DayBreaks for 09/30/11 – Insults Are Like Mud

DayBreaks for 09/30/11 – Insults Are Like Mud

A fool shows his annoyance at once, but a prudent man overlooks an insult. – Proverbs 12:16 (NIV)

A fool is quick-tempered, but a wise person stays calm when insulted. – Proverbs 12:16 (NLT)

What is your first inclination when someone insults you?  There are those have pull a gun or a knife because they’ve been “dissed” (disrespected).  Others throw a punch – verbal or physical.  How we respond to insults shows a lot about our character.

The verses above (from two different translations) indicate that those who respond immediately are fools; while a wise person stays calm, and may overlook the insult entirely.

Think about it: what is your real motive for responding angrily to an insult?  What is it that you usually try to do?  I’d be willing to bet that you try to make them look foolish, or that you try to hurt them back as badly (or worse) with an insult than they hurt you.  It’s human nature.

But that is the human nature in us, not the Divine nature of the Holy Spirit.  Jesus was insulted yet like a sheep to the slaughter remained silent.  Could he have spoken words against his accusers?  Could he have made them look really bad?  Sure – he could have started speaking about all their secret sins, their thoughts, he could have revealed everything dark and dank and sinister that they’d ever done in an effort to “redeem” himself and his own image…but he didn’t.

“My dear boy,” said a father, “take a word of advice from an old man who loves peace. An insult is like mud; it will brush off much better when it is dry. Wait a little till you both are cool; then the broken relationship will be easily mended. If you go now, it will be only to quarrel.” That is good advice for you and for me—patience will help bring about peace.

Are you a wise person or a fool?  How you respond to an insult is maybe the best clue as to how much the human nature, instead of His nature, controls you!

PRAYER: We want to be wise, not just when insulted and wronged, but at all time, Lord.  Grant us the wisdom that comes from above so we can act appropriately here below!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2011 by Galen C. Dalrymple.

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DayBreaks for 09/29/11 – If We’re The Master, Hope Dies With Us

DayBreaks for 09/29/11 – If We’re the Master, Hope Dies With Us

This is what the LORD says: “Cursed are those who put their trust in mere humans, who rely on human strength and turn their hearts away from the LORD.  They are like stunted shrubs in the desert, with no hope for the future. They will live in the barren wilderness, in an uninhabited salty land. – Jeremiah 17:6

The English poet William Ernest Hensley wrote these words, the poem Invictus:

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

Really?  Master of my fate?  Captain of my soul?  Is that really all that good, even if it were true?

There’s a book I’ve not read, but which I think I might, called The Year of Magical Thinking.  It was written by Joan Didion, and it is her attempt at making sense of the sudden death of her author husband, John Gregory Dunne.  They had been at the hospital where their only child was in a coma (the child would die the next year).  They had just settled down at the table for dinner when John died of a massive heart attack.

The title of the book describes her growing awareness of how she kept behaving as if her husband would come back.  She imagined that if she could just find out enough information about how he died, it would change things.  Or, if she kept some of his clothing, he’d come back and use them again.  If she stayed at home, that he’d come home and they’d share the same bed together again.  Of course, she knew it wouldn’t happen, but those irrational thoughts kept running through her head in her attempt to change the fact that death seemed to have the final word.

In the end, she concludes that we are all powerless, suggesting that our lives are lived out above a frayed safety net that we’ve constructed with our imagined control over life and the things that happen in it.  Sadly, the last line in her book is a reference to one of Jesus’ teachings, but her conclusion was that “no eye is on the sparrow.”  Here’s the point: if we really are Master of the Game, and if she’s right, then when we die, our hopes die, too.  But, if there is another Master, a far better Master, then there is also a better hope than what we have if left to control things ourselves.

PRAYER: We need so much more trust in You, Lord, and much less in ourselves!  Forgive our arrogance and haughtiness to think we are master of our own souls!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2011 by Galen C. Dalrymple.

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DayBreaks for 09/28/11 – Winning Through Surrender

DayBreaks for 09/28/11 – Winning Through Surrender

The only way to win is to surrender...

You can make many plans, but the LORD’s purpose will prevail. – Proverbs 19:21

My, how we think we are “large and in charge!”  We think we’ve got it all figured out, have our next 5-10 years or longer all planned out.  We’ve thought about where we want to retire, what we want to do in retirement, where we want to go, how we want to live.  And we set about making all those plans come true.

Just this past week we were treated to the spectacle of space debris falling to earth.  They said it could hit practically anywhere from the north pole to the south pole, but not to worry – most of the area in between is water, and the odds of being hit were extremely slim.  So are the odds of winning the lottery, but every now and then someone does win it, don’t they?  What’s my point?  Not that you need to be afraid of the space debris hitting you, but rather that things are really not all in our control…not at all.

Instead of trying to control, manipulate and manage our lives, the Bible says we need to surrender our lives to the control of Christ.  Surrender?  Isn’t that a dirty word?

Some think surrender is a passive thing or an abdication of our responsibilities.  It isn’t.  It’s saying “yes” to God and life each day, accepting all He has given us, letting go of any envy if he gives others more, but perhaps most of all, it’s letting go of outcomes that we can’t own or control anyway.  We must surrender our ambitions, dreams, money, relationships, time and desires to God.  You might think that’s a bit extreme, but let me ask: isn’t surrender to the idea of His control reality?  There’s a wonderful meditation that helps us come to this understanding (I found this in John Ortberg’s book, When the Game Is Over It All Goes Back in the Box):

I am of a nature to grow old.  There is no way to escape growing old.  I can’t stop the process, short of death, no matter how much Botox, plastic surgery or Viagra I ingest.

I am of the nature to have ill health.  There is no way to escape ill health.  As I age, my body will have a mind of its own and will begin to fail – slowly at first, them more rapidly as time progresses.

I am of the nature to die.  There is no way to escape death.  No one has ever managed to escape death by their own volition.  It may be shocking to some, but the death rate is 100%.

All that is dear to me and everyone I love are of the nature to change.  There is no way to escape being separated from them.  Either they, or I, or both, will change and the relationships between myself and them will change, too…and fade.

My actions are my only true belongings.  I cannot escape the consequences of my actions.  My actions are the ground upon which I stand.

All those things help put life into perspective for us.  If we think we are in control, the day will come when we are pulled up short and reality will come crashing in.  But there’s a GREAT blessing in surrendering to His control: it frees us from the responsibility for the outcome.  We can’t control or manipulate events to ensure a good outcome, or even a positive one.  He can.  He will.  He does.  And therefore God is responsible for the outcomes, not me.  Thank the Lord for that!

PRAYER: Thank you that we don’t have to make the desired outcomes happen…that it is up to You to managed the outcome.  Ours is simply to surrender to you in faith and trust each moment.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2011 by Galen C. Dalrymple.

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DayBreaks for 09/27/11 – Good Advice from Mickey Mantle

DayBreaks for 09/27/11 – Good Advice from Mickey Mantle

The Mick

And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous will go into eternal life. – Matthew 25:46

This simple little verse from Matthew 25 carries two huge truths: there is an eternal life to come and there are two different natures to that eternal life.  One is reserved for the righteous, one for the unrighteous.  But either way…we are eternal beings after we’ve been conceived.

Mickey Mantle was my childhood sports hero.  I didn’t know much about him at the time, other than he was a great baseball player who could hit for average and power, run like the wind, play defense and throw the ball like it was shot out of a cannon.  Little did I know about his drinking and carousing – I would only learn about that part of the man later.

Because of his wild and largely hidden lifestyle, Mickey Mantle always expected that he would die very young.  When he hit 60 years of age, he was rather astounded and he said, If I had known I was going to live this long, I’d have taken better care of myself.  He finally died in 1995 at the age of 64, but not before he became a born-again Christian through his old friend and teammate, second baseman Bobby Richardson, who became a pastor and shared the gospel and his faith with Mantle. 

Mantle made the point well: if you know you’re going to live a long time, you want to take care of yourself.  You, the real, inner you, will live for eternity.  In carrying on with yesterday’s DayBreaks, Paul said he was being (continuous present tense) renewed daily.  He prayed, he sang, he gave, he fellowshipped, he worshiped, he hoped…and God kept on renewing him as sure as the sun came up in the morning.  Right there in prison where his liver, heart, kidneys, legs, eyes and ears were failing him, his inner being was strengthened in faith, hope, love, grace, wisdom, patience, thankfulness and joy.  Your inner being can be renewed like that every day – regardless of where your outer you happens to be.

And, given the fact that we know we will live for eternity, shouldn’t we take better care to prepare the real us – the soul – for a very long life, indeed?

PRAYER: Give us the wisdom to make wise daily choices that will help prepare us to live in eternal life with You!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2011 by Galen C. Dalrymple.

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DayBreaks for 09/26/11 – The Picture of Dorian Gray

DayBreaks for 09/26/11 – The Picture of Dorian Gray

Dorian Gray: wasting away inwardly day by day...

That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. 17 For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! 18 So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever. – 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

Oscar Wilde wrote a book called The Picture of Dorian Gray.  It’s a story about a man who sells his soul for eternal youth and beauty.  Everyone who saw him marveled at his eternal youthful appearance.  But his beauty was only external.  Inside where no one could see, he was dark – his soul marked by greed, lust and betrayal.  In the story, there is a painting of him that shows the condition of his inner life.  To start with, the painting of his inner life was as beautiful as his outward appearance, but his sin, over time, begins to show up on the canvas.  Every time he’s deceitful, betrays someone, is greedy, lusts or is prideful, a spot or wrinkle or distorted feature would show up on the painting.  Eventually, the painting got too hideous to look at, so Dorian Gray takes it and hides it in the attic where it can’t be seen.  And when death finally does overtake him, the painting is representative of who he really was, not the youthful body.

Dorian Gray, you see, was the opposite of Paul.  On the outside, Dorian Gray was renewed daily, but inwardly he was wasting away.  It gives one reason for pause to ask the question: how differently would we live if the condition of our souls was as visible as the condition of our bodies?

PRAYER: Father, help us to be more concerned about our inner, spiritual life than we are about our outward bodies that are fading away each day.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2011 by Galen C. Dalrymple.

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DayBreaks for 09/23/11 – The Stop Sign and Fire

DayBreaks for 09/23/11 – The Stop Sign and Fire

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord. – Romans 6:23

Dorothy Sayers, the mystery writer, was also a devoted Christian. Dorothy Sayers was attempting to explain the moral law of God. She pointed out that in our society there are two kinds of laws. There is the law of the stop sign, and there’s the law of the fire. The law of the stop sign is a law that says the traffic is heavy on a certain street, and as a result the police department or the city council decides to erect a stop sign. They also decide that if you run that stop sign, it will cost you $25 or $30 or $35. If the traffic changes, they can up the ante. That is if too many people are running the stop sign, they can make the fine $50 or $75, or if they build a highway around the city, they can take the stop sign down, or reduce the penalty, making it only $10 if you go through. The police department or city council controls the law of the stop sign.

But then she said there is also the law of the fire. And the law of the fire says if you put your hand in the fire, you’ll get burned. Now imagine that all of the legislatures of all the nations of the entire world gathered in one great assembly, and they voted unanimously that here on out that fire would no longer burn. The first man or woman who left that assembly and put his or her hand in the fire would discover that the law of the fire is different than the law of the stop sign. Bound up in the nature of fire itself is the penalty for abusing it. So, Dorothy Sayers says, the moral law of God is like the law of the fire. You never break God’s laws; you just break yourself on them. God can’t reduce the penalty, because the penalty for breaking the law is bound up in the law itself.

We would like to delude and comfort ourselves by thinking that God’s laws are all just like the law of the stop sign, and not like the law of fire.  They’re not.  We think that we may just bruise ourselves a bit when we violate one of His laws, but Romans 6:23 says it’s a far more serious thing to violate His law and put our hand into the fire of sin: the result of that is death.  And that’s a lot more serious than a bruise or two.

PRAYER: Father, give us the gift of discernment and wisdom to grasp the seriousness of our sin.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2011 by Galen C. Dalrymple.

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DayBreaks for 09/22/11 – A Defective Understanding of Suffering

DayBreaks for 09/22/11 – A Defective Understanding of Suffering

And since we are his children, we are his heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory. But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering. – Romans 8:17

How do you feel about suffering?  A rather silly question, isn’t it?  How many people do you know who run around shouting, “Hurray!  I’m suffering!”  Not many, I’m sure.  Especially not in America.  In this country we have sufficient means to alleviate much of the suffering we face physically: various pain medications can be bought over the counter that do a great job of taking away pain.  And if those aren’t enough, there are VERY powerful medications that are available only by prescription.  There are many drugs on the market to help Americans escape from emotional and psychological pain, too.  And the offices of counselors, psychologists and psychiatrists are jam packed with people trying to escape the pain of their daily lives, or at the very least, learn to cope with it.  What America, and American Christians in particular, seem to struggle to grasp is that suffering, while painful, should be an intrinsic part of our life in Christ and not something we try to avoid at all costs.

Ajith Fernando, a Christian leader from Sri Lanka who ministers to the urban poor, writes:

“The church in each culture has its own special challenges—theological blind spots that hinder Christians from growing to full maturity in Christ …. I think one of the most serious theological blind spots in the western church is a defective understanding of suffering. There seems to be a lot of reflection on how to avoid suffering and on what to do when we hurt. We have a lot of teaching about escape from suffering and therapy for suffering, but there is inadequate teaching about the theology of suffering ….

“The “good life,” comfort, convenience, and a painless life have become necessities that people view as basic rights. If they do not have these, they think something has gone wrong …. One of the results of this attitude is a severe restriction of spiritual growth, for God intends us to grow through trials. – Ajith Fernando, The Call to Joy and Pain (Crossway Books, 2007), pp. 51-52

Instead, be very glad—for these trials make you partners with Christ in his suffering, so that you will have the wonderful joy of seeing his glory when it is revealed to all the world. – 1 Peter 4:13

PRAYER: Help us to accept suffering as an inseparable, and valuable, part of our life in You, Lord Jesus, and to give thanks for the chance to join you in your suffering.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2011 by Galen C. Dalrymple.

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DayBreaks for 09/21/11 – The Power of Self-Deception

DayBreaks for 09/21/11 – The Power of Self Deception

We are all experts at self-deception...

The pride of your heart has deceived you, you who live in the clefts of the rocks and make your home on the heights, you who say to yourself, ‘Who can bring me down to the ground?’ 4 Though you soar like the eagle and make your nest among the stars, from there I will bring you down,” declares the LORD. – Obadiah 1:3-4

Maybe you’ve never read that passage from Obadiah before.  I’ll grant you that Obadiah is not the first place most people turn to read in Scripture!  But what an interesting verse this is!  In context, it is a prophecy against Edom, but it has application to each of us as well.

The authors of the book Mistakes Were Made (but not by me) argue that our tendency to justify our actions is more powerful and deceptive than an explicit lie. They write:

“[Self-justification] allows people to convince themselves that what they did was the best thing they could have done. In fact, come to think of it, it was the right thing. “There was nothing else I could have done.” “Actually, it was a brilliant solution to the problem.” “I was doing the best for the nation.” “Those [jerks] deserved what they got.” “I’m entitled.”

“[For example], when researchers ask husbands and wives what percentage of the housework they do, the wives say, “Are you kidding? I do almost everything, at least 90 percent.” And the husbands say, “I do a lot, about 40 percent.” Although the specific numbers differ from couple to couple, the total always exceeds 100 percent by a significant margin. It’s tempting to conclude that one spouse is lying, but it is more likely that each is remembering in a way that enhances his or her contribution.

“Over time, as the self-serving distortions of memory kick in … we come to believe our own lies, little by little. We know we did something wrong, but we gradually begin to think that it wasn’t our fault, and after all, the situation was complex. We start underestimating our own responsibility, whittling away at it until it is a mere shadow of its former hulking self.” – Carol Travis and Elliot Aronson; Mistakes Were Made (but not by me), (Mariner Books; Reprint edition March 2008), pp. 6-9

In the Obadiah passage, it is pride of one’s own heart that has deceived them, thinking that they are standing upright and approved before God, not aware of their own sin.  Verse 4 clearly describes God’s judgment on them: He WILL bring them down.

People have a tremendous capacity to explain away sin (how I love the title of the book, Mistakes Were Made (but not by me), because isn’t that how we ALL think?

Perhaps it should be a very strong warning to us all that when we think we are doing the right thing we are very possibly self-deceived, especially if our emotions are tied up in it.  And let’s also not forget: that all the good intentions in the world doesn’t mean that the means used to achieve the desired end are necessarily Godly.  Even if the intentions are truly good, if the means aren’t good, we’re still wrong and will have to answer to God for the means, as well as the intentions and the outcome!

PRAYER: God, take the blinders off our eyes!  Help us check not just our intentions, but the means we use to accomplish the outcome, for we must all answer to You, the Judge of all.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2011 by Galen C. Dalrymple.

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DayBreaks for 09/20/11 – What Mattered

DayBreaks for 09/20/11 – What Mattered

It's what matters...

Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age. – Matthew 28:20

Skye Jethani relates a story about a series of meetings he held for college-aged students. The range of topics was wide: doctrine, hell, dating—but each conversation had the same three rules: be honest, be gracious, and be present. On one night the students wanted to discuss habitual sins. Although they struggled with a variety of sinful behaviors, they all agreed on one thing: God was extremely disappointed with them. One student said, “My parents were students at a Christian college in the early ’90s when a revival broke out …. They were on fire for God. And here I am consumed by sin day after day.” Often through tears, many other students shared similar stories about how they believed God must be disappointed with them.

After listening to their stories, Jethani asked, “How many of you were raised in a Christian home?” They all raised their hands. “How many of you grew up in a Bible-centered church?” All hands stayed up. Shaking his head in disbelief, Jethani said, “You’ve all spent eighteen or twenty years in the church. You’ve been taught the Bible from the time you could crawl, and you attend Christian colleges, but not one of you gave the right answer. Not one of you said that in the midst of your sin God still loves you.”

Jethani concluded: “I did not blame the students for their failure. Somewhere in their spiritual formation they were taught, either explicitly or implicitly, that what mattered was not God’s love for them, but how much they could accomplish for him.”  –  Skye Jethani, With (Thomas H. Nelson, 2011), pp. 80-82

Jesus’ promise in Matthew 28 was not made to perfect people – far from it.  There would be many failures in the coming years for those who watched him ascend into heaven.  We essentially have the same promise: I will never leave you or forsake you.  We seem to forget that God is WITH us.  That is the very meaning of the Incarnation, is it not?  But just knowing God is WITH us is not necessarily comforting (witness how people reacted when in God’s presence, and what if He were with us but was AGAINST us in His presence?)  But the good news is this: God is with us, but He is also FOR us (Rom. 8:31), and that makes the world of difference!

If we can only get our hearts and minds around those two amazing statements, “God is WITH us” and “God is FOR us”, what else do we need to know?

PRAYER: Glory to you, Lord, for these two great promises and statements that buoy our faith and give us certain hope!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2011 by Galen C. Dalrymple.

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DayBreaks for 09/19/11 – What Worship Looks Like

DayBreaks for 09/19/11 – What Worship Looks Like

A view of worship...

You shall have no other gods before me. – Exodus 20:3

And Jesus answered and said unto him, Get thee behind me, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve. – Luke 4:8

Addictions.  The very word sends a shiver up the spin, doesn’t it?  There are many things people can become addicted to: drugs, cigarettes, alcohol, sex, pornography, eating, power, work, the pursuit of eternal youth and beauty, success, fame, sports…you get the idea, I’m sure.  But have you ever thought about addictions as being related to worship?  I hadn’t, until I read something Kent Dunnington wrote about how addiction to anything is like counterfeit worship:

“Several years ago, a friend who had worked his way through graduate school as a paramedic told me about one of his more grisly experiences on the job. He received an anonymous call reporting a heroin addict who was on the verge of death in an abandoned apartment building. When [my friend] got to the apartment, the man was huddled in a corner, shivering and unresponsive, surrounded by piles of rotten trash, used syringes, lighters, spoons—all the paraphernalia of heroin addiction. When I asked what that was like, my friend related that it was terrifying, but that he also thought it was probably the first time he fully understood what worship looks like …. For all sin, as idolatry, is essentially counterfeit worship.” – Kent Dunnington, Addiction and Virtue (InterVarsity Press, 2011), pp. 141-142

Are you addicted to anything other than God?  I’d bet you have something that exerts undue influence and control over you.  Nearly everyone has something they struggle to control.  Maybe seeing it in the light of what you worship might be insightful and helpful to you in your struggle to fight your own addiction with the help of the Spirit.

PRAYER: Lord, many people are in denial this day about their addictions.  We don’t think we’ve got a problem, we think we can control these things, but we can’t.  Lord, help us to worship you and you alone…and to be addicted to worshipping only You!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2011 by Galen C. Dalrymple.

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