DayBreaks for 7/12/18 – Out of the Kingdom of Darkness

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DayBreaks for 7/12/18: Out of the Kingdom of Darkness

The world watched with baited breath as a small army of divers and rescue personnel descended into a treacherous and deadly cave in an effort to rescue the “Wild Boars” – a soccer team and their coach, who had become trapped when monsoon rains flooded parts of the cave system. For a period approaching 10-12 days, the boys and their coach were in the cave with very little food. They drank water that dripped from the cave ceiling. And they were in darkness…total, utter darkness. I read that one of the boys in particular was terrified of darkness but he went with his teammates in an effort to overcome his fear. 

Fortunately, seemingly miraculously, all twelve boys and their coach made it out alive thanks to the sacrifices of their rescuers. Tragically, on Thai navy SEAL diver died during the effort to rescue these boys.

Colossians 1:13 (ESV) – He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son…

If you want to know what the kingdom of darkness looks like, just ask those boys. They know what darkness means. You can’t see. It is a place of fear. It is a place of want. It is uncomfortable and threatening. You long for light. It gnaws at you and causes you to give up hope and despair of rescue.

If you want to know what gratitude feels like, just ask those boys. Can you begin to imagine how their hearts leaped when the British divers with a headlight on their foreheads first popped up in the darkness and found the boys? Can you imagine how hope must have been reborn in that instant that they first saw light again? Can you try to imagine how each boy felt when at long last they exited the mouth of the cave that had held them captive and threatened them with certain death unless a miracle happened?

I don’t think most of us have a clue as to how dark was the kingdom that held us in its clutches. We don’t often see it as darkness because it is a darkness of the spirit brought about by the blackness of sin. The enemy of our souls makes it appear as light – he’s such a good liar – and we fall for it over and over again. For a sense of what it was like inside the caves, see this (and that was the easy part – try imagining even that without flashlights in passages as small as 15 inches wide!)

But miraculously, someone came searching for us, found us, and led us out of that inky black place into a kingdom diametrically opposite to that which held us. He is the Light, and in Him is no darkness at all.

But just as with the twelve boys and their coach, someone gave their life to rescue us. Unlike that navy SEAL diver, though, the one who gave his life for us came back to life and now guides us through the darkness of the former kingdom to the light. He’s been through that blackness of death that would kill us and been victorious over it so that he knows the way out of the darkness. We need not fear. He will not fail us!  

We should be terrified of the darkness that surrounds us for when it is seen clearly it is terrifying. But we should never doubt our rescue or our Rescuer. 

And one more thing: our Rescuer has turned the tables on darkness. While it was dangerous for us as we were trapped there, now that we have been delivered not only do we no longer need to fear the darkness itself, but he has made us dangerous to the kingdom of darkness because now we have experienced the way out and can help others find the Light. 

It’s a dark, dark world. Let’s be brighter. 

PRAYER: Jesus, all glory to you for descending into the darkness, experiencing it, for your victory over it, so that you could lead us into your kingdom of Light and Life. May we never take the Light for granted! In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

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DayBreaks for 6/01/18 – The Sin of Silence

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DayBreaks for 6/01/18: The Sin of Silence

If someone were to ask you what you think the greatest sin is that is described in the Bible, what would you choose? Some might choose David’s counting of the people of Israel that led to many deaths. Others might be tempted to think of the sin in the garden that had such massive repercussions for all of mankind. Still others might point to Judas’ betrayal of Jesus as the worst sin ever.

I ran across this and thought it was provocative and thought provoking: could the greatest sin be when Jesus asked those who were trying to trap him a simple question – “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath, or not?” and those he asked stood silent in response. The sin wasn’t in the question, but perhaps the greatest sin was in their silence in response to the question.

To stand silent when the power to heal is within reach; that is sin. They knew Jesus could heal as that was indisputable, that wasn’t the issue. The question was whether he would heal on the Sabbath!  They stayed silent when all they had to do and should have done was say, “Please, Jesus, heal the poor man!”

In like manner, one could argue that our communities have the ability to empty our jails of crime, our shelters of the abused, our rest homes of the lonely and our streets of hopelessness.  Our world could beat hunger, fight AIDS, educate its masses and so much more; but we lack the commitment. Perhaps, we should say; we lack the committed!  Too many are silent (including me!), too many are critics. We need to pray for laborers in the harvest. We need to pick up a scythe. We need to address the question and not be silent.

PRAYER: Lord, do not let silence be my sin.  Let us be a voice for the silent and advocates of the disenfranchised. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

DayBreaks for 5/23/18 – Defining Ourselves

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DayBreaks for 5/23/18: Defining Ourselves

From the DayBreaks archive, May 2008:

Just who, by the way, do you think you are?  I mean, who ARE you?  I know some of you by name, some only by email addresses, and some of you are close personal friends.  But if someone were to come up to you this day and inquire of you, “Who are you?”, how would you define yourself?  And how would others that you know define themselves?

There are those, atheists and agnostics and some of the intellectual elite who might resort to biological classification to answer the question: “I am a homo sapiens.”  They wouldn’t be wrong.  Others, who might be a bit more technical and who find that giving the obvious answer is too boring, might say something like this: “I am a featherless biped,” i.e., a two-footed walking creature that walks upright without feathers.  When you think about it, that’s not inaccurate either.  Off hand, I can’t think of any other two-footed creature that always walks upright other than humans and birds.  So, that’s a valid definition, but decidedly less than exciting. 

Christians have a different perspective, hopefully.  If someone asked you who you are, I’d hope that you’d say something about being made in God’s image.  You might delve into what that means and the implications of it, and that would be good.

It seems, however, that when it comes for us to respond to what God calls us to be and do, that we tend to define ourselves at the lowest possible level – we define ourselves minimally as “featherless bipeds,” and we’re content to live with that rather that to be maximally defined as being constructed in the image of God and living in that reality. 

What difference does it make how we define ourselves?  If we are featherless bipeds, and if that is all we really are, then it really doesn’t make much difference how we define ourselves.  But if we are maximally defined, then God certainly expects something more from us than He does from a sparrow or starling. 

To be made in His image means we have great obligations, great opportunities – and great possibilities.  The question is whether or not we will live up to them!

PRAYER:  Help us understand, Father, the great privilege and honor You have placed upon our shoulders.  Help us to also realize that it is You who gives our lives definition – and not we ourselves!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

DayBreaks for 5/17/18 – How Do You Smell?

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DayBreaks for 5/17/18: How Do You Smell?

From the DayBreaks archive, May 2008:

When we were touring Kennedy Space Center, we went to the International Space Station assembly facility.  Since most of the station is now in orbit and complete, there wasn’t much going on, but they were preparing a supply module that would be carried up to the station on a coming shuttle flight.  The cylindrical modules are 15 feet in width (the cargo bay of the shuttle is 16 feet wide), and this particular module would be carrying up stuff that the crew aboard the shuttle needed. 

The guide that was at that station told us an interesting story.  He informed us that the air on board the space station is relatively stale.  When a new cargo module arrives, those aboard the space station flock to the airlock where the new module is attached to get a whiff of the fresh air that’s contained inside the module. As the lock is opened, they all breathe in deeply…and they all comment how the air “smells like Florida.”  After hearing that, the ground crew started including some fresh oranges, lemons, etc., to make it smell even better for the astronauts who are missing the fresh air.

Once the module has been emptied, it is then filled up…with dirty clothes.  There is no facility on the station for washing clothing, so the empty module becomes like a combination laundry hamper and trash can.  The shuttle then ferries it back to earth. 

When the ground crew gets the module offloaded from the shuttle, no one scurries to be there when it is opened because…well, it stinks. 

This made me think about the passage which talks about how we smell: 2 Cor. 2:14-16 (NLT) – But thanks be to God, who made us his captives and leads us along in Christ’s triumphal procession. Now wherever we go he uses us to tell others about the Lord and to spread the Good News like a sweet perfume.  Our lives are a fragrance presented by Christ to God. But this fragrance is perceived differently by those being saved and by those perishing. To those who are perishing we are a fearful smell of death and doom. But to those who are being saved we are a life-giving perfume. And who is adequate for such a task as this?

There’s something about Christians and Christianity that smells.  Interestingly, and in contradiction to what one might expect, to God we are a fragrance.  God loves our smell!  But those who are earthbound and not heaven-destined find the fragrance quite off-putting.  It’s not because we present two different fragrances – Christians carry the sweet perfume of the Good News either way.  Our job is not to go around trying to stink to people, but our first obligation is to God, to offer our lives as living sacrifices that are well-pleasing to Him. Others will make of it what they will.

PRAYER: Lord, let us carry the sweet perfume of heaven to all.  May we live in such a way that you are happy and pleased with us, that we delight you.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

DayBreaks for 4/19/18 – Habakkuk’s Circumstances – Deja Vu

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DayBreaks for 4/19/18: Habakkuk’s Circumstances (Déjà vu)     

I will refer you to Habakkuk 1.2-4 as a background for this DayBreaks.

Here’s the scenario: Habakkuk, a prophet in Judea, looks around himself and sees that the “righteous” (in whose number he includes himself) are surrounded by the wicked. He sees so-called justice that is really injustice. He sees iniquity. He sees destruction and violence running rampant. Strife and contention are everywhere and the law seems paralyzed. As bad as that is, what really is bothering Habakkuk is that he has been crying out to the Lord for help – and not seeing any help coming to his rescue.

This is going to get a bit sensitive here because I’m going to delve into politics. Bear with me, please. Habakkuk mixed the two – righteousness and justice. As much as some would like to totally separate the two, we can’t. Why is it wrong to steal from someone, both morally and ethically? Because it results in injustice to the person who had things taken. Justice is both a moral and political issue methinks.

And here’s where it’s gonna get touchy: there are many in America today who are feeling a lot like Habakkuk. They are right – there is much to despair over because of what they see happening (or not happening). They can’t understand why God has let some things happen and why he hasn’t come down with an iron rod and set things straight. And as a result, they cry out – but not maybe so much to God as to their friends on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and via email.

I think that Habakkuk had a far better approach to venting his frustration. Isn’t it better to cry out to God when we are despairing? We may not like the answer (or non-answer) we get from God, but it is HIS answer, so it is bound to be better than that which we get from our friends. Our dilemma is whether or not we believe his answers and ways are good or not. He is the God who raises up rulers and tears them down – not for our satisfaction, but for his immutable reasons. 

Indeed, God may yet come down with a rod of iron to fix what is wrong in this world (we know he will eventually, but he can fix things in the meantime, too, if in his infinite wisdom he knows that it is the right thing to do). There IS much injustice. There IS much violence, strife and contention. Those things need to be fixed – and they will.

But rather than crying out to everyone else around us, maybe like Habakkuk we should be crying out to God. Oh, and one more thing: maybe we need to be on our knees a whole lot more on behalf of our president, congresspersons, governors, magistrates, etc. than we have been. I wonder how often those who have railed the most against the political and moral state of affairs in our country are taking the command from Paul that we are to pray for our leaders (1 Timothy 2.2 – and bear in mind the leader Paul told people to pray for at that time as an utterly unjust, evil tyrant named Nero.) What, I wonder, would happen if Christians in the country and around the world truly started to pray for their leaders like we should? Not pray that they be smitten, but pray for their well-being, for righteousness to find a place to rule in their hearts, to seek God’s answers, to find salvation and God’s ways rather than the guidance of human advisors. Remember that prayer is offering our desires to God, but always with the attitude of “nevertheless, not my will, but thine be done.” Might God just hear from heaven and heal our land?

PRAYER: Convict us of the need to pray for all of our leaders far more than we feel the need to criticize them, Lord! In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

DayBreaks for 4/11/18 – Preferring the 99

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DayBreaks for 4/11/18: Preferring the 99

Matthew 18:12-14 (NIV) – What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? And if he finds it, I tell you the truth, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off. In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should be lost.

This is a painful passage for me. Sadly, while I think it should also be a challenging and painful passage for the church, I think in many cases we read it and fly right past it.

This passage gets to the very core of God’s heart. Who is it that owns the sheep in the passage? It is God, certainly. And while he has a sheep-fold full of sheep, he isn’t content with that. He knows there is still one out there that hasn’t come home with him, that is lost and in grave danger.

So what does he do? He goes out looking for it. There is no guarantee that he will be able to bring it home…for the passage says And if he finds it…. Some sheep don’t want to be found, and perhaps even more sadly, some perish before they are found.

Pay attention to the last sentence. He is not willing that ANY of these little ones should be lost. It’s not that he’s content if just a handful are lost…he’s not willing for even a single one to perish.

Which brings me to the painful part. Why does my heart not beat with the same passion for the lost sheep?

I fear that the church as a whole (I know there are many exceptions) prefers the ninety-nine. We prefer the comfort of the sheep-fold and seldom, if ever, venture out. We like to hang with other Christians (at least, I hope we do!) But if we lose sight of the heart of God from this passage, we may have missed God entirely. This is precisely why Jesus came: not to celebrate with the 99 but to “go out”. Does Jesus like it when Christians enjoy each other? Of course. But he will quickly leave us behind to find a single lost one.

When is the last time you brought someone to Christ – not just to church – but to saving knowledge of Christ? We should all have the urgency of Oskar Schindler who when the war was over, was heartbroken that he’d not done more, that he could have saved one more. Where is that passion in us?

Church, let us be challenged. Let us go out with the great Shepherd to find the lost so that not ANY should be lost!  

PRAYER: Jesus, I confess that it is far easier to sit in the pew than to leave the sheep-fold to find a lost lamb. I confess I have done far too much of the former and not nearly enough of the latter. Change us, give us your passion, fill us with your mission, let us hear your heartbeat clearly. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

DayBreaks for 4/04/18 – The Undoubting Doubter

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DayBreaks for 4/04/18: The Undoubting Doubter

If I were to mention the names of certain disciples to you and ask you to write down the first word that comes into your mind, it is unlikely you would come up with the same words. If I were to mention the name of Judas many of you would write down the word “betray” or “betrayer” but not all of you. If I were to mention Simon Peter, some of you would write down the word “faith,” but not all of you. If I were to mention the names of James and John, some of you would write down the phrase “Sons of Thunder,” but not all of you. But when I mention the word Thomas, there is little question about the word most everyone would write down. It would be the word doubt or the label, “doubter”. Indeed, so closely have we associated Thomas with this word, that we have coined a phrase to describe him: “Doubting Thomas.”
You may be interested to know that in the first three gospels we are told absolutely nothing at all about Thomas. It is in John’s Gospel that he emerges as a distinct personality, but even then there are only 155 words about him. There is not a lot about this disciple in the Bible but there is more than one description.

When Jesus turned his face toward Jerusalem the disciples thought that it would be certain death for all of them. Surprisingly, it was Thomas who said: Then let us go so that we may die with him. (Interestingly, Thomas is said by tradition to have died a martyr’s death in India, having angered local religious authorities by his preaching of the gospel, they ran him through with a spear. How ironic that he would die in that manner after having placed his hand in the spear wound in Christ’s side!)

It wasn’t Peter who said …let us go so that we may die with him. It wasn’t John or Jesus’ half-brother James. Thomas’ words were courageous, yet we don’t remember him for that. We also fail to point out that in this story of Thomas’ doubt we have the one place in the all the Gospels where the Divinity of Christ is bluntly and unequivocally stated. 

It is interesting, is it not, that the story that gives Thomas his infamous nickname, is the same story that has Thomas making an earth shattering confession of faith? How did Thomas move so quickly from the bold confessor to the doubting one? I think it may be that those who are the most hopeful fall hardest when those hopes appear shattered and belief comes hard – if at all. But look at his confession after seeing the risen Christ: My Lord, and my God. Not teacher. Not just Lord. Not Messiah. But God! It is the only place where Jesus is called God without qualification of any kind. It is uttered with conviction as if Thomas was simply recognizing a fact, just as 2 + 2 = 4, and the sun is in the sky. You are my Lord and my God! These are certainly not the words of a doubter. Again, it wasn’t Peter, James or John who uttered those five huge words so laden with meaning.

Today, however, I want to ask you this question: who is Jesus to you? Is he your favorite moral and ethical teacher? Do you call him Lord? He is so much more than just Lord, as Thomas noted: he is God.

If you aren’t willing and ready to let him be both your Lord and God – with all that entails in terms of absolute, utter obedience to even the slightest thing he may ask or command – then we need to rethink our relationship with him. Too much is at stake to not think seriously about this!

PRAYER: Jesus, open our eyes to this profound truth that you are both Lord and God and there is no excuse to not follow every word that came out of your mouth and to commit ourselves unreservedly to humble obedience. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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