DayBreaks for 3/27/20 – The Hallway Through the Sea #6 – The Suffering in Suffering

From the Fiery Furnace – A Sign of Hope

DayBreaks for 3/27/20: The Hallway Through the Sea #6 – The Suffering in Suffering

From Christianity Today and Tim Dalrymple, 3/26/20:

For today’s musical pairing, Der Klang der Offenbarung des Göttlichen by Kjartan Sveinsson. See video below.

“Then King Nebuchadnezzar leaped to his feet in amazement and asked his advisers, ‘Weren’t there three men that we tied up and threw into the fire?’ They replied, ‘Certainly, Your Majesty.’ He said, ‘Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods.’” – Daniel 3:24–25

Day 7. 511,603 confirmed cases, 22,993 deaths globally.

The suffering in this present moment is not captured in tallies and numbers. Alongside the loss of life is the loss of livelihoods, the loss of innocence, the loss of a sense of security. The scent of fear is in the air, and in the midst of the pandemic our epidemic of loneliness grows deeper.

Suffering has a tendency to isolate. It can carve us away from community, set us apart from the crowd, and strip away all our distractions and illusions and consolations. No one can experience our pain for us. No one can take it away. No one can cover it over with soothing words or glittering ideas. Even when we suffer together, we suffer alone.

“The most terrible poverty is loneliness,” Mother Teresa wrote, “and the feeling of being unloved.” Now the pandemic has made our spiritual isolation physical. We find ourselves in an enforced solitude, where our fears and anxieties echo in the emptiness. We ache for the presence of others.

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were bound and hurled into the fiery furnace together, and they emerged unbound and unharmed. God met them in the fire. Christians are not wrong to read the story in the light of the Incarnation. Christ lowered himself into our condition. He made himself present with us. Christ entered into our sufferings and brought the love of God with him… (Click this link to read the rest of the meditation.)

PRAYER: Thank you, O Lord, that you are with us in our hour of need. Thank you that you have made yourself present in all the height and depth of our suffering. May we likewise enter into the sufferings of others and be bearers of your love there.

Link to Christianity Today’s Facebook page

The Hallway Through the Sea is a series of daily meditations from the president and CEO of Christianity Today, written specifically for those struggling through the coronavirus pandemic. It will address our sense of fear and isolation and also the ways we find beauty and truth and hope—and Christ himself—in the midst of suffering. The title of the column alludes to the passage of the Israelites through the Red Sea. We are a people redeemed from our enslavement to sin, yet we find ourselves living between where we were and where we are meant to be. Danger looms on both sides, but our hope and our faith is that God will deliver us through the sea and into the land of promise.

Timothy Dalrymple is president and CEO of Christianity Today. Follow him on Twitter @TimDalrymple_

PREVIOUS THE HALLWAY THROUGH THE SEA COLUMNS:

Out of the Depths

Chosen in the Furnace

The First Word and the Last

More . . .

Link to video with facts, symptoms and prevention tips about coronavirus: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AITtaAAAdYc

Copyright by 2020 by Galen C. Dalrymple.  ><}}}”>

 

DayBreaks for 3/12/20 – A Harder God to Believe In

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DayBreaks for 3/12/20: A Harder God to Believe In

I don’t know who said this, but I found it resonated with my own spirit:

“What I am displeased with is my own living of life.  I feel an acute sense that I ought to have done better with the circumstances I was given.  This is one of the reasons why it cut me so deeply when people suggested that suffering is God’s discipline — because I find it so very, very easy to believe in a God who is profoundly disappointed in me. 

“It seems utterly natural to believe in the Disappointed God, because I myself am disappointed.  He must be even more disappointed, I think, because his standards are so much higher than mine.  How could he not be disappointed?  That makes complete sense to me.

“It’s the other God, the God who does not experience that kind of disappointment, the God who sees me the way that Prodigal Son’s father saw him — that is the harder God for me to believe in.  It takes work for me to believe in that God.” 

It takes me no effort whatsoever to believe in a God who is very thoroughly disappointed in me.  I am now a minister of the gospel, but it took me nearly 25 years to get to this point – 25 years of secular work.  Yes, I was serving in the church all that time, but not in what I believe I was called to do.  And even though I can see how, in His wisdom, He has used all the things I did and learned in the secular work world to be a better pastor (though I still have much to learn!), I can believe He might have been frustrated with me for not going into the ministry right away (as I considered doing.) 

And, even if I concede to myself that I was still serving God and perhaps even doing what I was supposed to be doing for those 25 years, I can still look at my life and think, “Galen – you really should be further along than you are in your faith walk with Jesus.  Your faith is still shaky.  You still struggle with some of the same old sins that have plagued you for years.  You quench the Spirit from time to time – far too often, actually.  You are not generous.  You can be envious.  You could be a much better husband than you are and a better pastor to the flock, too.”  Those thoughts come easily.  And I’m sure that similar thoughts come easily to you in your own situation.

What a change took place in my life when I learned that God was running towards me to embrace me and weep at my feeble attempts to come to Him!  Do I believe that that God is real – that He is the God I’ve sought to serve all these years?  Yes…but it is harder.  It is harder to accept grace than to live with the whip of the lash.  I feel I deserve the lash, but instead of the lash on my back, I feel the Father’s arm as He puts on the robe of righteousness that Christ wore around His shoulders.  I feel His tears against my cheek – not tears of sadness or despair, but tears of exultant joy.  He takes pleasure in me…and that’s a hard God to believe in.

PRAYER: How desperately we need reminders that You run to us, not from us, and that You rejoice in us through Jesus!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2020 by Galen C. Dalrymple.  ><}}}”>

 

DayBreaks for 3/10/20 – My Struggle With Repentance

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DayBreaks for 3/10/20: My Struggle with Repentance

Repentance. I think I know what it’s supposed to look like – a turning away from sinful practices and a return to the pathway of the Anointed One, a turning away from putting myself on the throne to carrying my cross to Calvary. Scripture says that God forgives those who repent. Acts 2:38 and 3:19 seem to link repentance with forgiveness. And that’s what terrifies me.

You see, no matter how hard I’ve tried, here I am bearing down on my 68th year, still struggling with some of the same old sins. Have I cried out to God for forgiveness? Countless times. Have I begged him to take those temptations away from me, to set me free from it? Over and over and over. Has he done it? No, not entirely.

Perhaps he lets me continue to struggle with it like he did Paul (not that I’m anything like Paul!), because if I suddenly was relieved of those temptations I may grown too proud when my greater need is to be reminded of my sinfulness and dependence on the grace of One who can even save someone like me.

But this weekend a thought occurred to me and the more I’ve noodled it around, the more it makes sense to me. It’s basically this: God has had to make up for human shortcoming since the dawn of human history. He had a plan for it then and it still holds true today. It can basically be summed up in the words mercy and grace. Here’s how I think it must work regarding repentance: just as he knows my obedience will never be full and complete as long as I’m tied to the flesh, he also knows my repentance will never be full and complete. If my salvation is dependent on the “once and forever” kind of repentance that never struggles with that sin – no matter how many times I tell God I’m sorry and resolve to obey – then I’m doomed to be engulfed by fire and brimstone for all eternity.

But that’s exactly the point, isn’t it?  God knows that my human nature will never perfectly repent any more than I can perfect obey (the two are closely linked, after all), and just as he makes up for my sinfulness with his mercy and grace, counting my obedience as complete in Christ, so I think he makes up by his grace for my failure to completely, once and forever never-to-sin-that-way-again repent.

Does God want me to give in to those sins again? Of course not! But he knows I’m frail and weak and seemingly just not able to completely and forever repent.

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me!

PRAYER: God, I truly am sorry for my sinfulness. And I say yet again to you, “I repent” and I mean that. But if I fail, I am grateful for the amazing grace that you have surrounded me with and that you’ll still love and welcome me as your child. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2020 by Galen C. Dalrymple.  ><}}}”>

 

DayBreaks for 3/09/20 – Though He Slay Me

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DayBreaks for 3/9/20: Though He Slay Me

Job 13:15 – Though he slay me, I will hope in him; yet I will argue my ways to his face.

It is when Job final gives vent to his angst that he makes this amazing statement. Think about what he’s saying for a moment in the first part of that verse (paraphrasing): even if he kills me, I’ll hope and trust in him.

Now, who is going to place their trust and hope in someone who is going to kill them? It makes no sense, right? Why would someone make such a statement?

I think it is only because Job knew God so well that, much as Abraham reasoned that God could raise Isaac from the dead, Job believed that if God slew him it was for a good reason. He believed that God was trustworthy – even up to and through the point of being killed by him. That takes faith! In some ways it is perhaps a greater statement of faith than Abram’s readiness to sacrifice Isaac.

But still…Job, in spite of God perhaps killing him, is also ready to stand before that very God and argue his innocence face to face. And that takes trust in the character of his God, too.

Most of us would say we wouldn’t trust God if we knew God was going to kill us. It would make us question and doubt his goodness and character. But apparently, not Job.

One great note of encouragement here, though: Job was ready to argue his own case before God. I that God (literally!!!) that I will not have to stand before God and plead my own case. Instead, I have one who will plead my case for me. And when I look into the eyes of my Judge, I will see the eyes of my Savior looking back at me.

PRAYER: God, I need to walk closely enough with you that my faith could say the same thing as confidently as Job did. I thank you that my Savior will be my judge. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2020 by Galen C. Dalrymple.  ><}}}”>

 

DayBreaks for 3/05/20 – Job and the Worst Day Ever

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DayBreaks for 3/5/20: Job and the Worst Day Ever

I have always admired Job. Perhaps it’s because of how much God admired him and bragged on him. It’s hard not to admire someone about whom God is prone to boast.

You know the story: a messenger comes and tells him that some of his flocks and servants were killed in a Sabean raid. In rapid succession another messenger comes and tells him that the “fire of God” fell from the sky and killed the sheep and more servants. The third messenger proclaims the death of more servants and the camels at the hands of the Chaldeans. In short order, Job has gone from wealth to being totally bereft of any wealth or business.

Job’s response? Apparently nothing. Perhaps he realized that all those things had been given by God and he was merely the caretaker. Perhaps he reasoned that it was just “stuff” and could be replaced. We aren’t told.

But then one more messenger arrives with the worst news of all: a wind struck the home where all of his children were celebrating and every single one is dead.

Has there ever been anyone who had a worse day than Job, who lost more in such a short time? In his March 4, 2020 devotion, Michael Card reflected on this catastrophe and wrote:

“It is vitally important to really hear the first two words of chapter 1, verse 20.  They say it all.  “At this,” it reads, Job got up, tore his robe, and shaved his head.  These were the prescribed, cultural things he knew and could do without thinking in his numbed state.  They would have been expected of his by his community.  For the lack of a better term, Job made the motions of entering into mourning.
What he does next, however, is totally unexpected, even unimaginable.  Until this moment nothing remotely like it has happened in the Bible.  Till now Job has responded as he should have, as he was expected to respond, as you and I would probably respond.  What he does next seems unthinkable, almost impossible.
“Then he fell to the ground in worship.”

What would my reaction have been to such an event? I will never be as rich as Job or have as many children, but I get a hint at my reaction when little “disasters” hit me. Is my first reaction to fall on the ground in worship? No, not even close.

We will all have bad days but I doubt any of them will be worse than Job’s worst day ever. How will we react to them?

PRAYER: God, help us to keep perspective and remember that You deserve to be worshipped at all times, but that perhaps we need to turn to you in worship the most when our times are the hardest. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2020 by Galen C. Dalrymple.  ><}}}”>

 

DayBreaks for 3/04/20 – Not Cast Down

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DayBreaks for 3/04/20 – Not Cast Down

From the DayBreaks archive, February 2010:

The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD: and he delighteth in his way. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down: for the LORD upholdeth him with his hand. Psalms 37:23-24 (KJV)

With the 2010 Winter Olympics taking place in Vancouver, Canada, February 12-28, chances are good that many of athletes performing on the biggest stage in the world will be dedicated Christians whose faith affects their preparation and participation in their specialized events. In an anthology entitled Finding God At Harvard: Spiritual Journeys of Thinking Christians, American figure skater and Harvard graduate Paul Wylie writes of his experience during a very trying moment in the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics:

“I set up for the first jump in my program, but as soon as I’m in the air, I know something is terribly wrong.  A flash later my hand touches the ice; the blade will not hold. I start slipping and now I realize it: I am falling. All I hear as I collapse to the ice is the empathetic groan of what seems like a million voices. I struggle to get up, hustling to get to the next move, thoughts racing through my mind as I try to cover the disappointments. There is no way of erasing a fall from the judge’s minds, nor can I jam the television transmissions to the living rooms of family and friends watching back home. This is live, and I have just blown it.

“I have four minutes left and one important choice to make. Either skate through the rest of the program believing that something constructive will come of the mishap, concentrating and performing through to the end, or continue to dwell on the fall and its consequences, inviting more mistakes caused by a negative frame of mind. A Scripture flashes through my mind that helps me with my decision: “The righteous shall fall, but they shall not be utterly cast down.” I suddenly grasp God’s perspective: he will use our successes and our failures to teach us about ourselves and to show the world his glory. “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28) I move on, accepting a new role. I admit imperfection and decide to skate “heartily as unto the Lord” for God’s glory rather than my own results.

“Paul Wyle would go on to finish tenth, but his lack of success at the 1988 Games did not deter him. He continued to compete in figure skating, learning from his setback. He eventually won the silver medal at the 1992 Olympics in France.” – Jerry De Luca, Montreal West, Quebec; source: Paul Wylie, “On Gravity and Lift,” in Finding God at Harvard: Spiritual Journeys of Thinking Christians (edited by Kelly Monroe Kullberf), InterVarsity Press, 2007

It is hard to fall down and not be down cast about it.  The wonderful news is that no matter what happens to us in this life, the Lord will lift us up in due time!

PRAYER: We all face hard times, Lord, times when we fall and are badly hurt.  Bring healing to us, remind us that in You we will NEVER be “utterly cast down!”  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2020 by Galen C. Dalrymple.  ><}}}”>

 

DayBreaks for 3/02/20 – A Different Attitude

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DayBreaks for 3/2/20: A Different Attitude

From the DayBreaks archive, February 2010:

I am not lucky when it comes to contests.  I am told (mostly by my wife and also my good friend, Ken) that I am a pretty competitive individual.  I don’t see it, but I guess that they do.  I’m not sure if that’s good or bad but I’m certain it could be either – or both – depending on what it is that I might be competitive about!  I don’t like to lose.  And sometimes, if I don’t think that I’ve really got a reasonable chance of success, I won’t even compete because I dislike losing that much. 

How we feel about winning and losing probably says a lot more about us than we want to admit.  I know those who lose and then they sulk about it for days or weeks.  And that’s especially true, it seems, the closer they came to victory.  Consider running the 100-meter dash in the Olympics.  Such an event draws the fastest men and women in the world – people who literally can run like the wind.  In such a short race, with such a high caliber of competitors, the difference between winning and losing is often measured in hundredths of a second – faster than the blink of an eye. 

Can you imagine what it would be like to have trained for year after year after year – perhaps a decade or more – only to lose the Olympic 100-meter dash by .01 second?  It would be crushing.

A fascinating study done by Professor Vicki Medvec reveals the relative importance of subjective attitudes over and above objective circumstances. In her study, she studied Olympic medalists and discovered that bronze medalists were quantifiably happier than silver medalists. Here’s why: Silver medalists tended to focus on how close they came to winning gold, so they weren’t satisfied with silver; bronze medalists tended to focus on how close they came to not winning a medal at all, so they were just happy to be on the medal stand. 

Again, in the case of an Olympic race, the difference between 2nd place and 3rd place (silver or bronze medal) may be only .01 second (or less).  I find it very telling that the third place finishers didn’t feel worse, and in fact felt better, than the second place competitors. 

What does this say about us?  Perhaps it is a lesson in thankfulness and grace: none of us can run the race that Jesus ran – He is the hand’s down winner and no one is even close to Him in terms of holiness.  I suspect that the Pharisees, to the extent that they allowed the truth of their sin to come to the surface, beat themselves up incessantly about their sin, thinking things like, “I was sooooo close to being as holy as God wants me to be!”  Balderdash.  Not one of us can say that. 

I don’t know about you, but when the heavenly dawn breaks for me, I will be thrilled to be on the victory stand and look up at the One who won the race not only for me, but for everyone who puts their trust in Him.  I know I will have no right to be there…I would be more than content to be the stable boy for Jesus’ great white war horse for eternity.  But God won’t permit that.  He has made us His beloved children, He will give us the crown of life, and we will be so eternally thankful that we won’t worry, as did the disciples on the night that Jesus was betrayed, about who is “the greatest.”  It will be perfectly clear Who the Greatest will be!

PRAYER: Help us to have attitudes of thankfulness for what you have done for us, for our destiny and for the joy that awaits us and not to be envious or jealous of those who we might be tempted to look up to in this life.  Let us lift our eyes to see only Jesus and to praise Him for all eternity!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2020 by Galen C. Dalrymple.  ><}}}”>