DayBreaks for 12/22/17 – The Man Who Loved Mary

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DayBreaks for 12/22/17: The Man Who Loved Mary

Matthew 1:19 (ESV) – And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly.

He is the forgotten man – the man in the shadows. The man who takes a backseat at every Christmas season and yet he is there quietly supporting his beloved, Mary. He is never mentioned by Paul in any of his writings, and the earliest gospel, Mark, does not mention him either. Some look to Joseph as the patron saint of workers as he was a laborer. Some translate his work as “carpenter”, but the term means laborer or craftsman meaning he could have been a carpenter, stone mason, metal worker or some other artisan. He was last mentioned in Scripture in Luke when Jesus was twelve. Had he been present at the crucifixion, he would have been responsible for the body of Jesus, but that job fell to Joseph of Arimathea. Most believe that he died long before the beginning of Jesus’ ministry.

This morning, as I read the verse above from Matthew 1, I was struck in a new way as I read about Joseph. When I’d read it before, I tended to just skim over it, but for some reason, not today. Joseph was a just man – a “good” man, if any can be called that. I tried to imagine the feelings that must have welled up inside him when he heard that Mary was with child. I would imagine that there was some anger initially, yielding to disappointment and heartbreaking pain as he had to have assumed she’d been with someone else (at least until his visit from the angel informed him otherwise). Do you know how that must have felt? Can you imagine it?

But the scripture goes on to say that he was unwilling to put her to shame. Why? There can only be one reason that I can think of: he loved Mary. Deeply, passionately and without reservation – he loved her.

And then comes the visit from the angel and his soul is flooded with relief – at least partially. The relief in knowing she’d not slept with someone else had to be palpable, but yet there was a lingering problem – a problem that would only grow for nine months: Mary was pregnant and it could not be hidden. So when Joseph accepted the words of the angel at face value, he was also accepting the fact that he, too, would be the object of scorn and ridicule, that he would be suspected of having defiled Mary prior to the wedding. So why did he willingly accept it? I believe there are two reasons: 1) he was a just man – a good man who didn’t want to bring shame to Mary and have her bear it all by herself; 2) he loved her with all his heart.

Christmas is a season that is all about love. We speak often of God’s love for us in sending Jesus. We see the beaming face of Mary, alight with the glow of the star and oil lamps as she cradles her newborn Son and we can see the love in her eyes at the miracle she holds. And there, in the background where he has been content to be for two thousand years, stands Joseph, a just man who loved Mary.

PRAYER: Lord, thank you for the example of love of this man of the shadows, Joseph. May we love so selflessly! In Jesus’ name, Amen.  

Copyright by 2017 by Galen C. Dalrymple.


DayBreaks for 12/21/17 – A World of Impossibilities

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DayBreaks for 12/21/17: A World of Impossibilities

Matthew 1:18 (ESV) – Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit.

This is a story of impossibilities. Consider the impossibilities Mary faced in this story: she is a virgin and pregnant – she is having a child while she is a virgin. Impossible! No way! Won’t happen! Joseph has to follow through on the marriage after he discovers Mary is pregnant. Impossible! Mary must avoid being stoned to death when the neighbors hear the news. Impossible!

Consider the impossibility Elizabeth faced. She was well past the childbearing age, and yet God says she is going to conceive and bear a child. This impossible news left old Zechariah speechless. Impossible! No way! Won’t happen!

This is a story of biblical impossibilities. We love to ponder them because we all long for some impossibilities in our own lives, don’t we? But, what are the impossibilities in our world? What would you label “impossible” in your life? Peace in our world. Impossible! No way! Won’t happen! Christian values returning to our nation, morality becoming the norm? Impossible! Our church reaching our surrounding community and making our world different? Impossible! Restoring relationships, healing past hurts in our lives. A relative or friend entering a relationship with Christ. Breaking an addiction and overcoming past hurts and disappointments? Impossible!

We find ourselves with the same troubled mind as Mary, wondering over the impossible. We even ask the same question Mary asked, How will this be? To us it seems impossible! No way! Won’t happen! The real question for people today is “How can the impossible become possible?”

Let me encourage you to take heart this season if you are facing what seem to be impossibilities. This season is a reminder that nothing – absolutely nothing – is truly impossible!

PRAYER: Father, we delight in knowing you are the Master of all that is impossible and that the word doesn’t even exist in your vocabulary. Help us to not lose hope even for the things that seem impossible, because if this season shows us anything, it is that there is no such thing when you are inclined to intervene. In Jesus’ name, Amen.  

Copyright by 2017 by Galen C. Dalrymple.

DayBreaks for 12/20/17: Christmas Surprises

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DayBreaks for 12/20/17: Christmas Surprises

Who doesn’t enjoy opening presents on Christmas day? Let’s be honest: we all love it, don’t we? We wonder what’s inside that package, box or envelope. We love surprises!

Under a cultural-exchange program, rabbi Alan Abramsky and his family in Roanoke, Texas, were hosts to a rabbi from Russia at Christmas time. They decided to introduce him to a culinary treat that was probably not available in his country: they took him to their favorite Chinese restaurant.

Throughout the meal, the rabbi spoke excitedly about the wonders of North America in comparison to the bleak conditions in his homeland. When they had finished eating, the waiter brought the check and presented each of them with a small brass Christmas-tree ornament as a seasonal gift.

They all laughed when Abramsky’s father pointed out that the ornaments were stamped “Made in India.” But the laughter subsided when they saw that the rabbi was quietly crying. Concerned, Abramsky’s father asked the rabbi if he was offended because he’d been given a gift for a Christian holiday.

He smiled, shook his head and said, “Nyet. I was shedding tears of joy to be in a wonderful country in which a Buddhist gives a Jew a Christmas gift made by a Hindu!” A time of miracles. A time for stories.

From time to time we hear someone say, “Wouldn’t it be great if it could be Christmas all year long.” Surprise! That was God’s intent. That is why God invaded our planet and gave us the gift of God’s Son. There is only one thing that stands in the way of celebrating Christmas all year long: you and I. Let’s agree to not stand in the way of anyone celebrating Christmas all year long!

PRAYER:  Jesus, we don’t want to cause people not to celebrate Immanuel all year long, year after year, decade after decade. Let us never lost the sense of the miraculous that is so present in this season. Let us overflow each and every day out of lives that are filled with wonder. In Jesus’ name, Amen.  

Copyright by 2017 by Galen C. Dalrymple.

DayBreaks for 12/19/17 – The Three Gifts

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DayBreaks for 12/19/17: The Three Gifts

Matthew 2:11 (ESV) – And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.

Have you ever really thought about the three gifts (there may have been more, but those three are specifically mentioned)?

It is worth noting that these were not gifts like socks or a tie or a box of candy. They were “treasures” – treasures that belonged to those who brought them. That gives us an indication that these visitors from the east were wealthy personages. And unlike the socks you may get for Christmas this year, their gifts were treasures – valuable and costly.

The first one mentioned is gold. Gold was considered an appropriate gift for a king. Why did they bring gold? Because they knew that the one being born was a king – they’d told Herod as much. (And with Herod being as crazy and deranged as he was, that had to set him off on his desire to kill the newborns!) They brought a gift suitable for a king.

What about the frankincense? Frankincense was used in the temple worship as part of the incense that was burned that filled the place with a fragrant, pleasing smell. As the incense wafted upward, it represented the prayers of the people as they ascended as a gift for God. So, frankincense was thought to be a gift that was suitable for a god/God. Little do I think the magi really grasped this part of Immanuel.

That leaves us with the myrrh. Myrrh was used for various things, including the anointing of the bodies of those who died. While this gift foreshadowed the anointing of Jesus’ body after his crucifixion, there is perhaps an even more poignant point that we would do well to consider. Myrrh was also somewhat of a pain killer, an antiesthetic, if you please. Do you remember what the soldiers offered Jesus while he was on the cross? Vinegar mixed with “gall”…but what is that “gall”? Literally, it is myrrh. It wouldn’t kill much pain, but would take a tiny bit of the edge off and the Romans probably did it more in jest than out of compassion.

So, here’s the kicker: myrrh was gifted to Jesus at his birth, and it was used during his anointing for burial. But when he was on the cross, what did Jesus do when offered something to dull his pain? He refused it. Why? I don’t really know, but on Sunday, the preacher posited that it was because Jesus wanted to take the full brunt of the pain that was due to us so there would be none left for us to have to bear. He drank the “cup” that the Father gave him, but not the “cup” that the soldiers offered that could have made his suffering less.

This is an indicator of how much Jesus wanted to bear our pain, the pain we should have had to bear for our own sins. If that doesn’t make us appreciate him even more, perhaps nothing will.

PRAYER: Jesus, I am awestruck that you were willing to go to the cross and take the full agony of the pain due to me for my sin and failures. Make us all grateful this Christmas for your enormous gift and sacrifice! In Your name we pray, Amen.  

Copyright by 2017 by Galen C. Dalrymple.

DayBreaks for 12/18/17 – Daniel…and Christmas

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DayBreaks for 12/18/17: Daniel…and Christmas

Matthew 2:1-2 (ESV) = Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.

We don’t really know who the wise men were. We don’t even know how many there were other than they were “men”, plural. The tradition of three wise men comes from the fact that three gifts are mentioned: gold, frankincense and myrrh. We don’t even know for sure where they came from, but most believe they came either from the area of ancient Babylon (modern Iraq) or Persia (modern Iran). Regardless, it was a long journey of about 1000 miles taken on foot and perhaps camel (the mode of transport for the wealthy). The words for “wise men” in Latin is magi, short for magician, sorcerer, astrologer, one who could supposedly divine events and the future by looking at the stars. They may have been of a priestly class who served the palace of their home land. We simply don’t know. But we do know they made a very, very long journey because they saw a star – and they followed it.

It could be that they were just curious at the appearance of this new star, but how many would undertake such a time consuming, arduous and dangerous journey just because of seeing a light in the sky? So why, we are left to wonder, did they do so?

We perhaps have a clue in the story of Daniel, the prophet of God who was taken into exile and who rose to greatness in the service of the Babylonian king. When Daniel interpreted the dream of the king, the king promoted him: Daniel 2:47-48 (ESV) – The king answered and said to Daniel, “Truly, your God is God of gods and Lord of kings, and a revealer of mysteries, for you have been able to reveal this mystery.” Then the king gave Daniel high honors and many great gifts, and made him ruler over the whole province of Babylon and chief prefect over all the wise men of Babylon.

Do you see it? Daniel was the head over the “wise men” of Babylon. He was their leader and most likely their instructor. Could it be that while serving in the palace of Babylon, he told the other “wise men” of the prophecies of a coming deliverer, a king, born to rule mankind and that such a birth would be heralded by a star, or that the baby would be born in a land to their west? And those wise men passed along that knowledge for 500 years until the time of Christ’s birth?

We don’t know. It is very possible, I think, but maybe that’s just because I want to believe it is true.

It caused me to wonder: if the life of the man Daniel played a role in these pagan people coming to Jesus could have such an effect over 5 centuries, what will the impact of my life be on those I interact with?

What impact are you having this Christmas on the lives of those who also need to come and worship the King?

PRAYER: God, your ways are unsearchable, yet You always accomplish your purposes. I pray, Lord, that our lives will shine the way to Jesus this Christmas, so that those near and far may come to worship Him! In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2017 by Galen C. Dalrymple.

DayBreaks for 12/15/17 – Getting the Question Right

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DayBreaks for 12/15/17: Getting the Question Right

From the DayBreaks archive, December 2007:

Do you know people who want to ask you a question, but they dance around the real issue?  They never just come right out and ask what they want to know!  And what is even more frustrating to me is when I ask a question and get an answer to a question I didn’t even ask!  Perhaps that’s why politics revolts me so.  It seems that you can’t get a straight answer out of nearly any politician these days.  Everything is carefully crafted to try to appease as many special interests as possible in the hopes of raising money and getting elected, and even worse, to mislead the public about the real effects of proposed legislation.  Rare is the politician who will answer a question straight-forwardly about their personal convictions about topics.  Instead, they’ll pontificate in politically correct ways until the questioner forgets what question they even asked!

Asking the right question is an art.  No one, of course, does it as well as God.  In his book, Hearing God, Dallas Willard reflects on the scene in the garden after Adam had sinned.  “When God came to Adam after he had sinned, he did not ask, ‘Adam, where is God?’, but ‘Adam, where are you?’  We must purposefully, humbly and intelligently cultivate the ability to listen and see what is happening in our own souls and to recognize therein the movements of God.”  (Hearing God, pg. 214)

God didn’t come to the garden to lay a guilt trip on Adam.  He came to begin the process of restoration.  The first step in that process is always an honest questioning of ourselves to ascertain where we are.  Adam may have been tempted to think that because of his sin that God would not return again to the garden, or if He did, Adam didn’t want to be found.  It’s understandable – I’ve felt those things myself many times.  But the question God asks is intended to get Adam into the soul-searching mode.  It also revealed to Adam that God had not left in disgust or rage.  God came back to the garden and was concerned about Adam and where he was.  It wasn’t a question about Adam’s physical location, but of his heart.

When you’re thinking that God isn’t around these days because of what you’ve done, go back and let God ask you the same question He asked Adam, “Where are YOU?”

PRAYER:  Thank You for not abandoning us in the garden or in the wilderness of our sinful lives.  Thank You for Your great concern for us.  Teach us to search our souls in accordance with Your Word!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2017 by Galen C. Dalrymple.

DayBreaks for 12/14/17 – A Theology Lesson from Dr. Seuss

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DayBreaks for 12/14/17: A Theology Lesson from Dr. Seuss

From the DayBreaks archive, December 2007:

How’s your world going today?  When you got up out of bed, did you leap up full of joy and excitement, or did you stub your toe or arise with a headache?  There are things you plan to do today, right?  Chances are, either formally or informally, you’ve got your day somewhat planned out.  You know some things that are “must-get-done’s” and others that you can do if you get around to it.  You know some of the people you’ll probably be talking with and what you’ll talk about.  You may be filled with trepidation about some of those meetings, or excitement at the prospect of spending some time together with them.  Either way, you have a schedule, a plan, in your mind for how you’ll spend your day. 

We like to think that we are in charge of our lives – that we have a significant say-so in how the day unfolds, how our interactions will turn out, and what we’ll do and where we’ll go.  And, to some extent, we do have some control over some of it – at least, we have an illusion of control.  We like to think that we are masters of our destinies – even if it’s just a small, insignificant destiny like planning to stop at Starbucks for a cup of joe on the way to work.  Our little fiefdom, over which we rule…or so we think. 

One of the best commentaries about this is in a book on political science theory by a “theologian” you may have heard of, named Dr. Seuss.  It’s a book called Yertle the Turtle.  A little pond of turtles is ruled—or so he thinks—by Yertle, who’s a turtle.  One day, he decides his kingdom needs extending. 

Yertle, the turtle, the king of them all,

Decided the kingdom he ruled was too small. 

“I’m ruler,” said Yertle, “of all that I see. 

But I don’t see enough. That’s the trouble with me.

With this stone for a throne, I look down on my pond.

But I cannot look down on the places beyond. 

This throne that I sit on is too low down. 

It ought to be higher!” he said with a frown. 

“If I could sit high, how much greater I’d be! 

What a king! I’d be ruler of all I could see!”  

And so it happened that Yertle the Turtle sent out a decree that all the turtles that lived in his pond should be stacked up to be his throne—to extend his power and glory.  The whole pond scrambles to obey; first dozens, then hundreds of turtles were positioned underneath Yertle, who rose higher and higher into the air until finally he was so high up that he could see for miles. 

I’m Yertle the Turtle, Oh marvelous me,

For I am the ruler of all that I see! 

Yep, Yertle thought he had it made.  He was “on top of the world”, overseeing his little domain, inflated with a sense of his own importance, overflowing with prideful arrogance.  He believed he had everything under control and that his reign in his little realm was as secure as could be, but in the end, it wasn’t:

For the turtle on the bottom did a plain little thing. 

He burped, and that burp shook the throne of the King.

And today, the great Yertle, that marvelous he –

Is the King of the Mud. That’s all he can see.

And that’s where all who lift themselves up eventually wind up – back down in the mud.  We are all just one little burp away from reality.

We think it’s about us: my family, my work, my friends. We want to fashion our lives into a kingdom we control. But every once in a while, there’s a little “burp” someplace and we’re reminded of reality. 

Luke 18:14 (KJV) I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.

PRAYER:  Give us this day the wisdom to keep You on the throne and may we be content to be Your servants!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2017 by Galen C. Dalrymple.