DayBreaks for 10/03/19 – The Nature of Faith

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DayBreaks for 10/03/19: The Nature of Faith

From the DayBreaks archive, September 2009:

I think that Christians struggle with faith.  That statement can be interpreted at least two different ways: 1) that we struggle to believe, and 2) that we struggle to understand what faith is. 

We all understand the first struggle rather implicitly.  We know there are times we find it hard to believe.  We may not struggle to believe that God exists (though we may, from time to time), but this first struggle is more pronounced when we find ourselves or someone/something that we love that is in great pain and anguish.  In that case, we struggle with our faith in the proclamation that “God is a good, loving God.” 

The second case is more the one I’ve been thinking about lately.  I feel confident that the world doesn’t understand the very nature of faith.  All you have to do is read carefully what is said about “those Christians” and you’ll quickly see that they believe people of faith have taken leave of their senses.  They think that to have faith in God is superstition – nothing more and nothing less than blind, ignorant wishful thinking. 

Is that really true?  Is that the real nature of faith?  I don’t believe so.  Our faith is neither baseless nor wishful thinking.  If you didn’t believe (have faith) in the law of gravity, would you ever jump upward to grab a basketball or in a frenzy of joyful dancing leave your feet?  No, you wouldn’t.  If you believed that you would just keep going up and depart the atmosphere into the void of space where you’d suffocate, you’d never jump!  We have faith that the laws of gravity will not be superseded even once when we jump.  And that faith is based on observance of the situation and past performance. 

We sometimes say we have faith in someone.  What is that faith based on?  It’s based on observation of that person and their character over some period of time that has shown them to be faith-worthy.  The same is true for the fact that we have faith that the brakes on our car will work, that the steering mechanism won’t become disconnected and that the key to our front door will continue to work in the lock as long as the lock doesn’t change.  Even though molecular motion says that the molecules in the lock (and in the key and in our hands, etc.) are constantly moving, we believe the key will still work in the lock because of the history we’ve had with the lock.

The same is true of Christian faith.  It is not a blind, thoughtless, ignorant superstition, but an intelligent response to evidence we see all around us, to the past performance of the One that we see as the explanation for all that exists.  Atheists must have faith in something – for them it is chance and time that they put their faith in as the explanation for what they see and experience.  But what of the things we can’t see?  They never can explain how anything came to be (how did the matter in the big bang come to exist?) in the first place – even if time and chance were the operative factors involved. 

So, faith isn’t foolish.  Faith is reasonable.  Faith is based on past observations about reliability and performance.  No one would realistically walk up to a total stranger on the street corner who is unshaven, homeless and filthy and hand them their life savings and say, “I trust you’ll keep this safe for me.”  Why?  Because we don’t know if they are reliable.  God, however, has demonstrated faithfulness throughout every generation.  And we can go to Him, hand Him our eternal destiny, and with faith say, “I trust you’ll keep this safe for me.”

We have faith because of reliability, a proven track record, personal experience and because it is the only reasonable thing to do.  Faith isn’t blind. 

PRAYER: We are grateful that You have proven Yourself over and over to us and that You will always be worthy of our faith in You!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

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DayBreaks for 10/01/19 – The Reason for the Wind

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DayBreaks for 10/01/19: The Reason for the Wind

From the DayBreaks archive, September 2009:

I think we often misjudge the Israelites.  When they left Egypt in the beginning, they were headed on a route that would take them toward the coast of the Mediterranean.  Imagine their consternation when God told them to turn around, go back the other way and head towards the Red Sea.  Try to put yourself in their place: they knew the Egyptians would be as mad as a nest of hornets, and now, instead of heading away, they’re heading back towards where they came from!  Noah showed great faith, Abraham demonstrated his faith as did all the patriarchs, but this must rank right along with one of the greatest acts of faith of a large body of believers in all history.  The pillars of cloud and fire were leading them into what appeared to be a death-trap where they would be stuck between the Egyptians and the sea.  Yet they marched on.

The book of Exodus records precisely what happened in Exodus 14:21 – a strong east wind began to blow and it blew all night long, drying out the seabed and piling up the waters for the Israelites safe passage. 

Have you ever contemplated what God did and why?  I mean, He is God…all He would have needed to do was just say, “Waters, part!  Ground, be dry!” and it surely would have been so.  But that wasn’t what God did.  Or, he could have said, “Wind – be a super wind and dry the ground instantly and push the waters apart!”  It would have been far more spectacular, wouldn’t it?  Surely, it would have clearly been seen as the hand of God controlling even the forces of nature.

Gerald Schroeder hit it on the head, I believe, with his observation from The Science of God, when he noted “Of course, the natural appearance of the wind was exactly the intent.  Choices had to be made.  For the Israelites, to trust in the Divine or to surrender to the Egyptians?  For the Egyptians, to follow the Israelites onto the seabed or to retreat?  Had the wind been obviously supernatural, the decisions would have been predictable, and free will would have been compromised.”  Note in reading the story that the wind was so obviously NOT supernatural, that the Egyptians did in fact follow Israel onto the seabed, and only when they were trapped in the waters did they acknowledge the miracle: “The Eternal fights for them.” (14:25)

Schroeder then goes on to make sure the point is clear: “The biblical message: not every extraordinary event in nature is labeled ‘miracle, made in heaven.’  Sometimes we must read between the lines to apprehend its full significance.”

Are you looking for miracles that are so clear that you’ll have no doubt – in other words, something so clear that you’ll not have to act in faith?  God didn’t provide that luxury to Israel more often than not, and I doubt He will for us.  Many miracles go undetected because we are looking for such a huge, supernatural happening that when the wind blows we attribute it to nothing more than fluctuations in air pressure. 

May God open our eyes to the miracles that surround us each day…but give us the faith to act when it seems to be nothing out of the ordinary. 

PRAYER: Forgive our desire and insistence of super-visible miracles and our ignorance of normal, everyday miracles that come constantly from Your hand!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

DayBreaks for 9/30/19 – Pain and Joy

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DayBreaks for 9/30/19: Pain and Joy

From the DayBreaks archive, September 2009:

How would you feel if someone that you couldn’t see showed up to your door one day and offered you a deal like this one: “Hi!  I’m here to offer you a deal.  I know that you are concerned for your children.  Every loving parent is and you are clearly a loving parent.  Here’s the deal I’ve got for you: I will guarantee you generations of descendants.  I will make sure that they have a place to live.  I will see to it that they are taken care of and loved forever.  But, in order to have me do those things for you, your descendants will have to go through a few minor things, in particular, they’ll have to wait 400 years to get their land and in the meantime, they’ll be slaves to the most powerful nation on earth. How’s that sound? Do we have a deal?”

Chances are, you’d slam the door quickly and tell the visitor to “take a hike.”  And you’d have plenty of company. 

The scenario, of course, is not just a made-up story.  It really happened to a man by the name of Abraham and it is recorded in Genesis 15:13-14.  What is amazing is that Abraham essentially said, “Sure!  Sounds like a deal to me!”

We could always marvel about this grand old man of the faith.  He earned that nickname the hard way – by being tested and purified by the fire many times in his life.  I doubt than many, if any, living today would want to go through the same kind of testing to earn a similar nickname to “father of the faithful.”  But that’s not really the point that I’m after today. 

I’m sure that it was great for Abraham to hear that his children and their descendants would be cared for and loved by God.  But I’m also sure that it was very painful for him to hear about the 400 years of servitude that would precede their taking possession of the land of promise.  And so, at one and the same time, Abraham’s descendants because both his greatest joy…and his greatest pain.

If you look back at your life, isn’t that how it’s worked for you?  That the sources of your greatest joys become the sources also of your greatest pains, and that the things that have caused you the most pain often bring the greatest joys?  As Dr. Gerald Schroeder wrote in The Science of God, “If we mistake pleasure to be the avoidance of pain, we may miss some of the greatest pleasures in life, such as reaching the peak of a mountain or rearing children.  Ask parents the source of their greatest pleasure, and then ask them the source of their greatest pain.  It’s their kids every time.”

For all the complaining and moaning we often do about the pain in our lives, maybe we’re just too short-sighted to reflect back on the pain later and see how God has turned it into joy. 

PRAYER: Thank you for the many ways you teach us and for the fact that even our greatest pain can be turned into life’s greatest joy through your power!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

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.  ><}}}”>

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.  ><}}}”>