DayBreaks for 2/21/18 – An Imitation of the Master

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DayBreaks for 2/21/18: An Imitation of the Master

From the DayBreaks archive, February 2008:

So, how do you plan to spend your day today?  Did you create a “laundry list” of things that you need to get done or should do?  How’s it going so far?  Has the list gotten smaller or bigger as the day progressed?  How much time do you spend planning out your next day? 

It seems that no matter what I do or how meticulously I might try to plan things, it never seems to quite work out like I’d planned.  Perhaps that’s what the writer of Proverbs had in mind when he wrote in Proverbs 19:21 (NLT) – You can make many plans, but the LORD’s purpose will prevail.  I think I’ve got my day all figured out, but NOT!  I often look at the things that come along in the course of a day as being unwelcome events…after all, I’ve got a plan and if I can just run it like clockwork, it’s the best thing, right?  Not really.  Why should I think that my well-laid plans are the best thing for me to do each day, or the best way to do them, or even that they’re the most important things to do on any given day? 

We need to learn to welcome interruptions.  Mark Buchanan says that the devil seeks to distract, but God seeks to interrupt, and how quickly we fall prey to Satan’s distractions but how we equally quickly grow oblivious to God’s interruptions.  Satan wants us to become distracted from God and godly things, but God wants to interrupt our schedules and plans with things which are more important.  Who am I to say that the interruption by the person in the next cubicle is not a portion of a God-directed plan for something greater than the accomplishment of my little plans?  Isn’t that perhaps what the writer of the Proverb was saying?

Jesus’ life was dominated by purpose – he came to offer his life as a ransom.  Reading the gospels, especially John, one gets the sense that Jesus entire life was spent moving towards Jerusalem and the cross.  And indeed, it was always his purpose.  But along the way, many things happened to him that we would consider interruptions.  It isn’t clear that Jesus kept anything like a detailed itinerary of his daily schedule.  In fact, his daily life seemed to be lived by interruption: a woman who touches his clothes and is healed, a dead son begin wept over by his mother, a dinner at a taxpayer’s house, a wedding feast in Cana, a leader of Roman soldiers who entreats him for a healing, little children who wanted to be held, storms on the sea, fishing with his buddies, questions from the scribes and Pharisees – and the list goes on virtually endlessly.  He always found time for telling stories, for people along the route to the cross who hadn’t scheduled a moment of his time. 

So what was Jesus’ secret and what dictated Jesus’ schedule?  How did he number his days aright?  Perhaps Jesus came the closest to answering that himself in Mt. 11:1-11, when he said, The wind blows wherever it pleases.  You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going.  So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”  Jesus listened and watched the Spirit – and did what the Spirit directed.

Peter, after saying Jesus is the Lord of all, describes how Jesus spent his days: God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and…he went around doing good.  (Acts 10:36, 38) 

There you have it: the sum of Jesus’ earthly vocation is that he wandered and he blessed.  Jesus was a vagabond physician, the original doctor without borders.  His purpose was crystal clear – but his methods appear to be random.  Henri Nouwen observed something like this about his own life: “My whole life I have been complaining that my work was constantly interrupted until I discovered the interruptions were my work.”

PRAYER: May we discern Your interruptions, Lord, and may we go with You to do what You want us to do together.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

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DayBreaks for 1/12/18 – The Reaper’s Approach

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DayBreaks for 1/12/18: The Reaper’s Approach

From the DayBreaks archives, January 2008:

From Bizarre News, 1/3/08:

PROVIDENCE, R.I. – Doctors at a Providence, R.I., nursing home say a cat that keeps the patients company seems to be able to predict their deaths.  Staff at the Steere House Nursing and Rehabilitation Center said the 2-year-old feline, named Oscar, will go into the room of a patient whose end is near, curl up next to them and purr, WebMD reported Thursday.  David Dosa, who submitted an essay on the cat to The New England Journal of Medicine — which published the paper Thursday — said the vigilant cat has been present for the deaths of more than 25 residents and often serves as a fill-in for family members who cannot be present at their loved one’s bedside. 

“As people would pass, the question (among staff) was always, ‘Was Oscar at the bedside?'” Dosa said.  “And the answer was invariably ‘yes.’  This is an end-stage dementia unit.  Deaths are common.” 

As for how the cat knows when a patient is near death, experts say there are a number of possibilities ranging from sense of smell to mimicking the behavior of  

humans who care for the dying patients. 

Isn’t it interesting how animals have such perceptive abilities?  Animals have been known to recognize an impending earthquake before they happen.  During the massive tsunami a few years ago that took so many lives in the Indian Ocean area, animals took off for higher ground in advance of any waves appearing.  Dogs (at least some of them) have the ability to sense an epileptic seizure before it strikes, and have even been trained to alert their masters before it happens. Others have been known to be able to smell cancers in humans and have been used as a diagnostic aid.  

But what struck me about this story was that the cat could sense approaching death.  Death is pictured in art as a tattered, black robed man with a scythe (the “grim reaper”) who approaches his victims.  We will probably never know how Oscar the cat could sense the approach of death, but it appears that this cat at least has the ability to detect its approach.

Without being morbid, I was led to wonder what we would do if we could sense the approaching death of others?  Would we, like Oscar the cat, draw near to them, or would we tend to shy away from them, not knowing how to act or what to say – as is sadly the tendency of many people when someone is clearly terminally ill?  What would we say to them?  If they were unbelievers, would we speak of the love of Jesus?  And if we’d do it then, why would we not do it while they’re still healthy and well and can have the blessed privilege of living for Christ in the here and now? 

I also wonder what we’d do if we could sense our own imminent death?  Is there anyone who wouldn’t want to know that death was drawing closer so that they could mend fences, speak those words of love and affection once again to a spouse, children and grandchildren?  Here’s the kicker: intellectually we know that death is approaching with every tick of the clock.  As Francis Schaeffer so aptly put it: “How then shall we live?”

Job 12:10 (NIV) –In his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind.

PRAYER: Lord, give us compassion for the sick and the dying, and help us to never lose sight of our own mortality.  Our hope rests in You!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

COPYRIGHT 2017 by Galen C. Dalrymple. All rights reserved.

DayBreaks for 1/11/18 – Everything Counts All the Time

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DayBreaks for 1/11/18: Everything Counts All the Time

From the DayBreaks archives, January 2008:

Life is chock-full of seemingly innocent little moments of decision.  You’ll make so many decisions today and do so many things that really aren’t very important.  For example: you’ll decide which shirt or dress to wear today – and all things being equal, it really doesn’t matter what you choose.  You’ll decide what to eat (although if you have health problems, that can be important!)  You’ll decide which bank teller to go to, which check-out line at the grocery store.  While we may agonize over which pair of sunglasses make us look the most cool, it’s really nothing more than a trivial decision.  Much of life revolves around trivial things.

But, there are things in life that aren’t trivial at all.  Consider this from the California Southern Baptist (3/2/2000):

“Recently, Dieter Zander, the pastor of the first GenX church in America, spoke at an Evangelism Conference about reaching people in the age of relativism.  He cited a Barna study that asked people to use single words to describe Jesus.  They responded, “wise, accepting, compassionate, gracious, humble.”  Then he asked them to use single words to describe Christians, they said, “critical, exclusive, self-righteous, narrow and repressive.”

“There is a difference between knowing the good news and being the good news, Zander said.  “We are the evidence!  Everything counts—all the time.”

“With previous generations, a strong preacher could give a good message, even if the church was hypocritical and critical and people would still get saved,” Zander continued, “but not anymore.  I’m seeing a change in what seekers are looking for.  Not something they can relate to.  They are looking for a transcendent God.  They don’t want to be entertained they want to be transformed.”

I think Zander had it spot on: “There is a difference between knowing the good news and BEING (emphasis mine, GCD) the good news.”  I realize that in a very real sense, we cannot be the good news.  Jesus came from heaven to give us the good news and be the good news for us!  But, how we act, what we say, even how we think – in a way we can be the good news or the bad news.  Why does the world think of Jesus in such high terms but Christians in such negative ways?  Could it be because we are not being the good news?  Because as the world looks at us, they don’t see Jesus in us at all, but our old sinful, carping and complaining natures? 

Every encounter we have with another human being is loaded with implications for eternity.  Yes – every single one.  What you say, how you act, what we do and even how we think about them matters.  GenX is still seeking a transcendent God, but for them, the proof of His existence is transformed followers of God, people in whom the love of Jesus is perfected by their treatment of others.  It is, after all, what Jesus said would be the one sign of true belief and discipleship.

When you have that casual conversation by the water cooler today – realize it isn’t as casual as it appears.  When you greet the clerk at the grocery store, be the good news personified.  When you come in the door at home at the end of your long and trying day, remember that God expects you to be the good news at home, too.

For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. (Romans 1:16 KJV)

PRAYER: Father, thank You for sending Jesus, the best news the world has ever known.  Help us to not only know him, but to live like him so the good news may be alive and strong within us.  Help us to realize that as Your children and ambassadors in this world, that everything we do makes a difference all the time.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

PRAYER: God, I know my own sin is enough to kill all the fish in the sea, yet you promise me you have washed me clean and that I am your child. Help us all to being to grasp that simple, yet profound, truth. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

COPYRIGHT 2017 by Galen C. Dalrymple. All rights reserved.

DayBreaks for 12/13/17 – When Words Don’t Come

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DayBreaks for 12/13/17: When Words Don’t Come

From the DayBreaks archive, December 2007:

You’ve heard of writer’s block – when a writer just can’t think of what to write.  Although it would be a long stretch to call myself a writer, I can identify with that syndrome!   Here’s a news flash for you: preachers get it, too, but I call it “preacher’s block.”  It’s what happens when the week is spinning by like an altimeter on a nose-down jet – and you just can’t seem to find the inspiration or words for the message on the coming Sunday.  You start to sweat, you shift uneasily in the chair, you wander a hallway or two as if you’ll find inspiration there.  Sometimes, it even works.  Do you want to know when I have the greatest trouble with “preacher’s block”?  It’s at Christmas.  For me, Christmas sermons are the toughest of all. 

Words and inspiration can come from the strangest of places – after all, if God could speak through a donkey to Balaam, He can certainly bring inspiration from any corner He chooses.  But sometimes we are just plain fearful – fearful that when we’re confronted with a challenge to our faith, that we won’t have the words.  So, we keep our mouths shut. 

How should we react then?  Remember the story of Moses – how he questioned God’s wisdom in choosing him because of his slowness with words?  Paul, the greatest missionary the world has ever seen, was a lot like Moses.  He said he didn’t come to the Corinthians “proclaiming…in lofty words or wisdom”, but rather “in weakness and in fear and in much trembling.  My speech and my proclamation were not with plausible words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God.” (1 Cor. 2:1-5)  Where was Paul’s confidence?  Was it in his own words and ability to speak them?  No, it was that God was speaking with him, giving life to the words that Paul did speak.

When you think about it, Moses and Paul were two of the people most responsible for the writing of the Word of God.  Both were weak with words.  God chose them precisely BECAUSE they were weak with words!  That weakness made it so that they might have a greater chance of clinging tightly to God who spoke in union with and to them so that they might speak what the hearers needed to hear in order to be drawn to God.  Paul and Moses seemed to suffer from “apologist’s block” in their own person – not trusting in what they had to say.  As a result, they didn’t trust in themselves, but in God.  And that’s just what God loved about them!

When you are given the opportunity to talk with someone about Jesus, to share your faith, do you take advantage of it?  If you find yourself in that position, it’s because God has chosen YOU to represent Him at that moment in time.  If you find or fear you have “apologist’s block” – good!  Just don’t let it stop you from talking to that person anyway.  Whisper a little prayer inside your head, aim it heavenward, and ask God to electrify what you say with His power. 

PRAYER:  Father, give us Your words to speak.  Thank you for making us weak in our own selves so we will lean on You, for Your words hold the power of life!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2017 by Galen C. Dalrymple.

DayBreaks for 12/12/17 – How Christians Can Make God Disappear

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DayBreaks for 12/12/17: How Christians Can Make God Disappear

From the DayBreaks archive, December 2007:

It was the Psalmist that perhaps most eloquently voiced the purpose of creation when he said, in Psalms 19:1-4 (NIV) The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.  Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge.  There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard.  Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world. In the heavens he has pitched a tent for the sun…

Have you ever wondered why God made physical things?  After all, He Himself is a spiritual being, as are we.  Could God not have created spiritual beings without physical bodies and without a physical realm to move around in?  Of course He could!  But He didn’t.  The reason why is unknown to us, other than the fact that God seems to delight in creating, and in the work of His hands – just like a master craftsman delights in a fine piece of jewelry or a chair or vase. 

I think, however, that the main purpose behind His creation – all of it, not just the physical realm – is found in the passage above: it exists to declare the glory of God.  Someone has said that creation is like God’s fingerprints.  From fingerprints alone we can’t tell too much about a person – we can’t know their character, interests, etc. – but we can tell that they were there.  It’s evidence of their existence.  Creation is evidence of His existence and it glorifies His name!

If only spiritual beings (humans, anyway) were as good at it as the physical universe.  We don’t do a great job of declaring the glory of God.  Joel Belz, in the December 8 issue of World Magazine, wrote: For the truest and most effective proponents of godlessness are almost never those who are most blatant about their mission.  They are instead those who purport to pick up any topic at all for further discussion—and then leave God out of that conversation.  Do that with a dozen such discussions, or maybe 20 or 100, and you don’t have to do much more.  You’ve implicitly made your case.  God doesn’t exist—or if He does, He doesn’t matter. 

What struck me about Belz’ statement wasn’t how the godless go about declaring that God doesn’t exist, but how subtly we as believers can, by the lack of our words and actions, also make God disappear.  When we leave God out of the public conversations we have (and the private ones as well), God has disappeared in that instance.  And, as Belz notes, if we do that often enough in dozens or hundreds of conversations, God is as good as invisible – He disappears from life and living. 

How many conversations do you have in the course of a day?  In how many of those conversations is even the name of God voiced (other than when someone uses His name in vain)?  Are you one of those Christians who makes God disappear, or do you, like the physical heavens, declare the glory of God?

PRAYER:  Father, Your Word says that someday we will shine like stars in the universe.  The universe proclaims Your glory – may we add our voices in our daily conversations!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2017 by Galen C. Dalrymple.

DayBreaks for 2/06/17 – Venture Out in Faith

DayBreaks for 2/06/17: Venture Out in Faith

Revelation 3:8 (ESV) –I know your works. Behold, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut. I know that you have but little power, and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name.

“One night at the end of a special Saturday night worship service,” writes Warren Hudson of Ontario, Canada, “a thunderstorm unleashed a bolt of lightning that plunged the church into darkness.” With the congregation seated in total darkness, the pastor felt his way to the kitchen to find some candles. The pastor handed out the candles to everyone present. Persons lit their candles in much the same way as many churches do on Christmas Eve, each person lighting the candle of the person next to them. The worshipers then made their way through the church’s winding hallways to the front door.

“Peering out, we could see the rain coming down in sheets,” Warren remembers. With traffic snarled, people were running for the nearest shelter. Looking around they realized that the entire city was in darkness. “There in the darkness we stood,” Warren writes, “a little band of Christians, each clutching a light, not sure whether to venture out into the storm or stay inside the church in hopes that the storm would soon blow over.”

There in the darkness the light of truth struck him. In this most dramatic way he realized what it means to be the “light of the world.” He writes, “It occurred to me then that this is the temptation I face every day. It is easy to play it safe and be a good Christian in church. It is a lot harder to venture out in faith into the storms of the world.”

It is easy to be a good Christian in church. It is not nearly so easy when we are outside the four walls of a comfortable building – but that is our mission. I suspect that if Jesus were to write a letter to us today he’d tell us that he’d much rather we were good Christians outside of the church building than inside.

Can you choose one thing this week that you will do “out in the storm” for Jesus and for the love of those around you?

PRAYER: Jesus, at the start of this new week, let us not be fearful of the surrounding storm but rather let us be good Christians and servants for you! In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2017 by Galen Dalrymple.

DayBreaks for 12/15/16 – Dead Man Sitting

DayBreaks for 12/15/16: Dead Man Sitting

From the DayBreaks archive, 2006:

“In October 2005, an elderly man passed away while sitting in his parked car in Melbourne, Australia.  He remained that way for several days before his body was found and identified by city officials.

“After the man’s death, however, and two days before the discovery of his body, a police officer gave him a parking ticket and attached it to the windshield of his car.

“The head of the Maroondah City Council later apologized for the incident, saying: ‘It must be just so sad for the family, and we extend our sincere sympathies to them.’  He added, ‘It is simply a case of the parking officer not noticing.’”  – ABCNewsOnline, 10/21/05

I wonder about this old man.  As he sat in his car, did he feel a squeezing in his chest, a shortness of breath?  A pain inside his head?  Did he know he was staring death in the face?  Or did it all happen so fast that he didn’t even have a chance to think or feel anything?  If he’d felt something, might he not have rolled down a window, opened a door, and called for help?  Not knowing the details of the situation, I can imagine and picture all sorts of possibilities and questions.  But I’m sure that the man would have hoped for help to come.

But to spend too much time wondering about the man is pointless.  What I should wonder about is where everyone else was when this man was dying.  Several days passed as he sat there in the car, stone cold, unmoving.  People must have noticed the car sitting there for several days and a person in it.  Didn’t one of them take the time to go see if the man was OK?  Apparently not.  And the officer who even wrote the ticket may have assumed the man was just sleeping and, being polite, didn’t want to wake him.  I just don’t know, and I just don’t understand.

Is it any different each and every day when I look around me at the lives of those who don’t know Jesus?  They may be sitting in the cubicle next to you, walking through your checkout lane at the store, cashing your check at the bank.  They are there – and they are dying. 

I hope that we will not be as careless and un-noticing as the police officer who saw the car, saw the man, wrote the ticket, but never said anything to the man.  If someone, ANYONE, who had seen this old man in the car had come to him early on, he might have lived.  But they didn’t come, and he died. 

One of my greatest fears about the day of judgment is that some lost person that I knew in this life will look at me on that day as they are being led away and say, “Why didn’t you check on me?  Why didn’t you help me?”

Genesis 4:9 – Afterward the LORD asked Cain, “Where is your brother? Where is Abel?”  “I don’t know!” Cain retorted. “Am I supposed to keep track of him wherever he goes?”

The answer is: yes.

PRAYER:  May we have Your passion for the lost.  Give us Your eyes to see their future possibilities, both for glory and for horror.  May we be moved by Your Spirit to keep track of one another at all times and in all places.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2016 by Galen Dalrymple.