DayBreaks for 9/19/17 – In the Midst of Doubt

DayBreaks for 9/19/17: In the Midst of Doubt

Note: Galen is traveling this week.

From the DayBreaks archive, 9/2007:

Doubts.  Uncertainties.  This past Thursday morning I was in a meeting with other pastors and we were discussing a particular aspect of doctrine.  Now you might think, “Wow, that really sounds exciting…a real snoozer!”  Normally, I’d have to agree with you.  As one of the pastors put it, “Doctrine, schmoctrin! I’d rather talk about Jesus!”  Right on!  Part of the reason that we struggled with the conversation so much was that we all recognized and admitted our own imperfect knowledge and understanding.  I think that one of the reasons that God chooses to save us by faith in Christ and not by passing a theological or doctrinal test is that He knows not one of us would ever get any, let alone all, of it perfectly right.  And so, while some discussions of doctrine are at least important, and some are very interesting, our doctrinal certainties are not the basis of our salvation. 

I have no doubts in my mind about who Jesus is.  I have no doubts in my mind about what He can do (although since it’s far beyond our ability to imagine or comprehend, I don’t know ALL that He can do, so I just say, “He can do anything!”).  But every once in a while, something comes along that tends to knock the tracks off the tank of our life’s smooth progress and we begin to question, to ask (even if just for a fleeting moment), “Do I really believe this stuff?  Does it make any sense to believe it?”  Sometimes those thought-provoking questions come as the result of a cataclysm of worldly proportions (tsunamis, earthquakes, etc.), sometimes as a result of the fall of a man or woman of God who seems to have lost or abandoned all they ever held true for a momentary dalliance with sin.  Sometimes they come tip-toeing into my mind for no apparent reason at all. 

I am not the kind of person who is free from doubts.  I have had people tell me that they have never doubted for a moment the eternal existence of God.  Many times, such people also tell me that they’ve never felt the need to read any of the outstanding books that wrestle with the questions of God’s existence, evidences for it, for the resurrection, for the virgin birth, for the miracles, etc.  More power to them.  I’m glad that God has given them such a simple, yet strong and resolute faith.  Maybe someday I’ll reach a point where I never even have the thought or shadow of a doubt pass across my mind.  But for now – every once in a while, I wonder.  I ponder.  I question.  I think God can handle that just fine.  And, I feel stronger for having to wrestle with those things.  I think Thomas’ faith was stronger after he wrestled with his doubts about the resurrection and then had it confirmed as a result, don’t you?  Jesus said that Thomas was blessed because he believed – but those who have never seen and believed are at least equally blessed.  Jesus didn’t knock Thomas for the doubt.

So, what do you do when you are faced with doubts, when the moving picture of life beats you up one side and down another like an automated car wash? Here are some thoughts from my youngest son, Tim: 

“…I always recommend that in the midst of doubt, one continue to go to the places where one has met God before–it only makes sense.  But what’s most important for you to understand is that you do not need to “come back” to God.  God is not “back there” somewhere, as though you have left Him behind, and He is only in one place.  God has been right there with you all along, right beside your bed, with His hand on your shoulder as you wept.  We do not worship an abstract philosophical God.  We worship a God who cared about us in the midst of our suffering so much that He became human so that he could stand before suffering and death alongside us.  We worship a God who “so loved the world” that He gave Christ in order that whoever trusts in Him “should not perish but have everlasting life.”
Without realizing it, I can see that this is what I do when I question.  I got back to the place where I met God before – and find He’s still there.  The patriarchs made a habit of every so often revisiting places where they and their predecessors had encounters with God (Bethel, for instance).  There’s a lot to be said for that.  There is something about familiar surroundings that can help resolve the doubts.  And so I read the words and life of Jesus again, and there I’m struck down and reminded of what a great God He Is and why I believe in Him.  The answers that I found to the questions I’ve asked still hold water.  And I can’t avoid those answers – they are solid, like the Rock Himself. 

PRAYER:  Thank you for being patient with our shaky faith and deep-rooted questions, Lord.  Thank you for the story of Thomas and how you blessed him after his faith was confirmed.  Thank you for solid places upon which we can regain our footing when our faith falters.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2017 by Galen C. Dalrymple.  ><}}}”>

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DayBreaks for 8/18/17 – Bronzing Your Flip Flops

DayBreaks for 8/18/17: Bronzing Your Flip Flops

From the DayBreaks archive, August 2007:

The Associated Press ran a story recently about a Virginia woman says she’s still alive because of 2 things: her faith and her flip-flops.  It seems that Marie Drackert was watching the weather on television in her York County home July 29th of this year when a bolt of lightning came down her chimney and shot out through her fireplace. The lightning fried appliances and sent a jolt of electricity through her body.

Ms. Drackert says that it was the rubber in her flip-flops that kept her grounded and her faith kept her going, even though the impact from the lightning strike was so strong that she believed a plane had crashed into the roof of her home. 

The lightning blew out Drackert’s washer and dryer, television, telephone, stereo, microwave oven, toaster, coffee pot and a brand-new air conditioning unit. Parts of her home’s floor and walls were also damaged.  After ravaging her home, the bolt shot out and damaged the homes of two neighbors as well. 

Drackert says she’s thinking about getting the flip-flops bronzed. 

I don’t know this lady and I’m not making judgments about her faith, but I found the story interesting.  I’m not sure what she meant when she said her faith “kept her going”, but instead of getting the flip-flops bronzed and instead of crediting them for saving her life, maybe a bit of praise and thanksgiving are in order.  After all, does she really think it was the flip-flops that saved her life, of the grace of the good Lord?  It could have just been the press that didn’t mention the name of Jesus in the article (that’s a very real possibility!), but when things like this (and things bigger and smaller) happen to us as believers, the more credit that we give to the Lord, the better.  The world needs to see the power of the Almighty God and to understand that nature is not God, and God is not nature.  There’s a reason He’s called “supernatural”.  He is far above nature – and can control it at will.

I find that I often flip-flop between acts of faith and praise and acts of cowardice and discontent.  I pray to have those kind of flip-flops removed.  They don’t deserve to be bronzed.

PRAYER: Jesus, please remove the flip-flops from my life that I can be a more consistent witness for You.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2017 by Galen C. Dalrymple.  ><}}}”>

DayBreaks for 8/03/17 – Lessons From a Little Child

Charlie

DayBreaks for 8/03/17: Lessons From a Little Child

From the DayBreaks archive, August 2007:

My oldest son, Doug, recently wrote this in his blog:

“My four-year-old son and I went for a swim at our neighborhood pool on Saturday in the early evening. Though it was still quite warm out, we had the place to ourselves. After our swim we pulled up a couple chairs to sit and dry, facing toward the declining sun. It was a lovely scene: the still, shadowed water of the pool surrounded by an ivied fence; the tall eucalypti and willows stirring languidly in the breeze; the hummingbirds darting through the flowered margins of the grounds; the playful cries of a pair of hawks dashing through the treetops.
We sit silent a moment or two and then my son folds his hands on his lap and says, “Let’s have a conversation.”
“All right,” I say. “What should we talk about?”
“You decide, Papa.”
“Okay. So tell me,” I say, recalling a conversation we had that morning, “do you really think you’d like to be a fireman on a train when you grow up?”
“Yes, a fireman, who shovels the coal and fires it up to keep the train moving.”
“That sounds like a good job.”
“Yes, but I won’t have any little boys or girls or a wife when I’m a fireman.”
“You won’t?”
“No… Can a fireman be married and have little boys and girls?”
“Well, yes, he can.”
“But how can he if he’s always working on the train?”
“He comes home sometimes, you know.”
“Oh… Can all workers have wives and little boys and girls?”
“Yes, I think so.”
“I didn’t know that.”
I stretch my legs out in front of me while my 4-year old son digests this new revelation. He pulls his chair closer and rests his hand on my arm. We sit quietly for half a minute. I take a deep breath and sigh.
“You know,” I say, “I think it’s wonderfully relaxing just to sit here and listen to the wind and the songs of the birds, don’t you?”
“You know what I like better, Papa?”
“What?”
“To sit in a very uncomfortable rocking chair outside and listen to the sounds of forklifts!”
“Really?” I ask, astonished. “An uncomfortable chair? Forklifts?”
“Yes,” he answers. “But what can a forklift lift, and what can a forklift not lift? You tell me.”
“Well,” I say, “a forklift can lift a pallet stacked with heavy boxes and things, but a whole house would be too heavy for it.”
“Yes, but I bet a house wouldn’t be too heavy for an elephant-sized forklift.”
“You mean a forklift so big it could only be operated by elephants? That kind of a forklift?”
“Yes, by elephants. That kind.

“I suppose you’re right, son.”

Galen’s Thoughts:

FIRST: I am struck by my grandson’s commitment to his passion.  Even though he labored under the illusion that a fireman on a train couldn’t have children or a wife, he has a passion in his heart to be such a fireman regardless of the cost.  The apostle Paul describes people who came to Christ, but who then turned back because they loved the things of this world more than they loved Jesus.  They weren’t willing to give up the things of this world to follow the Lord.  Charlie was ready to give up all future hope of a family to fulfill a passion.  Where is my passion, where is yours?  What is it worth to you?  What will you give up to follow Him if He calls you?

SECOND: I don’t think my grandson really believes, at 4 years of age, that elephants can run forklifts.  But he thinks big.  Age has a way of making us think small – and smaller as time goes by.  We limit not only ourselves, but more importantly, the actions of God because we have concluded in advance that a situation is impossible – so we never step out in faith to watch God do HUGE things.

THIRD: it is a good thing to have conversations with your dad.  The day comes when you can’t.  It’s even better to talk with God while we have the chance.  We’ll learn amazing things if we listen to His voice – and we will be delighted with the conversation, just as my son delighted in this conversation with his own boy.

FINALLY: maybe you’ve had a tough week.  I hope this story brought a smile to your face and will remind you that not everything in the world is a deadly serious as we sometimes make it out to be.  Enjoy your weekend!

PRAYER:  Oh, Lord!  Fire the passion in our hearts, give us hearts ready and eager to give up everything to follow You when you call.  Help us to believe – and to expect great things from You through Your great power.  Delight us with Your voice and Presence, and let us laugh and rejoice more than we do.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2017 by Galen C. Dalrymple.  ><}}}”>

DayBreaks for 7/27/17 – The Intimate Dance of Faith and Hope

DayBreaks for 7/27/17: The Intimate Dance of Hope and Faith

Preface: I’ve recently started reading Jurgen Moltmann’s Theology of Hope, and thus far I’ve found it to be a fascinating book.  Be on the lookout for numerous DayBreaks based on this work in the future.  

Christian hope has been the target of nay-sayers for a long, long time.  Some criticize the Christian hope as causing us as believers to live in a never-never land of make believe, as if we were children who hope for a cotton candy but who haven’t yet been told that the machine is broken and there will be none – not for good or bad little boys or girls.  And as a result, we’re considered foolish for hoping in something that those who don’t believe think doesn’t even exist. 

Others attack the idea and principle of Christian hope from a different angle: they say that it distracts us from the present realities, causing us to be disconnected from the only life that we shall ever possess and the urgent needs of the present world.  If all we Christians are good for, the thought goes, is being distressed in this world and focused on a future world where things are infinitely better, we won’t spend much time trying to make this place better.  Instead, we’d write it off as a colossal loss as we live in hope of something better. 

Of course, Moltmann would not agree with either of those two propositions.  In his introduction, he reveals some insights into the intricate relationship of faith and hope that help me understand it a bit better.  I’ll share some of those with you in the next few days.  For example: “Hope is nothing else than the expectation of those things which faith has believed to have been truly promised by God.  Thus, faith believes God to be true, hope awaits the time when this truth shall be manifested; faith believes that he is our Father, hope anticipates that he will ever show himself to be a Father toward us; faith believes that eternal life has been given to us, hope anticipates that it will in some time be revealed; faith is the foundation upon which hope rests, hope nourishes and sustains faith.”

“Thus in the Christian life faith has the priority, but hope the primacy.  Without faith’s knowledge of Christ, hope becomes a utopia and remains hanging in the air.  But without hope, faith falls to pieces, becomes a faint-hearted and ultimately a dead faith.  It is through faith that man finds the path of true life, but it is only hope that keeps him on that path.”

To put it in my meager terms, hope is what gives faith its wings, it’s feet.  Just because we believe God is true and will be so, it is the hope that someday that truth will be shown and recognized by everyone – even His enemies.  Through faith we accept that we are his “offspring” and our Father, it is hope that allows us to call Him the kind of Father that we can proclaim as “Abba” – a good, loving Father who will forever be so.

Hope and faith are joined at the hip.  Faith without hope would be interesting, but not very uplifting or encouraging.  Hope without faith is virtually a non-sequitur and a childish dream. 

In 1 Corinthians 13, Paul speaks of an unlikely trinity – certainly not one that an earth-bound mind would conjure up: Then abide these three: faith, hope and love…and the greatest of these is love.  Paul was speaking about what remains in this world I believe, and not in the one we hope for, because once that world is realized, there will be no more need for hope nor for that matter, faith.  We will see the object of our faith and walking by faith will be no more.  And, once we are in full possession of the heavenly blessings, what more is there to hope for beyond that ecstasy?  Nothing.  But love will remain – and it will remain throughout all eternity.  That shouldn’t cause us to relegate faith and hope to a backseat in our present walk, but it should enhance our appreciation of the necessity of both until they fulfill their purpose and deliver us to heaven’s portal.

Romans 5:4-5 (NLT) – And endurance develops strength of character in us, and character strengthens our confident expectation of salvation.  And this expectation will not disappoint us. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.

PRAYER:  Lord God Almighty, we thank You for the twin blessings of faith and hope.  Thank You for opening our eyes through faith to Your existence and for the hope that it gives us that our lives are not meaningless, but that we are destined for better things and that our hope will not disappoint us!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2017 by Galen C. Dalrymple.  ><}}}”>

DayBreaks for 7/03/17 – Caleb and Courageous Conviction, #1

The hill country of Israel.

DayBreaks for 7/03/17: Caleb and Courageous Conviction, #1

I heard an interesting sermon on Sunday about conviction, and I thought that some of the points were worth sharing, so there’ll be several DayBreaks about it this week.

First, a bit of background. You recall the story of the spies who were sent into the Promised Land to spy out the land. Twelve were sent – and twelve returned, but there were radically different reports given by two of the spies named Joshua and Caleb. We normally think of Joshua as having been the older because he became the leader, however in Joshua 14, we learn that Caleb was 40 years old at the time he went into the land to spy on the Canaanites. Most believe Joshua was perhaps 17-25 at the time, though we don’t know for sure.

What prompted Joshua and Caleb to come back with a different report? That’s a good question. There is a rabbinic tradition that says that one night while they spies were in the land, Caleb arose in the darkness and traveled to Hebron (where the giant descendants of Anak lived) and went into the cave where Abraham and the patriarchs were buried (Numbers 13 does say they went to Hebron.) While there at the cave, he had an encounter with the God of Abraham, Jacob and Joseph that filled him with the conviction about God’s promise to the patriarchs that the land of Palestine was to be theirs.

I don’t know about the veracity of that rabbinical legend, but something stirred Caleb’s heart with conviction. In Joshua 14 starting with verse six, Caleb, at this time a man of 85 and most likely the oldest man in Israel (since only Joshua and Caleb who were alive when Israel left Egypt survived the wilderness wandering)  approached Joshua. Because he was the oldest man in Israel, people would listen to him. And he reminds Joshua about what the Lord told Moses about Joshua and Caleb 40-45 years earlier. Basically, Caleb reminds Joshua about how Moses had promised him the land on which Caleb had just walked.

Here’s the point for today: Caleb came back from the spying mission ready to go to war and take possession of the land. If you read his report he is full of courageous conviction about the ability of Israel to take the land. But ten of the spies reported that the band of spies were like grasshoppers to the giants in Palestine.

Therein, you see, is the problem. They were convicted that the people of the land saw them as tiny, puny and weak. But, at various points in the story, we are told that the people of Palestine were shut up in their cities because of fear of the Israelites. The ten spies were convicted and convinced by what they believe the inhabitants of the land thought of them. Joshua and Caleb (and Caleb seems to be the spokesman for the two of the spies who brought back a favorable report) was convicted and convinced by what God had said and promised.

Maybe you need to think about what you believe about yourself. You may think that you are weak, insignificant, powerless, puny and tiny because someone in your past has mocked and ridiculed you to no end. You may have yielded to the whispering of Satan in your ear that you’re too small and weak and sinful to ever be strong and courageous.

Who are you going to listen to? What others (including Satan) have said about you, or to what God says about you when He calls you His child, His beloved, that there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus? Where will your conviction come from?

PRAYER: God, I thank You for courageous people like Caleb who remembered Your promises in the face of 6:1 odds and who stood on the courage of his convictions about Your faithfulness. For all those who are being convicted by the words others may say about them, I pray that they will hear Your words of love and worth when they are under attack and that they will be convicted by what You say, and not what anyone else says. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2017 by Galen C. Dalrymple.  ><}}}”>

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 5/11/17 – The Wednesday Worry Box

DayBreaks for 5/11/17: The Wednesday Worry Box

Ah, worry. Do I ever worry? I’d like to say that I don’t, but I do. In fact, just yesterday I found myself worrying about whether or not my Medicare Advantage coverage would be in place in time, and also about whether or not my first insurance payment for it would arrive in time. I thought hitting the age when you go on Medicare was supposed to be good because you no longer had those huge insurance payments – but I found myself worrying. Not good.

Sometimes, even I’ve managed to learn that if you will just wait, problems take care of themselves. A man by the name of J. Arthur Rank had a system for doing that. He was an early pioneer of the film industry in Great Britain, and he also happened to be a devout Christian.

Rank found he couldn’t push his worries out of his mind completely; they were always slipping back in. So, he finally made a pact with God to limit his worrying to Wednesday. He even made himself a little Wednesday Worry Box and he placed it on his desk. Whenever a worry cropped up, Rank wrote it out and dropped it into the Wednesday Worry Box.

Would you like to know his amazing discovery? When Wednesday rolled around, he would open that box to find that only a third of the items he had written down were still worth worrying about. The rest had managed to resolve themselves!

If, like me, you find yourself often having a troubled heart, you may want to make yourself your own Wednesday Worry Box. But even more important, lel’s ask God to give us a new perspective. Let’s ask him to give us patience so that you do not jump ahead and worry about a problem that may never come. But most important of all, ask God for more faith. Faith in God is the best remedy for all our problems. Jesus put it plainly, Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me.

Do those problems really work themselves out? I don’t think so. I think what really happens is that they are really resolved by my Father who is looking out for me and my best interests – and I never needed to worry about them at all!

PRAYER: Thank you for being willing to work to resolve my worries before they become realities, and for caring so much about me. Help me have increased faith that you are more than up to the task of dealing with all that worries me! In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2017 by Galen Dalrymple.