DayBreaks for 1/10/18 – God Help the Fish

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Image courtesy from iStock photo.

DayBreaks for 1/10/18: God Help the Fish

When you think of it, we all like fairy tale stories in one form or another. We like stories of frogs becoming princes, of ugly ducklings that become beautiful swans and the down-and-out who rise above adversity yet remain kind, compassionate and humble.

Sam Houston was the first president of the Republic of Texas. It’s said he was a rather nasty fellow with a checkered past.  Later in life Houston made a commitment to Christ and was baptized in a river. The preacher said to him, “Sam, your sins are washed away.”  Houston replied, “God help the fish.”

We see similar stories throughout the Bible as ordinary people, often very poor and outcast, who come to a special relationship with God or Jesus. The woman at the well, the woman taken in adultery, Saul of Tarsus, Zacchaeus and others are all examples. We are uplifted by their stories.

Yet, each and every believer in Jesus is like the pauper who becomes a prince or princess. We have to go through a process much like Sam Houston did – of being convicted of our estate (it must become clear to see!) – before God dresses us in the finest of robes, puts shoes on us, gives us his ring and reinstates us to a place in His own house.

How do you see yourself? You may not feel like the prince or princess just yet, but once your sins have been washed away, you are no longer what you previously were. You are a child of the King and you are growing to look more and more like him with each passing day, week, month and year. The day will come when you will stand beside him in glory, look in the mirror and see both his and your reflection, and will be amazed at how alike you are!

Hang tough! Persevere! Trust Him! He will finish the work he has started!

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.

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DayBreaks for 12/11/17 – Thou Doest Protest Too Much

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DayBreaks for 12/11/17: Thou Doest Protest too Much

From the DayBreaks archive, December 2007:

This past week I was having a conversation with a wise, elderly woman from our church.  We were musing on our culture’s head-long rush to remove God from the public square entirely.  There are those who think that God and Christianity should have no place at all in the public arena.  They are eager and quick to point to the constitution, jumping up and down and shouting against Christianity, but they misinterpret what the constitution says.  The so-called “establishment clause” in the constitution says that the government shall not establish a state religion – it doesn’t say that religion should not be allowed to be practiced publicly or privately.  In fact, it is quite clear that the topic of God came into a great many discussions among the founding fathers.  How many of them were merely Deists versus Christians may be a topic of debate – but religion played often and well in the public discourse.

At the present time, Michael Newdow (you may remember him – he had an appeal go to the Supreme Court in an effort to have “under God” removed from the pledge of allegiance, only to have his case thrown out on a technicality – he was supposedly suing on behalf of his child, but his child didn’t live with him, therefore the court ruled he had no right to sue on her behalf.  The court never ruled on the real topic – the question of whether or not can “under God” remain in the pledge.

Michael Newdow is at it again.  He still doesn’t have custody of his daughter (who lives with her mother, and unless I’m mistaken, they are strongly opposed to Newdow’s actions), but he’s now suing on behalf of some other folks.  I don’t get all the legal mumbo-jumbo, but he’s once more trying to get “under God” taken out of the pledge. 

Michael Newdow is an atheist.  The question the elderly sister asked me was simply this: “What do atheists fight so hard to do away with something they don’t even believe exists?”  Interesting queston, eh?  I mean, if they really believe He doesn’t exist, why should it bother them if I think and believe He does exist? 

Then, on the morning that I wrote this DayBreaks, I got an email from a reader who noted that since the atheists don’t believe in any god, they in essence become their own god.  She was right, I think.  Why does Michael Newdow and others of his ilk try to eliminate all mention of God or Jesus?  Because they want to be their own god.  They don’t want to have to even consider that they might have to answer to a Higher Authority.  It’s almost as if they are sitting there with their eyes clenched as tightly shut as they possibly can squeeze them, with hands over their ears, repeating over and over, “There is no God, there is no God, there is no God,” hoping to convince themselves of that fact.  I remember that my kids would do similar things when they were little when they didn’t want to believe something that they couldn’t escape, like knowing they were going to the doctor to get an immunization.  All the “No, I’m not going!  No, I’m not going!  No, no, no!” didn’t make the inevitable go away.

Sadly, no matter how hard he may try, Michael Newdow will never be able to escape from the Truth.  He’s in for a big surprise – and a very unpleasant one, at that, if he doesn’t come to faith before he dies.  We should pray for his lost soul and the souls of all who are lost in unbelief.  We are all there at one time, too.

Psalm 14:1 – The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.”  They are corrupt, their deeds are vile; there is no one who does good.

PRAYER:  Lord, open the eyes of those who don’t believe in You.  Help them to see the Light of the World that can take away their sin and give them eternal life.  Help us not to try to be our own gods, for we are doomed to failure and destruction if we pursue that path!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2017 by Galen C. Dalrymple.

DayBreaks for 11/06/17 – The Christian Gamble

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DayBreaks for 11/06/17: The Christian Gamble

As we were in worship just yesterday, I was contemplating that which human minds cannot hope to contemplate – God. And as we sang a song, I thought about the power that it takes to call everything into existence simply by words. It seems impossible, doesn’t it? And yet that is what we Christians believe. We believe in a God who cannot be seen and believe he has done things which are incomprehensible. How can words bring physical matter into existence? Doesn’t that seem like the stuff of fairy tales or stories about the pagan gods? And when I think about it that way, I sometimes must admit that it sounds really far fetched and impossible and I begin to entertain doubts.

But, then I must come fact to face with the fact that physical things do exist, so how can they be explained? It is a basic premise that “Nothing comes from nothing”, i.e., that if something exists at all, it must be because there was something to make it happen. There is not a single shred of evidence, nor a claim that I am aware of, that the universe has been eternal – without a beginning. So that begs the question: where did matter come from if it could have come from nothing? Christians believe it comes from God. The fact that things (including myself) do exist, leads me to conclude that God must exist.

Can I prove it? No. Atheists take delight in the fact that Christians cannot prove that God exists. But, neither can an atheist prove that God does NOT exist. And so believers and unbelievers are all gambling that what we believe is true.

So, what is one to do, since neither God’s existence nor his non-existence can be proven? Perhaps the best we can do is to look at the evidence to make the most reasonable bet with our life that we can. And in that process, it might be wise to sit down with a piece of paper and do this exercise: write down the ramifications regarding life if His existence is real, and write down the ramifications if it is not real. Then decide which way you want to bet your existence.

You see, in the final analysis, for an atheist to say that faith is foolish is to call themselves foolish, too, because one’s belief about God’s existence and nature (if He exists) is based on faith, either way one chooses to believe.

Romans 1:19-20 (ESV) – For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.

PRAYER: Father, though we cannot prove your existence, we believe in it and in your goodness and trustworthiness. May our faith be rewarded not just in the world to come, but in this one as well! In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2017 by Galen C. Dalrymple.

DayBreaks for 9/19/17 – In the Midst of Doubt

DayBreaks for 9/19/17: In the Midst of Doubt

Note: Galen is traveling this week.

From the DayBreaks archive, 9/2007:

Doubts.  Uncertainties.  This past Thursday morning I was in a meeting with other pastors and we were discussing a particular aspect of doctrine.  Now you might think, “Wow, that really sounds exciting…a real snoozer!”  Normally, I’d have to agree with you.  As one of the pastors put it, “Doctrine, schmoctrin! I’d rather talk about Jesus!”  Right on!  Part of the reason that we struggled with the conversation so much was that we all recognized and admitted our own imperfect knowledge and understanding.  I think that one of the reasons that God chooses to save us by faith in Christ and not by passing a theological or doctrinal test is that He knows not one of us would ever get any, let alone all, of it perfectly right.  And so, while some discussions of doctrine are at least important, and some are very interesting, our doctrinal certainties are not the basis of our salvation. 

I have no doubts in my mind about who Jesus is.  I have no doubts in my mind about what He can do (although since it’s far beyond our ability to imagine or comprehend, I don’t know ALL that He can do, so I just say, “He can do anything!”).  But every once in a while, something comes along that tends to knock the tracks off the tank of our life’s smooth progress and we begin to question, to ask (even if just for a fleeting moment), “Do I really believe this stuff?  Does it make any sense to believe it?”  Sometimes those thought-provoking questions come as the result of a cataclysm of worldly proportions (tsunamis, earthquakes, etc.), sometimes as a result of the fall of a man or woman of God who seems to have lost or abandoned all they ever held true for a momentary dalliance with sin.  Sometimes they come tip-toeing into my mind for no apparent reason at all. 

I am not the kind of person who is free from doubts.  I have had people tell me that they have never doubted for a moment the eternal existence of God.  Many times, such people also tell me that they’ve never felt the need to read any of the outstanding books that wrestle with the questions of God’s existence, evidences for it, for the resurrection, for the virgin birth, for the miracles, etc.  More power to them.  I’m glad that God has given them such a simple, yet strong and resolute faith.  Maybe someday I’ll reach a point where I never even have the thought or shadow of a doubt pass across my mind.  But for now – every once in a while, I wonder.  I ponder.  I question.  I think God can handle that just fine.  And, I feel stronger for having to wrestle with those things.  I think Thomas’ faith was stronger after he wrestled with his doubts about the resurrection and then had it confirmed as a result, don’t you?  Jesus said that Thomas was blessed because he believed – but those who have never seen and believed are at least equally blessed.  Jesus didn’t knock Thomas for the doubt.

So, what do you do when you are faced with doubts, when the moving picture of life beats you up one side and down another like an automated car wash? Here are some thoughts from my youngest son, Tim: 

“…I always recommend that in the midst of doubt, one continue to go to the places where one has met God before–it only makes sense.  But what’s most important for you to understand is that you do not need to “come back” to God.  God is not “back there” somewhere, as though you have left Him behind, and He is only in one place.  God has been right there with you all along, right beside your bed, with His hand on your shoulder as you wept.  We do not worship an abstract philosophical God.  We worship a God who cared about us in the midst of our suffering so much that He became human so that he could stand before suffering and death alongside us.  We worship a God who “so loved the world” that He gave Christ in order that whoever trusts in Him “should not perish but have everlasting life.”
Without realizing it, I can see that this is what I do when I question.  I got back to the place where I met God before – and find He’s still there.  The patriarchs made a habit of every so often revisiting places where they and their predecessors had encounters with God (Bethel, for instance).  There’s a lot to be said for that.  There is something about familiar surroundings that can help resolve the doubts.  And so I read the words and life of Jesus again, and there I’m struck down and reminded of what a great God He Is and why I believe in Him.  The answers that I found to the questions I’ve asked still hold water.  And I can’t avoid those answers – they are solid, like the Rock Himself. 

PRAYER:  Thank you for being patient with our shaky faith and deep-rooted questions, Lord.  Thank you for the story of Thomas and how you blessed him after his faith was confirmed.  Thank you for solid places upon which we can regain our footing when our faith falters.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2017 by Galen C. Dalrymple.  ><}}}”>

DayBreaks for 9/18/17 – Living With an Intruder

DayBreaks for 9/18/17 – Living With an Intruder

Normally, I try to hold DayBreaks to a spiritual bent.  While today’s message is about spiritual things, it’s also about physical things.  Dick Peterson and his wife, Elizabeth, have been married for 37 years and they live in South Carolina.  They are fellow Christians, and today I’m sharing some of Dick’s writings.  For a number of years now, they have been living with an intruder: Elizabeth has MS.  This is just a part of the article, but I found it to be profound and thought-provoking.  It has certainly caused me to do some soul searching of my own.  I think that you may benefit from the part of it that I’m including.  You seldom find such gut-wrenching and soul-searching honesty. – Galen

“We both pray for healing.  With our families and our church, we agonize before God for a return to the day when Elizabeth can offer an open handshake instead of a permanently clenched fist, or take a flight of stairs without thought.

“But if we only grieve the loss, we miss the gain—that what this disease does to us may also be done for us.  Even as the MS steals abilities from Elizabeth’s life, a healing grows almost undetected inside.  When we talk about this, Elizabeth wonders aloud, “Did it really take this to teach me that my soul is more important to God than my body?”

“And I ask, “Is this what Jesus meant when he taught his disciples to serve?  When he washed their feet, did he look 2,000 years into the future and see me washing my wife’s clothes and helping her onto her shower seat to bathe?  Did it really take this to teach me compassion?”

“Could it be that God in his wisdom and love gives Elizabeth and me this disease to heal us from the inside out in ways he considers far more important than how efficiently nerve signals travel from her brain to her muscles?

“Whom do I love more?

“God’s healing can be sneaky.  We pray that Elizabeth will resume her old life; he wants her to assume a new life.  We long for change on the outside; he desires change on the inside.  We pray for what we want; he answers with what he knows we need.

“Is it wrong to want a whole, functioning body?  Not at all.  But though we focus naturally on the flesh, this disease compels Elizabeth and me to turn our minds to the Spirit.  The apostle Paul said, “For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace” (Romans 8:6, NASB).  How unexpected is that?

“Truth be told, Elizabeth and I are still learning the realities of that revelation.  She tells me that when she had no choice but to submit to multiple sclerosis, she learned how to submit to her Lord.

“And he has made me question whom it is I love.

“When I pray for healing, is it for Elizabeth?  Or is it because her healing would make life so much easier for me?  I challenge, “Aren’t you the God who heals?  I love her and I want her well.”  But in the back of my mind I know I also want her healed for me.

“In response to my challenge, Jesus asks me as he asked Peter, “Do you love me more than these?”  I think, He wants me to love him more than my wife?  So I reply with Peter’s words, “Yes, Lord, You know that I love You.”

“Tend My lambs” (John 21:15), he tells me.

“I care for Elizabeth.  She’s his lamb.  Doesn’t that show I love him?

“But what is he really asking?  He’s asking if I love him more than these things I say I want, the things I’d have if this disease would just go away.  Now my answer’s not nearly as glib.  Can I actually love God more than my wife, but not more than these things I say I want?  They’re not bad things: a happy, healthy life together, a stroll on the beach without a wheelchair to become bogged down in the sand, getting to church on time because she can dress herself.

“The exposure shames me.  Do I love him more than these?” – Dick Peterson, Christianity Today/Marriage Partnership Magazine, 2007

PRAYER:  Father, I am humbled by this couple and the lessons you’ve been teaching them, and us through them.  These questions gnaw at my inner being.  I can’t answer them, and although I can’t find the answers in myself, Lord, You know…You alone know how I would react, and whether or not I love you “more than these.”  Hear our humble confession and help us to learn what love truly means and does.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

DayBreaks for 9/15/17 – Your Garden of Gethsemane

DayBreaks for 9/15/17: Your Garden of Gethsemane

From the DayBreaks archive, 9/2007:

Have you ever stopped to think how many decisions you will make in any given day?  We make decisions all the time without even thinking about it.  When we think of decisions, we tend to think of the weightier matters of life – and that’s a good thing.  Weighty matters deserve lots of thought as we try to decide what to do.  Hopefully, if you are a Christian, the very first thing you contemplate is whether or not the thing you are doing is in God’s will.  Regardless of whatever other factors you choose to apply to decisions you are facing and making, that one should be the most prominent. 

How do you know His will?  I’m not going to try to provide an exhaustive list here, but certainly His revealed and written Word is our primary tool for discerning his will.  If we cavalierly throw that out the window, we have no solid basis for a decision.  God expects us to follow the Word when we are facing decisions.  That means we have to accept it as truth, not try to explain it away or rationalize why it doesn’t apply to us.

One of my favorite stories about the life of Jesus has to do with his night in the garden of Gethsemane, my favorite place in the Holy Land.  I am moved by that story – even more, I think, that by the story of the crucifixion itself.  Physical pain is one thing, but spiritual pain can be far worse.  It was in the garden that we’re told Jesus was in agony – not on the cross.  (I’m not minimizing what happened upon those old timbers – I am sure there was incredible agony there, too.)  It was in the garden that he wrestled with both flesh and blood and principalities and powers in the heavenly places.  Why?  Because in the garden he was faced with the decision that would form the crux of his life.  It all culminated there, in the shadows of the olive trees, as the Son of God knelt down in the dirt and made the most crucial decision in all of history: would he do things his way, or God’s way?

There are times and decisions in our lives that are seemingly insignificant (although I’d like to argue that one with you – notice I said “seemingly insignificant”), but then there are moments that clearly rise into the stratosphere in terms of importance.  At those times we are faced with our own garden of Gethsemane.  We must decide whether our prayer will be, “Nevertheless, my will not Thine be done,” or if we’ll echo Jesus’ words: “Nevertheless, not my will but Thine be done.” 

You may be wrestling with a decision today that has life-altering potential, that once made may not be able to be undone ever.  Have you considered what God’s Word would say about it?  If you know how God feels about it, what will you do about it?  You may be facing your own garden of Gethsemane right now.  What will your prayer be?

PRAYER:  Spirit, help us not to fail the test in moments of crisis.  Strip away Satan’s deceptions from our eyes so that we can see what is at stake in the decisions of life!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2017 by Galen C. Dalrymple.  ><}}}”>

DayBreaks for 9/06/17 – Traveling the Circle

DayBreaks for 9/06/17: Traveling the Circle

From the DayBreaks archive, 9/2007:

From “The Scrivener”, a blog by Doug Dalrymple:

“I’m reminded of a passage in Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities. Sydney Carton, habitually unhappy, is pondering a great act, a beautiful act, which if carried out will certainly cost him everything.  Setting aside his customary bitter tone, Sydney suddenly asks the elderly Jarvis Lorry, ‘Does your childhood seem far off?  Do the days when you sat at your mother’s knee seem days of very long ago?’  Venerable and wizened, and having spent his days in simple, loving dedication to others, the octogenarian Lorry replies:

‘Twenty years back, yes; at this time in my life, no.  For, as I draw closer and closer to the end, I travel in the circle, nearer and nearer to the beginning.  It seems to be one of the kind smoothings and preparings of the way.  My heart is touched now by many remembrances that had long fallen asleep, of my pretty young mother (and I so old!), and by many associations of the days when what we call the World was not so real with me, and my faults were not confirmed in me.’

“I recently asked my father a similar question: Whether or not, as he’s grown older, his memories of childhood seem to fade or grow more vivid? He replied, ‘a little of both.’  By Jarvis Lorry’s measure this suggests my father has yet to complete his circuit and that my children and I will enjoy the blessing of his company here below for years to come.  I do pray, however, that aging becomes for me (and for each of us) less a process of alienation from the child I once was, and more a process of recovery.  God willing that I should grow old and gray, I hope some day to gaze into the mirror and through the fog of outward appearances to apprehend the faint outlines of that seven-year-old boy, fully inhabiting the old man’s frame, secretly supplying him with joy and wonder and curiosity in the world, in his Maker, and especially in those given to him to love.”

Galen’s Thoughts:

I’ve mused on this kind of topic before, but my son has a wonderful way with words that express things far better than I can.  I like the idea of traveling in the circle – and that as we get nearer and nearer to the end, we are actually getting nearer and nearer to the beginning.  And is it not so?  We came from God, and we shall return to Him.  While that is a comfort to those who have come to know Him and His Son, it is also a very sobering reminder.  We tend to think that as we age we are further and further removed from our origin.  But such is not the case.  It is precisely at the midway point in our lives (whatever that may be for a given individual) that we are the farthest from the origin.  As we get older, the period of our alienation here upon earth grows shorter and short and the time of our arrival on eternity’s doorstep grows ever shorter and nearer.  And in eternity dwells the One who is our Origin, our Creator, our God and our Father. 

When my younger son (Tim, not Doug) was a competitive gymnast, at the end of a day he’d be somewhat exhausted – sometimes very exhausted.  My advice to him was always the same (and I’m sure he got tired of hearing it): “Finish well.”  What kind of horrible tragedy will it be for us to get so close to the finish line, to completing the circle and returning to our Maker, if we lose our heart for Him and His Word toward the end?  If we suddenly stop and turn away from the truth He taught us throughout the first part of our journey around the circle?  I’ve been through my mid-life crisis, and I’m here to tell you that it was no fun.  I came close to chucking it all out the window a number of years ago.  But I think one thing, more than any other, made me hold on: my life would have been a waste and my testimony a sham if I turned away. 

I want to finish well.  I want to complete the circle in such a way that when I put my foot on God’s doorstep, He’ll open the door and say, “Well done, good and faithful servant…enter into the joy of your Lord!”  I pray you will finish well, too.

PRAYER: Oh, Lord.  Help us not to grow weary or to lose sight of the end.  May we be ever more mindful each and every passing moment that we are drawing close to the completion of this life’s journey and that when we pass from this world, we will stand before You.  May we hear Your voice filled with pleasure when we awake from our sleep!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2017 by Galen C. Dalrymple.  ><}}}”>