DayBreaks for 2/28/18 – Two Stories, One Command

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DayBreaks for 2/28/18: Two Stories, One Command

From the DayBreaks archive, February 2008:

Nearly everyone in America at one time or another has at least heard of the Ten Commandments even if they didn’t grow up in a church where they had to memorize them.  A smaller number could tell you that the 10 commandments are found in the book of Exodus and that they were delivered to Moses on Mount Sinai.  But still fewer realize that the 10 commandments are repeated again in Deuteronomy. 

As you would expect, the two lists are virtually identical – virtually, but not perfectly.  One of the most significant differences is found in the command about observing the Sabbath.  Here, in a nutshell, is the difference: in Exodus, the command is tied to the fact that God rested after creation, and that we are to do likewise.  We spend 6 days a week being creative and then we need a rest.  God modeled it for us – and although He didn’t need the rest, He knew we would, so He gave us an example of what to do.  Rest – guilt-free. 

But in Deuteronomy, the reason for observing the Sabbath, the motivation, if you will, is not rooted in creation, but in deliverance from Egypt.  God essentially says, “You were slaves but you have been delivered and set free.  You are slaves no longer.  Take a day each week to remember that – to remember what it was like when you were enslaved – the quotas, the inability to choose when you would work or where you would work, remember the whips of the taskmasters and the merciless, endless demands and ridicule.  That’s all behind you now, so remember what I’ve done by setting you free.” 

You may feel that you aren’t tired enough to need a Sabbath for rest.  I seriously doubt that it’s true – and God certainly thought it was and is necessary.  It’s interesting that the only case where we have a “for sure” violation of the Sabbath involved a man who went out and gathered firewood on the Sabbath.  Like the woman taken in adultery in the NT, this man was brought by his accusers to Moses, who entreated of God about what should be done.  God said, “Kill him.”  Sounds to me like God takes the observance of the Sabbath as something pretty serious, doesn’t it?

So, maybe you think you can let a time of restful reflection slide because you’re not very tired.  But have you been delivered and set free from your taskmasters: sin, shame, guilt?  Then take the time to stop from your ordinary routine and observe the Sabbath out of thankfulness for your deliverance!  And don’t ever go back to slavery like that again.

PRAYER: Thank you for giving us rest and deliverance!  May we honor You with our stilled hearts and spirits regularly!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

COPYRIGHT 2018 by Galen C. Dalrymple. All rights reserved.

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DayBreaks for 2/27/2018 – The Intersection

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DayBreaks for 2/27/18: The Intersection

From the DayBreaks archive, February 2008:

On the night that I write this, the Washington Post is reporting that our government appears to have fired a missile into space and destroyed a satellite that was about to tumble back to earth bearing deadly hydrazine.  I find it interesting that they say they “think” that they destroyed not only the bus-sized satellite, but that the collision between the missile and satellite appears to have destroyed the hydrazine fuel tank because they “saw” a large explosion.  Yet, they say it will be 24-48 hours before we know for sure.  I don’t get it – how can you “see” it and not know one way or another?

But, be that as it may, the trajectory of the intercept missile and satellites had to be carefully calibrated and calculated.  The intercept had to be reprogrammed – the missile used was built to shoot down incoming warheads which travel a lot slower than the satellite in earth orbit.  I’m sure that it was quite a scientific and military accomplishment – if indeed it happened as the Post reports.

Trajectories are interesting.  Have you thought about what it takes to catch a fly ball?  The human mind is amazing: sometimes hundreds of feet away, a ball and bat collide and the ball takes to the air.  It will fly a certain distance, depending on the amount of energy transferred to the ball by the bat, the density of the atmosphere, wind conditions, the undulations in the surface of the ground, even the curvature of the earth enters into the distance and path the ball will travel.  On the other end, the human ear hears the crack of the bat, and the eye picks up the sphere as it begins to rise in the air.  Immediately, the mind takes over and calculates the fundamental trajectory of the ball and estimates the distance it will travel. Sometimes, the mind must fine tune things on the fly (literally) in order to enable the player to arrive at the right spot and so catch the ball.  It’s truly amazing when you think about it.  The ball and player have to arrive in the right spot at the right time – and it happens more often than not.

Our lives are a constant trajectory between earthly life and an eternal destiny.  We fly towards eternity while living here on earth.  We need to pause to contemplate where our life and eternity will intersect, and what will happen then.  “Teach us to number our days aright, that we might gain a heart of wisdom.”  That’s what this is all about – learning to live the days of our trajectory in such a way that when eternity arrives on our doorstep (or, as may be more appropriate, we arrive on eternity’s doorstep), we will be not just happy, but thrilled with the outcome. 

The good news is that we don’t have to be wise in order to number our days properly, but rather wisdom, according to the verse, is the result of numbering our days aright.

How’s your trajectory today?  Will you hit the target that you desire?

PRAYER: Lord, we speak of time flying by, and in reality it is our lifetimes that fly by like a watch in the night.  Help us to spend our lifetime in a way that pleases You and fulfills Your purposes in our generation.  We invite Your Spirit to adjust our trajectories so that we arrive at home at last!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

COPYRIGHT 2018 by Galen C. Dalrymple. All rights reserved.

DayBreaks for 2/26/18 – Toilet Paper Fears

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DayBreaks for 2/26/18: Toilet Paper Fears

Remember the gasoline shortages and rationing?  Weren’t those fun days, getting up way before dawn if it was your day (odd or even, depending on your license plate) to go get in a long line at the gas station, hoping that you’d get to the pump before they’d run out for the day.  I remember it well – it was cold in those wee hours of the morning, but what was one to do?  You had to get gas in order to get to work that day!  It wasn’t fun.

Many people who grew up in the depression know a lot more about hardship and hard times than those of us who are baby boomers.  If I hear one person say one more time, “Well, I remember the great depression and how tough it was….” I may lose my cool!  I’m sure it was hard – I don’t doubt that for a moment, but there comes a point in time when we have to just learn from the past and stop living in it. 

Mark Buchanan tells the following story in his book, The Rest of God:

In 1973, Johnny Carson started a panic with a single joke.  It was the year after the end of the Vietnam war and prosperity came crashing down … oil was scarce, inflation was out of control, food shortages appeared.  And so, all the plenty that Americans had grown accustomed to was now considered to be in jeopardy.

On December 19, 1973 at 11:35 p.m., Johnny walked onto the stage and said before a live audience: “There’s an acute shortage of toilet paper in the US.”  There was a bit of truth to it, because that day, congressman Harold Forehlich from Wisconsin spoke about the federal budget and said that if the government didn’t get its act together soon, that government agencies would run out of toilet paper in a month or two.  Carson took that trivia and played it for a laugh, but not so his hearers. 

20 million viewers flew into a panic.  The next day, hundreds of thousands of people lined up outside grocery stores to rush in and stockpile toilet paper.  People fought over 2-ply and 4-ply, they had fights in the store aisles and at the checkouts.  The managers tried to stop the run by limiting quantities, but they had no way to know how many times a person came back to the store for more.  By noon on December 20, less than 24 hours after Johnny’s wise-crack, American was sold out.

What’s the point?  We’re gullible about news of scarcity.  We have a fear of things running out, of there not being enough.  We are afraid that our money will run out before our time, or that our time will run out too soon, or that our looks will run out or our awareness and we’ll be left without reasoning capacity.  I think mankind has been this way from the time of Adam and Eve in the garden.  Most of us live our lives afraid that we’re almost out of time.  But to Christians, we need to put that into perspective.  We’re heirs of eternity.  We’re not short of days – we’ve got an eternity full of them.  We just need to learn to number them properly while on this earth. 

God never has any shortages.  Let’s stop worrying about running out too soon.

PRAYER: How wonderful it is to have You as our Father – the God who provides in abundance and never runs out!  Help us to learn to number our days properly and to know that You give us enough days to do Your will – the question is if we will do it!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

COPYRIGHT 2018 by Galen C. Dalrymple. All rights reserved.

DayBreaks for 2/23/18 – An Everyday Mystery

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DayBreaks for 2/23/18: An Everyday Mystery

From the DayBreaks archive, February 2008:

Choosing.  How difficult it is, and yet how often we do it!  How many decisions have you made already today?  You decided whether or not to get up when the alarm went off, or to hit snooze a time or two.  You decided what you would wear.  You decided what you would eat, or if you would eat, for breakfast.  You decided (whether you thought about it or not) on the route you’d drive to work, school or wherever you were going.  You decided where to park, how fast you’d drive, whether or not to pass or honk at someone who irritated you.  You decided what you’d listen to on the radio.  You decided what to read in the paper.  You decided if you’d take your lunch or buy it.  Chances are you’ve already made thousands of little decisions already today – and your day is just getting started.

Someone has said that practice is what makes perfect.  We know, of course, that there’s a smidgen of truth in that sentiment – with practice we DO get better (hopefully!)  But we don’t get perfect through practice regardless of the old saying.  The only way we ever get perfect is by God changing us in eternity into Christ’s likeness.  We can make progress until then – but perfection?  No, definitely not.

But if we are to get better with practice, have you ever stopped to think about why it is that we so seldom choose what is best?  It’s nothing new to the 21st century, of course.  It’s been going on since the beginning of time, and humanistic thinking aside, we aren’t getting better at it throughout the millennia.  Adam and Eve were given an entire garden by God and told that they could eat of any tree in the garden – except one.  And which one did they choose?  The ONE.  Jonah had the choice of going to Ninevah or the other direction – so he high-tailed it away from Ninevah.  Saul/Paul could choose to persecute Christians or to let them be.  Judas could have not betrayed Jesus, be he did.  Perhaps you could have chosen to remain faithful to your spouse but you chose unfaithfulness instead.  Drugs, alcohol, greed, thievery, murder, lying – all spring from the well of choice.  See what I mean when I say we’re not getting better at it? 

I’m convinced that we don’t know how to choose wisely sometimes.  How can we possibly know in every circumstance what is the very best thing to do?  If you know the answer, please tell me!  Sure, I know we can pray and God can give us direction, but we still have to choose to go His way and not our own, or He may not give us an answer when we are seeking it. 

So what are we to do?  Maybe all we can hope for in those cases where we’re not sure what is best is to choose what is better.  Mary and Martha were hosting Jesus in their home, and Martha was all a-flutter with her busyness and serving until she got so ticked off at her sister that she even (by implication at least) berates Jesus and Mary – Mary for not helping, Jesus for not telling Mary to help Martha.  Jesus, ever gentle and wise, simply gives Mary a bit of praise: Mary has chosen what is better.  (Lk. 10:42) Notice what Jesus didn’t say: he didn’t say Mary had chosen what was best, but just better. 

What would have been best in that situation?  The Lord only knows, but he didn’t scold Mary for not choosing what was best but encouraged her in her choosing of what was simply “better”.  Maybe that’s why, in all our ways, we should acknowledge Him and let him direct our paths until we reach that which is best.

PRAYER: I’m so grateful, Lord, that you understand our limitations and don’t expect perfection from us.  Forgive us for our foolish choices and help us choose that which is better!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

COPYRIGHT 2018 by Galen C. Dalrymple. All rights reserved.

DayBreaks for 2/22/18 – Recovering from an Unusual Attitude

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DayBreaks for 2/22/18: Recovering From an Unusual Attitude

From the DayBreaks archive, February 2008:

I have some friends and Christian brothers who are retired airline pilots.  You don’t get to be a pilot without lots of hard work, intelligence and more than just a little nerve.  Consider this part of some pilot’s training:

When a pilot is learning to fly, there comes a point when they pile into the plane behind the controls and they take off – still with the instructor beside them.  They take the plane up to a good altitude and the instructor takes over, but not before putting a cloth bag or some kind of blindfold on the prospective pilot.  Once that is done, the instructor begins to take the plane up and over and around and virtually inside out – all with one purpose: to disturb the equilibrium of the student and get them disoriented.  After some barrel rolls, loop the loops and other acrobatic maneuvers, the pilot takes the plane up and up and up and then noses over into a suicide dive.  At that point, they remove the bag or blindfold from the student and give them back the controls.  His/her job at that point is simple, but very important: get the plane back under control before they smack into the ground.  The name of this exercise is “recovering from an unusual attitude.”

Much of our lives are spend in twists, turns, climbs and dives, and we can easily become disoriented and crash and burn.  We are blinded to many of the reasons and “wherefore’s” that affect us.  We know God has a plan, and we know the final outcome, but not the details – oftentimes, I’m convinced, we don’t even know the details as we are living them out day by day.  And it is imperative that we find our senses in the midst of the twisting and turning, climbing and diving.

Our attitudes play such a major role in how we view life and God.  What’s your attitude when you don’t understand where He’s taking you?  Are you prone to yell at him and get angry, or will you dig into His word, open your heart to his leading, and recover from your own unusual attitude?

PRAYER: May we learn to act graciously even when we don’t understand, and always to act in obedience and find our safety in You.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

COPYRIGHT 2018 by Galen C. Dalrymple. All rights reserved.

DayBreaks for 2/21/18 – An Imitation of the Master

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DayBreaks for 2/21/18: An Imitation of the Master

From the DayBreaks archive, February 2008:

So, how do you plan to spend your day today?  Did you create a “laundry list” of things that you need to get done or should do?  How’s it going so far?  Has the list gotten smaller or bigger as the day progressed?  How much time do you spend planning out your next day? 

It seems that no matter what I do or how meticulously I might try to plan things, it never seems to quite work out like I’d planned.  Perhaps that’s what the writer of Proverbs had in mind when he wrote in Proverbs 19:21 (NLT) – You can make many plans, but the LORD’s purpose will prevail.  I think I’ve got my day all figured out, but NOT!  I often look at the things that come along in the course of a day as being unwelcome events…after all, I’ve got a plan and if I can just run it like clockwork, it’s the best thing, right?  Not really.  Why should I think that my well-laid plans are the best thing for me to do each day, or the best way to do them, or even that they’re the most important things to do on any given day? 

We need to learn to welcome interruptions.  Mark Buchanan says that the devil seeks to distract, but God seeks to interrupt, and how quickly we fall prey to Satan’s distractions but how we equally quickly grow oblivious to God’s interruptions.  Satan wants us to become distracted from God and godly things, but God wants to interrupt our schedules and plans with things which are more important.  Who am I to say that the interruption by the person in the next cubicle is not a portion of a God-directed plan for something greater than the accomplishment of my little plans?  Isn’t that perhaps what the writer of the Proverb was saying?

Jesus’ life was dominated by purpose – he came to offer his life as a ransom.  Reading the gospels, especially John, one gets the sense that Jesus entire life was spent moving towards Jerusalem and the cross.  And indeed, it was always his purpose.  But along the way, many things happened to him that we would consider interruptions.  It isn’t clear that Jesus kept anything like a detailed itinerary of his daily schedule.  In fact, his daily life seemed to be lived by interruption: a woman who touches his clothes and is healed, a dead son begin wept over by his mother, a dinner at a taxpayer’s house, a wedding feast in Cana, a leader of Roman soldiers who entreats him for a healing, little children who wanted to be held, storms on the sea, fishing with his buddies, questions from the scribes and Pharisees – and the list goes on virtually endlessly.  He always found time for telling stories, for people along the route to the cross who hadn’t scheduled a moment of his time. 

So what was Jesus’ secret and what dictated Jesus’ schedule?  How did he number his days aright?  Perhaps Jesus came the closest to answering that himself in Mt. 11:1-11, when he said, The wind blows wherever it pleases.  You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going.  So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”  Jesus listened and watched the Spirit – and did what the Spirit directed.

Peter, after saying Jesus is the Lord of all, describes how Jesus spent his days: God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and…he went around doing good.  (Acts 10:36, 38) 

There you have it: the sum of Jesus’ earthly vocation is that he wandered and he blessed.  Jesus was a vagabond physician, the original doctor without borders.  His purpose was crystal clear – but his methods appear to be random.  Henri Nouwen observed something like this about his own life: “My whole life I have been complaining that my work was constantly interrupted until I discovered the interruptions were my work.”

PRAYER: May we discern Your interruptions, Lord, and may we go with You to do what You want us to do together.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

COPYRIGHT 2018 by Galen C. Dalrymple. All rights reserved.

DayBreaks for 2/20/18 – Worthless Confetti

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DayBreaks for 2/20/18: Worthless Confetti

From the DayBreaks archive, February 2008:

CATANIA, Sicily – Grandparents often share their sage advice with youngsters to teach them the values of life. A five-year-old Sicilian boy took his grandfather’s wisdom a bit too literally when he told him, “money is just worthless trash.”   The very next day the grandson helped his 33-year-old father get rid of his “trash.” The boy found a wad of cash in his dad’s wallet and tore it up into little pieces until it was unusable. Just in case, he threw the remains out of the window. It turns out the wad of money was actually his father’s entire monthly salary. Now it’s just worthless confetti.

Some lessons in life are expensive.  Some are learned through the school of “hard knocks.” 

Although the story doesn’t say how the father reacted to his son’s “help” in getting rid of his “worthless trash” money that was an entire month’s income, I can only imagine.

I’ve recently done two memorial/funeral services and I’ve been struck by the things in life that are important to us.  I’ve been observing the American way of grief and find it fascinating.  The things that we think have value are suddenly and sharply put into clear focus when someone we love dies.  It’s just a pity that the focus doesn’t last longer than it does, for all too soon we forget the lessons learned in the house of mourning and return to our own ways of pursuing things that are at the very least of questionable value.

How much of life is taken up with the pursuit of “worthless trash!”  How much better off we’d be if we spent our time, effort and energy in pursuit of Jesus.  As I stood, even on the day that I write this, beside the open casket of a warrior of God who served Him faithfully for many years, I am forced once again to confront my own values and pursuits and to confess that they need adjusting. 

The day is coming when all that I’ve done or ever will do in this world will be either burned up or left behind to others.  How true is the saying: “Only one life, ‘Twill soon be past.  Only what is done for the Lord will last!”

Don’t waste your life making confetti.  Make a difference that will survive death and your journey to eternity. 

PRAYER: Give us wisdom to recognize the things of real value and the strength to pursue them.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

COPYRIGHT 2018 by Galen C. Dalrymple. All rights reserved.