DayBreaks for 12/21/11 – You Call This Good News?

DayBreaks for 12/21/11 – You Call This Good News?

You call this good news?!?!?! Putting the "Good News" in perspective...

In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a village in Galilee, 27 to a virgin named Mary. She was engaged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of King David. 28 Gabriel appeared to her and said, “Greetings, favored woman! The Lord is with you!” 29 Confused and disturbed, Mary tried to think what the angel could mean. 30 “Don’t be afraid, Mary,” the angel told her, “for you have found favor with God! 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32 He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David. 33 And he will reign over Israel forever; his Kingdom will never end!” Luke 1:26-33

“Survivor” is a reality show that is one of the most successful franchises in television history. It started in 1992 in Britain and has spread to play in over 50 countries as diverse as Chile and China.

If you’ve seen it, you notice how quickly the 16-20 strangers separate into two groups, no matter how many “tribes” there are. In one group are those who, in the face of the unexpected, meltdown, freeze, or fold. In the other group are those who cope, manage, and overcome when the unforeseen rears its head.

This difference in ability and mobility is less dependent on the facts, and far more dependent upon faith. All “Survivor” stories combine components of grace and good luck, grit and gumption. But at the very base of those who “survive” in the face of surprising challenges, are those who have faith. When it is just too hard to hang on, we need another we can hang on to.

First century Palestine was not a progressive society. Jews and Gentiles, Jewish and pagan, iron-fisted Roman rulers and oppressed subjects lived in an uneasy, unequal social equilibrium. In the first century there were clear “haves” and “have-nots.” Getting on one of these “who’s not” lists had far more social, political, and even “Survivor” repercussions than any Christmas “naughty and nice” list.

In the 21st century it is hard for us to hear how the angel Gabriel’s “good news” sounded to Mary. In the 21st century it is not a death sentence for an unwed woman to receive a birth notice.  It was then. That is exactly what Mary heard at that moment of angelic visitation…

The good news wasn’t about how things would be great with the pregnancy and with Mary’s life, rather, it was about the outcome of the life of her baby…and it was not just good news, but GREAT news…even for Mary herself because she, too, would be saved by her son.

PRAYER: Lord, at the times when we can’t see the good in a situation, remind us of Mary and the hidden power You wield to bring redemption from even a single life.  Let us trust that the good news is truly good and not second guess Your work!!!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2011 by Galen C. Dalrymple.

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DayBreaks for 12/20/11 – Christmas Surprises

DayBreaks for 12/20/11 – Christmas Surprises

Surprises come in many God-directed forms...

Peter saw his opportunity and addressed the crowd. “People of Israel,” he said, “what is so surprising about this? And why stare at us as though we had made this man walk by our own power or godliness? Acts 3:12

Peter and his group had just been instrumental in the healing of a lame man.  The people were surprised and astonished.  Peter, however, quickly sets the record straight – it wasn’t anything they did, but it was Jesus/God who had the power – and why should anything God does surprise us?

Christmas is about Jesus, of course, but it is also a story of surprises…the greatest surprise of all time, of God With Us.  Perhaps it shouldn’t have been a surprise given all the prophecies about it over thousands of years, but my guess is that we would have missed it too – it was too big of a surprise to even try to anticipate.

There are other surprises we enjoy at Christmas, too.  We enjoy the brightly wrapped surprises that we find under our trees – 20, 30 or more – and we can sit and enjoy them for several hours if we are able to discipline ourselves to not tear the wrapping off in a frenzy.

Listen to this true story about a professor.  One night he was at his desk working on the next day’s lectures. His housekeeper put the mail from the day at his desk and he did like we do – throwing most in the wastebasket. He then noticed a magazine, not even addressed to him but delivered to his office by mistake. It fell open to an article titled “The Needs of the Congo Mission”.

He began to read when he was consumed by these words: “The need is great here. We have no one to work the northern province of Gabon in the central Congo. And it is my prayer as I write this article that God will lay His hand on one – one on whom, already, the Master’s eyes have been cast – that he or she shall be called to this place to help us.” Professor Albert Schweitzer closed the magazine and wrote in his diary: “My search is over.” He gave himself to the Congo.

That little article, in a periodical intended for someone else, was put in Schweitzer’s mailbox accidentally. Was it chance?  No, it was one of God’s surprises. Even that surprise, though would have paled next to the one Mary got when visited by the angel, Gabriel.

God wants us to be surprised by Him every day.  I hope it doesn’t take the Christmas story to make us blink in wonder at all He does in our lives constantly.

PRAYER: Surprise us, Lord, each day with Your love, forgiveness, compassion, care, concern, generosity, faithfulness, blessings after blessings, wisdom, grace and power!!!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2011 by Galen C. Dalrymple.

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DayBreaks for 12/19/11 – The Best Comes in Small Packages

DayBreaks for 12/19/11 – The Best Comes in Small Packages

To whom will you compare me? Who is my equal?” asks the Holy One. – Isaiah 40:25

Sunday morning, the speaker at church told a story about his daughter who is in Italy at the present time.  Because she’s there, he has started reading about the places she’s been and the things she’s seen in order to share them vicariously.  He noted that in one book, it was talking about St. Peter’s Basilica, and it said, “To say that St. Peter’s is vast is like saying that God is smart.”  St. Peter’s is vast…probably the largest church in Christendom, covering 5.7 acres.  Not even the church I attended this past Sunday was anywhere as large!

It seems to me, however, that the statement from the book is an understatement of magnificent proportions.  Comparing vastness to St. Peter’s is understandable, but is St. Peter’s really all that vast in terms of the scale of the universe?  No, it is tiny and insignificant.  And so it is that comparing God with “being smart” is an understatement of far greater proportion because God’s “smartness” is infinite.

You see, when it comes to God, he defines any of our attempts to, well, define or describe him.  To what should we compare Him, He asks?  If we were to compare him to the power of the sea, it would be foolish.  Even the most powerful laser that scientists are building, one capable of delivering 100,000 times the entire power of the world’s electrical system for a trillionth of a second (here’s new term for you – that would be 200 petawatts for those who are interested) is nothing compared to the power that is at work in the universe as a whole…of the power of the God who with a Word called that universe into existence.

The most amazing thing about it all, though, is this: all that power, all that “smartness”, all that energy, all that wisdom…wrapped itself up in a tiny ball of human flesh and blood and after exiting his mother’s body, was wrapped in cloths and placed in a manager in Bethlehem.

It is true that not just the best, but the most powerful of all things, comes in small packages! 

PRAYER: For the wonder of the Incarnation, of the sheer Presence of the All-Powerful in human form, we bow in worship and amazement, Lord Jesus!  Glory to You who rules all things forever and ever!!!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2011 by Galen C. Dalrymple.

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DayBreaks for 12/15/11 – Trusting God in the Nowhere, Trust #12

DayBreaks for 12/15/11 – Trusting God in the Nowhere, Trust #12

We need to learn to live in the Now/Here

From the DayBreaks Archive, dated 11/26/2001:

An Irishman, Fionn MacCumhaill, once asked his followers this question: “What’s the finest music in the world?

The cuckoo calling from the tree that is highest in the hedge,” cried his merry son.

“A good sound,” said Fionn.  “And Oscar,” he asked, “what is to your mind the finest of music?

“The top of music is the ring of a spear on a shield,” cried the stout lad.

“It is a good sound,” said Fionn.

“And the other champions told their delight: the belling of a stag across the water, the baying of a tuneful pack heard in the distance, the song of a lark, the laughter of a gleeful girl, or the whisper of a loved one.

“They are good sounds all,” said Fionn.

“Tell us, chief,” one ventured, “what do you think?

“The music of what is happening,” said the great Fionn, “that is the finest music in the world.”

Brennan Manning had this to say in Ruthless Trust: “The music of what IS happening can be heard only in the present moment, right NOW, right HERE.  Now/here spells nowhere.  To be fully present to whoever or whatever is immediately before us is to pitch a tent in the wilderness of Nowhere.  It is an act of radical trust, trust that God can be encountered at no other time and in no other place than the present moment.  Being fully present in the now is perhaps the premier skill of the spiritual life.

What does he mean, and what does this have to do with trust?  I think he means that we don’t have yesterday any more – that’s gone and done with.  We don’t have any kind of promise of tomorrow.  We have only this day – this moment – and for the rest of life as well as for this fragile moment – we have to trust in Someone bigger and greater than ourselves.

Now/here can be a boring place, yet we often think we are fully engaged in life.  I think we’re wrong most of the time.  We aren’t often engaged with life at all.  If we were, how could we possibly be bored?  Hasn’t God himself promised to always be with us?  And if that is true, and if we are aware of His presence fully in the Now/here, how could we possibly find life boring?

But is this biblical?  I believe it is.  As Brennan Manning also wrote: “There is only now.  Thus Jesus counsels, “Do  not worry about your life, what you WILL eat or what you WILL drink or about your body, what you WILL wear” (Matt. 6:25).  Instead, Jesus says, “Look at the birds…look at the flowers…” (vs. 26).  After instructing us not to have a hissy fit about what may or may not happen tomorrow, he adds a bit of dark humor: “Today’s trouble is enough for today.”  (vs. 34)

As Manning suggests, one of the benefits of living in the Now/here is freedom of concern about our spiritual condition, the endless self-analysis of our past failings and faults, feelings of guilt and worry about the future.

It isn’t coincidental that Jesus’ counsels us to not worry about life, but to look at the birds and flowers.  Why is that “good medicine”?  Because we don’t live lives in the Now/here.  We are too wrapped up in the Sometime/there.  When Jesus rode into the city of Jerusalem, he was the only one who heard the truth that the rocks and stones would cry out for his coming.  If David hadn’t been fully living in the Now/here, would he have written his psalms in all their richness and diversity?  When told to be on the lookout for God, Elijah learned that God wasn’t in the shrieking windstorm, the fire, or even in the earthquake that shook the cave in which he was hiding.  No, he was in the still, small whisper.  If he had not been living in the Now/here, he would have missed God’s voice.  It was because he lived in the Now/here that Jesus was moved with compassion on the masses, that he sensed the touch of the bleeding woman and that “he noticed” the two mites of the widow as they were given to God’s glory and His purposes.  Jesus noticed those things because he lived fully in the present.  How could he do that?  He trusted God not only with the future, but with the present.

Go outside sometime today and do yourself a huge favor.  Instead of thinking about where you are going later, or what you have to do when you go back inside, just live.  Don’t walk.  Just stand still, live – and notice what is happening in the Now/here.  Notice the song of the birds as they lift their voices in praise to their Maker – and as they trust Him for their food, shelter and water.  Feel the gentle breeze on your skin as God caresses you with this lovely reminder of His love.  Can you feel the warmth of the sun as it kisses your face?  Let it be a reminder of God’s kiss of love for you – His child.  Notice the colors of the world that surround you – the endlessly rich shades of glorious color – and see in it the manifold blessings of the God who delights to delight you – and who delights in you!  Let all these things – and everything else you notice – remind you that you can trust Him, for He loves you and has made these things for you and given you the ability in the Now/here to see and enjoy them.  

PRAYER: Let us live in the Now/here, this glorious moment filled with Your presence!!!!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2011 by Galen C. Dalrymple.

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DayBreaks for 12/14/11 – Go On Not Knowing, Trust #11

DayBreaks for 12/14/11 – Go On Not Knowing, Trust #11

From the DayBreaks Archive, dated 11/22/2001:

Looking to the future with joy...because He Is, and He Knows what awaits!

How will the war on terrorism conclude itself?  Or will it?  I don’t know.  How will I spend the last years of my life?  I don’t know.  How will my children and grandchildren deal with life?  I don’t know.  How will the company that provides me employment do this year?  I don’t know.  Will I someday contract a debilitating or deadly disease?  I don’t know.  Will I ever be able to retire?  I don’t know.  What will we have for dinner next week?  I don’t know.  Will there be a next week?  I don’t know.

I don’t know much, do I?  But I dare say that when you get right down to it, you don’t know those things, either.  Sure, you may think you know what you’re having for dinner next week, but even that is up for grabs.  You may not be here to eat dinner.  You may be eating in the Father’s house before this week is over.  The things we don’t know far outweigh the things that we do know.  And that could lead us to feel very uncomfortable with our lives.  But it shouldn’t.  Not if we know the One who does know!

2 Corinthians 5:7 is a reminder: “We live by faith, not by sight.”  None of us has ever seen heaven.  None of us have ever seen God.  None of us have ever heard the heavenly choir of angels.  None of us have ever met or seen Abraham, Joseph, Daniel, Elijah, Moses, David, Peter, Paul or John.  None of us have walked down life’s pathway with clear signposts at every step in every instance that say: “This way to God’s perfect will for your life.”  None of us saw Christ walk through the dusty pathways of Galilee, nor did we see him in the upper room or on the road to Emmaus.  Yet we believe all these things – and that all these people lived and believed in the same God that we do.  We live, we walk, by faith – not by the things we have seen.

Our faith isn’t just that God is there.  That wouldn’t be good enough cause to follow him.  After all, we believe there is a real devil and we don’t follow him.  The difference?  We trust that God is good and that the devil is evil.  We believe in both, but we trust one and not the other because of the evidence of history.  We trust that One wants only what is best, while the other wants to kill.

Perhaps no one said it better than Mary Gardner Brainard:

So I go on, not knowing,
I would not, if I might
I would rather walk in the dark with God
Than go alone in the light.
I would rather walk with Him by Faith
Than walk alone by sight.”

I think she captured the essence of trust.  I really don’t think I want to see or know the answers to all the things that I don’t know.  But trust tells me that it is OK not to know and that it is OK not to fear, because the One who knows all has said it will be all right.  What if I should die in a high-jacked airliner, or in a collapsing tower, or via a biological or chemical agent?  It is OK – because “…even there Your hand will guide me, Your right hand will hold me fast.” 

The Trustworthy One says, “Give me every day of your past, give me your today, give me all your tomorrows – and I will give you My eternity.”   

PRAYER: Thank you for freeing us from the fear of the past, the present and the future!!!!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2011 by Galen C. Dalrymple.

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DayBreaks for 12/13/11 – Why Jesus Loves Us, Trust #10

DayBreaks for 12/13/11 – Why Jesus Loves Us, Trust #10

Loving like the Father loves...

From the DayBreaks Archive, dated 11/21/2001:

Perhaps the thing that makes it hardest for us to trust Jesus is that we don’t understand his motivation.  Why would, or should, he love someone like me?  It just doesn’t seem to make sense and since others have abandoned their affections for us when we have failed them or hurt them or let them down, we are tempted to think that Jesus will do likewise.  I suppose that as long as we are here on this earth, it is somewhat presumptuous for us to try to explain his motives.  But when Jesus explains why he loves us as he does, it takes all of our guessing out of the picture and gives us certainty – and certainty is central to the concept of trust.

Why was Jesus attracted to the unattractive, why did he desire the undesirable and love those deemed unlovely by human standards?  Why did he love all those losers, failures and no-accounts?  Because his Father does.  ‘I tell you most solemnly, the son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees the father doing: and whatever the father does the son does, too.’”  (Brennan Manning, Ruthless Trust)

Get it?   Why was Jesus drawn to the lowly of the world?  Because God is drawn to them – the son only can do what He saw the Father doing, so if Jesus was drawn to the lowly and humble, it is because God was first drawn to the lowly and humble.  If Jesus loved the unlovable while he was here on earth, if he loved the sinners that surrounded him, we can only conclude that he loves us when we are unlovable and even through we are sinners, because it is what God does and Jesus can only do what he has seen the Father doing – and he never changes, he is the same yesterday, today and forever.  That means that he loved you and me yesterday, today and forever.  If he ever loved us, he loves us now and always will!

When you slip up – he still loves you.  When you do some act of kindness – he loves you the same.  Learn to rest in his love and trust comes a bit more easily.

If you feel the call of the spirit, then be holy with all your soul, with all your heart, and with all your strength.  If, however, because of human weakness, you cannot be holy, then be perfect with all your soul, with all your heart, and with all your strength. 

“But if you cannot be perfect because of the vanity of your life, then be good with all your soul…yet, if you cannot be good because of the trickery of the Evil One, then be wise with all your soul…

“If, in the end, you can neither be holy, nor perfect, nor good, or wise because of the weight of your sins, then carry this weight before God and surrender your life to his divine mercy.

“If you do this, without bitterness, with all humility, and with a joyous spirit due to the tenderness of a God who loves the sinful and ungrateful, then you will begin to feel what it is to be wise, you will learn what it is to be good, and you will slowly aspire to be perfect, and finally you will long to be holy.   

PRAYER: For showing us how the Father loves, we love you…and we thank you!!!!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2011 by Galen C. Dalrymple.

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DayBreaks for 12/12/11 – The Far Side of Trust, #9

DayBreaks for 12/12/11 – The Far Side of Despair, Trust #9

From the DayBreaks Archive, dated 11/20/2001:

There is a caution about trust that must be stated in order to be completely fair about the topic.  Sometimes, we can confuse trust with presumption.  Presumption can corrupt trust and it works this way: we become presumptuous when we assign to God the job of doing for us what we should be doing for ourselves.  Brennan Manning gives this illustration of the problem: “One of the wise old birds of the AA fellowship, Father Joe Martin, uses the following illustration: Imagine a man who comes and says… ‘Father Martin, I want to become a great heart surgeon like Dr. Michael DeBakey.  I believe that all power in heaven and on earth belongs to Jesus.  So lay your hands on me and ask Jesus to infuse the knowledge and skill of DeBakey.  Then I’ll start my practice.’  Old Joe blinks in disbelief and says, ‘Son, go to medical school, and after you have finished your residency, specialize in coronary surgery.  Then apply to a hospital, attach yourself to one of the surgical wizards for several years, and maybe in thirty years you will arrive at the premier level.’ 

“Similarly, Father Martin says, picture a guy who comes and says, ‘…I am a hopeless alcoholic.  I’ve been drinking a quart of vodka, a gallon of Chablis, and a case of beer every day for the last twenty years.  I’ve read a lot of the miracle stories in the Bible lately, and I know that Jesus is the master of the impossible.  So pray over me and tell Jesus to set me free from bondage.’  Father Martin responds, ‘I’ve got a better idea.  Go to Alcoholics Anonymous, attend ninety meetings in ninety days, find yourself a sponsor, diligently work the Twelve Steps under his guidance, and read the Big Book every day.  In other words, do the hard work.’”

In short, we expect God to intervene miraculously on our behalf.  “The theological arguments that support an interventionary God are many and varied.  Frequently people report that they have experienced a physical cure or an inner healing.  And yet, as John Shea writes, ‘one brutal historical fact remains – Jesus is mercilessly nailed to the cross and despite the Matthean boast, twelve legions of angels did not save him from that hour.  No cop-out redemption theories that say God wanted it that way explain the lonely and unvisited death of God’s Son.  This side of the grave Jesus is left totally invalidated by the Lord of heaven and earth.  Trust in God does not presume that God will intervene. 

“Often trust begins on the far side of despair.  When all human resources are exhausted, when the craving for reassurances is stifled, when we forego control, when we cease trying to manipulate God and demystify Mystery, then – at our wits’ end – trust happens within us, and the unwanted cry, ‘Abba, into your hands I commend my spirit,’ surges from the heart.”

Trust truly does often begin on the far side of despair when we have reached the end of ourselves (and then some).  Trust doesn’t presume God will intervene (at least not in the ways we may think He should).  God has already done the most important intervention on our behalf.  Anything else will be anticlimactic.  If He’s already done the greatest thing possible for us, why won’t we trust that He’ll take care of the smaller, “easier” things, too?  

PRAYER: Help us to truly trust, and not to presume, upon You!!!!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2011 by Galen C. Dalrymple.

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