DayBreaks for 10/10/17 – Confidence Builders

DayBreaks for 10/10/17: Confidence Builders

From the DayBreaks archive:

Patrick O’Boyle once recalled the late-1940s Hyde Park “Speakers’ Corner” appearances of Frank Sheed, a Catholic author and publisher, with these words:

“Sheed could be devastating with hecklers.  Once, after Sheed had described the extraordinary order and design to be seen in the universe, a persistent challenger retorted by pointing to all the world’s ills, and ended shouting, “I could make a better universe than your God!”

“I won’t ask you to make a universe,” Sheed replied. “But would you make a rabbit—just to establish confidence?”

I suppose much of the human problem stems from the crazy idea that we could do things better than God.  We think we would make a world where there was no evil, no pain, no suffering; a universe where there are no hurricanes or stars that go super-nova – in short, we just think we could do better than God in just about everything. 

Have you ever really stopped to think how stupid such a thought is?  We who are as finite as a speck of sand in the entire universe are so proud and pretentious as to think we actually know better than God.  Hogwash! 

But when it comes to my own life, I’m really prone to think such things.  “God, having me suffer deprivation isn’t good for me.”  “God, there no good reason for what just happened to me!”  “God, I’m a faithful child of Yours, and things like this just aren’t right!” 

Maybe, when we have learned enough from life that we can see the interaction and inner-connectedness of every human thought and every human action on every other human, we would begin to get the tiniest bit of understanding about why things happen.  And, if we could see the eternal salvation that has come to who-knows-how-many-souls through hardship (which is usually God knocking on the top of our skull trying to get our attention!), we might think differently. 

At a Bible study I was teaching this past week, we were discussion Joseph and the period of time that he was left rotting in the prison after the cup-bearer was restored to his duties in the palace of Pharaoh.  It doesn’t seem fair to Joseph.  How could the cup-bearer forget the man who had interpreted his dream?  But, he did.  I’m convinced we should see God’s hand in that rather than just mere human frailty and forgetfulness.  Did Joseph have to learn more patience?  Did he need to learn to trust God more?  (Remember that Joseph had no inkling whatsoever that he would soon be the #2 man in Egypt.)  As I pondered those thoughts, another thought came to me: perhaps Joseph was left in the prison for another year or two (or longer) for the sake of some other human being, nameless and faceless and lost to humanity for about 3000 years now, who was also languishing in the prison? 

God’s ways aren’t our ways – but God can make rabbits, elephants and entire universes in the blink of an eye.  That should be a confidence builder for us to trust Him to know what is best for our individual lives!

PRAYER:  Father, thank you for all the things you’ve done to give us confidence in you.  Help us not to be so wise or smart in our own eyes that we think we can even begin to know better than you what is good for us.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2017 by Galen C. Dalrymple.

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DayBreaks for 9/12/17 – Take This Poor Indian, Too!

DayBreaks for 9/12/17: Take This Poor Indian, Too

From the DayBreaks archive, 9/2007:

When you go to the grocery store (or sporting goods store!) the next time, if you buy something, you have to give something in exchange to get it.  It may be currency that you hand over, it may be a debit or credit card – but one way or another, in order to get what you want, you have to give up something.  It is at that moment that you make a decision about the value of what you want.  Is it worth $10?  $20?  Are you willing to part with the price that is demanded to get what you want? 

We’re used to having to pay for things.  In fact, most of us who are Baby Boomers grew up really struggling to receive anything as a gift.  There’s a pride in us that blocks our being able to be gracious recipients of anything that we haven’t had to pay for.  We often talk about having to “swallow our pride” in order to take a handout.  Sad, but true, I fear. 

And so it is that when it comes to Christianity, perhaps this is the biggest stumbling block of all.  We want to pay for our salvation.  We just can’t get it through our heads that we can’t do that.  That salvation has to come to us as a gift, freely given, to be freely received. 

An incident is related of a missionary who came into contact with a proud and powerful Indian chief.  The chief, trembling under conviction of his sin, approached the missionary and offered his belt of wampum as atonement.  “No!” said the missionary, “Christ cannot accept a sacrifice like that.”  The Indian departed, but soon returned offering his valuable rifle and the most beautiful skins he had taken in hunting.  “No!” was the reply, “Christ cannot accept those either.”  Again the Indian went away, only to return with a conscience more troubled than ever.  This time he offered his wigwam, together with his wife and child—everything for peace and pardon.  “No,” was the reply even to this, “Christ cannot accept such a sacrifice.”  At this the chief seemed utterly oppressed; but suddenly he somehow sensed the deficiency, for, lifting up tearful eyes, he cried out, “Here, Lord, take this poor Indian too!”

The chief in the story had to weigh values and what he was willing to part with.  He began with a simple wampum belt, escalated to a rifle and skins, only to be rebuffed.  At the next encounter, the chief thought he was giving all he had – his home, wife and child – truly a costly thing.  But even that wasn’t enough.  What God wanted was the man himself.  And when the chief finally understood that all God wanted was “him”, salvation came to that man. 

We’re often willing to part with things that aren’t all that important to us.  Thank goodness God didn’t feel that way.

PRAYER:  I fear, Lord, that I’m not very generous when it comes to giving up my own life and ways.  We’ve grown comfortable in our skins.  We’re willing to pay some price, but often we’re not willing to pay the full price to follow you.  I thank you that salvation cannot be earned, for our striving would become cause for pride.  Help us to open our hands to receive the gift of your life, and in gratitude to give you the gift of ours.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

DayBreaks for 8/28/17 – Humans and Infallibility

DayBreaks for 8/28/17: Humans and Infallibility

There is something about us humans that just loves certainty.  We’re not keen on the unknowns. We struggle with it and are uncomfortable if we’re not sure about things.  We even have actuarial tables that deal with probabilities. Insurance companies use them to decide who and what to insure and what to turn down.  Sure, they don’t know for sure when anyone will die or have an accident, but they have calculated the odds and are willing to risk money betting that you won’t die prematurely (i.e., before they get their money’s worth out of you.)  We speak highly of those who are so self-confident and sure of themselves.  They project an image of infallibility that we find comforting – and so they are the kind of people that others willingly and eagerly follow – the certainty they possess makes them seem safe. 

And so, when it comes to God and what we believe about Him, we would like to have certainty – or at least a bit more certainty than we naturally have.  Some people choose to not believe in God because His existence cannot be “proven”,  only speculated (albeit with lots of good reasons, in my opinion!)  No one has seen Him, many claim to have heard from Him, we blame things on him (even in insurance contracts) when we refer to them as acts of God. 

So, what about certainty in what we believe?  I hope you won’t take this wrong, but in some ways, I’m less certain about things I believe than I once was.  By that, I don’t mean the existence of God, the divinity of Jesus, the reality of the Spirit, the reliability of the Bible, etc.  I believe in all those things, and as I get closer to the end of this planetary journey, I find my faith in those things grows stronger and stronger each day.  What I am talking about, though, is the degree of confidence I have in my own judgment and understanding.  When I was younger, I was very self-confident. I was part of a very legalistic religious tradition that, although they would have denied it, seemed to believe that Godliness was next to rightness – that you had to believe according to a long list of doctrinal positions on everything from card playing to dancing to co-ed swimming to the millennial questions, etc. 

And for a while, in my foolish younger years, I thought I had all the right answers.  I’m so grateful that God is merciful and forgiving of such preposterous foolishness.  In his book, Hearing God, Dallas Willard talks about this kind of thing in relation to “hearing” God and our level of certainty with what He is saying and wants us to do: Of course, you could still be wrong.   God does not intend to make us infallible by His conversational walk with us.  You could also be wrong about most of the beliefs on which you very successfully base your life.  But you are usually correct.  You could also be wrong in believing that your gas gauge is working, that your bank is reliable, that your food is not poisoned.  Such is human life.  Infallibility, and especially infallibility in discerning the mind of God, simply does not fit the human condition.

How many times have I had someone tell me that “God said He’s going to do this-or-that,” only to find out that He didn’t do it.  It’s sometimes enough to make you wonder who or what they are hearing.  We need to be cautious when we talk about how we’ve “heard” God tell us something.  Do I believe He can and does from time to time?  Absolutely!  But much is ascribed to God that I don’t think He ever said.  If it’s in the Word – count on it – if you keep it in context.  If it’s just in your head – be wary until God has confirmed it through the Word or through other means.  Telling others that God has told us something, only to not have that thing happen, can cause them to lose confidence in His existence. 

God invites us to listen to Him.  It’s the right thing to do.  Just be careful about what voice you’re really hearing.

PRAYER:  Thank you, Lord, that you do desire to not only hear from us, but to talk to us.  Help us to recognize you voice and not to read our own wishes and hopes into situations, but to trust you to reveal your holy and perfect will in due time.  Keep us from deception that we may walk in the pathway of truth.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

DayBreaks for 8/4/17 – Taking Credit

 

DayBreaks for 8/04/17: Taking Credit

From the DayBreaks archive, August 2007:

John Ortberg tells this story: “Not too long ago, there was a CEO of a Fortune 500 company who pulled into a service station to get gas.  He went inside to pay, and when he came out he noticed his wife engaged in a deep discussion with the service station attendant.  It turned out that she knew him.  In fact, back in high school before she met her eventual husband, she used to date this man.

“The CEO got in the car, and the two drove in silence.  He was feeling pretty good about himself when he finally spoke: ‘I bet I know what you were thinking.  I bet you were thinking you’re glad you married me, a Fortune 500 CEO, and not him, a service station attendant.

“No, I was thinking if I’d married him, he’d be a Fortune 500 CEO and you’d be a service station attendant.”

We all want to take credit, don’t we?  It doesn’t matter if it is on the job, at school or in the home.  We want the credit for what goes well.  We want to take credit when someone tells us how well behaved our children are, or how much they’ve achieved.  We want to take credit for our brilliance and skill that has made us successful at our jobs or in our classes.  We like the praise of men and women.

We really have a problem with pride.  Pride, if not satisfied by the praises and recognition of others, will draw things to their attention hoping that we receive praise.  This is different than merely wanting to do a good job – it’s wanting to be recognized and acknowledged.  It’s about someone saying to us, “Wow, you’re good.  You did a terrific job!” 

Our pride demands feeding.  In the case of the CEO and his wife, which one of them gave the man the ability to earn the money and rise to the position he’d achieved?  Certainly neither of them did.  They only took the raw materials that God had poured into this man and worked with it.  God gave the ability. 

Grace is about not getting credit.  It is about recognizing that not only didn’t we do something good, but we did something poorly (obey!) and God still did something good for us.  If we understand grace, we’ll realize we can’t claim the credit for anything good.  All we can do is fall before the cross and praise Him for His love and grace that “saved a wretch like me.”

PRAYER:  Our hearts are full of pride and desire for recognition, Lord.  Purify our hearts of this pride.  Give us this grace this day: to recognize that we have been called your children not by our might or power, but only by Your grace.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

DayBreaks for 8/02/17 – Defeating the Philistines

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DayBreaks for 8/02/17: Defeating the Philistines

From the DayBreaks archive, August 2007:

It doesn’t take much for me these days, to get incensed.  I just recently spent time talking with several people about the state of the world today.  We talked at some length about the madness that seems to have seized the headlines, if not the word itself, that believes that it is perfectly legitimate to blow up another human being (and the more the merrier), or to cut the heads off human beings in front of cameras for no reason than to strike terror into the minds of people around the world.  Sadly, all you need do is turn on the television or connect to the Internet and you’ll get what amounts to an hour-by-hour reporting of these kinds of atrocities. 

Why do such things happen?  I muse on the topic.  I can blame certain religions, that to my knowledge, seem to have no concept of grace.  I can blame the culture in which these people grew up and were educated.  I could blame the press, I could blame their parents.  But I think the real answer is that in such people, we are seeing the unregenerate nature of mankind at its most exposed.  We are seeing human nature without any of the restraining influence of the Holy Spirit.  It’s not a flattering portrait of our species.

What do we do to defeat such Philistines?  Mark Buchanan, in Hidden in Plain Sight reminds us: “…the Spirit of God is a living Person, an equal part of the Triune God, who desires to fill us and guide us and teach us and comfort us and counsel us, and to help us bear much fruit.  But he’s humble and gentle, the Spirit, and needs inviting.  And though the Spirit loves to anoint us for ministry in order to make us God-like in strength, even more he desires to fill us for daily living in order to make us Christlike in humility.  More than endowing us with the might to slay the Philistines out there, the Spirit wants to strengthen us with grace to slay the Philistine in here.

Each and every one of us want to believe the best about ourselves, don’t we?  That we are good, at least basically good, that we don’t torture cats and dogs and that we’d never abuse women or children.  We want to believe that while others act like Philistines, that we would never act that way. 

I think we should probably re-evaluate ourselves if we think that way.  I doubt that the people who held the feet of Jesus, or who swung the hammer to drive the nails home, would have ever felt that they would be so vile as to kill the Son of God.  Paul certainly couldn’t see that he was putting God’s beloved children to death until the bright light struck him on the Damascus road and revealed the truth about his own nature and deeds. 

It’s easy to get down on the Philistines “out there” or “over there.”  It’s easy to think that they need to change.  And they do.  We should pray that they will be touched with the love of Christ and empowered to live by the Spirit.  But we need to fight the Philistines that live in the darkened recesses of our lives lest we become like those we would decry in the name of all that his holy and just. 

1 Corinthians 9:24-27 (NIV) – Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.  Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.  Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air.  No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize

PRAYER:  Jesus, teach us to search our hearts and realize the depth of our deceitfulness and unrighteousness.  Help us to understand that without the power of Your Spirit, there would be nothing to set us apart from the most depraved person on the face of this earth.  Thank You for the privilege that we have of knowing You and help us understand how precious that gift is!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

DayBreaks for 7/28/17 – Consider the Possibility

DayBreaks for 7/28/17: Consider the Possibility

From the DayBreaks archive, July 2007:

I can’t help but find the amount of confidence we place in science both humorous and tremendously sad.  Learned men and women with advanced degrees boldly stand up before the watching world and proclaim that man descended from monkeys who came from other creatures who came from primordial slime that came from somewhere, somehow, sometime in a long distant and darkly-shrouded past.  Others proclaim with certainty that the union of human DNA that takes place in the act of conception produces something that is not human but merely a blob of tissue, like Play-Doh or Jello.  Still others proclaim that the earth was populated by aliens who came and visited this planet at some other time in the unknowable past and that these aliens taught the Egyptians how to build pyramids, set up the monoliths at Stonehenge or carved out the drawings on the Nuzca plains. 

Forgive me for a moment while I step aside and laugh.  Thank you.  Now I think I can proceed. 

One of the things that amazes me the most is our certainty in our own judgment and knowledge.  Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools is how Scripture puts it (Romans 1:22).  As Christians, we must guard ourselves against this disease of certainty, too.  We need to humbly admit that we walk by faith (a metaphysical, theological thing) and not by sight (a scientific, provable hypothesis).  Not one of us, try as we may, can ultimately prove the existence of God or the virgin birth of the Christ.  That doesn’t stop us from believing in those things, but we can’t prove them with 100% absolute, undeniable certainty.  We can show such things to be semi-reasonable at best (things like God’s existence or the resurrection are easier in some ways to defend than some others like the virgin birth). 

When it comes to our understanding of the Scriptures, we often walk the pathway of pride by thinking that we’ve got it all totally figured out.  Our theological position and doctrines rise in our hearts to the position of absolute perfection and comprehension.  How dangerous – and how deadly for both us and others – that such certainty can be!  If there is to be one thing that we are certain about, let it be this: we are fallen creatures who should be very reluctant to proclaim certainty about anything except our fallenness!

Does that mean we should give up on searching the Word since we can’t ever be absolutely certain about how the Trinity actually exists and works?  Should we surrender to the idea that every religion is equally valid and leads with the same level of success to eternity, nirvana or whatever goal a given religion proclaims?  Absolutely not!  We must study the Word to show ourselves approved, we must take the clear and plain statements of the Word to heart (I am THE way, THE truth, THE life…) and not bend on them.  Yet not all things are that clear-cut or cut-and-dried.  And even though they may be that clear cut in the Word itself, we must admit that we are imperfect in our knowledge and understanding.  How prideful to proclaim that one of us should or could be the repository of all truth!  Only One can make that claim and not be prideful about it.  It’s not prideful when it’s a fact.

In the gospel of John after the healing of the blind man, the Pharisees three times make the proclamation “We know…this or that.”  As John Ortberg put it: “What makes their blindfness incurable is their claim of certainty.   John keeps contrasting their closed-mindedness with the man’s confessed ignorance (“I don’t know” he says three times).  If only they would be open to the possibility that they don’t know.”

It was the apostle Paul that should give us the clue.  He was brilliant, very learned.  He knew the history of Israel (it’s always easier to know past history than the present or future) and the Law, inside and out.  If anyone, as he himself said, had reason for confidence in the flesh it was he.  And yet, notice carefully what he says in 2 Tim. 1:12 (NIV) – That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet I am not ashamed, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day.  Did Paul have confidence about what he knew?  No.  He didn’t.  Read it again.  He had confidence in WHO he believed, not in all the minutiae of details about the word or the Christian life.  His confidence wasn’t in what he knew but in Who he knew – the one that could guard the treasure that Paul had entrusted to him. 

Have you been guilty of this prideful sin?  Have you, through your unyielding recognition of the possibility of your own misunderstanding, driven others away from Jesus instead of leading them to Him, the One sole repository of all truth?  Is your confidence in what you know, or Who you know? 

It is not our job to reveal truth – it is our job to lead people to Jesus, and to let Him reveal the one truth that we can always know to be true: that He is the Son of God, full of grace and truth.

PRAYER:  May our pious pretensions and certainty be dissolved through the vinegar of humility, and may we drink deeply of the well of Truth and be filled.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

DayBreaks for 6/05/17 – What To Do With Believers

DayBreaks for 6/05/17: What to Do With Believers

First, let me say that 20 years ago yesterday (6/04/97) marked the first ever DayBreaks. I thought about re-sharing the first DayBreaks I ever sent out, but decided against it. Instead, I just want to say this: I never expected DayBreaks would last so long. There have been times I’ve debated whether or not it was time to stop, but I never sensed a clear direction from the Lord to do that, so for now, we’ll continue on. But even more than that, I’ve come to love many of you who have written over the years, shared parts of your life (good and bad) with me as you wrote and told me your stories. I am humbled and honored at your trust. In addition, some of my best friends have come through DayBreaks – and I shall cherish our friendship and relationship as long as I live. Thank you to all who have shared this journey with me!

From the DayBreaks archive, June 5 ,2007:

An article I recently read by Mark Buchanan made an interesting observation about Jonah chapter 1 and Acts, chapters 27 and 28.  Both of those passages tell the story of a God-worshipper who is on board a ship, surrounded by unbelievers.  In both cases, a violent storm blows up on the sea and the “mighty ship was tossed” (to borrow a line from Gilligan’s Island!)  So severe was the storm in both cases, that the crew reached a conclusion that they would rather have not reached: all the cargo on the ship would need to be thrown overboard.  It wasn’t a case of their profits going up in smoke, but of their profits going down to Davey Jones’ locker.  But, at least in the case of Jonah, he was considered “cargo”.  Somehow, the pagans felt this disaster in the making was due to someone who had offended the gods, and Jonah was singled out. 

Remember: Jonah is on board because he’s fleeing from God.  When confronted by the pagan sailors, he’s boastful about himself and disdainful toward them.  As it turns out, there’s only one way for those pagans to survive the storm: they have to get rid of the God-worshiper – they have to throw him overboard.  And they do just that.

Not so in Acts.  There, the apostle Paul is on board the ship precisely because he has been following God.  He’s a prisoner of Rome, on his way via ship to be tried in front of Caesar, but even more important, he’s a man on a mission sent from heaven, who has been being obedient to that calling.  When the pagan sailors panic, Paul is wise, humble, and helpful – quite the opposite of his predecessor, Jonah.  Paul lets those terrified shipmates know that he cares deeply for them.  It turns out, there’s only one way for those pagans to survive the storm: they have to put the God-worshiper, the one who showed concern for them, in charge.

The point that Buchanan draws is this: the more that we genuinely care for the people in this storm-wracked world—the less we boast and denounce, the more we bless and serve—the more they will let us – and the Jesus we serve – into their lives and lives and souls will be redeemed and saved!

PRAYER: May we be the kind of God worshippers that You are pleased with.  May we answer Your call, may we be meek and humble, may we care and not denounce unnecessarily!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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