DayBreaks for 4/10/18 – God’s Strange “No”

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DayBreaks for 4/10/18: God’s Strange “No”

There is a fascinating story in Joshua that is easily missed. Moses has died. After waiting 40 years, Joshua is ready to take up the mantle of leadership from Moses. As they prepare to cross the Jordan and enter into the promised land, Joshua has a very strange encounter.

Joshua 5:13-15 says: When Joshua was by Jericho, he lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, a man was standing before him with his drawn sword in his hand. And Joshua went to him and said to him, “Are you for us, or for our adversaries?” And he said, “No; but I am the commander of the army of the LORD. Now I have come.” And Joshua fell on his face to the earth and worshiped and said to him, “What does my lord say to his servant?” And the commander of the LORD’s army said to Joshua, “Take off your sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy.” And Joshua did so.

Here’s what is fascinating (aside from the fact of the encounter itself). Joshua was going to be the military leader for the campaign (or so he thought). But he finds himself face to face with “a man”. I don’t know how impressive the man may have looked, but he certainly was mysterious. Who was this “commander of the army of the LORD”? Many believe it was Jesus in a pre-incarnate form. (Oddly enough, Jesus, or Yeshua, was Joshua’s name…so Joshua was speaking with Joshua/Yeshua, who would also be a conqueror, but of a different kind.)

The first word this “man” speaks is simply “No.” In other words, “I’m not for you and I’m not for your adversaries.” What are we to make of that? I’m sure Joshua was hoping for something like “Yes, of course I’m for you!”  But he didn’t get that response. 

This “man” was for the LORD God Almighty. He wasn’t for one tribe or another. He was for God’s plan and work. It is as if he’s saying a couple things to Joshua:

FIRST: You are not the commander of God’s army. I am. You will not be fighting, you will not gain the victories. God will. How quickly we forget that in our own battles!!!

SECOND: This “man” is essentially throwing a challenge to Joshua, something like this: “You will make a choice whether or not you will be part of my judgment…will you be an agent of justice/judgment or an object of judgment? If you take the role as an agent of justice but then shirk back, you are all the more likely to become an object of judgment.” It is as if God was saying, “If you act like the inhabitants of the land, you’ll be the first to go into judgment.”

I can’t help but wonder how much I’ve become like the inhabitants of the land, how much the church has become like the inhabitants of the land/world. It is frightening to contemplate.

The day will come when we stand before the leader of God’s army. I hope we will all have chosen to be part of his campaign to bring justice and righteousness to his creation.

PRAYER: Lord, the very idea of becoming objects of judgment is terrifying. Give us the courage to choose wisely and consistently to be on your side! In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

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DayBreaks for 3/20/18 – Between a Rock and Heaven

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DayBreaks for 3/20/18: Between a Rock and Heaven

From the DayBreaks archive, 2008:

Some people have trouble making decisions about even the most trivial of things.  I’ve had the dilemma myself.  Just today when I went to the Burger King (not something I do often!), I was torn between getting the Angus steak burger or Tenderoast chicken.  I would have preferred the steak burger, but went for the chicken so I wouldn’t feel as guilty.  Silly, isn’t it? 

There are decisions that are not trivial at all.  Who to marry?  What career to pursue?  What home to buy is a pretty big one, too.  We make other important decisions sometimes by default and without a lot of conscious thought: who will be my friends?  I can’t remember ever really asking myself that – it seems that my friends are my friends because we’ve spent time together and it just turned out that way rather than as the result of a conscious decision. 

As we near Holy Week, let’s not forget these words from Henri Nouwen (“A Spirituality of Waiting,” The Weavings Reader): “Jesus went to Jerusalem to announce the Good News to the people of that city. And Jesus knew that he was going to put a choice before them: Will you be my disciple, or will you be my executioner? There is no middle ground here. Jesus went to Jerusalem to put people in a situation where they had to say yes or no. That is the great drama of Jesus’ passion: He had to wait upon how people were going to respond.”

Nouwen is right: up until Jesus showed up on Holy Week, the people really had little to choose from.  There were plenty of rabbis, of course, but only One who made the kinds of demands that Jesus was about to make on them.  Up until he arrived on the scene, people had no choice to speak of: they could choose between sin or a life spent trying to perfectly live the law.  Neither were very attractive nor would either yield good results.  One was destined to lead to shame, degradation and dissolution, while the other would lead to frustration, guilt, discouragement and failure.  But when Jesus offered something different during and after Holy Week, people for the first time had a choice.

Jesus also said that he came to bring a sword.  A choice is much like a sword – it will cut things and make them separate.  There can be no middle ground, there is no living in the space that the sword cut through.  You must be on one side or the other.  It’s not popular these days to be exclusionists, but that’s what Jesus was.  “You are either for me or against me” and “I am the way, the truth and the life – no one comes to the Father BUT BY ME.”  As much as we might wish it were otherwise, that’s the plain and simple truth.  We don’t do anyone favors when we soft pedal the choice that Jesus puts before us – in fact, if we do soft pedal it, we are doing people a great disservice.

We must say either yes or no to Jesus.  The world is waiting to see what we’ll choose. And we need to put that choice in front of the world, too.

PRAYER: Lord, give us hearts and minds of wisdom that when we hear Jesus’ invitation to choose, we will make the right choice that leads to life eternal.  Give us the courage of the truth to speak the truth about the only Way, the only Truth, and the only Life.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

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 12/13/16 – The Feast Will be Eaten

DayBreaks for 12/13/16: The Feast Will be Eaten

From the DayBreaks archive, 2006:

It is Christmas season!  Do you feel any of the excitement yet?  I do!  I don’t usually get excited about Christmas until much closer to the holidays (this is a busy time of the year for pastors, after all!), but for some reason, the joy of Christmas has gotten to me early!  I’m not sure why, but I suspect that some of it may be because of a book I just recently finished reading (you’ll hear more about that in the future!) that has awakened me much more to the Presence of Christ – not just at Christmas – but at all times in my life as a believer.  Still, I could choose to be a bah-humbug about it all if I wished to do so.  But that’s not the choice I’ve decided to make. 

Choices are so critical in all aspects of our life.  Some are choices about what to do, and those are the kind that we think of the most: where to live, what to do for a living, what to eat for dinner, what to wear.  It would probably be astounding to know how many decisions a day that we make.  Most of them are insignificant, but there are some doozies every now and then, too. 

But the choices that perhaps have a lot more to do with what and who we are very seldom are about things that we do, but about how we choose to see and respond to life.  We seldom consider that we can choose to be grateful or complainers, grumpy or joy-filled, loving or bitter.  N. T. Wright, in Evil and the Justice of God, wrote: “Indeed, throughout the new Testament we are constantly warned that the choices we make in this life, especially the choices about what sort of person we might become, are real and have lasting consequences which God himself will honor.  But we do not have the choice to sulk in such a way as to prevent God’s party going ahead without us.  We have the right, like the older brother, to sit it out; God has the right to come and reason with us; but the fatted calf is going to be eaten whether we join in or not.”

You can choose your attitude and how you respond to both the good and bad of life.  Much of it has to do with your confidence and trust in God and whether or not you believe He knows what He’s doing in, through and with your life.  You KNOW that God wants you to be filled with the joy of being His child, and He wants you to be infectious with that joy and love.  What will you choose?  Will you join in the party, or will you sit by yourself, bitter and disgruntled?  God’s feast is prepared, the door is open, the music is playing.  Are you read to join in the celebration?

PRAYER:  How Your joy fills us, Lord!  Make our hearts thankful, joyful, loving and excited to be Your children.  Give us Your Spirit of love and peace so that we can share it with others and begin, here and now, to celebrate the feast of life that we have in You!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2016 by Galen Dalrymple.

DayBreaks for 7/06/15 – Choose Your Enemies Carefully

DayBreaks for 7/06/15: Choose Your Enemies Carefully

You’ve heard the old saying, “Choose your friends carefully!”  Why do people say that?  Because if you choose human friends poorly, they may turn on you when it is to their advantage. Or, consider the other reason and another old saw you have probably heard: “Evil companions corrupt good morals.”  In other words, if you choose friends who are not living upright lives, you will probably be tempted to join them in whatever it is that they are doing once your friendship progresses and the peer pressure weighs you down. It is truly wise to choose one’s friends carefully.

But, have you ever considered the importance of choosing your enemies wisely?

First, wouldn’t it be great to not have any enemies at all? We are to pray for our enemies. We are to, as much as it is humanly possible, live at peace with all people. We are commanded to love our enemies. But even that command acknowledges the simple fact that we will have enemies. So, we should learn to choose them wisely.

It is one thing to have enemies in this world. The Devil is our adversary – roaming there and there – trying to find those he can consume. He is an enemy, though none of us have ever seen him.

Listen to this passage from James 4:4 –You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. – James 4:4 (ESV)

It is one thing to have other humans as enemies – as long as they are “enemies” because they are opposed to God. It is our human condition that Satan is our enemy – even if we “serve” him he’s our enemy – because He wants only to kill and to destroy, even while he pretends to be their friends.

I, for one, do not want to have an All-powerful God as my enemy. And that puts me (and you!) directly on a collision course with a critical decision: we can choose to be a friend of the world or a friend of God. We can’t be friends with both. It is not possible.

What might you have to change in order to  no longer be a friend of the world, but God’s friend instead?

© 2015, Galen C. Dalrymple.

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DayBreaks for 9/16/14 – Joshua: Reading Between the Lines

DayBreaks for 9/16/14 – Joshua: Reading Between the Lines

Joshua 24:14-15 (ESV) Now therefore fear the LORD and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD. 15  And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the LORD, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.

We have heard this verse many, many times, especially the part about “choose this day whom you will serve.”  It is emblazoned on plaques, place settings and paintings.  I have absolutely no problem with that at all.

But look more closely at the context.  It is the end of Joshua’s long and distinguished career.  He had huge shoes to fill…and he filled them admirably.  I look forward to meeting him some day.  He must have been quite a man.

But what does he say?  He says, “Put away…”, not “You have put away…”  Do you get it?  The children of Israel that he’d led into Canaan were still carrying with them some of the gods that their fathers had worshipped in Egypt. This was a good number of years after they’d left Egypt and none of their ancestors (with the exceptions of Joshua and Caleb) who had tasted the whip and slavery in Egypt were alive any longer.  So the current generation had not worshiped those gods, but neither had they gotten rid of them.  They’d clung to them.  And, it would appear, they were still worshiping them.

This puts Joshua’s challenge to them in a new light.  These weren’t just polite, encouraging words.  Joshua was scolding them.  In effect, if you will, Joshua was telling them “Stop playing around with your faith! Get serious!  Make a decision!  If you want to keep worshiping those old gods, go ahead.  If you want to worship God, do so!  But whatever you do, make a decision and be done with your waffling!”

What would you have done if you’d been one of the Israelites?  Does Joshua’s challenge apply to you and me today?  You bet it does, perhaps more so in our country than ever before.  We must decide…and we must decide this day for we may not have another one!

PRAYER: We are prone to play with our faith and dabble with false idols.  May we take these words to heart, Lord, and with your help, resolve to be done playing games with our faith!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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DayBreaks for 11/15/13 – Can Lucifer Be Far Behind?

DayBreaks for 11/15/13 – Can Lucifer Be Far Behind?

From the DayBreaks archive, dated 11/6/2002:

Leviticus 18:21 – “Do not give any of your children to be sacrificed to Molech, for you must not profane the name of your God. I am the LORD.

Jeremiah 32:35 – “They built high places for Baal in the Valley of Ben Hinnom to sacrifice their sons and daughters to Molech, though I never commanded, nor did it enter my mind, that they should do such a detestable thing and so make Judah sin.

From C. S. Lewis for the Third Millennium, by Peter Kreeft: “…if no bright sacred mysteries anchor man’s life, the dark mysteries arise…Denied Jehovah, we turn to Molech, for man cannot live without those gods.  The battles on our earth always begin in the heavens.  It is Molech come again who has devoured 20 million (GCD note: as of 11/4/13, the number of legal abortions since Roe vs. Wade in the US is now 50 million) unborn babies with the blessing of our Supreme Court.  Is it not hypocritical to ask God to deliver us from the horrors of nuclear holocaust when we ‘cause our sons and daughters to pass through the fire’ of the great abortion holocaust?  And when Molech comes, can Lucifer be far behind?

The first 3 chapters of Romans paint a rather bleak picture of humanity.  They wind up proclaiming one simple, all-concluding fact: “For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.”  The Gentiles were without excuse and are sinners.  The Jews were without excuse and are sinners.  We have all alike denied the reality of God.  But it seems that when mankind denies the One True God, that we find it necessary to elevate someone or something to the place that rightly belongs to the God of heaven.  One way or another, whether he realizes it or not, man has always worshiped a “god” of some kind.  As Peter Kreeft points out: when we deny God, we turn to something less than God, often to something very MUCH less than God (isn’t everything?!?!).  Since we don’t want the holy and righteous God, we want one that lets us do the things we want without any guilt.   So should it surprise us that once we begin to deny the reality of God that things rapidly turn to evil?

If Molech was the bane of Israel, is there any other way to see the abortion holocaust that has bled its way across the face of our country?  I seriously doubt that 20 million children in total were ever sacrificed to Molech.  The name of our modern god isn’t Molech, it goes by many names including Convenience, Choice, or Right to Choose.  It doesn’t matter what you call it – once this beast has been loosed on the land, can Lucifer himself be far behind?

PRAYER: Mercy, Lord Jesus, have mercy on us all for our worship of false gods!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2013 by Galen C. Dalrymple.

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