DayBreaks for 7/18/19 – Two Thieves, Two Destinies

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DayBreaks for 07/18/19: Two Thieves – Two Destinies

From the DayBreaks archives, July 2009:

Luke 23:39-43: One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: ‘Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us!’ But the other criminal rebuked him. ‘Don’t you fear God,’ he said, ‘since you are under the same sentence?  We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.’  Then he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’ Jesus answered him, ‘I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.’

In The Jesus I Never Knew, Philip Yancey suggests, quite appropriately, that the two thieves represent the choice of all humanity – the decision about what to do with the person on the center cross.  The first thief picked up the taunts of the religious leaders, suggesting that Jesus should save himself, but his heart betrayed him – for he meant it only in jest.  In his mind, here was a “messiah” who couldn’t even save himself, let alone the people or a thief on a cross.  He saw a powerless messiah.  The other thief had better vision, and not seeking delivery from his painful death, simply asked to be remembered in Jesus’ kingdom.

There are several lessons here:

FIRST: Many have made the same mistake as the first thief, who saw a powerless God, a powerless Christ, and have rejected him as a result.  Who needs a messiah who is crucified, spit upon and beaten and who doesn’t retaliate?  Such a messiah would appear to be a spineless wimp unworthy of the label of “man”, let alone “God”.  Gods are supposed to be powerful!  The problem is that when some look at Christ’s apparent powerlessness on the cross, they see God’s impotence instead of proof of His love.

SECOND: It doesn’t take much to find God’s favor.  The second thief never said, “I believe you are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.”  He didn’t live a good life.  Quite the contrary, but he alone of everyone in scripture called Jesus “king” in a non-mocking way.  He saw something in the quiet carpenter from Nazareth that made him believe there was a coming kingdom – and it was something he wanted.  God doesn’t ask much from you or me – just belief in His Son, and the plea from a heart that is dying to be granted mercy.

THIRD: There are benefits to being close to death and suffering.  They sharpen our focus like nothing else so we can see what really matters.  It is a tragedy that we seem to have to reach the end of the rope of life before we realize we need something else to hang on to.

The Romans, fed on stories of the power of Jupiter, saw nothing to admire in the crumpled form on the center cross.  The Jews, reminiscing about the deeds of God to lead them out of Egypt, saw nothing to admire, either.  But a sinner saw it all – and today is in paradise as a result. 

Two thieves – two crosses – two different destinies.  What do you see and what will you do with the man on the center cross?

PRAYER: Help us to understand, Father, that we make many choices each day about what we will do with the man on the center cross.  Help us to make the decisions that honor Him – the decisions that obedient disciples would make for His glory!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

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DayBreaks for 7/12/19 – The Miracle on a Stick

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DayBreaks for 07/12/19: The Miracle on a Stick

From the DayBreaks archives, July 2009:

They traveled from Mount Hor along the route to the Red Sea, to go around Edom. But the people grew impatient on the way; they spoke against God and against Moses, and said, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the desert? There is no bread! There is no water! And we detest this miserable food!” Then the LORD sent venomous snakes among them; they bit the people and many Israelites died. The people came to Moses and said, “We sinned when we spoke against the LORD and against you. Pray that the LORD will take the snakes away from us.” So Moses prayed for the people. The LORD said to Moses, “Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live.” So Moses made a bronze snake and put it up on a pole. Then when anyone was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake, he lived. – Numbers 21:4-9 (NIV)

I was recently reading Athol Dickson’s The Gospel According to Moses when I discovered new insights into the passage from Numbers 21, above.  Let me share them with you:

FIRST: Remember Israel’s recent history.  They’d been freed from Egypt, only to find themselves apparently left alone as Moses had been up on the mountain for so long the people felt that he was most certainly dead.  Of course, he wasn’t, but they had no way of knowing that.  And so they asked Aaron to make a golden calf so that they could worship it and perhaps receive some help and direction from the “god”.  While this might seem very strange for us, remember that they’d been in Egyptian slavery for 400 years and had become intimately acquainted with the religious worship of Egyptian gods, which included various bulls, frogs, falcons and other animals.  So they clearly thought this golden god could help them.  The result of that episode was that thousands of Israelites died because they’d formed and worshipped a golden calf.  Now, however, they are in trouble again…whining and angering Moses and God.  So, God sent snakes among them and many died and were dying.  God tells Moses, incredulously, to make an image of bronze and put it up where everyone could see it and that if they look at it they will live!  Do you see the irony?  The last time they’d formed an image to worship it, many died as a result.  Now, God says to make an image and it will result in their being saved!  This must have been a real test of obedience for the Israelites: “Hey, Shlomoe, remember what happened the LAST time we made an image of an animal?  Do you think Moses heard God correctly about this bronze serpent thing?”  It required obedience even when the thing commanded not only made no sense, but when there was precedent point 180 degrees the opposite direction!

SECOND: Athol Dickson did a word study on the verses about the bronze serpent, and he made an amazing discovery.  The Hebrew word, nes, which is translated as the “pole” upon which the bronze serpent is mounted, is not a simple word to translate.  In other passages, the word is translated as “example” or “banner.”  In Isaiah 33:23, it is translated “sail”, but another word entirely is used to describe the mast or pole on which the sail is hung.  In fact, nowhere else in Scripture is the word nes translated as “pole” – it is always translated as the object that is lifted up on the pole.  Only here, is the bronze serpent mounted on the “pole” (nes).  So, to use the way the word is normally translated, we’d find a symbol (the bronze serpent) hung upon an example (the nes, or pole).  It seems God deliberately chose this word to hint that it really wasn’t the serpent that was to give them deliverance, but the One behind the serpent.  But, that’s not the most amazing thing.  The most amazing thing is that the word nes has yet another meaning: “miracle.”  The story of the bronze serpent is both an example and a miracle, pointing to the real miracle: the miracle of a God dying on another pole in Roman occupied Jerusalem.  It is as if God is saying, “When the people look upon what hangs on the pole – the miracle – they will be saved.”  Jesus was that miracle.  It was a miracle that a God could die at all.  It was a miracle that our sins could be taken away.  It was a miracle that God would do such a thing for nothing more than a collection of atoms and chemicals known as a human being.  Yet He did all those things.

When you look upon the miracle on the pole, you shall be saved!

PRAYER: Open our eyes to the miracle that is Jesus hanging on a pole for us!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

DayBreaks for 7/10/19 – Awake During Open Heart Surgery

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DayBreaks for 07/10/19: Awake During Open Heart Surgery

From the DayBreaks archives, July 2009:

How much pain can one person carry?  I honestly don’t know the answer to that question.  I know that I’ve had very little pain in my life compared to millions and probably billions of other humans who have lived on this blue marble.  I can hardly imagine anyone, though, who perhaps bore so much pain as the ancient hero, Job.  His suffering was emotional, financial, mental, physical and spiritual.  I don’t know anyone else who has lost as much as Job did (especially his children!)  The pain of losing just one child would be unbearable…but try to imagine losing all 10 at once.  And for a time, Job, we are told, said and did nothing amiss.  Then, he finally seems to break.  But it wasn’t the loss of the flocks, herds, buildings.  It had nothing to do with his financial empire.  He didn’t even rail against God when his children died.  I’m sure that wasn’t because he didn’t love them – he surely cared a great deal about them.  No, Job seemed to “lose” it when he felt God has slipped away and left him alone.  It was then that Job began to struggle.  It was then that Job came face to face with a darker side of his nature than he’d probably realized existed. 

In The Gospel According to Job, Mike Mason wrote: “Being a believer in God necessarily implies grappling with the dark side of one’s nature.  Many of us, however, seem to be so afraid of our dark side that far from dealing with it realistically, we repress and deny it.  If we do so chronically, we need to ask ourselves whether we really believe in the healing power of Christ’s forgiveness and in His victory over our evil natures.  Perhaps we have never frankly come to grips with the fact that we ourselves are evil.  If we have not, then we are ill prepared for those times when believing in god is like being away during open heart surgery. For our Creator is not yet finished with us; He is still creating us, still making us, just as He has been all along from the beginning of the universe.   But for the short span of our life here on earth we have the strange privilege of actually being wide awake as He continues to fashion us, to watch wide-eyed as His very own fingers work within our hearts…the only anesthetic is trust…trust is not a passive, soporific thing.  When there is stabbing pain, trust cries out.  It is only mistrust, fear and suspicion that keep silent.”

Your life has had some level of pain.  I am frequently asked “Why?  Why is there so much pain involved with being a Christian?  You’d think that a loving God would do everything possible to spare His children pain!”  There is a certain rationale to that argument.  But I think it misses the point that Mike Mason makes: God is doing open heart surgery on us – our hearts MUST be changed if we are to live forever.  If they are not changed, we will die of our fatal condition.  No one does open heart surgery just for practice or for the fun of it.  It is only done when it is necessary to save or extend a life.  We are awake during the process.  

If God doesn’t do His surgery on our heart, we will most certainly die.  There will be pain.  But would any father not allow the pain in order to spare the life of the child?  Certainly, a good father would agree to have the child operated on so that the child could live.  The pain is part of the process of healing and being made well. 

What makes the surgery on our hearts bearable at all?  Trust.  Trust that God is reliable and doing what is not only good for us, but necessary for us if we are to live with Him in His home.  Belief that God knows precisely what is needed in your heart and mine – and that He will complete the work that is necessary.

PRAYER: Though this surgery is painful, Lord, we open our hearts to You and invite you to do what is necessary to make us fit to be Your children and to live in Your Presence throughout all eternity.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

DayBreaks for 7/8/19 – The Image and the Reality

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DayBreaks for 07/08/19: The Image and the Reality

From the DayBreaks archives, July 2009:

You saw no form of any kind the day the LORD spoke to you at Horeb out of the fire. Therefore watch yourselves very carefully, so that you do not become corrupt and make for yourselves an idol, an image of any shape, whether formed like a man or a woman, or like any animal on earth or any bird that flies in the air, or like any creature that moves along the ground or any fish in the waters below. And when you look up to the sky and see the sun, the moon and the stars–all the heavenly array–do not be enticed into bowing down to them and worshiping things the LORD your God has apportioned to all the nations under heaven. – Deuteronomy 4:15-19 (NIV)

Anyone who has read Scripture knows that God prohibited Israel from fashioning idols and worshipping them.  That’s not a new revelation to any of those who regularly read DayBreaks.  But why did God have so much to say about it, not only in Deuteronomy, but in other books of Scripture?  I mean, after all, it’s not like the stone or wood or metal carving is going to come to life and threaten God in any way, shape or form.  God certainly isn’t afraid of any rival or competitor.  He’s more than willing to take on any “god” that wants to challenge Him. 

So why such a strong prohibition?  While I certainly don’t agree with all of his writing or theology, N. T. Wright captured it pretty well, I think, in his book, Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection and the Mission of the Church:  “When human beings give their heartfelt allegiance to and worship that which is not God, they progressively cease to reflect the image of God.  One of the primary laws of human life is that you become like what you worship; what’s more, you reflect what you worship not only back to the object itself but also outward to the world around.”

It is an interesting observation, that if we take the time to consider, we’ll probably be forced to admit it is true: “One of the primary laws of human life is that you become like what you worship…”  If we worship money, what happens to us?  We become more driven to have more of it, more greedy, more materialistic.  If we worship beauty, we may become preoccupied with our physical appearance and spend vast amounts of money to stay young looking and beautiful.  Those who worship the god of sex wind up treating others simply as objects to be used for pleasure.  Those driven by the idol of power treat others as competitors, pawns or partners to achieve power. 

Man was created as a worshipping creature.  Our hearts are prone to worship many things.  Even Christians have hearts that are still in the process of being re-made so we must guard our hearts carefully, as the Lord said in Deut. 4:15 (above).  We must watch carefully the things that fascinate us and draw us and attract us and motivate us.  Those things just may be gods in disguise.

PRAYER: Lord, we are often blind to the gods in our lives and too prideful, thinking that we would never bow the knee before anyone but You.  May we learn from Peter’s overzealousness, “Though everyone else may leave you, I will never deny You!”  Teach us to recognize the things in our lives that could become, or which may be, gods – and give us the grace to cast them out of our lives.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

DayBreaks for 7/05/19 – The Angel and the King

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DayBreaks for 07/04/19: The Angel and the King

From the DayBreaks archives, July 2009:

Recent days saw the passing of Farrah Fawcett, Michael Jackson.  Farrah Fawcett was one of Charlie’s Angels, and was considered and eulogized by some as being “America’s Angel” (meaning America’s favorite angel).  Michael Jackson, of course, was called the “King of Pop.”  Interesting how both are being idolized in the press.

Both deaths, of course, were sad and tragic, but the reactions (especially to Michael’s death) seems to me to be way over the top.  People weeping who never knew him at all, making all sorts of outrageous statements about how the thing that had given their life something beautiful and hopeful are not just outrageous, but revealing and sad.  It reveals the depraved status of our souls when people have been raised without a God-consciousness and awareness of where meaning comes from.  I mean, if people think that the only thing that can give them joy in life is a moon-walking singer – no wonder they weep in desperation when that singer is gone.  How spiritually bankrupt has our culture become?

I didn’t know Farrah nor Michael.  They had kudos here on earth.  What was their reception like beyond the veil of tears?  God alone knows.  But of this I am confident: their fame meant nothing to God.  He wasn’t impressed with either “America’s Angel” or “The King of Pop”.  He wasn’t impressed with their looks, their ability to dance or sing or act.  The only thing He cared about was looking at their heart to see if it was covered with the blood of Jesus.  I can only hope such was the case.

The same will be true for each person who reads this message and for all those who never read it.  Earthly achievement just doesn’t impress God at all, nor does He want us to find our meaning and joy in things of this world.  He has offered us so much more and created us for vastly greater things. 

PRAYER: Teach us a wise perspective on what has value and what You search for in us, Lord.  Help us learn that things of the spirit are far more critical and valuable than anything of the flesh.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

DayBreaks for 7/3/19 – The Great Bailout

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DayBreaks for 07/03/19: The Great Bailout

From the DayBreaks archives, July 2009:

There has been a lot of talk about bailouts lately.  Banks, investment firms, big companies, car manufacturers…maybe even your next door neighbor have received a bailout.  Not being very smart economically, I don’t know if these were the right thing or not, but I certainly have my opinions on the matter!

But that’s not the kind of bailout that I want to talk about today.  I want to talk about people who bail out when things get tough.  This past week, we had Vacation Bible Camp at our church and I observed lots of behavior from the campers, helpers and teachers.  Most of it was all very good, but even VBC campers and workers are humans, and during the course of a hectic week, you are bound to see all kinds of human behavior.  Including some teens who were helping who received some needed correction from an adult – but who then didn’t show up the next day.  They’d made a commitment to help for the week.  But they broke their commitment.  They bailed out.

Commitment seems to be a dirty word, or at the very least, a word which has lost its meaning in our day and age.  We wonder why kids aren’t committed to anything.  In many cases, all we have to do is look at their home life to find out.  Many are not living with their biological mom and dad…their parents divorced (maybe more than once) and the children learned a lesson about “commitment.”  Their parents perhaps bounced from job to job when they grew frustrated or got angry…and instead of working it through and sticking it out for the benefit of the family, dad quits his job and can’t find another one.  And the children learned another lesson about “commitment.”  They have heard mom and dad say things such as, “Sure, I’ll take you to the zoo this weekend,” only to find that when the weekend rolls around, mom and dad are too busy or too tired.  And the children learn another lesson about commitment.

So many children lack commitment to anything these days (or so it seems to me).  To find the reason why, we have to look no further than our own mirror. 

Jesus knows about commitment and he modeled the importance of it to us.  He committed himself to death on a cross in order to redeem us from a fate that we rightfully earned – eternal damnation.  When your kids want to know about commitment – tell them about Jesus.  And then live a life of commitment for them to see and emulate.

PRAYER: We are weak and tempted to run when the heat is turned up on us, Lord.  Help us to be people who keep their commitments and teach our children to do likewise!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

DayBreaks for 6/26/19 – Unfulfilled Expectations

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DayBreaks for 06/26/09: Unfulfilled Expectations

From the DayBreaks archives, June 2009:

The boy was 10 years old. He was known as Phineas. His grandfather, in his will, had left him an island – Ivy Island. Phineas had never seen the island, but dreamt of it often. He pictured how he’d build a house, raise cattle and grow prosperous. But he’d never seen it. All that was about to change. After several requests and years of asking, his father finally agreed to take him to see the island. The father, young boy and a hired hand climbed into the wagon and slowly made their way toward the coast of Connecticut. Finally, as they crested a hill, the father told Phineas that if he ran to the tree line and looked toward the sea, that he’d see his island. The young boy leaped down from the wagon, ran though the trees and caught his first glimpse of Ivy Island – the place of his dreams. However, what he saw wasn’t what he expected. Instead of a beautiful, green island surrounded by the beautiful blue sea, he saw 5 acres of swampy marshland.

Phineas grew bitter and it affected the rest of his life. In fact, later on, Phineas (who was to become known as P.T.), coined the phrase, “There’s a sucker born every minute.” You know him as P.T. Barnum, the circus huckster who lured people with promises of freaks and absurdities.

There is something about bitterness that is ugly. Scripture talks about bitterness in this way from Heb 12:15: See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.

Brain tumors are sometimes very difficult to remove because they grow “roots” that intertwine with the brain stem and other parts of the brain. These roots are very difficult, if not impossible, to extract. Bitterness has the same potential to get into our heads and grow into all the little, dark places where it settles in and makes itself at home.

When it seems like life lets you down, we can become bitter. The promise of a raise wasn’t kept, the recognition that was earned wasn’t delivered, the marriage that was supposed to last forever doesn’t. These are facts of life. They do happen and they happen in some way or form to everyone.

What do you do about it? First, in the Hebrews passage, part of the solution seems to be to not overlook God’s grace – rather than meditating on the wrong has been done to us, focus on how much we have received from God that we had no right to expect. Second, realize you can’t stay in a protective shell – you have to move on. You could choose to shelter your heart if your love has been betrayed, but what a horrible life that would be! Love again – take the risk. Let Jesus bring you healing. Don’t give bitterness a place to grow in your heart. It was meant to hold God’s love, not bitterness.

PRAYER: Give us hearts that hold no bitterness.  Give us eyes to see that we deserve nothing from You.  Give us hope in Your eternal love for us!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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