DayBreaks for 3/07/17 – Replicating the Story of Jesus

DayBreaks for 3/07/17: Replicating the Story of Jesus

From the DayBreaks archive, March 2007:

I was recently blessed to hear Eugene Peterson speak at a conference I attended.  He is a humble, thoughtful man of seemingly bottomless wisdom.  He is slow to speak – weighing his words carefully to be sure they convey truth from the Truth.  I greatly appreciated being able to sit at his feet for a while and learn.

At one point he was talking about the church and how it is perceived by the world.  There is much that can be said on that topic, but what Peterson focused on was how the church itself replicates the life of Jesus.  Consider how Jesus could have come into the world: with great fanfare and leaflets falling from the sky that was magically translated into whatever language was spoken by the person who picked them up.  He could have come with a PowerPoint presentation that flashed across the underbelly of the clouds above our heads, replete with musical background, bold and contrasting colors and maybe some video clips of what hell is like so we’d all be scared straight.  Or, he could have come and spent his entire time upon this earth turning rocks into bread and obliterating hunger and disease so that no one on earth would every go to bed hungry or wake up sick again.  Wouldn’t those things have been spectacular?!?!?!

But, that’s now how Jesus came, is it?  Not one of those things happened when he showed up.  Here’s part of the point: Jesus never, during his entire 30+ years of life on this earth, left the world of poverty into which he was born.  He spent his life as one of the “people of the land” – despised by the ruling religious hierarchy because they were unlearned, sweaty laborers who couldn’t ever seem to put two cents together at one time, but who were always scrambling for their daily bread.  He was humbled, he was broken, he was in the midst of a very sinful people, he seemed powerless before the forces arrayed and conspiring against him.  And, he bled…and bled…and bled…from his hands, back, feet and side.

The church, just like Jesus, could have come in a different way.  God could have preached the first gospel sermon on the day of Pentecost by shouting out loud from heaven so that all the entire universe heard and understood every single syllable and word.  He didn’t.  He used a human mouth (just like He did with Jesus).  The church (like Jesus) exists in the middle of a very sinful people (and the church itself, being made up of people, is sinful).  The church seems powerless against the stratagems of Satan, and is made up of badly fractured, dislocated and broken folk.  And (if the church is true to its calling to be the very body of Christ on earth), as the body of Christ literally bled, the church will bleed, too.  We will bleed out mercy and compassion on the downtrodden like the blood of Christ.  We will bleed because of our stand for faithfulness, to accomplish the will of the Father, even as Christ’s blood fell for the same reason. 

Do you ever wonder why the church has such a bad reputation in the world?  Granted, some of it we bring on ourselves with our hypocrisy and leaders who fall like dominoes, but here, I think, is the core reason: Jesus was a stumbling block because he was broken, bleeding, appearing powerless and as one who associated with sinners.  And that is EXACTLY what the church is to be about, too.  We are to be a broken people (because that’s what we truly are – and once our brokenness is seen and admitted – we cannot be hypocrites any longer).  We are to bleed literally and figuratively because of our love for Christ and for the lost that He loves.  And the church appears powerless.  So, why does the church stink to the world?  Because the church, as Jesus’ body, takes on His nature of being a stumbling block. 

Each of us as Christians are to be “little Christ’s”.  Let’s get on with replicating his story and stop publishing our own!

PRAYER: God, we’ve got a long way to go to be very good reflections of Christ.  As His body here on earth, we feel powerless, we feel bloodied sometimes and broken.  Even as we struggle with what we see in the church and in ourselves, let us remember that you see us differently because we are “in Christ.”  If we are to be stumbling blocks to the world and individuals in it, let it be for all the right reasons – because we are living the story of Jesus visibly, out loud, each day.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2017 by Galen Dalrymple.

DayBreaks for 2/23/17 – Why the Gospel Makes No Sense

DayBreaks for 2/23/17: Why the Gospel Makes No Sense

1 Cor. 1:23 – (KJV) – But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness…

2 Cor. 2:15-16 (NLT) – Our lives are a fragrance presented by Christ to God. But this fragrance is perceived differently by those being saved and by those perishing. 16 To those who are perishing we are a fearful smell of death and doom. But to those who are being saved we are a life-giving perfume. And who is adequate for such a task as this?

If you listen to the hucksters on TV, the show that’s on Monday evenings called “Heroes” is a “smash hit.”  Interesting.  I’ll admit that I’ve seen it, and I do find it interesting – more for the characters than anything else (the story seems to drag on endlessly and I wonder if it will ever get to the climax of the story at all!)  The premise of the show is that there are various people in the world who have some sort of super power to do different kinds of things – and they are all needed to save the world.  The key seems to be a young blonde cheerleader who has the gift of being able to not be killed.  She has even “killed” herself several times to prove to someone else that she has the gift – she’s thrown herself off towers, intentionally crashed her car, etc., and while she should be dead, she instantly “cures” and is fine.  A bit far fetched?  You bet it is.

And that’s just why the gospel is so hard for some folks to believe.  It makes no sense.  The passages above in Paul’s letters to the Corinthians describe the extremely difficult task of the gospel: to Jews, the crucifixion of Jesus was a stumblingblock because only the most perverse criminal would be hanged on a tree and the Messiah would never die anyway.  To the Greeks, who were very logical thinkers that needed to understand the reason and logic behind something, to say that one other person’s death could remove all the sin of the entire world was ludicrous, foolish, if you will.

In the second passage, Paul says that our lives are a fragrance presented by Christ to God.  It’s not a fragrance we present – Christ presents it, reminding us of the incense that would be burned in the temple that rose to God to please Him, symbolizing prayer.  Our lives are to be a prayer to God, that Christ presents.  But, just as not everyone likes the smell of Chanel No. 5, not all like the scent we give off.  To those who are dying without Christ, we, well, how can I put this bluntly?  We smell like dead, decaying flesh – repulsive, the kind of smell that would make anyone turn away and throw up.  But those who are being drawn to God smell it as the sweetest, most precious perfume.  And then the stunning question: Who is up to such a task? 

Why doesn’t the gospel make sense?  I think Andy Crouch hit it on the head when he summarized it in one sentence: “There is no culture where the gospels horizons make sense – because it starts with the resurrection of a dead man.”  Why does Christianity smell like death?  That’s why…it starts with a dead man – much like the little cheerleader who dies and comes back, and who would believe it?  But somehow, some do…through the work and calling of the Spirit that transforms the smell of death into sweet perfume. 

It’s not our job to make the gospel smell like perfume.  It will smell like what it is to different people.  The catch is that we never know who will smell it as perfume and who will perceive it as a foul stench.  What if no one had told you about Christ crucified?

PRAYER:  Our minds seek to understand and reason things out, Lord, and sometimes in so doing, we wind up destroying ourselves and others.  Thank you that you have allowed us to smell the fragrance of life in Christ.  Help us to carry that scent to others, trusting in you to make it beautiful.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2017 by Galen Dalrymple.

DayBreaks for 12/28/16 – The Dusty Ones

DayBreaks for 12/28/16: The Dusty Ones

The ancient Egyptians had a name for the Hebrews who lived in their land and who built their cities and granaries. They called them the Hapiru. The word, literally translated, is “the dusty ones”. You can imagine how they got the name – working day after day under the hot Egyptian sun in the dust and dirt of Egypt. It was a name of scorn and derision intended to bring shame to the Hebrews.

It is interesting that God’s people were called the dusty ones as a name of ridicule. Mankind was originally formed of the dust of the earth. Maybe it was appropriate that God’s people were given a name by the Egyptians that reflected that original truth.

But it is even more interesting to me that God chose not to leave His children alone as “the dusty ones”. He found it necessary to become a “dusty one”, too – to get right down with us and walk the dusty roads of Palestine, to get His feet “dirty” Himself. God chose to be like His children, His people. He didn’t consider it beneath Himself to become like us.  And in fact, when he was here, he also washed our feet to remove the “dust”.  Maybe we should see something very significant in that – his children are no longer “the dusty ones”, but “the chosen ones”, the washed ones, destined not for dust, but for eternal realms.

When you think about the humiliation of God it almost takes your breath away to realize that He was willing to do it. And I often won’t go the slightest bit out of my way to help someone else because I am too proud or self-conscious about how I may appear to someone watching.

God did not worry about those things. He just did it. We can learn from a God who will become a dusty one Himself. We are to become “dusty ones”, too.

Get involved. Humble yourself. Get your feet dirty in service to God and others. Get dusty! Help us to walk in your footsteps! PRAYER: Thank You, Lord, for getting “dirty” so we could be cleansed! In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2016 by Galen Dalrymple.

DayBreaks for 10/26/16 – Superhero Heaven

DayBreaks for 10/26/16 – Superhero Heaven

From the DayBreaks archive, October 2006, written by one of my sons:

The true explanation of all these questions is still stored up in the hidden treasure rooms of Wisdom, and will not come to the light until that moment when we shall be taught the mystery of the Resurrection by the reality of it; and then there will be no more need of phrases to explain the things which we now hope for. Just as many questions might be started for debate amongst people sitting up at night as to the kind of thing that sunshine is, and then the simple appearing of it in all its beauty would render any verbal description superfluous, so every calculation that tries to arrive conjecturally at the future state will be reduced to nothingness by the object of our hopes when it comes upon us.
– St. Gregory of Nyssa

My dad (that’s me, Galen!) employed several standard and sub-standard tricks to keep us kids in line during long summer road trips.  From the “sub-standard” category: When things got loud and out of hand in the car, he’d suggest we play a round of “First-Sleep-Longest-Sleep.”  This was a game of his own devising, a game which could only have been born of fatherly vexation on a long drive across the barren desert with three hollering, diminutive barbarians in the back seat.  The game’s objectives, of course, were two: 1) to fall asleep first; and 2) to wake up last.  You could “win” by doing either, but to achieve both was the ultimate triumph.  Needless to say, our enthusiasm for the game waned considerably after the very first round.
As an alternative to “games” like First-Sleep-Longest-Sleep, my dad would sometimes pose theological questions for us kids and invite us to speculate on them -and I know he took a real interest in our answers.  One question that cropped up frequently was: “What do you think heaven will be like?” Initial replies typically included:

“We’ll be with Jesus.”
“We’ll each live in our own mansion.”
“In heaven the streets are made of gold and the gates are made of giant pearls.”
“Nobody is ever sad or sick.”
“We’ll get to talk with Adam and David and Elijah.”

But though things started out tame enough, inevitably, as I recall, we’d begin to speculate about what super-powers we might possess in the hereafter.  Would we be able to walk through walls?  Would we be able to read each other’s thoughts?  Would we be indestructible?  Invisible?  Would we have superhuman strength?  Would we be able to fly?  We answered all of these in the affirmative.  How could it not be like that?  Heaven, as we imagined it, was a brightly lit playground where we could enjoy all the super-powers possessed by each of the members of the Super Friends and Justice League at once.

Heaven was where we all get to be superheroes – only without having to fight villains.  We get to rocket through the atmosphere just for thrills.  We get to sneak up and surprise people by suddenly materializing before their eyes.  We get to move mountains without breaking a sweat (with a flick of the wrist rather than by faith).  In heaven, it seemed to me, we got to play rough without the consequences.  No wonder we were anxious to get there; Superhero Heaven was where all little boys wanted to go.

Mostly, I think, this was harmless daydreaming, though I imagine my dad had to rein us in now and then.  But kids (okay, adults too) have a way of losing themselves in imaginative self-indulgence.  Like everyone raised in a Christian family, as I grew older I had to revisit and re-imagine such things.  Eventually, in college, I traded Superhero Heaven for a practically Buddhist or neoplatonic vision of the annihilation of the self in the One, or, alternately, a disembodied, semi-conscious state of beatitude in a realm of pure spirit.  Later, however, I came to understand that in some sense my childhood speculations about heaven, silly as they were, were actually more Christian than the subtle, ethereal visions of the philosophers and the Far East.  Superhero Heaven, at least, was tangible, incarnate, even if the rules of strictly earthly life didn’t apply.
The Christian doctrine of the Resurrection, difficult and vague as it is (cf. St Gregory’s quote above), is not compatible with visions of a state of pure spirit, or with the annihilation of the self.  The creedal affirmation of faith in the actual and literal “resurrection of the body” is non-negotiable Christian dogma.  We insist, there is continuity between our creation and our redemption: The God who created us holy and good in our flesh and bones by the dust of the ground and His “breath” is the same God who saves us by taking on and re-hallowing our flesh and bones and the dust of the ground, breathing out his Spirit upon us.

I don’t know if I’ll pose my father’s theological stumpers to my own children on our future summer road trips (though I’m sure to try out First-Sleep-Longest-Sleep).  Perhaps I will.  But in any case, I’ll do what I can to gently steer them away from Superhero Heaven.  And when my kids ask me from the back seat, Papa, what is heaven like? I’ll answer: “If you want to know what heaven is like, just look at Jesus.”  –  Look at Christ’s flesh and blood: crucified, resurrected, deified, at the right hand of the Father yet in our midst, tangible, taste-able. Our portrait of Christ is our portrait of heaven.

Beloved, we are God’s children now; it does not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that when he appears we shall be like him… (I John 3:2)

PRAYER:  We are humbled by Your greatness and confess we are eager to know more about You and Your home.  Give us understanding, Lord, that we may serve You faithfully throughout this life.  And thank you that there really is a Superhero in heaven that gave Himself for us and by Whose power we will rise from the dust we are made of to become the heavenly creatures You long for us to be.  May we glimpse bright heaven’s glories, bright heaven’s Son!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2016 by Galen C. Dalrymple. All rights reserved.

DayBreaks for 10/1916 – If You Do, Then You Aren’t

DayBreaks for 10/19/16 – If You Do, Then You Aren’t

The famous actor Gregory Peck was once standing in line with a friend, waiting for a table in a crowded Los Angeles restaurant. They had been waiting for some time, the diners seemed to be taking their time eating and new tables weren’t opening up very fast. They weren’t even that close to the front of the line. Peck’s friend became impatient, and he said to Gregory Peck, “Why don’t you tell the maitre d’ who you are?” Gregory Peck responded with great wisdom. “No,” he said, “if you have to tell them who you are, then you aren’t.”

That’s a lesson that the Pharisee in our gospel reading apparently had never learned. His prayer, if it can be called that, is largely an advertisement for himself. He’s selling himself to God. Little wonder that Luke describes him in the way he does, “The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself.” That’s a very apt description, isn’t it — he prayed with himself. He would have done better had he had Gregory Peck there to whisper in his ear that if he had to remind God who he was, then he wasn’t.

The tax collector, on the other hand, didn’t have to tell God who he was. He knew who he was and he knew that God knew who he was. His prayer is not an exercise in self-promotion, but a confession and a plea for mercy. He is not selling himself, but opening himself. And Jesus says, “It is this man who went home justified.” To be justified means to be declared “not guilty.” It means to be declared right. The tax collector is declared to be in the right relationship to God while the Pharisee, who is so certain of his own righteousness, is shown to be in the wrong relationship with God. He is not justified before the bar of God’s justice which is the court of ultimate consequence.

Let’s note, however, that all this doesn’t mean that the Pharisee was a bad person and the tax collector really a good person. There’s no suggestion of that in this parable. It flat out doesn’t say. But we do know that God loves the humble and resists the proud. We also know that Scripture says there is no such thing as a “good” person, so it’s a moot point. But, the contrast between these two couldn’t be clearer. Both were “bad” persons (as we all are biblically), but one of the bad ones had a right relationship with God and God was pleased to justify the humble man. Just because the Pharisee told God how great he was didn’t mean he was great or righteous. The Lord loves a penitent heart!

He’ll be glad to justify any of us…if we’re willing to admit who and what we are.

PRAYER: We are all great sinners, Lord. I’m thankful that you justify even people like me! And please keep us from being proud of any level of humility we may have. Thank you!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2016 by Galen C. Dalrymple. All rights reserved.

 

 

DayBreaks for 9/28/16 – Lessons My Dog Taught Me, #37

DayBreaks for 9/28/16 – Lessons My Dog Taught Me, #37           

From the DayBreaks archive, 2006:

Lesson: let the Master scratch your itch.

You’ve heard of obsessive/compulsive disorder, I’m sure.  We call it OCD – the type of behavior that just can’t “let go” of something.  Well, I’m not a dog psychologist, but I think Casper may have OCD.

There are two things he does that make me think this.  First, any time he sees a reflection (from the face of a watch, or off a computer screen or any shiny object), laser pointer or even a flashlight (lit or not!), he is obsessed with it!  He “locks on” to it with every ounce of energy and attention in his taut body and he won’t stop chasing it until it goes away fully.  Even then he looks for it for several more minutes.  It’s bizarre.

But there’s another thing that he’s obsessive about: he LOVES to have his belly scratched.  It doesn’t matter if it’s day or night or something in-between, he wants you to scratch his belly!  He lets you know about it, too, because he’ll come over to where you are sitting or laying or standing, and he’ll raise up one of his paws and “paw” your arm until you get the idea.  So, you scratch his belly until you think your arm will fall off, your fingers have gone into permanent cramp-mode, and you stop.  But what does he think of this?  He doesn’t care if your arm does fall off – he’ll start pawing you again until you start rubbing his tummy again!  He has no shame.

I couldn’t help but think that God wants us to desire His contact as badly as Casper wants mine.  And I should want that touch from Him as desperately as Casper wants my touch.  How good and pleasant it is to lie down in green pastures, to drink the cool waters, to enjoy the table full of blessings that the Lord’s presence provides!  Can there be anything better than that?

Sometimes we just need to slow down and let God scratch our belly so we are filled with delight.  And as Scripture says, His arm never loses strength or grows weary! 

PRAYER:  Thank you, Father, for the ways you bless and comfort us each day.  May we be obsessed with Your Presence and may we take time to revel in Your touch.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2016 by Galen C. Dalrymple. All rights reserved.

DayBreaks for 6/3/16 – The Demise of the Ancient Mariner

DayBreaks for 6/03/16 – The Demise of the Ancient Mariner

From the DayBreaks archive, 2006:

A theologian by the name of John S. Dunne tells a story about a group of ancient Spanish sailors who came to South America for the first time.  The trip had been extremely difficult.  The arrived off the coast of South America and came across the entry to the Amazon River, the largest freshwater passageway in the entire world.  In fact, the entry into the mouth of the river was so large that they thought that they were still sailing in the ocean.  They had been traveling so long that they had run out of fresh water, but never expecting that they were sailing on fresh water instead of the salt water of the ocean, it never occurred to them to try to drink the water.  The result was predictable: some of the sailors died of thirst while floating upon the largest source of freshwater in the world. 

In his book, Finding God in Unexpected Places, Phillip Yancey noted that this was a fitting analogy for what is happening in our day and age.  We live in a time where information is easily accessible, where interest in spiritual things (if not Christianity) is high.  And yet, as Yancey put it: “Some people starve to death spiritually while all around them manna rots…”

While we may be quick to think that the Spanish sailors were very misguided for not trying the water, aren’t we a lot like them in many, many ways?  Even Christians seem to be starving for that which will sustain life and give it purpose and meaning, and all the while we are surrounded by Bibles – the Bread of Life.  Yet we are thirsty, looking and searching for a drink that will satisfy, and we have God’s Word everywhere.  In life, there are not silver bullets…at least, in the physical realm.  But there is a silver bullet in spiritual life – and God gave it to us in the Word.  Will we drink until we are satisfied?

John 7:37-39 (NLT) – On the last day, the climax of the festival, Jesus stood and shouted to the crowds, “If you are thirsty, come to me!  If you believe in me, come and drink! For the Scriptures declare that rivers of living water will flow out from within. (When he said “living water,” he was speaking of the Spirit, who would be given to everyone believing in him. But the Spirit had not yet been given, because Jesus had not yet entered into his glory.)

PRAYER:  Lord Jesus, we are so thirsty and yet we seem to turn to everyone except You.  Help us, Jesus, to see and recognize the provision you’ve made for us to have all things that pertain to life and godliness, help us not only to drink deeply of the well of life ourselves, but to help others find it, too.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2016, Galen C. Dalrymple. All rights reserved.