DayBreaks for 7/12/19 – The Miracle on a Stick

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DayBreaks for 07/12/19: The Miracle on a Stick

From the DayBreaks archives, July 2009:

They traveled from Mount Hor along the route to the Red Sea, to go around Edom. But the people grew impatient on the way; they spoke against God and against Moses, and said, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the desert? There is no bread! There is no water! And we detest this miserable food!” Then the LORD sent venomous snakes among them; they bit the people and many Israelites died. The people came to Moses and said, “We sinned when we spoke against the LORD and against you. Pray that the LORD will take the snakes away from us.” So Moses prayed for the people. The LORD said to Moses, “Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live.” So Moses made a bronze snake and put it up on a pole. Then when anyone was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake, he lived. – Numbers 21:4-9 (NIV)

I was recently reading Athol Dickson’s The Gospel According to Moses when I discovered new insights into the passage from Numbers 21, above.  Let me share them with you:

FIRST: Remember Israel’s recent history.  They’d been freed from Egypt, only to find themselves apparently left alone as Moses had been up on the mountain for so long the people felt that he was most certainly dead.  Of course, he wasn’t, but they had no way of knowing that.  And so they asked Aaron to make a golden calf so that they could worship it and perhaps receive some help and direction from the “god”.  While this might seem very strange for us, remember that they’d been in Egyptian slavery for 400 years and had become intimately acquainted with the religious worship of Egyptian gods, which included various bulls, frogs, falcons and other animals.  So they clearly thought this golden god could help them.  The result of that episode was that thousands of Israelites died because they’d formed and worshipped a golden calf.  Now, however, they are in trouble again…whining and angering Moses and God.  So, God sent snakes among them and many died and were dying.  God tells Moses, incredulously, to make an image of bronze and put it up where everyone could see it and that if they look at it they will live!  Do you see the irony?  The last time they’d formed an image to worship it, many died as a result.  Now, God says to make an image and it will result in their being saved!  This must have been a real test of obedience for the Israelites: “Hey, Shlomoe, remember what happened the LAST time we made an image of an animal?  Do you think Moses heard God correctly about this bronze serpent thing?”  It required obedience even when the thing commanded not only made no sense, but when there was precedent point 180 degrees the opposite direction!

SECOND: Athol Dickson did a word study on the verses about the bronze serpent, and he made an amazing discovery.  The Hebrew word, nes, which is translated as the “pole” upon which the bronze serpent is mounted, is not a simple word to translate.  In other passages, the word is translated as “example” or “banner.”  In Isaiah 33:23, it is translated “sail”, but another word entirely is used to describe the mast or pole on which the sail is hung.  In fact, nowhere else in Scripture is the word nes translated as “pole” – it is always translated as the object that is lifted up on the pole.  Only here, is the bronze serpent mounted on the “pole” (nes).  So, to use the way the word is normally translated, we’d find a symbol (the bronze serpent) hung upon an example (the nes, or pole).  It seems God deliberately chose this word to hint that it really wasn’t the serpent that was to give them deliverance, but the One behind the serpent.  But, that’s not the most amazing thing.  The most amazing thing is that the word nes has yet another meaning: “miracle.”  The story of the bronze serpent is both an example and a miracle, pointing to the real miracle: the miracle of a God dying on another pole in Roman occupied Jerusalem.  It is as if God is saying, “When the people look upon what hangs on the pole – the miracle – they will be saved.”  Jesus was that miracle.  It was a miracle that a God could die at all.  It was a miracle that our sins could be taken away.  It was a miracle that God would do such a thing for nothing more than a collection of atoms and chemicals known as a human being.  Yet He did all those things.

When you look upon the miracle on the pole, you shall be saved!

PRAYER: Open our eyes to the miracle that is Jesus hanging on a pole for us!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2019 by Galen C. Dalrymple.  ><}}}”>

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DayBreaks for 7/4/19 – The Bottom Line on Salvation

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DayBreaks for 7/4/19: The Bottom Line on Salvation

From the DayBreaks archives, July 2009:

There have been many discussions and disagreements throughout church history about salvation.  I’ve even argued with myself about it from time to time throughout my life.  There is just something about us humans that likes to make things tougher than they really are.  I don’t know why that is so, but perhaps it is because we all want to be able to take some amount of credit for a positive outcome.  We like to appear heroic to ourselves and to others, and that means we must make some sort of superhuman effort to achieve something.  Think about it: who’s more heroic in your eyes – someone who has climbed Everest or someone who has hiked up a 3,000-foot peak?  Is the astronaut more heroic than the pilot of a Piper Cub?  Why?  Because they’ve worked long and hard and done something that seemingly no one else (or few others) have achieved. 

And so when it comes to salvation, we want to be at least a bit heroic – or we want to feel that way.  So, we make it harder than it is. 

A DayBreaks reader recently sent me the quote below from Kirk Cameron, the actor who is now doing lots of Christian work and who is a believer.  Here’s what Kirk had to say: “I used to be confused about how I was “saved”.  Was I saved by a belief I mustered up within my own heart, or was I saved by something God did in the purpose of His own heart?  Spurgeon shed more light on this crucial subject of who does the saving, when he said, “…even our repentance needs to be repented of.”  The point is that no earthly faith, repentance, good works, or belief that I have ever mustered from what exists in my own natural heart has ever saved me.  The Bible is clear: my faith doesn’t save me, Jesus does (Ephesians 2:8-9).  A believer’s faith in Jesus is a gift from God.  My faith is the connecting channel through which God saved me by His own love and grace.  So if you ever wonder if “your faith has saved you,” you may find this question helpful: “Is my trust in my own ability to hold on to Jesus, or is my trust in Jesus’ ability to hold on to me?”  If you have received that humble, repentant faith that causes you to love God and trust in Jesus and Lord and Savior, then I would be very confident in echoing Jesus’ words, “Your faith has saved you.” –  Kirk Cameron

To all who say, “I hope I have enough faith so I can be saved,” I think we must reply, “Rubbish.  It isn’t your faith that saves you – it is Jesus that saves you.  Now, do you have faith in that?”

PRAYER: For the wonder of salvation this day, we praise You!  For the blessings of the past, we praise You!  For the eternity that awaits because of Your faithfulness, we praise You, o Great God!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2019 by Galen C. Dalrymple.  ><}}}”>

DayBreaks for 6/18/19 – Practical Atheism

 

DayBreaks for 06/18/09: Practical Atheism

From the DayBreaks archives, June 2009:

George Barna is a Christian “poll-taker” who researches attitudes of and about Christians and Christianity.  His findings are often very insightful – and often downright frightening.

In a recent article he was being interviewed about the 7 “faith tribes” in America (which includes all the major world religions), Barna noted that 66% of Americans are what he called, “casual Christians” and 12% were “captive Christians.”  Here’s how he described “casual Christians” and their brand of Christianity: “Casual Christianity is faith in moderation. It allows them to feel religious without having to prioritize their faith. Christianity is a low-risk, predictable proposition for this tribe, providing a faith perspective that is not demanding. A Casual Christian can be all the things that they esteem: a nice human being, a family person, religious, an exemplary citizen, a reliable employee – and never have to publicly defend or represent difficult moral or social positions or even lose much sleep over their private choices as long as they mean well and generally do their best. From their perspective, their brand of faith practice is genuine, realistic and practical. To them, Casual Christianity is the best of all worlds; it encourages them to be a better person than if they had been irreligious, yet it is not a faith into which they feel compelled to heavily invest themselves.”  The key attraction to be a casual Christian: “The comfort that this approach provides. It offers them life insights if they choose to accept them, gives them a community of relationships if they desire such, fulfills their inner need to have some type of connection with a deity, and provides the image of being a decent, faith-friendly person. Because Casuals do not view matters of faith as central to one’s purpose or success in life, this brand of Christianity supplies the multi-faceted levels of satisfaction and assurance that they desire.”

Captive Christians, on the other hand, are characterized as follows: “Captive Christians are focused on upholding the absolute moral and spiritual truths they glean from the Bible…The lives of Captive Christians are defined by their faith; their worldview is built around their core spiritual beliefs and resultant values. Casual Christians are defined by the desire to please God, family, and other people while extracting as much enjoyment and comfort from the world as possible. The big difference between these two tribes is how they define a successful life. For Captives, success is obedience to God, as demonstrated by consistently serving Christ and carrying out His commands and principles. For Casuals, success is balancing everything just right so that they are able to maximize their opportunities and joys in life without undermining their perceived relationship with God and others. Stated differently, Casuals are about moderation in all things while Captives are about extreme devotion to their God regardless of the worldly consequences.”

Tony Woodlief, writing in the April 28 issue of WORLD in an article titled “Practical Atheism”, was considering the same topic when he wrote: ‘“Hypocrisy in one age,’” warned Joseph Addision, ‘“is generally succeeded by Atheism in another.’”  Consider this in light of charges that America is becoming, according to a Trinity College survey, less Christian.  It’s not that Americans are converting to other religions, it’s that they are more willing to avow nothing.”  He continued: “What we are in danger of – in our country, in our churches, in ourselves – is practical atheism.  This is not considered embrace of godlessness.  It is instead the slow slide into lives where God is irrelevant…Practical atheism isn’t limited to people who abandon church; it extends to all we who drift from Christ, even as we dutifully attend Sunday services.  It’s in the brief morning prayer that eventually becomes no prayer at all.  It’s in the way we emulate men rather than the God-man.  It’s in the way we brood, as if the things that vex us don’t pass through the hands of a loving God.”

‘Nuff said.  Let us beware, however, of the tendency to bemoan practical atheism and jumping to the conclusion that we are not part of that 66% of “casual Christians”.  Let us invite the Spirit to search our hearts and determine if we uphold Biblical truth, if our worldviews are built around core spiritual beliefs and resultant values, if we define a successful life as an obedient one, or just a comfortable one that allows us to wear a label without having to pay for it. 

Prayer: Search our hearts, O God, and reveal to us the depth of our own depravity, revealing to us the shortcomings in our own practice of faith.  May we consider deeply the questions of faith and obedience and the consequences of practical atheism in our own lives.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2019 by Galen C. Dalrymple.  ><}}}”>

DayBreaks for 3/06/19 – Signs and Decisions

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DayBreaks for 3/06/19: Signs and Decisions

From the DayBreaks archive February 2009:

“In my experience, signs follow decisions. The way you overcome spiritual inertia and produce spiritual momentum is by making tough decisions. And the tougher the decision, the more potential momentum it will produce. The primary reason most of us don’t see God moving is simply because we aren’t moving. If you want to see God move, you need to make a move!

“I learned this lesson in dramatic fashion during the first year at National Community Church. We had been praying for a drummer to join our worship team for months, but I felt like I needed to put some feet on my faith, so I went out and bought a four-hundred-dollar drum set. It was a Field of Dreams moment: if you buy it, they will come. I bought the drum set on a Thursday. Our first drummer showed up the next Sunday. And he was good. He was actually part of the United States Marine Drum and Bugle Corps.

“Rock and roll.

“I cannot promise that signs will follow your faith in three minutes or three hours or three days. But when you take a step of faith, signs will follow. God will sanctify your expectations, and you will begin to live your life with holy anticipation. You won’t be able to wait to see what God is going to do next.” – Matt Batterson, Wild Goose Chase, 2008

Abraham had to pack his bags and family before he took the first step.  Noah worked for years before the first drop of rain fell.  Moses had to stretch out his hand before the Red Sea parted.  The high priests had to put their foot in the flowing Jordan before God stopped the water.  Elijah had to pray, build altars, douse them with water…before fire fell from the sky.  The apostles had to go in faith that Jesus would be with them when they went out into a hostile world. 

What step of faith is God asking you to take for Him?  Have you decided to do it…but have yet to take the first step?  Why are you waiting?

Prayer: Give us courage, Lord, to act in faith…trusting that You will be with us and bring about Your desired result!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.  

Copyright by 2019 by Galen C. Dalrymple.  ><}}}”>

 

DayBreaks for 2/27/19 – The Great Value of Faith

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DayBreaks for 2/27/19: The Great Value of Faith

From the DayBreaks archive February 2009:

Yes, you know the verse about “Without faith it is impossible to please Him.”  So, faith is non-negotiable, if we are to please God.  But God, why?  Why does faith sometimes have to be so hard? 

In Daniel 10 is one of the most fascinating stories in Scripture.  Daniel was in prayer – and had been for some time – when Daniel becomes perplexed by why his prayer, offered in faith to the Living God, wasn’t answered already.  Since Daniel was a faithful servant of the Most High, the Lord sent an angel to Daniel to grant him a peek behind the curtain of the spiritual world.  For three weeks, in the unseen world that we can only “see” by faith, the angels says he tried to come and deliver the answer to Daniel’s prayer, but he was resisted by the “prince of the Persian kingdom.”  The angel by himself, so it reads, was not able to overcome that resistance, and had to wait for reinforcements from a heavenly power named Michael, the great archangel of God’s army. 

This passage has caused me endless trouble and distress.  Why, for example, did God wait 3 weeks to dispatch Michael to defeat the source of resistance?  Surely, God knew this was going on and would happen.  Why didn’t God just send Michael to start with?  And what does it mean that the first angel couldn’t overcome the resistance by himself?  Could the angel not have asked Got to remove it, or to give him/her the strength to defeat the resistance?  Such questions are not necessarily confidence builders for me.

Elsewhere, the Bible talks about prayer and uses the term “wrestle” to describe that activity.  It brings to mind, of course, the story of Jacob wrestling with the angel.  Perhaps prayer is much more like real, physical wrestling than we’ll ever know.  In our prayers, we are at war with principalities and powers that are in the unseen world.  Wrestling is hard work.  How much wrestling am I doing in my prayer life? 

Another thought: do angels have to learn faith and trust, too?  What was the lesson for the angel in all this, if any?  Is it possible that even angels are on a faith-journey, side by side with us, just unseen?

I don’t know, nor do I have to know.  But as Phillip Yancey put it, “I doubt Daniel ever prayed casually again.”  Nor should we!

Prayer: Father, may we be willing to engage the enemy in prayer, to call down Your power to bring victory, to release oppression and to pour forth holiness on this earth!  Give us the strength to fight for the souls of the lost, knowing that there are unseen enemies waging war with us.  Give us the wisdom to not fight in our own strength, but only in Yours!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.  

Copyright by 2019 by Galen C. Dalrymple.  ><}}}”>

DayBreaks for 2/8/19 – The Impala Problem

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DayBreaks for 2/08/2019: The Impala Problem

One of the few creatures on earth that could out-jump Michael Jordan is the Impala. This is an African deer that possesses supercharged spring. It has a vertical leap of over 10 feet and can broad jump over 30 feet. You would think that the zoos of the world would find it impossible to keep such an animal enclosed. Not so! It’s rather easy. Because the experts discovered something about the Impala. It will not jump unless it can see where it is going to land. Therefore, a solid wall even 6 feet tall is a sufficient enclosure.

Lots of Christians (perhaps all of us at times) have the Impala problem. We won’t take a leap in faith unless they have all the answers in advance about where the leap will take them and whether or not we’ll land safely. But God is looking for some bold believers who, even in the face of the unknown, will leap when the Spirit says leap, will fly when the Spirit says fly, will launch when the Spirit says launch, all to the glory of the Lord.

Are you being challenged right now to take a leap of faith even though you can’t see how it could possibly make sense or work out for good? Trust the Lord and leap!

Jeremiah 29:11 (NLT2) – “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the LORD. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.

PRAYER: Lord, may our faith in you be based on your integrity and not on whether or not we can see the end of each choice along the way. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2019 by Galen C. Dalrymple.  ><}}}”>

DayBreaks for 2/05/19 – Three Kinds of Faith

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DayBreaks for 2/05/2019: Three Kinds of Belief

From the DayBreaks archive, 2009:

In his recent book, Faith & Doubt, John Ortberg describes three kinds of “faith” and suggests we all practice three kinds of faith (or hold three kinds of convictions, if you please).

FIRST: Public faith/conviction: these are the things we say we believe when we’re surrounded by others, like what politicians say in order to win favor, curry votes and get elected.  No sooner is someone put into office than they backtrack on the things they said that they believed at one point or another in their campaign speeches.  A Biblical example of this kind of faith is King Herod, who told the wise men that after they’d found the baby Jesus, to come back to him and tell him where Jesus was so that “I can go and worship him, too.”  After all, it never would have endeared Herod to anyone if he’d said, so that “I can go and kill that baby.”  This is very hypocritical faith at best.  It changes based on who we’re around because we’re trying to impress them and make ourselves feel good.  And it can happen a LOT in churches and in Christian fellowships!

SECOND: Private faith/convictions: these are tricky because they are things that we truly believe that we believe, but when circumstances change, we find out that we really don’t believe it very much after all.  These are often things that we desperately WANT to believe, and we may even fool ourselves into thinking we do believe them.  A biblical example is Peter, “Lord, I’ll never deny you.”  I truly believe that Peter believed that of himself…but Jesus knew Peter’s heart better than Peter did.  And so, when the circumstances changed from the warm and friendly confines of the upper room to a courtyard of the high priest after Jesus’ arrest and shouts of “Kill him!” filled the air, Peter found out what he really believed at that point in time.  And it isn’t what he would have wanted to believe about himself, but it was the truth.

THIRD: Core faith/convictions: these are what we believe deep down inside, in spite of circumstances or surroundings.  These are the things for which we are willing to lay down our lives, if necessary. Ortberg says, we always act in accordance with what we truly believe when the chips are down.  That means we must become students of our own behavior – analyzing how we live, how we act, what we do in a wide range of circumstances and settings – and from that we’ll find out what we really believe.  Peter’s private faith became a core conviction later in his life when he was martyred for Jesus. 

So, here’s a brief summary:

Public faith/conviction: what we say we believe;

Private faith/conviction: what we think we believe;

Core faith/conviction: what we really believe as evidence by what we do.

What’s the point?  I fear that many of the things we think we believe are not core convictions.  For example, we say we believe God is everywhere and sees everything, right?  But, do we live as if we’re aware of His eye on us at ALL times?  Or, do we do things in secret that are shameful…and we do them because we really don’t believe He sees us while we’re doing them? We say we believe we should obey the law, yet did you speed today when you were driving?  We Christians say, “I’ve accepted Jesus as the Lord of my life,” but have we really?  If so, why don’t we obey him in caring for the needy (instead of pretending we don’t see them)? Scary, isn’t it, when we stop to contemplate what it is that we TRULY believe – even what we TRULY believe about God and Jesus.

In some things, we don’t know for sure what is a private conviction and what is a core conviction until our conviction is tested – and then it is revealed for what it truly is. 

PRAYER: Oh, Lord, with David we ask you to search our hearts and see if there is any deceitful way in them, reveal to us the truth about our faith that we might cling more tightly to Your Son and the forgiveness He gives us.  Help our private convictions regarding Jesus to become core convictions, and if necessary, to even survive the fires of martyrdom.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2019 by Galen C. Dalrymple.  ><}}}”>