DayBreaks for 1/19/18: The Testimony of Dirk Willems

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DayBreaks for 1/19/18: The Testimony of Dirk Willems

From They Were Strangers blog, by my friend, Ryan McElvey, January 18, 2018:

He heard a loud CRACK, and seconds later the first cry for HELP echoed across the frozen water. Now, a choice had to be made: continue running for his own safety, or run back across the ice of Hondegat pond?

The year was 1569 and Dirk was being held for “rebelling” against the authority of the Dutch government by rejecting his own infant baptism and becoming re-baptized. He was locked in a residential palace prison which was surrounded by a moat and under guard. Dirk had been in prison so long that he had lost weight. He kept tightening his belt, but if a verdict wasn’t reached soon, he would eventually face a death of starvation.

As time wore on in captivity he began planning his escape by taking cloth rags and secretly knotting them together into a rope. Eventually he was able to make his rope long enough to suspend from the window of his prison onto the moat below. Dirk waited until a day when the moat was frozen, and then he lowered himself out of the window and onto its glassy surface. He shuffled across the icy moat away from the palace as quickly and quietly as he could.

But before he was even out of sight of the palace he heard a shout of alarm from the bulwarks. His escape had been discovered. Looking back he soon saw one of the guards running after him. Dirk continued to run, but he felt like his legs couldn’t move fast enough, and he realized that the meager food rations and sedentary life in prison had taken its toll on his body. With the guard gaining on him Dirk set out across the ice of Hondegat pond, hoping to gain some distance by shuffling over its slippery surface.

Then he heard a loud CRACK, and seconds later the first cry for HELP echoed across the frozen water. Now, he was faced with a choice: continue running for his own safety, or run back across the ice of Hondegat pond?

Had the Lord delivered Dirk from his enemy? Had Dirk now gained his freedom because the Lord had allowed the guard to fall through the ice to his death?

-Or-

Was the Lord giving Dirk the chance to love his enemy in radical obedience by going back to save him?

Dirk knew what he had to do. He turned around and went back. There in the icy hole his pursuer was bobbing in the water, crying out and desperately grasping at the air. In full Christ-like imitation Dirk laid down on the ice, stretched out his arms, reaching out to save his enemy.

But upon saving his enemy’s life, Dirk was immediately taken back into custody and held prisoner in a church tower, from which there was no way escape. Only four days after his recapture Dirk Willems was given the death sentence to be burned at the stake. The story goes that the wind was blowing that day, and because he wasn’t inhaling the smoke, it prolonged his death. His screams were heard from a great distance, but unlike the screams of the guard on Hondegat pond, no one came to Dirk’s rescue.

  1. . .  it seems so long ago, and yet the story echoes across history and we can still hear the cries from the broken ice. Do I love my enemy, or do I see his misfortune as “God’s judgement” on him and as an excuse to leave him behind?

Obviously, loving my enemy doesn’t always have the drama that Dirk Willems experienced, but is my spirit the same as his? What about the co-worker who takes advantage of me? The business that didn’t give me the product or service I paid for? The driver who cut me off? The backstabbing brother in Christ? Do I love in all these situations? Doing good in return for his bad, blessing in return for his curse, praying for those who mistreat me, giving freely to those who take from me?

Why did Dirk Willems go back and save his enemy, only to die for his act of mercy? And why should I love those who do me wrong?

Jesus tells me to love my enemies, because Jesus loves His enemies, even enough to die for them. . . to die for me. To Jesus, I am the guard struggling in Hondegat pond, and He reaches out to save me, only to die Himself.

“For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps. . . When He was reviled, He did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but continued entrusting Himself to Him who judges justly.”     (1 Peter 2:21, 23)

PRAYER: Jesus, even though you commanded us to love our enemies, we find it often too much of a challenge to even love our friends as you have loved us. Give us hearts that love as yours does – even for our enemies, that we might be willing to die for them. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

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DayBreaks for 1/10/18 – God Help the Fish

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Image courtesy from iStock photo.

DayBreaks for 1/10/18: God Help the Fish

When you think of it, we all like fairy tale stories in one form or another. We like stories of frogs becoming princes, of ugly ducklings that become beautiful swans and the down-and-out who rise above adversity yet remain kind, compassionate and humble.

Sam Houston was the first president of the Republic of Texas. It’s said he was a rather nasty fellow with a checkered past.  Later in life Houston made a commitment to Christ and was baptized in a river. The preacher said to him, “Sam, your sins are washed away.”  Houston replied, “God help the fish.”

We see similar stories throughout the Bible as ordinary people, often very poor and outcast, who come to a special relationship with God or Jesus. The woman at the well, the woman taken in adultery, Saul of Tarsus, Zacchaeus and others are all examples. We are uplifted by their stories.

Yet, each and every believer in Jesus is like the pauper who becomes a prince or princess. We have to go through a process much like Sam Houston did – of being convicted of our estate (it must become clear to see!) – before God dresses us in the finest of robes, puts shoes on us, gives us his ring and reinstates us to a place in His own house.

How do you see yourself? You may not feel like the prince or princess just yet, but once your sins have been washed away, you are no longer what you previously were. You are a child of the King and you are growing to look more and more like him with each passing day, week, month and year. The day will come when you will stand beside him in glory, look in the mirror and see both his and your reflection, and will be amazed at how alike you are!

Hang tough! Persevere! Trust Him! He will finish the work he has started!

PRAYER: God, I know my own sin is enough to kill all the fish in the sea, yet you promise me you have washed me clean and that I am your child. Help us all to being to grasp that simple, yet profound, truth. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

COPYRIGHT 2017 by Galen C. Dalrymple. All rights reserved.

DayBreaks for 12/22/17 – The Man Who Loved Mary

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DayBreaks for 12/22/17: The Man Who Loved Mary

Matthew 1:19 (ESV) – And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly.

He is the forgotten man – the man in the shadows. The man who takes a backseat at every Christmas season and yet he is there quietly supporting his beloved, Mary. He is never mentioned by Paul in any of his writings, and the earliest gospel, Mark, does not mention him either. Some look to Joseph as the patron saint of workers as he was a laborer. Some translate his work as “carpenter”, but the term means laborer or craftsman meaning he could have been a carpenter, stone mason, metal worker or some other artisan. He was last mentioned in Scripture in Luke when Jesus was twelve. Had he been present at the crucifixion, he would have been responsible for the body of Jesus, but that job fell to Joseph of Arimathea. Most believe that he died long before the beginning of Jesus’ ministry.

This morning, as I read the verse above from Matthew 1, I was struck in a new way as I read about Joseph. When I’d read it before, I tended to just skim over it, but for some reason, not today. Joseph was a just man – a “good” man, if any can be called that. I tried to imagine the feelings that must have welled up inside him when he heard that Mary was with child. I would imagine that there was some anger initially, yielding to disappointment and heartbreaking pain as he had to have assumed she’d been with someone else (at least until his visit from the angel informed him otherwise). Do you know how that must have felt? Can you imagine it?

But the scripture goes on to say that he was unwilling to put her to shame. Why? There can only be one reason that I can think of: he loved Mary. Deeply, passionately and without reservation – he loved her.

And then comes the visit from the angel and his soul is flooded with relief – at least partially. The relief in knowing she’d not slept with someone else had to be palpable, but yet there was a lingering problem – a problem that would only grow for nine months: Mary was pregnant and it could not be hidden. So when Joseph accepted the words of the angel at face value, he was also accepting the fact that he, too, would be the object of scorn and ridicule, that he would be suspected of having defiled Mary prior to the wedding. So why did he willingly accept it? I believe there are two reasons: 1) he was a just man – a good man who didn’t want to bring shame to Mary and have her bear it all by herself; 2) he loved her with all his heart.

Christmas is a season that is all about love. We speak often of God’s love for us in sending Jesus. We see the beaming face of Mary, alight with the glow of the star and oil lamps as she cradles her newborn Son and we can see the love in her eyes at the miracle she holds. And there, in the background where he has been content to be for two thousand years, stands Joseph, a just man who loved Mary.

PRAYER: Lord, thank you for the example of love of this man of the shadows, Joseph. May we love so selflessly! In Jesus’ name, Amen.  

Copyright by 2017 by Galen C. Dalrymple.

DayBreaks for 12/11/17 – Thou Doest Protest Too Much

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DayBreaks for 12/11/17: Thou Doest Protest too Much

From the DayBreaks archive, December 2007:

This past week I was having a conversation with a wise, elderly woman from our church.  We were musing on our culture’s head-long rush to remove God from the public square entirely.  There are those who think that God and Christianity should have no place at all in the public arena.  They are eager and quick to point to the constitution, jumping up and down and shouting against Christianity, but they misinterpret what the constitution says.  The so-called “establishment clause” in the constitution says that the government shall not establish a state religion – it doesn’t say that religion should not be allowed to be practiced publicly or privately.  In fact, it is quite clear that the topic of God came into a great many discussions among the founding fathers.  How many of them were merely Deists versus Christians may be a topic of debate – but religion played often and well in the public discourse.

At the present time, Michael Newdow (you may remember him – he had an appeal go to the Supreme Court in an effort to have “under God” removed from the pledge of allegiance, only to have his case thrown out on a technicality – he was supposedly suing on behalf of his child, but his child didn’t live with him, therefore the court ruled he had no right to sue on her behalf.  The court never ruled on the real topic – the question of whether or not can “under God” remain in the pledge.

Michael Newdow is at it again.  He still doesn’t have custody of his daughter (who lives with her mother, and unless I’m mistaken, they are strongly opposed to Newdow’s actions), but he’s now suing on behalf of some other folks.  I don’t get all the legal mumbo-jumbo, but he’s once more trying to get “under God” taken out of the pledge. 

Michael Newdow is an atheist.  The question the elderly sister asked me was simply this: “What do atheists fight so hard to do away with something they don’t even believe exists?”  Interesting queston, eh?  I mean, if they really believe He doesn’t exist, why should it bother them if I think and believe He does exist? 

Then, on the morning that I wrote this DayBreaks, I got an email from a reader who noted that since the atheists don’t believe in any god, they in essence become their own god.  She was right, I think.  Why does Michael Newdow and others of his ilk try to eliminate all mention of God or Jesus?  Because they want to be their own god.  They don’t want to have to even consider that they might have to answer to a Higher Authority.  It’s almost as if they are sitting there with their eyes clenched as tightly shut as they possibly can squeeze them, with hands over their ears, repeating over and over, “There is no God, there is no God, there is no God,” hoping to convince themselves of that fact.  I remember that my kids would do similar things when they were little when they didn’t want to believe something that they couldn’t escape, like knowing they were going to the doctor to get an immunization.  All the “No, I’m not going!  No, I’m not going!  No, no, no!” didn’t make the inevitable go away.

Sadly, no matter how hard he may try, Michael Newdow will never be able to escape from the Truth.  He’s in for a big surprise – and a very unpleasant one, at that, if he doesn’t come to faith before he dies.  We should pray for his lost soul and the souls of all who are lost in unbelief.  We are all there at one time, too.

Psalm 14:1 – The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.”  They are corrupt, their deeds are vile; there is no one who does good.

PRAYER:  Lord, open the eyes of those who don’t believe in You.  Help them to see the Light of the World that can take away their sin and give them eternal life.  Help us not to try to be our own gods, for we are doomed to failure and destruction if we pursue that path!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2017 by Galen C. Dalrymple.

DayBreaks for 11/28/17 – I Have Returned Alive

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DayBreaks for 11/28/17: I Have Returned Alive

From the DayBreaks archive, November 2007:

Shoichi Yokoi was a soldier, conscripted into the Imperial Japanese Army in 1941 and sent to Guam shortly thereafter.  In 1944, as American forces reconquered the island, Yokoi went into hiding.
On January 24, 1972, Yokoi was discovered in a remote section of Guam by two of the island’s inhabitants.  For 28 years he had been hiding in an underground jungle cave, fearing to come out of hiding even after finding leaflets declaring that World War II had ended.  “It is with much embarrassment that I have returned alive,” he said upon his return to Japan, carrying his rusted rifle at his side.

There is no question that the Japanese soldiers during WW2 were incredibly loyal and committed to their cause.  Much of the fiercest fighting of the war took place in the Pacific theater.  One of the things that the Japanese had drilled into them through their culture for centuries is that you never surrender.  To surrender was the greatest possible insult and shame that a soldier could face.  If you were a Japanese soldier, there were only 2 ways that you could return home honorably: either as a victor at the war’s end or as a corpse.  Hence, Mr. Yokio’s comment: “It is with much embarrassment that I have returned alive.”  The poor man had stayed at his post, alone and in hiding on Guam, for nearly 30 years.

Many thoughts run through my mind as I read this story:

I’m impressed with such dedication to a cause, such loyalty.  It makes me wonder about my commitment to the cause of the cross. 

I’m intrigued by the mindset that coming home alive is a shame.  Then, I stop to think about our Lord’s instructions that we must lose our lives if we hope to find life.  We must die to who we are in our sinful human natures.  And to come home, to stand before God’s judgment bar in heaven without having fully died, would be a great shame.  I think that I must redouble my prayers and efforts to “put to death” the old man so that a new One can live inside of me.

In spite of the shame of not truly dying to myself as I should in this life, Jesus will see to it that I do come home alive.  And when I do, it will be to a welcome, not to shame.

PRAYER:  Help me to die, Lord, that I may live.  And let that life be in the glory of Your Presence, that we may not be ashamed!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2017 by Galen C. Dalrymple.

DayBreaks for 11/17/17 – Win the War, Lose the Victory

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DayBreaks for 11/17/17: Win the War, Lose the Victory

NOTE: Galen is traveling…again.

From the DayBreaks archive, November 2007:

There are 79 countries around the world that have a problem with unexploded landmines.  Over 110 million unexploded landmines lie buried in these countries.  There are estimated to be 37 million unexploded mines in Africa, Angola alone has 10 million, with 70,000 amputee children.  A landmine can remain deadly for up to 50 years. 

Gideon is a fascinating character in the Old Testament.  As one of Israel’s judges (more is written about him in the book of Judges than any other character) he defeated 120,000 of the enemy with 300 men armed only with pitchers, ram’s horns for trumpets and lanterns.  Pretty heady stuff.  But he’s also known as the man who asked God for a fleece, even after he’d already been told by God what He was going to do and after God had already given him another sign.  In fact, Gideon had at least 4 signs from God before the battle began!  Still…his name is in the roll call of the great people of faith in Hebrews 11, and mine isn’t!

But what happened after the battle is what is often overlooked.  Gideon had started out fearful and humble.  God won a great victory over the enemies of Israel through Gideon.  And after the battle and its immediate aftermath, Gideon seems to have lost some perspective.  He acted in a very vindictive manner against the foreign kings and against the people of the tribe of Gad.  He told the people that he wouldn’t be king, but that the Lord would rule over them, but there’s no indication that he ever called the nation to repentance and worship of the one true God.  He started living as if he were a king…and in fact, he named one of his sons, Abimelech, which means “my father is king”.  He was wealthy and seems to have grown a bit lackadaisical.  Abimelech was one of 70 sons born to Gideon, and he wound up murdering his 69 brothers.

At the end of the battle, it appears that all will end well with Gideon, that he’s now a solid man with his head screwed on straight.  But there were landmines in his heart and in the things that surrounded him.  And clearly, judging by the results to his family, the dangers of war linger long after the last battle had taken place.  Heroes in battle are not always heroes in everyday life. 

Presbyterian pastor Andrew Bonar wisely said, “Let us be as watchful after the victory as before the battle.”  We have been given a great victory by the Lord our God – victory over death, over sin, over the old man and even victory over the enemy of our souls.  But, let’s not forget that there are plenty of landmines out there waiting for a wayward step.  We need to be watchful. 

No matter who you are, moral laxness will cause problems.  Just because you have won a single battle with temptation does not mean you will automatically win the next one.  We need to be constantly watchful against temptation.  Sometimes Satan’s strongest attacks come after a victory.

Psalms 60:12 (NIV) With God we will gain the victory, and he will trample down our enemies.

PRAYER: Lord, we are grateful for what You have done for us and through us.  Thank You for the victories – great and small, that we experience because of You.  Help us to watch our step and be ever alert, for even though the war is won, we don’t want to lose victories along the way.   In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2017 by Galen C. Dalrymple.

DayBreaks for 11/16/17 – As If

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DayBreaks for 11/16/17: As If

NOTE: Galen is traveling…again.

From the DayBreaks archive, November 2007:

Playing God.  It’s something that we accuse doctors of doing at times, or even other folks who are trying to control everything and everyone.  It’s a ridiculous concept, if you really stop to think of it.  Perhaps that’s why movies like Bruce Almighty found such an audience – it probed the depths of what it might be like if some bumbling human tried to take on the job of God.  And, God Himself challenged Job with the concept – almost saying point blank: “If you think you could do a better job, give it a spin!”  Job, fortunately, was wise enough to not take Him up on the offer. 

Here’s a different twist on the notion:

“Losing PlayStation privileges or being confined to a room would be hard enough for most children, but at the tender age of ten, Sajani Shakya almost lost her status as a living goddess.  In the Kathmandu Valley of Nepal, living goddesses—called Kumari—are chosen from the same Hindu caste as Buddha and worshiped as deity.  As Sajani soon learned, with the elevated status came elevated expectations.  Under no circumstances was she ever to leave the country.  Nepalese authorities were outraged, then, when she chose to travel to the United States to participate in a documentary that was being filmed about the Kumari tradition.  Upon her return, she received notification of termination from goddess status from Jaiprasad Regmi, chief of the government trust that manages the affairs of the living goddesses.  However, after a little pressure from the public and Sajani’s own remorse, the government has since offered a reprieve.  Sajani will retain her title if she faithfully goes through an intense cleansing process that washes her of the sins of the countries she has visited in her travels.” – AP, 7/21/07

There is a huge difference between God and the gods of men.  As if any human, or a group of “authorities” could strip a real God of His Godhood.  It can’t help but make me wonder what definition of “god” the Nepalese were operating under.  It’s preposterous to think that we can take away God’s “Godness”. 

To some extent, they are right: with greatness (and if anything constitutes greatness, surely that would be “Godhood”!) come expanded expectations.  We just need to be careful of what expectations we place on Him.  Do you expect Him to do your bidding?  Do you view Him as the Heavenly Answer-man?  In the real God we see a great dichotomy: He is the one who gives answers, he is the one who can do anything, yet we often approach him by telling him what he should do in any given situation.  And if He doesn’t, we might be tempted to lose faith in Him (in essence, stripping Him of His God-ness) in our hearts and minds. 

The Truth is that God doesn’t need us to declare Him as God.  He knows who He is.  Our problems is that often we don’t know who we are in relation to Him! 

PRAYER: Help us to grow in appreciation and awareness of Your greatness this day.  Teach us that we are nowhere close to being able to do Your job and to humbly walk before You.   In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2017 by Galen C. Dalrymple.