DayBreaks for 5/20/16 – In the Coffin of Your Selfishness

DayBreaks for 5/20/16 – In the Coffin of Your Selfishness

NOTE: Galen will be out of the office and traveling next week. 

From the DayBreaks archive, May 2006:

I’m a rather risk-averse person.  I don’t climb sheer rock walls (with or without cables!), I don’t jump out of airplanes that are perfectly functioning, I don’t wrestle alligators or dive with sharks.  I suppose some folks (maybe most) would think that my life is pretty dull and boring because I don’t knowingly take life-risking chances.  So be it.  I can live with that!

But it’s another matter when it comes to spiritual things.  We are all given only one life to spend – and spend it we shall, one way or another.  We’ll live our life based on certain sets of assumptions about reality, meaning, purpose, the existence or non-existence of God and life beyond the grave.  The conclusions we reach about such things are based on what kind of risk we are willing to take.  If you don’t believe there is a God, chances are you’ll live much differently in this world than if you do believe in Him.  I know that if I didn’t believe He exists and has revealed Himself to us, I’d live much differently than I do.  Different things would rise to the top of my priority list than currently reside there.

We do, however, all need to take some risk.  I know people who have lost their spouse several years ago but they cannot seem to break free from their cave of grief and they isolate themselves from the people and events of the world.  They decide not to risk ever being hurt again.  C. S. Lewis, in The Four Loves, wrote: “Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken.  If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal.  Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness.  But in that casket – safe, dark, motionless, airless – it will change.  It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.

Lewis is right.  When we withdraw and seek to avoid the entanglements that being a fully-functional human requires, we may be able to avoid pain – but only because our hearts turn to stone.  And perhaps, that is a pain that we carry inside and never admit to ourselves. 

I don’t want a heart that doesn’t beat, that doesn’t pulse with life and send it coursing through my being, nourishing not just me, but those I can interact with.  If you’ve withdrawn because of the pain you’ve experienced because you gave your heart away once upon a time, take the risk to rise up out of the “coffin of selfishness” and live again.  Jesus gave himself over and over, in love, to anyone he met who needed love – even those who were the most unlovely.  And he was the perfect human – knowing pain, but also knowing the greatest joy any human has ever experienced.  Our withdrawal from life puts us at the center of our own little universe, and that’s a place that only God should hold.

PRAYER:  Father, create in us a new, clean heart, one that is willing to risk living the life abundant.  For those pains we carry we seek your healing, for the fears that keep us locked in our own selfish coffins – alone and dejected – we ask you for courage to begin to live the life that Jesus died to give us, loving others as he did.  In Jesus’ name, Amen

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

 

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DayBreaks for 5/19/16 – The Cobra of Culture

DayBreaks for 5/19/16 – The Cobra of Culture

NOTE: Galen will be out of the office and traveling next week. 

From the DayBreaks archive, May 2006:

You’ve seen them on nature shows: the snake charmer with the cobra.  And you’ve maybe seen them on shows that depict the cobra living in the wild – coiled, raised up, swaying back and forth, staring at their soon-to-be prey.  And almost faster than you can see, the cobra strikes, killing the victim with its deadly venom. 

1 John 2:15 says, Do not love the world or anything in the world.  As Brian Jones notes in Second-Guessing God, the Greek word for world is kosmos.  It’s translated as either world or beauty, depending on the context in which it is used.  We get our word, cosmos from it, but also our word for “cosmetics”.  So the world is not only the world itself, but the beautiful things that are in the world – sculptures, beautiful people, “natural” wonders that take our breath away.  So why does the bible use kosmos in a negative way – telling us to not love the either the world or the things that are in it?

Jones writes: “I think it’s because God knew we could easily fall into the hypnotic stare of our culture and waste our loves, just like the rabbit…seeking happiness from what was created rather than its Creator.  God’s gift to us then, in those lethal moments, is to send trials to shake us free from our culture’s grasp to see our situation for what it really is…what writer Simone Weil once said is absolutely true: ‘If there were no afflictions in this world we might think we were in paradise.’”

What aspects of our culture are like the cobra to you?  What holds your fascination?  Are you sure that it is safe, harmless?  Or even better yet, is it making your life – your true, real life of the spirit, not of the flesh – more holy and righteous?

Because culture is of human origin, and because humans are inherently sinful and flawed, culture by and large has always been antithetical to God. As Kevin DeYoung said in his book about humans and our cultures, “Desire must never be given the priority over obedience. Intense longings do not turn sinful wrongs into civil rights.”

The cobra of culture is coiled, swaying back and forth trying to get us to freeze and focus on it.  Beware – it may strike so quickly that you’ll be dead before you know what happened.

PRAYER:  Lord, how easily we fall under the sway of the evil one and how we resist the loving call of your Spirit to holiness and the pursuit of the holy!  Open our ears, enlighten our minds, give us clear vision to see the serpent as he was in the beginning, and even as he is today – our enemy, speaking to us through lying lips.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

 

DayBreaks for 5/18/16 – Don’t Waste Your Pain

DayBreaks for 5/18/16 – Don’t Waste Your Pain

NOTE: Galen will be out of the office and traveling next week. 

From the DayBreaks archive, May 2006:

Ministers often hear about pain.  I’m not complaining about that, mind you – after all, most ministers are in that line of work because they are compassionate and want to help those who hurt.  It is a blessing and privilege that is granted to few humans to be trusted at those moments of deepest pain and anguish and to be admitted to the inner sanctum of someone’s heart and hurt. 

But what do you say when there seem to be no answers to the inevitable “Why?” questions?  I’ll be very honest – I often don’t know what to say at those moments.  It is often enough just to be there with them as a loved one slips the bonds of this life to enter into the next. 

Once again, let me share a perspective from Brian Jones in Second-Guessing God: “The question we need to ask ourselves when God allows us to go through hard times is not why but who?  In the mind of God, pain always has two intended recipients: us and someone else.  If we choose not to take what we’ve experienced and find some way of using it to help other people, we miss a large part of why God allowed us to suffer in the first place.

“In his book The Gospel of Suffering, philosopher Soren Kierkegaard asked: ‘When indeed does the temporal suffering oppress a man most terribly?  Is it not when it seems to him that it has no significance, that it neither secures nor gains anything for him?  Is it not when the suffering, as the impatient man expresses it, is without meaning or purpose?’

“Absolutely.  Suffering is pointless when it is without meaning, and suffering is without meaning, ultimately, when what we’ve suffered isn’t put to some greater use.”

We have all suffered in this world – to varying degrees and in various ways.  There is no consistent scale of pain like there is for earthquakes.  The pain in one heart is unique, but related, to the pain of other hearts.  We cannot know another’s pain – but our own pain helps us identify with it.  Simone Weil wrote: “The extreme greatness of Christianity lies in the fact that it does not seek a supernatural remedy for suffering, but a supernatural use for it.”

What do you think God wants you to do with your suffering and pain?  How can you put it to work, to use, for Him, for others?  What pain are you carrying right now, this moment, that can be redeemed by the One who gives our very existence meaning and purpose?

Job 36:15-16 (NIV) – But those who suffer he delivers in their suffering; he speaks to them in their affliction.  He is wooing you from the jaws of distress to a spacious place free from restriction, to the comfort of your table laden with choice food.

PRAYER:  Help us, Lord, as we bear the arrows of suffering, to find in it – in You – a way to use it to bless others for the cause of the Son who bore the stripes for us.  As You redeemed his suffering, we invite you to show us how You wish to redeem ours.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

 

DayBreaks for 5/17/16 – The Speed God Walks

DayBreaks for 5/17/16 – The Speed God Walks

NOTE: Galen will be out of the office and traveling next week. 

From the DayBreaks archive, May 2006:

On Wednesday mornings, I teach a bible study at a senior apartment complex.  It’s a small group that gathers, but they’re tremendously faithful and very serious students of the Word.  This bible study group is truly one of the highlights of my week every week!  There is one lady that I get to help from her apartment to where we meet in the fireside room.  She’s 92 years young, sharp as a tack, even if she’s a bit hard to understand because her voice is very gravelly.  She moves very slowly – she uses a walker to get around in her apartment and I get her wheelchair ready for her and push her down to the meeting.  I make sure and get there in plenty of time in order to allow for how slowly she moves.

I sometimes am a little impatient – although I don’t think I let it show.  I try to imagine how it must be to be 92 years of age, with bones and muscles that creak and groan.  I hope, that if I do live that long, that there will be someone who is loving and patient with me.

Theologian Kosuke Koyama described God in a wonderful way.  As he reflected on his days spent in the peaceful rice fields of Thailand, he was moved to write these word: “God walks ‘slowly’ because he is love.  If he is not love he would have gone much faster.  Love has its speed.  It is an inner speed.  It is a spiritual speed.  It is a different kind of speed from the technological speed to which we are accustomed…It goes on in the depth of our life, whether we notice or not, whether we are currently hit by storm or not, at three miles an hour.  It is the speed we walk and therefore it is the speed the love of God walks.”

There’s a lot to contemplate in that paragraph: 

FIRST: love moves slowly, and because God is love, He moves slowly.  Why did God take 400 years before He led Israel out of Egypt?  Why did He take thousands of years before sending Christ?  Why has He waited so long to complete His plan for us and make all wrongs right?  If I read scripture correctly, the answer is love: it is his love that leads to his patience, not willing that any should perish, but that all come to repentance.  (2 Peter 3:9)

SECOND: Love has to move slowly in order to notice that which is beloved.  When you’re moving at warp speed, you can’t notice the curl at the corner of the mouth that signifies happiness, the smell of someone’s hair, the wonder of their mind and thoughts.  Love must give and receive – and those things both take time to give and receive wisely.

THIRD: Humans walk about 3 miles per hour – give or take a bit, depending on circumstances.  How interesting that he says that love walks at 3 miles per hour.  He’s suggesting that where we go, love goes…at 3 miles per hour.  At least, this is to be the case for all believers – if God is within us then he moves with us…at 3 miles per hour. 

He’s not in any rush to make His way through this day.  Let’s not be trying to move at a greater speed than love demands.

Habakkuk 2:2-3 (NLT) – Then the LORD said to me, “Write my answer in large, clear letters on a tablet, so that a runner can read it and tell everyone else.  But these things I plan won’t happen right away. Slowly, steadily, surely, the time approaches when the vision will be fulfilled. If it seems slow, wait patiently, for it will surely take place. It will not be delayed.”

PRAYER:  How wonderful it is to know that You love us so unreservedly and so intimately!  Thank you for taking the time to always be slow enough to notice us – our joys, our pains, our fears and our delights.  Thank you for making the petals of each flower to delight us.  Thank you for making people so vastly different and complex.  Help us to take the time to walk slowly this day and see, and be, love wherever we go.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

 

DayBreaks for 5/16/16 – The Shining Face of God

DayBreaks for 5/16/16 – The Shining Face of God

NOTE: Galen will be out of the office and traveling next week. 

From the DayBreaks archive, May 2006:

Psalms 67:1-2 (NIV) – May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face shine upon us, Selah that your ways may be known on earth, your salvation among all nations.

Scripture speaks in several places about the face of God.  We read it, but miss the tremendous meaning behind the face of God shining on us.  Let’s take a moment and consider what it means:

  1. A baby finds affirmation in the face of the parent or sibling. They like to see that smiling face above their crib, and they soon learn that if they do the right things, they bring delight to the face of the one watching, which in turn, brings delight back to the baby – they smile, laugh, and coo in response. They also eventually learn to recognize the displeasure in the face, too, when they do wrong.  We find affirmation or judgment (not sure that’s the right word to use there) in the face of the Father.  When we bring Him joy by our actions, we are filled with joy in response.
  2. The astounding, underlying fact is that this says that God pays attention to us. When we see someone’s face, they can see ours. To turn our face to someone is to give them our undivided attention, to look them in the face and be joined with them in some form of intimate connection.  As the Psalmist elsewhere says, What is man that You are mindful of him?  Or the son of man that Thou should visit him?”  It is a wonder that God should direct his face, his attention, to us.
  3. But it goes far beyond that. It says that God makes his face to “shine” upon us. This is the face of a beaming, tickled-pink, proud parent.  A baby’s first laugh, first crawling, first steps, first soccer goal, piano recital…and the list goes on…all these things make a parent’s face beam with delight and joy.  Like a groom’s face when he sees his bride appear at the end of the aisle, so God’s face beams when His gaze falls upon us – and the best thing is that His gaze is always steadily fixed upon us, never wavering!

Throughout his life, Jesus seemed to see things that the rest of us miss: the lilies of the field, a man sitting up in the branches of a sycamore tree, the blind beggar sitting by the side of the road that we’d told Jesus SAW, the possibility of a man who was more like a pile of sand being turned into a ROCK, the day when the tombs would be opened and the dead would rise.  Jesus sees with God’s eyes.  He sees US with God’s eyes.  And his face beams!

I need to take more time to try to focus on how God sees me in Christ.  I need to believe that He takes delight in ME, not just in the Mother Theresa’s or Billy Graham’s of the world.  And I need to learn to let his face shine not only upon me, but through me – that I can see others as Jesus did.

PRAYER:  Almighty God – how awesome it is to think that you see us with delight.  When our hearts are weighed down with our guilt, shame and when we look in the mirror and are disgusted by what we see, let us hear your voice of delight, and see your face of approval and love.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

 

DayBreaks for 5/13/16 – Who’s Gonna Drive?

DayBreaks for 5/13/16 – Who’s Gonna Drive?

NOTE: Galen will be out of the office and traveling next week. 

From the DayBreaks archive, May 2006:

NEW YORK (Bizarre News, 5/2006) – “A retired teacher who visited the graves of her loved ones every day was struck and killed by her own car while visiting a New York cemetery. Evanglistia Vartholomeou, 76, emigrated to the United States from Greece in 1965 and regularly visited the graves of her brother, sister, mother and a nephew, who died of cancer at the age of 3 in 1979.  Niece Katherine Vartholomeou told the New York Post her aunt spent her life caring for family and apparently left her car in drive at Maple Grove Cemetery in Kew Gardens by mistake.”

I remember when I was taking driver’s education so very, very long ago (yes, we had to take driver’s ed in order to get a license to ride a horse – NOT!)  There was a device that was intended to measure how quickly you could respond to a light changing from green to yellow.  I was, speaking modestly, pretty fast!  I always have felt that I’m a pretty good driver.  I know that I have some bad habits that I’ve allowed to creep into my driving over the past few years that I should correct, but by the grace of God, I’ve never had a serious accident at all.  I pray that will continue to be the case.

Sometimes, when I’m going somewhere with someone, we’ll have a bit of a debate about who’s going to drive.  If it is someone that I’ve not ridden with before and I don’t know what their driving is like, I’m more likely to say “I’ll drive!” or trust the directions to Waze or Google Maps.  Rightly or wrongly, I trust my own driving.

But when it comes to going somewhere in a city that I’ve never been before, I’m more than ready to cede control of the car to someone who’s been there and knows the way.  I trust that they’ll get me there or I wouldn’t get in the car with them. 

In the case of Ms. Vartholomeou, she forgot a couple key things.  She forgot to put her car in park and she failed to put on the parking brake.  The car thought she was in control still and it just did what cars will do under those circumstances – it went with the flow of gravity. 

As we travel through life, going from one destination to another, we need to get out from behind the wheel and let Jesus take control.  Consider the advantages: he’s been there, he knows where it is safe and where it is dangerous, he never takes wrong turns and he definitely won’t run over us. 

Are you still trying to navigate your own way through life?  Stop.  Put your life in park, put on the brake, get out of the driver’s seat and let Jesus take you where he wants you to go.

PRAYER:  We have tried for years, God, to make our own way and we’ve paid a huge price for it.  Help us to humble ourselves enough to admit that we are lost, that we cannot navigate our way through life without You.  We ask you to take full control of our past, present and future direction to lead us safely home.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

 

 

DayBreaks for 5/12/16 – Toothless Fish and the Things that Plague Our Souls

DayBreaks for 5/12/16 – Toothless Fish and the Things that Plague Our Souls

From the DayBreaks archive, May 2006:

HAKONE, Japan (Bizarre News, 4/19/2006) – “It’s a common sight to see Japanese people eating fish. But I bet you wouldn’t expect to see fish eating Japanese people. However, thanks to a beauty treatment imported from Turkey, this won’t be an unusual sight for much longer. Bathers at a new spa called “Dr. Fish” have the chance to dip their feet into a warm pool teeming with fish that nibble away at dead skin and bacteria. The toothless Kangal fish are used in Turkey as a cure for skin conditions like psoriasis, but in Japan the focus is on getting feet squeaky clean. Bathers say the experience is not painful, but rather ticklish. “They’re eating the bad stuff and it makes me feel better,” Shingo Kamiya, a 45-year-old customer at the spa said.”

I must confess, I’ve never dreamt of having fish nibble away at the dead skin on my toes (or anywhere else, for that matter!)  I can imagine, however, that it might be a rather interesting sensation to put your feet into a pan full of water and have little fish nibble away at the stuff between my toes!  (Poor fish!) 

But that’s not really the point of the story.  As I read this little news clip, I was struck with how far we as people go to get rid of the symptoms of the problems in our lives and never really deal with the root cause.  The little fish in the story can eat all the dead skin and bacteria off our feet that they want, but until we get rid of what’s killing the skin and allowing the bacteria to multiply, they’re not going to solve their “foot problem.” 

We struggle with sin – all of us.  But what we often fail to do is deal with the root cause of our sinfulness.  We may resolve not to get drunk again, not to do drugs, to stop lustful thought patterns – but we never get around to dealing with the real cause of our sin.  Alcoholism, additions of any sort, all have deeper underlying causes.  They may be that we’re not trusting God to meet our needs, it may be that we’re struggling with envy or unforgiveness that is eating us alive, feeding our destructive sinful behaviors.  And at the same time, we like how the sin feels – it tickles our ears and feet and heart – and if we’re honest about it, we may not really want to get rid of the sin. 

It isn’t easy to live a holy life – I can’t say that I’ve been terribly successful at it.  But I have, by faith, been clothed with the robe of righteousness that comes from God.  And I have found that I really can’t get sin out of my life until I come to the point that I really want to be set free from it – and then God gives the strength to be set free. 

Isaiah 61:10 (NLT) – I am overwhelmed with joy in the LORD my God! For he has dressed me with the clothing of salvation and draped me in a robe of righteousness. I am like a bridegroom in his wedding suit or a bride with her jewels.

PRAYER:  Lord Jesus, we confess our sinfulness to you – and not just our sinfulness, but our love for sin.  And yet, Lord, we hate it, too, for the shame, guilt and despair it brings forth in us.  Help us to truly want to be holy, to be done with the sins that foul our lives.  Don’t let us settle for just dealing with the symptoms, but show us the root causes of our willful disobedience and change us in the inner person so that we can become like Christ.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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