DayBreaks for 4/20/17 – Almost Home

DayBreaks for 4/20/17: Almost Home

From the DayBreaks archive, April 2007:

The little town of Franklin, TN, was the sight of one of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War.  In the space of only 5 hours, 7000 men were killed and thousands of others wounded.  In that short amount of time, northern troops alone used up 100 wagon loads of ammunition.  Accounts written at the time described bodies being stacked six or seven deep for more than a mile along the Columbia Pike.  No one had ever seen anything like it.  The state of Tennessee didn’t have enough money to turn the entire area into a state park to commemorate the battle, but in the battleground stands the Carter house that now serves as a museum and memorial to this bloody battle. 

As terrible as the battle itself, there was one person who died on that day over 140 years ago that is arguably more tragic than the other 6999.  As the battle of Franklin raged, the Carters’ youngest son, Todd, was outside.  He was running for the shelter of home when he was struck down and died, virtually in the shadow of the house.  He was taken into the home dead.  Even today, more is probably written about that young boy who died in the battle than about any of the others who died. 

Several things about this story that struck me: 

First of all is the power of the death of the innocent.  It just doesn’t seem right when a young child is struck down because of the violence of adults.  Yet it happens.  And when the innocent die, people take notice.  An absolutely perfectly innocent person was struck down by our violence and sin.  And similar to Todd Carter, much has been written and said about him.  Jesus Christ, the innocent, was killed by us and for us.  He was almost home when he was “hit”, but he died willingly as a sacrifice – not running in terror. 

Secondly, I thought about how close we can come sometimes to being “home free” only to fail to actually arrive there.  We can’t control the people and events around us.  We know our intent – to get home safely – but sometimes things interfere with our well-laid plans, and in the shadow of the rooftop we fall.   I am very thankful that God is the One who will get us home.  I rejoice that He recognizes that I can’t make it on my own, that I alone would surely be cut down by Satan’s bullets.  He is able to handle our eternal destinies (2 Tim. 1:12).  We need to finish the race well, 2 Tim. 4:7-8, and not die in the home stretch.

The saddest thing, though, is to hear about those who are almost on the porch of the house and ready to enter, but who Satan snatches at the last moment.  The story of Paul’s defense before Agrippa is heart-wrenching, from Acts 26:28-29a: Then Agrippa said to Paul, “Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?”  Paul replied, “Short time or long– I pray God that not only you but all who are listening to me today may become what I am….”  There is no evidence Agrippa “made it home”.  How tragic and sad.

There are those today who are almost home but who aren’t quite there yet.  What a tragedy if we let them languish so close to heaven’s door. 

PRAYER: Thank You, Father, for the innocent Christ who died for us.  Help us to understand that we don’t control the events that swirl around our lives, but that in You, we are safe forever.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2017 by Galen Dalrymple.

DayBreaks for 4/17/17 – Into Thin Air

DayBreaks for 4/17/17: Into Thin Air

From the DayBreaks archive, 2007:

I recently finished reading Into Thin Air, about the tragic ascent on Mt. Everest that was attempted 2 years ago this month.  A horrible storm swept in while several teams were making their final ascent on the summit.  The result: the highest single death toll for any mountain-climbing incident in history. 

In the May 9 issue of World magazine, Kevin Cusack wrote an article “When Strength Fails”.  Kevin was a friend and climbing partner of Scott Fischer, the man who led the American assault on the summit.  Scott was one of the many who died, frozen to death high up on the side of Everest.  Kevin told of a climb he’d made with Scott about 20 years ago in the Wind River Range of Wyoming:  “The next day, Scott, another climber and I set out on a particularly difficult climb.  After a few hours we found ourselves…on a very narrow ledge.  Below us lay about 3,000 feet of “free space”, commonly known as air.  In front of us lay a 4-foot gap, and above that and to our right was a very smooth nose, which we had to make our way around in order to continue to climb higher.  The move required us to drop across the 4-foot gap, grab a fingertip ledge about 18 inches above our heads, and work our way around the nose using only our fingertips.”

“Because the rock was so smooth, we were unable to find any crack into which to clip our rope; therefore the first climber had to attempt the move unroped, since if he were to fall he would take the 2 other climbers roped to him with him.  All was very quiet as each man waited for someone else to volunteer to go unroped.  Scott’s boldness was being challenged, and in the end he agreed to go first.  Then he did a very curious thing.  He knelt on that thin ledge on one knee for a few seconds, made the sign of the cross, and stood up.  Surprised, I asked, “Scott, what’s the deal?”  He simply replied, “Sometimes you never know.”  …Scott knew many things, but he did not know the answers to life’s most important questions.  One of Scott’s teammates on his fatal Everest climb 2 years ago said, ‘Scott was like a god to us, so strong, fast, and bold, but in the end he was only Scott and he died.'”

Galen’s Thoughts: Scott Fischer was called by Newsweek “one of the strongest climbers in the world”.  He was the guy to be with when you were in a difficult spot.  His confidence got people through the scariest times.  He led people into thin air.  But “he was only Scott and he died”.  Many people today are leading others into dangerous places – into thin air spiritually – rejecting Scripture, presenting a sinful Jesus and telling us that we can determine on our own what is right and wrong, that we only answer to ourselves.  An intoxicating doctrine.  But it is the same lie Satan told Eve.  In the end, these people are only people…and they will die, as Scott died.  Trusting them will be fatal.

Scott hadn’t been a believer.  Kevin prays that while Scott was alone on the wind-swept summit in the -100 degree temperatures that he reached out to God.  We won’t know until the dawn of eternity what happened with Scott.  What can we learn from the fatalities?  Simply this: if your faith is in your strength or anything but God, it will fail you.  2 Tim 4:18: The Lord will rescue me…and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom.

PRAYER:  Father, we put far too much trust in our own wisdom, knowledge and abilities.  Forgive us, Father, for such foolishness.  Help us realize that only in You is found safety.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2017 by Galen Dalrymple.

DayBreaks for 3/29/17 – How We View the World

DayBreaks for 3/29/17: How We View the World

What is your general attitude toward the world you live in, towards life?  Do you generally see life as a trudge through the mud, or as an exciting and fulfilling adventure?  I know that there are days when we are overwhelmed one way or another, but as a general rule, how do you see the world and your life in it? 

You might not think that how you generally feel about the world is all that important.  After all, who does it affect but you, right?  Wrong.  I think that the way Christians (and others) feel about the world around us and our role in it makes a huge difference.  I was recently re-reading Viktor Frankl’s book, Man’s Search for Meaning, and he described one event that occurred one dark, cold night in the Auschwitz concentration camp.  Frankl wrote: I shall never forget how I was roused one night by the groans of a fellow prisoner, who threw himself about in his sleep, obviously having a horrible nightmare.  Since I had always been especially sorry for people who suffered from fearful dreams or deliria, I wanted to wake the poor man.  Suddenly I drew back the hand which was ready to shake him, frightened at the thing I was about to do.  At that moment I became intensely conscious of the fact that no dream, no matter how horrible, could be as bad as the reality of the camp which surrounded us, and to which I was about to recall him.

I dare say that none of us have ever been in a situation as horrifying as Frankl.  He found himself in a horrible dilemma: do I compassionately awaken the man who was having such frightening nightmares, or would the reality of the world of the prison camp be even worse than the imagined world taking place in the mind of the dreamer?  What would I have done?  I don’t honestly know.  But I know this: my world is nowhere as terrifying as a concentration camp.  My life and world is really, all things considered, very pleasant and tolerable.  Even beautiful. 

But here’s my point for today: if I view my world as being a horrible thing, chances are that I won’t do anything to “wake people up” who may be sleeping their way through life.  But if I can learn to see the beauty of the life that God has given me, the beauty of God through His creation, I will be more likely to do what I can to help people who are sleeping to wake up and see the beauty of the life lived with the Lord.

The Presence of the Lord can turn the desert into a well-watered land.  Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me.

PRAYER: Father, help us to see the truth about our lives.  We have hard times, but help us not to turn them into high drama that isn’t warranted.  May we see and experience the beauty of life lived in fellowship with You, and may we have the wisdom and courage to awaken the sleeper and help them see the glory of the Lord!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2017 by Galen Dalrymple.

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.