DayBreaks for 7/12/19 – The Miracle on a Stick

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DayBreaks for 07/12/19: The Miracle on a Stick

From the DayBreaks archives, July 2009:

They traveled from Mount Hor along the route to the Red Sea, to go around Edom. But the people grew impatient on the way; they spoke against God and against Moses, and said, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the desert? There is no bread! There is no water! And we detest this miserable food!” Then the LORD sent venomous snakes among them; they bit the people and many Israelites died. The people came to Moses and said, “We sinned when we spoke against the LORD and against you. Pray that the LORD will take the snakes away from us.” So Moses prayed for the people. The LORD said to Moses, “Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live.” So Moses made a bronze snake and put it up on a pole. Then when anyone was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake, he lived. – Numbers 21:4-9 (NIV)

I was recently reading Athol Dickson’s The Gospel According to Moses when I discovered new insights into the passage from Numbers 21, above.  Let me share them with you:

FIRST: Remember Israel’s recent history.  They’d been freed from Egypt, only to find themselves apparently left alone as Moses had been up on the mountain for so long the people felt that he was most certainly dead.  Of course, he wasn’t, but they had no way of knowing that.  And so they asked Aaron to make a golden calf so that they could worship it and perhaps receive some help and direction from the “god”.  While this might seem very strange for us, remember that they’d been in Egyptian slavery for 400 years and had become intimately acquainted with the religious worship of Egyptian gods, which included various bulls, frogs, falcons and other animals.  So they clearly thought this golden god could help them.  The result of that episode was that thousands of Israelites died because they’d formed and worshipped a golden calf.  Now, however, they are in trouble again…whining and angering Moses and God.  So, God sent snakes among them and many died and were dying.  God tells Moses, incredulously, to make an image of bronze and put it up where everyone could see it and that if they look at it they will live!  Do you see the irony?  The last time they’d formed an image to worship it, many died as a result.  Now, God says to make an image and it will result in their being saved!  This must have been a real test of obedience for the Israelites: “Hey, Shlomoe, remember what happened the LAST time we made an image of an animal?  Do you think Moses heard God correctly about this bronze serpent thing?”  It required obedience even when the thing commanded not only made no sense, but when there was precedent point 180 degrees the opposite direction!

SECOND: Athol Dickson did a word study on the verses about the bronze serpent, and he made an amazing discovery.  The Hebrew word, nes, which is translated as the “pole” upon which the bronze serpent is mounted, is not a simple word to translate.  In other passages, the word is translated as “example” or “banner.”  In Isaiah 33:23, it is translated “sail”, but another word entirely is used to describe the mast or pole on which the sail is hung.  In fact, nowhere else in Scripture is the word nes translated as “pole” – it is always translated as the object that is lifted up on the pole.  Only here, is the bronze serpent mounted on the “pole” (nes).  So, to use the way the word is normally translated, we’d find a symbol (the bronze serpent) hung upon an example (the nes, or pole).  It seems God deliberately chose this word to hint that it really wasn’t the serpent that was to give them deliverance, but the One behind the serpent.  But, that’s not the most amazing thing.  The most amazing thing is that the word nes has yet another meaning: “miracle.”  The story of the bronze serpent is both an example and a miracle, pointing to the real miracle: the miracle of a God dying on another pole in Roman occupied Jerusalem.  It is as if God is saying, “When the people look upon what hangs on the pole – the miracle – they will be saved.”  Jesus was that miracle.  It was a miracle that a God could die at all.  It was a miracle that our sins could be taken away.  It was a miracle that God would do such a thing for nothing more than a collection of atoms and chemicals known as a human being.  Yet He did all those things.

When you look upon the miracle on the pole, you shall be saved!

PRAYER: Open our eyes to the miracle that is Jesus hanging on a pole for us!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

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DayBreaks for 6/25/19 – What He Doesn’t Require

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DayBreaks for 06/25/09: What He Doesn’t Require

From the DayBreaks archives, June 2009:

A friend of mine was teaching a class on John the Baptist. He had some good thoughts that can related to our everyday life and ministries…and by the way, you DO have an everyday ministry whether you are on full-time church staff or not, so don’t think that this doesn’t apply to you!

John the Baptist was an interesting character…living in the wilderness, eating locusts and honey, dressed in what today wouldn’t pass for clothes for a homeless person. He probably didn’t smell too good and probably looked like a wild man – I picture him as being wild looking with crazy hair and beard (I could be wrong!) I picture him yelling out his message in order to prepare hearts for the coming of the Promised One – no subtle gospel messages from John’s lips!

So what are the points? Well, Jesus said that no man born of woman was greater than John the Baptist (Matthew 11:11). But let’s stop and think about John for a moment. What did he do? He went about the business of being what God called him to be. The road-maker. The path-preparer. Not once in his entire life did John perform a miracle!

What is it that makes for greatness? It isn’t miracles. Miracles are not the measure of greatness, nor is the number of miracles or magnitude of miracles a sign of greatness that impresses Jesus. What impresses God is a life that is lived in accordance with its purpose – like John’s. That is fulfilling the command to be a living sacrifice.

Sometimes in your ministry (whether it is full-time church work or a ministry in the secular world), you can feel like a failure because you couldn’t pull off that “miracle” and reach that lost person for Christ, or keep that couple from divorcing, or turn that teen from self-destruction. You are not a failure because you couldn’t do a miracle. Miracles are God’s business…not yours or mine. And don’t let anyone put pressure on you to be a “miracle worker”. Sometimes we expect our church leaders to do heroic and seemingly miraculous things with their own families, with the local body and in the community. They should reach everyone for Christ, visit all the sick, and live perfect lives as role models. But that isn’t fair…and it isn’t God’s demand for anyone.

Don’t get discouraged in your work for God. God doesn’t require you to do miracles. He just asks for your faithfulness. Are you giving it to Him?

Prayer: May our hope and trust lie in You and not in anything we can do.  Help us to be faithful as our reasonable sacrifice to You!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

 

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.  ><}}}”>

DayBreaks for 5/24/19 – Taking Hold of the Cross

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DayBreaks for 5/24/19: Taking Hold of the Cross

If you refuse to take up your cross and follow me, you are not worthy of being mine. If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give it up for me, you will find it. – Matthew 10:38-39 (NLT)

In a world full of challenges to accomplish much and achieve great things, Jesus’ invitation to lose our life stands in stark contrast to what the world invites us to do.  To accept one’s cross seems counter-intuitive at best, and outright crazy according to human thought. 

There are several things about Jesus’ invitation that we must consider:

FIRST: in taking up our cross, we are following Him.  He invites us to do what He has done before us – accepting that cross that awaits.  Because he took up the cross first, if we fail to imitate him, we are not worthy of being his.

SECOND: Jesus only invites us to do the things that he’s already been willing to do.  He never asks us to go farther than he was willing to go. 

THIRD: Jesus doesn’t invite us to just get tough and pull ourselves up to heaven by our bootstraps.  He knows that isn’t possible.  He is fully aware, as Mike Mason put it in The Gospel According to Job, that “the only bootstrap in the Christian life is the cross.  Sometimes laying hold of the cross can be comforting; but other times it is like picking up a snake.  Christ Himself found this out when He cried, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

The cross is the only pathway to heaven.  Dying is the only pathway to life.

Prayer: Lord, we need your courage to be able to follow in your footsteps to our own cross.  As we embrace not only your cross, but ours, may we find life and life to the fullest.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

DayBreaks for 4/18/19 – The Torch, the Old Man and the Hands of a King

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DayBreaks for 4/18/19: The Old Man, the Torch and the Hands of the King

From the DayBreaks archive, April 2009:

So He said to him, “Bring Me a three year old heifer, and a three year old female goat, and a three year old ram, and a turtledove, and a young pigeon.” Then he brought all these to Him and cut them in two, and laid each half opposite the other; but he did not cut the birds. The birds of prey came down upon the carcasses, and Abram drove them away. It came about when the sun had set, that it was very dark, and behold, there appeared a smoking oven and a flaming torch which passed between these pieces.  (Gen. 15:9-11, 17) 

Nearly 2000 years passed from the time God met with Abram (as noted above) and made His covenant.  Covenants were sealed in those days by this display of gore and blood.  Covenants were serious business.  Cutting a heifer, goat and ram into two pieces would not have been pretty, clean work.  Effort was required, blood was spilled.  The participants would be covered in blood.  But that was only the beginning.  As verse 17 shows, passing between the cut-up animals was part of the deal, too.  It was what we would think of as the signature on a contract – it was what made it binding.  It was a way of saying, “If I don’t keep my end of this bargain, you can cut me up and do to me the same thing we’ve done to these animals.”

But on the night God made this covenant with Abram, only the flaming torch passed between the pieces.  Only God walked that pathway – not Abram.  God knew full well that Abram could not keep a covenant any more than we’ve kept our covenant to obey God.  So God took the full responsibility for the covenant upon Himself, freeing us.

Switch scenes to Good Friday: “And when human hands fastened the divine hands to a cross with spikes, it wasn’t the soldiers who held the hands of Jesus steady.  It was God who held them steady.  For those wounded hands were the same invisible hands that had carried the firepot and the torch two thousand years earlier.  They were the same hands that had brought light into Abraham’s thick and dreadful darkness.  They had come to do it again.” – Max Lucado, Six Hours One Friday
God kept His word.  Except this time, the bloody carcass wasn’t a heifer, goat or ram.  It was His own.

Prayer: Great covenant-keeping God, we prostrate ourselves before your greatness and glory, in awe of your love.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

 

DayBreaks for 3/29/19 – Winners and Losers

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DayBreaks for 3/29/19: Winners and Losers

From the DayBreaks archive, March 2009:

Remember “Rocky”? Rocky had a tough time of it in every one of those movies. He would take a terrific beating in the ring, only to struggle to his feet by sheer will power and come back to win the fight. Fanciful stuff, but sometimes it does happen, and when it does the whole world stands and applauds! Remember the “miracle” Mets? Remember the U.S. hockey team when they defeated the Soviets in the Olympics? The women’s hockey team in the last Olympics? How about Dan Jansen who finally won a gold medal in speed skating after falling in each of the previous two Olympics?

How many times have you been knocked down by struggles, heartbreak and sin in your life? In my life, it has been too many times to count. Consider these words from Bob Gass, who wrote in Word for Today on February 24, 1999: Winners are just losers who got tired of losing; they decided to get up one more time than they were knocked down. The Bible is full of their stories. The prodigal came back from a pigsty (Lk. 15). Joseph came back from prison (Gen. 41). Peter came back from a shameful denial (Mk. 16:7). And by God’s grace, you can come back, too. Listen to Psalm 37:23-24: “If the LORD delights in a man’s way, he makes his steps firm; though he stumble, he will not fall, for the LORD upholds him with his hand.”

There were others, too: David came back from adultery and murder, Abraham from lying and deceit; Elijah from fear and cowardice. It’s a long and distinguished list – and they are God’s saints, men and women of faith who were very human, too.

As we face the sin and struggles in our life, we must decide whether we’ll settle for being a loser or if we will fight on to be a winner. The loser finally throws up their hands and says, “I’ll never be good enough. I’ll never beat this sin. I’ll never measure up, so I guess I just as well give up.” That’s dangerous. No matter what you’ve done (remember David sin, the prodigal son and Peter with his denial – have you done anything worse??), you can get back up through the grace of God and stand once again.

You see, God loves the underdog, too. He cheers us on, but even more important, He assures us, through the inspired words of Paul, the victory if we don’t grow weary and give up: Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. (Gal 6:9) The harvest, my friends, is victory! Victory in such a way that sin will never touch us again, never even tempt us. God Himself will put the crown of victory on your head!

So, what’ll it be? Keep getting up! You may stumble, but God will pick you up. Look to Him for your victory and trust Him to be as good as His Word!

Prayer: Lord, we know that the victory must come from You and You alone.  Help us to persevere in the face of great odds and the bruisings of life that we may receive and participate in Your victory!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

 

DayBreaks for 2/6/19 – The Pathway to Rain

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DayBreaks for 2/06/2019: The Pathway to Rain

From the DayBreaks archive, 2009:

Jeremiah 14:1-11 (NLT) – This message came to Jeremiah from the LORD, explaining why he was holding back the rain: “Judah wilts; her businesses have ground to a halt. All the people sit on the ground in mourning, and a great cry rises from Jerusalem. The nobles send servants to get water, but all the wells are dry. The servants return with empty pitchers, confused and desperate, covering their heads in grief. The ground is parched and cracked for lack of rain. The farmers are afraid; they, too, cover their heads. The deer abandons her newborn fawn because there is no grass. The wild donkeys stand on the bare hills panting like thirsty jackals. They strain their eyes looking for grass to eat, but there is none to be found.”  The people say, “LORD, our wickedness has caught up with us. We have sinned against you. So please, help us for the sake of your own reputation.  O Hope of Israel, our Savior in times of trouble! Why are you like a stranger to us? Why are you like someone passing through the land, stopping only for the night?  Are you also confused? Are you helpless to save us? You are right here among us, LORD. We are known as your people. Please don’t abandon us now!” So the LORD replies to his people, “You love to wander far from me and do not follow in my paths. Now I will no longer accept you as my people. I will remember all your wickedness and will punish you for your sins.”  Then the LORD said to me, “Do not pray for these people anymore.”

We are in the middle of a drought right now here in California.  How foolish if we think that the Lord no longer holds back the rain for the same reason He withheld it in the past!  Yes, he sends rain on the just and unjust, but He is also equally able to withhold it at any time He chooses. 

But what I found especially intriguing about this passage was in verses 7-9 where the people plead with the Lord to help them.  It is a wonderful sounding plea, also reflecting some of our own doubts and confusion about why God acts as He does.  I know there have been plenty of times when I was confused by what God was doing or not doing, when it seemed He was a stranger or powerless to do anything (that, by the way, is a horrible assumption – just because He doesn’t act certainly doesn’t mean He’s powerless to do so!)  Pay careful attention to the reason the people approach the Lord: they say that their wickedness has caught up with them and that they’ve sinned, but they beg for His help for the “sake of Your own reputation.”  They never ask for forgiveness – they only get as far as a confession, which is short and not very convincing.  They never get past the confession to asking for forgiveness and they show no inclination towards repentance.  Instead, it is as if they are trying to convince God that it’s in His own best interest to just forgive them and send them rain.   

How many times have I tried to appeal to God’s self-interest thinking I could manipulate Him into a certain desired behavior?  I’m not even sure that God can have “self-interest”!  My repentance had better be real.  True repentance moves the heart of God but fake repentance, even when there are lots of fine sounding words, never does.  And if God’s mercies don’t rain down upon us, we will all die of the drought.

PRAYER: Father, we say things hoping we can get You to “fall” for them as if You were another human from whom we can hide the truth.  Lord, we have sinned against you.  We ask you for forgiveness.  We desire to repent from the evil we do and to experience once again the refreshing mercies that fall from Your throne of grace.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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