DayBreaks for 8/09/18 – The Confession Hotline

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DayBreaks for 8/09/18: The Confession Hotline

From the DayBreaks archive, August 2008:

Some time back, Time magazine carried a story about a new phone service that was being offered.  It was an “apology sound off line,” and people could call up at any hour of the day or night in order to get things off their chest.  The line, at the time, would receive up to 200 phone calls per day.

They also created a second number, which charged a higher price for their services, that people could call and pay to have someone listen to their confessions.  That line received as many as 10,000 calls per day.

The first line makes sense to me in a way because it’s better to vent into a telephone mouthpiece than to become violent or abusive towards someone who is present.  The second service – the confession hotline – was more intriguing.

Why would someone call a confession hot line and pay to have someone hear them confess the deepest and darkest secrets in their lives?  I am not sure, but I think it probably has something to do with the human heart and how hard it is for the heart to bear up indefinitely under the weight of our hidden sin and shame. 

But there is another reason that has been suggested, too: it is the one place where people could turn and know that they go to vent out their guilt and be guaranteed that no one would judge them for their evil.  There seems to be some craving in us and at some level, we know the truth does, indeed, set us free.

There was something about Jesus that seems to have made him a safe person so it was easy to confess to him.  Why is it not that way with other people?  Probably there is a plethora of things that enter into an answer for that question: we don’t trust them to keep it a secret, we are too ashamed of what we’ve done to have another human know, we’re afraid that they will think less of us, or that they’ll react with utter disgust and disdain – and that when we see them again, we’ll always have those dirty feelings hanging over our head.  No one wants to be in the presence of those who think you’re dirt or scum.

That’s a shame.  Jesus doesn’t feel that way about us when we confess to him.  Look at how he dealt with all those in Scripture who confessed their shame and sin – not one went away feeling like dirt.  Not one seems to have departed concerned that Jesus somehow thought less of them and would always think less of them.  Not one seems to have been of the opinion that Jesus wouldn’t ever want anything to do with them again.  And if anyone was ever in a position to judge them, it was the Son of God.

When will we learn that confession is important and that when someone confesses to us, it’s not our job to judge them or set them straight?  They’re already aware it’s wrong or they wouldn’t be confessing to start with.  They already feel the shame – they are confessing to be set free from that pit.  Let’s not throw dirt on top of them as they’re trying to dig out.

Jesus offers us the greatest confessional hotline of all time.  Let’s use it more often!  It’s free!

PRAYER: Jesus, help us to become like you so that when others confess to us, we are tender, gentle and restorative rather than judgmental and condemning!  We confess to you now that we are sinners – and we welcome your promised forgiveness!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

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DayBreaks for 7/26/18 – What a Mystery!

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DayBreaks for 7/26/18: What a Mystery!

NOTE: Galen is on vacation this week and may be unable to respond to email.

From the DayBreaks archive, July 2008:

Hebrews 13:5 (NIV) – Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.

Immanuel = God with us.

John 14:16 (KJV) – And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever…

In Revelation 4:8, we have a description of the worship of the angels: Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God the Almighty, who was and is and is to come.

In his excellent little book, God in the Flesh, Don Everts has focused on the “black” letters of the gospel story – not the red letters that were the words of Jesus, but the black letters that form the screenplay and commentary that captures the details that took place around Jesus, and the things that others said about him.  At one point, in a chapter on worship and how people reacted to Jesus (those of clean hearts universally worshiped him!), Everts asks a very serious and probing question: “Is it really Yahweh who lives inside me?  I mean, really.  The Spirit of Jesus that has made a home within me – is it the real presence of fiery, jealous, powerful, divine Yahweh?  Or is it a cute, lesser, diminished part of the Trinity?”

At one level, theologically and intellectually we have a very quick answer to that question: yes, it is Yahweh who lives within us.  And yet…and yet…have we really grasped that the One who is worshipped by untold myriads of angels and the four living creatures day and night, who sing without ceasing to the worship and glory and praise of Yahweh – have we grasped that this is the One who lives in me?  In you?  How can it possibly be????  “That’s a mystery,” wrote Everts.

What difference would there be in how we live if we were able to really grasp Who it is that lives inside us?  What if we really did die to ourselves so that Jesus could live HIS life through us?

PRAYER:  We can scarcely believe your promises to us, to never leave us, to abide in us.  These are great promises and we feel and act weak and defeated at the first hint of temptation.  May we become possessed by the knowledge of your life within us, empowering us, leading and directing us, and giving us victory over sin.  May we get ourselves out of the way by dying to ourselves so that You may live Your perfect life through us.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

DayBreaks for 3/22/18 – There Was No One There

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DayBreaks for 3/22/18: There Was No One There

From the DayBreaks archive, March 2008:

Have you ever felt absolutely and totally alone?  I am not the kind of person who minds being alone – in fact, I rather enjoy it…most of the time.  But when I worked in high tech, I traveled a lot and there were many times when I’d go to a strange city (or even a strange country) and loneliness would settle over my soul like a shroud.  There are many places where loneliness raises its head and comes to sit next to you.  Once it arrives, it tends to stay.

Some of the loneliest places I’ve been read like a list of places most folks would like to visit: Ireland, Sao Paulo, London, and in America, Mississippi and Alabama.  I don’t know why I felt so alone here in the US, but when you’re in a foreign country (even one like Ireland or England that speaks my native tongue) you can feel desperately alone.  Without my family, my wife, my dogs or friends, loneliness haunts like a spectre.  The more foreign, the greater the haunting.

The story of Gethsemane is one of the most painful stories for me to read in the entire collection of Scripture, and having been there, is even more painful to me.  It appears to be the time of Jesus’ greatest loneliness, with perhaps the exception of the cry of dereliction from the cross itself.  Anticipation of agony is oft times worse than the pain we anticipate.  I wonder if it was that way for Jesus.

In his novel, More Like Not Running Away, Paul Shepherd wrote: “I’d always known, in one place in my throat, how Jesus must have cried in the garden—crying not to die, because there was no fear of death, and not to leave his friends, because he walked alone, and not to suffer, because the blood and bruises and thorns were part of his perfection—but crying because he could not find his Father’s face, because when he would suffer all that he could bear, the pain of every person, living and dead, in that dark moment, there was really nobody there.”

Jesus truly had no peers to swap celestial stories with.  He had no one on the planet who understood what he faced just in a matter of hours.  There was no one else who truly understood the weight of the world’s sin as it came and settled on him like a hot blanket on that Palestinian night.  If ever anyone was in a foreign land, it was Jesus.  If ever anyone found “there was really no one there,” surely it was He.  “We esteemed him smitten by God…” 

For all who have ever felt loneliness, for all who have ever felt that there was “no one there,” take heart in knowing that Jesus has been to that desolate place before you.  And no matter how alone he felt at the moment he cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”, he soon proclaimed with great confidence: “Into Your hands I commit my spirit!”  In the midst of his massively heavy aloneness, He still had confidence in the Father He knew and loved, and was supremely confident that the Father saw and loved Him and would not ultimately let His Holy One be abandoned. 

Dare we hope for the same assurance?  Absolutely, for His Father is our Father and is unchanging.

PRAYER: Fill our loneliness with the confidence of Jesus that we may, in childlike trust and faith, abandon ourselves into Your hands.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

DayBreaks for 10/16/17 – Forgiving Enemies Is Easy

DayBreaks for 10/16/17: Forgiving Enemies Is Easy

One of the things I like best about the New Testament is that it is so practical. It must have been the fact that Jesus had human beings called disciples always with him that forced him to speak in such everyday terms about everyday problems. Sometimes Christians disagree in the congregation of believers. Sometimes they quarrel. Sometimes they hold grudges against each other. The Scripture for today says that we must never tolerate any situation in which there is a breach of personal relationship between us and another member of the Christian community.

In the eighteenth chapter of Matthew, Jesus admits that disciples are going to have conflicts; but they are to resolve them.

It is very true today that the behavior of us church members on this very issue makes Christianity to the outside world either repulsive or attractive.

It isn’t a matter that Christians are perfect and will not have conflicts. There will always be quarrels, differences of opinion on how and who, disappointments with preachers and councils, hurt feelings, bent pride, loss of face, and lots of mistakes. It’s the idea that Christians can resolve these conflicts as no other fellowship can, that Jesus puts before us today.

Comus, a Duke of Florence, had a saying that indicated the limitations of his religion: “You shall read that we are commanded to forgive our enemies, but you never read that we are commanded to forgive our friends.” Isn’t that interesting? I think that sometimes it is harder to forgive our friends than it is our enemies because we expect better treatment from our friends to start with. Enemies we expect to take advantage and betray us, but not our friends. So it is doubly hard to forgive them – including our brothers and sisters in Christ.

We hear a lot from the pulpit talking about how Christians are admonished by Jesus Christ to love their enemies and to pray for their enemies. When in actuality, right there in the pew side by side are Christians who hold grudges, hang on to petty hurts, refuse to forgive and love each other within the fellowship. And when they do this, church and Christianity and the whole practice of religion for them is not the joyful experience it ought to be. They miss a large dimension of belonging to God’s family.

Have you forgiven your friends, your brothers and sisters? I don’t believe that the excuse, “You never said we had to forgive our friends!” will hold water, do you?

PRAYER: Jesus, help us to have the heart that you have shown for all mankind, and be quick and ready to forgive – enemies and friends alike, so we can be like you! In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2017 by Galen C. Dalrymple.

DayBreaks for 10/6/17 – Come Sit With Me

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DayBreaks for 10/06/17: Come Sit With Me

From PreachingToday.com:

In his book The Pressure’s Off, psychologist Larry Crabb uses a story from his childhood to illustrate our need to delight in God through adversity:

“One Saturday afternoon, I decided I was a big boy and could use the bathroom without anyone’s help.  So I climbed the stairs, closed and locked the door behind me, and for the next few minutes felt very self-sufficient.  Then it was time to leave.  I couldn’t unlock the door.  I tried with every ounce of my three-year-old strength, but I couldn’t do it.  I panicked.  I felt again like a very little boy as the thought went through my head, “I might spend the rest of my life in this bathroom.”

“My parents—and likely the neighbors—heard my desperate scream.

“Are you okay?”  Mother shouted through the door she couldn’t open from the outside.  “Did you fall?  Have you hit your head?”

“I can’t unlock the door!”  I yelled.  “Get me out of here!”

“I wasn’t aware of it right then, but Dad raced down the stairs, ran to the garage to find the ladder, hauled it off the hooks, and leaned it against the side of the house just beneath the bedroom window.  With adult strength, he pried it open, then climbed into my prison, walked past me, and with that same strength, turned the lock and opened the door.

“Thanks, Dad,” I said—and ran out to play.

“That’s how I thought the Christian life was supposed to work.  When I get stuck in a tight place, I should do all I can to free myself.  When I can’t, I should pray.  Then God shows up. He hears my cry—”Get me out of here! I want to play!”—and unlocks the door to the blessings I desire.

“Sometimes he does.  But now, no longer three years old and approaching sixty, I’m realizing the Christian life doesn’t work that way.  And I wonder, are any of us content with God? Do we even like him when he doesn’t open the door we most want opened—when a marriage doesn’t heal, when rebellious kids still rebel, when friends betray, when financial reverses threaten our comfortable way of life, when the prospect of terrorism looms, when health worsens despite much prayer, when loneliness intensifies and depression deepens, when ministries die?

“God has climbed through the small window into my dark room. But he doesn’t walk by me to turn the lock that I couldn’t budge.  Instead, he sits down on the bathroom floor and says, “Come sit with me!”  He seems to think that climbing into the room to be with me matters more than letting me out to play.”

Galen’s Thoughts: I don’t know about you, but I know that I need to spend more time sitting on the floor next to God and listening to Him, letting Him delight me with His Presence.  That last thing I need to do is run out and play some more.  Time grows short – and the mind turns from games to more important matters.  If you have been praying for God to do something for you and He hasn’t, in His wisdom, done it…try sitting on the floor with Him for a while.  I don’t think we’ll regret it if we do.

PRAYER:  Lord, help us to slow down and stop scurrying all over in a frantic search for entertainment.  Help us to see when You’re trying to tell us to just sit quietly with You.  Give us the patience to stop running away from You to play all of the time!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2017 by Galen C. Dalrymple.

DayBreaks for 8/11/17 – In Union With Christ

DayBreaks for 8/11/17: In Union With Christ

From the DayBreaks archive, 8/9/2007:

The following excerpts were from an Orthodox priest, Stephen Freeman.  I hope they spur your thinking…

“True Christianity is a life lived in union with Christ and all that we do that has value is what we do in union with Him.

It is in reflecting on this that I ponder many conversations I hear (or overhear).  Many times I hear myself or others expressing dismay or anxiety over a situation, or plotting to achieve one goal or another. The frightening dynamic in many of these conversations – let alone the actions that flow from them – is the dynamic of secularism.  We live as though there were no God, or as if the God Who Exists is not able to act within our world.  Having decided what is in God’s best interest, or the interest of the faith, we design our efforts (perhaps even thinking to please Him).

“But God does not seek to be pleased by actions taken in separation from Him.  It is union with God that saves us (and this alone).  Neither can we undertake any activity that has a saving character except that activity be taken in union with Christ.

“Why should we love our enemies and pray for them?  Because there is little else you can do for them that is in union with Christ.  You cannot seek vengeance in union with Christ.  You cannot even seek to “fix” other people in union with Christ.  The action of Christ is always respectful of our freedom and always acts in love.  Action in union with Christ cannot have some other character.

“Actions such as kindness and mercy, patience and love are easily lived in union with Christ.  But our secular mindset rarely sees such actions as useful.”

I was struck recently as I studied the life of Jacob by Jacob’s methodology in Genesis 32.  This is just before he is scheduled to meet up with his brother, Esau.  The last time they’d been together, Jacob had been running for his life, and he didn’t know how Esau would now respond.  So, Jacob makes his plans and puts them into action.  Then, in verse 9, after he’s put his plans into action, he prays to God for blessing and protection.  It strikes me that the sequence is reversed, or should be.  Shouldn’t we seek God’s will and plan before we put our own into place?  Why don’t we?  Partly, I think, because of what Freeman says in the second paragraph above: “we live as though there were not God, or as if the god Who Exists is not able to act within our world.” 

It is only those who are believers who can be guilty of this shortcoming.  Why are we smitten with this disease of thinking that I Am isn’t able to act in the world today?  Perhaps it’s mostly because we’ve never asked Him to really reveal Himself to us.  Perhaps it’s because we don’t even have the faith to ask Him to act in the first place, or we hedge our bets in our prayers with phrases like, “If it is your will…”.  Mind you, it’s not a bad thing to pray for God’s will to be done.  It’s biblical.  But it’s also just as biblical (in fact, there may be more examples of this than the prior) to boldly ask God for exactly what we want – be it a loaf of bread, a drink of water in the desert, the parting of the waters or the ability to walk on their surface.  But we don’t do this very often – we’re afraid that others will hear us, and if we don’t get what we asked for, will think we’re not very spiritual. 

Freeman’s point is valid: we need to live in union with God, joining ourselves to Him and His purposes and His desires.  And that includes living and acting as if He still exists and will do great things that we can’t imagine.

PRAYER:  Lord, teach us to live in union with you, to not become dismayed or anxious, to not plot our own victories and deliverances, but to wait patiently and always act in union with You.  Don’t let us run ahead of you, or lag behind, but always walk by Your side.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

DayBreaks for 5/15/17 – Who Is It You Want?

DayBreaks for 5/15/17: Who Is It You Want?

John 18:3-5 – So Judas came to the grove, guiding a detachment of soldiers and some officials from the chief priests and Pharisees. They were carrying torches, lanterns and weapons. Jesus, knowing all that was going to happen to him, went out and asked them, “Who is it you want?” “Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied.

“Who is it you want?”  Jesus was always good at asking questions (still is)!  It isn’t that he didn’t know who they were coming for – he’d made it abundantly clear to his disciples that he knew exactly what was going to happen – and when – and even why.  Jesus asked questions to make those around him probe their real motives and purposes, and to make them think deeply.  His questions often make us uncomfortable – try to imagine how Judas must have felt when he first saw Jesus and Jesus asks this question.  Faced with a phalanx of armed and hostile soldiers and temple officials, calmly asks a question designed to make them contemplate what they’re doing.  It appears that they (especially the officials from the temple) didn’t recognize him – which strikes me as strange since Jesus had been in Jerusalem many times.  He’d been very open in his teaching in the temple in the past.  But they don’t seem to recognize him even though he’d been in their midst often. 

It makes me wonder how often we fail to recognize Jesus.  It was Mother Theresa who once suggested that she did what she did because when she helped the poor and dying in the steaming streets of Calcutta that in their faces she saw Jesus in a distressing disguise.  Some people see Jesus often – in acts of love, compassion, mercy – others rarely, if ever see him or recognize him. 

But as haunting as that may be, the real question is plain, and it echoes through 2000 years and it is a question that we must answer today, because Jesus asks is.  “Who is it you want?”  What a great question!  Who is it that you really want?  Do you want Jesus?  Or do you want yourself?  Or do you want your own idea of what Jesus is? 

Those who Jesus called to himself in life were called in ways that we might find shocking – almost as if Jesus really didn’t want people to come to him.  Consider the rich young ruler – who was told that he had to sell everything he owned, give it to the poor, and then come follow Jesus.  Or the man who said he had to bury his father, but was told by Jesus to “let the dead bury the dead –  you, come follow me!”  But then he’s said it to all of us, hasn’t he: Take up your cross daily and follow me.  In each case, people have to decide who it is that they really want – do we want Jesus, the real Jesus, badly enough that we’re willing to take the challenge he puts before us with this question: “Who is it  you want?”

The question is just as valid today as when Jesus asked it in the garden of Gethsemane.  They answered, “Jesus of Nazareth.”  Yes, they wanted him, but not for a good purpose.  The question that Jesus didn’t ask them was why they wanted him.  He already knew.  But we need to ask the question of ourselves again: “Why do I want Jesus?  Do I want him so he’ll make me feel better about myself?  So that he’ll give me a home in heaven when I die?  So I’ll have a friend?”  Those are all things that Jesus can, and will do for us, but they are not the reason we should want him.  We should want Jesus because in the life of Christ is embodied the kingdom of God – the RULE of God – throughout the universe but especially in the human heart.  We should want Jesus because of Who He IS, and not what he can do for us.  That’s what it means when Jesus said that the greatest commandment is to love God with all your heart, soul and mind…and then our neighbors as ourselves.  God does care about your eternal destiny, but He’s operating on a much greater scale than just individual hearts and minds.  He’s operating on a cosmic scale to reconcile everything to Himself again through Christ.  And that’s why we should want to find Jesus.

How can I tell who it is that I really want?  Probably the best way is to look at what things in life that I chase after.  How much time do I spend reading the word, praying, memorizing scripture, sharing my faith, in developing a relationship with Jesus instead of reading fantasy novels, watching TV, going to the movies, playing sports, shopping?  Time is perhaps the most precious thing we have – and how we spend it very clearly says something about our priorities and what is truly important to us.  And I need to test my motives for why I want him, too.  In both these areas, I must remember that I cannot fool Jesus – even though I may fool myself very well, thank you.  But when I finally do come face to face with Jesus, I’ll not be able to pretend – like the soldiers, I’ll fall backwards onto the ground with the perfect knowledge that he has seen through me, and always has.

PRAYER: Jesus, help us to want you more than anything else in the universe.  Help us to want you for all the right reasons, and for none of the wrong ones.  Thank you for wanting us!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2017 by Galen Dalrymple.