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.  ><}}}”>

 

DayBreaks for 11/28/19 – The Blessings of Darkness, #3

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DayBreaks for 11/28/19: The Blessing of Darkness, #3

The two Psalms in scripture that have not a single ray of light or hope are Psalm 39 and 88. And while you may think it is strange to be talking about this topic on Thanksgiving, let me assure you that it is very, very appropriate.

In Psalm 39, the writer concludes that God has turned his face away from the sufferer. This is about the worst thing that an ancient Jew could have imagined. The implication is that God no longer sees because he no longer cares.

In Psalm 88, the writer concludes that darkness is his only friend, the only companion that is still with him – not even God is nearby. God couldn’t find him if he tried because the darkness is all there is.

It is interesting that these two Psalms are in Scripture, but they are prophetic. It would be Jesus who would cry out that God had turned his face away and forsaken him on the cross. And it was that same Jesus who would be swallowed up by the darkness that covered the earth during his crucifixion, but more so the darkness of our sin he took upon us and the darkness of the sealed tomb.

Jesus knows the darkness, too. He didn’t only know the blazing glory of heaven, but the darkest darkness of the entire world as he bore the sins of the entire world.

But the story doesn’t end in darkness, does it! The One who suffered that darkness revealed to us the faithfulness of God, the one we might accuse of our misfortune and the world of blackness that swallows us up. He rose in glory like the sun and he is the reminder to us that no matter how dark our darkness may be on this Thanksgiving – or at any other time in our lives – that God sees things through to the Light and will bring us even out of the darkness of the tomb into His eternal Light!

PRAYER: Jesus, we long to live surrounded eternally by your Light. Give us strength to persevere in this world that is often so dark. We give you thanks this day for the glorious future that you have guaranteed to us! In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

DayBreaks for 11/27/19 – The Blessing of Darkness, #2

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DayBreaks for 11/27/19: The Blessing of Darkness, #2

Yesterday we looked at Psalm 88 – one of only two Psalms that don’t have any ray of hope or light. I want to explore it a bit further today.

In Psalm 88, Heman is very vocal about the source of his trouble: You (meaning God).  God is not hearing Heman. He has had so much trouble that he believes he is near Sheol (the grave) and he says it is God who has put him there. Not only that, but God has caused his friend to distance themselves (vs. 8) from Heman, making him repulsive to them. It is God’s wrath that is heavy on him (vs. 7). In spite of that, He cries out day and night to God (vs. 9) but feels utterly rejected (vs. 14) and is so despairing that he calls the darkness his only friend (vs. 18).

What are we to make of this? Was God to blame for the darkness around Heman? I honestly don’t know, but Heman believed it. His cries are not unlike those of Job.

What is the lesson here for us? I think it may be this – if God is to blame for it (the Spirit inspired these words, remember!) – then it is a tool God is using for our good, not our harm. And what good could that possibly be? Maybe this: the value of the darkness is that it reveals to us if we are in this to serve God or to be served by Him.

It is in the darkness that we find out the truth about our motives. Satan’s accusation against God was that Job only served Him for what God did for him – that Job’s relationship with God was basically a selfish one.

I suspect that Heman learned a great deal from this darkness. And I suspect he figured it out the right way because he was still calling out to God in the midst of the darkness. He wanted answers – which he may or may not have received  just like Job – but the greatest lesson is what he learned about his motivation for being a worshipper of God.

PRAYER: Father, reveal to us, in our own darkness, the motives of our heart and our reason for claiming to be Your children. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

DayBreaks for 11/26/19 – The Blessing of Darkness, #1

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DayBreaks for 11/26/19: The Blessing of Darkness, #1

There are Psalms of lament and then there are Psalm 39 and Psalm 88 and they set a new standard for “darkness” in the Psalms because all the rest of the Psalms of lament have at least some ray of light, of hope, in them but not these two.

Why did God include these Psalms?

Psalm 88 says that it is a psalm composed by Heman the Ezrahite. That’s not a name you are probably familiar with, but it would appear to be that he was the grandson of the prophet Samuel. Heman was appointed by David as one of the leaders of the Temple music/worship (1 Chron. 6:33). He was a singer.

When we think of our worship leaders we tend to think of those who sing praises and are happy and cheerful. Heman, at least at the time he was inspired to write this was not having a mountaintop experience. In fact, he was very, very low: ..I am like the slain lying in the grave, whom you no longer remember… (vs. 5). He goes on in verses 6-8 and five times in those three verses he is clear that it is “You” (God) who is to blame for this mess and darkness. From my youth, I have been suffering and near death. I suffer Your horrors. I am desperate. (vs. 15)

Is it okay for believers, even our revered leaders, to despair at times? Is it wrong for anyone of us to have the feelings expressed by Heman? No. Remember: God chose to have these words recorded for us, and He Himself inspired these words to be written for our benefit so we could know that we can be honest with him about where we are. Even in his darkness, though, Heman cries out to God. And there’s a lesson for us, too. It isn’t wrong to despair in the darkness, but rather than closing God out we need to cry to him.

PRAYER: When we are surrounded by darkness, Lord, let us emulate Heman and pour out our hearts to you knowing that you understand and do hear, even when we think you may not be listening. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

DayBreaks for 11/15/19 – Hidden Blessings

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DayBreaks for 11/15/19: Hidden Blessings

From the DayBreaks archive, November 2009:

Franklin and Phileda Nelson went to Burma as missionaries in the 1940s. They served there eight and a half years before the government closed the country to further missionary work. They returned to the United States where Franklin served several churches in various pastoral roles.

While in Burma they worked among remote tribes, and Franklin found his sense of gratitude for God’s providence rekindled. When reflecting on his missions work, he said: “In the Burmese hill country, the only way to get to remote villages was by “shank mare.” (That’s walking, in case you’ve never heard the phrase.) It was not at all uncommon for me to walk twenty miles a day in the dry season. When I got back to the States and worked as a pastor and church leader, I rarely walked a mile a day; the telephone and car made walking unnecessary.

“In Burma, if one of us got sick, the nearest hospital was ten days away. In the States, medical care is minutes away. In Burma, we’d go months without bread. Once we asked our daughter Karen to say grace before a meal, and she said, “Why do I have to pray for my daily bread when I don’t ever get any?” I have often coveted that experience for our youngest daughter who never had to wonder where her food came from. It’s hard to have that sense of helplessness and humility so vital to prayer when you sit down to your daily bread and don’t even think about how you got it.   

“I don’t in any way blame people here for not knowing what God can do. We’re victims of our prosperity. But I sometimes wish we had a few more hard times so people could experience firsthand how wonderful it is to be totally dependent on God.

Those last six words haunt me.  I know that I should trust God completely.  I know intellectually that I am totally dependent on God.  But I don’t live as if it’s true. The very statement “…how wonderful it is to be totally dependent on God” – how does that make you feel? 

Our feelings, of course, change nothing in regard to the veracity of the statement.  We are – like it or not – totally dependent on Him.  TOTALLY.  Might we not be far better off if we just simply acknowledge that and live in that knowledge constantly?  Our strivings would cease, our worry lines would diminish, and we would find some of the blessings that Franklin and Phileda found in their hardships – a greater trust in Him in all things.

PRAYER: Help us to not thank you only for the good, but to search for the hidden blessings in suffering and hardship.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

DayBreaks for 11/11/19 – A Day in the Vineyard

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DayBreaks for 11/11/19: A Day in the Vineyard

From the DayBreaks archive, November 2009:

For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. When he had agreed with the laborers for a denarius for the day, he sent them into his vineyard. And he went out about the third hour and saw others standing idle in the market place; and to those he said, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and whatever is right I will give you.’ And so they went. Again he went out about the sixth and the ninth hour, and did the same thing. And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing around; and he said to them, ‘Why have you been standing here idle all day long?’ “They said to him, ‘Because no one hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You go into the vineyard too.’ When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the laborers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last group to the first.’ When those hired about the eleventh hour came, each one received a denarius. When those hired first came, they thought that they would receive more; but each of them also received a denarius. When they received it, they grumbled at the landowner, saying, ‘These last men have worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden and the scorching heat of the day.’ But he answered and said to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for a denarius? Take what is yours and go, but I wish to give to this last man the same as to you. Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with what is my own? Or is your eye envious because I am generous?’” – Matthew 20:1-15 (NASB)

The world has been going through tough times economically.  Certainly it has affect you or someone you love.  Jobs are hard to find.  People are taking jobs that they otherwise would not have even applied for, let alone considered.  I know people who would be thrilled to find a job at minimum wage right now.  They would jump at the chance to earn any money.  I’m sure you know people in that situation, too.

The story of the laborers in the vineyard has always been an interesting story to me.  We have a sense of fairness that is built in us by God.  As we consider this story, it is a good exercise for us to put ourselves in the place of those hired first and who worked all day for a denarius (the wages for an entire day’s labor).  We would be glad for the work, right?  We would feel a denarius was fair wages – so there’s no complaint there.  But if we came to the end of that day and learned that people who’d been hired at the end of the day for just one hour got the same pay – wouldn’t you be a bit upset?  Then, let’s place ourselves in the situation of the last-minute hires: we’d be happy for the work and pay and extremely surprised by the unexpected generosity when we received the wages for a full day.  We wouldn’t appreciate the argument put forth by the full day workers – we might be afraid that they’d convince the vineyard owner that he was, indeed, being foolish and not thinking clearly. 

The story is intended to make us appreciate grace – the grace that God has shown to us.  It may be informative for us to hear the rabbinic version of the story.  In the version told by rabbis of the time, the late workers worked so hard that they accomplished in one hour what took the other people a full day to accomplish – and they were rewarded for their extra-hard work.  This, however, is not part of the biblical story.  Jesus says absolutely nothing about how hard either the full-day workers or one-hour workers worked.  That’s not the point.  Jesus’ emphasis is on the generosity of the employer (God in the parable), who lavishes His rewards on both the long-time workers and the newcomers.  As Philip Yancey put it: “No one gets cheated and everyone gets rewarded, far beyond what they deserve.”

PRAYER: Help us not to be envious, Lord, of what You give others nor to compare it to what You have chosen to give us.  May we realize that we have no claim at all on Your goodness, nor any reason to expect goodness from You at all.  Let us understand a bit more fully the depth of the riches of Your grace that abounds toward us!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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