DayBreaks for 10/23/17 – Whose Face Would It Be?

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DayBreaks for 10/23/17: Whose Face Would it Be?

What do you think the future of Christianity is in the United States?  Or in the world, for that matter?  There have been some recognizable faces that the world has come to know as “Christians”.  Among those who come readily to mind are Mother Theresa and, of course, Billy Graham.  There are others, too, but many of the “old guard” of the faith have been, or are close, to departing this world for their eternal reward. 

The question has been asked of me: if you had to think of someone who is a Christian that you could point to that is respected by everyone, who is a living witness to the Christian faith, who would it be?  For me, the answer was fairly quick: Billy Graham would be my first choice.  He seems to have managed throughout all these years, to keep himself “unspotted from the world.” 

But, Billy Graham is old and certainly the time for his own departure is near.  Then who, like Elisha taking up the mantle of Elijah, will be the “face” of Christianity in the world?  It’s not an easy question to answer, but I was struck by this brief comment from the Opinion Journal (Wall Street Journal Online), 10/8/07, by James Taranto, about some statements made by an avowed atheist who was chastising Christians for their unwillingness to engage in public “dialogue”.  The first paragraph is taken from Ms. Lalli’s statement, and the second paragraph is Mr. Taranto’s musings on what she said:

Ms. Lalli: I have a question for the Christians out there: If you could pick one living person to be the face of the entire Christian faith, who would that person be?  Even if you could pick three, or even five people, it would still be a challenge.  I imagine it would be hard to figure out whether you wanted to pick those Christians who think most like you, or if you would pick people who could better represent the many colors of Christianity, the subtle differences and big-picture similarities.

Taranto: We lived in Brooklyn for a time in the early 1990s.  Back then, at least, there were Christians there, and it seems unlikely that all of them have left.  Lalli should see if she can find one so that she can ask her question directly.  We’re pretty sure the answer will be Christ.  OpinionJournal, 10/8/07, James Taranto

Can there be a better ambassador for Christianity than Christ?  Certainly, the answer to that is and unequivocal, “No!”  He is by far the best example of Christianity that there ever will be.

Still, I’m forced to ponder the question: if not Billy Graham, who?  And why should we automatically assume that all believers couldn’t be effective ambassadors – that you who read this, and I who write it, can’t be equally as strong of “advertisements” for what a real Christian is like?  After all, isn’t that what we’re ALL called to be and to do?

PRAYER:  Lord, we know that within us dwells no good thing – except for Jesus.  Help us to be better illustrations of the truth of Christianity, of the life of Christ, than we have been in the past.  May we all resolve to live as if the world depended on our resemblance to Jesus.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2017 by Galen C. Dalrymple.

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DayBreaks for 9/26/17 – Living Within a Yard of Hell

DayBreaks for 9/26/17: Living Within a Yard of Hell

From the DayBreaks archive, 9/2007:

I feel that I’ve been very fortunate in my life in many, many ways.  One of them is that I’ve lived in quite a few different places.  I was born in Iowa and raised as a farm boy for about the first 9 years, then moved to Florida, then southern California, then northern California.  After graduating from high school, I went back to Florida for college, then back to California, then to North Carolina, then back to northern California.  We lived in several cities in northern California before moving to Maine in 2003, and now we find ourselves back in northern California once again…but in a different place. 

I have enjoyed living in all those places – different scenery, different customs, different accents, different weather, different friends and I can honestly say that I’ve enjoyed living in every place I have ever lived.  I believe that of all the places we’ve lived, that Maine takes the cake for beauty – but other places have better weather.  For example, I’ve never slipped on the ice in the shopping center in Cloverdale, CA, which is more than I can say for living in Maine!  The leaves in Maine are like nowhere else on earth when they turn color, but Cloverdale is ringed with vineyards that turn colors, too, after the grapes are harvested. 

If you could live anywhere that you wanted to live, where would it be?  I found an interesting quote that I’d like to share with you.  It’s from C. T. Studd, and here’s what they had to say: “Some wish to live within the sound of a church or chapel bell; I want to run a rescue shop within a yard of Hell.”

Wow.  That draws me up short and really makes me think about how selfish I can be (and am!)  It also forces me to take stock of what matters the most to me.  Sure, who wouldn’t love to live close to the church and be constantly surrounded by other believers who are committed to loving one another and loving God?  But, such a scenario can have its drawbacks: it’s possible to love each other and God so much, but not love the world of unbelievers around us and therefore not make an effort to reach them because of their differences from us. 

What really makes me ashamed is to ask the question: “Where would Jesus have lived?”  Think about it.  If ever anyone was living in the sound of church bells (or choirs), Jesus had that luxury in heaven for all eternity.  He could have just stayed sitting on the throne of heaven and reveling in the music and praises of the angels.  But, instead, he chose to live within a yard of Hell by coming here and living with us. 

Does this mean that you have to feel guilty and move to a slum or inner city or jungle in order to fulfill your Christianity?  No, not at all.  Hopefully, you are where you are because God has called you to that place.  Besides, everywhere in this world is within a yard of Hell – just look around and you’ll see people queuing up to pass through its gates.  And, we may be the last chance any of them get at hearing the gospel of Jesus Christ.

PRAYER:  Lord, we thank you for where you have placed us.  Help us to never grow complacent or become too introverted as your family, the church, that we forget the mission we are called to!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2017 by Galen C. Dalrymple.

DayBreaks for 9/25/17 – From Coward to Courage

DayBreaks for 9/25/17: From Coward to Courage

From the DayBreaks archive, 9/2007:

From In the Grip of Grace by Max Lucado: “During the early days of the Civil War a Union soldier was arrested on charges of desertion.  Unable to prove his innocence, he was condemned and sentenced to die a deserter’s death. His appeal found its way to the desk of Abraham Lincoln.  The president felt mercy for the soldier and signed a pardon.  The soldier returned to service, fought the entirety of the war, and was killed in the last battle.  Found within his breast pocket was the signed letter of the president.”

Application:

What a poignant story.  A soldier running from duty, most likely because of fear.  Captured, caught, condemned to die, he pleads for mercy – an appeal of the sentence that would have caused him to be hanged and remembered as a coward.  The plea lands on the desk of the commander in chief.  And mercy flowed down to a man who didn’t deserve it. 

We’ve all needed a pardon from time to time.  Just as with the soldier who had exhausted every appeal, except to the commander in chief, we were out of appeals, too. Like him, if our Commander in Chief hadn’t granted mercy, death was certain.  The case had been heard already and sentence passed.  This was the only hope left. 

What touched the heart of president Lincoln?  I don’t know.  By offering a pardon, others might desert when the times got tough and hope for a similar pardon.  Some of the generals were no doubt angry about the president’s pardon – after all, discipline must be maintained in a military organization.  They probably felt he was soft, or too old, or just to tired to think straight and make a good decision.

Imagine the relief and happiness in the heart of the soldier when he heard the president’s decision!  He was free.  He could have gone home.  Who would want him in their unit when the chips were down?  But instead of running home, he ran back to the front lines and fought for the rest of the war, only to be killed in the last battle of that great conflict.  What happened?  He was touched by the president’s act of grace.  His pardon was so precious to him that it changed his life.  He carried his pardon with him the rest of his days.   

The grace of Christ has caused men and women to do strange and heroic things.  To die singing songs of praise, to willingly submit their necks to the noose, their bodies to the flames, or their heads to the sword.  The grace of Christ turned Peter from a denier and coward to a martyr.  The grace of Christ empowered Thomas the doubter to be skinned alive (according to tradition).  The grace of Christ empowered 160,000 Christians around the world last year to say “Jesus Christ is Lord!” before their lives were offered as martyrs.

Have you found courage in the grace of Christ?  Has it changed your life forever?  Tell someone about it.  Don’t run from the battle – run to it.  The cause of Christ will move forward.  He’s looking for good soldiers who will, if necessary, die knowing their pardon has been established by the Commander in Chief.  This IS the call of the Master to us.  What will your answer be?

PRAYER:  Father, make us bold because of our thankfulness of what You’ve done for us!  Thank You for pardoning us and calling us into Your service!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2017 by Galen C. Dalrymple.

DayBreaks for 6/16/17 – Places You Never Knew Existed

 

DayBreaks for 6/16/17: Places You Never Knew Existed

From the DayBreaks archive, 2007:

On June 4, I was blessed (for the second year in a row!) to participate in a fund raiser for a nearby mission that provides shelter, training, food and spiritual guidance to many who have lost their way in life.  They do a great work, and each year they do a fundraiser that is called Extreme Golf.  On that day, those of us who have signed up to raise pledge money, go out and run around a golf course like crazy people, with the goal of playing 100 holes of golf in 8 hours or less.  What a thrill!

But now (this was written on 6/6), I have been reminded of lessons I learned last year during this event:

FIRST: Sometimes people hurt in places you never knew existed.  My body has aches and pains right now that I didn’t have on early Monday morning before the event.  It’ll continue that way for a few days, I can tell.  People all over hurt – and the greatest hurts aren’t in the physical body, but in the heart and mind of humanity.  Perhaps the greatest hurt of all is hopelessness – when people have been so beaten down that they have given up any idea of it ever getting better.  That’s when many are willing to finally accept Christ because they have learned that nothing else works.  But unless we’re on the lookout for signs of pain in people (wincing and groaning have been my signs the last few days!) we will likely pass by them not even realizing they’ve been beaten.  But heaven have mercy on us if we know they’ve been beaten and pass by anyway.

SECOND: Pain is good.  It is a reminder that we are alive and not dead.  Dead people feel no pain.  We shouldn’t give up on people who are in great pain.  They’re still alive and pain can lead to changes. 

THIRD: Pain is also a reminder that we are to become like Him in His suffering.  I don’t think that is specifically referring to physical pain, but that may be a part of it.  Paul, in Philippians 3:10 put it this way: I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death…  In our hurts, suffered for the cause of God, we become like Christ.  And God certainly knows how much I need more of that!!!!

There is pain all around you.  There is pain on the golf course, in your school, in your work, in your family – and yes, in your church.  The world is awash in pain.  All we have to do is open our eyes and see it.  Will you take the risk of joining Christ in his sufferings for the world?  You don’t have to travel to India or the Congo or Peru, all you have to do is open your heart and eyes, and you’ll see it.  The question is: what will we do about it?

I’m eager for this event to come around again next year.  May I be as eager to bear pain for Him all year long.

PRAYER: Father, let us become like Christ – willing to bear any burden, to carry any suffering – for the privilege of becoming like Him in His death, so that we may also attain unto His resurrection.  Help us to be sensitive to the pain of others and do all we can to point them to the One who can, and will, heal all hurts some glorious day.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

DayBreaks for 3/17/17 – Would I Say Yes?

DayBreaks for 3/17/17: Would I Say Yes?

There are moments that grab us by the throat and really force us to take a HARD look at ourselves in the mirror. More often than not, I don’t like what I see when that happens.

This past Sunday our lead teacher was telling us about a trip he’d taken the prior week to Lima, Peru to meet with a set of pastors from around the world. These pastors meet once a year and have done so for about ten years now. He shared with us some of the ways the discussion had changed over those ten years.

He said that when they first met, the subject of the Muslim population and faith came up and there was a sense of resignation and desperation. Based on the statistics that were available at that time, they were told that in 100 years, based on the birth rate in Muslim countries and the pace with which the Muslim faith was growing that the population of the world would be 99% Muslim in 100 years. The pastors, all Christians, found that to be discouraging because as Christians we believe that the only way to the Father is through Jesus (John 14:6). There was a sense of despair among the Christian pastors.

In between that time and the meeting they held this past week, much in this world has changed. This year, the reports of the pastors from some of the darkest parts of the world we quite different. They spoke of how literally millions of Muslims are coming to Christ – in unprecedented numbers. Why is this happening? There were two factors:

FIRST: because of thousands upon thousands of visions that are being given to Muslims around the world. These aren’t just happening in one country or two – but all over the world, where men and women who didn’t have any knowledge of Jesus had a vision (or visitation) by Jesus that has led them to faith. I’ve read stories about these visions and they are incredible. We must never think that God is not at work.

SECOND: the rise of radical, militant Islam is driving people from the faith in which they grew up. The vast majority of Muslims are repulsed by the actions of ISIS and other such groups. ISIS was trying to terrify people into becoming Muslims, but God is using that horrible group (and others like it) to bring millions to know Jesus.

Prior to the teaching time, there was a baptismal service where several people were baptized. They were asked the normal questions that the church has always asked those who are desiring to become Christ-followers. And every person who was asked gave the expected response that they recognized that they were sinners who could be saved only by the grace of God and that they believed in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. It is always wonderful to witness such things.

But here’s what grabbed my attention at the start of the teaching time. As our lead teacher shared the stories about Muslims coming to faith, he also shared that the stories they heard about the persecution of Christians and the church were heartrending. Millions are coming to Christ, but thousands upon thousands are being martyred for their commitment to Christ. And because it is a fact of life in Muslim countries, when someone wants to become a Christian, the church asks the usual questions, but then the church in those places adds another question that goes something like this: “Are you ready and willing to die for your faith in Jesus Christ as a martyr?” If those wanting to become Christians say no, the church (at least in some places) tells them they are not ready to become followers of Jesus.

That question was not asked of me when I became a believer, and I doubt that it was asked of you, either. And I asked myself: how would I answer that question? Am I ready and willing for martyrdom just to follow Jesus? Are you? And if I had been asked that question, would I have proceeded with the decision to become a Christian? Just because it wasn’t asked doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t all be ready to say yes. After all, we are all asked to take up our cross…and follow in his footsteps, even if they lead to death.

PRAYER: Jesus, I know that I should be willing to die for you because you already died for me. I am grateful that I live in a land where I am not confronted with that as an ever-present reality. I pray for those for whom martyrdom is a very real possibility at any given moment on any given day. I thank you for their faith, for their example to us. And I pray, Father, for their steadfastness even as I beg your forgiveness for my own lack of obedience and fear. Give us God-sized faith that will stand in any test, I pray, In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2017 by Galen Dalrymple.

DayBreaks for 3/3/17 – Visiting With Isaiah, #5

DayBreaks for 3/02/17: Visiting With Isaiah, #5

Isaiah 6:8 (ESV) – And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here I am! Send me.”

Now, I think, we get to the crux of this passage. Isaiah has had an incredible vision. He has realized his own uncleanness after pronouncing woes on everyone else. He has been cleansed by a coal from the altar of offering. And now, God asks two questions: Whom shall I send? And Who will go for us?

I think these are two different questions. One is who God will choose to send in His infinite wisdom? The second is more about who will be willing to go on God’s behalf. In between the two questions lies a vast crevasse called human will and obedience.

If I had been Isaiah, I would have much preferred to stay in the incredible worship scene around the throne, watching the seraphim, hearing the praises of God ringing throughout the ethereal sphere. I would have preferred to stay in that relatively safe, secure, lovely place. I would have preferred to say, “Hey, how about sending Joe? He’d be great for your mission!” My guess is that you would have been a lot like me.

But that’s not what Isaiah said. Here I am! Send me! His encounter with this God who had cleansed him led him to such gratitude that he was willing to do anything that this great God would ask.

I would have done as Moses did, offering excuses right and left: I’m too weak, I’ve got too many flaws, I am too broken, I’m not smart enough or gifted in the right areas. But that misses a key point: God wired us to be weak and broken. God could have created us without the capacity for sin, but He didn’t. He knew the character of Isaiah, that he was a sinner just like me. But God wanted a partner and Isaiah said yes even before he knew where God wanted to send him! Here I am! Send me. I can almost picture Isaiah jumping up and down like Shrek did in the first Shrek movie, yelling, “Pick me! Pick me!”, waving his arms trying to get God’s attention.

Isaiah would be embarking for a mission for God: a mission to turn the hearts of the people back to God so they could be spared destruction. And, Isaiah would fail in that mission – at least as far as we’d describe failure. The people would not turn, they would not repent and God would send them into slavery.

Here’s a point to consider: God wasn’t calling Isaiah to be successful. Did God think Isaiah’s ministry was a failure and was God angry with Isaiah for the lack of results? No. I don’t believe so. God knew when he called Isaiah that Isaiah would “fail”. But He called him anyway. And Isaiah went, not knowing that God knew he would “fail”. Why? Obedience is why. An encounter with the cleansing of God has a way to cause us to obey out of gratitude.

I wonder, would Isaiah have said “Yes” if he’d known he would “fail”? I don’t like to fail. I know you don’t, either. When God calls us, though, he isn’t calling us to be successful, or even to fruitfulness (Isaiah wasn’t very fruitful) – He is calling us to faithfulness.

So, here we are, at the end of our visit with Isaiah, and we are confronted with questions:

Is my response to God’s call predicated on my own sense of whether or not I’m capable or likely to be successful? Or will I be like Isaiah and say “Yes” even before I know where God may send me – trusting in Him to take this shattered, broken vessel and do something for His own name’s sake?

What is my role in what God is doing among the nations? Can I say no? Yes, I can. And in doing so I will miss all that God intends for me to be and do, and most of all, I’d be missing out on a great adventure of relationship with Him.

What is your role in what God is doing in the world? Do you care about people coming to Jesus? God cares about it far more than any human could ever care about it. But he wants to send us. He waits to hear our response to the same questions he asked in Isaiah 6:8.

Do we think it would be too great of a sacrifice for us to make to leave our comforts behind to risk it all with God? David Livingstone had this to say (may not be word for word, but close enough that you’ll get the point): If an earthly commission by an earthly king is thought to be an honor, how can a commission by the Heavenly King be thought a sacrifice?

PRAYER: Search my heart, God. Let me not think of any call from You as a sacrifice, but as the greatest honor in the world. Let me not worry about my abilities or the likelihood of success, but simply of obedience. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2017 by Galen Dalrymple.

DayBreaks for 2/06/17 – Venture Out in Faith

DayBreaks for 2/06/17: Venture Out in Faith

Revelation 3:8 (ESV) –I know your works. Behold, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut. I know that you have but little power, and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name.

“One night at the end of a special Saturday night worship service,” writes Warren Hudson of Ontario, Canada, “a thunderstorm unleashed a bolt of lightning that plunged the church into darkness.” With the congregation seated in total darkness, the pastor felt his way to the kitchen to find some candles. The pastor handed out the candles to everyone present. Persons lit their candles in much the same way as many churches do on Christmas Eve, each person lighting the candle of the person next to them. The worshipers then made their way through the church’s winding hallways to the front door.

“Peering out, we could see the rain coming down in sheets,” Warren remembers. With traffic snarled, people were running for the nearest shelter. Looking around they realized that the entire city was in darkness. “There in the darkness we stood,” Warren writes, “a little band of Christians, each clutching a light, not sure whether to venture out into the storm or stay inside the church in hopes that the storm would soon blow over.”

There in the darkness the light of truth struck him. In this most dramatic way he realized what it means to be the “light of the world.” He writes, “It occurred to me then that this is the temptation I face every day. It is easy to play it safe and be a good Christian in church. It is a lot harder to venture out in faith into the storms of the world.”

It is easy to be a good Christian in church. It is not nearly so easy when we are outside the four walls of a comfortable building – but that is our mission. I suspect that if Jesus were to write a letter to us today he’d tell us that he’d much rather we were good Christians outside of the church building than inside.

Can you choose one thing this week that you will do “out in the storm” for Jesus and for the love of those around you?

PRAYER: Jesus, at the start of this new week, let us not be fearful of the surrounding storm but rather let us be good Christians and servants for you! In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2017 by Galen Dalrymple.