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 3/05/20 – 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.  ><}}}”>

 

DayBreaks for 2/05/20 – If You Want to Know God

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DayBreaks for 2/05/20: If You Want to Know God

Cancer. Pain. Abuse. Injustice. Racism. Brokenness. We all experience some of these painful things. Based on our experiences, we tend to form a picture of what God is like. When we suffer, intellectual answers about the problem of pain don’t help much because at such times we have broken hearts, not broken heads and we need heart medicine, not head medicine.

You see, the mind believes what it has learned but our heart believes only what it has experienced. And if our lives have been wracked with pain our perception of God is often askew.

Most of our ideas and beliefs about God come from a heart, not head, perspective. When we’re suffering, we don’t look at the facts, check the Scripture or do much thinking. Instead, we draw our opinions about God from the things we experience (good and bad) in our lives. But that’s not what we should rely on. Only one source will do at such times.

If you want to know what God is like, the one sure way is to look at Jesus. As Steve Brown put it in A Scandalous Freedom, “If you want to know how God reacts to people, look at how Jesus reacts to people. If you want to know what God thinks, how he acts and who he is, don’t get with a group of people and vote on it. One doesn’t discover divine truth with an election. If you want to know the truth about God, don’t get a book on theology, listen to a preacher, or even read a book like this one. For God’s sake, go to Jesus.”

The young woman was married with three kids and tons of responsibility and burden. It got to be too much for her so she ran as far and fast as she could from her husband and family to another state and another life.

Her husband eventually found her, called and told her he loved her and their children loved her. But she’d heard it before so she hung up.

Not long after, at great expense physically, emotionally and financially, he traveled to her place where she was living in rebellion, pain and loneliness He begged her to come home and she melted in his arms.

Later, when he asked her why, after begging her on the phone she’d not come home, her answer echoes that of every Christian who has ever rebelled at the pain and ran from the source only to come home:

“Before it was only words,” she said. “Then you came!”

Jesus came to join in our human pain as he was fully human even as he was fully God. If you want to know God, get to know Jesus and see and feel his heart for you, even in the middle of your pain.

PRAYER: Jesus, it is hard sometimes in the middle of pain to remember the truth about you and what you are like. When we doubt the goodness of God, let us see it in your words, actions and face. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

 

DayBreaks for 1/24/20 – Marks of Clarity

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DayBreaks for 1/24/20: Marks of Clarity

From the DayBreaks Archive, January 2010:

There are times in my walk with God when things seem very clear.  But then again, there are times when I long for even the slightest inkling of clarity.  At times my relationship with the Lord is so real and palpable that I can’t help but be overwhelmed with the wonder of it all.  But then again, there are times (if I am to be honest with God, you and myself) when it all seems very unreal and like a sham.  And I find myself pondering from time to time: which is real?  Which reflects the real me and my relationship with God?  Am I only fooling myself when I feel so close to Him that I weep? 

William Cowper was a Christian songwriter of years gone by.  He wrote some of the favorite songs of the church, including the hymns O For a Closer Walk with God, God Moves in a Mysterious Way His wonders to Perform, and There Is a Fountain Filled With Blood.  For a period of time, he lived in a house with John Newton, a converted slave-trader and author of Amazing Grace.  It is interesting how little grace Cowper actually experienced.  For long years he feared that he had committed the unpardonable sin and was hounded by false rumors of an illicit affair.  As a result, Cowper suffered a nervous breakdown, tried several times to kill himself, and was kept for some of his life in a straightjacket in an insane asylum for his own protection.  During the last quarter of his life, he avoided church entirely.

He wrote these word: “Where is the blessedness I knew, When first I sought the Lord?  Where is the soul-refreshing dew Of Jesus and His Word?  What peaceful hours I once enjoyed!  How sweet their memory still!  But they have left an aching void The world can never fill.  Return, O Holy Dove, return Sweet messenger of rest!  I hate the sins that made Thee mourn And drove Thee from my breast.”

There are many who might consider Cowper a prime candidate for the title of Christian hypocrite for his struggles, a man who wrote beautifully and convincingly about things he found hard, if not impossible, to put into practice.  I prefer to think of his hymns as being the real marks of clarity in a very troubled life.  He was the one who wrote: “Redeeming love has been my theme, And shall be till I die.”  Perhaps I am naïve, but I see in Cowper’s struggle my own struggles and in his struggling faith, a reflection of my own.

PRAYER: Father, thank You for redeeming love that loves a wretch like me!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

 

DayBreaks for 1/17/20 – The Great Depression

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DayBreaks for 1/17/20: The Great Depression

From the DayBreaks Archive, January 2010:

There’s a movie out that you really should see if you haven’t already.  It’s James Cameron’s Avatar.  If you can, you REALLY should see it in 3D (there’s both a 3D version of it and a 2D version.)  I can virtually guarantee you that you’ve never seen anything like it in terms of movie-making.  It is literally breath-taking in scope, achievement and visual effects.  You feel as if you are in the jungle on Pandora (the name of their planet). 

It is a movie that also, if one has an eye for it, packs lots of messages and evokes many responses.  Here’s one that I don’t think anyone really anticipated: 

From the Huffington Post, Tuesday, January 12, 2010: Avatar-Induced Depression

“The beautiful alien planet Pandora depicted in James Cameron’s ‘Avatar’ is so captivating that some audience members are becoming depressed and even suicidal when they fail to find meaning in real life after the film is over.

“Writes Jo Piazza for CNN: On the fan forum site “Avatar Forums,” a topic thread entitled “Ways to cope with the depression of the dream of Pandora being intangible,” has received more than 1,000 posts from people experiencing depression and fans trying to help them cope. The topic became so popular last month that forum administrator Philippe Baghdassarian had to create a second thread so people could continue to post their confused feelings about the movie.

“Here are just a few of the ways people are coping on Avatar Forums:

“I just watched avatar a few weeks ago and I’m feeling depressed and sad. It’s like I want to reach out and be in Pandora. I’d do anything to be in Pandora. I’ve tried so hard to dream about me being on Pandora but it hasn’t worked.”
“Ever since I went to see ‘Avatar’ I have been depressed. Watching the wonderful world of Pandora and all the Na’vi made me want to be one of them. I can’t stop thinking about all the things that happened in the film and all of the tears and shivers I got from it. I even contemplate suicide thinking that if I do it I will be rebirthed in a world similar to Pandora and the everything is the same as in ‘Avatar.'”
“Because, at this point, there isn’t pretty much anything else that can be done. Until the release of DVD/BluRay. But even that won’t take away all of the depression. Because you know you can never actually go to Pandora, as it exists only in our imagination… sigh… :(“

“Whether or not these posts are for real there is reason to believe the affliction is rooted in legitimate despair.”

Let me say first, that those I know who have gone to see the movie have not had these kinds of reactions.  Why?  Because the people I’ve talked to about the movie are Christians…and perhaps, just perhaps, we aren’t “depressed and sad” because we understand what the longing is that these folks are experiencing because we’ve found the answer: Jesus. 

As awesome as the world of Pandora is in the movie, it can’t hold a candle to heaven.  As Paul said (he and John are the only humans who’ve ever seen it as far as I know for sure!), it isn’t possible (nor permissible) to discuss what it is like.  I was driving to a meeting early one morning recently as the sun was rising over the eastern hills of the Alexander Valley where we live, and I was captivated by the beauty of that sunrise.  I started talking with God about what heaven would be like.  Are there colors there?  Revelation describes things with color…so there must be.  But are they the same colors?  Will they be different, vastly richer and more beautiful?  I have to believe so.  I can’t believe anything about heaven would be nearly as dull as things on this earth.

As the sun rose, I thought about God’s glory.  He can’t help but be glorious.  It’s not like he wakes up each morning thinking, “I think I’ll be glorious today.”  He can’t help it.  Wherever He goes, His glory arrives before Him like the rays of the sun arrive before the sun is fully up.  And His glory follows after Him as the rays of the sun still light the sky once the sun has set.  As that sunrise came, I realized that the glory of heaven will far outshine anything we can dream of, hope for, long for.  And we don’t need to despair, because our inheritance is being kept for us by God Himself.  Who do you think will be able to take it away from Him?  No one!

Don’t despair.  There’s a place far better than Pandora.  It’s called heaven.

PRAYER: Let Your glory shine on us and led us unto a life lived in the glory of Your eternal day!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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