DayBreaks for 7/01/20 – The Invitation to Come Home

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DayBreaks for 7/01/20: The Invitation to Come Home

From the DayBreaks archive, June 2010:

Years ago, I read a moving story about a young man who had quarreled harshly with his father and left home in his anger.  During the years he was gone, he continued to stay in touch with his mom, and he wanted very badly to come home for Christmas, but he was afraid his father would not allow him.  His mother wrote to him and urged him to come home, but he did not feel he could until he knew his father had forgiven him.  Finally, there was no time for any more letters.  His mother wrote and said she would talk with the father, and if he had forgiven him, she would tie a white rag on the tree which grew right alongside the railroad tracks near their home, which he could see before the train reached the station.  If there was no rag, it would be better if he went on.

The young man decided this was a risk he could take, so he started homeward.  As the train drew near his home; he was so nervous he said to his friend who was traveling with him, “I can’t bear to look.  Sit in my place and look out the window.  I’ll tell you what the tree looks like and you tell me whether there is a rag on it or not.”  So, his friend changed places with him and looked out the window.  After a bit the friend said, “Oh yes, I see the tree.”  The son asked, “Is there a white rag tied to it?”  For a moment, the friend said nothing.  Then he turned, and in a very gentle and quivering voice said, “There is a white rag tied to every limb of that tree!”

That, in a sense, is what God is saving in John 3:16 and 17. God has removed the condemnation and made it possible to come freely and openly home to him.  God didn’t tie white rags to the tree – He had himself nailed there.  The cross is our sign that it is safe to come home to the Father!

PRAYER: For the welcome You give us, we, in our desperation for our Father’s love, thank You!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

DayBreaks for 6/24/20 – God of the Broken Hearted

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DayBreaks for 6/24/20: God of the Brokenhearted

From the DayBreaks archive, June 2010:

Worship songwriter Brian Doerksen’s son, Isaiah, suffers from fragile X syndrome, a genetic condition which results in physical, intellectual, emotional, and behavioral limitations. In his book Make Love, Make War, Brian reflects on the day he and his wife first received medical confirmation of Isaiah’s condition. In the midst of his heartache, as Brian considered turning away from worship ministry altogether, God taught Brian a lesson that instead carried him further into his ministry:

“[After receiving the test results], I stumbled around our property weeping, confused, heartbroken. At one point I lifted my voice to heaven and handed in my resignation: “God, I am through being a worship leader and songwriter …” 

‘When I was able to be quiet enough to hear, I sensed God holding out his hand and inviting me: “Will you trust me? Will you go even with your broken heart—for who will relate to my people who are heartbroken if not those like you who are acquainted with disappointment?”

Reflecting further on this word from God, Brian wrote: “I used think people were most blessed by our great victories. But now I know differently: People are just longing to hear [others] speak of how they have walked through the deepest valleys. The world lifts up the victorious and the successful, but God lifts up the brokenhearted.”

There are plenty of broken hearts in the world.  Hearts are breaking every second and they can remain broken for years.  Doctors may be able to heal hearts that have suffered cardiac arrest or cardiac arteries that are clogged, but they can’t fix a broken heart.  Broken hearts remain the purview of God and God alone. 

When our hearts are breaking, we tend to do a variety of things to try to regain some sense of equilibrium, but we may struggle to turn to an invisible God to heal our broken heart.  Don’t hesitate.  He is not called the Great Physician for no reason!

PRAYER: All around us, Lord, are those with broken hearts, and we suffer from them, too.  For all those who are in pain this day, we ask You to heal their hearts!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

DayBreaks for 6/10/20 – To the Ridgeline

Tucker Mountain summit looking west at the ridgeline

DayBreaks for 6/10/20: To the Ridgeline

A good number of years back (I hate to think how long ago it was!), I went with a group of men from our church in Tracy, California, on a backpacking trip to the 10 Lakes Basin in Yosemite National Park.  We started early in the morning while it was cool – it would be a steep uphill hike, and since we would be spending the night there, we carried heavy packs. It was July – and the temperature was over 100 degrees, even at that elevation.  As the day wore on and it got to be mid-to-late afternoon, we knew we had to be getting close to our destination.  Every once in a while, we’d lift our heads and gaze at the top of the ridge looming above us – when you’re that tired, you just can’t help but look at the huge peaks and ridges that tower over you and which beckon you to keep hiking up its side.  Then, when you finally reach that ridge top, you realize that it isn’t the top at all – that there is another ridge behind and above it – you just couldn’t see it from where you were before.  Perspective from below fools you.  You then reset your expectations, thinking that what you now see is the real summit – another half-mile off.  But then you begin to wonder – is it a false summit, too?  I must admit, there were several false summits – and with each false summit, there was disappointment.  But we kept going – and we reached our goal – and when we did, it was sweet!

That hike and that experience echo lessons I have learned about the journey of faith.  Just as with that backpacking adventure, a faith walk will involve miscalculations, misperceptions, thrills and disappointments – long periods of waiting and even longer periods when it seems as if the uphill trudge will never come to an end.  No matter how well one prepares and takes all appropriate cautions and attempts to eliminate all the risks, we never succeed.  There will be times when the weather settles in thick and cold and we lose sight of the ridgeline that rises above us – when we can’t see a thing and aren’t sure if we’re still even moving in the right direction. 

But this I also have discovered – that when we reach the summit, there is nothing in the world that compares to the feeling of exaltation.  But it would never have happened if we had stopped walking at the first false ridgeline, if we quit when we’re in the valley and give up because it seems too hard and we’re not sure if we can make it.

Persistence is not an easy thing to possess as the years mount up and our strength winds down.  But too much is at stake to quit this close to the finish line.  Keep looking upward…you will reach the destination, not because of you own strength, but because He has guaranteed to carry you over the pathway that you cannot navigate on your own!

Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him. – James 1:12

PRAYER: When times are hard and we are exhausted, be our Strength and guide our footsteps on the upward way until we reach our Rest!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

DayBreaks for 5/20/22 – Lessons Learned in Crucibles, #1

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DayBreaks for 5/20/20: Lessons Learned in Crucibles #1

Nearly all of us have had unplanned time for reflection during this COVID-19 lockdown. I suppose that like me, you’ve had many thoughts about it and that your thinking and emotions may have changed day by day – maybe hour by hour.

In my quiet time, I’ve been working my way through Ecclesiastes. It’s a strange, interesting and bewildering book. On the one hand, it’s doom and gloom, on the other it encourages us to enjoy our lot in life. In particular, yesterday I was reflecting on this: Ecclesiastes 6:1-7 (CSBBible) – Here is a tragedy I have observed under the sun, and it weighs heavily on humanity: God gives a person riches, wealth, and honor so that he lacks nothing of all he desires for himself, but God does not allow him to enjoy them. Instead, a stranger will enjoy them. This is futile and a sickening tragedy. A man may father a hundred children and live many years. No matter how long he lives, if he is not satisfied by good things and does not even have a proper burial, I say that a stillborn child is better off than he. For he comes in futility and he goes in darkness, and his name is shrouded in darkness. Though a stillborn child does not see the sun and is not conscious, it has more rest than he. And if a person lives a thousand years twice, but does not experience happiness, do not both go to the same place? All of a person’s labor is for his stomach, yet the appetite is never satisfied.

Pretty gloomy, eh? But think about it for a moment. As we sit in this COVID-19 world, we can learn something from this passage. It does seem strange and unfair that all we acquire or accomplish of a worldly nature in this life is stripped from us upon death, or even upon a strange turn of events in this life. A market downturn, a pandemic, a health issue – those things can strip us of our deluded security and even the option of enjoying the things we work for. All this tells me that if we find our purpose, meaning and enjoyment in things that can be so suddenly taken from us, aren’t we a bit on the crazy side?

I hope to spend more time during the lockdown – however long that may be – to readjust what gives me purpose, meaning and enjoyment and to refocus on that which can never be taken from me in this world or the next – Jesus.

PRAYER: Jesus, so much has been taken from so many during this pandemic and we long for a return of normalcy. I pray that we will use this time wisely to refocus on those things which nothing can ever take from us and find our greatest joy – the joy you designed us for – in drawing closer to you! In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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 3/05/20 – 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.  ><}}}”>