DayBreaks for 1/26/18 – Freedom from Certainty

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DayBreaks for 1/26/18: Freedom from Certainty

From the DayBreaks archives, January 2008:

I probably need to be very clear today.  What I’m about to say may stir up a ruckus.  Here it is: there are many times in my life that I don’t know what to do, and when God hasn’t given direction.  Whoa!  How’s that for a shocker!?  A pastor saying that he doesn’t know God’s will?  I suppose such a statement could get me booted from some churches, but it’s true.  Let me explain.

There are, at times, seemingly huge gaps between theology and real life – at least for me.  Maybe you’re one of those people who never has any doubts, who every time you ask God for direction, you hear a very clear and direct set of instructions on what to do, when to do it, how to go about it and what the result will be.  Well, that’s not me.  I don’t think it was Moses, either, for that matter.  When God first started talking to him, He simply said go down and Pharaoh will let you go.  It sounded that simple.  As Moses found out after his first few ventures into the throne room of Pharaoh, it wasn’t going to be that easy.  Had Moses done what God said?  Yep.  To the letter.  But it didn’t work.  God knew all along that it wouldn’t.  And so Moses comes back to God and complains about it.  I would too, I think.

There are areas of life where the Bible is less than clear.  That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t seek answers in it.  It may be there and we’ve just missed it.  It may be we think we know what it says already so we won’t take the time or effort to be in prayer and seek it out. 

I recently preached on 2 Peter 1 where Peter says we’ve “already been given all things” that we need for life and godliness.  I take that, by faith, at face value.  If Peter, inspired by the Spirit, says that’s true, who am I to disagree?  But does it always pan out that way in my life?  No – probably partly because I don’t want to work as hard as Peter says I need to in order to experience it (“make EVERY EFFORT”, Peter says).  And, I also find, that even when I do know what Scripture says (such as “Love your neighbor”) that such general principles are good as long as you are living in a general world without specifics.  Andree Seu wrote (WORLD, 1/5/08): “But I consistently live in an insistently specific world where the issues are: ‘Should I take this job?’, ‘Should I marry this man?’, ‘Should I let Calvin learn on the stick shift?’, “Milk without the bovine growth hormones and antibiotics at $4.19/half gallon, or with the undesirables at $1.95/half gallon?” 

I think she makes a good point, and that’s what I mean when I say I sometimes don’t know God’s specific will in a specific situation.  I think I have a general grasp on the general principles which help guide decisions at such times, but I don’t have a specific answer.  And we don’t like to operate on generalities in situations that demand specifics.  We’re uncomfortable, at best, even distraught at times, wringing our hands in indecision.

Why do we do so?  Don’t we have God’s promise that if we seek Him, and that if we love Him and the promise of His appearing, He’ll make all things work out for good for us?  Yes, we have that promise, but we tend to not believe it very much, methinks.  There are disputable matters (see Romans 14:1).  That verse was written under inspiration.  God could have made it so that there were no disputable things at all – or he could answer our uncertainties instantaneously – but he oftentimes doesn’t.  That’s OK.  We can make decisions with less than 100 percent certainty because He knows our limitations and He knows how to fix things we might unintentionally break.  Mankind hasn’t yet broken anything that God can’t, and won’t, ultimately fix. 

How many things in life are you certain of?  I’m certain of some things: Jesus loves me, He is the Son of God, He died for me, He rose from the dead, He will come back again for me, He sees me and knows me and will keep me from ruin if I just have a bit of faith.  Andree Seu concluded her article this way: “…I can move forward with a spiritual commodity that is more true to the real world than ‘certainty’ – ‘confidence.’  Confidence that God loves me.  Confidence that His Spirit lives in me.  Confidence that if I make a mistake His arms will be there to catch this frail saint and put her back on righteous paths, for His name’s sake.”

PRAYER:  Help us to walk in confidence that You are as good as Your promises, that You are as powerful as You claim to be, and that You are more than able to fix things we do wrong in our ignorance.  Do not let us sin presumptuously, Lord, but forgive us even when we do!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

COPYRIGHT 2018 by Galen C. Dalrymple. All rights reserved.

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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.  ><}}}”>

DayBreaks for 7/01/16 – Wise Philosophy

DayBreaks for 7/01/16 – Wise Philosophy

Galen is on vacation. From the DayBreaks archive, June 2006:

Psalms 39:4-7 (NLT) – LORD, remind me how brief my time on earth will be. Remind me that my days are numbered, and that my life is fleeing away.  My life is no longer than the width of my hand. An entire lifetime is just a moment to you; human existence is but a breath.  We are merely moving shadows, and all our busy rushing ends in nothing. We heap up wealth for someone else to spend.  And so, Lord, where do I put my hope? My only hope is in you.

Our congregation has been hit hard recently with unexpected illnesses.  Some have been to parents of members who are well advanced in years.  Somehow, those things are not as surprising as when they happen to little ones.  We have a family in our church right now who has a little boy (3-1/2 years old) who is lying in Pediatric Cardiac Intensive Care unit at Lucille Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford University, waiting for a heart transplant.  This little boy suffers from a fatal heart disease and the only hope for him (barring God’s miraculous intervention which we are all praying for) is a heart transplant.  He suffered cardiac arrest around the first of the month and has been on a respirator since then and since having a partial “artificial heart” implanted to help keep him alive until a suitable transplant heart becomes available. 

That just isn’t the way it’s supposed to happen.  When unexpected things happen to little ones, we’re shocked, stunned and grieved beyond words.  Why do these things happen?  I’m not really looking for an answer in the philosophical/religious sense, but I think that one of the many lessons we can, and should learn from these types of things is this one: life is short and so very precious.  It doesn’t really matter if it’s someone in their 80’s or 90’s (life is still short, even if you do live to be that age) or a newborn. 

Someone once came up with this insight:

“Live for Him today – for tomorrow may be too late” versus “Live for today – for tomorrow may never come.”

What a difference between the two attitudes and outlooks.  One is very self centered – living for today implies that we are living for ourselves, for our own existence, and that if we don’t live for today we may regret it when tomorrow comes because we will have missed out on experiences that we could have enjoyed in this life.  The other is outward focused – living for Him – and not worrying about experiences we might miss out on.  In reality, it’s trading one set of experiences in life (and eternity!) for another based on a value judgment that we make. 

We must decide, given the few frail years that we are allotted, where we will place our greatest value and attention.  On ourselves and living for what we can get out of life here and now (because tomorrow may not come), or for Jesus because if we don’t live for him today, we may never live for him (or with him)!

Which of these two philosophies best represents the way you live your life?  What evidence do you have to back up your thinking?

PRAYER:  We have so much to learn, Lord, and we are so prone to trying to learn from all the wrong sources.  Thank you for the reminders in your word that life is uncertain, that death is certain, and that eternal destinies are realities that we must all come to grips with.  Help us to have wisdom to live for You today, trusting that in the end, it will have been absolutely the wisest, and best thing to do.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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