DayBreaks for 5/18/17 – Courageous Faith

DayBreaks for 5/18/17: Courageous Faith

John 12:42-43 (ESV) – Nevertheless, many even of the authorities believed in him, but for fear of the Pharisees they did not confess it, so that they would not be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God.

Who doesn’t love glory? Who doesn’t love to receive praise and recognition and, yes, honor? On our birthdays we pretend to not care that we’re the center of attention, but we are inwardly pleased to be recognized as having achieved yet another milestone (especially as we get older and the milestones become more significant!) But this is entirely different. Though many leaders of the Jews believed in Jesus (how could they not given all he’d done and how he taught?), they didn’t confess him.

When I read today’s passage, my heart and mind instantly jump into judgement mode: “Shame on them! What cowards!” And to make it worse, I then jump almost instantly to boastful mode, “I wouldn’t have done that! I’d have boldly proclaimed my belief in Jesus – no matter the cost!” But would I really?

We don’t know who these “authorities” were who believed, though we might surmise Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus were among them. But there were others, for John says there were “many” who believed in Jesus. To be a Jewish authority, you HAD to be part of the synagogue, part of the heart and soul of the nation’s faith and religion. To proclaim faith in Jesus would have been religious, social, political and even economic suicide to these men – and those who depended on them. When I think of it in that light and think about my own insecurities about my livelihood and finances, I find myself less than certain that I would have stood up to be counted as a follower of Christ.

It is lessons like this that put my weak faith into perspective. In spite of how I might try to honor my own faith by thinking how great or strong it is, if I insert myself into the shoes of those “many” authorities, I realize how weak my faith may truly be. Are you ready to take a stand for your faith in Jesus if it means the loss of your job, your reputation, your income – perhaps even your ability to ever find and hold work again? That’s what was at stake for these men. That doesn’t mean that they made the right choice – but this lesson in human frailty is sobering to me.

One other thing makes it easier to seek the praise of men rather than God. The praise of this world is immediately accessible as long as I do what the world wants me to do and think. God’s praise is primarily held in reserve for the day I stand before His throne. But His approval is the only approval that will endure and that will matter on that day. He won’t give me approval for following the ways of the society and world, but He will give me approval for even my weak faith in Jesus – and that will make all the difference.  

PRAYER: How we need greater, fearless faith, Jesus! Give us bold hearts and the vision necessary to see that it is only the praise of the Father than matters – and then to live courageous faith. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2017 by Galen Dalrymple.

 

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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 11/08/16 – The Most Important Vote You Will Ever Cast

DayBreaks for 11/08/06: The Most Important Vote You’ll Ever Cast

Well, the day that many have dreaded has arrived. This quite likely has been the most vitriolic and ugly election cycle for the highest office in our land that has ever taken place. People on both sides are sick and tired of it, ready for it to be over. Friendships have been strained, words have been spoken that should have been left unsaid. But it is election day and we will soon know the outcome.

Many have stressed greatly over and have great fears about what will become of our nation regardless of who wins this election. I understand that…I have my own concerns in that regard, too. But I need to take a step back and remember some pretty important things:

  1. No matter who wins today, God is still in control;
  2. No matter who wins today, Jesus is still seated on the throne and he’s not even breaking a sweat to stay there;
  3. No matter who wins today, my salvation is not affected and I’ll still be called to be a witness tomorrow even as I am today;
  4. No matter who wins today, I need to remember that Jesus promised us that the gates of hell will NOT prevail against His church – Jesus will defend and protect His bride (which is different from our nation!);
  5. No matter who wins today, my hope is to be placed in Christ, not in any human ruler;
  6. No matter who wins today, my greatest allegiance it to the King of Kings and I need to be wise enough to recognize when His interests are at stake and to take a stand for righteousness.

You’ve heard it many times during this election cycle: people of every persuasion are saying that this is the most important vote you will ever cast. Let me tell you the truth: they are wrong. It is not even close to the most important vote you will ever cast. The most important vote you will cast is your vote either for Jesus or against Him. Your eternity hangs on that vote. All the people running for office in this election will die and meet their Maker and answer for what they have done and in whom they have believed and with whom they have cast their lot – with themselves or with Jesus.

Cast your vote wisely!

PRAYER: God, we do pray for our nation today. We pray for the men and women of Your choosing to be elected. We pray for wisdom as people all over this country try to make sense out of all the claims and counterclaims, promises kept and broken, of those who would be our leaders. We cannot see hearts as You can. But more than anything else, Lord, let us vote for Jesus to be our King and Master and find our rest and hope in Him and Him alone! In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

DayBreaks for 8/30/16 – Choose Your Song Carefully

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DayBreaks for 8/30/16 – Choose Your Song Carefully

We live in a time where music is readily available everywhere. Couples talk about “our song” that represents their love and life together. Athletes in baseball have “walk-up songs” that plays when they come to bat or go out to pitch. People work out at the gym with earbuds while they listen to workout music. And these songs are chosen because of their appeal to the listener.

In the great classical piece of literature, Homer’s Odyssey, one can find the story of Odysseus, a great hero who was sailing toward his destiny and finds himself confronting a dangerous dilemma. As he is on his way, he must sail through a very narrow passage. It isn’t the passage itself, that is the problem, it is the sirens that are the inhabitants of the place. They were said to be beautiful, mythical creatures – part woman and part bird – that lured sailors with their enchanting music and lovely voices long enough that their ships would strike the rocky cost of the land. Later writers said that they would then eat the shipwrecked sailors who gave in to the siren song that lured them to their death.

Odysseus was warned of this peril, and not wanting to shipwreck himself or his crew, settled on a seemingly shrewd stratagem: he instructed his men to fill their ears with beeswax so that they could not hear the song. He, himself, would not do so – he wanted to hear this strange, beautiful song and so he asked his men to bind him steadfast to the mast of the ship so that he could not steer the ship into danger, but he could hear the sirens because he longed to hear the siren song.

The other character who encounters the sirens in ancient literature is Jason. He, too, must sail past the location of the sirens. But rather than filling his men’s ears with beeswax and being tied to the mast, he is advised to bring Orpheus, the greatest musician, with him aboard ship so that as they pass the island of the sirens, Orpheus could play his music that would be so wonderful and louder than the song of the sirens that Jason and his crew could safely pass – and they do. Orpheus’ music was so overwhelming that they didn’t even hear the siren song that would lure them into death.

What’s the point of these stories? To me, they represent some choices that we must make in life as believers. We say that we belong to Jesus, yet sometimes we want to hear the siren song and are so captivated by it that it can destroy us. We want to hear it – to get as close as we can to the danger without actually giving in. In the case of Jason, he didn’t want to hear the siren song – he believed that something more beautiful and haunting could and would overpower the siren song and drown it out.

We can listen to many different songs: the songs of power, position, passion, money, immorality, infidelity or one of many others – and they can drive us mad. We think we can survive unscathed by “tying” ourselves while letting the songs of these competing things enter our ears and hearts and minds.

Or, we can replace these other songs with the song of Jesus that is far superior to anything the world would use to lure us away from the safety of the Father’s presence.

Which will we choose? What “songs” have you been listening to?

PRAYER: God, I don’t know why it is that we so often try to get as close as possible to giving in to the siren songs of the world when we have You and Your song of love for us. Help us listen constantly to the music that is You and the son of love and grace You sing to us! In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

 

DayBreaks for 2/19/16 – What Humans Can Do

DayBreaks for 2/19/16: What Humans Can Do

In recent months we’ve been witness to terrifying images coming out of the middle east as terrorists have beheaded newspaper reporters and other captives.  We hear stories about suicide bombers who not only kill themselves, but women, children and babies.  Thankfully, most of us will never see someone tortured to death.  I pray we never do.

In The Undoing of Death, Fleming Rutledge wrote: “But we are implicated in the powers of darkness just the same.  Yesterday there was an article in the New York Times about the movement to save the nuclear sites where the bombs were developed as tourist attractions.  One U.S. Senator said of the B Reactor, where plutonium was made for the Nagasaki bomb, “It would not be a place to spend a fun day; it would be sort of like the Holocaust Museum.”  But the president of the B Reactor Museum Association spoke with pride of the technological achievement: “When you stand in front of the reactor, you realize what humans can do…”  Yes.  When you look at a picture of the Crucifixion, you realize this is what humans can do.”

She makes a good point.  We want to believe the best about ourselves.  We want to deny that humans can do the kind of things “they” do…and then we realize to our great horror that we are “they.”  But we should present the other side of the picture, too: picture Mother Theresa, the apostle Paul on his missionary journeys, the martyrs in the jungles of South America as they carried the love of Jesus to the Waodani.  Yes, we are responsible for the Crucifixion.  We can also do things of such wonder and beauty, empowered by the Holy Spirit, that we scarcely are recognizable as humans.   It is at that moment in time that we must closely resemble the God in Who’s image we were created.  Humans, you see, are capable of both extremes.  That means we can choose.  What have you been choosing?  What will you choose in the moment of decision?

Romans 13:12 –The night is almost gone; the day of salvation will soon be here. So don’t live in darkness . Get rid of your evil deeds. Shed them like dirty clothes. Clothe yourselves with the armor of right living, as those who live in the light.

TODAY’S PRAYER:  Lord, we want to be children of the Light, not of the darkness.  Help us to truly bear your image and likeness to people who so desperately need Your help.  Let us turn away from the unfruitful works of darkness.  May we become all that You intend for us to be!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2016, all rights reserved.

DayBreaks for 08/08/13 – What Then About Junk?

DayBreaks for 08/08/13 – What Then About Junk?

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From the DayBreaks archive, dated 08/08/2003:

Genesis 1:31 – “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning–the sixth day.”  (NIV)

It has always been interesting to me that after all the first 5 days of creation when God created plants, animals, rocks, planets, stars and such, that God took time at the end of each day to examine His work.  Scripture says that when He did this, he saw “that it was good”.  There is great satisfaction to be taken in doing a job well – and God does things superlatively!  But there is a slight difference after day six when God creates man.  It says that God saw what He’d done and it was “very good”.  The only difference between the first 5 days and the end of the 6th day was the creation of man – and God proclaims it to be “very good”!

There is a popular saying in some Christian circles: “I’m OK.  God doesn’t make junk!”  And that is very, very true.  One of our former ministers, Dr. James Haddix, commented on this in a message and pointed out how easy it is to believe than when we see it on the little pink t-shirt of a beautiful little girl with flowing tresses.  But, as he went on, what are we to make of it when we take that t-shirt and put it on the kidnapper-rapist-killer who takes that little girl from her home and family, brutalizes her and takes her life?  It makes us begin to wonder if God made a mistake with that person, and it makes us wonder if perhaps sometimes, God does make junk.

He doesn’t.  God is no more responsible for the heinous deeds of the rapist-killer than I am for a star running out of fuel in a galaxy far distant.  The simple fact is that God created us – each and every one of us – as free, moral agents who can determine by our choices what we will become.  As Dr. Gregory Boyd argues in his book, Satan and the Problem of Evil, evil had to exist if good was to exist.  Hatred had to exist if love was to exist.  Love cannot exist without a free choice – otherwise it is not love.  Good cannot exist unless there is an opposite that makes good a choice available to humans.  So the rapist-killer is not “junk” from God’s hand.  He may have become devoid of any apparent redeeming qualities, but if he did, it happened as a result of his own choices and their consequences.

No, God doesn’t make junk.  But I can make myself “junky”.  So can you.  We do it each day in a thousand little decisions – some of which happen without our ever really thinking about it.  I don’t want to be junk and I don’t think you do, either.  Let us seek His wisdom to recognize the right from wrong so we can choose wisely.  As Dr. Haddix put it: “The issue isn’t whether God creates junk, but the fact that He doesn’t desire junk.”  Neither should we.

2 Kings 18:32 – “…until I come and take you to a land like your own, a land of grain and new wine, a land of bread and vineyards, a land of olive trees and honey. Choose life and not death!” (NIV)

1 Peter 4:3 – “For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do-living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry.” (NIV) 

PRAYER: Lord, we are quick to pass the blame on to You for what exists and what doesn’t exist because we don’t and can’t understand the realities You understand nor the structure of the moral universe in its totality.  Forgive us for daring to sit in judgment of You!  In Your name, Amen.

Copyright 2013 by Galen C. Dalrymple.

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DayBreaks for 11/02/12 – Is It Better?

DayBreaks for 11/02/12 – Is It Better?

It is better to be godly and have little than to be evil and rich. 17 For the strength of the wicked will be shattered, but the LORD takes care of the godly. – Psalm 37:16-17 (NLT)

So many things that Scripture says seem crazy.  Consider all the beatitudes proclaimed by none other than Jesus himself in the Sermon on the Mount.  I would imagine that the bulk of those who heard him that day simultaneously thought he was a great orator, but perhaps a bit touched in the head.  Who ever felt blessed for all the kinds of suffering and mourning he describes?

It is when things are tough that Christianity seems to make the least sense.  Those are the times, as they say, that “try men’s souls.”  They leave us gasping for air, doubting His goodness, feeling alone and despairing.  I know.  I’ve felt those things, too.

So what are we to make of statements like that from Psalm 37?  Do we really believe it is better to be godly and have little?  (And bear in mind that we can’t fool God – virtually every American Christian is rich compared to the billions of others in the world, i.e., can any of us American Christians really say we have “little”?)

In what ways is it better?  The passage suggests that godliness and having “little” tend to go hand in hand, as does the opposite – being evil and being rich are likewise coupled.  We know how money makes us act – we never have enough of it.  It becomes an insatiable, burning desire/need in our soul.  It creates insecurities in us fearing we don’t have enough, or that we could lose it and be destitute.  We like to forget that we are called to follow Jesus and he was a homeless man.

Verse 17 says that the strength of the wicked will be shattered.  Humm.  Guess we have to take that one on faith, don’t we?  We cannot see the end of the scenario other than reading a Book that claims to describe how it will turn out.  We must accept that by faith, it will happen as described, or we chose not to believe it and to chase after all the money, pleasure, power and debauchery we can lay hands on.

God puts before us stark choices.  He makes incredible statements like that in Psalm 37 and forces us into a corner where we must choose, we must decide, we can’t take a neutral position.

Ultimately, we are all left to debate the question: is it really better to be godly with little or rich with much?  We are well advised to weigh the decision thoughtfully, carefully, and not to decide impetuously.  Many times in human history things are not as they have appeared to be on the surface.   God certainly seems to delight in hiding truth from our everyday perception.

I pray we all choose wisely.

PRAYER: Lord, we are so tempted to believe our eyes rather than Your Word.  Help us to ponder carefully what You say, and to believe even when it seems counter-intuitive to do so.  You are a mysterious God.  Give us the faith to follow and hold fast to You.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2012 by Galen C. Dalrymple.

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