DayBreaks for 5/21/18 – Before and Now

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DayBreaks for 5/21/18: Before and Now

From the DayBreaks archive, May 2008:

Through some recent reading, I’ve been led to contemplate the importance of the human concept of our origins.  I know the Biblical concept: man was made in the very image of God.  We come from Him, we are to live for Him, and we will some day return to Him – and at that time we’ll all have to give an answer for how we lived in this world (Heb. 9:27). 

It’s quite a different story if you reject the idea of creation and of the existence of a Divine Being.  Without believing in a Divinely ordained destiny for all of creation (including mankind), you are left to believe that everything is the product of chance and mathematical probabilities.  It means that you were born for no reason other than a chance meeting of reproductive materials.  It means that your life has no teleos – no goal toward which it is moving.  It means that when you die, it’s done, period, over and out. 

Jeremiah, at one point in his life, had an encounter with God that reveals the fallacy of such thinking.  In Jeremiah 1:4-5 (NIV), he wrote these words: The word of the LORD came to me, saying,  ‘Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.’”

God told Jeremiah wonderful things: “I knew you before you were even formed in the womb.  I didn’t just know that you were going to be, but I knew YOU.”  How could it be that God knew Jeremiah even before he was conceived?  It can only be that God had plans for a particular person (Jeremiah), and that God quite literally knew him.  That was the “before” in Jeremiah’s life.  And it was through understanding that he had a “before”, and a call for the present (he was consecrated) and that there was a purpose for his life (he was given as a prophet to the nations), that Jeremiah found meaning.  It is the “before” that gives the “now” meaning.

God didn’t just know Jeremiah before he was born.  He knew all of us.  David says that God knew every day that was appointed for him to live before he was born, that every thought he’d ever have and word he’d speak was known before he literally had a single thought.  In Ephesians, the great apostle Paul says that God chose us before the foundation of the world. 

What does all this mean for you and I?  It means that there is a definite purpose for our lives and that we are not to think our lives are meaningless, directionless and without value.  It means we don’t have to scurry around trying to find, or even to create, some kind of answers to life.  Instead, we can go to God to discover the reason and truth of our existence.   

Is it any wonder that there is so much despair among those who don’t know Christ?

PRAYER: Fill us, Lord, with the confidence that comes from knowing our before and how that shapes our now and directs our future.  Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

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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 4/27/18 – Kidy S Noy Pgg

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DayBreaks for 4/27/18: Kidy S Noy Pgg

From the DayBreaks archive, April 2008:     

How many times have you heard someone say, “It’s just a little white lie”, or “It’s not big deal” when they are talking about something they’ve done which was wrong?

To sin: from the Greek hamartia, meaning “to miss the mark.”  You’ve probably heard that before, I imagine.  And I know that I’ve written about it before in DayBreaks.  It’s an archery term, describing what happens when the archer, well, misses the mark, the target. 

Missing the target may not be too bad if you’re shooting at a bulls-eye ring of circles that’s backstopped by a bunch of hay bales or a dirt hillside.  But it takes on an entirely different color if you’re talking about William Tell shooting at the apple on the head of his son.  In that case, missing the target could be horrible or not so bad – depending on which direction you miss!

So, let’s agree that missing the mark can be a bad thing in arrows, bullets, throwing knives or bomb dropping.  But how about in our loving obedience to God?  Does a little missing of the mark here or there really make that much difference?  Is it that noticeable, especially considering the fact that God is engaged in cosmic warfare against evil, not to mention He must be pretty busy keeping the universe going according to schedule? 

Sin is missing the mark.  Did you wonder about the title of today’s DayBreak?  If you haven’t figured it out, it’s the words “Just a bit off” typed on the computer keyboard one letter off to the right.   Let me ask: how much difference did it make?  When you first looked at the title, could you tell what it was?  Did you notice it? 

God notices all we say, do, think, don’t say, don’t do or don’t think.  And when we miss even a little bit, it gets His attention.  But there’s a key difference: God knows what we were doing, whereas you probably had no clue what the title of this DayBreaks meant.   You probably just assumed Galen had gone wacko (not a bad assumption, by the way.) 

Missing the mark matters when it comes to God – always.  Sin matters – always.  Let’s stop pretending that it “won’t affect me and it doesn’t hurt anyone else.”  Those are Satan’s lies and have no place in our thinking.  And our missing the mark can make it very hard for anyone else to understand what being a Christian is all about.

PRAYER:  Lord, have mercy on us.  Help us to focus on the goal we’re shooting for – to become like You, to carry Your likeness engraved on our hearts and minds.  Help us to fly true and straight to the center of the target!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

DayBreaks for 4/26/18 – Why Sin Vanished from Our Vocabulary

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DayBreaks for 4/26/18: Why Sin Vanished from Our Vocabulary

From the DayBreaks archive, April 2008:     

When is the last time that you heard the word “sin” actually spoken outside of a church – other than in a sneering derisive way?  I don’t know if I can honestly recall.  In fact, one wonders if perhaps the word is spoken very often inside churches these days.  Why is that?  No less than 50 years ago, the word could be heard at least every once in a while from politicians, businessmen, teachers, professors and certainly in churches.  Why no more?

It has to do with the shift in our thinking from the realm of spiritual things being relegated to nothing more than personal belief without anything to recommend it to a serious thinker or scholar as being more than just superstition.  When the Bible as God’s special revelation was thrown out, and when the real historical Jesus was made into a farce by the “Historical Jesus movement”, and when universities began teaching that anything the wasn’t scientifically provable should be thrown on the dust heap as so much gibberish, then there was to sin anymore, no mark that we would be missing.  Because, you see, God can’t be scientifically proven, therefore He must not exist. 

So, if you ask most people in our culture what, if anything, they think of sin, Don Everts in The Smell of Sin suggests it would be like asking them what they think of unicorns.  (In fact, I suspect that some might give more credence to the existence of unicorns – perhaps even if only in the past – than they do to the existence of God, although there’s far more evidence for the latter!)  Still, most people know that unicorns are a myth.  As Everts says, “So the debate is: is it a cute myth or a silly myth or a destructive one?  Sin really has joined the ranks of Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny in our culture: something that you once believed in as a child but have since grown out of…So, what does sin smell like to most of our neighbors?  Nothing.  Air.”

Has sin vanished from your vocabulary?  Have you relegated it to something other than what it is?  Have you developed cute names for it (“goof-up”, “mistake”, “slip of the tongue”, “mis-step”, “an oops”)?  God calls it sin.  And He reminds us very clearly: (Ezekiel 18:4, NIV) – For every living soul belongs to me, the father as well as the son–both alike belong to me. The soul who sins is the one who will die.

PRAYER:  Father, keep us from believing fairy tales and give us the wisdom to believe 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 4/12/18 – Take Two Tablets

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DayBreaks for 4/12/18: Take Two Tablets

When there is something wrong with our bodies, often the doctor will prescribe some medicine: “Take two tablets and call me in the morning.” But what of spiritual sickness? Where can a nation, or even a person, go to find moral and ethical grounding? What is the basis for determining what is right and good?

Some would say that we can rely on public opinion – but think about that for a moment. How fickle is public opinion? It changes nearly every time someone posts something on social media or gets vocal enough that they get on the news about this cause or that cause. And people immediately leap onto the bandwagon until someone else comes along who is equally loud but espousing a different viewpoint. Allegiances and opinions change quickly.

Perhaps, some might suggest, we should trust our courts or legislators. ‘Nuff said about that!!! I think I’d rather trust a hungry crocodile than most legislators to decide what is good and right.

Let me suggest something a bit firmer than public opinion or court rulings. Do you remember something called the 10 Commandments?

They were written on two tablets made of stone (which suggests permanency, and I would suggest that if a nation or some individual is morally sick, they just need to take those two tablets to heart and they’ll soon feel better!

You might object that the old law was done away. Well, you’d be partly right. The ceremonial part was obliterated as there was no more need for the washings or slaughtering of animals after the Lamb’s blood cleansed us. But the moral part never has changed. Jesus himself said that he didn’t come to destroy the old law, but to fulfill it. He also said that not even one tiny dot of it would pass away. That means the moral part is as valid today as it ever was. It is still wrong to use God’s name in vain, or have idols, to give anything priority over God, or steal or murder or lie or commit adultery or envy. When Jesus claimed that if we kept the two greatest commandments that we have kept the entirety of the law, he essentially was breaking the 10 Commandments down into 2: the part that had to do with proper relationship toward God and the part that had to do with the relationship with other humans. Interestingly, all of the 10 Commandments deal with those two things!

The tablets on which the 10 Commandments were written were intended to be good medicine for us. Stuggling with your moral bearings? Take two tablets and call God in the morning!

PRAYER: Lord, let us be grounded in moral and ethical righteousness by paying attention to your immutable Word and law that never changes – because you never change! In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

DayBreaks for 4/10/18 – God’s Strange “No”

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DayBreaks for 4/10/18: God’s Strange “No”

There is a fascinating story in Joshua that is easily missed. Moses has died. After waiting 40 years, Joshua is ready to take up the mantle of leadership from Moses. As they prepare to cross the Jordan and enter into the promised land, Joshua has a very strange encounter.

Joshua 5:13-15 says: When Joshua was by Jericho, he lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, a man was standing before him with his drawn sword in his hand. And Joshua went to him and said to him, “Are you for us, or for our adversaries?” And he said, “No; but I am the commander of the army of the LORD. Now I have come.” And Joshua fell on his face to the earth and worshiped and said to him, “What does my lord say to his servant?” And the commander of the LORD’s army said to Joshua, “Take off your sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy.” And Joshua did so.

Here’s what is fascinating (aside from the fact of the encounter itself). Joshua was going to be the military leader for the campaign (or so he thought). But he finds himself face to face with “a man”. I don’t know how impressive the man may have looked, but he certainly was mysterious. Who was this “commander of the army of the LORD”? Many believe it was Jesus in a pre-incarnate form. (Oddly enough, Jesus, or Yeshua, was Joshua’s name…so Joshua was speaking with Joshua/Yeshua, who would also be a conqueror, but of a different kind.)

The first word this “man” speaks is simply “No.” In other words, “I’m not for you and I’m not for your adversaries.” What are we to make of that? I’m sure Joshua was hoping for something like “Yes, of course I’m for you!”  But he didn’t get that response. 

This “man” was for the LORD God Almighty. He wasn’t for one tribe or another. He was for God’s plan and work. It is as if he’s saying a couple things to Joshua:

FIRST: You are not the commander of God’s army. I am. You will not be fighting, you will not gain the victories. God will. How quickly we forget that in our own battles!!!

SECOND: This “man” is essentially throwing a challenge to Joshua, something like this: “You will make a choice whether or not you will be part of my judgment…will you be an agent of justice/judgment or an object of judgment? If you take the role as an agent of justice but then shirk back, you are all the more likely to become an object of judgment.” It is as if God was saying, “If you act like the inhabitants of the land, you’ll be the first to go into judgment.”

I can’t help but wonder how much I’ve become like the inhabitants of the land, how much the church has become like the inhabitants of the land/world. It is frightening to contemplate.

The day will come when we stand before the leader of God’s army. I hope we will all have chosen to be part of his campaign to bring justice and righteousness to his creation.

PRAYER: Lord, the very idea of becoming objects of judgment is terrifying. Give us the courage to choose wisely and consistently to be on your side! In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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