DayBreaks for 3/21/18 – Without a Doubt

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DayBreaks for 3/21/18: Without a Doubt

From the DayBreaks archive, 2008:

How strange are the mysteries of God!  To paraphrase: “If you want to find your life, you must lose it.”  Or, “He that is the greatest shall be the least among you.”  “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.”  Certainly, perhaps the greatest understatement in the history of the universe was when God declared, My ways are not your ways, nor my thought like your thoughts.  For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so are my thoughts above your thoughts. 

It seems strange that in dying, death was defeated.  Christ took death in both of his arms and pulled it into his mortal body, and in doing so, defeated it.  Through the resurrection, death and its power were forever broken and we need not fear the moment of our physical death for one second longer.  This is the peace that Christ has bought us: that we have been reconciled to God the Father through Jesus’ atoning death and resurrection.  All that previously stood between us has been removed, torn down, ripped asunder like the veil in the temple. 

“He died, but he vanquished death; in himself, he put an end to what we feared; he took it upon himself, and he vanquished it; as a mighty hunter, he captured and slew the lion.  Where is death?  Seek it in Christ, for it exists no longer; but it did exist, and now it is dead.  O life, O death of death!  Be of good heart; it will die in us also.  What has taken place in our head will take place in his members; death will die in us also.  But when?  At the end of the world, at the resurrection of the dead in which we believe and concerning which we do not doubt.” – Augustine, Sermon 233

It is one thing to stand at the gravesite and hope for resurrection.  It is another, as Augustine put it, to “believe and concerning which we have no doubt.”  It is through a life of close fellowship with God that such confidence comes.  The resurrection was the first fruit of Christ’s victory – a victory that he is eager to share with each of his children!

PRAYER: Lord, it is difficult for us to believe and accept that death holds no power as we see people dying all around us.  May we, as we celebrate Christ’s victory over death, clearly understand that it is our victory, too.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

COPYRIGHT 2018 by Galen C. Dalrymple. All rights reserved.

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DayBreaks for 1/26/18 – Freedom from Certainty

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DayBreaks for 1/26/18: Freedom from Certainty

From the DayBreaks archives, January 2008:

I probably need to be very clear today.  What I’m about to say may stir up a ruckus.  Here it is: there are many times in my life that I don’t know what to do, and when God hasn’t given direction.  Whoa!  How’s that for a shocker!?  A pastor saying that he doesn’t know God’s will?  I suppose such a statement could get me booted from some churches, but it’s true.  Let me explain.

There are, at times, seemingly huge gaps between theology and real life – at least for me.  Maybe you’re one of those people who never has any doubts, who every time you ask God for direction, you hear a very clear and direct set of instructions on what to do, when to do it, how to go about it and what the result will be.  Well, that’s not me.  I don’t think it was Moses, either, for that matter.  When God first started talking to him, He simply said go down and Pharaoh will let you go.  It sounded that simple.  As Moses found out after his first few ventures into the throne room of Pharaoh, it wasn’t going to be that easy.  Had Moses done what God said?  Yep.  To the letter.  But it didn’t work.  God knew all along that it wouldn’t.  And so Moses comes back to God and complains about it.  I would too, I think.

There are areas of life where the Bible is less than clear.  That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t seek answers in it.  It may be there and we’ve just missed it.  It may be we think we know what it says already so we won’t take the time or effort to be in prayer and seek it out. 

I recently preached on 2 Peter 1 where Peter says we’ve “already been given all things” that we need for life and godliness.  I take that, by faith, at face value.  If Peter, inspired by the Spirit, says that’s true, who am I to disagree?  But does it always pan out that way in my life?  No – probably partly because I don’t want to work as hard as Peter says I need to in order to experience it (“make EVERY EFFORT”, Peter says).  And, I also find, that even when I do know what Scripture says (such as “Love your neighbor”) that such general principles are good as long as you are living in a general world without specifics.  Andree Seu wrote (WORLD, 1/5/08): “But I consistently live in an insistently specific world where the issues are: ‘Should I take this job?’, ‘Should I marry this man?’, ‘Should I let Calvin learn on the stick shift?’, “Milk without the bovine growth hormones and antibiotics at $4.19/half gallon, or with the undesirables at $1.95/half gallon?” 

I think she makes a good point, and that’s what I mean when I say I sometimes don’t know God’s specific will in a specific situation.  I think I have a general grasp on the general principles which help guide decisions at such times, but I don’t have a specific answer.  And we don’t like to operate on generalities in situations that demand specifics.  We’re uncomfortable, at best, even distraught at times, wringing our hands in indecision.

Why do we do so?  Don’t we have God’s promise that if we seek Him, and that if we love Him and the promise of His appearing, He’ll make all things work out for good for us?  Yes, we have that promise, but we tend to not believe it very much, methinks.  There are disputable matters (see Romans 14:1).  That verse was written under inspiration.  God could have made it so that there were no disputable things at all – or he could answer our uncertainties instantaneously – but he oftentimes doesn’t.  That’s OK.  We can make decisions with less than 100 percent certainty because He knows our limitations and He knows how to fix things we might unintentionally break.  Mankind hasn’t yet broken anything that God can’t, and won’t, ultimately fix. 

How many things in life are you certain of?  I’m certain of some things: Jesus loves me, He is the Son of God, He died for me, He rose from the dead, He will come back again for me, He sees me and knows me and will keep me from ruin if I just have a bit of faith.  Andree Seu concluded her article this way: “…I can move forward with a spiritual commodity that is more true to the real world than ‘certainty’ – ‘confidence.’  Confidence that God loves me.  Confidence that His Spirit lives in me.  Confidence that if I make a mistake His arms will be there to catch this frail saint and put her back on righteous paths, for His name’s sake.”

PRAYER:  Help us to walk in confidence that You are as good as Your promises, that You are as powerful as You claim to be, and that You are more than able to fix things we do wrong in our ignorance.  Do not let us sin presumptuously, Lord, but forgive us even when we do!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

COPYRIGHT 2018 by Galen C. Dalrymple. All rights reserved.

DayBreaks for 8/28/17 – Humans and Infallibility

DayBreaks for 8/28/17: Humans and Infallibility

There is something about us humans that just loves certainty.  We’re not keen on the unknowns. We struggle with it and are uncomfortable if we’re not sure about things.  We even have actuarial tables that deal with probabilities. Insurance companies use them to decide who and what to insure and what to turn down.  Sure, they don’t know for sure when anyone will die or have an accident, but they have calculated the odds and are willing to risk money betting that you won’t die prematurely (i.e., before they get their money’s worth out of you.)  We speak highly of those who are so self-confident and sure of themselves.  They project an image of infallibility that we find comforting – and so they are the kind of people that others willingly and eagerly follow – the certainty they possess makes them seem safe. 

And so, when it comes to God and what we believe about Him, we would like to have certainty – or at least a bit more certainty than we naturally have.  Some people choose to not believe in God because His existence cannot be “proven”,  only speculated (albeit with lots of good reasons, in my opinion!)  No one has seen Him, many claim to have heard from Him, we blame things on him (even in insurance contracts) when we refer to them as acts of God. 

So, what about certainty in what we believe?  I hope you won’t take this wrong, but in some ways, I’m less certain about things I believe than I once was.  By that, I don’t mean the existence of God, the divinity of Jesus, the reality of the Spirit, the reliability of the Bible, etc.  I believe in all those things, and as I get closer to the end of this planetary journey, I find my faith in those things grows stronger and stronger each day.  What I am talking about, though, is the degree of confidence I have in my own judgment and understanding.  When I was younger, I was very self-confident. I was part of a very legalistic religious tradition that, although they would have denied it, seemed to believe that Godliness was next to rightness – that you had to believe according to a long list of doctrinal positions on everything from card playing to dancing to co-ed swimming to the millennial questions, etc. 

And for a while, in my foolish younger years, I thought I had all the right answers.  I’m so grateful that God is merciful and forgiving of such preposterous foolishness.  In his book, Hearing God, Dallas Willard talks about this kind of thing in relation to “hearing” God and our level of certainty with what He is saying and wants us to do: Of course, you could still be wrong.   God does not intend to make us infallible by His conversational walk with us.  You could also be wrong about most of the beliefs on which you very successfully base your life.  But you are usually correct.  You could also be wrong in believing that your gas gauge is working, that your bank is reliable, that your food is not poisoned.  Such is human life.  Infallibility, and especially infallibility in discerning the mind of God, simply does not fit the human condition.

How many times have I had someone tell me that “God said He’s going to do this-or-that,” only to find out that He didn’t do it.  It’s sometimes enough to make you wonder who or what they are hearing.  We need to be cautious when we talk about how we’ve “heard” God tell us something.  Do I believe He can and does from time to time?  Absolutely!  But much is ascribed to God that I don’t think He ever said.  If it’s in the Word – count on it – if you keep it in context.  If it’s just in your head – be wary until God has confirmed it through the Word or through other means.  Telling others that God has told us something, only to not have that thing happen, can cause them to lose confidence in His existence. 

God invites us to listen to Him.  It’s the right thing to do.  Just be careful about what voice you’re really hearing.

PRAYER:  Thank you, Lord, that you do desire to not only hear from us, but to talk to us.  Help us to recognize you voice and not to read our own wishes and hopes into situations, but to trust you to reveal your holy and perfect will in due time.  Keep us from deception that we may walk in the pathway of truth.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

DayBreaks for 7/28/17 – Consider the Possibility

DayBreaks for 7/28/17: Consider the Possibility

From the DayBreaks archive, July 2007:

I can’t help but find the amount of confidence we place in science both humorous and tremendously sad.  Learned men and women with advanced degrees boldly stand up before the watching world and proclaim that man descended from monkeys who came from other creatures who came from primordial slime that came from somewhere, somehow, sometime in a long distant and darkly-shrouded past.  Others proclaim with certainty that the union of human DNA that takes place in the act of conception produces something that is not human but merely a blob of tissue, like Play-Doh or Jello.  Still others proclaim that the earth was populated by aliens who came and visited this planet at some other time in the unknowable past and that these aliens taught the Egyptians how to build pyramids, set up the monoliths at Stonehenge or carved out the drawings on the Nuzca plains. 

Forgive me for a moment while I step aside and laugh.  Thank you.  Now I think I can proceed. 

One of the things that amazes me the most is our certainty in our own judgment and knowledge.  Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools is how Scripture puts it (Romans 1:22).  As Christians, we must guard ourselves against this disease of certainty, too.  We need to humbly admit that we walk by faith (a metaphysical, theological thing) and not by sight (a scientific, provable hypothesis).  Not one of us, try as we may, can ultimately prove the existence of God or the virgin birth of the Christ.  That doesn’t stop us from believing in those things, but we can’t prove them with 100% absolute, undeniable certainty.  We can show such things to be semi-reasonable at best (things like God’s existence or the resurrection are easier in some ways to defend than some others like the virgin birth). 

When it comes to our understanding of the Scriptures, we often walk the pathway of pride by thinking that we’ve got it all totally figured out.  Our theological position and doctrines rise in our hearts to the position of absolute perfection and comprehension.  How dangerous – and how deadly for both us and others – that such certainty can be!  If there is to be one thing that we are certain about, let it be this: we are fallen creatures who should be very reluctant to proclaim certainty about anything except our fallenness!

Does that mean we should give up on searching the Word since we can’t ever be absolutely certain about how the Trinity actually exists and works?  Should we surrender to the idea that every religion is equally valid and leads with the same level of success to eternity, nirvana or whatever goal a given religion proclaims?  Absolutely not!  We must study the Word to show ourselves approved, we must take the clear and plain statements of the Word to heart (I am THE way, THE truth, THE life…) and not bend on them.  Yet not all things are that clear-cut or cut-and-dried.  And even though they may be that clear cut in the Word itself, we must admit that we are imperfect in our knowledge and understanding.  How prideful to proclaim that one of us should or could be the repository of all truth!  Only One can make that claim and not be prideful about it.  It’s not prideful when it’s a fact.

In the gospel of John after the healing of the blind man, the Pharisees three times make the proclamation “We know…this or that.”  As John Ortberg put it: “What makes their blindfness incurable is their claim of certainty.   John keeps contrasting their closed-mindedness with the man’s confessed ignorance (“I don’t know” he says three times).  If only they would be open to the possibility that they don’t know.”

It was the apostle Paul that should give us the clue.  He was brilliant, very learned.  He knew the history of Israel (it’s always easier to know past history than the present or future) and the Law, inside and out.  If anyone, as he himself said, had reason for confidence in the flesh it was he.  And yet, notice carefully what he says in 2 Tim. 1:12 (NIV) – That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet I am not ashamed, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day.  Did Paul have confidence about what he knew?  No.  He didn’t.  Read it again.  He had confidence in WHO he believed, not in all the minutiae of details about the word or the Christian life.  His confidence wasn’t in what he knew but in Who he knew – the one that could guard the treasure that Paul had entrusted to him. 

Have you been guilty of this prideful sin?  Have you, through your unyielding recognition of the possibility of your own misunderstanding, driven others away from Jesus instead of leading them to Him, the One sole repository of all truth?  Is your confidence in what you know, or Who you know? 

It is not our job to reveal truth – it is our job to lead people to Jesus, and to let Him reveal the one truth that we can always know to be true: that He is the Son of God, full of grace and truth.

PRAYER:  May our pious pretensions and certainty be dissolved through the vinegar of humility, and may we drink deeply of the well of Truth and be filled.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

DayBreaks for 10/18/16 – What Christian Hope Means

DayBreaks for 10/18/16 – What Christian Hope Means

Every pastor has been touched and troubled when there have been those in the congregation who suddenly have faced unemployment. Like an ambush from two sides, unemployment attacks us with the fear of financial insecurity on the one side and the loss of self-esteem on the other. Job searching can deepen both. In just such a moment I encountered Brian. He is a competent and creative person whose skills and personality cannot be long overlooked. “It will work out, Brian,” I said. “God does provide.” “I hope so!” he replied. From the inflection of his voice, I knew he did not “expect” so.

One is reminded of Lucy’s encouragement to Charlie Brown in one of the Peanuts cartoons. “Look at it this way, Charlie Brown,” she consoles. “These are your bitter days. These are the days of your hardship and struggle …” The next frame goes on: “… but if you just hold your head up high and keep on fighting, you’ll triumph!” “Gee, do you really think so, Lucy?” Charlie asks. As she walks away Lucy says: “Frankly, no!”

Hope is like that. We speak of it more often than we believe in it. Hope is not a strong word for us. It has more to do with “wishing” than “expecting.” It has the sound of resignation, an inability to bring about, influence, or even believe that a desired event or goal might ever come to be. “Well, I hope so” has in its whimsical sound the same negation of the words that we hear in the sarcastic “Sure it will!” or “Well, I guess!” Hope, as we understand it, is not a word of excitement and expectation. It speaks of resignation and helplessness. “Well, I hope so …”

How then can we understand the New Testament’s strong use of the word? Repeatedly Paul writes about hope. To the Thessalonians he writes of the armor of God, including the “hope of salvation” as a helmet. To the Colossians he writes of the “hope laid up in heaven,” and of the “hope of glory.” Peter writes in his first letter that “we have been born anew to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and to an inheritance which is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, held in heaven for you.”

Given our understanding of the word, shivers run up our spines as we think about it. “Is that all we have?” we want to shout. “Is ‘hope’ all we have after all? Just … hope?”

In the NT, hope means more than wishful thinking. The action of hoping has nothing to do with a speculative desire. It is, rather, a fully confident anticipation of deliverance, won through the person and work of Christ. If you’ll pardon this rather simplistic explanation, it is like a child who is waiting for Christmas. They know it’s coming, they know it will come, but they can hardly stand the wait because they know it will be so wonderful when that day arrives! Our hope is even more sure than the fact that Christmas is coming, because for any one of us, we may die before Christmas or Christ may return before Christmas Day 2016. There is nothing that will stop the arrival of Jesus, there is nothing that will prevent him from making all things new, there is nothing that can force him to abandon his plan or change his mind about us. Our hope is assured, fully confident that Jesus can, and will, do all that he has promised to do and that we will be the recipients of that grace and goodness!

That is what hope means. Without hope we wouldn’t make it from one day to the next. With the Christian hope we can make it through anything.

Romans 5:5 (NLT) – And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.

PRAYER: Jesus, we believe that you are as good as your word to us. Sometimes we struggle to hope for better things because things in this world so often disappoint us. Remind us daily that you will never fail or disappoint!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

 

 

DayBreaks for 1/12/16 – To the End!

DayBreaks for 1/12/16: To the End!

Galen is out of the country. While he is gone, you will be receiving DayBreaks from the DayBreaks archive from January, 2006.

John 13:1 (KJV) – Now before the feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour was come that he should depart out of this world unto the Father, having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end.

Churches talk a lot about ministries.  Sometimes we are trying to get people to volunteer to help out, at other times, we’re trying to just get people involved who are sitting on the sidelines and being spectators.  There are plenty of ministry opportunities in this world: the tsunami victims, Katrina victims, Pakistani earthquake victims, those affected by the genocide in Africa, the poor and hungry here in the United States and perhaps in your own town.  The list of opportunities to minister to others is longer than could ever be printed, I suppose.

It is a good thing that we talk about ministering to our fellow humans.  God wants and expects us to do so, in the name of Jesus.  But sometimes we don’t focus that much on Jesus’ service to us.  At the last Passover, Jesus washed his follower’s feet.  In that washing of the feet, Fleming Rutledge sees strong parallels that we may have missed: the cleansing of the feet represents the cleansing by blood and water that was to come that Friday.  The laying down of his garments foreshadows the laying down of his life as a sacrifice.  She reminds us that this was his last action of Jesus towards his disciples as a whole before he lays his life down for them.  The apostle John seemed to grasp the significance when he noted that it was the proof that “he loved them unto the end.”

Ms. Fleming writes that he loved them “…to the end of his earthly strength, to the end of his earthly capacity, to the end of his earthly life.  But far more, to the end of the world, to the outermost boundaries of time, and beyond his own Second Coming into the time that is beyond time, he loves us to the end.

Isn’t it wonderful to know that, in spite of all the loves you have experienced on this earth – parent, friend, child, brother or sister, spouse – that there truly is one love that will never, ever run out, get tired of you, stop loving you or get bored with you?  That is the love of Jesus for his followers.  And that is the love that will follow and chase us throughout all eternity!

TODAY’S PRAYER: Lord, even the best love that we’ve ever experience here on this earth has been flawed and has failed us – and we have failed others with our imperfect love – and we’re inclined to be fearful that your love may someday fail us, too.  Lord, how we long to fully experience a love that is perfect, without any flaw, which will never grow old or tired of us.  Teach us to love others with that kind of love, and most of all, to love you in response in the very best way possible until we are perfected in heaven and see you face to face!   In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2016, all rights reserved.

DayBreaks for 4/06/15 – Love Unfailing

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DayBreaks for 4/06/15: Love Unfailing

I don’t know about you, but I am not ready for Holy Week to be over.  When I was pastoring a small church in northern California, this was by far my favorite week.  I loved preaching Easter-related messages.  I loved the deep meaning of the services and the contemplation of the reality that is the theme of the week.

The services for Holy Week 2015 have come and gone and the calendar has moved on, but I haven’t.   I want to linger in the mystery. 

I have just finished reading a book, The Insanity of God, (I’ll write about it in a few days) that has challenged me and my understanding of Jesus’ call upon our lives.  It has opened my eyes to truths about myself to which I was at least partially blind and in denial.  And it has, in spite of everything, left me rattled to the core as to my walk and understanding of what it means to be a disciple.  Suffice it to say, I’m not sure I have a clue what it means to be a disciple of His. 

That’s a scary thing to have to admit.  And it makes me wonder about my salvation in a way.  Oh, I know in my head that my salvation isn’t dependent on how “good” of a Christian I am, or how much I may sacrifice for Him.  It’s all about what He’s sacrificed for me and His mercy and grace.  But still…there’s that nagging voice of the enemy in the back of my mind that says, “You’re worthless.  Compared to some of those other folks who have given it all for Jesus, you’ve given nothing.  You’ve sacrificed nothing.  You will not be recognized on the day of Judgment.”  Deep inside, I know that’s Satan’s voice – not Jesus’.  Yet it is a loud voice and it is fairly convincing.

And so it was that two simple words we sang at our Easter celebration at church came leaping out at me with such force: love unfailing.  The song is This Is Amazing Grace, and here’s what it says in the chorus:

This is amazing grace
This is unfailing love
That You would take my place
That You would bear my cross
You lay down Your life
That I would be set free
Oh, Jesus, I sing for
All that You’ve done for me.

As I was celebrating, the concept of unfailing love washed over me and blew through my heart like the freshest breeze ever.  I had been dwelling on my failings and shortcomings…and not on His unfailing love for even someone like me!

My wife, bless her heart, is a saint.  And though I have to readily admit that my failings in love FAR outnumber her few failings in love towards me, there have been times when her love has not been all that I think it could have been.  I say that not to take her down in any way, but rather to lift her up – she is truly amazing.  But the hard truth is that every love of every human on this earth has at one time or another failed me.  And I have most certainly failed others many times over!

The problem comes when I think of Jesus’ love for me as if it were simply the love of another human being that will fail me when I stand before the throne of God.  It shall not be so!!!!!  Listen to His words: John 6:39 (NLTse) – And this is the will of God, that I should not lose even one of all those he has given me, but that I should raise them up at the last day. 

Lest we think that Jesus may love us, but the Father is angry with us, it is the beloved apostle John, who wrote these words: John 1:14, 17 (NLTse) – So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son…For the law was given through Moses, but God’s unfailing love and faithfulness came through Jesus Christ.

On the day of judgment, I shall be saved.  Not because I’m something great or did anything at all of significance.  Not because I was or wasn’t a martyr.  Not because I was imprisoned for my faith or because I lived a life of little or no persecution.  I shall be saved because of unfailing love – a love that cannot now, nor ever, fail!

PRAYER: Jesus, we have never experienced love like yours upon this earth, and so we are tempted to believe that every love fails.  Let us lean with all our might into your unfailing love and trust your own words that you will not lose a single one!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

© 2015, Galen C. Dalrymple.

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