DayBreaks for 03/20/17 – Little Things Add Up

DayBreaks for 3/20/17: Little Things Add Up

NOTE: Galen is traveling this week. This week’s DayBreaks will be from the May 2007 archives.

Long ago in the days of the Roman empire, a general by the name of Quintus Sertorius was in charge of the Roman army in the area around Spain.  It was a vast territory with which he was entrusted.  Being a Roman, he wasn’t acquainted with the term nor experience of defeat.  But general Sertorius had a problem: in spite of a huge area to account for, his army was mostly made up of undisciplined conscripts.  How was he supposed to teach them the discipline necessary to become a strong, forceful army?

He had an idea.  He called for two of his soldiers: one was the most physically dominating warrior in the army – a mountain of a man with skills and strength to match.  The other man was the puniest, weakest of the conscripts.  After the two men came forward, he had two animals brought out.  One was a scrawny, weak looking pony.  The other was a powerful and intimidating war horse. 

Sertorius ordered that the little pony be put in front of the great warrior, and the mighty war horse in front of the weak man.  He then told them that they had the same job to perform: pull out the horse’s tail.  But there was one difference: the mighty warrior was to grasp the horse’s tail and pull it out all at once, while the weak man was to take it one hair at a time and pull out one hair each time until the tail was gone.

You can guess who was successful.  Here’s the point: it takes lots of little things to add up, but it is through the discipline of knowing that small things add up to big achievements and victories that something gets achieved.  Seldom, if ever, are great things accomplished by one person and their giftedness.  At some point their strength either runs out or it is not great enough.  That’s why God gives us the church – a band of brothers and sisters – each uniquely gifted, but whom alone cannot achieve much of anything.  Together, however, it is a different story. 

Think about the apostles.  Individually they weren’t much to brag about – fishermen, tax collectors, with some others thrown in – and none of them were experienced preachers or teachers.  And yet, we’re told that they turned the world upside down.  They didn’t do it alone.  They had the Spirit, but they had their Barnabas’, Silas’, Timothy’s, Luke’s, and literally thousands of unnamed and unknown (to us) people who helped them.  But even then, people were won one at a time.  It started in a town in Palestine, but overwhelmed the world. 

It’s true, of course, with sin, too.  Little things add up.  One lie turns into another and soon an entire life is ruined.  One illicit affair and a lifetime of love and family is destroyed.  One dishonest business deal and a lifetime’s work, or a company, can come crashing down. 

Beware of the small things that seem powerless to harm you or to bring you down.  And honor the small contributions that others, and you, can make for the cause of Christ.  Little things do add up.

Numbers 16:9 – (NLT) Does it seem a small thing to you that the God of Israel has chosen you from among all the people of Israel to be near him as you serve in the LORD’s Tabernacle and to stand before the people to minister to them?

PRAYER: Father, may we be wise enough to know that we are not powerful enough to do great things on our own, for no one can do great things apart from you.  Help us to appreciate the giftedness of others, according to your great pleasure and wisdom.  And keep us from thinking that the little faults in our life don’t add up to great evil.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2017 by Galen Dalrymple.

DayBreaks for 2/09/17 – Theology For an Age of Terror

DayBreaks for 2/09/17: Theology for an Age of Terror

“A day that will live in infamy…”  Those words were spoken by President Roosevelt on December 7, 1941 after the attack on Pearl Harbor.  The same words were used to describe what happened on September 11, 2001 in New York.  Sometimes, we think that ours is the only generation that has struggled with such things.  Not so.  What may make it seem that way is that we have far better communication than ever before, and we hear about more atrocities and infamous acts.  But if you want to talk about such horrors, a more apt analogy might be August 24, 410, when the city of Rome was besieged and sacked by an army of 40,000 “barbarians” led by (as Christianity Today, September 2006 put it) “the Osama bin Laden of late antiquity, a wily warrior named Alaric.”  The severity of the attack and its aftermath, I’m told, can still be seen in the ruins of the Roman Forum, where the green stains of copper coins that melted into the stone from the conflagrations set by Alaric and his soldiers are still visible.  Prior to that time, Rome was called Invicta Roma Aeterna: eternal, unconquerable Rome.  For more than 800 years the city had not fallen to an attack, and Rome, like America on 9/11/01, was the only superpower in the world.  But in 410, all their military power could not stop the walls from being breached, its women abused and the sacred sites burned. 

One of the ancient church fathers, Jerome (who lived in Bethlehem – far from Rome when it fell) heard about it and it is said that he put aside his Commentary on Ezekiel and sat stupefied in total silence for 3 entire days.  Later, when he wrote to a friend, he said, “Rome was besieged.  The city to which the whole world fell has fallen.  If Rome can perish, what can be safe?”  Augustine, in North Africa, started writing The City of God in response to those who said Rome fell as punishment for what they had done to Christians. 

Living as we, and all other generations from the dawn of time have, in a world that is full of danger, war, destruction and violence, what can we learn that will help us get through such fears and live productive lives?  After all, one of the Christian tenets is that this “is our Father’s world” (even if not all nature seems to sing at times!), and we would be prone to think that God is in control, that a loving God has nothing to do with such things, and that because we are believers, nothing such as what Alaric did to Rome, or the terrorists did to New York, would ever happen to us.  But…but…there were Christians who died on 9/11.  Christian children became fatherless and motherless on that day. 

One of the lessons Augustine would teach us is this: We must not equate any political entity (America, the Republican or Democratic party, the UN, etc.) with the kingdom of God.  Jesus promised that the gates of hell would not prevail against his church – not against any nation.  Here’s a couple of other things we can learn from Augustine:

Just as Rome awaited it’s plunder by Alaric, we need to remember that life is short.  As C.S. Lewis put it during the WW2 blitz on London: “The world is fragile.  All of us are vulnerable, but we are here because this is our calling.  Our lives are rooted not only in time, but also in eternity, and the life of learning, humbly offered to God, is its own reward.  It is one of the appointed approaches to the divine reality and the divine beauty, which we shall hereafter enjoy in heaven and which we are called to display even now amidst the brokenness all around us.” 

And Augustine perhaps reminds  us of what we most need to hear: he saw the world with all its politics, culture and institutions as a tottering old man whose days were growing very short: “You are surprised that the world is losing its grip?  That the world is grown old?  Don’t hold onto the old man, the world; don’t refuse to regain your youth in Christ, who says to you: ‘The world is passing away; the world is losing its grip; the world is short of breath.  Don’t fear, your youth shall be renewed as an eagle.”

1 Cor. 7:29-31 (NIV) – What I mean, brothers, is that the time is short. From now on those who have wives should live as if they had none; those who mourn, as if they did not; those who are happy, as if they were not; those who buy something, as if it were not theirs to keep; those who use the things of the world, as if not engrossed in them. For this world in its present form is passing away.

PRAYER: Father, from a troubled world we cry out to You!  Hear our pleas, see our fears, teach us Your truth and give us Your peace that we should not be troubled, but trusting.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2017 by Galen Dalrymple.

DayBreaks for 1/4/17 – The God Who Runs Away

DayBreaks for 1/04/17: The God Who Runs Away

John Thomas Randolph offers a relatively modern story of running and returning to illustrate our Lord’s circumstances.

Here is the difference between cowardice and heroism. The coward runs away and stays away. The hero runs away but he always returns at the appropriate time.

There is a biography of General Douglas MacArthur that was written by Bob Considine. The picture on the front cover shows the general standing like a boulder, looking off into the distance, with that famous corncob pipe in his mouth. You can almost hear him telling the people of the Philippines, “I came through and I shall return.” Ordered to make a strategic withdrawal, his promise to return became the rallying cry for a whole country. MacArthur had to “run away” for a while, but he would “return” – and it was the returning that mattered most.

My copy of the Bible entitles a section of Scripture, “The Flight into Egypt.” Cruel Herod the king had been threatened by the birth of Jesus, apparently fearing that Jesus would become a competitor for his own crown. Since that was an intolerable possibility to him, and since he could not be absolutely sure which baby boy was Jesus, he ordered that all the male children in and around Bethlehem who were two-years old or under be killed. Thus it was that an angel of the Lord directed Joseph to take Jesus and Mary and to “flee to Egypt.”

Can you imagine it? God on the run! Jesus, the Christ, fleeing for his life!… He is running for his life…

If this scene is shocking for you then hold on, for there is more to come. We can imagine Joseph escaping into Egypt with the baby Jesus. But, surely, we think, if Jesus were only a full-grown man, he would not run from Herod. The evidence, however, does not completely support our thought.

There were times, even as an adult, when Jesus ran away. During the Feast of Dedication in Jerusalem one winter, some people wanted Jesus to tell them “plainly” if he was, indeed, the Christ. When Jesus answered, I and the Father are one, they took up stones to stone him. We read, Again they tried to arrest him, but he escaped from their hands. (John 10:39) Notice that word, again”; apparently Jesus had to run away on other occasions, too.

There is no getting away from it: Christmas tells us that God chose to make himself vulnerable when he revealed himself in a person who, sometimes, at least, had to run away from people like Herod and the stone-throwers.

The vulnerability of Christ is a great thing because it makes it easier for us to admit our own vulnerability. We may like to think that we are super men and women, but we are not. There are powers and people who can hurt us and destroy us. There are times when we need to run away! You see, running away is not always cowardice as many of us have been taught to believe. Running away, at times, may he part of a very wise strategy. As the old saying goes: “He who runs away lives to fight another day.”

There are times, of course, when we cannot run away. There are times when we must not run away. There are times when running away is cowardice. Jesus did not run away from his betrayers in the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus did not run away from the cross or the grave. There are times when we must stand our ground, no matter what the cost.

Nevertheless, there are other times when it is wise to run away. Timing has a lot to do with it. So do our intentions about returning. For after the time of running away, there should always be a time of returning. All of our running away, as Christians, should be with the ultimate goal of returning.

Why do we run away? When I look at my own experience, I find that I usually run away for one of three reasons: I am frightened; I am fatigued; or I am frustrated. Isn’t that why you run away too?

PRAYER: May we always have the courage to return to the fight after we have run away. Let us be people of discernment so we wisely choose when to run – and when to stand! In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2016 by Galen Dalrymple.

DayBreaks for 12/21/16: He Is Part of Us

DayBreaks for 12/21/16: He Is Part of Us

When I think back about all the mistakes and bad things I’ve done in my life, I find it both amazing and strange that God has never deserted me. I frankly don’t understand that kind of grace and I certainly do not deserve his eternal presence. Nor do you. Yet, God has chosen to be forever identified with the human dilemma. There quite likely is not a single soul in the world who truly understands your feelings. God understands. All in your life may fall away. God will never fall away.

In Tom Brokaw’s book The Greatest Generation, a story is told of Mary Wilson, presently of Dallas, Texas. You would never know by looking at this modest woman that she was the recipient of the Silver Star and she bore the nickname “The Angel of Anzio.” You will recall that when the Allies got bogged down in the boot of Italy during World War II, they attempted a daring breakout by launching an amphibious landing on the Anzio Beach. Unfortunately, the Allies got pinned down at the landing site and came dangerously close to being driven back into the ocean. It looked like another Dunkirk was in the making.

Mary Wilson was the head of the fifty-one army nurses who went ashore at Anzio. Things got so bad that bullets zipped through her tent as she assisted the surgeon in surgery. When the situation continued to deteriorate arrangements were made to get all of the nurses out. But Mary Wilson would have none of it. She refused to leave at the gravest hour. As she related her story years later, she said: “How could I possibly leave them. I was a part of them.”

Our God is a good God. He does not desert us in our hour of need. He hears the cries of Israel. He hears the cries of the church. He hears the cries of His children. Christmas is about God’s eternal identification with the human dilemma.

PRAYER: Why should you be so closely linked to us, so near to us? Why should you choose to associate yourself with people such as us? It is a mystery, God, but one for which I am forever grateful! In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2016 by Galen Dalrymple.

DayBreaks for 12/14/16 – Deformed Feet

DayBreaks for 12/14/16: Deformed Feet

From the DayBreaks archive, 2006:

Isaiah 52:7 – How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news of peace and salvation, the news that the God of Israel reigns!

There are some people who capture the minds and hearts of the world.  Some do it because they have beauty (they even have pedicures or plastic surgery to make their feet pretty!) and others envy them for their looks or fame or wealth or grace.  Can you explain to me why else someone would find Donald Trump interesting???  Princess Diana captured the hearts of many while she was alive for a combination of things: she was something of a fairy-tale come true, beautiful, graceful, yet seemingly vulnerable all at the same time.  And when she died, the world was stunned, and wept. 

But then there are others who have also captured the hearts of many in the world.  They aren’t built the same way as the beautiful, statuesque Diana, or George Clooney.  They weren’t rich in this world like Donald Trump or Richard Branson.  Nor did they found a company like Bill Gates and become quite likely the richest man in history.  These run-of-the-mill people who have captured the world’s imaginations are the ones that I find to be far more fascinating than the rich, famous or beautiful.  Mother Theresa was such a person.  I think very few people envied her living conditions, her extreme poverty, the endless weight of the hungry, starving and sick of the back streets and roads of India. 

Shane Claiborne, who spent a summer in the slums of Calcutta with Mother Teresa, wrote the following about one of his experiences there:

“People often ask me what Mother Teresa was like.  Sometimes it’s like they wonder if she glowed in the dark or had a halo.  She was short, wrinkled, and precious, maybe even a little ornery—like a beautiful, wise old granny.  But there is one thing I will never forget—her feet.  Her feet were deformed.  Each morning in Mass, I would stare at them.  I wondered if she had contracted leprosy.  But I wasn’t going to ask, of course.  “Hey Mother, what’s wrong with your feet?”

“One day a sister said to us, ‘Have you noticed her feet?’  We nodded, curious.  She said: ‘Her feet are deformed because we get just enough donated shoes for everyone, and Mother does not want anyone to get stuck with the worst pair, so she digs through and finds them.  And years of doing that have deformed her feet.’  Years of loving her neighbor as herself deformed her feet.

“This is the kind of fasting that creates the divine longing for justice, where our feet become deformed by a love that places our neighbors above ourselves.”

What is your tendency when you have a lot of things to choose from?  Would you look for the best pair of shoes for yourself and give the left-overs to others?  Or, would you do like Mother Theresa and find the worst pair, take those for your own, and give the best to someone else?  I can hear my own mind rationalizing a decision to find the best for myself: “You know, you could minister better to people if your feet didn’t hurt and you could walk around more and get to more places without so much pain.” 

How are your feet looking these days?  Are they, like mine, too pretty?  Not deformed enough? 

PRAYER:  Lord Jesus, help us to be servants like You were a servant.  Help us to surrender our rationalizing and self-interest to walk in the path that you walked, for the benefit of others.  May we learn to put their interests ahead of our own that you may be glorified in them.  Give us deformed feet, Lord.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2016 by Galen Dalrymple.

DayBreaks for 11/08/16 – The Most Important Vote You Will Ever Cast

DayBreaks for 11/08/06: The Most Important Vote You’ll Ever Cast

Well, the day that many have dreaded has arrived. This quite likely has been the most vitriolic and ugly election cycle for the highest office in our land that has ever taken place. People on both sides are sick and tired of it, ready for it to be over. Friendships have been strained, words have been spoken that should have been left unsaid. But it is election day and we will soon know the outcome.

Many have stressed greatly over and have great fears about what will become of our nation regardless of who wins this election. I understand that…I have my own concerns in that regard, too. But I need to take a step back and remember some pretty important things:

  1. No matter who wins today, God is still in control;
  2. No matter who wins today, Jesus is still seated on the throne and he’s not even breaking a sweat to stay there;
  3. No matter who wins today, my salvation is not affected and I’ll still be called to be a witness tomorrow even as I am today;
  4. No matter who wins today, I need to remember that Jesus promised us that the gates of hell will NOT prevail against His church – Jesus will defend and protect His bride (which is different from our nation!);
  5. No matter who wins today, my hope is to be placed in Christ, not in any human ruler;
  6. No matter who wins today, my greatest allegiance it to the King of Kings and I need to be wise enough to recognize when His interests are at stake and to take a stand for righteousness.

You’ve heard it many times during this election cycle: people of every persuasion are saying that this is the most important vote you will ever cast. Let me tell you the truth: they are wrong. It is not even close to the most important vote you will ever cast. The most important vote you will cast is your vote either for Jesus or against Him. Your eternity hangs on that vote. All the people running for office in this election will die and meet their Maker and answer for what they have done and in whom they have believed and with whom they have cast their lot – with themselves or with Jesus.

Cast your vote wisely!

PRAYER: God, we do pray for our nation today. We pray for the men and women of Your choosing to be elected. We pray for wisdom as people all over this country try to make sense out of all the claims and counterclaims, promises kept and broken, of those who would be our leaders. We cannot see hearts as You can. But more than anything else, Lord, let us vote for Jesus to be our King and Master and find our rest and hope in Him and Him alone! In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2016, Galen C. Dalrymple.  All rights reserved.

DayBreaks for 10/24/16 – Another Ram in the Thicket

DayBreaks for 10/24/16 – Another Ram in the Thicket

From the DayBreaks archive, October 2006:

The story of Abraham and Isaac has always intrigued and fascinated (and horrified) me.  There are obvious lessons to be learned from the story: the faith of Abraham, the obedience of Abraham, the trust of Isaac (even when it became apparent that he was the “sacrifice”), the importance of trusting God.  I’m not sure if Abraham or Isaac was the most relieved when the angel stopped Abraham’s hand and they saw the ram caught by its horns in the thicket.  And I have searched the haunted halls of my heart asking myself if I could have ever done what Abraham did – and I’m driven to my knees in humility by the answer.

But, perhaps instead of taking the extreme case of sacrificing a child, we need to look at other things that are much more close to home.  As Chuck Swindoll put it in Fascinating Lives of Forgotten People: “What it is that you are gripping so tightly?  A possession?  Your vocation?  A dream?  A consuming relationship?  The Lord may be in the process of taking it from you.  He’ll gently tug on it at first, giving you the opportunity to release your grip.  If you resist, He’ll eventually have to pry your fingers away…My advice?  Voluntarily release it.  Trust the Lord to provide.  He has another ram in the thicket.  You can’t see it right now, but He has it waiting.  Only after you have placed your sacrifice on the altar will you be ready to receive God’s provision.”

We all grip tightly to things in our world and in our lives.  I seriously doubt that God is asking any of us right now to sacrifice a child.  But I don’t doubt for a moment that He’s asking each of us to let go of something that has become a god in our life.  What do I mean?  Anything that we put our confidence and trust in is an idol, a god, if you will.  And we all have confidence in something in this world that pulls us away from trusting Him entirely and completely.  Do you know what those things are in your life?  I think that they’re probably the things that we fear happening the most: losing jobs, a stock market crash, losing our health, losing a friend that may not be a positive influence. 

What are you afraid of the most?  Is it possible that right now God is trying to teach you to surrender that to Him, trusting Him completely for all that you need today, tomorrow and forever?  As Chuck said, “He has another ram in the thicket.”  Do you believe that?

PRAYER:  Thank you, God, for all that You have entrusted to us.  Help us to recognize that You are the source of all good things and that we have been given all we have to benefit others.  May we hold our possessions with very loose hands.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2016 by Galen C. Dalrymple. All rights reserved.