DayBreaks for 1/24/20 – Marks of Clarity

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DayBreaks for 1/24/20: Marks of Clarity

From the DayBreaks Archive, January 2010:

There are times in my walk with God when things seem very clear.  But then again, there are times when I long for even the slightest inkling of clarity.  At times my relationship with the Lord is so real and palpable that I can’t help but be overwhelmed with the wonder of it all.  But then again, there are times (if I am to be honest with God, you and myself) when it all seems very unreal and like a sham.  And I find myself pondering from time to time: which is real?  Which reflects the real me and my relationship with God?  Am I only fooling myself when I feel so close to Him that I weep? 

William Cowper was a Christian songwriter of years gone by.  He wrote some of the favorite songs of the church, including the hymns O For a Closer Walk with God, God Moves in a Mysterious Way His wonders to Perform, and There Is a Fountain Filled With Blood.  For a period of time, he lived in a house with John Newton, a converted slave-trader and author of Amazing Grace.  It is interesting how little grace Cowper actually experienced.  For long years he feared that he had committed the unpardonable sin and was hounded by false rumors of an illicit affair.  As a result, Cowper suffered a nervous breakdown, tried several times to kill himself, and was kept for some of his life in a straightjacket in an insane asylum for his own protection.  During the last quarter of his life, he avoided church entirely.

He wrote these word: “Where is the blessedness I knew, When first I sought the Lord?  Where is the soul-refreshing dew Of Jesus and His Word?  What peaceful hours I once enjoyed!  How sweet their memory still!  But they have left an aching void The world can never fill.  Return, O Holy Dove, return Sweet messenger of rest!  I hate the sins that made Thee mourn And drove Thee from my breast.”

There are many who might consider Cowper a prime candidate for the title of Christian hypocrite for his struggles, a man who wrote beautifully and convincingly about things he found hard, if not impossible, to put into practice.  I prefer to think of his hymns as being the real marks of clarity in a very troubled life.  He was the one who wrote: “Redeeming love has been my theme, And shall be till I die.”  Perhaps I am naïve, but I see in Cowper’s struggle my own struggles and in his struggling faith, a reflection of my own.

PRAYER: Father, thank You for redeeming love that loves a wretch like me!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2020 by Galen C. Dalrymple.  ><}}}”>

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DayBreaks for 9/09/19 – Handmade in Heaven

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DayBreaks for 9/09/19: Handmade in Heaven

From the DayBreaks archive, September 2009:

You’ve read the labels before: “Handmade in Italy.”  “Made by hand in Ireland.”  “Handmade in China.”  Do all three of those statements give you the same feeling?  For many years, “handmade in China” would not stir one to think all that highly of the product, unless it was some special type of pottery or other work of art.  For a long time, “Made in Japan” and “Made in China” had reputations of suggesting poor quality.  To some extent, that has change in more recent times, but problems with toxic paints on toys and other manufacturing issues have once again made us skeptical of things made in places such as China.

On the other hand, “Handmade in Italy” probably would cause one to think that the product is worth something extra.  There is a higher reputation for things made in Italy (for example) versus China.  And the “handmade” part of the label leads one to suspect that an artisan made that particular product. 

What would be the most priceless artifact in history?  It might be hard to say, but I’d venture a guess that if there were a table or chair or some article made out of wood that could be verified as being handmade by Jesus that it would be the most priceless treasure ever found.  Bids would become astronomical!  Alas, no such artifact has ever been found. 

That is not to say, however, that we have nothing that was handmade by Jesus.  We do – plenty of things that were handmade by Him.  The sun, moon, stars, the oceans, mountains, animals…all were made by Him (John 1:3).  Truly, we live in a world of wonders! 

But the very best news is what John 1:3 implies: it means that you are handmade by Jesus!  Scripture speaks about this in many places, including Job 10:10-11 and Psalm 139 (my favorite Psalm).  Now what does THAT say about you?  You are priceless…far more so than a table formed under the blows and gouging planes that Jesus once held in His hands.  Jesus never died for a table or chair, though they’d be priceless today if they could be located.  But He did die for you. 

You are “Handmade by the Lord” and infinitely more precious than anything else in this world!

PRAYER: Thank You for forming us and shaping us by Your precious hands!  May we be worthy representatives of Your handiwork and bring glory to our Maker!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

DayBreaks for 8/13/19 – The Great Substitutions

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DayBreaks for 08/13/19: The Great Substitutions

From the DayBreaks archive, July 2019:

When I was in junior high, high school, and college, I loved to play sports.  I wasn’t always first string, but whether I was or not, everyone has to take a bit of break now and then and sit to rest.  So, the coach would either send me in as a substitute, or he’d pull the substitute he’d sent in for me so I could go back into the game.  I always hated it when I was pulled out to rest.  I wanted to keep playing!  But the concept of substituting one player for another is based on very solid realities.  In the major leagues, some players are better at defense than others, and toward the end of a close game if their team is leading and the score is close, they might be sent in as a substitute for a player who is not quite as good with a glove.  In basketball, some players can’t shoot free throws and when it comes to crunch time, the coach may pull them out and put in players who can shoot free throws, or three-pointers if the team is behind and has to catch up. 

Of course, the Christian faith is all about substitution: Christ paying the price for the sinner, His death rather than our own.  The righteous dying for the unrighteous.  Pretty fundamental to the entire enterprise of God’s plan.

There is, however, more substitution going on that we are wont to admit.  Consider this perspective from John Stott in his excellent book, The Cross of Christ: “The concept of substitution may be said, then, to lie at the heart of both sin and salvation.  For the essence of sin is man substituting himself for God, while the essence of salvation is God substituting himself for man.  Man asserts himself against God and puts himself where only God deserves to be; God sacrifices himself for man and puts himself where only man deserves to be.  Man claims prerogatives which belong to God alone; God accepts penalties which belong to man alone.”

Sin surely is us humans putting ourselves in God’s place, rising up in rebellion, overthrowing the reign and rule of God (or trying to) in order to decree what is right and acceptable based on our desires and wishes.  We don’t often think about that form of substitution, but it is putting our wills in the forefront rather than His will.  It is what Adam did in the garden and we’ve been constantly at it ever since. 

We want to accept the substitution that God made for us.  We just don’t want to have to admit the substitution we have made to displace Him from the throne.

PRAYER:  We are deeply grateful, Lord Jesus, that you put yourself in our place.  We are less eager to admit the reason it was necessary was because of our attempt to substitute ourselves and our will for Your will and rule.  Have mercy on us sinners!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

DayBreaks for 5/21/19 – It’s OK to be Human

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DayBreaks for 5/21/19: It’s OK to be Human

God, have mercy on me, a sinner! – (Lk. 18:13)

The tax collector who offers this simple prayer to Jesus knew who and what he was.  He was a sinner – pure and simple, with no other claim to make.  When you get right down to it, his is perhaps one of the most honest and truthful claims ever made by a human being.  The best part is that he had enough wisdom to turn to the only One who could help him out of his misery.

The book of Job is the story of one human being struggling with the concept of God and His nature.  It is a man trying to make sense out of life and all that has happened to him, to try to understand the answer to the toughest question we humans ask: “Why?”

While there is much we can learn from Job, one of the most valuable lessons we can learn is that it is okay to be human.  God doesn’t berate Job for all the questions.  He doesn’t accuse him for not having enough faith.  God didn’t get angry at the psalmists or prophets for their cries of frustration, doubt and anger, either. That must mean that given God’s mercy, it’s okay to be human.  While He longs for us to recover what we lost through our sinfulness, He understands that we are mere vessels of clay, prone to crack and break.  God didn’t create us all-powerful, He didn’t create us to be capable of perfection by our own strength of effort.  He created us just the way He wanted to create us – and He doesn’t blame us for being human.

Perhaps His most extravagant mercy is to allow us to be human.  It doesn’t present a problem for God.  He can deal with all of our human failings.  And in His great mercy, He does!

Prayer: We take comfort in Your extravagant mercy, Lord!  Thank You for overcoming our human failings through the perfection of Your son, Jesus.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

DayBreaks for 5/13/19 – Forever Freed

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DayBreaks for 5/13/19: Forever Freed

John 8:36 (ESV) – So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.

“Freedom!” It echoed from the lips of William Wallace and countless men and women throughout history. Freedom is precious – and it is something that the oppressed long for. Countless lives have been lost in pursuit of freedom.

In the context of today’s verse, the Jews claimed that they had never been the slaves of any man. That, technically, is not true. They were enslaved many times throughout their history, but their fierce determination to be free led them to stretch the truth in their statement to Jesus.  

It wasn’t so much slavery to other persons that Jesus was talking about. He was talking about something much more difficult. He was talking about enslavement to sin. But as William Barclay put it, we often say or think, “Surely I can do what I like with my own life.” He goes on: “But the point is that the man who sins does not do what he likes; he does what sin likes. A man can let a habit get such a grip of him that he cannot break it. He can allow a pleasure to master him so completely that he cannot do without it. He can let some self-indulgence so dominate him that he is powerless to break away from it. He can get into such a state that in the end, as Seneca said, he hates and loves his sins at one and the same time. So far from doing what he likes, the sinner has lost the power to do what he likes. He is a slave to the habits, the self-indulgences, the wrong pleasures which have mastered him. This is precisely Jesus’ point. No man who sins can ever be said to be free.”

What does slavery to sin mean? It means we’re enslaved to it’s power to overrule our own best intention to be obedient. It means we’re trapped in a cesspool of shame, guilt, embarrassment and regret.

As we often hear, “Freedom is not free”, meaning that there is always a price that is paid for freedom, and freedom from sin is no exception to that rule.

Do you long to be free from your guilt, shame and regret? You don’t need to be if you are a child of the King. If the Son has set you free, Jesus himself says that you are truly free. No need to carry those things on your shoulders for one more moment. Trust his promise. He who set you free and paid the price for that freedom is honored when you trust that he is as good as his word.

Prayer: For the freedom you purchased for us, Jesus, we humbly thank you!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

DayBreaks for 4/23/19 – The King and the Poison

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DayBreaks for 4/23/19: The King and the Poison

From the DayBreaks archived, 2009: (sorry, I just can’t let go of Easter yet – it is too good to be done already!)

From Max Lucado’s Six Hours One Friday comes a parable-type telling of the garden and the crucifixion:

“Finally that hour came.  The Son went for one last visit with his Father.  He met Him in another garden.  A garden of gnarled trees and stony soil.

“Does it have to be this way?” 

“It does.”

“Is there no one else who can do it?”

The King swallowed.  “None but you.”

“Do I have to drink from the cup?”

“Yes, my Child.  The same cup.”

He looked at the Prince of Light.  “The darkness will be great.”  He passed his hand over the spotless face of his Son.  “The pain will be awful.”  Then he paused and looked at his darkened dominion.  When he looked up, his eyes were moist.  “But there is no other way.”

“The Son looked into the stars as he heard the answer.  “Then, let it be done.”

Slowly the words that would kill the Son began to come from the lips of the Father: “Hour of death, moment of sacrifice, it is your moment.  Rehearsed a million times on false altars with false lambs; the moment of truth has come.”

“Soldiers, do you think you lead him?  Ropes, you think you bind him?  Men, you think you sentence him?  He heeds not your commands.  He winces not at your lashes.  It is my voice he obeys.  It is my condemnation he dreads.  And it is your souls he saves.

“Oh, my Son, my Child.  Look up into the heavens and see my face before I turn it.  Hear my voice before I silence it.  Would that I could save you and them.  But they don’t see and they don’t hear.

“The living must die so that the dying can live.  The time has come to kill the Lamb.

“Here is the cup, my Son.  The cup of sorrows.  The cup of sin.

“Slam, mallet!  Be true to your task.  Let your ring be heard throughout the heavens.

“Lift him, soldiers.  Lift him high to his throne of mercy.  Lift him up to his perch of death.  Lift him above the people that curse his name.

“Now plunge the tree into the earth.  Plunge it deep into the heart of humanity.  Deep into the strata of time past.  Deep into the sees of time future.

“Is there no angel to save my Isaac?  Is there no hand to redeem the Redeemer?

“Here is the cup, my Son.  Drink it alone.”

God must have wept as he performed his task.  Every lie, every lure, every act done in shadows was in that cup.  Slowly, hideously they were absorbed into the body of the Son.  The final act of incarnation.

The Spotless Lamb was blemished.  Flames began to lick his feet.

The King obeys his own edict.  “Where there is poison, there will be death.  Where there are goblets, there will be fire.

The King turns away from his Prince.  The undiluted wrath of a sin-hating Father falls upon his sin-filled Son.  The fire envelops him.  The shadow hides him.  The Son looks for his Father, but his Father cannot be seen.

“My God, my God….why?”
The throne room is dark and cavernous.  The eyes of the King are closed.  He is resting.

In his dream he is again in the Garden.  The cool of the evening floats across the river as the three walk.  They speak of the Garden – of how it is, of how it will be.

“Father…”, the Son begins.  The King replays the word again.  Father.  Father.  The word was a flower, petal-delicate, yet so easily crushed.  Oh, how he longed for his children to call him Father again.

A noise snaps him from his dream.  He opens his eyes and sees a transcendent figure gleaming in the doorway.  “It is finished, Father.  I have come home.”  – Six Hours One Friday, Max Lucado, Multhomah Press, 1989, pgs. 101-104

Prayer: God, forgive us!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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