DayBreaks for 10/31/16 – Forgiveness and Present Realities

DayBreaks for 10/31/16 – Forgiveness and Present Realities

From the DayBreaks archive, October 2006:

NOTE: Galen is taking a short vacation.

Psalm 79:8-9 – Oh, do not hold us guilty for our former sins! Let your tenderhearted mercies quickly meet our needs, for we are brought low to the dust. Help us, O God of our salvation! Help us for the honor of your name. Oh, save us and forgive our sins for the sake of your name.

As I read and meditated on this passage, I found it interesting that David pleads with God to not hold us guilty of former sins.  What about the present ones?  What about all our future ones still waiting to be born? 

Surely, the plea is that God not hold us guilty at all, for we haven’t committed present or future sins yet – and at some point they will all be “former” sins – certain when we stand in judgment they will all be former!  Yet in a way, I suppose that we can only ask for forgiveness for the things that we have done – not for things we may yet do.  Our confession should be specific.  We cannot confess the truthful, yet painful, details of sins we’ve not yet committed. 

The Psalmist makes no claim to deserve such favor from God, only holding on to the “tenderhearted mercies” that belong to God, which David is confident will be quickly poured out to meet the needs of those who have humbled themselves.  Interestingly, his plea for God’s help is not for our sake or benefit, nor is it because we deserve it, but for the honor of God’s name.  Have you thought about how it would look if the Lord’s people are destitute forever, if there is no relief from the guilt and shame of sin, no ultimate vindication for those who cling to their faith like a drowning man holds to a piece of wood?  If such were the case, why would anyone want to be a follower, to be able to say “O God of OUR salvation”?  At some point, salvation must become a much more present reality than the way we experience it today, else there is nothing to draw us to it.  So, it is for the sake of the Lord’s name that we pray for His mercy to be poured out.

The day will come when the present reality is, pure and simple, the eternal reality.  At that time, all my sins will be in the past, already forgiven.  As I struggle through this life, that truth gives me strength to face another day full of hope and reassurance.

I am far too prone to see the benefits of God’s mercy and forgiveness and favor for my own benefit and comfort.  I need to learn to seek his mercies for the sake of His name.  How often do my reactions to unpleasant things in this life dishonor his name?  If I truly learn to celebrate His mercies for His name’s sake, I’ll be much better off and He will be glorified.

PRAYER:  Father, sometimes it is hard to believe that You forgive us so freely, for we know that there is nothing in us that could cause You to love and forgive us.  Help us to understand that You forgive us for Your own honor and sake, and that regardless of Your motive in forgiving us, that Your forgiveness is real and eternal.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

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DayBreaks for 10/28/16 – Problems With Eyesight

DayBreaks for 10/287/16 – Problems With Eyesight

From the DayBreaks archive, October 2006:

As I get older, I find that I don’t trust what I see as much as I once did.  It’s time to go visit the eye doctor again – maybe that will help some.  It’s harder to tell distances on the golf course, if I have my glasses off, I have to hold books really close in order to read the words.  Sometimes at night, shadows can fool me into thinking that some animal is out there on the hillside when in reality, nothing is there.  So, I’m learning not to trust my eyesight too much.

Craig Larsen was struck with how our selective eyesight can cause us to miss things we’d rather not see.  As he sat in a park on a summer day, he started watching several robins that were looking for something to eat.  As he really watched them, and then reflected on what he saw, he realized that the innocent-looking birds that to many are so delightful as the heralds of spring, are really vicious killers.  He wrote: “They hop along in the grass, pause cutely, cock their heads, and stare at the ground.  Then they pounce on their unsuspecting prey, savagely pounding their beaks like jackhammers into the soil, sending dirt flying until they seize the unarmed father and mother of many baby worms and mercilessly snip it to pieces.  With a slurp, the robins gobble up their still-writing victims.  But their bloodlust is not satisfied.  They are serial killers.  Without remorse, they hope off to repeat their brutality.”

Perhaps we struggle especially when it comes to spiritual eyesight.  I’ve been preaching through the gospel of John, and one of the things that is front and center many times is the lack of spiritual eyesight on the part of those who should be able to see spiritual truths the most clearly.  But the Pharisees were blind to truths about Jesus that they didn’t want to see, and the “commoners” were blinded to the flaws of the Pharisees. 

We all have spiritual blind spots in our lives.  We probably know what most of them are if we take even a couple of minutes to think about them and pray about them, but we seldom do that because we don’t like to admit our weaknesses and sins.  But we need to observe ourselves carefully.  What are the tendencies that lead us into sin?  What unrepented-of sin do we have in our lives that we don’t even acknowledge and confess to God? 

And another warning: we also tend to look at other people and draw conclusions about them that may be very incorrect.  Just as the robin, when you think about it, is a serial killer of worms even while it wears it’s colorful orange breast feathers, people aren’t always what they seem to be, either.  None of us are fully transparent and open about who we are, what we think, even what we do.  We’ve all been in denial since the garden of Eden, suffering from bad eyesight and poor comprehension. 

PRAYER:  Lord, we so easily are impressed by that which is flashy and showy.  We tend to only look at surface things and to only see in ourselves what we want to see, and to see problems in everyone else.  Search our hearts with Your Spirit and give us the courage to bear the things you reveal to us and to repent of our blindness.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

DayBreaks for 10/27/16 – In Search of the Real Me

DayBreaks for 10/27/16 – In Search of the Real Me

From the DayBreaks archive, October 2006:

British style writer Neil Boorman has decided to burn every branded thing in his possession.   I am addicted to brands,” he confessed in a magazine article:

“From an early age, I have been taught that to be accepted, to be loveable, to be cool, one must have the right stuff.  At junior school, I tried to make friends with the popular kids, only to be ridiculed for the lack of stripes on my trainers.  Once I had nagged my parents to the point of buying me the shoes, I was duly accepted at school, and I became much happier as a result. As long as my parents continued to buy me the brands, life was more fun. Now, at the age of 31, I still behave according to playground law.

Boorman finally realized that the happiness found in his possessions is hollow and short-lived, leaving him with a “continual, dull ache.”  So he’s taking drastic action and turning to a life of simplicity.  He summarizes: The manner in which we spend our money defines who we are. … In this secular society of ours, where family and church once gave us a sense of belonging, identity, and meaning, there is now Apple, Mercedes, and Coke. … So, this is why I am burning all my stuff.  To find real happiness, to find the real me.

I am torn over this poor man’s actions.  He sounds like he’s recognized a problem in his life, and that’s good!  We spend much of our lives in denial that we have problems.  And when a problem does come up, we always try to find someone else to bear the blame for “our” problem.  So, in short, we usually are still in denial that we have problems that need to be fixed.  It’s a good thing that Mr. Boorman looked deeply into his heart and saw that something was broken that needed fixing. 

And it’s a good thing that he’s divorcing himself from the pride and vanity that go along with designer clothes, Air Jordan’s, the latest and greatest brand names, etc.  Those things invariably cost more than non-name brands, and chances are that they don’t last any longer.  They can’t make us younger, and wearing the name label clothes won’t work magic on how much we weigh (or where we carry that weight!)  I wonder if anyone has ever calculated, over the course of a lifetime, how much money could be saved and used in better ways (feeding the hungry, helping build houses for the homeless, etc.) if we bought generic instead of name brands.  It might be an interesting exercise.

But, I think Mr. Boorman is destined for frustration in his pursuit to “find the real me.”  He seems to think that by just getting rid of things that he’ll discover the real self.  It can help, but the real self is only seen when we look into the perfect law of liberty and let it speak to us about the real us, the ideal us, and how God loves the real us, sees the ideal us, and is at work to make the real us something that glorifies Him.  And is “real happiness” to be discovered by finding the “real me”?  I don’t think so.  The real me isn’t very pretty.  What God knows I will someday become – now that’s something to bring happiness to us!  But in the meantime, what I really need to find in order to have happiness in this life is the understanding of the grace and mercy of God that sees the real me, and loves me enough to not leave the real/sinful me alone, but sheds His blood, light and grace into my life to enable me to not become despondent in this world as I wait for the next. 

PRAYER:  Father, help us to see ourselves as you do, and to know that you love us infinitely.  May be find our happiness in serving you, other and in becoming more like Jesus!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

DayBreaks for 10/26/16 – Superhero Heaven

DayBreaks for 10/26/16 – Superhero Heaven

From the DayBreaks archive, October 2006, written by one of my sons:

The true explanation of all these questions is still stored up in the hidden treasure rooms of Wisdom, and will not come to the light until that moment when we shall be taught the mystery of the Resurrection by the reality of it; and then there will be no more need of phrases to explain the things which we now hope for. Just as many questions might be started for debate amongst people sitting up at night as to the kind of thing that sunshine is, and then the simple appearing of it in all its beauty would render any verbal description superfluous, so every calculation that tries to arrive conjecturally at the future state will be reduced to nothingness by the object of our hopes when it comes upon us.
– St. Gregory of Nyssa

My dad (that’s me, Galen!) employed several standard and sub-standard tricks to keep us kids in line during long summer road trips.  From the “sub-standard” category: When things got loud and out of hand in the car, he’d suggest we play a round of “First-Sleep-Longest-Sleep.”  This was a game of his own devising, a game which could only have been born of fatherly vexation on a long drive across the barren desert with three hollering, diminutive barbarians in the back seat.  The game’s objectives, of course, were two: 1) to fall asleep first; and 2) to wake up last.  You could “win” by doing either, but to achieve both was the ultimate triumph.  Needless to say, our enthusiasm for the game waned considerably after the very first round.
As an alternative to “games” like First-Sleep-Longest-Sleep, my dad would sometimes pose theological questions for us kids and invite us to speculate on them -and I know he took a real interest in our answers.  One question that cropped up frequently was: “What do you think heaven will be like?” Initial replies typically included:

“We’ll be with Jesus.”
“We’ll each live in our own mansion.”
“In heaven the streets are made of gold and the gates are made of giant pearls.”
“Nobody is ever sad or sick.”
“We’ll get to talk with Adam and David and Elijah.”

But though things started out tame enough, inevitably, as I recall, we’d begin to speculate about what super-powers we might possess in the hereafter.  Would we be able to walk through walls?  Would we be able to read each other’s thoughts?  Would we be indestructible?  Invisible?  Would we have superhuman strength?  Would we be able to fly?  We answered all of these in the affirmative.  How could it not be like that?  Heaven, as we imagined it, was a brightly lit playground where we could enjoy all the super-powers possessed by each of the members of the Super Friends and Justice League at once.

Heaven was where we all get to be superheroes – only without having to fight villains.  We get to rocket through the atmosphere just for thrills.  We get to sneak up and surprise people by suddenly materializing before their eyes.  We get to move mountains without breaking a sweat (with a flick of the wrist rather than by faith).  In heaven, it seemed to me, we got to play rough without the consequences.  No wonder we were anxious to get there; Superhero Heaven was where all little boys wanted to go.

Mostly, I think, this was harmless daydreaming, though I imagine my dad had to rein us in now and then.  But kids (okay, adults too) have a way of losing themselves in imaginative self-indulgence.  Like everyone raised in a Christian family, as I grew older I had to revisit and re-imagine such things.  Eventually, in college, I traded Superhero Heaven for a practically Buddhist or neoplatonic vision of the annihilation of the self in the One, or, alternately, a disembodied, semi-conscious state of beatitude in a realm of pure spirit.  Later, however, I came to understand that in some sense my childhood speculations about heaven, silly as they were, were actually more Christian than the subtle, ethereal visions of the philosophers and the Far East.  Superhero Heaven, at least, was tangible, incarnate, even if the rules of strictly earthly life didn’t apply.
The Christian doctrine of the Resurrection, difficult and vague as it is (cf. St Gregory’s quote above), is not compatible with visions of a state of pure spirit, or with the annihilation of the self.  The creedal affirmation of faith in the actual and literal “resurrection of the body” is non-negotiable Christian dogma.  We insist, there is continuity between our creation and our redemption: The God who created us holy and good in our flesh and bones by the dust of the ground and His “breath” is the same God who saves us by taking on and re-hallowing our flesh and bones and the dust of the ground, breathing out his Spirit upon us.

I don’t know if I’ll pose my father’s theological stumpers to my own children on our future summer road trips (though I’m sure to try out First-Sleep-Longest-Sleep).  Perhaps I will.  But in any case, I’ll do what I can to gently steer them away from Superhero Heaven.  And when my kids ask me from the back seat, Papa, what is heaven like? I’ll answer: “If you want to know what heaven is like, just look at Jesus.”  –  Look at Christ’s flesh and blood: crucified, resurrected, deified, at the right hand of the Father yet in our midst, tangible, taste-able. Our portrait of Christ is our portrait of heaven.

Beloved, we are God’s children now; it does not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that when he appears we shall be like him… (I John 3:2)

PRAYER:  We are humbled by Your greatness and confess we are eager to know more about You and Your home.  Give us understanding, Lord, that we may serve You faithfully throughout this life.  And thank you that there really is a Superhero in heaven that gave Himself for us and by Whose power we will rise from the dust we are made of to become the heavenly creatures You long for us to be.  May we glimpse bright heaven’s glories, bright heaven’s Son!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

DayBreaks for 10/25/16 – The Problem is on the Inside

DayBreaks for 10/25/16 – The Problem is on the Inside

From the DayBreaks archive, October 2006:

I was downtown at our local newspaper just this past week, dropping off some articles about an upcoming community wide seminar that we’ll be hosting at church in November.  It was just slightly after 2 in the afternoon, and I walked up to the door and found it locked, even though there were people inside.  The owner/editor of the paper saw me and came running to the door and unlocked it.  It seems that they were having problems with their burglar alarm and the repair man was there to work on it.  It reminded me of a story that I read by Max Lucado that I’d like to share with you.  In When God Whispers Your Name, Max Lucado writes:

“I rolled out of bed early—real early. I’d been on vacation for a couple of weeks, and I was rested. My energy level was high, so I dressed to go to the church office. My wife, Denalyn, tried to convince me not to go.

“It’s the middle of the night,” she mumbled. “What if a burglar tries to break in?”

“There had been an attempted break-in at the office a few weeks previously.  Ignoring my wife’s concern, I drove to the church, entered the office complex, disarmed the alarm, and then re-armed it.

“A few seconds later the sirens screamed. Somebody is trying to break in! I raced down the hall, turned off the alarm, ran back to my office, and dialed 911. After I hung up, it occurred to me that the thieves could get in before the police arrived. I dashed back down the hall and re-armed the system.

“They won’t get me,” I mumbled defiantly as I punched in the code.

“As I turned, the sirens blared again. I disarmed the alarm and reset it. I walked to a window to look for the police. The alarm sounded a third time. Once again I disarmed it and reset it.

“Walking back to my office, the alarm sounded again. I disarmed it. Wait a minute; this alarm system must be fouled up. I called the alarm company.

“Our alarm system keeps going off,” I told the fellow who answered. “We’ve either got some determined thieves or a malfunction.”

“There could be one other option,” he said. “Did you know that your building is equipped with a motion detector?”

“Then the police arrived. “I think the problem is on the inside, not the outside,” I told them, embarrassed that I was the culprit setting of the alarm.

“Am I the only one to blame an inside problem on an outside source?

“Alarms sound in your world as well. Heaven knows you don’t silence life’s alarm by pretending they aren’t screaming. But heaven also knows it’s wise to look in the mirror before you peek out the window.”

Let’s face it: there’s lots of temptation all around us, but that’s all it is: temptation.  The sin is inside our imaginations, minds and hearts.  When we sin, it is a problem that comes from inside us, and it will continue to be a problem until we learn not to blame everything and everyone else – and begin to confess our need to the One who can give us new hearts and minds that are hungry to please Him. 

PRAYER:  We confess, Lord Jesus, that there is really nothing good within us as humans.  It is only as Your Spirit lives in us that we can be freed from the power of sin.  Help us to want to do what is right, to bring you glory, to stop hurting you through what we do and think and say.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

DayBreaks for 10/24/16 – Another Ram in the Thicket

DayBreaks for 10/24/16 – Another Ram in the Thicket

From the DayBreaks archive, October 2006:

The story of Abraham and Isaac has always intrigued and fascinated (and horrified) me.  There are obvious lessons to be learned from the story: the faith of Abraham, the obedience of Abraham, the trust of Isaac (even when it became apparent that he was the “sacrifice”), the importance of trusting God.  I’m not sure if Abraham or Isaac was the most relieved when the angel stopped Abraham’s hand and they saw the ram caught by its horns in the thicket.  And I have searched the haunted halls of my heart asking myself if I could have ever done what Abraham did – and I’m driven to my knees in humility by the answer.

But, perhaps instead of taking the extreme case of sacrificing a child, we need to look at other things that are much more close to home.  As Chuck Swindoll put it in Fascinating Lives of Forgotten People: “What it is that you are gripping so tightly?  A possession?  Your vocation?  A dream?  A consuming relationship?  The Lord may be in the process of taking it from you.  He’ll gently tug on it at first, giving you the opportunity to release your grip.  If you resist, He’ll eventually have to pry your fingers away…My advice?  Voluntarily release it.  Trust the Lord to provide.  He has another ram in the thicket.  You can’t see it right now, but He has it waiting.  Only after you have placed your sacrifice on the altar will you be ready to receive God’s provision.”

We all grip tightly to things in our world and in our lives.  I seriously doubt that God is asking any of us right now to sacrifice a child.  But I don’t doubt for a moment that He’s asking each of us to let go of something that has become a god in our life.  What do I mean?  Anything that we put our confidence and trust in is an idol, a god, if you will.  And we all have confidence in something in this world that pulls us away from trusting Him entirely and completely.  Do you know what those things are in your life?  I think that they’re probably the things that we fear happening the most: losing jobs, a stock market crash, losing our health, losing a friend that may not be a positive influence. 

What are you afraid of the most?  Is it possible that right now God is trying to teach you to surrender that to Him, trusting Him completely for all that you need today, tomorrow and forever?  As Chuck said, “He has another ram in the thicket.”  Do you believe that?

PRAYER:  Thank you, God, for all that You have entrusted to us.  Help us to recognize that You are the source of all good things and that we have been given all we have to benefit others.  May we hold our possessions with very loose hands.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

 

 

DayBreaks for 10/21/16 – The Wells of Salvation

DayBreaks for 10/21/16 – The Wells of Salvation

Michael Card is a tremendous singer, composer, author and student of the Word. My wife and I have been fans of his for years and years. We were blessed this last January to go to Israel and be part of a tour group he was leading. I love his insights into Scripture, human nature and the history related to the Bible. Just earlier this week, he shared this:

“The Jewish holiday known as Sukkoth, or Tabernacles, falls on the 16th to the 23rd of October this year. That last day should be of particular interest to Christians. Of all the remarkable things Jesus said and did, it was on the last day of Tabernacles, John tells us in 7:37, that Jesus stood and shouted, If someone is thirsty, let them come to me and drink! 

“According to the Mishnah, the High Priest has just poured out a pitcher of water in front of the large crowd, quoting Isaiah 12:3, With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation. (Mishnah, Moed, Sukkah 4:9-5:2)  So this Sunday, October 23, get your family together and read this passage. Remember that Jesus is standing in the midst of a crowd where there are men who have vowed to kill him (Jn. 7:13) He is our fearless Savior. He is the One who provides the Living Water of His Spirit.”

Do you see the symbolism? Even as the High Priest has emptied his pitcher of water, Jesus offers to be the replacement. And just as the water was poured out of the pitcher, so would the Living Water be poured out into the dead souls of men and women for their cleansing and salvation!

Jesus also is making a very explicit claim. Right after the first words: With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation, Jesus fearlessly claims to be that very well of salvation!

I hope you will remember this on Sunday…and drink deeply of the Living Water.

PRAYER: Thank You for being the Living Water that refreshes, cleanses us and leads us to salvation! In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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