DayBreaks for 4/08/20 – The Hallway Through the Sea, #14 – The Price of Faith in a Pandemic

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DayBreaks for 4/07/20: The Hallway Through the Sea #14 – The Price of Faith in a Pendemic

From Christianity Today and Tim Dalrymple, 4/07/20:

For today’s musical pairing, listen to this from Bach’s “Concerto in D Minor by Víkingur Ólafsson.

“Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: ‘If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.’
“‘Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.’’”
Luke 14:25–30

Meditation 14. 1,412,103 confirmed cases, 81,103 deaths globally.

There are times and places when the church lives in such peace and abundance that faith becomes an inexpensive thing. What cost another generation their lives and livelihoods costs us Sunday mornings and a modest tithe.

The temptation for those of us who wish to invite everyone into the fold of the faithful is to lower the cost of faith even further. Perhaps, we say, faith no longer requires so much sacrifice. Perhaps the time of suffering is past. In fact, there may be no cost to faith at all. Perhaps it’s the opposite. Perhaps faith paves the way to greater health and wealth.

Jesus was never so eager to keep a crowd that he minimized the costs of faith (see John 6:60–66). He could not have been clearer that following him requires enormous sacrifice. “Whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” Every person should count the cost.

Jesus understood something we have forgotten. When we lower the cost of faith, it becomes something other than faith. A cheap counterfeit. An elegant mantle of piety around the shoulders of an essentially secular life. If we lower the cost further still, it becomes something no one values. Eventually no one is willing to “purchase” what seems so common and unremarkable, what requires so little sacrifice.

The Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard wrote that the church had become filled with “admirers” when what Christ wants is “imitators.” As we enter into Holy Week as so many are suffering and dying in the pandemic, Jesus does not invite us to be mere admirers of the way he carried his cross nearly two thousand years ago. He invites us to be imitators, to carry our own crosses and follow in his footsteps today…(Click this link to read the rest of the meditation.)

PRAYER: Help us, O Lord, to be imitators and not merely admirers of Jesus. Help us to take up the cross for others, as you took up the cross for us. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Link to Christianity Today’s Facebook page

The Hallway Through the Sea is a series of daily meditations from the president and CEO of Christianity Today, written specifically for those struggling through the coronavirus pandemic. It will address our sense of fear and isolation and also the ways we find beauty and truth and hope—and Christ himself—in the midst of suffering. The title of the column alludes to the passage of the Israelites through the Red Sea. We are a people redeemed from our enslavement to sin, yet we find ourselves living between where we were and where we are meant to be. Danger looms on both sides, but our hope and our faith is that God will deliver us through the sea and into the land of promise. If you wish, you can follow Timothy Dalrymple on Twitter @TimDalrymple_

PREVIOUS THE HALLWAY THROUGH THE SEA COLUMNS:

Out of the Depths

Chosen in the Furnace

The First Word and the Last

More . . .

Link to video with facts, symptoms and prevention tips about coronavirus: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AITtaAAAdYc

Copyright by 2020 by Galen C. Dalrymple.  ><}}}”>

 

DayBreaks for 4/06/20 – Thy Will is Hard, but Amazing

The True Path to Pleasure | CBN.com

DayBreaks for 4/06/20: Thy Will is Hard…but Amazing

NOTE: Hallways Through the Sea will resume tomorrow!

Matthew 26:39 (CSBBible) – Going a little farther, he fell facedown and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”

I remember the musical, Jesus Christ Superstar, and how this scene was portrayed lyrically when Jesus was praying he said, “God, thy will is hard…” That certainly appears to have been the sentiment of Jesus’ heart as he spoke these words. The human part of Jesus was struggling with the will of God – just as we would if we were in that situation. Let’s face it – God’s will IS hard. Think it’s not? How’s your struggle with sin in your life going? It is hard to obey even in something as small as denying our temptation, let alone facing a horrible death as Jesus was.

Was coronavirus God’s will? I don’t know how to really answer that other than to say that it didn’t happen without his knowledge. He knew before he said, “Let there be…” that it would happen and when and where. The question I ponder is what is God trying to teach ME through this? I hope you’re asking yourself that question, too.

So God’s will is hard, period. We don’t understand and I suspect we cannot understand the why’s and wherefore’s of almost anything God does. But as hard as it is to do his will, his will is also amazing.

I recall the story in Ezekiel of the valley of dried bones – the remains of slaughtered humans that had bleached in the sun. At God’s direction (his will) Ezekiel spoke the bones God told him to speak and the bones began to jiggle and shake, making noise as they once again were covered with sinew, muscle and flesh – a mighty army risen to do God’s bidding and to remind Israel that even in spite of their disobedience, God would do great things in their midst.

As a post from Christianity Today put it: “Maybe Ezekiel’s vision is the answer to the most important question we can ask, especially in this present moment. What will God do in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles? What will he do in a world surrounded by death?”

I don’t know the answer. But I know he can and will do something amazing through this if we hold on in faith and trust. He can still put flesh on dead bones to remind us of his unfailing promise to be with us even in the midst of the valley of the shadow of death.

PRAYER: Jesus, we trust you and we believe you know precisely what you are doing by permitting this pestilence. Help us to trust your will and to do your will even in trying circumstances – even if it is hard. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

DayBreaks for 3/19/20 – Pay Attention to the Candy

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DayBreaks for 3/19/20: Pay Attention to the Candy

From the DayBreaks archive, March 2010:

If you’ve not heard about some of the crazy demands of musicians, athletes, movie stars, etc., you’ve been away from planet Earth for a while.  Some of the requests are infamous: outlandish requirements made by music celebrities in their contracts with concert promoters are not oddities.  One of the most notorious came from the rock band Van Halen.  Each contract insisted that “a bowl of M&M’s be provided backstage, but with every single brown M&M removed.”  If the band arrived and saw that the bowl had any brown M&Ms in it, they were free to cancel the concert and receive full payment.  Who knew a bunch of hard-rockers could be such divas, right?

But wait.  There was a good reason behind the clause.  The absence of those M&Ms was a test and was put in place because even life itself could be at stake.  In his book The Checklist Manifesto, author Atul Gawande, quoting from lead singer David Lee Roth’s memoir, shares the story behind the M&Ms:

Roth explained [that] … “Van Halen was the first band to take huge productions into tertiary, third-level markets. We’d pull up with nine 18-wheeler trucks, full of gear, where the standard was three trucks, max. And there were many, many technical errors—whether it was the girders couldn’t support the weight, or the flooring would sink in, or the doors weren’t big enough to move the gear through. The contract rider read like a … Yellow Pages because there was so much equipment, and so many human beings to make it function.” So just as a little test, buried somewhere in the middle of the rider, would be Article 126, the no-brown-M&Ms clause. “When I would walk backstage, if I saw a brown M&M in that bowl,” [Roth] wrote, “well, we’d line-check the entire production. Guaranteed you’d run into a problem.” The mistakes could be life-threatening … In Colorado, the band found that the local promoters had failed to read the weight requirements and that the staging would have fallen through the arena floor.

Van Halen’s ridiculous-at-first-glance contract demand illustrates the principle from Luke 16:10: Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much.

PRAYER: Keep us from thinking that our little bending of the rules and indiscretions are too small for You to notice.  Help us be faithful in ALL things!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Link to video with facts, symptoms and prevention tips about coronavirus: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AITtaAAAdYc

Copyright by 2020 by Galen C. Dalrymple.  ><}}}”>

 

DayBreaks for 3/12/20 – A Harder God to Believe In

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DayBreaks for 3/12/20: A Harder God to Believe In

I don’t know who said this, but I found it resonated with my own spirit:

“What I am displeased with is my own living of life.  I feel an acute sense that I ought to have done better with the circumstances I was given.  This is one of the reasons why it cut me so deeply when people suggested that suffering is God’s discipline — because I find it so very, very easy to believe in a God who is profoundly disappointed in me. 

“It seems utterly natural to believe in the Disappointed God, because I myself am disappointed.  He must be even more disappointed, I think, because his standards are so much higher than mine.  How could he not be disappointed?  That makes complete sense to me.

“It’s the other God, the God who does not experience that kind of disappointment, the God who sees me the way that Prodigal Son’s father saw him — that is the harder God for me to believe in.  It takes work for me to believe in that God.” 

It takes me no effort whatsoever to believe in a God who is very thoroughly disappointed in me.  I am now a minister of the gospel, but it took me nearly 25 years to get to this point – 25 years of secular work.  Yes, I was serving in the church all that time, but not in what I believe I was called to do.  And even though I can see how, in His wisdom, He has used all the things I did and learned in the secular work world to be a better pastor (though I still have much to learn!), I can believe He might have been frustrated with me for not going into the ministry right away (as I considered doing.) 

And, even if I concede to myself that I was still serving God and perhaps even doing what I was supposed to be doing for those 25 years, I can still look at my life and think, “Galen – you really should be further along than you are in your faith walk with Jesus.  Your faith is still shaky.  You still struggle with some of the same old sins that have plagued you for years.  You quench the Spirit from time to time – far too often, actually.  You are not generous.  You can be envious.  You could be a much better husband than you are and a better pastor to the flock, too.”  Those thoughts come easily.  And I’m sure that similar thoughts come easily to you in your own situation.

What a change took place in my life when I learned that God was running towards me to embrace me and weep at my feeble attempts to come to Him!  Do I believe that that God is real – that He is the God I’ve sought to serve all these years?  Yes…but it is harder.  It is harder to accept grace than to live with the whip of the lash.  I feel I deserve the lash, but instead of the lash on my back, I feel the Father’s arm as He puts on the robe of righteousness that Christ wore around His shoulders.  I feel His tears against my cheek – not tears of sadness or despair, but tears of exultant joy.  He takes pleasure in me…and that’s a hard God to believe in.

PRAYER: How desperately we need reminders that You run to us, not from us, and that You rejoice in us through Jesus!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2020 by Galen C. Dalrymple.  ><}}}”>

 

DayBreaks for 3/11/20 – A Lesson From COVID-19

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DayBreaks for 3/11/20: A Lesson from COVID-19

COVID-19 (referred to simply as coronavirus by the media) is all over the news…and virtually all over the world and spreading. While it could be much more deadly than it has been, it is still a very serious issue especially for the elderly with underlying medical issues. It seems the world is learning as it goes on this.

As I was thinking about COVID-19, I was impressed yet again with several things:

  1. How precarious life is – we read stories about disasters, about meteors that pass by the earth rather than colliding with it, about war and injustice. All these things can serve as reminders to us that our reunion with you could be just around to corner for any of us and we need to be ready to take that journey at any time;
  2. How dangerous things can be that you can’t even see with your eyes – the coronavirus is tiny – as are all viruses – and yet it has caused the death of hundreds, made over 100 thousand sick, disrupted businesses and economic systems in ways that nothing has during my life. While we may fear the hulking menace in the dark of the night – fearing we may awaken some night with them presence in our rooms – we need to understand that not all dangerous things are big.

All this caused me to think that sin is much like coronavirus. You can’t see the seed of it in the human heart, but it’s there and just waiting to break out. The things that could make us sick or us spiritually don’t usually present themselves as huge or life-shattering decisions. They start small and are maybe not even recognized in the beginning, but once the infection gets into our hearts and minds it begins to multiply – and it can be deadly. Small, seemingly innocent interactions can lead to serious issues!

Psalm 51:10 (ESV) – Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.

PRAYER: Jesus, help us be aware of how insidious Satan and sin can be so we don’t fall into his snare. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2020 by Galen C. Dalrymple.  ><}}}”>

 

DayBreaks for 3/10/20 – My Struggle With Repentance

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DayBreaks for 3/10/20: My Struggle with Repentance

Repentance. I think I know what it’s supposed to look like – a turning away from sinful practices and a return to the pathway of the Anointed One, a turning away from putting myself on the throne to carrying my cross to Calvary. Scripture says that God forgives those who repent. Acts 2:38 and 3:19 seem to link repentance with forgiveness. And that’s what terrifies me.

You see, no matter how hard I’ve tried, here I am bearing down on my 68th year, still struggling with some of the same old sins. Have I cried out to God for forgiveness? Countless times. Have I begged him to take those temptations away from me, to set me free from it? Over and over and over. Has he done it? No, not entirely.

Perhaps he lets me continue to struggle with it like he did Paul (not that I’m anything like Paul!), because if I suddenly was relieved of those temptations I may grown too proud when my greater need is to be reminded of my sinfulness and dependence on the grace of One who can even save someone like me.

But this weekend a thought occurred to me and the more I’ve noodled it around, the more it makes sense to me. It’s basically this: God has had to make up for human shortcoming since the dawn of human history. He had a plan for it then and it still holds true today. It can basically be summed up in the words mercy and grace. Here’s how I think it must work regarding repentance: just as he knows my obedience will never be full and complete as long as I’m tied to the flesh, he also knows my repentance will never be full and complete. If my salvation is dependent on the “once and forever” kind of repentance that never struggles with that sin – no matter how many times I tell God I’m sorry and resolve to obey – then I’m doomed to be engulfed by fire and brimstone for all eternity.

But that’s exactly the point, isn’t it?  God knows that my human nature will never perfectly repent any more than I can perfect obey (the two are closely linked, after all), and just as he makes up for my sinfulness with his mercy and grace, counting my obedience as complete in Christ, so I think he makes up by his grace for my failure to completely, once and forever never-to-sin-that-way-again repent.

Does God want me to give in to those sins again? Of course not! But he knows I’m frail and weak and seemingly just not able to completely and forever repent.

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me!

PRAYER: God, I truly am sorry for my sinfulness. And I say yet again to you, “I repent” and I mean that. But if I fail, I am grateful for the amazing grace that you have surrounded me with and that you’ll still love and welcome me as your child. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2020 by Galen C. Dalrymple.  ><}}}”>

 

DayBreaks for 3/06/20 – That Real Love Requires

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DayBreaks for 3/6/20: What Real Love Requires

“‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mk. 12:31)

That verse from Mark’s gospel is not Jesus expressing a desire, a preference or a wish for us, but it is a command.

Have you ever really thought about the why  behind the giving of this command? I don’t mean “Why does Jesus want us to love one another?” as the answer to that should be blatantly obvious. I mean, why did Jesus feel the need to command us to love our neighbor?

I could be wrong, but here’s my thinking: true love requires a command because otherwise we probably wouldn’t do it. That may sound strange because we might think that love is something that just “happens” to you on a starry summer night when you meet that certain someone and – boom! – you’re hooked and in love and will live in love happily ever after.

Anyone who has had any experience at all with love will tell you that’s a load of bunk. If it were only that easy and permanent! Look around – divorce and broken families abound – because love just ISN’T that easy nor permanent. Neighbors don’t love one another. Love is hard…and when the going gets hard it is a fact that too often the person we thought we’d love forever and who’d love us forever gets “going” to..right out the door.

Our culture has created a fantasized caricature of love that you see on the movie screens, read in the trash novels and on TV. It’s all glorious, glamorous, wonderful and passionate – until it no longer is and then it’s time to find a new person to love.

But that’s not God’s way. God wants us to grow in love, not surrender it when it no longer feels romantic. Thus the command that we are to love our neighbor as ourself. Would you abandon yourself? No. Like it or not, we’re stuck with ourselves. We need the command of God to remind us that our love is to stick it out through thick and thin and not look for reasons to stop loving.

PRAYER: Lord, deliver us from foolish romanticized notions of what it takes for love to last and let us learn to obey your command to always love. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2020 by Galen C. Dalrymple.  ><}}}”>