DayBreaks for 6/01/18 – The Sin of Silence

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DayBreaks for 6/01/18: The Sin of Silence

If someone were to ask you what you think the greatest sin is that is described in the Bible, what would you choose? Some might choose David’s counting of the people of Israel that led to many deaths. Others might be tempted to think of the sin in the garden that had such massive repercussions for all of mankind. Still others might point to Judas’ betrayal of Jesus as the worst sin ever.

I ran across this and thought it was provocative and thought provoking: could the greatest sin be when Jesus asked those who were trying to trap him a simple question – “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath, or not?” and those he asked stood silent in response. The sin wasn’t in the question, but perhaps the greatest sin was in their silence in response to the question.

To stand silent when the power to heal is within reach; that is sin. They knew Jesus could heal as that was indisputable, that wasn’t the issue. The question was whether he would heal on the Sabbath!  They stayed silent when all they had to do and should have done was say, “Please, Jesus, heal the poor man!”

In like manner, one could argue that our communities have the ability to empty our jails of crime, our shelters of the abused, our rest homes of the lonely and our streets of hopelessness.  Our world could beat hunger, fight AIDS, educate its masses and so much more; but we lack the commitment. Perhaps, we should say; we lack the committed!  Too many are silent (including me!), too many are critics. We need to pray for laborers in the harvest. We need to pick up a scythe. We need to address the question and not be silent.

PRAYER: Lord, do not let silence be my sin.  Let us be a voice for the silent and advocates of the disenfranchised. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

COPYRIGHT 2018 by Galen C. Dalrymple. All rights reserved.

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DayBreaks for 4/19/18 – Habakkuk’s Circumstances – Deja Vu

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DayBreaks for 4/19/18: Habakkuk’s Circumstances (Déjà vu)     

I will refer you to Habakkuk 1.2-4 as a background for this DayBreaks.

Here’s the scenario: Habakkuk, a prophet in Judea, looks around himself and sees that the “righteous” (in whose number he includes himself) are surrounded by the wicked. He sees so-called justice that is really injustice. He sees iniquity. He sees destruction and violence running rampant. Strife and contention are everywhere and the law seems paralyzed. As bad as that is, what really is bothering Habakkuk is that he has been crying out to the Lord for help – and not seeing any help coming to his rescue.

This is going to get a bit sensitive here because I’m going to delve into politics. Bear with me, please. Habakkuk mixed the two – righteousness and justice. As much as some would like to totally separate the two, we can’t. Why is it wrong to steal from someone, both morally and ethically? Because it results in injustice to the person who had things taken. Justice is both a moral and political issue methinks.

And here’s where it’s gonna get touchy: there are many in America today who are feeling a lot like Habakkuk. They are right – there is much to despair over because of what they see happening (or not happening). They can’t understand why God has let some things happen and why he hasn’t come down with an iron rod and set things straight. And as a result, they cry out – but not maybe so much to God as to their friends on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and via email.

I think that Habakkuk had a far better approach to venting his frustration. Isn’t it better to cry out to God when we are despairing? We may not like the answer (or non-answer) we get from God, but it is HIS answer, so it is bound to be better than that which we get from our friends. Our dilemma is whether or not we believe his answers and ways are good or not. He is the God who raises up rulers and tears them down – not for our satisfaction, but for his immutable reasons. 

Indeed, God may yet come down with a rod of iron to fix what is wrong in this world (we know he will eventually, but he can fix things in the meantime, too, if in his infinite wisdom he knows that it is the right thing to do). There IS much injustice. There IS much violence, strife and contention. Those things need to be fixed – and they will.

But rather than crying out to everyone else around us, maybe like Habakkuk we should be crying out to God. Oh, and one more thing: maybe we need to be on our knees a whole lot more on behalf of our president, congresspersons, governors, magistrates, etc. than we have been. I wonder how often those who have railed the most against the political and moral state of affairs in our country are taking the command from Paul that we are to pray for our leaders (1 Timothy 2.2 – and bear in mind the leader Paul told people to pray for at that time as an utterly unjust, evil tyrant named Nero.) What, I wonder, would happen if Christians in the country and around the world truly started to pray for their leaders like we should? Not pray that they be smitten, but pray for their well-being, for righteousness to find a place to rule in their hearts, to seek God’s answers, to find salvation and God’s ways rather than the guidance of human advisors. Remember that prayer is offering our desires to God, but always with the attitude of “nevertheless, not my will, but thine be done.” Might God just hear from heaven and heal our land?

PRAYER: Convict us of the need to pray for all of our leaders far more than we feel the need to criticize them, Lord! In Jesus’ name, Amen.

COPYRIGHT 2018 by Galen C. Dalrymple. All rights reserved.

DayBreaks for 4/11/18 – Preferring the 99

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DayBreaks for 4/11/18: Preferring the 99

Matthew 18:12-14 (NIV) – What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? And if he finds it, I tell you the truth, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off. In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should be lost.

This is a painful passage for me. Sadly, while I think it should also be a challenging and painful passage for the church, I think in many cases we read it and fly right past it.

This passage gets to the very core of God’s heart. Who is it that owns the sheep in the passage? It is God, certainly. And while he has a sheep-fold full of sheep, he isn’t content with that. He knows there is still one out there that hasn’t come home with him, that is lost and in grave danger.

So what does he do? He goes out looking for it. There is no guarantee that he will be able to bring it home…for the passage says And if he finds it…. Some sheep don’t want to be found, and perhaps even more sadly, some perish before they are found.

Pay attention to the last sentence. He is not willing that ANY of these little ones should be lost. It’s not that he’s content if just a handful are lost…he’s not willing for even a single one to perish.

Which brings me to the painful part. Why does my heart not beat with the same passion for the lost sheep?

I fear that the church as a whole (I know there are many exceptions) prefers the ninety-nine. We prefer the comfort of the sheep-fold and seldom, if ever, venture out. We like to hang with other Christians (at least, I hope we do!) But if we lose sight of the heart of God from this passage, we may have missed God entirely. This is precisely why Jesus came: not to celebrate with the 99 but to “go out”. Does Jesus like it when Christians enjoy each other? Of course. But he will quickly leave us behind to find a single lost one.

When is the last time you brought someone to Christ – not just to church – but to saving knowledge of Christ? We should all have the urgency of Oskar Schindler who when the war was over, was heartbroken that he’d not done more, that he could have saved one more. Where is that passion in us?

Church, let us be challenged. Let us go out with the great Shepherd to find the lost so that not ANY should be lost!  

PRAYER: Jesus, I confess that it is far easier to sit in the pew than to leave the sheep-fold to find a lost lamb. I confess I have done far too much of the former and not nearly enough of the latter. Change us, give us your passion, fill us with your mission, let us hear your heartbeat clearly. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

COPYRIGHT 2018 by Galen C. Dalrymple. All rights reserved.

DayBreaks for 2/21/18 – An Imitation of the Master

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DayBreaks for 2/21/18: An Imitation of the Master

From the DayBreaks archive, February 2008:

So, how do you plan to spend your day today?  Did you create a “laundry list” of things that you need to get done or should do?  How’s it going so far?  Has the list gotten smaller or bigger as the day progressed?  How much time do you spend planning out your next day? 

It seems that no matter what I do or how meticulously I might try to plan things, it never seems to quite work out like I’d planned.  Perhaps that’s what the writer of Proverbs had in mind when he wrote in Proverbs 19:21 (NLT) – You can make many plans, but the LORD’s purpose will prevail.  I think I’ve got my day all figured out, but NOT!  I often look at the things that come along in the course of a day as being unwelcome events…after all, I’ve got a plan and if I can just run it like clockwork, it’s the best thing, right?  Not really.  Why should I think that my well-laid plans are the best thing for me to do each day, or the best way to do them, or even that they’re the most important things to do on any given day? 

We need to learn to welcome interruptions.  Mark Buchanan says that the devil seeks to distract, but God seeks to interrupt, and how quickly we fall prey to Satan’s distractions but how we equally quickly grow oblivious to God’s interruptions.  Satan wants us to become distracted from God and godly things, but God wants to interrupt our schedules and plans with things which are more important.  Who am I to say that the interruption by the person in the next cubicle is not a portion of a God-directed plan for something greater than the accomplishment of my little plans?  Isn’t that perhaps what the writer of the Proverb was saying?

Jesus’ life was dominated by purpose – he came to offer his life as a ransom.  Reading the gospels, especially John, one gets the sense that Jesus entire life was spent moving towards Jerusalem and the cross.  And indeed, it was always his purpose.  But along the way, many things happened to him that we would consider interruptions.  It isn’t clear that Jesus kept anything like a detailed itinerary of his daily schedule.  In fact, his daily life seemed to be lived by interruption: a woman who touches his clothes and is healed, a dead son begin wept over by his mother, a dinner at a taxpayer’s house, a wedding feast in Cana, a leader of Roman soldiers who entreats him for a healing, little children who wanted to be held, storms on the sea, fishing with his buddies, questions from the scribes and Pharisees – and the list goes on virtually endlessly.  He always found time for telling stories, for people along the route to the cross who hadn’t scheduled a moment of his time. 

So what was Jesus’ secret and what dictated Jesus’ schedule?  How did he number his days aright?  Perhaps Jesus came the closest to answering that himself in Mt. 11:1-11, when he said, The wind blows wherever it pleases.  You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going.  So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”  Jesus listened and watched the Spirit – and did what the Spirit directed.

Peter, after saying Jesus is the Lord of all, describes how Jesus spent his days: God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and…he went around doing good.  (Acts 10:36, 38) 

There you have it: the sum of Jesus’ earthly vocation is that he wandered and he blessed.  Jesus was a vagabond physician, the original doctor without borders.  His purpose was crystal clear – but his methods appear to be random.  Henri Nouwen observed something like this about his own life: “My whole life I have been complaining that my work was constantly interrupted until I discovered the interruptions were my work.”

PRAYER: May we discern Your interruptions, Lord, and may we go with You to do what You want us to do together.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

COPYRIGHT 2018 by Galen C. Dalrymple. All rights reserved.

DayBreaks for 1/15/18 – It Is Finished..It Is Just Beginning

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DayBreaks for 1/15/18: It Is Finished…It Is Just Beginning

John 19:30 (ESV) – When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
I honestly don’t know if there are three more poignant words than those three that fell from the lips of Jesus with his dying breath. “It is finished!” Matthew and Mark record that Jesus cried out in a loud voice but don’t tell us what he said. Luke says that Jesus cried out loudly, Father, into your hands I commit my spirit…and then died. I’m not disturbed by this “disconnect” at all and I could see Jesus having said those final two statements in any order.

While I won’t for a second presume to know what was in the mind of Jesus at that moment, I will venture a guess. We know from his evening in the garden that he was dreading the crucifixion that loomed just ahead. He didn’t want to have to go through it, but we are told that he “joyfully” endured the cross and its torments for us. It is possible that Jesus was referring to the suffering (which none of us can imagine) that he had endured for hours suspended between sky and ground. Who could blame him if that’s what was on his mind? That being said, I think that was the least of the reasons for his shout from the cross.

I tend to think that there was something much more significant in his heart that led to those words, It is finished! I suspect it was more about the following:

FIRST: rather than focusing on the pain, I think he was focused on the reason behind the pain – the price for sin needed to be paid and now it had been paid in full. The sacrifice was finished. The separation of God from man was no longer inevitable.

SECOND: the rule of death that had held sway from the death of the very first human was finished. The stench of eternal death was swept away with the dying breath of Jesus as he cried out.

THIRD: the power of Satan to claim human souls was finished – at least for those who would accept the One who made the sacrifice. Satan could no longer demand the souls of every human being.

FOURTH: the power of a law that could condemn and convict us of sin but which could never be kept or save was shattered and washed away by the blood he’d shed establishing a new covenant.

FINALLY: the ordeal of the incarnation was finished for all practical purposes. There seems to be something quite different about Jesus in his resurrection body. The humiliation of God becoming man was finished. We have no record of Jesus ever being tempted again after his resurrection as he was in his pre-cruficixion days. He seems to have begun to take back some of the glory of his pre-incarnate state with the blinding light of the resurrection morning, the ability to appear and disappear at will, and to ascend into the clouds.

I suppose it is a combination of the above that led to Jesus’ cry. And while that was finished, something new as beginning: the ability for humans to be sinless in God’s eyes, the ability for humans to be reunited with God. While all those things ended with Jesus’ words, for humanity it was just the beginning. We have been given a new chance, a new hope, and new life – and new we must begin to live like citizens of the Light and not of darkness any longer.

How are you doing with that?

PRAYER: Thank you, Jesus, for finishing what you came to do. Help us to live up to the new beginning you died to give us! In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

COPYRIGHT 2018 by Galen C. Dalrymple. All rights reserved.

DayBreaks for 1/11/18 – Everything Counts All the Time

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DayBreaks for 1/11/18: Everything Counts All the Time

From the DayBreaks archives, January 2008:

Life is chock-full of seemingly innocent little moments of decision.  You’ll make so many decisions today and do so many things that really aren’t very important.  For example: you’ll decide which shirt or dress to wear today – and all things being equal, it really doesn’t matter what you choose.  You’ll decide what to eat (although if you have health problems, that can be important!)  You’ll decide which bank teller to go to, which check-out line at the grocery store.  While we may agonize over which pair of sunglasses make us look the most cool, it’s really nothing more than a trivial decision.  Much of life revolves around trivial things.

But, there are things in life that aren’t trivial at all.  Consider this from the California Southern Baptist (3/2/2000):

“Recently, Dieter Zander, the pastor of the first GenX church in America, spoke at an Evangelism Conference about reaching people in the age of relativism.  He cited a Barna study that asked people to use single words to describe Jesus.  They responded, “wise, accepting, compassionate, gracious, humble.”  Then he asked them to use single words to describe Christians, they said, “critical, exclusive, self-righteous, narrow and repressive.”

“There is a difference between knowing the good news and being the good news, Zander said.  “We are the evidence!  Everything counts—all the time.”

“With previous generations, a strong preacher could give a good message, even if the church was hypocritical and critical and people would still get saved,” Zander continued, “but not anymore.  I’m seeing a change in what seekers are looking for.  Not something they can relate to.  They are looking for a transcendent God.  They don’t want to be entertained they want to be transformed.”

I think Zander had it spot on: “There is a difference between knowing the good news and BEING (emphasis mine, GCD) the good news.”  I realize that in a very real sense, we cannot be the good news.  Jesus came from heaven to give us the good news and be the good news for us!  But, how we act, what we say, even how we think – in a way we can be the good news or the bad news.  Why does the world think of Jesus in such high terms but Christians in such negative ways?  Could it be because we are not being the good news?  Because as the world looks at us, they don’t see Jesus in us at all, but our old sinful, carping and complaining natures? 

Every encounter we have with another human being is loaded with implications for eternity.  Yes – every single one.  What you say, how you act, what we do and even how we think about them matters.  GenX is still seeking a transcendent God, but for them, the proof of His existence is transformed followers of God, people in whom the love of Jesus is perfected by their treatment of others.  It is, after all, what Jesus said would be the one sign of true belief and discipleship.

When you have that casual conversation by the water cooler today – realize it isn’t as casual as it appears.  When you greet the clerk at the grocery store, be the good news personified.  When you come in the door at home at the end of your long and trying day, remember that God expects you to be the good news at home, too.

For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. (Romans 1:16 KJV)

PRAYER: Father, thank You for sending Jesus, the best news the world has ever known.  Help us to not only know him, but to live like him so the good news may be alive and strong within us.  Help us to realize that as Your children and ambassadors in this world, that everything we do makes a difference all the time.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

PRAYER: God, I know my own sin is enough to kill all the fish in the sea, yet you promise me you have washed me clean and that I am your child. Help us all to being to grasp that simple, yet profound, truth. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

COPYRIGHT 2017 by Galen C. Dalrymple. All rights reserved.

DayBreaks for 12/13/17 – When Words Don’t Come

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DayBreaks for 12/13/17: When Words Don’t Come

From the DayBreaks archive, December 2007:

You’ve heard of writer’s block – when a writer just can’t think of what to write.  Although it would be a long stretch to call myself a writer, I can identify with that syndrome!   Here’s a news flash for you: preachers get it, too, but I call it “preacher’s block.”  It’s what happens when the week is spinning by like an altimeter on a nose-down jet – and you just can’t seem to find the inspiration or words for the message on the coming Sunday.  You start to sweat, you shift uneasily in the chair, you wander a hallway or two as if you’ll find inspiration there.  Sometimes, it even works.  Do you want to know when I have the greatest trouble with “preacher’s block”?  It’s at Christmas.  For me, Christmas sermons are the toughest of all. 

Words and inspiration can come from the strangest of places – after all, if God could speak through a donkey to Balaam, He can certainly bring inspiration from any corner He chooses.  But sometimes we are just plain fearful – fearful that when we’re confronted with a challenge to our faith, that we won’t have the words.  So, we keep our mouths shut. 

How should we react then?  Remember the story of Moses – how he questioned God’s wisdom in choosing him because of his slowness with words?  Paul, the greatest missionary the world has ever seen, was a lot like Moses.  He said he didn’t come to the Corinthians “proclaiming…in lofty words or wisdom”, but rather “in weakness and in fear and in much trembling.  My speech and my proclamation were not with plausible words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God.” (1 Cor. 2:1-5)  Where was Paul’s confidence?  Was it in his own words and ability to speak them?  No, it was that God was speaking with him, giving life to the words that Paul did speak.

When you think about it, Moses and Paul were two of the people most responsible for the writing of the Word of God.  Both were weak with words.  God chose them precisely BECAUSE they were weak with words!  That weakness made it so that they might have a greater chance of clinging tightly to God who spoke in union with and to them so that they might speak what the hearers needed to hear in order to be drawn to God.  Paul and Moses seemed to suffer from “apologist’s block” in their own person – not trusting in what they had to say.  As a result, they didn’t trust in themselves, but in God.  And that’s just what God loved about them!

When you are given the opportunity to talk with someone about Jesus, to share your faith, do you take advantage of it?  If you find yourself in that position, it’s because God has chosen YOU to represent Him at that moment in time.  If you find or fear you have “apologist’s block” – good!  Just don’t let it stop you from talking to that person anyway.  Whisper a little prayer inside your head, aim it heavenward, and ask God to electrify what you say with His power. 

PRAYER:  Father, give us Your words to speak.  Thank you for making us weak in our own selves so we will lean on You, for Your words hold the power of life!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2017 by Galen C. Dalrymple.