DayBreaks for 07/20/11 – Still Kickin’

DayBreaks for 07/20/11 – Still Kickin’

The LORD is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts, and I am helped; my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to him. – Psalm 28:7

Still kickin'...as long as you're alive, there's REAL hope!

Many of our American slang sayings are very interesting when you stop to think about them.  I don’t know where all of their origins spring from, but I have a pretty good idea where the saying, “Still kickin’” comes from.  It’s like the chicken who has its head chopped off in the barnyard – they can run about and even fly for a little while…they’re still moving (sans head).  To say that someone is still kicking means that they’re not all the way dead yet – their legs are still twitching.  It’s a rather morbid saying when you get right down to it.

Living the Christian life isn’t easy.  It is, in fact, doggone tough.  Christianity isn’t for wimps.  It is so tough that many finally shrug their shoulders and give up because they just can’t seem to ever live a more holy life (which, by the way, shouldn’t surprise us too much since the author of Romans says that there is NO ONE who does what is good).  So, those folks just lie down somewhere along life’s pathway waiting to die because of their colossal, stupendous failings.

One of the most wonderful things about the gospel story is this truth: If you’re not dead, you’re not done.  You’re still kickin’.  God still has a purpose for you being here…and that gives your life and existence tremendous purpose.

If I had a nickel for every time someone told me, in the context of Christianity and their need to change, “I can’t change,” I would own vaster holdings than the British royal family.  I have, from time to time, even said it myself (I’m sad to say.)  But let’s think about that for a minute: when I say “I can’t change” or “I’ll never change” or “I’ll never amount to anything”, what are we really doing?  Aren’t we just making excuses for our actions because we don’t want to put in the effort to let the Spirit change us (and maybe we really don’t want to change and stop that sin that gives us so much delight)?  Craig Groeschel put it this way: “If you keep making excuses, you’re insulting God’s power.” (The Christian Atheist, pg. 137)

As long as you’re “kickin’”, you can change.  God can change you.  The question is never with His ability – it is always about our willingness.

PRAYER: Prevent us from falling prey to fatal discouragements and deadly excuses, Lord!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2011 by Galen C. Dalrymple.

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DayBreaks for 07/19/11 – How Serious Are We?

DayBreaks for 07/19/11 – How Serious Are We?

I don’t know any Christian who wants to be a “bad Christian.”  We all want to be good Christians.  In fact, if the truth be told, most of us probably think we are pretty good Christians.  And what makes us think that?  We go to church every Sunday.  We give every Sunday.  We pray.  We read our Bibles from time to time.  We don’t swear.  We honor our marriage vows.  We take our responsibilities as mothers and dads serious.  We sing songs about how much we love Jesus.  And maybe, once in a while, we sing some of the old songs of the faith “Onward Christian Soldiers”, “Rock of Ages”, “Amazing Grace”, and “Just As I Am.”

It is very easy to do things and not really have the right attitude in our heart.  It is very easy to fool other people – and even easier to fool ourselves about our level of goodness and love for God.  And then the Bible pulls us up short.

In Psalm 63, the composer of that psalm put it this way: Because Your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you. (vs. 3)  Can you say that and mean it?  Really?  Have you thought about the implications of that verse and what the psalmist wrote?  He’s said that God’s love is better than life.  What does he mean by that?  I think he’s saying that if it came to one or the other of two alteratives – either keeping God’s love or letting the mortal body die – that his choice would be to die rather than lost the love of our God.

So, let us ask ourselves the question: do we love God?  Do we love Him enough that we’d rather die than be without His love?  Or, how many of us would choose to keep our mortal lives in the hope that we’ll eventually come to love God more – perhaps even enough that someday we would rather die than be without a relationship with Him.  That’s the choice the martyrs faced – it is what made them martyrs.  They didn’t die so they could have a home in heaven – they died because they know that life itself wasn’t as sweet as the love of God.

How serious are we when we tell God we love Him?

PRAYER: Keep us from frivolous proclamations of love!  Grow real love in us so that we can join with the Psalmist in his wild and reckless delight in Your love!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2011 by Galen C. Dalrymple.

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DayBreaks for 07/18/11 – One Petaled Daisies

DayBreaks for 07/18/11 – One Petaled Daisies

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. – 1 Corinthians 13:8

Nearly everyone that I know, at least in their younger years of discovering young love, has taken a daisy or other flower and slowly, painstakingly, pulled off the petals one by one while reciting: “He loves me, he loves me not, he loves me, he loves me not” until there are no petals left.  It was a childish, yet innocent, way to try to determine if that special someone you cared about felt the same way about you.  Of course, it all is just a game of chance and is not an effective means to determine the other person’s feelings.

As we get older, most of us don’t play that game to determine if we are loved or not.  At least not outwardly.  But inside, we vacillate from thinking that God loves us to thinking that He doesn’t love us, depending on how we lived our life that day at work, school, home…wherever.  We might as well be pulling petals off petals off of flowers if we think that is how God works.

The truth is that God is love.  He always loves people – though He may hate the things we do.  But the things we do don’t cause Him to stop loving us.  In fact, if we find ourselves disciplined, we should never confused the discipline with hatred, but rather accept it as a sign of His love that never changes.  God, as Craig Groeschel put it in The Christian Atheist, “God raises only one-petaled daisies in the garden of His love.”

PRAYER: Thank You, God, for Your garden of one-petaled daisies of love!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2011 by Galen C. Dalrymple.

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DayBreaks for 7/15/11 – Loving Life on the Ledge

DayBreaks for 07/15/11 – Loving Life on the Ledge

Life on the Ledge

 

Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; 2 but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. 3 He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers. – Psalm 1:1-3

At one of the lookouts at the Grand Canyon lives a struggling tree.  It is not located on the top of the lookout, but about 15-20 feet below the edge of the looked where it took up root on a very narrow ledge (maybe 6 inches wide) and from whence it leans out over the canyon far, far below.  There is not much to commend this as a place for a tree to grow.  There is no visible soil.  There is no source of water that is visible.  And talk about fear of falling?  Is that tree (or any tree) even concerned about falling to its certain death?

I was amazed at the persistence of that tree…and of life.  At how God knows about that tree, waters it, sees it.  He knows it’s there.  Somehow, I suspect that the tree is not at all concerned about its precarious perch or about falling.  Why?  Maybe I’m reaching too far here, but I just don’t think that trees worry about such things because they either can’t think or because they are too busy just being a tree – growing where God has planted them.

We may find ourselves at times, or for most, of our lives on a precarious perch.  We may look down and quiver with fear.  We may wonder where the water or food that we need will come from.  Yet God sees and knows it all.  Jesus cautioned us against worrying about where our food or drink or clothing would come from.  He suggested a much better way: to trust God, because God knows we need those things.

When we are on the ledge, we must persevere.  When we are planted in rich, fertile places, we must also persevere.  We must be as tenacious as that tree on the edge of the precipice, and cling to the Source of Life as our only security!

PRAYER: Lord, we need your Spirit to help us persevere through both good and bad times, and not to become distracted by things we cannot control!  Help us to live boldly on the edge for You!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2011 by Galen C. Dalrymple.

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DayBreaks for 07/14/11 – The Lover of Diversity

DayBreaks for 07/14/11 – The Lover of Diversity

You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. 14 Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it. 15 You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, as I was woven together in the dark of the womb. 16 You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed. 17 How precious are your thoughts about me, O God. They cannot be numbered! 18 I can’t even count them; they outnumber the grains of sand! And when I wake up, you are still with me! – Psalm 139:13-18

Our road trip took us to many diverse places: hot/dry Death Valley at a couple hundred feet below sea level to mountain passes over 12,000 feet high that were cold and damp.  To spectacular lakes, by raging rivers, to ground that was white, green, red, brown and black.  Even the clouds that sailed past overhead were different from place to place.  And all were created by the same hand.

God must love diversity for He created so much of it!  All animals could have looked like warthogs and smelled like skunks, but thankfully – they don’t!  All of the planet could have been flat and arid – but thankfully – it isn’t!

The same God that created every fingerprint to be unique – who decreed that every eye pattern would be different – that God created you and me in all our rich diversity.  What is truly a pity is when we try to change others to be just like ourselves, or to fit our image of what that person should be like or do.  David, in Psalm 139, says that God has a plan for each and every one of us that is so detailed that he knew in advance precisely how many days we would live and exactly what every one of our thoughts would be!  If I attempt to change you to please me, how can that be right?

Even more, if I am praying for God to change YOU to be the way I want you to be, am I not usurping God’s prerogative?  It is His plan for you, not my opinions of what you should be like, that is important.  My attempts to change someone from certain habits or traits may interfere with His work in someone else.  We can point out sin in the lives of others (not judgmentally, but humbly so that they can repent), but we must be careful that it is really sin and not just something that we don’t like about that person.  Part of what made Peter a great apostle was his stubbornness and outspokenness.  Would we have tried to change him?  Yet it was those very characteristics that enabled him to be a great and passionate leader in the early church.  Paul’s zeal may have been misguided in the beginning, but it was part of what drove him to travel the world to tell others about Jesus.  Yet, I’m sure there were those who would have changed Paul: “Calm down, fella!  Chill out!”  What a shame if that would have happened!

We should appreciate the unique person that God has formed each of us to be.  We should pray not that God will change a person in a way we want them to change, but that they will cooperate with His divine plan for them and become what He wants them to be!

PRAYER: For the rich diversity of creation, and of human beings, we thank you.  Help us to want only your will for others, and not try to force them into our own image!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2011 by Galen C. Dalrymple.

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DayBreaks for 07/13/11 – The Hidden Things of God

DayBreaks for 07/13/11 – The Hidden Things of God

Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a loyal spirit within me.- Psalm 51:10

For me, one of the highlights of our recent road trip was visiting Carlsbad Caverns National Park.  If you’ve not been there, stop right now and go pencil it into your bucket list.  It’s a must see – like the Grand Canyon.

We descended about 2 miles through the caverns to a depth of 750 feet underground, wandering among spectacular and strange wonders.  At every turn, new visions would appear of shapes and colors and textures – all marvelous and delightful.  I shot more pictures that day in the caverns than at any other single place on our trip.

When we came up out of the cave after several hours, I was struck with the wonder of what God had created in a place that only He could see for thousands of years.  Why would God make such beauty, only to hide it in absolute, total darkness 750 feet below the surface of the planet?

I don’t presume to speak for God on this matter, nor to know His reasons, but I’d be willing to venture a few thoughts on the subject.  First, I think God creates because He delights to do so.  And much of what He creates has always been hidden from human eyes: things on the ocean floor, things in deep space that we can’t even begin to see with our most powerful telescopes.  Yet, He created those things because it delighted Him to do so.

Then, I thought about the darkness of the human heart, and how it, too, like Carlsbad, is hidden from view.  And God is at work there, too…slowly, painstakingly, over long periods of years, forming and shaping and changing the landscape of our hearts to more closely match that of Jesus.

When we look at one another, we see only the outside.  We can’t see the inside.  We can’t change our own hearts from sinful to obedient.  It is work that only God can, and does do, day after day…unseen, but yet beautiful, too.

PRAYER: Thank you, Lord, for the beautiful things you create in the hidden places of the world and in our hearts!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2011 by Galen C. Dalrymple.

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DayBreaks for 07/12/11 – The Signs of a Disciple

DayBreaks for 07/12/11 – The Signs of a Disciple

Matthew 25 contains frightening images of judgment.  It speaks of the time when Christ will come again in glory and He will separate all humanity into those who were his disciples and those who were not.  It is an interesting scenario that Jesus himself (who will do the separating) describes.  During my recent road trip, I was pondering this passage and was rather astounded at what I saw.

If you were to be put on trial, wouldn’t you find it to be a great advantage to know what the criteria for your judgment would be?  It would certainly help you prepare for your defense, wouldn’t it?  And if you knew it far enough in advance, you could change your life to comply with what you knew the judgment criteria would be.  Talk about an advantage heading into a trial!!!!

So, look closely at Matthew 25:31-46.  What you find may shock you.  Not once in that entire passage describing the judgment criteria does Jesus mention anything about frequent attendance at church, never does he mention the topic of correct doctrine or orthodoxy or practice, how generously we give, how much we pray.  He doesn’t mention memorizing Scripture, having a daily quiet time, teaching Sunday school or leading a small group.  No, those things don’t even appear in the list at all.  I suspect that if they did appear we’d feel a lot better about things because the church has majored in such things in America.

So what is there, in the criteria for judgment day?  Feeding the hungry, providing shelter, water, clothing.  Visiting those in distress and hurting alongside those suffering.  These are the things that, according to Jesus’ own words in Matthew 25, will form the criteria on judgment day.  Now how do you feel?

Don’t misunderstand my point: it is GOOD to be in regular worship, to give generously, to pray constantly, to have solid doctrine (while remaining humanly humble at our limited understanding of the things of God!), to memorize the Word, have quiet times and be involved with church service.  Those are all good things: but not the kind of things that save us, or others.

So, what does feeding others, giving water, clothing and companionship have to do with salvation?  I’m still thinking all that through, but here must be part of it: James tells us that God is love.  Jesus tells us that we are to love God above anything else, and our neighbor like ourselves…and that if we do those things, we have kept the law because all the rest of it is based on those two things.  Feeding the hungry in an effort to be saved won’t cut it (it’s an attempt to be saved by works) – but feeding them because we love them is something else entirely.  If we have that kind of love for others that we extend ourselves for them, not only are we obeying the second command, we are opening the door to spiritual discussions that can lead to their acceptance of God’s grace as they see it lived through us.  And, as an extra bonus, we will have conducted our lives in such a way that we’ll be better prepared for the judgment!

Why does Jesus look at those manner of things in judgment rather than orthodoxy and high levels of obedience?  Is it not because God is love…and the things Jesus will be looking at are measures of love and compassion?

PRAYER: Lord, thank you for showing us what the day of judgment will be like, and what matters to your heart.  Give us the courage to live so we can please you by helping those in need.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2011 by Galen C. Dalrymple.

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