DayBreaks for 8/28/19 – Like Being Buried Alive

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DayBreaks for 08/28/19: Like Being Buried Alive

NOTE: Galen is on vacation for the next couple weeks and may not respond to any comments until he returns on 9/9/19.

From the DayBreaks archive, August 2009:

Of all my nightmares, perhaps none is as terrifying to me as being buried alive.  That, and falling from a great height are the stuff of sleeplessness for me.  I suspect that many are those who share my fears on both scores.  You could just as easily take the verse that says, “It is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of the Living God” and shorten them for me to this: “It is a terrible thing to fall!”  Heights, and being buried alive, give me the heebie-jeebies!

I found Mike Mason’s insight in The Gospel According to Job very interesting as he described being a Christian this way: “The lot of God’s children on this earth is something like being buried alive.  First we are raised with Christ and made into entirely new creatures, pure and blameless, washed and redeemed and lifted up to Heaven.  All of this happens by faith – which is to say, not in some imaginary way, but in a way more gloriously real than this present world can bear to behold.  Yet no sooner has this spiritual transaction taken place, no sooner have we been veritably seated with Christ in the heavenly realms, than immediately we are sent down to earth again , just as Jesus was, and entrusted with a mission: As the Father sent me, so I am sending you (Jn. 20:21).  The moment we are born again we are sent right back into the world of sin and death.  In fact, we are set back down into exactly the same circumstances in which we found ourselves before we were saved, and there we are told to take up the work of the Son of God in that situation, however painful it might be.  And this is a lot we are to accept with increasing graciousness.”

Many find the Christian life a disappointment.  Yes, at the moment of conversion, there is a freeing of the soul from the chains of the grave and death.  Yes, there is joy at that moment.  But if the motive for becoming a Christian is to simply escape the tough things of this world, well, we’ll be sadly mistaken.  After becoming a Christian, for however many years we sojourn here as God’s kids, it is like being buried alive.  We know that somewhere “out there” is light, fresh air, beauty – but in the meantime we may only be able to see darkness and the air is foul and filled with a stench that comes from a rotting humanity still embroiled in sin.  And all the while, the devil sits and grins.  He grins when we despair that this Christian life doesn’t bring immediate and lasting release from struggles – and that we get discouraged. 

I’m not able to choose the circumstances in life where God has placed me to do His work.  That’s His prerogative as God to choose those things for me.  But I can and do have a responsibility for how I react to those circumstances.  Yes, remaining in this world is a bit like being buried alive – but I don’t have to worry.  The day is coming when all who are in the grave will hear His voice…and His children will rise.  And the being buried alive will be over – and it will have seemed as nothing compared to even the first nanosecond spent in His literal Presence!

PRAYER:  Give us the grace to pass the years of our wandering with grace as we endure a temporary world with temporary troubles!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

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DayBreaks for 8/6/10 – Pain Relief

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DayBreaks for 08/06/19: Pain Relief

From the DayBreaks archive, July 2019:

Job is such a fascinating study of faith under pressure.  He didn’t always shine brightly throughout the test and perhaps that is why reading his story is so instructive and educational for us today.  Once, in this country, the pressure was on those who had no faith.  They were considered the outcasts, pagan, headed for a horrible end unless they came to Christ.  Today, those tables have largely been turned in our country and it is people of faith who find increasing pressure to abandon faith and doctrine in favor of political correctness and “tolerance.” 

We know that faith is necessary if we are to please God (Heb. 11:6).  But faith discovers what it is really made of in times of trouble, not when everything is peachy.  No one needs faith when things are going well – but turn up the burners and it is quickly seen whether faith goes up in a flash of fire and smoke, or whether it just gets hotter and more powerful. 

It is easy to say that we “know God.”  We even use the phrase, “I have come to know Him” as a statement that we’ve become Christians.  Mike Mason puts a bit of a different spin on what faith really is when he wrote in The Gospel According to Job: “But as we progress in faith we go through times when we are less and less certain that we really know Him at all, and yet more certain than ever that He knows us.”  In Genesis, it was the Egyptian run-away (from Abraham and Sarah), Hagar, who made this incredible statement as she and her son sat dying in the desert: You are the God who sees me. (Gen. 16:13)

Hagar’s statement is perhaps really the essence of faith.  As Mason put it: “Real faith is not so much seeing God, as knowing that one is seen.  Only this kind of faith is resilient enough to embrace ‘trouble from God.’”

When one is hurting as Job was hurting, would it have done him much good to “see God”?  I suspect that it was of much more comfort to Job to know that God saw him in his own suffering, sitting among the dust and ashes, tormented by pain and grief.  It was that kind of faith that allowed Job to say Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?  (Job 2:20)

In pain, our greatest comfort often doesn’t come through morphine or vicodin, but through not being alone.

PRAYER:  How grateful we are today, Lord, that you see each of us exactly where we are, with the pain and suffering that we all experience from time to time.  Thank you for your promises that we will never find ourselves alone as long as heaven endures!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

DayBreaks for 8/05/19 – God and Circumstances

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DayBreaks for 08/05/19: God and Circumstances

From the DayBreaks archive, July 2019:

I can’t help but think of Joseph when I think of circumstances.  It wasn’t his fault his father favored him.  It wasn’t his fault his father made him a special coat.  It wasn’t his fault God sent him the dreams that seemed to be the icing on the cake as far as his brothers’ hatred of him was concerned.  It wasn’t his fault he was thrown into the pit.  It wasn’t his fault the Midianite traders came and bought him.  It wasn’t his fault he got bounced out of Potiphar’s house.  It wasn’t his fault he was in jail and overlooked and forgotten.  It wasn’t his fault the plagues descended on Egypt.  None of those things were his fault, but they were all part of the circumstances of his life.

I know plenty of people who get frustrated with the circumstances in which they find themselves, and from time to time, I am among their number.  And like many of my Christian friends who find themselves in unpleasant circumstances, I will pray and ask God to change the situation.  You know what?  As far as I can tell (and my perception is as limited as yours), God seldom seems to change those circumstances.  Need some money to pay bills?  Pray about it…and see if a check shows up in the mail.  My experience has been that it seldom happens.  Need a change in health?  Pray about it.  It may or may not come to pass.  Praying for someone to continue living instead of dying?  If we all prayed about that until we were blue in the face, eventually that person will die – no matter how hard we might have prayed in the intervening time period. 

I am reminded of another who prayed for a change of circumstances.  He knelt down in a garden and pleaded with God to change the circumstances in which he found himself.  And, either God didn’t answer, or the Bible doesn’t record it.  Or, perhaps, there is a third option: God did answer with a “No” and Jesus was prepared to accept that answer. 

I fear that all too often I’m not prepared to accept God’s “no” to my request to change circumstances.  The result in Joseph’s life was the saving of the promised people – the very preservation of their lives through the famine.  It was also to build character in Joseph’s life.  Moses was no different – he often complained to God about the circumstances in which he found himself along with the rest of Israel.  He grew as a result. 

Why should we be prepared to accept God’s “no” when we request a change in circumstances in our lives?  Because God has a plan.  He always has a purpose.  We seldom see it – not even in hindsight – but if we are to trust God with our souls should we not also trust Him with what He is doing in our earthly lives? 

I am not denying the power of prayer – not for one bit.  Just wrestling with the all-too-frequent “no’s” and why they come.  There is a purpose.  Was there a purpose in God’s denying His own Son’s request from the dirt of Gethsemane?  Most certainly!  And there is a purpose for the times God refuses to change my circumstances, too.  If God didn’t change Jesus’ circumstances, He may choose in His divine wisdom not to change mine, either.  Better I should learn my lessons quickly!

Now I want you to know, brethren, that my circumstances have turned out for the greater progress of the gospel, so that my imprisonment in the cause of Christ has become well known throughout the whole praetorian guard and to everyone else, and that most of the brethren, trusting in the Lord because of my imprisonment, have far more courage to speak the word of God without fear.  – Philippians 1:12-14 (NASB)

PRAYER:  I’m sorry, Lord, for the times I have grown frustrated and angry with You for not changing my circumstances.  Please, use the circumstances in my life to make me more like Jesus so that the gospel can move forward and progress.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

DayBreaks for 7/12/19 – The Miracle on a Stick

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DayBreaks for 07/12/19: The Miracle on a Stick

From the DayBreaks archives, July 2009:

They traveled from Mount Hor along the route to the Red Sea, to go around Edom. But the people grew impatient on the way; they spoke against God and against Moses, and said, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the desert? There is no bread! There is no water! And we detest this miserable food!” Then the LORD sent venomous snakes among them; they bit the people and many Israelites died. The people came to Moses and said, “We sinned when we spoke against the LORD and against you. Pray that the LORD will take the snakes away from us.” So Moses prayed for the people. The LORD said to Moses, “Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live.” So Moses made a bronze snake and put it up on a pole. Then when anyone was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake, he lived. – Numbers 21:4-9 (NIV)

I was recently reading Athol Dickson’s The Gospel According to Moses when I discovered new insights into the passage from Numbers 21, above.  Let me share them with you:

FIRST: Remember Israel’s recent history.  They’d been freed from Egypt, only to find themselves apparently left alone as Moses had been up on the mountain for so long the people felt that he was most certainly dead.  Of course, he wasn’t, but they had no way of knowing that.  And so they asked Aaron to make a golden calf so that they could worship it and perhaps receive some help and direction from the “god”.  While this might seem very strange for us, remember that they’d been in Egyptian slavery for 400 years and had become intimately acquainted with the religious worship of Egyptian gods, which included various bulls, frogs, falcons and other animals.  So they clearly thought this golden god could help them.  The result of that episode was that thousands of Israelites died because they’d formed and worshipped a golden calf.  Now, however, they are in trouble again…whining and angering Moses and God.  So, God sent snakes among them and many died and were dying.  God tells Moses, incredulously, to make an image of bronze and put it up where everyone could see it and that if they look at it they will live!  Do you see the irony?  The last time they’d formed an image to worship it, many died as a result.  Now, God says to make an image and it will result in their being saved!  This must have been a real test of obedience for the Israelites: “Hey, Shlomoe, remember what happened the LAST time we made an image of an animal?  Do you think Moses heard God correctly about this bronze serpent thing?”  It required obedience even when the thing commanded not only made no sense, but when there was precedent point 180 degrees the opposite direction!

SECOND: Athol Dickson did a word study on the verses about the bronze serpent, and he made an amazing discovery.  The Hebrew word, nes, which is translated as the “pole” upon which the bronze serpent is mounted, is not a simple word to translate.  In other passages, the word is translated as “example” or “banner.”  In Isaiah 33:23, it is translated “sail”, but another word entirely is used to describe the mast or pole on which the sail is hung.  In fact, nowhere else in Scripture is the word nes translated as “pole” – it is always translated as the object that is lifted up on the pole.  Only here, is the bronze serpent mounted on the “pole” (nes).  So, to use the way the word is normally translated, we’d find a symbol (the bronze serpent) hung upon an example (the nes, or pole).  It seems God deliberately chose this word to hint that it really wasn’t the serpent that was to give them deliverance, but the One behind the serpent.  But, that’s not the most amazing thing.  The most amazing thing is that the word nes has yet another meaning: “miracle.”  The story of the bronze serpent is both an example and a miracle, pointing to the real miracle: the miracle of a God dying on another pole in Roman occupied Jerusalem.  It is as if God is saying, “When the people look upon what hangs on the pole – the miracle – they will be saved.”  Jesus was that miracle.  It was a miracle that a God could die at all.  It was a miracle that our sins could be taken away.  It was a miracle that God would do such a thing for nothing more than a collection of atoms and chemicals known as a human being.  Yet He did all those things.

When you look upon the miracle on the pole, you shall be saved!

PRAYER: Open our eyes to the miracle that is Jesus hanging on a pole for us!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

DayBreaks for 7/4/19 – The Bottom Line on Salvation

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DayBreaks for 7/4/19: The Bottom Line on Salvation

From the DayBreaks archives, July 2009:

There have been many discussions and disagreements throughout church history about salvation.  I’ve even argued with myself about it from time to time throughout my life.  There is just something about us humans that likes to make things tougher than they really are.  I don’t know why that is so, but perhaps it is because we all want to be able to take some amount of credit for a positive outcome.  We like to appear heroic to ourselves and to others, and that means we must make some sort of superhuman effort to achieve something.  Think about it: who’s more heroic in your eyes – someone who has climbed Everest or someone who has hiked up a 3,000-foot peak?  Is the astronaut more heroic than the pilot of a Piper Cub?  Why?  Because they’ve worked long and hard and done something that seemingly no one else (or few others) have achieved. 

And so when it comes to salvation, we want to be at least a bit heroic – or we want to feel that way.  So, we make it harder than it is. 

A DayBreaks reader recently sent me the quote below from Kirk Cameron, the actor who is now doing lots of Christian work and who is a believer.  Here’s what Kirk had to say: “I used to be confused about how I was “saved”.  Was I saved by a belief I mustered up within my own heart, or was I saved by something God did in the purpose of His own heart?  Spurgeon shed more light on this crucial subject of who does the saving, when he said, “…even our repentance needs to be repented of.”  The point is that no earthly faith, repentance, good works, or belief that I have ever mustered from what exists in my own natural heart has ever saved me.  The Bible is clear: my faith doesn’t save me, Jesus does (Ephesians 2:8-9).  A believer’s faith in Jesus is a gift from God.  My faith is the connecting channel through which God saved me by His own love and grace.  So if you ever wonder if “your faith has saved you,” you may find this question helpful: “Is my trust in my own ability to hold on to Jesus, or is my trust in Jesus’ ability to hold on to me?”  If you have received that humble, repentant faith that causes you to love God and trust in Jesus and Lord and Savior, then I would be very confident in echoing Jesus’ words, “Your faith has saved you.” –  Kirk Cameron

To all who say, “I hope I have enough faith so I can be saved,” I think we must reply, “Rubbish.  It isn’t your faith that saves you – it is Jesus that saves you.  Now, do you have faith in that?”

PRAYER: For the wonder of salvation this day, we praise You!  For the blessings of the past, we praise You!  For the eternity that awaits because of Your faithfulness, we praise You, o Great God!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

DayBreaks for 6/18/19 – Practical Atheism

 

DayBreaks for 06/18/09: Practical Atheism

From the DayBreaks archives, June 2009:

George Barna is a Christian “poll-taker” who researches attitudes of and about Christians and Christianity.  His findings are often very insightful – and often downright frightening.

In a recent article he was being interviewed about the 7 “faith tribes” in America (which includes all the major world religions), Barna noted that 66% of Americans are what he called, “casual Christians” and 12% were “captive Christians.”  Here’s how he described “casual Christians” and their brand of Christianity: “Casual Christianity is faith in moderation. It allows them to feel religious without having to prioritize their faith. Christianity is a low-risk, predictable proposition for this tribe, providing a faith perspective that is not demanding. A Casual Christian can be all the things that they esteem: a nice human being, a family person, religious, an exemplary citizen, a reliable employee – and never have to publicly defend or represent difficult moral or social positions or even lose much sleep over their private choices as long as they mean well and generally do their best. From their perspective, their brand of faith practice is genuine, realistic and practical. To them, Casual Christianity is the best of all worlds; it encourages them to be a better person than if they had been irreligious, yet it is not a faith into which they feel compelled to heavily invest themselves.”  The key attraction to be a casual Christian: “The comfort that this approach provides. It offers them life insights if they choose to accept them, gives them a community of relationships if they desire such, fulfills their inner need to have some type of connection with a deity, and provides the image of being a decent, faith-friendly person. Because Casuals do not view matters of faith as central to one’s purpose or success in life, this brand of Christianity supplies the multi-faceted levels of satisfaction and assurance that they desire.”

Captive Christians, on the other hand, are characterized as follows: “Captive Christians are focused on upholding the absolute moral and spiritual truths they glean from the Bible…The lives of Captive Christians are defined by their faith; their worldview is built around their core spiritual beliefs and resultant values. Casual Christians are defined by the desire to please God, family, and other people while extracting as much enjoyment and comfort from the world as possible. The big difference between these two tribes is how they define a successful life. For Captives, success is obedience to God, as demonstrated by consistently serving Christ and carrying out His commands and principles. For Casuals, success is balancing everything just right so that they are able to maximize their opportunities and joys in life without undermining their perceived relationship with God and others. Stated differently, Casuals are about moderation in all things while Captives are about extreme devotion to their God regardless of the worldly consequences.”

Tony Woodlief, writing in the April 28 issue of WORLD in an article titled “Practical Atheism”, was considering the same topic when he wrote: ‘“Hypocrisy in one age,’” warned Joseph Addision, ‘“is generally succeeded by Atheism in another.’”  Consider this in light of charges that America is becoming, according to a Trinity College survey, less Christian.  It’s not that Americans are converting to other religions, it’s that they are more willing to avow nothing.”  He continued: “What we are in danger of – in our country, in our churches, in ourselves – is practical atheism.  This is not considered embrace of godlessness.  It is instead the slow slide into lives where God is irrelevant…Practical atheism isn’t limited to people who abandon church; it extends to all we who drift from Christ, even as we dutifully attend Sunday services.  It’s in the brief morning prayer that eventually becomes no prayer at all.  It’s in the way we emulate men rather than the God-man.  It’s in the way we brood, as if the things that vex us don’t pass through the hands of a loving God.”

‘Nuff said.  Let us beware, however, of the tendency to bemoan practical atheism and jumping to the conclusion that we are not part of that 66% of “casual Christians”.  Let us invite the Spirit to search our hearts and determine if we uphold Biblical truth, if our worldviews are built around core spiritual beliefs and resultant values, if we define a successful life as an obedient one, or just a comfortable one that allows us to wear a label without having to pay for it. 

Prayer: Search our hearts, O God, and reveal to us the depth of our own depravity, revealing to us the shortcomings in our own practice of faith.  May we consider deeply the questions of faith and obedience and the consequences of practical atheism in our own lives.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

DayBreaks for 6/04/19 – In the Beginning

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DayBreaks for 6/04/19: In the Beginning

From the DayBreaks archive, May 2009:

Do you know which book of the Bible is widely considered to be the oldest?  You might be tempted to think it is Genesis, because it deals with beginnings…and next to John chapter 1, it takes us back to the oldest events that ever took place in the time and space of this world.  But that doesn’t mean it was the first of the books which was written.  Moses wrote Genesis, and Moses lived somewhere in the vicinity of 1400 B.C. 

In answer to my earlier question, most scholars (I do not count myself as such, so I’ll take their word for it!) believe that the book of Job is the oldest book we have in Scripture.  No one really knows for sure how old the book is, or when or where Job lived, although guesses on all three accounts have been ventured.  But there is generally unanimous agreement – there is no older book in Scripture. 

What’s the big deal about that?  In and of itself, nothing.  But when one considers the subject matter of the book, it becomes rich with meaning.  In The Gospel According to Job, Mike Mason noted: “It is fascinating to think that as we open this text we may be faced with the earliest of all written accounts of a human being’s relationship with Yahweh, the one true God.”  I would hasten to add to Mason’s comment by noting that it is intriguing that it deals with pain and suffering the believer faces in his/her relationship with God. 

In the beginning (in the sense of being the oldest book in Scripture), we see a man of like passions unto us – and we can immediately identify with him.  He’s a man who works, has a family, a home, friends – and who faces struggles and disasters on a scale that perhaps (hopefully) none of us will ever experience.  We get to watch this ancient saint wrestle with his faith, his friend’s understandings of God and causation, and even with God Himself. 

Mason also noted: “Many reject Jesus, but no one rejects Job.  Rather, the world respects Job, and not with the grudging respect accorded Christ, but with a deep affinity untinged by reserve or fear.  In the eyes of the world Job is less a saint than a comrade in arms.”

I accept Jesus as the Lord, but I struggle to understand him.  It is, in some ways, difficult to identify closely with a sinless God in human skin.  But Job?  Now that’s another story…I can identify with him much more easily.

What should we make of all this?  For me, it says that I need to live my life as an open book, revealing myself not as a prince on a white horse, but as a battered and bruised human.  When I do that, I can point others to God because they will first of all be able to identify with me.  If we as Christians portray ourselves as “holier than thou” and better than others, will people identify with us?  No.  They will resent us.  This is perhaps the greatest danger of hypocrisy – that others won’t be able to identify with us, and through hearing about what Jesus has done to remove our sin and guilt (though we are still masters at sinning!), they won’t give us the time of day. 

So the earliest book deals with pain and suffering and relationship to God.  How fascinating that the newest book in Scripture (Revelation) deals with the removal of all that suffering – but with an even deeper relationship to God, all accomplished through the blood of Jesus!

Prayer: While we thank You for Jesus and what You have revealed of Yourself through Him, I also thank You for stories of sinners like me, who find even in the midst of the greatest struggles in life, that a relationship with You is not only possible, but is the only thing that survives in the end.  Help us be open books to those around us, that people may read of Jesus in our lives and deeds.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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