DayBreaks for 5/17/17 – The Immanent or the Greater

Image result for fiery furnace

DayBreaks for 5/17/17: The Immanent or the Greater

Thanks to some writing by Mark Labberton, I’ve been fascinated again with the childhood story of Shadrach, Mescheh and Abednego.  I shared some insights in a DayBreaks before, but here’s one a friend had that I think is worth sharing.

I wrote before about how these young men had to discern the real danger when confronted with the choice of worshipping the golden image that King Nebuchadnezzar had built.  They had to decide for themselves if the greatest danger was in bowing down and worshipping the idol or in not worshipping the real and living God. 

As Hebrews, these three had been well versed in the 10 commandments, and I’m sure, could easily recite them by heart.  So, for them to truly be tempted to worship an idol, well, it probably wasn’t really a temptation for them at all.  Saving their lives might have been a temptation, but they certainly knew it was wrong to worship an idol.  But, here’s the thing: they believed that worshipping anything other than Yahweh was a greater risk and danger than worshipping the idol, however sometimes the immediate or immanent danger seems greater than the far off danger.  Even though they knew what was right and wrong, and they knew in their hearts that failure to be true to Yahweh was the greater danger, the heat from the fire was pressing against their skin, making itself felt RIGHT NOW, and the danger from not worshipping Yahweh probably seemed a long way off.

We are often tempted to compromise for a couple of reasons: we want immediate pleasure rather than delayed gratification, or we want to avoid the immediacy of pain and suffering.  The latter is just as dangerous as the first – and both can be deadly.

Is there some immediate suffering that you can foresee in your life that you’ve been wrestling with and trying to avoid by some compromise?  Are you thinking that you can set the record straight with God at some later point?  That’s very dangerous reasoning.  Remember the words of the writer to the Hebrews: (Hebrews 10:31, NLT) It is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

PRAYER: In our foolishness, Lord, we often forget that it may be better to suffer now than to fall into Your hands later.  Give us courage and open our eyes to understand that just because one kind of suffering may be more immediate, that it doesn’t mean it is the greatest suffering we could encounter.  Let us have no other gods before You! In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2017 by Galen Dalrymple.

 

DayBreaks for 5/16/17 – Drinking With No Complaining

DayBreaks for 5/16/17: Drinking With No Complaining

John 18:10-11 –Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant, cutting off his right ear. (The servant’s name was Malchus.) Jesus commanded Peter, “Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?”

Jesus’ acceptance of the Father’s will for him should be a lesson to us.  He was equally Divine with God, not inferior in any way, yet he submitted himself to the Father’s will without question.  Jesus resolved to drink the cup that the Father had given him to drink – and he would drink it to the very dregs, even as he poured out the cup of his life’s blood to the bitter end. 

How do we respond to the cup that the Father has given us to drink?  We can fight against it, telling Him that he’s asking too much of us, that it’s not fair, that there must be a better way, but in the end drink it through the filter of faith. We can not drink it at all and live our life in rebellion, filling our mouths and bellies with the drink of our own choosing or we can drink it as Jesus did – realizing that it is our sworn duty to obey the One who is the Lord over our very life, who could, if He so chose, un-make us at any moment. 

What is the cup that the Father has given you?  A difficult job, a difficult relationship, difficult children, a parent with Alzheimer’s, a failed career, the lack of a job, a physical problem or handicap, emotional troubles?  Why does God put such things in our lives?  He put the cup in Christ’s life not for his own sake, but for ours.  We think it’s all about us, but very, very little of it is about us and what we want.  It’s about God and about others.  Loving God means more than feeling good about Him – Jesus said several times in John that loving him will result in obedience to him.  It can’t be said any more clearly than Jesus has said it.  Sometimes that obedience will lead to a cross, sometimes to an empty tomb, eventually to an eternal home with our Lord.  And loving others as we love ourselves (let’s face it, even though we may at times be frustrated by our weaknesses and failings, we’re pretty fond of ourselves or we wouldn’t still be here) often involves drinking a cup that we’d rather not drink – for we don’t like everyone, we don’t love everyone and we would rather let them alone.  But that isn’t the cup that God passes to us – he puts people and situations in our lives sometimes for our benefit, sometimes for the benefit of others  – but more often than not, those things are to enable us to learn and grow with little or no visible benefit to ourselves.

I need to identify the cup that God has put in front of me – and to realize that it may vary from day to day – but that the overarching cup that He has asked us to take is to pour ourselves out for others, even as Christ was preparing to pour Himself out for us.

PRAYER: This day, Lord, let me drink the cup you’ve given me without complaining – just for once.  Let me realize that if there is struggle that has come into my life, that it is not without Your knowledge, and not without Your decree that should come to me.  Help us to learn this day from the struggles we have and to trust in You even more by the time this night rolls around.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2017 by Galen Dalrymple.

 

DayBreaks for 5/15/17 – Who Is It You Want?

DayBreaks for 5/15/17: Who Is It You Want?

John 18:3-5 – So Judas came to the grove, guiding a detachment of soldiers and some officials from the chief priests and Pharisees. They were carrying torches, lanterns and weapons. Jesus, knowing all that was going to happen to him, went out and asked them, “Who is it you want?” “Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied.

“Who is it you want?”  Jesus was always good at asking questions (still is)!  It isn’t that he didn’t know who they were coming for – he’d made it abundantly clear to his disciples that he knew exactly what was going to happen – and when – and even why.  Jesus asked questions to make those around him probe their real motives and purposes, and to make them think deeply.  His questions often make us uncomfortable – try to imagine how Judas must have felt when he first saw Jesus and Jesus asks this question.  Faced with a phalanx of armed and hostile soldiers and temple officials, calmly asks a question designed to make them contemplate what they’re doing.  It appears that they (especially the officials from the temple) didn’t recognize him – which strikes me as strange since Jesus had been in Jerusalem many times.  He’d been very open in his teaching in the temple in the past.  But they don’t seem to recognize him even though he’d been in their midst often. 

It makes me wonder how often we fail to recognize Jesus.  It was Mother Theresa who once suggested that she did what she did because when she helped the poor and dying in the steaming streets of Calcutta that in their faces she saw Jesus in a distressing disguise.  Some people see Jesus often – in acts of love, compassion, mercy – others rarely, if ever see him or recognize him. 

But as haunting as that may be, the real question is plain, and it echoes through 2000 years and it is a question that we must answer today, because Jesus asks is.  “Who is it you want?”  What a great question!  Who is it that you really want?  Do you want Jesus?  Or do you want yourself?  Or do you want your own idea of what Jesus is? 

Those who Jesus called to himself in life were called in ways that we might find shocking – almost as if Jesus really didn’t want people to come to him.  Consider the rich young ruler – who was told that he had to sell everything he owned, give it to the poor, and then come follow Jesus.  Or the man who said he had to bury his father, but was told by Jesus to “let the dead bury the dead –  you, come follow me!”  But then he’s said it to all of us, hasn’t he: Take up your cross daily and follow me.  In each case, people have to decide who it is that they really want – do we want Jesus, the real Jesus, badly enough that we’re willing to take the challenge he puts before us with this question: “Who is it  you want?”

The question is just as valid today as when Jesus asked it in the garden of Gethsemane.  They answered, “Jesus of Nazareth.”  Yes, they wanted him, but not for a good purpose.  The question that Jesus didn’t ask them was why they wanted him.  He already knew.  But we need to ask the question of ourselves again: “Why do I want Jesus?  Do I want him so he’ll make me feel better about myself?  So that he’ll give me a home in heaven when I die?  So I’ll have a friend?”  Those are all things that Jesus can, and will do for us, but they are not the reason we should want him.  We should want Jesus because in the life of Christ is embodied the kingdom of God – the RULE of God – throughout the universe but especially in the human heart.  We should want Jesus because of Who He IS, and not what he can do for us.  That’s what it means when Jesus said that the greatest commandment is to love God with all your heart, soul and mind…and then our neighbors as ourselves.  God does care about your eternal destiny, but He’s operating on a much greater scale than just individual hearts and minds.  He’s operating on a cosmic scale to reconcile everything to Himself again through Christ.  And that’s why we should want to find Jesus.

How can I tell who it is that I really want?  Probably the best way is to look at what things in life that I chase after.  How much time do I spend reading the word, praying, memorizing scripture, sharing my faith, in developing a relationship with Jesus instead of reading fantasy novels, watching TV, going to the movies, playing sports, shopping?  Time is perhaps the most precious thing we have – and how we spend it very clearly says something about our priorities and what is truly important to us.  And I need to test my motives for why I want him, too.  In both these areas, I must remember that I cannot fool Jesus – even though I may fool myself very well, thank you.  But when I finally do come face to face with Jesus, I’ll not be able to pretend – like the soldiers, I’ll fall backwards onto the ground with the perfect knowledge that he has seen through me, and always has.

PRAYER: Jesus, help us to want you more than anything else in the universe.  Help us to want you for all the right reasons, and for none of the wrong ones.  Thank you for wanting us!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2017 by Galen Dalrymple.

 

DayBreaks for 5/12/17 – The World’s Deadliest Illusion

DayBreaks for 5/12/17: The World’s Deadliest Illusion

John 19:10 (NIV) Do you refuse to speak to me? Pilate said. Don’t you realize I have power either to free you or to crucify you?

I’ve got to admit that I’m fascinated by the great illusionists.  To this day, I don’t understand how David Copperfield could make an airplane, the statue of Liberty, or even a nickel disappear like he does!  Fascinating. 

The greatest illusion of life may be the fact that we think we have power, that we put ourselves in a position of judging God.  Of course, there is some truth to this idea that we have power – God has given us the right to choose, but we must not mistake that for having power.  Our choosing is a God-given right and he gives us the power in our hearts and minds to choose many things.  One of those things we can choose to believe is truth – or we can believe lies.  Pilate found himself in a situation where he truly thought he had jurisdiction over Jesus, that he, Pilate, was in charge of the unfolding events and that he would determine the outcome.  He claims to have the power to either free Jesus or kill him.

Think about that a moment: recall how that when Jesus was being tempted to cast himself off a high place so Satan would yield to him, even Satan noted that Jesus had the power to summon angels to come and catch him so he wouldn’t even hit his foot against a stone.  Do you think for one moment that Jesus, as he stood before Pilate, could not have called a million angels to come and obliterate Pilate, the angry mobs, the hypocritical religionists, and the entire Roman army and empire?  In the OT, all it took was a single angel to kill 185,000 Assyrians!  If an angel is that powerful, how much more powerful is the One who created them?!!! 

Pilate had no idea what he was saying because he’d bought the lie of having power over Jesus, and by extension, over God.  We are not so very different.  We think that through our prayers we can manipulate God into doing what we want him to do – and we may even think that He’s obligated to give us what we pray for – but he’s not.  We think that we can lift a passage out of context and make it an absolutely binding promise on God – forgetting that God sets conditions (some of which we know and some of which we don’t), that involves our obedience, or our faith, or our motives.  James says we can ask but not receive because we’re asking for something driven by our own greed and selfishness – not so we can use if for God’s purposes.  So we can’t just take Jesus’ statement that we can ask for anything and that God is under our power to have to give it – we tend to forget the conditions: if you ask in my name, for the things that Jesus wants, that he approves of for us.

If we had power in any way, shape or form over God, He would no longer be God – we would be.  If in any way at any time, humans can force God to do something, God is no longer all-powerful, he would cease to be El Shaddai, The Lord God Almighty. 

The end result of our belief that we have power over Jesus is seen by our rebellion to God’s ways.  If we believe we are in control of our lives, that we have only ourselves to answer to, we will choose inevitably what we believe is in our own best interests.  And because we cannot see the future events before they unfold, we’re at best guessing blindly as to what will be in our best interests in the long run.  Only one who knows the consequence of every decision, the intricacies of every human interaction with absolute clarity, can know what will work out for the best for us in the long run. 

Because Pilate truly believed he had power over Christ, he made the decision to crucify him, not knowing that he was doing exactly what God had planned to have happen from eternity past.  God’s plan will not be thwarted by puny humans who have a god-complex about themselves. 

This calls for deep introspection – not by ourselves, but by the Spirit.  We can’t trust ourselves to be honest or to see the truth.  I need to take some quiet time aside and ask the Spirit to search my heart and show me where I seem to think that I’m God and that He is not.  And then I need to ask God to forgive me, humble me, change me so that instead of being like Pilate, I’m like Jesus, who constantly submitted himself to the will and power of the Father.

PRAYER: God, keep us from the foolishness of thinking that we have any control or power over you.  Help us to remember we are the clay – not the Potter, we are just sheep and You are the Shepherd.  Help us to yield our desire for control to the control of Your Spirit. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2017 by Galen Dalrymple.

 

DayBreaks for 5/11/17 – The Wednesday Worry Box

DayBreaks for 5/11/17: The Wednesday Worry Box

Ah, worry. Do I ever worry? I’d like to say that I don’t, but I do. In fact, just yesterday I found myself worrying about whether or not my Medicare Advantage coverage would be in place in time, and also about whether or not my first insurance payment for it would arrive in time. I thought hitting the age when you go on Medicare was supposed to be good because you no longer had those huge insurance payments – but I found myself worrying. Not good.

Sometimes, even I’ve managed to learn that if you will just wait, problems take care of themselves. A man by the name of J. Arthur Rank had a system for doing that. He was an early pioneer of the film industry in Great Britain, and he also happened to be a devout Christian.

Rank found he couldn’t push his worries out of his mind completely; they were always slipping back in. So, he finally made a pact with God to limit his worrying to Wednesday. He even made himself a little Wednesday Worry Box and he placed it on his desk. Whenever a worry cropped up, Rank wrote it out and dropped it into the Wednesday Worry Box.

Would you like to know his amazing discovery? When Wednesday rolled around, he would open that box to find that only a third of the items he had written down were still worth worrying about. The rest had managed to resolve themselves!

If, like me, you find yourself often having a troubled heart, you may want to make yourself your own Wednesday Worry Box. But even more important, lel’s ask God to give us a new perspective. Let’s ask him to give us patience so that you do not jump ahead and worry about a problem that may never come. But most important of all, ask God for more faith. Faith in God is the best remedy for all our problems. Jesus put it plainly, Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me.

Do those problems really work themselves out? I don’t think so. I think what really happens is that they are really resolved by my Father who is looking out for me and my best interests – and I never needed to worry about them at all!

PRAYER: Thank you for being willing to work to resolve my worries before they become realities, and for caring so much about me. Help me have increased faith that you are more than up to the task of dealing with all that worries me! In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2017 by Galen Dalrymple.

 

DayBreaks for 5/09/17 – The Believer’s Definitive Question

DayBreaks for 5/09/17: The Believer’s Definitive Question

From the DayBreaks archive, May 2007:

So you struggle with being faithful. Join the crowd.  I don’t know a single person who doesn’t struggle with obedience, and even with their faith itself, from time to time.  It’s normal – and I think, at least to a certain extent – it is healthy to at least question faith once in a while to be certain that we don’t grow stale and complacent.  We need not fear the testing of faith.  There is greater danger in an untested faith when the time of trial comes.

There seems to be something about us humans that is a lot like a moth: we like to dance close to the flame.  In our case, it is the flame of temptation.  We seem to be drawn to certain things as individuals, and while it may vary from person to person, even as Christians we seem drawn to the flame.  The flame represents that which is familiar to us, something we’ve grown accustomed to and we find it to be predictable.  But, like the moth, we forget that the flame can burn us and kill us.  It’s a very dangerous place to be.

Still, many people show a tendency to get close to the flame of old temptations once again.  And not only do we have that tendency, we show an eagerness for it when we ask the question (when we clearly know the answer more often than not): “Would it be wrong for me to do this?” 

In his book, Grace Walk, Steve McVey suggests that the definitive question for the believer shouldn’t be whether or not we can do something, but instead, Am I abiding in Christ at this moment?  An unsaved person evaluates behavior on the basis of right and wrong, but the lifestyle of a Christian is to flow from the activity of Christ.  McVey’s point is that we have Christ in us and we are in him – so why would we even want to dance close to the flame?  Somehow, I can’t picture Christ walking around asking “Would it be wrong for me to do this?”, can you?  I think rather, he’d be focused on abiding in the Father’s love and not thinking about doing wrong, but about doing good. 

John 9:4 (NLT) – All of us must quickly carry out the tasks assigned us by the one who sent me, because there is little time left before the night falls and all work comes to an end.

PRAYER: Lord, we know that we are to abide in You, to let you live Your life through us.  It’s hard to give up our own life, even to One as powerful as Your Spirit.  Help us to have the mind of Jesus that is concerned about abiding in Your love and acting out of that love for the world.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2017 by Galen Dalrymple.

DayBreaks for 5/08/17 – Don’t Let Being Human Stop You

DayBreaks for 5/08/17: Don’t Let Being Human Stop You

From the DayBreaks archive, May 2007:

One of the most frustrating things that I hear is people who say, “I hope I’m good enough to go to heaven.”  Of course, the corollary to it is: “I’m afraid I’m not good enough to go to heaven.”  Those statements drive me nuts.  Of course you’re not good enough to go to heaven!  None of us are good enough…but that doesn’t mean we won’t go there, thanks to the grace and mercy of God and the sacrifice of the Savior!

Grace.  What a wonder it is, and how little we believe in it!  For those of us who grew up in grace-challenged environments, when the first breath of grace blows through the soul it is like a world that has been dead and frozen for so long has suddenly thawed!  It reminds me of the scene in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe where spring finally breaks in Narnia after a long, long time.  The warmth of the sun is once again felt, the buds open, the flowers appear and the birds sing once again.  Grace.  How little we know of it!

Our world is not fond of grace.  Our world is more than happy, thank you very much, to point out on a constant basis the failures and faults in our lives.  At work you probably hear more about what you’ve done wrong than what you’ve done right.  At school, they mark up your papers with your mistakes, not your successes.  And if you don’t hear it from other folks, there’s that nagging little voice inside your head that says something like this: “I knew you couldn’t do it.  You’re not much good for anything are you?  You can’t even do the simplest things right, can you?  Why don’t you just give up and quit?”  I’ve heard that voice…I’ve had the conversation with myself many, many times.

In Hearing God, Dallas Willard wrote: “The humanity of Moses, David and Elijah, of Paul, Peter and Jesus Christ himself – of all that wonderful company of riotously human women and men whose experience is recorded in the Bible and in the history of the church teaches us a vital lesson: our humanity will not by itself prevent us from knowing and interacting with God just as they did.

Do you think that Moses, David, Elijah, Paul and Peter never made it to heaven?  They were just every bit as human as you and I.  But no one I know thinks that any of those folk are not in heaven.  They’re not there because they were better than anyone else, because they weren’t “too bad” to go, or because they were “good enough.”  There will be a lot more Bob’s, Mary’s, Jane’s and Joe’s in heaven than Moses, Peter or Paul.  And they won’t be there because they’re better, or even as good, as Moses, David and Elijah.  They, like those great names mentioned earlier, will be there because God loves them and they put their trust in His promised son, Jesus.  That’s the only basis for anyone to get there.  Stop hoping and wishing that you were better so you could “get there.”  Start practicing your belief in God’s promises!

John 18:9 (NLT) – He did this to fulfill his own statement: ‘I have not lost a single one of those you gave me.

PRAYER: Father, we listen to the subtle whisperings of the enemy far more than we do to You.  We believe his words of condemnation rather than live in Your victorious grace.  May we become people who trust more in Your Word than in the voices in our head.  In Jesus’ name, Amen

Copyright 2017 by Galen Dalrymple.