DayBreaks for 12/19/16 – Christmas in One Word

Graphic by Tim Etherington, https://i2.wp.com/www.byfarthersteps.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/Immanuel.png?zoom=2

DayBreaks for 12/19/16: Christmas in One Word

G. K. Chesterton, the noted British poet and theologian, was a brilliant man who could think deep thoughts and express them well. However, he was also extremely absent-minded and over the years he became rather notorious for getting lost. He would just absolutely forget where he was supposed to be and what he was supposed to be doing. On one such occasion, he sent a telegram to his wife which carried these words: “Honey, seems I’m lost again. Presently, I am at Market Harborough. Where ought I to be?” As only a spouse could say it, she telegraphed back a one-word reply “HOME!”

This is precisely what this classic passage in the first chapter of Matthew does for us… it brings us home…

— Home to the real meaning of Christmas
— Home to the most magnificent truth in the entire Bible
— Home to our Lord’s greatest promise
— Home to the reason we celebrate Christmas

Namely this: “GOD IS WITH US!” When we accept Christ into our lives, nothing, not even death, can separate us from God and His love. It is what Christmas is about. God is with us. The great people of faith have always claimed that promise. Just think of it:

Moses caught between the Pharaoh and the deep Red Sea in a seemingly hopeless situation believed that God was with him and he went forward and trusted God to open a way and He did!

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego went into the fiery furnace into a seemingly hopeless situation and they trusted God to be with them and He was!

Little David stood before Goliath. What chance could a small boy with a slingshot have against this giant of a warrior? But David believed that God was with him and it made all the difference!

Now, it’s interesting to note that when the writer of Matthew’s gospel wanted to capture the meaning of Christmas, the meaning of the Christ event, the meaning of Jesus in a single word, he did a very wise thing. He reached back into the Old Testament, pulled out an old word, dusted it off, and used it to convey the message. The word was Immanuel.

Carry that Word with you this week, let the meaning sink deep into your heart. You may just find that your outlook on life is different.

PRAYER: Immanuel, thank You for being with us and in us! When we are lonely, afraid, discouraged, desperate – let your name and promise be sufficient for every situation. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2016 by Galen Dalrymple.

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DayBreaks for 12/16/16 – Losing the Plot

DayBreaks for 12/16/16: Losing the Plot

From the DayBreaks archive, 2006:

I have seen a few movies in my life where, when I left the theater, I didn’t have a clue what the movie was about.  I’ve read some books that I felt that way about, too.  Needless to say, they weren’t my favorites!

Sometimes, I lose track of a much more important plot line: that’s the plot line of my life.  And therein is the problem in a nutshell: we think life is all about us – MY life.  I guess it’s normal, but that doesn’t mean it is right.  In I Am Not but I Know I Am, Louie Giglio put this into a great perspective:

“And how would we know when we have slipped back into the story of us?  We know when we see these telling signs:

“When I live like I’m privileged, I have lost the plot.  In other words, when I start acting like I deserve a certain outcome or a higher standard of life, I have failed to strike the fatal blow to self and am living like I actually have rights in this world apart from God.

“When I am demanding, I have lost the plot, insisting that God and others meet my needs on the timetable that I see fit.

“When I act pompous, I have lost the plot, thinking that I am somebody while only proving that I haven’t had a good look at God today.

“When I crumble under the pressure, I have lost the plot, declaring that the outcome of life rests squarely on my shoulders, not His.

“When I start protecting, I have lost the plot, marking turf as though it were actually mine and forgetting that everything I have comes first from above.

“When I crave the spotlight for myself, I have lost the plot, losing sight of the story line and the one true Star.  And when I do it, I waste one of life’s fleeting changes to make my life truly count by amplifying Him.

“When I fail to celebrate the successes of others who are living for His fame, I have lost the plot, thinking that possibly we are on different teams when we actually share supporting roles in the same story.

“When I dwell on feelings of being unloved, unnoticed, or insignificant, I have lost the plot, abandoning the miracle of knowing God on a first name basis.”

Let’s not forget who the story of all Life is about. 

PRAYER:  Father, thank You for inviting us to play a role in the greatest story ever told.  May we do our part well in order to bring honor to Him who purchased us with His blood.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2016 by Galen Dalrymple.

DayBreaks for 12/15/16 – Dead Man Sitting

DayBreaks for 12/15/16: Dead Man Sitting

From the DayBreaks archive, 2006:

“In October 2005, an elderly man passed away while sitting in his parked car in Melbourne, Australia.  He remained that way for several days before his body was found and identified by city officials.

“After the man’s death, however, and two days before the discovery of his body, a police officer gave him a parking ticket and attached it to the windshield of his car.

“The head of the Maroondah City Council later apologized for the incident, saying: ‘It must be just so sad for the family, and we extend our sincere sympathies to them.’  He added, ‘It is simply a case of the parking officer not noticing.’”  – ABCNewsOnline, 10/21/05

I wonder about this old man.  As he sat in his car, did he feel a squeezing in his chest, a shortness of breath?  A pain inside his head?  Did he know he was staring death in the face?  Or did it all happen so fast that he didn’t even have a chance to think or feel anything?  If he’d felt something, might he not have rolled down a window, opened a door, and called for help?  Not knowing the details of the situation, I can imagine and picture all sorts of possibilities and questions.  But I’m sure that the man would have hoped for help to come.

But to spend too much time wondering about the man is pointless.  What I should wonder about is where everyone else was when this man was dying.  Several days passed as he sat there in the car, stone cold, unmoving.  People must have noticed the car sitting there for several days and a person in it.  Didn’t one of them take the time to go see if the man was OK?  Apparently not.  And the officer who even wrote the ticket may have assumed the man was just sleeping and, being polite, didn’t want to wake him.  I just don’t know, and I just don’t understand.

Is it any different each and every day when I look around me at the lives of those who don’t know Jesus?  They may be sitting in the cubicle next to you, walking through your checkout lane at the store, cashing your check at the bank.  They are there – and they are dying. 

I hope that we will not be as careless and un-noticing as the police officer who saw the car, saw the man, wrote the ticket, but never said anything to the man.  If someone, ANYONE, who had seen this old man in the car had come to him early on, he might have lived.  But they didn’t come, and he died. 

One of my greatest fears about the day of judgment is that some lost person that I knew in this life will look at me on that day as they are being led away and say, “Why didn’t you check on me?  Why didn’t you help me?”

Genesis 4:9 – Afterward the LORD asked Cain, “Where is your brother? Where is Abel?”  “I don’t know!” Cain retorted. “Am I supposed to keep track of him wherever he goes?”

The answer is: yes.

PRAYER:  May we have Your passion for the lost.  Give us Your eyes to see their future possibilities, both for glory and for horror.  May we be moved by Your Spirit to keep track of one another at all times and in all places.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2016 by Galen Dalrymple.

DayBreaks for 12/14/16 – Deformed Feet

DayBreaks for 12/14/16: Deformed Feet

From the DayBreaks archive, 2006:

Isaiah 52:7 – How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news of peace and salvation, the news that the God of Israel reigns!

There are some people who capture the minds and hearts of the world.  Some do it because they have beauty (they even have pedicures or plastic surgery to make their feet pretty!) and others envy them for their looks or fame or wealth or grace.  Can you explain to me why else someone would find Donald Trump interesting???  Princess Diana captured the hearts of many while she was alive for a combination of things: she was something of a fairy-tale come true, beautiful, graceful, yet seemingly vulnerable all at the same time.  And when she died, the world was stunned, and wept. 

But then there are others who have also captured the hearts of many in the world.  They aren’t built the same way as the beautiful, statuesque Diana, or George Clooney.  They weren’t rich in this world like Donald Trump or Richard Branson.  Nor did they found a company like Bill Gates and become quite likely the richest man in history.  These run-of-the-mill people who have captured the world’s imaginations are the ones that I find to be far more fascinating than the rich, famous or beautiful.  Mother Theresa was such a person.  I think very few people envied her living conditions, her extreme poverty, the endless weight of the hungry, starving and sick of the back streets and roads of India. 

Shane Claiborne, who spent a summer in the slums of Calcutta with Mother Teresa, wrote the following about one of his experiences there:

“People often ask me what Mother Teresa was like.  Sometimes it’s like they wonder if she glowed in the dark or had a halo.  She was short, wrinkled, and precious, maybe even a little ornery—like a beautiful, wise old granny.  But there is one thing I will never forget—her feet.  Her feet were deformed.  Each morning in Mass, I would stare at them.  I wondered if she had contracted leprosy.  But I wasn’t going to ask, of course.  “Hey Mother, what’s wrong with your feet?”

“One day a sister said to us, ‘Have you noticed her feet?’  We nodded, curious.  She said: ‘Her feet are deformed because we get just enough donated shoes for everyone, and Mother does not want anyone to get stuck with the worst pair, so she digs through and finds them.  And years of doing that have deformed her feet.’  Years of loving her neighbor as herself deformed her feet.

“This is the kind of fasting that creates the divine longing for justice, where our feet become deformed by a love that places our neighbors above ourselves.”

What is your tendency when you have a lot of things to choose from?  Would you look for the best pair of shoes for yourself and give the left-overs to others?  Or, would you do like Mother Theresa and find the worst pair, take those for your own, and give the best to someone else?  I can hear my own mind rationalizing a decision to find the best for myself: “You know, you could minister better to people if your feet didn’t hurt and you could walk around more and get to more places without so much pain.” 

How are your feet looking these days?  Are they, like mine, too pretty?  Not deformed enough? 

PRAYER:  Lord Jesus, help us to be servants like You were a servant.  Help us to surrender our rationalizing and self-interest to walk in the path that you walked, for the benefit of others.  May we learn to put their interests ahead of our own that you may be glorified in them.  Give us deformed feet, Lord.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2016 by Galen Dalrymple.

DayBreaks for 12/13/16 – The Feast Will be Eaten

DayBreaks for 12/13/16: The Feast Will be Eaten

From the DayBreaks archive, 2006:

It is Christmas season!  Do you feel any of the excitement yet?  I do!  I don’t usually get excited about Christmas until much closer to the holidays (this is a busy time of the year for pastors, after all!), but for some reason, the joy of Christmas has gotten to me early!  I’m not sure why, but I suspect that some of it may be because of a book I just recently finished reading (you’ll hear more about that in the future!) that has awakened me much more to the Presence of Christ – not just at Christmas – but at all times in my life as a believer.  Still, I could choose to be a bah-humbug about it all if I wished to do so.  But that’s not the choice I’ve decided to make. 

Choices are so critical in all aspects of our life.  Some are choices about what to do, and those are the kind that we think of the most: where to live, what to do for a living, what to eat for dinner, what to wear.  It would probably be astounding to know how many decisions a day that we make.  Most of them are insignificant, but there are some doozies every now and then, too. 

But the choices that perhaps have a lot more to do with what and who we are very seldom are about things that we do, but about how we choose to see and respond to life.  We seldom consider that we can choose to be grateful or complainers, grumpy or joy-filled, loving or bitter.  N. T. Wright, in Evil and the Justice of God, wrote: “Indeed, throughout the new Testament we are constantly warned that the choices we make in this life, especially the choices about what sort of person we might become, are real and have lasting consequences which God himself will honor.  But we do not have the choice to sulk in such a way as to prevent God’s party going ahead without us.  We have the right, like the older brother, to sit it out; God has the right to come and reason with us; but the fatted calf is going to be eaten whether we join in or not.”

You can choose your attitude and how you respond to both the good and bad of life.  Much of it has to do with your confidence and trust in God and whether or not you believe He knows what He’s doing in, through and with your life.  You KNOW that God wants you to be filled with the joy of being His child, and He wants you to be infectious with that joy and love.  What will you choose?  Will you join in the party, or will you sit by yourself, bitter and disgruntled?  God’s feast is prepared, the door is open, the music is playing.  Are you read to join in the celebration?

PRAYER:  How Your joy fills us, Lord!  Make our hearts thankful, joyful, loving and excited to be Your children.  Give us Your Spirit of love and peace so that we can share it with others and begin, here and now, to celebrate the feast of life that we have in You!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2016 by Galen Dalrymple.

DayBreaks for 12/12/16 – Headlines in Heaven

DayBreaks for 12/12/16: Headlines in Heaven

“Bombing at Egypt’s main Coptic Cathedral kills 25”

“Amid Aleppo Offensive, IS Recaptures Syria’s Palmyra”

“Turkey Blasts Claimed by Kurdish Militants: Country Mourns”

“At Least 160 dead in Nigerian Church Collapse”

“Orlando marks 6-month anniversary of nightclub massacre”                                                    

Those were among the headlines on Sunday, 12/11, as I was writing this DayBreaks. Was that day unique? No, sadly those headlines could have been written on any day of the week, or perhaps more to the point: on every day of the week. Such are the headlines that comprise our daily earth-bound experience. Why is this the case? It’s for one reason and on reason only: this world is broken and it has been broken since the fall.

As I was pondering that point today, I couldn’t help but think about what the news headlines will be once that Jesus has returned and we are in the new heaven and earth in which righteousness dwells and all that has been broken has been fully repaired. How will that happen, I don’t know how God can make all that is broken whole, how He can undo and erase all the pain and make it right – not just right – but perfected. But I do believe that He will do that somehow, someday.

And when He does, I wonder if we’ll still have news – and if we do, what that news might be like:

“Joy reigns eternal in every portion of the creation”

“Not one person died anywhere today”

“Today, no one had an evil thought or did an evil deed”

“Throughout the universe today, everyone treated others perfectly”

“Peace and love rule the universe”

“Curious fact: no one has aged or got sick in the last ten trillion years”

I can hardly wait for those kind of headlines to be the kind I read.

Even as I long for that, I am struck by the realization that even though such will be headlines only in heaven, that it is we humans who make the headlines here on earth by what we do. That tells me that if I am sick and tired of this broken world, that it is this time-bound world that we have a chance, even now, to create some of those kind of headlines by the things we choose to do or say today. Want some uplifting headlines? Do something good for someone today, and every day, until we read our first set of heavenly headlines!

PRAYER: Jesus, help us be those who contribute to a better set of news headlines tomorrow than we experienced today as we help your kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

DayBreaks for 12/9/16 – Make Way

DayBreaks for 12/09/16: Make Way

Can you imagine complete silence? It’s hard to in our culture today, isn’t it? We have televisions, radios, cell phones, etc. that are constantly blaring at us, demanding our attention. It used to be that we might listen to an album on a cassette tape or CD, but now you can stream music endlessly with a break! It’s hard to imagine complete silence for even a minute, let alone an hour. But try 400 years?!?!?! 

When John showed up on the scene, a silence of 400 years is broken. Don’t misunderstand me, not everyone was silent during this period. Women and men were talking, boys and girls were talking, animals were making their sounds, but for 400 years there was no prophet speaking the Word of the LORD. No one was truthfully saying, Thus says the LORD…

In reality two silences are broken when John began to preach and Jesus came to him at the Jordan to be baptized. One was the 400 year period without a prophetic Word from God and the other was a gap of approximately 30 years in the life of Jesus. Matthew skips directly from his birth and infancy narrative to an event that occurs approximately 30 years later. Both of those silences, however, were broken by the sound of John’s voice.

John the Baptist could rightly be called the last of the Old Testament Prophets. He is functioning as a Herald by announcing the coming of the King. In the ancient world, a herald was one who went ahead of a king’s chariot to prepare the road. He would command a crew which would smooth out the usually rough roads of that day by filling potholes and removing boulders. The herald would also go before the king shouting, “Make way, the King is coming!”

We now have less than 3 weeks until Christmas. What are the potholes and empty places in your life that need to be filled this year? What boulders are blocking your progress toward God that need to be shoved to the side? Are you ready to dig in and prepare the way for your King to come?

PRAYER: Lord, preparation is not fun – it is hard work. Often we think that we can just let the joy of the season come to us and we forget that the real challenge before us isn’t to be filled with joy per se, but to be ready for your arrival at each moment of each day in our hearts. Help us to fill the potholes and move the boulders out of the way so you can come into our lives and hearts more fully this year. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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