don’t know what we are doing.  Give us the courage to reveal the real God, in the person of Jesus Christ, to a desperately sick world.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2019 by Galen C. Dalrymple.  ><}}}”>

DayBreaks for 5/02/19 – The Reason to Live…and Die

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DayBreaks for 5/02/19: The Reason to Live and Die

From the DayBreaks archive: April 2009

God created humans to live a life of love.  There was an article in the February 2009 issue of Fast Company magazine that confirmed this truth. The article described a very successful man that I’d never heard of, and you probably haven’t either.  His name is David Kelley, and he is the founder of what many regard as the premier design firm in the country—Ideo—and has been a respected professor at Stanford University for more than 30 years.  The man is enormously creative – a genius.  Suddenly, at 56 years of age, Kelley learned he had cancer.  In the Fast Company article, Linda Tischler wrote:

“What ensued was sheer hell. Chemo, surgery, radiation. Mouth sores. A throat so raw he could barely swallow. Nausea so severe he couldn’t concentrate enough to read or even watch TV. “I spent nine months in a room trying not to throw up,” he says. The treatment wrecked his saliva glands and his taste buds. He lost 40 pounds.

“Kelley is happily married and has one daughter. This is where the idea of being created for love comes in. As Kelley struggled through the difficult emotions that come with this kind of experience, he discovered his reason to live. Kelley says about his daughter:

“At first, you think, ‘I don’t want to miss her growing up.’ That’s motivating, but not that motivating. It’s when you manage to get out of yourself and start thinking of her that you get the resolve to continue. When you think, ‘I don’t want her not to have a father’—then you want to stay alive.

“What gave Kelley a reason to endure the suffering of his treatment was not the pleasure he would get out of experiencing life with his daughter, as wonderful as that would be. Kelley realized that what truly motivated him was the benefit he could bring to his daughter. What motivated Kelley at the deepest level was selfless sacrifice for another—love. We were made for this.”

Galen’s Thoughts: I will confess this: having had one episode of cardiac bypass surgery, I am not eager to contemplate ever having such surgery again, although it is probably in the cards for me somewhere down the road.  Many have been the times that I’d considered what I’d do if the doctors were to tell me some day “You need another bypass operation.”  Would I do it?  My thinking has run along these lines: if it were just me, probably not.  But I now am richly blessed with 6 grandchildren, and I’ve told myself “Yes, I’d do it because I want to watch them grow.”  That is a selfish motive (not necessarily a bad one, but self-centered nonetheless.)  It would be much better to say, “I don’t want then growing up without their Pop-pop.” (That’s me!)  That switches the motivation and focus away from me and my wishes, to them and their needs. 

After all, isn’t that the motivation that led Jesus to the cross?

Prayer: Lord, give us wisdom to find the way to love others properly, to find our motivation for living and life, death and dying, in loving service to them and You!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2019 by Galen C. Dalrymple.  ><}}}”>

DayBreaks for 5/01/19 – Connecting to a Disconnected God

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DayBreaks for 5/01/19: Connecting to a Disconnected God

From the DayBreaks archive: April 2009

In March of this year, Reuters carried a story about a Dutch artist by the name of Johan van der Dong who decided God needed a telephone number and so he got Him one – a cell phone, in fact -to show that God was “available anywhere and anytime.”

“In earlier times you would go to a church to say a prayer,” Dong said in an interview, “and now [this is an] opportunity to just make a phone call and say your prayer in a modern way.”

What was the response?  It seems a lot of people appreciated what van der Dong did for them with the so-called “divine hotline.”  In just one week, over 1,000 people had called the cell number and left God a message.

On one hand, it’s pretty intriguing and exciting to know that over 1,000 people got the number in just one week and wanted to connect to God.  However, I can’t help but wonder how the people felt once they made the “connection.”  You see, when they called the number van der Dong set up for God, this is what they heard on the other side of the line: “This is the voice of God. I am not able to speak to you at the moment, but please leave a message.”  Now, I don’t know about you, but that doesn’t exactly give me a warm and fuzzy concept of a God who is supposed to be “available anywhere and anytime.”  Van der Dong plans on keeping the cell phone number active for only six months.

So, what has van der Dong accomplished?  Not much.  It was mostly a gimmick, perhaps even a mockery.  All he did was connect people to an altogether disconnected God.  He is not connecting people to the real God.  God doesn’t need a phone line (cell or land-line), He doesn’t have an answering machine because He’s too busy managing supernova’s somewhere in deep space, and He is never, ever disconnected from the prayers of His people. 

When you pray, what is your attitude?  Do you really understand the power to whom you are speaking?  Do you comprehend that prayer is not something to be thrown off casually like a flippant, off-hand string of comments and requests, but rather a connection with the only True and Living God?  God is not to be trifled with, but He longs for communication from the heart, and He will never be too busy to put you on hold.

Prayer: What a privilege and blessing it is to be able to talk directly to You, most glorious and exalted God and Father!  May we approach Your throne in humility, but boldly, in confidence that we have Your ear and attention at any time of the day or night for as long as we shall live!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2019 by Galen C. Dalrymple.  ><}}}”>

DayBreaks for 4/26/17 – God and Circumstances

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DayBreaks for 4/26/19: God and Circumstances

From the DayBreaks archives, April 2009:

Suffering is a very hard taskmaster.  It’s not easy to predict what the outcome of suffering will be.  Some suffer and conclude that God is not, and cannot, be good – nor does He care or suffering would not take place.  Strangely and remarkably, it seems that often those who really do suffer the most are the first ones to sing songs of praise to God and His love. 

Just today, I read an email from an organization in our fair town that is involved in conducting and coordinating community events.  Here’s what it had to say: “It has been awhile since we have communicated with everyone and it seems that each day that goes by, the world continues to evolve in ways that many of us never imagined. As this is not an excuse for our lack of recent communication, it has however caused all of us to look deeper into ourselves, push ourselves harder than many of us are used to and simply try and survive.

I understand that there are people in pain in our community (and in yours) and that pain is real and people are afraid and in some cases, suffering.  So, please don’t get mad at me when I say that I think this statement was a gross exaggeration.  Most (not all) Americans have no idea what it means to “simply try to survive.”  American grocery stores are full of food, there are safety net programs that help feed the hungry and shelter the homeless.  Yes, they are being stressed to higher levels than ever before, but they still exist.  Such things don’t exist in most of the world.  As a general rule, we are far from “simply try(ing) to survive.”

Yet circumstances often dictate our attitudes and our devotion to God.  How quickly we are swayed and surrender our trust in Him!  Consider again the list of spiritual heroes in Hebrews chapter 11: now there is a list of people who truly were simply trying to survive…and many of them didn’t, dying as martyrs.  What characterized those who had their names place in the roll of honor of the faithful?  Simply this: they refused to let God be defined by their own circumstances and experiences.  They understood that God was above and beyond all circumstance, and that His character is never, ever defined by human experience nor circumstances. 

No matter whether your circumstances and present experience is good or bad, God doesn’t change with circumstances.  If He ever has been good, it is a fact that He will always be good.  Sometimes, I think, God controls circumstances, but more often than not, He’s interested in controlling and directing outcomes.  It’s what we do with the circumstances that He’s most interested in.  What will you do with your circumstances today?

Prayer: God, forgive us when we treat you as if you are fickle and a changeling rather than the Rock who never changes and who is always good.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2019 by Galen C. Dalrymple.  ><}}}”>

DayBreaks for 4/11/19 – Who Will Show Us Better Times?

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DayBreaks for 4/11/19: Who Will Show Us Better Times?

From the DayBreaks archive, April 2009:

I remember one morning shortly after the 2008 presidential election, I was listening to the radio in the garage as I was exercising.  There were people on the radio who were so excited about what Barack Obama would do for them.  Now, I’ll grant you that this isn’t a reflection on Barack Obama, but just on a few people (probably the most radical ones they could find) who were among his adoring band of adherents.  I could scarcely believe my ears when I heard this one lady say “Now I won’t have to make my house or car payments any more.”  What was she thinking?  She was thinking that the new President was somehow going to make everything better overnight and that she’d no longer have to meet her obligations – the government would take care of it all for her for the rest of her life.   When I heard her statement, I about fell off the elliptical machine!

On the day I wrote this email, the news was reporting that for the first time, they are now forecasting a global recession.  (As if we weren’t already in one!)  And, the news about GM isn’t good: they plan to shut down for 9 weeks this summer in order “to save money” – but did you know that GM is obligated to make up the difference between what the employees would normally be paid and what they will get on temporary disability?  It’s not clear how much money it will save them, but that’s not the point, either.  The jobless rate continues to climb.  The announcer on the radio also pointed out that home prices in the bay area have fallen another 12.5% from this time last year, and that the market is still stagnant and the prospects for it picking up soon aren’t good.

So, is it any wonder that some will fantasize about how someone (read “government”) will fix all our problems for us?  Let’s face it: we all would like things to be better, for the economy to be good again, for much of the discomfort and hardship to be over and gone and for the “good times” to roll.  That’s what’s so intriguing about this passage from the NLT, found in Psalm 4:6-8: “Many people will say, ‘Who will show us better times?’  Let Your face smile on us, Lord.  You have given me greater joy than those who have abundant harvests of grain and new wine.  In peace I will lie down and sleep, for You alone, O Lord, will keep me safe.”

What a great passage!  People all over are seeking for someone to “show us better times”, even if it means mortgaging our grandchildren’s future.  Isn’t that a bit selfish on our part?  I’d rather deal with the hard times myself than pass it off on my grandkids.  But the answer to the question is implied in the second line: “Let Your face smile on us, Lord.”  You can’t expect the President, Congress, the United Nations, the European Union/Common Market, the burgeoning economies of India or China to show us better times. 

As Christians, we need to take it to heart that we already have better times given to us by the Lord.  He has given us greater joy than those who have riches.  And at night, we can sleep deeply, drinking in the truth of the knowledge that the Lord, and only the Lord, can and will keep us safe and bring us better times – in the next life, if not in this one.

Prayer: Lord, forgive our frantic worrying about the good times.  Help us to hold firmly to the truth that you have ALREADY given us greater joy than anything that money or bumper crops could possibly afford!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2019 by Galen C. Dalrymple.  ><}}}”>

DayBreaks for 4/10/19 – Loaded with Toxic Assets

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DayBreaks for 4/10/19: Loaded with Toxic Assets

From the DayBreaks archive, April 2009:

I am not an economist – nor do I want to be.  Frankly, studying money and economies has always seemed like a huge waste of time given the fact that it’s all going to be burned up in the end and no one can take any worldly assets to the next world. 

Still, economic crises bring new economic terms and phrases into the headlines and our awareness, not the least of which is this one: toxic assets. While I don’t really understand it all too well, my take is that toxic assets are largely responsible for the trouble that banks are facing right now.  These toxic assets are loans, and it works like this: People owe the banks money.  Normally, banks like this.  Theywant people to owe them money and pay them interest because that’s how banks make a profit. But with the economy in its present condition, especially with the mortgage foreclosure crisis, many of the loans which should have been “assets” to the bank have actually become liabilities because the houses that secured the loans are now worth less than the amount of the loan itself.  So, a home that was purchased for $250,000 may now only be worth $150,000 – meaning that the bank has essentially lost $100,000 on the deal (not counting the interest they’d have made if the economy had held strong.)  So, instead of having several hundred thousands of dollars out of the loan in interest, the bank takes back the property after they’ve loaned out $250,000 – but the property is only worth $150,000 if they were to sell it!  This is a toxic asset, as I understand it.

And I know this much about accounting: when an asset hurts the bottom line of the financial statement, it is no longer an asset, but a liability – a loss or debt. And loss and debt are toxic to business.

I think we can make a spiritual application here: assets are not just a banking phenomenon.  There can be toxic spiritual assets, too. Anything we think is helpful to us in a spiritual way as individuals, but that actually is hurting us spiritually is a toxic asset.

The New Testament writers gave us lists of sins of the flesh.  We may think we aren’t doing the things listed, but in our modern world new and easier ways to sin have become very common.  The advent of computers and the Internet made lust much more easy (and seemingly more “innocent”), illegal drugs are everywhere, obesity is epidemic – these are all toxic assets.  People engage in these and other pleasures because they think that somehow, they will benefit us, not hurt us.  But the opposite is true.

Nearly anything can be a toxic asset, including homes, cars, IRA’s, 401K’s, boats, partying, etc., when they take over your life and push God into the shadows. Even something as seemingly innocent as a job can be a toxic asset. Money, education, family and friends, physical beauty – all these things can be great assets up unto the point where one allows them to take God’s place in their life, and start to live for them or trust in them.  Then, they have become toxic assets. 

Does this sound a lot like idolatry?  It is.  But most of us think we aren’t idolaters.  We have an image in our mind of a statue of some kind when we speak of idols.  That’s just what Satan wants us to think about when we think of idolatry.  He knows most of us aren’t going to fall for that one.  But an idol is nothing more or less than a toxic asset, and toxic assets are spiritual things that we think will help us but which are really just idols.

Banks are trying desperately to shed their financial toxic assets.  We would do well to work even harder at getting the toxic assets out of our own lives.

Prayer: Jesus, help us learn that not all that appears to be beneficial or which promises us pleasure or escape is good.  Give us new hearts and minds to understand how toxic our sin and dalliances are to our spirits.  Renew a clean heart within us, free from toxic things, a heart that longs for that which is pure and holy.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2019 by Galen C. Dalrymple.  ><}}}”>