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.

 

DayBreaks for 5/01/17 – Obedience

DayBreaks for 5/01/17: Obedience

From the DayBreaks archive, May 2007:

Listen to this story.  I don’t know the source of the story, but here it is:

“How we admire the obedience a dog shows to its master!  Archibald Rutledge wrote that one day he met a man whose dog had just been killed in a forest fire.  Heartbroken, the man explained to Rutledge how it happened.  Because he worked out-of-doors, he often took his dog with him.  That morning, he left the animal in a clearing and gave him a command to stay and watch his lunch bucket while he went into the forest.  His faithful friend understood, for that’s exactly what he did.  Then a fire started in the woods, and soon the blaze spread to the spot where the dog had been left.  But he didn’t move.  He stayed right where he was, in perfect obedience to his master’s word.  With tearful eyes, the dog’s owner said, “I always had to be careful what I told him to do, because I knew he would do it.”

Galen’s Thoughts: Loyalty.  Character.  Perseverance.  Courage.  Faithfulness.  These are all words that come to mind.  Sounds like a super-hero.  And then I have to stop myself and remember that I’m talking about a DOG!  But what lessons that dog can teach us!

I’m heart broken by this story for several reasons:

FIRST: I grieve for the dog’s sake.  I can’t imagine what it was like – how great the temptation must have been to cut and run through the forest away from the heat and torment of the flames – yet the dog stayed put.  I mourn the loss of the dog, but at a deeper level it makes me mourn my own lack of courage in obedience to the one I call my Master.

SECOND: I mourn that I am not more broken hearted by the loss of eternal souls than I am in the loss of the dog.  What is wrong with me, with us, when we have deeper feelings about the loss of a dog, albeit a tremendously loyal one, than the lives of those that surround us every day?

FINALLY: I am haunted by the final words of the dog’s master: “I always had to be careful what I told him to do, because I knew he would do it.”  What would my Master say about me?  Oh, how I wish Jesus could say, “I always had to be careful what I told Galen to do, because I knew he would do it!”  Instead, in my fear and weakness, I far too often run from the heat of the struggle into perceived safety.  But it is only perceived safety and it certainly isn’t obedience.

The love of the dog’s owner is clear in his tears – he loved his dog.  The pride of the owner is clear in his words – he was justifiably proud of the obedience of his dog.  I look at Jesus and see his tears for me and I know He loves me with all his heart.  I just wish my obedience was loyal enough that Jesus could be proud of me.

PRAYER:  Lord, forgive my lack of obedience and loyalty!  It seems to take no more than even the slightest distraction to pull me away from you sometimes.  Help me to have the kind of character you wish to develop in me.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2017 by Galen Dalrymple.

 

DayBreaks for 4/27/17 – The Real Danger

DayBreaks for 4/27/17 – The Real Danger

Note: Galen is traveling this week.

From the DayBreaks archive, April 2007:

As a child, I was fascinated by the story of Shadrach, Meshech and Abednego.  My mind would swim with images and imaginings of what it looked like, of the sounds of the roaring furnace, of the great king Nebuchadnezzar in all his finery as the music blared and the masses bowed down.  That is, they bowed down with the exception of three people: the Hebrew boys otherwise known as Azariah, Mishael and Hananiah. 

I always thought that this was a story about idolatry.  I’d always thought that the temptation they faced was to worship the golden idol of the Babylonian king.  After all, that’s how I remember the story from the flannel graphs that my Sunday school teacher used to help us “see” the stories.  It is only recently that I believe God opened my eyes to a more significant truth.  The story is about idolatry, all right, but the idol that the young men were being tempted to worship wasn’t really the 90-foot tall golden sculpture. 

No, the real test was one about worship.  What would be worshipped?  They’d been taught as Jewish children that “the Lord our God is One” and that “No one is like the Lord our God.”  They knew full well that He was the only One who was worthy of worship.  The idol that these boys were confronted with – and which they were tempted to bow down and worship – was themselves, their earthly lives.  If they worshipped the idol, they’d save their lives – if they didn’t, they might lose their lives.

Would these three young men be wise enough to recognize which was the greater danger: to die in a fiery furnace, or to worship and esteem something else (even if it is your physical life) higher than the worship of God is idolatry?

We are our own greatest idol.  We need to cast aside the idol of self that leads us to hoard money, love, compassion, wisdom, possessions, pleasures.  Even if it comes to laying down our lives in order to worship God, doesn’t God have a right to ask that of us?  Of course He does. 

Do you recognize your own self-worship and idolatry?  Every time we choose our way, our dreams, our own joys rather than His, we are bowing down to the idol of self-worship.

PRAYER:  Father, help us to recognize our idolatry and our self worship.  Give us the wisdom to be able to discern the greatest danger – the danger of not giving you the worship and glory that you alone deserve.  Tear down our idols of self-interest that we may be true worshippers!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2017 by Galen Dalrymple.

DayBreaks for 1/20/17 – A Flower in Life

DayBreaks for 1/20/17: A Flower in Life

Note: Galen is traveling this week so he’s recycling some old DayBreaks.

FROM THE DAYBREAKS ARCHIVE, January, 2007:

There is a very poignant tale in chapter 19 of John about Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea.  These were two very prominent men – both part of the Sanhedrin (the Jewish ruling council in Jerusalem), and both were men who had opportunity to hear Jesus teaching.  Nicodemus even came to Jesus by night once to discuss matters relating to the kingdom of God but was confused when he was told that he needed to be born again.  Joseph is unknown to us until Jesus’ death when he boldly goes to Pilate and asks for the body of Jesus so he can bury him in his own unused tomb.

These men were not the typical Jewish leaders.  We are told that Nicodemus was a man seeking the kingdom of God.  That’s high praise coming from the gospel writers.  It indicates a heart that is searching for Godly things, for His will and His rule in the world and the hearts of men.  I think that they were good men who were secret admirers, perhaps even to some extent, secret followers, of Jesus.  And that is where the tragically sad part of this story begins.

In John chapter 19.38-42 we find Joseph taking the body of Christ and Nicodemus bringing burial spices.  This is, of course, after Jesus has been crucified and died.  Have you ever thought about what Nicodemus and Joseph did while Jesus was on trial before the Sanhedrin?  Why is there nothing in scripture that shows them standing up in his defense or speaking out to give him the benefit of the doubt?  Did they excuse themselves from that meeting or were they there but just too afraid to say anything?  Perhaps, though we don’t know, like many so-called leaders today, they didn’t have the courage to speak what they believed at critical times. 

Now, however, they are finally paying tribute to the one who they had failed to stand up for in life.  As William Barclay put it: How much greater would loyalty in life have been than a new tomb and a shroud fit for a king!  One flower in life is worth all the wreaths in the world in death.

How often am I like Nicodemus and Joseph?  I know who He is.  It is obvious to anyone who will really take the time to examine His claims and teaching.  Christ is on trial before my peers and the world every day.  What am I saying in His defense?  Am I saying nothing like Nicodemus and Joseph did?  Do I excuse myself from the discussion? 

Jesus wants us to live with him forever.  He waits for the day when he can hold us in his arms and welcome us home.  Those things will happen.  But he also wants my loyalty in this life – before I get to heaven.  Let us give him our tribute now and it’ll only make heaven that much sweeter!

PRAYER:  Lord, we need Your courage to stand for Jesus, to put our feet squarely on the ground and boldly proclaim the truth about Him.  Help us not to be afraid of what others may say, think, or do to us.  May we honor You not just in eternity, but in this life as well.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2017 by Galen Dalrymple.

DayBreaks for 1/4/17 – The God Who Runs Away

DayBreaks for 1/04/17: The God Who Runs Away

John Thomas Randolph offers a relatively modern story of running and returning to illustrate our Lord’s circumstances.

Here is the difference between cowardice and heroism. The coward runs away and stays away. The hero runs away but he always returns at the appropriate time.

There is a biography of General Douglas MacArthur that was written by Bob Considine. The picture on the front cover shows the general standing like a boulder, looking off into the distance, with that famous corncob pipe in his mouth. You can almost hear him telling the people of the Philippines, “I came through and I shall return.” Ordered to make a strategic withdrawal, his promise to return became the rallying cry for a whole country. MacArthur had to “run away” for a while, but he would “return” – and it was the returning that mattered most.

My copy of the Bible entitles a section of Scripture, “The Flight into Egypt.” Cruel Herod the king had been threatened by the birth of Jesus, apparently fearing that Jesus would become a competitor for his own crown. Since that was an intolerable possibility to him, and since he could not be absolutely sure which baby boy was Jesus, he ordered that all the male children in and around Bethlehem who were two-years old or under be killed. Thus it was that an angel of the Lord directed Joseph to take Jesus and Mary and to “flee to Egypt.”

Can you imagine it? God on the run! Jesus, the Christ, fleeing for his life!… He is running for his life…

If this scene is shocking for you then hold on, for there is more to come. We can imagine Joseph escaping into Egypt with the baby Jesus. But, surely, we think, if Jesus were only a full-grown man, he would not run from Herod. The evidence, however, does not completely support our thought.

There were times, even as an adult, when Jesus ran away. During the Feast of Dedication in Jerusalem one winter, some people wanted Jesus to tell them “plainly” if he was, indeed, the Christ. When Jesus answered, I and the Father are one, they took up stones to stone him. We read, Again they tried to arrest him, but he escaped from their hands. (John 10:39) Notice that word, again”; apparently Jesus had to run away on other occasions, too.

There is no getting away from it: Christmas tells us that God chose to make himself vulnerable when he revealed himself in a person who, sometimes, at least, had to run away from people like Herod and the stone-throwers.

The vulnerability of Christ is a great thing because it makes it easier for us to admit our own vulnerability. We may like to think that we are super men and women, but we are not. There are powers and people who can hurt us and destroy us. There are times when we need to run away! You see, running away is not always cowardice as many of us have been taught to believe. Running away, at times, may he part of a very wise strategy. As the old saying goes: “He who runs away lives to fight another day.”

There are times, of course, when we cannot run away. There are times when we must not run away. There are times when running away is cowardice. Jesus did not run away from his betrayers in the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus did not run away from the cross or the grave. There are times when we must stand our ground, no matter what the cost.

Nevertheless, there are other times when it is wise to run away. Timing has a lot to do with it. So do our intentions about returning. For after the time of running away, there should always be a time of returning. All of our running away, as Christians, should be with the ultimate goal of returning.

Why do we run away? When I look at my own experience, I find that I usually run away for one of three reasons: I am frightened; I am fatigued; or I am frustrated. Isn’t that why you run away too?

PRAYER: May we always have the courage to return to the fight after we have run away. Let us be people of discernment so we wisely choose when to run – and when to stand! In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2016 by Galen Dalrymple.

DayBreaks for 10/07/16 – What Does Heaven Care for Probabilities?

DayBreaks for 10/07/16 – What Does Heaven Care for Probabilities?           

From the DayBreaks archive, 2006:

I was recently reading a manuscript for a possible fiction book (somewhat along the lines of the Tolkein or C.S. Lewis Narnia tales) and towards the end of the book as the tension mounted and things got really interesting, someone was trying to encourage the hero of the book to not lose heart.  If you’ve been up for more than 10 minutes by the time you read this, you’ll know why.  It seems that things just come at us so fast, with nary a moment’s respite.  Not only do things hit us quickly, but they seem to pile up faster than we can push them off our plate.  If you haven’t been up for more than 10 minutes yet today – just wait.  It’ll happen to you today, too.  How do I know?  Well, I’m basing my statement on the probability that something will go wrong for you today.  Hopefully, it won’t be anything serious, but something is quite likely to not work out just as you wished.

When the action is fast and furious and we are beset and surrounded by enemies that are interested in only one thing – blood – we need to be reminded that we are in good company.  It happened to David – over and over, including Psalm 3 – where he writes out of his desperation about how he is surrounded.  It appears Psalm 3 was written when he was surrounded by the armies of Absolom (his own son!) who were trying to kill David.  We don’t know for sure how many there were with Absalom, but over 20,000 were killed in the ensuing battle.  Now that’s what I call surrounded by the enemy! 

Elisha found himself vastly outnumbered as the Arameans were laying siege to Israel.  Elisha’s servant was petrified – believing his day to die had come, but Elisha prayed to God and asked God to open the eyes of his servant – and God did.  When the servant could see, he realized that the hills surrounding his location were full of fiery chariots filled with angels.  The poor Arameans didn’t stand a chance.

Jesus, too, was surrounded and outnumbered by his enemies.  But the victory was firmly in his grasp.

The manuscript I was reading had a sentence that really struck me at the point when someone was offering the hero courage against his foes who outnumbered the good guys: “What does heaven care for probabilities?”  What a profound, yet perfectly simple, question.  The answer is obvious: nothing.  Heaven cares nothing about probabilities.  Heaven doesn’t have to deal with probabilities, for God deals only in certainties.  Probabilities are for creatures like us who cannot control times, seasons, events, or for actuaries who have to figure out the odds for insurance companies, or for gamblers.  God, in fact, seems to revel in the impossible situations – and in delivering His children from them.  Consider David, Elisha, Daniel, Joseph, Paul, Abraham and Sarah, the prophets, the early church against the entire world…and you’ll see what I mean.

Is your marriage “on the rocks”?  Does it seem to YOU that it will never get back on solid ground, that the odds are against you?  Have you lost hope for any reason, about anything?  About your salvation, even?  God laughs at probabilities.  When we face tremendous odds and we KNOW that we are on solid ground in our walk with Christ and KNOW that what we want is what God wants (like your marriage to stay together!), we can join God in His laughter, knowing that in reality, with God on our side, the odds are stacked in our favor 100%.

PRAYER: Lord, we need courage to face all that is in this world that attacks us, seeks to harm or destroy us.  Help us to see the heavenly hosts that are at Your beck and call to do Your bidding, to deliver us and grant us the victory.  May we be firmly based in obedience to Your Word.  May we want what You want.  May we join You in Your laughter and disdain for probabilities, and may we rest on Your certainty!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

DayBreaks for 7/20/16 – Where Was God in Auschwitz?

DayBreaks for 7/20/16 – Where Was God in Auschwitz?

From the DayBreaks archive, July 2006:

I’ve read a lot in the past few years about the Jewish holocaust.  What a horrible and terrible chapter in the life of humanity!  One of the loudest questions of all time is asked about the Holocaust, and was echoed by Harold Schulweis in For Those Who Cannot Believe:  “The Holocaust mocks my faith.  For at the core of that faith is the conviction that God breathed into the nostrils of human beings an inviolable human soul, that God created the human being in His image and in His likeness.  The taunting dissonance between that faith and the facts of the Holocaust disturbs my belief.  The picture of a child hanged in the presence of parents in the concentration camp brings to mind a rabbinic commentary on the hanging of a criminal based on a verse in the book of Deuteronomy 21.23: A criminal sentenced to death and hanged must not remain overnight upon the tree because it is “a reproach to God.” Why a reproach to God?  The rabbinic answer is offered in the form of a parable: Once a noble king had a twin brother who violated the law and was hanged on a tree in the public square.  People passing by the corpse of the king’s twin took him to be the king and shouted, “Behold, the king is dead!”  The king was humiliated.  

The parable is breathtaking.  God and man, at some level, are as it were twins.  To deface the image of man is to blaspheme the Creator of that image.  God is not raised by lowering the human image…Who before the memory of cremated children can declare the twinship of God and man? …But where was the Adonai (the Lord) in Auschwitz?  Where was the power and mystique of Adonai within the hell of the Holocaust?”

“Where was Adonai in the Holocaust?  Adonai was in Niuvelande, a Dutch village in which 700 residents rescued 500 Jews, including 100 Jewish children.  Adonai was in Le Chambon-sur-Lignon, whose citizens hid and protected 5000 Jews under the inspired leadership of Pastor Andre Trocme.  Adonai was in the rat-infested sewers of Lvov, where Polish sewer workers hid 17 Jews for 14 months.”  His list goes on, and he finally says: “Holocaust scholars now estimate that there were between 50,000 and 500,000 Christian rescuers.  Whatever the number, there were too few.  Sadly there are always too few moral heroes in history.”

“How ironic that our children … know the names of Klaus Barbie, Goebbels, Goering, Eichmann, Himmler and Hitler but not the names of those who risked their lives to hide and protect the Frank family….When the rescuers are asked “Why did you risk all this?” they typically respond “What else could I do?  What would you do?”

For today, let’s just ask ourselves the questions that Schulweis’ book asked: “That question places a mirror to my soul.  Would I open the door?  Would I hide this pursued pregnant woman?  Would I take care of her needs?  When rations during the war were so meager would I risk getting extra food without raising suspicion?   Would I take an infant into my home whose cries might reveal our hiding place?  What would I do with their refuse or with their bodies after their death?  Stefa Krakowska, a Polish peasant, hid 14 persons in her home, ranging from age 3 to age 60, in a home in which a simple pail served as the toilet.  When an older Jewish woman fell sick and knew herself to be dying, she turned to Stefa.  “My God, my dead body may bring disaster to you. What will you do with my body?” She feared for the others’ safety.  She died.  At night, secretly and in stages they buried her dismembered body in Stefa’s garden.” 

“Sadly, there are always too few moral heroes in history.”  What a haunting observation.  But there is good news, too. To be a moral hero you don’t have to be a king, wealthy, powerful or attractive.  What you do have to do is be faithful…and that’s something that any man or woman can choose to do.  You, and I, can be moral heroes for the cause of Christ.

I’m often afraid to speak out because God’s point of view isn’t popular.  As a group, Christians today lack the moral courage to speak, live and act on our convictions and on what we know to be truth.  Let’s be the moral heroes that this world so desperately needs and that God wants us to be.  Let it never be said that in our day there were no moral heroes.  Let us be those heroes to our friends, family, co-workers and even our enemies.

PRAYER:  Give us moral courage to follow You through life and death.  Let us, as we stand around the campfire when You are on trial in this world, not deny You, but let us speak Your name boldly, proudly, humbly.  Let us be the heroes You need us to be in our own day and age.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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