DayBreaks for 7/8/19 – The Image and the Reality

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DayBreaks for 07/08/19: The Image and the Reality

From the DayBreaks archives, July 2009:

You saw no form of any kind the day the LORD spoke to you at Horeb out of the fire. Therefore watch yourselves very carefully, so that you do not become corrupt and make for yourselves an idol, an image of any shape, whether formed like a man or a woman, or like any animal on earth or any bird that flies in the air, or like any creature that moves along the ground or any fish in the waters below. And when you look up to the sky and see the sun, the moon and the stars–all the heavenly array–do not be enticed into bowing down to them and worshiping things the LORD your God has apportioned to all the nations under heaven. – Deuteronomy 4:15-19 (NIV)

Anyone who has read Scripture knows that God prohibited Israel from fashioning idols and worshipping them.  That’s not a new revelation to any of those who regularly read DayBreaks.  But why did God have so much to say about it, not only in Deuteronomy, but in other books of Scripture?  I mean, after all, it’s not like the stone or wood or metal carving is going to come to life and threaten God in any way, shape or form.  God certainly isn’t afraid of any rival or competitor.  He’s more than willing to take on any “god” that wants to challenge Him. 

So why such a strong prohibition?  While I certainly don’t agree with all of his writing or theology, N. T. Wright captured it pretty well, I think, in his book, Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection and the Mission of the Church:  “When human beings give their heartfelt allegiance to and worship that which is not God, they progressively cease to reflect the image of God.  One of the primary laws of human life is that you become like what you worship; what’s more, you reflect what you worship not only back to the object itself but also outward to the world around.”

It is an interesting observation, that if we take the time to consider, we’ll probably be forced to admit it is true: “One of the primary laws of human life is that you become like what you worship…”  If we worship money, what happens to us?  We become more driven to have more of it, more greedy, more materialistic.  If we worship beauty, we may become preoccupied with our physical appearance and spend vast amounts of money to stay young looking and beautiful.  Those who worship the god of sex wind up treating others simply as objects to be used for pleasure.  Those driven by the idol of power treat others as competitors, pawns or partners to achieve power. 

Man was created as a worshipping creature.  Our hearts are prone to worship many things.  Even Christians have hearts that are still in the process of being re-made so we must guard our hearts carefully, as the Lord said in Deut. 4:15 (above).  We must watch carefully the things that fascinate us and draw us and attract us and motivate us.  Those things just may be gods in disguise.

PRAYER: Lord, we are often blind to the gods in our lives and too prideful, thinking that we would never bow the knee before anyone but You.  May we learn from Peter’s overzealousness, “Though everyone else may leave you, I will never deny You!”  Teach us to recognize the things in our lives that could become, or which may be, gods – and give us the grace to cast them out of our lives.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

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DayBreaks for 12/25/18 – What Would I Have Seen?

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DayBreaks for 12/25/18: What Would I Have Seen?

I wonder what I would have heard had I been there that night. It is a question that annually haunts me. Would I have heard the choirs of angels singing or simply the sounds of barnyard animals shifting around? Would I have seen the star in the sky that night or simply two poor and very frightened kids? Would I have understood the hushed silence of the divine presence, or simply the chill of a cold east wind. Would I have understood the message of Emmanuel, God with us, or would the cosmic implications of that evening have passed me by?

I am convinced that had two people been there that night in Bethlehem it is quite possible that they could have heard and seen two entirely different scenes. I believe this because all of life is this way. God never presents himself in revelation in a manner in which we are forced to believe. We are always left with an option, for that is God’s way. Thus, one person can say “It’s a miracle, while another says “It’s coincidence.”

Certainly very few people in Palestine saw and heard and understood what took place that night. The choirs of angels singing were drowned out by the haggling and trading going on in the Jerusalem bazaar. There was a bright star in the sky but the only ones apparently to pay any attention to it were pagan astrologers from the East. If anyone did see Mary and Joseph on that most fateful night, they were too preoccupied with their own problems to offer any assistance.

In one of the All in the Family episodes that aired some years ago Edith and Archie are attending Edith’s high school class reunion. Edith encounters an old classmate by the name of Buck who, unlike his earlier days. had now become excessively obese. Edith and Buck have a delightful conversation about old times and the things that they did together, but remarkably Edith doesn’t seem to notice how extremely heavy Buck has become. Later, when Edith and Archie and talking, she says in her whiny voices “Archie, ain’t Buck a beautiful person.” Archie looks at her with a disgusted expression and says: “You’re a pip, Edith. You know that. You and I look at the same guy and you see a beautiful person and I see a blimp. Edith gets a puzzled expression on her face and says something unknowingly profound, “Yeah, ain’t it too bad.”

Would I have seen and recognized the eternity shattering events in Bethlehem for what they were, or would I have let it passed unnoticed? I hope that today, you see the babe in the manger in a new light, a heavenly light that shines like none other and that you take time to worship the Incarnate One.

Merry CHRISTmas to you all!

PRAYER: Jesus, we fall silent in wonder at the events surrounding your birth. Be born in us anew this day. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2018 by Galen C. Dalrymple.  ><}}}”>

DayBreaks for 12/19/18 – The Priest’s Sacrifice, #2

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DayBreaks for 12/19/18: The Priest’s Sacrifice, #2

Continuing with the theme of Sacrifice for this week preceding Christmas, I’m sharing some thoughts from the message at church this past Sunday. Though this is often a time when we receive gifts, it is also a time for sacrifices.

Not only are we as priests/priestesses supposed to present our bodies as living sacrifices (see 12/18/18 DayBreaks), we are instructed in Hebrews 13:15 (ESV) – Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name.

As priests and priestesses, we have a true privilege: access to God. Not everyone can call Him “Father” in the fullest sense of that word. Yes, he is the Creator of all and in that sense the one who we might call father, but only believers have been adopted into his family, giving us confidence that we can boldly come to his throne of grace in any time of need – or just because we want to cuddle up on his lap to rest.

Along with every privilege, though, comes responsibility. Because we have access to him, our responsibility is to give his praise and our adoration because of that access!

It started at the incarnation as the angels gave worship and praises rang through the night sky as the shepherds looked and listened wondering at what they beheld. The magi worshipped the child in the manger.

Question: what special praise will you give him this week? Try to find a new reason to give him praise, a new way to express his greatness and goodness to you as you acknowledge his name. Don’t rely on tired, old prayer phrases: struggle a bit in your prayer to adore him in a new and living way today!

PRAYER: Jesus, let our praises rise to you not only from our lips, but from true hearts! In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2018 by Galen C. Dalrymple.  ><}}}”>

DayBreaks for 11/30/18 – Doubting Worshipers

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DayBreaks for 11/30/18: Doubting Worshipers

From the DayBreaks archive, November 2008:

I look forward to worship every Sunday morning.  I love music and we celebrate communion each Sunday.  I even usually manage to get something out of the message (in spite of the fact that I’m the one doing the preaching!)  I enjoy the fellowship before, during and afterwards, and the entire experience usually will draw me closer to God.

I must always guard and be aware of the fact that not everyone who is present is on the same page.  Goodness knows, there have been days when I’ve been in worship when I would have preferred to be somewhere else.  And I feel certain that the same can be said for people each and every Sunday.  Every Lord’s day when we gather, there are those who have had very trying and difficult experiences during the week.  There have been those who prayed asking for some boon from the Lord, only to get a “No”, or maybe no answer at all.  And that can be hard to take.  Others struggled in their relationships and may have had a fight with their spouse that very morning.  Been there, done that.

There’s an interesting scene in Matthew 28 where Jesus meets with his disciples after his resurrection.  The eleven (remember Judas is dead) show up on the mountain where Jesus will ascend, and as verse 17 says, When they say him, they worshipped him, but some doubted.  What a strange comment!  Have you wondered who it was that doubted?  It was apparently more than just one, for it says, “some doubted.”  Was it the majority or minority?  What was it that they doubted?  Were they still doubting the resurrection, even after several appearances?  Were they doubting His divinity?  Were they doubting that his flesh, as well as his spirit, had been raised?  How long did the doubting continue?  For an entire lifetime?  Did it ever fully end?  If so, when?  We simply do not know.  All we know, is that even though they were worshipping him, they still had doubt in their heart.

There is comfort to be found in that knowledge.  There have been times I’ve sat in worship and had my doubts – times when I’d been wrestling with God and what kind of God He really was.  At other times, I’ve doubted if He was there at all.  Thank goodness, I’ve got company – some of Jesus’ own immediate disciples! 

What does that tell us?  It tells us that Jesus accepts our worship – with our frequent doubts.  Jesus welcomed them, and their worship, even as their hearts and minds were filled with doubts!   When you are struggling with your faith, you might be tempted to think that you should stay away from worship because you’d feel like a hypocrite.  Don’t feel that way.  If Jesus accepted the worship of his followers on the mountaintop (knowing their hearts and minds), he will accept yours that comes from a heart of faith – even if there are doubts living side-by-side with your faith.

PRAYER: Father, I thank you that you understand our weak faith and our doubting hearts and that you still welcome us and our worship.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2018 by Galen C. Dalrymple.  ><}}}”>

DayBreaks for 9/06/18 – Great Liars

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DayBreaks for 9/06/18: Great Liars

From the DayBreaks Archive, September 2008:

I have recently had a very precious sister in the Lord tell me that she wouldn’t be coming to church anymore because she felt the Lord was calling her to a time of withdrawal and study.  I must say, I’m perplexed.

I know people who, when I call them, will tell me that they just didn’t “feel” like going to church on the Sunday past.  I must say, I’m perplexed.

I know people who see someone in need but will pass them by, and if asked why, will respond with something along the line of “I didn’t feel led to help.”  I must say, I’m perplexed.

Perhaps I shouldn’t be.  For in all those instances, and hundreds more that could be spelled out, people these days seem to be more interested in their “feelings” about things than about God’s commands.  We might be tempted to say, “It would be dishonest for me to go to a place of worship and praise God when I don’t feel like it.  I would be a hypocrite.”  Yet, when I look at Psalm 122: 4 (NIV), the motivation that Israel was to have to go up to the temple to worship was not because they FELT like it, but because it was according to God’s COMMAND: That is where the tribes go up, the tribes of the LORD, to praise the name of the LORD according to the statute given to Israel.

In his book, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction, Eugene Peterson said this: “I have put great emphasis on the fact that Christians worship because they want to, not because they are forced to.  But I have never said that we worship because we feel like it.  Feelings are great liars.  If Christians worshiped only when they felt like it, there would be precious little worship.  Feelings are important in many areas but completely unreliable in matters of faith.  Paul Scherer is laconic: ‘The Bible wastes very little time on the way we feel.’

“We live in what one writer has called the ‘age of sensation.’  We think that if we don’t feel something there can be no authenticity in doing it.  But the wisdom of God says something different: that we can act ourselves into a new way of feeling much quicker than we can feel ourselves into a new way of acting.  Worship is an act that develops feelings for God, not a feeling for God that is expressed in an act of worship.”

Pause now for a few moments of reflection.  As you look at your life and your activities – do you determine what you will do based on how you feel, or on what God’s Word decrees?

PRAYER: Holy God, forgive us for letting our feelings become conditions on obeying Your commands!  Let us be led not be our feelings, but by all Your truth.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

DayBreaks for 5/31/18 – God’s Dike

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DayBreaks for 5/31/18: God’s Dike

Much of Holland was once part of the ocean; but the industrious Dutch built great dikes far out in the shallow sea, and so reclaimed the land. As their dikes hold the ocean back, on the landward side the people occupy their homes, farmers till their land, and the wheels of commerce turn.

Many of the rural lowlanders have a quaint way of referring to Sunday, the Christian sabbath. They speak of it as God’s dike. Why? one might ask. Because what God’s people do on this day each week serves society in the same way a dike serves the land. As the dike holds back the sea, so does Sunday and the worship experience help to hold back the flood of evil which is forever threatening to overflow the people.

God interposes the instruction and inspiration of Christian worship as a bulwark against wrong. The Christian sabbath is civilization’s strongest social buttress against the overwhelming flood of evil and fear and despair which are forever pressing hard upon us. By means of it, the forces of righteousness are made stronger against all the powers that would undo us.

What we do in worship every Sunday is to strengthen our dikes, to help keep them in good repair. When we go to worship, we are not merely doing something for ourselves – we are also doing something for the world. We are taking part in an unceasing effort which involves many millions of people and stretches over many centuries of time. Let’s be aware of the vast enterprise we’re involved in, and let’s be glad we’re in it.

PRAYER: Lord, protect us through our worship, and change the world because of it. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

DayBreaks for 9/01/17 – What to Wear to Church

DayBreaks for 9/01/17: What to Wear to Church

From the DayBreaks archive, 8/2007:

I’ve been part of several churches during my lifetime.  As a kid, I grew up in the Midwest (Iowa, to be precise), with the typical mid-western mindset about church and what constituted proper attire.  Even though we lived in rural Iowa and the little church we attended in Jefferson was populated mostly by relatively poor farmers, on Sunday you could count on them being decked out in their “Sunday best.”  They weren’t doing this as a means of impressing other attendees with their wealth or sartorial sagacity, but they did it out of a deep sense of reverence and respect for the God that we worshipped.  Their reasoning, as I now understand it, was along this line: “We should give God our very best in everything – including in how we come to worship Him.  It shows Him respect.”  I can appreciate that a great deal.

I’ve also attended churches that were very laid back in their dress code.  Personally, I prefer it that way.  Come Sunday mornings I’m in a polo shirt and Dockers as I stand in the pulpit – except on very rare occasions.  Why?  Because I prefer it that way.  I hate ties and shirts and suits…to me they seem too full of pretentiousness and preening.  But, if I’m honest, it’s because I really prefer to be comfortable when I worship God.  Is that good?  I think so, but then again, I’m not so sure.  There’s still a bit of the mid-western upbringing in me.  But I also know that if I dressed in my finest, that even then, with my spiritual raggedness, I’ve got nothing to impress God with.  Nor should I try to impress Him, I think. 

So what should we wear when we go to church?  For an entirely different take on it, read on:

“Why do we people in churches seem like cheerful, brainless tourists on a packaged tour of the Absolute? …
“On the whole, I do not find Christians, outside of the catacombs, sufficiently sensible of conditions. Does anyone have the foggiest idea what sort of power we so blithely invoke? Or, as I suspect, does no one believe a word of it? The churches are children playing on the floor with their chemistry sets, mixing up a batch of TNT to kill a Sunday morning.

“It is madness to wear ladies’ straw hats and velvet hats to church; we should all be wearing crash helmets. Ushers should issue life preservers and signal flares; they should lash us to our pews. For the sleeping God may wake someday and take offense, or the waking God may draw us out to where we can never return.” – Annie Dillard, Teaching a Stone to Talk

Wouldn’t it be interesting to pass out crash helmets at worship services?   What could be more appropriate if we really believed that God shows up on Sunday…and if we didn’t reign Him in with our human ideas of orderliness and restraint?  I think that I’d much rather have God on the loose than tied down.  We’re the ones who would need to be tied down if we let Him be on the loose in our churches…for He is an awesome God.

PRAYER:  God, Your Word says that You never sleep nor slumber, but I can’t help but wondering if our apathy and comfortableness with You sometimes causes sleep to fill not only our eyes, but Yours, too.  We ask You to be fully alive to us in our hearts, our homes and our churches that You can be glorified in our midst!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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