DayBreaks for 12/31/19: Trust the Catcher

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DayBreaks for 12/31/19: Trust the Catcher

From the DayBreaks Archive, 12/31/09:

The year is at a close. The decade is done (depending on how you count the start of a decade!) What will the coming year hold? Birth, life, and death. Chances are good that some who read this DayBreaks won’t be alive this time next year. Certainly, someone you know will die in the next year.

In her introduction to Henri Nouwen’s book, The Only Necessary Thing, Sue Mosteller relays a bit of Nouwen’s thoughts about death and life: “Speaking of death and eternal life, Henri leads us to glimpse the reality of our approaching death, not as something fearful and traumatic, but more as a ‘return to the womb of God’ (p. 190). Communion with God grows deep inside us and we gradually learn a trust so tangible that we begin to imagine our death as a ‘letting go’ of the swing on the flying trapeze. Henri quotes the trapeze artist Rodleigh, who says, ‘When I fly to Joe, I have simply to stretch out my arms and hands and wait for him to catch me and pull me safely over the apron behind the catchbar…the worst thing a flyer can do is to try to catch the catcher.’ ‘Dying is trusting the catcher,’ says Henri. ‘Don’t try to grab Him; He will grab you. Just stretch out your arms and hands and trust, trust, trust.'”

Trusting in God is to trust Him as the Catcher. I don’t get the sense from Jesus’ words on the cross that he was worried about trying to grab onto God:“Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” When he had said this, he breathed his last. (Luke 23:46) I sense nothing in his words except absolute trust that the Father was more than able to catch him regardless of what Jesus did at that point.

The story has been told for years about the man who was standing alone on the edge of a cliff when the ground beneath him crumbled and the man plunged over the edge. About 15-20 feet down, he managed to grab a branch that protruded from the cliff face. Desperately holding on, he began crying out for help. No one was there – no one heard. So finally, the man calls out to God: “God, please save me!” To his surprise, he hears a voice: “Do you trust me?” The man, struggling to maintain his grip, replies, “Yes, God, I trust you!” To which God replies, “Then let go…”.

Only God can catch us. Only God is worthy of our trust. But faith and trust are sometimes hard to come by, especially when faced with the ultimate conclusion of this worldly life. During this next year, as you see friends and loved ones die, if they are believers you can have great confidence that God will “catch” them. That death, for the believer, is a trip home, to our origin. It is not something to be feared.

The time will eventually come for all of us – and we must launch out into eternity with nothing in our hands – trusting Him to catch us and land us safely on the other side.

As far as tomorrow – I am not afraid. God can catch me. He can catch us all regardless of the date, regardless of the circumstances. Until then, “just stretch out your arms and hands and trust, trust, trust.”

PRAYER: Lord, you have carried us in your arms from the moment we were born and you will carry us until the day we die.  Thank you for being with us this past year and for the assurance that no matter where we are, you will be with us in the coming year, too.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2019 by Galen C. Dalrymple.  ><}}}”>

DayBreaks for 12/30/19 – The Right Goal

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DayBreaks for 12/30/19: The Right Goal

From the DayBreaks Archive, 12/27/99:

Who do you want to be like? Who is your hero? I recently asked that question in my adult Sunday school class and got some interesting answers, but not the answers that you might have expected. What do you think the Jews of Jesus’ time would have answered to that question? Some would probably have suggested that they wanted to be like their father, Abraham. Some may have chosen Moses or David or Daniel or Elijah.

Jesus would one day tell them what the answer should have been, and the answer would have set them all back, just as it does me. His answer is found in Matthew 5:48: Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

No Jew would have dared to suggest that they could have been like God. As I think of my own life, I think that I would have also picked some of the characters from the Scriptures. I would be content to be a man of faith like Daniel, to deal with temptation as did Joseph, to be a man after God’s heart like David. I would be happy to be 1/10th the Christian that the apostle Paul was. But you see, that’s the problem. We set our sights too low. God has already set the target for us when he said, Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

It seems that God has a far loftier goal than we set for ourselves. The fallacy of my thinking that I’d be content to be 1/10th the Christian that Paul was is that you can’t be 1/10th of a Christian. You are either a Christian or you are not. And in God’s eyes, if you are a Christian – you are entirely Christian and your goal shouldn’t be set to be anything like another human – but to be like Christ, to be like God Himself.

Why does God set that goal for us? Because He knew how low we’d set the target if left to our own thinking. He knew we’d be content to be better than our neighbor. But He also knows that being better than our neighbor would never suffice.

God has high ideals for you. That’s actually good news. The even better news is that He has made Himself responsible for helping you reach the target! Colossians 1:28 says that it is IN CHRIST that we are presented perfect. Ephesians 1:13 tells us who those are who are IN CHRIST: And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit…

We won’t get there on our own, but to those who believe, who are therefore “in Christ” – well, you just can’t get more perfect than that!

PRAYER: Let us dream the dreams you have for us, Lord, to be led by your Spirit to be holy and righteous, knowing that it is only by the blood of Jesus that we ever reach that perfection.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2019 by Galen C. Dalrymple.  ><}}}”>

DayBreaks for 12/27/19 – Identifying the Guilty

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DayBreaks for 12/27/19: Identifying the Guilty

From the DayBreaks Archive, 12/27/99:

“The late professor Allan Bloom, author of The Closing of the American Mind, told about asking his undergraduate class at the University of Chicago to identify an evil person. Not one student could do so. “Evil” simply didn’t exist as a category in their minds. The inability to recognize and identify evil, said Bloom, is a perilous sign in our society.” – Philip Yancey, The Bible Jesus Read

When I read this, I was really quick to jump to the point in my mind where I said, “Yep! That sounds right. There is no sense of right and wrong, good and evil anymore.” I would have rushed out with the names of people that I think of as being evil: Adolf Hitler, Eichmann, Pol Pot, Idi Amin, Moammar Ghadaffi. There are others that I would have been quick to label as evil, too, because of their lifestyle and apparent total disregard for morals or things of God. Then God straightened me out.

Indeed, we fail to think of ourselves as evil, don’t we? When asked the question, would I have ventured my own name? How quick I was to point my trained religious sense at the faults of others while ignoring my own wickedness! Genesis 8:21 tells God’s reaction after the sacrifice offered by Noah following the flood: The LORD smelled the pleasing aroma and said in his heart: “Never again will I curse the ground because of man, even though every inclination of his heart is evil from childhood.”

The amazing part is that God still loves us. In spite of our evil inclinations, He loves us.

Would you have ventured your own name? Paul understood that he still had to struggle with evil and described his own struggle in Romans. When we think we have reached the point that evil is behind us, evil is within us. We are wise to recognize that, left to our own devices, we are pretty pathetic creatures. We have no righteousness of our own to cling to.

PRAYER: Teach us to number ourselves among the transgressors, Lord, that we don’t become haughty and proud.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2019 by Galen C. Dalrymple.  ><}}}”>

DayBreaks for 12/26/19 – Twice Wrapped, Twice Freed

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DayBreaks for 12/26/19: Twice Wrapped, Twice Freed

It was during the night that the Savior was born. In the darkness. How ironic that the Light chose to be kindled in the dark, but also how meaningful!

There are those today who have set up elaborate and expensive arrays searching for life in the universe. It is a hot topic among astronomers and astrophysicists to name a few. Many movies have been made speculating on whether or not the life that might be out there is friendly or if it will be hostile toward humanity. As a Christian, though, I have to say that we already know there is intelligent life out there in the universe– and we know what that Life is like. It is not filled with hate – but it is filled with love. We know that because of the event we celebrated yesterday – the birth of a baby, wrapped in “swaddling clothes” who came to bring Light and Life, to seek and save the lost. We saw that life, that love, because we have seen Jesus.

Now, however, Christmas is over. The baby in swaddling clothes will be packed up and stowed away for another year. But if Christmas means anything, it is in how it points forward to the next great “holy day” of the Christian calendar, Easter Sunday.

We don’t know when Christ was actually born, but we do know much more certainty about when he died. Again, the irony strikes me: at his birth he was wrapped tightly in strips of linen cloth (that’s what swaddling clothes were in the first century) and when he died, he was once again wrapped tightly in linen strips even as he was at his birth.

As with the birth, so with the death: he quickly left the swaddling clothes behind and he likewise burst forth from the second set of wrappings in great glory.

The end of Christmas starts the great story rumbling forward and points to the coming celebration of his death, burial and the defeat of death for us.

As we leave Christmas behind, let us begin even now to look forward to our next great celebration.

PRAYER: Lord Jesus, we have celebrated your birth but we cannot stay at the manger. Even as the swaddling clothes held you only temporarily, we look toward the grave wrappings that could not bind you any more than death could, in total awe and wonder for your finished work on our behalf. Help us start now to prepare for the rest of your story. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2019 by Galen C. Dalrymple.  ><}}}”>

DayBreaks for 12/25/19 – A Reason for the Incarnation

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DayBreaks for 12/25/19: A Reason for the Incarnation

Why did Jesus take on flesh?  Philip Yancey, in Finding God in Unexpected Places, pondered that question and came up with various possibilities.  Certainly, he came to show us what God is like.  He also came to show us what a man “fully alive” was meant to be.  He came to seek and save the lost.  He came not to be served, but to serve.  He came to give himself as a ransom for many through his selfless sacrifice.

God loves matter – the mountains, the trees, the animals, the heavenly orbs, the beauty of a diamond, the rings of Saturn – all made by His hand for His own pleasure.  Creating gives God pleasure.

The creation’s sin, however, created a separation or gulf between God and man.  All the great characters of the Bible struggled with this separation and cried out in terms like these: “God, you don’t know what it’s like living down here!” Job, eloquent as ever, put it more bluntly: “Do you have eyes of flesh?  Do you see as a mortal sees?”

All these Biblical characters had a point – and God recognized the truth of that point by visiting Planet Earth Himself.  The author of Hebrews puts it in absolutely stunning terms when he said that Jesus’ life on earth was a time when he “learned obedience,” “was made perfect,” and became a “sympathetic” high priest. 

How does one learn sympathy?  There is only one way and it is evident in the Greek roots of the word used for sympathy: sym and pathos, meaning “to feel or suffer with.”

Of the many reasons for the Incarnation (Yancey concluded): “…surely one was to answer Job’s accusation.  Do you have eyes of flesh?  Yes, indeed.”

Merry CHRISTmas to you all!

PRAYER: Teach us to have spiritual vision as well as physical vision.  You who came to have human eyes, please give us eyes like yours that we may see what you see, think like you think, and be conformed to your image.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2019 by Galen C. Dalrymple.  ><}}}”>

DayBreaks for 12/24/19 – The Lamb Victorious

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DayBreaks for 12/24/19: The Lamb Victorious

“Christmas, the celebration of the first Coming of the Lamb, looks back to the humble stable and the simple shepherds. The setting is a dark, fallen world. He has come to expose through His weakness the impotence of what the world calls power. He has come to show us that it is we who are upside-down.

“In that sense, Christmas is a preparation for the celebration that will be the Second Coming, of the Lamb triumphant. The contrast between the settings of the two comings could not be more extreme. Instead of a silent stable and a bunch of motley shepherds, there will be a resplendent multitude whose praise can only be described as a “roar”.

“Oh Lamb of God, innocent, helpless
One, born in a stable, held in
shepherds’ arms, sleeping in the hay.
You are the Lamb, our Lamb, meek,
gentle, and spotless Victim.

“Yet you are the Lamb victorious!
You have conquered sin and death.
You have overcome the evil one.
The throne is yours. The glory yours.
We look up to see the lion and yet it is
still You that we see, both reigning
and slain. And you bid us follow.

“This Christmas, make us mindful of what
Your first coming means.
Clear our vision so that we might
look ahead and upward to your
Second Coming, a faithful Bride,
longing for the feast.

The writing is taken from the devotional book The Promise, © 1991 by Michael Card. All Rights Reserved

PRAYER: Lamb of God, we await Your return!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2019 by Galen C. Dalrymple.  ><}}}”>

 

DayBreaks for 12/23/19 – Jesus’ Priorities

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DayBreaks for 12/23/19: Jesus’ Priorities

On 12/19/19, Craig Keener wrote on the theology blog of Christianity Today about two events, closely linked in the text of Mark and in purpose, in the life of Jesus. The first, the healing of the woman with the issue of blood and the second, the raising of Jairus’ daughter from the dead. He made the following observations:

“So far as we can tell from Mark, Jesus has not yet raised anyone else from the dead. Jesus thus demands from Jairus greater faith, and he accordingly continues with Jesus to the house. Faith does not mean that Jairus will not join others’ astonishment when his daughter is raised (5:42).

“Jesus had physical contact with ritual impurity when healing a leper (1:41) and the bleeding woman. But whereas such contacts rendered one impure until evening, touching a corpse rendered one impure for a week (Num. 19:11–13). Jesus, however, embraces us in our need, which takes priority over ritual purity (Mark 7:1–23) and even the Sabbath (2:23–3:6). He takes the dead girl by the hand and raises her up (5:41).”

As we enter the week where we celebrate Jesus’ birth, let’s remember that he didn’t come so we could sing nice carols, decorate trees and houses and exchange presents with one another. He came to take on our uncleanness and raise us up to wholeness and purity.

As we celebrate our rituals, let’s remember that He was willing to become unclean to make us “well”. Meeting our need was more important to him than any ritual. It should be that way for us as well.

PRAYER: Jesus, there simply aren’t words that express our amazement that you were born to take on our sin and raise us up. We are forever thankful for your birth, your life, your death and resurrection. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2019 by Galen C. Dalrymple.  ><}}}”>

DayBreaks for 12/20/19 – The Rescue Mission for Creation

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DayBreaks for 12/20/19: The Rescue Mission for Creation

If you look for just a few minutes every day, you can find a story of an incredible rescue taking place somewhere in this country or world, perhaps, if you community is large enough, even in your own neighborhood.  Firemen, highway patrolmen, soldiers, officers of the peace, teachers and parents (sometimes even kids or dogs) carry out amazing rescues and we applaud them and give them the honor that they deserve.  Rightly so.

This week, Christmas is upon us.  We often retell the story to ourselves and our little ones about the birth of Jesus.  It is a sweet, charming story, full of farm animals, night skies twinkling with stars, angels singing to shepherds who were out on the hillside at night with their animals.  Don’t forget the magi who came to see and worship this king being held in the arms of his virgin mother, Mary.  In all the sweetness of the story we can easily forget what led up to this moment in time: the fall in the garden, years of sin and wickedness culminating in the flood, renewed evil immediately after the flood, a people chosen to be God’s own special people, prophets, judges, miracles, kings and always…more failure and sin.  In the midst of the wonder it is easy to push such thoughts aside and try to ignore them.  It is understandable, I guess.

But we must not forget these forerunners to the Nativity story because it was all of those things which were the precursors and the factors that made this visitation from Immanuel necessary.  Timothy Keller wrote: “Christianity alone among the world religions claims that God became uniquely and fully human in Jesus Christ and therefore knows firsthand despair, rejection, loneliness, poverty, bereavement, torture, and imprisonment.”  Yes, those things are true…and more.  Here is the kicker, the driving factor behind God’s decision to come and visit this planet in such a personal and human way: “Jesus came on a rescue mission for creation.  He had to pay for our sins so that someday he can end evil and suffering without ending us.

Wow.  I’d never thought about it in those words before, but the more I’ve contemplated them, the more I believe they are dead on target.  If our sins hadn’t been paid for he would have had no choice but to end us when he ended evil and suffering in the world.  He would not have been righteous and holy if he’d ended evil and let us survive – for we are evil when we are left to our own devices.  All the evil we have within us had to be answered for, or we would have had to be “ended” when he did destroy evil. 

This week as you focus on His birth, I hope that you’ll contemplate yet again, this statement: “He had to pay for our sins so that someday he can end evil and suffering without ending us.”  This was the reason for the baby coming to the manger and for the Godman walking to the cross where he died.

PRAYER: Thank You for the greatest rescue ever conducted, Jesus!  Thank You that You found a way to pay for all of my evil that didn’t include ending me.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2019 by Galen C. Dalrymple.  ><}}}”>

DayBreaks for 12/19/19 – The God of Frailty

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DayBreaks for 12/19/19: The God of Frailty

In a short devotional for Christmas, writer Paul Williams reflects on why he still remembers one particular Christmas pageant from 1981. It all starts with a strep-stricken son. He writes:

“The dull eyes tipped me off before he could open his mouth. Jonathan had strep throat. It seemed the children in our family picked up strep two or three times a year, and someone always had it during the holidays.

“Jonathan had been excited about the nursery school Christmas play for a couple of weeks. He would be Joseph. Mary would be played by a Jewish girl from down the block. Yes, her parents had given permission for her to be in the Christmas pageant.

“With neck glands swollen and his voice a nasally whine, Jonathan begged to go to the festivities. Against our better judgment, we acquiesced. Bundling our son in his warmest coat, we drove the five short miles to the Central Islip Church of Christ. By the time all the parents had squeezed into the small auditorium, Jonathan was as white as the pillowcase he was wearing as a head covering. He looked fragile and diminutive.

“Cathy and I sat on the front row. Jonathan came down the aisle hand in hand with Mary, and the two sat down on the second step below the manger, recently retrieved from its usual home in the boiler room. Jonathan was looking paler still, all the light out of his big blue eyes. He looked at us and managed a weak smile.

“As soon as the play was over we hauled Jonathan off to the doctor’s office. Since our family doctor was a friend, we sneaked in and out in no time. Filled with penicillin, our son was feeling better the next morning. I do not remember much about the rest of that Christmas season, though I am sure it was utterly delightful, as all Christmas celebrations are.

“I have often pondered why that is my only remembrance of that Christmas, in December of 1981. Of all the memories of all our family Christmas experiences, what makes that one event stand out?

“I know the reason.

“Christmas is truly about frail vulnerability, freely chosen. With heart in throat God watched his infant Son cry and squirm in the cold manger, where there was no penicillin.

“I know how I felt watching my son with his head resting in those small hands, wanting to be brave, but weak and unsteady. I can only imagine what my heavenly Father thought, seeing his infant Son in the hands of a frightened young girl.”

PRAYER: Lord, may our spirits be tender to Your Spirit.  Thank You, Father, for entrusting Your Son into the hands of Your frail and flawed creatures.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2019 by Galen C. Dalrymple.  ><}}}”>

DayBreaks for 12/18/19 – Illuminated Cats and Despairing Prophets

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DayBreaks for 12/18/19: Illuminated Cats and Despairing Prophets

In his book Horns and Halos, Dr. J. Wallace Hamilton tells about one of the weirdest auction sales in history. It was in Washington, D.C., in 1926, where 150,000 patented models of old inventions were declared obsolete and placed on the auction block. Prospective buyers and on-lookers chuckled as item after item was put up for bid; such as a “bed-bug buster” or an “illuminated cat” that was designed to scare away mice. Then there was a device to prevent snoring. It consisted of a trumpet that reached from the mouth to the ear; and was designed to awaken the snorer and not the neighbors. The list was a long one, indeed!

This auction of old patent models was worth at least 150,000 laughs; but if looking a little deeper, those 150,000 old patent models also represent 150,000 broken dreams – a mountain of disappointments.
It may seem strange to talk about broken dreams and disappointment this close to Christmas. After all, this is the season to be jolly. But it’s not jolly for everybody, is it? For those who have lost loved ones this is the loneliest time of the year. And in a world that glorifies materialism, those who are struggling financially may find it to be most disappointing.
John the Baptist knew about disappointment. John is in prison, knowing his future isn’t looking too bright, and he’s looking for a sign – that the long-awaited Messiah has really arrived. That’s ironic, don’t you think? John the Baptist is the one who first proclaimed his coming, who baptized him, who witnessed the Spirit descend on him and heard the voice from heaven. But much has happened to John since we last saw him preaching and baptizing people in the wilderness, and now his heart is cast down.

You, too, may be cast down, but listen to the words of Jesus in response to John’s question: And he answered them, “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”  – Luke 7:22-23 (ESV)
Only by the power of the Incarnate one do such things happen. You may not be able to see an appealing future. You may feel you can’t take one more step. You may be diseased inside and out, deaf to words of encouragement, dead on your feet and surrounded by bad news. Jesus can deal with those and far more. Let us not be ashamed to own him this season.

PRAYER: Lord, for all who struggle this Christmas, let them find hope in the Incarnate One and his immense power and great compassion.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2019 by Galen C. Dalrymple.  ><}}}”>