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.

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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.

DayBreaks for 11/15/17 – Disappointments

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DayBreaks for 11/15/17: Disappointments

From the DayBreaks archive, November 2007:

From The Culture Shift, Robert Lewis and Wayne Cordeiro, 2005: 

“The great missionary explorer, David Livingstone, served in Africa from 1840 until his death in 1873.  Pastors Robert Lewis and Wayne Cordeiro tell of an incident from Livingstone’s life that illustrates why we need to be thankful in all things.

“David Livingstone was eager to travel into the uncharted lands of Central Africa to preach the gospel. On one occasion, the famous nineteenth-century missionary and explorer arrived at the edge of a large territory that was ruled by a tribal chieftain. According to tradition, the chief would come out to meet him there; Livingstone could go forward only after an exchange was made. The chief would choose any item of Livingstone’s personal property that caught his fancy and keep it for himself, while giving the missionary something of his own in return.

“Livingstone had few possessions with him, but at their encounter he obediently spread them all out on the ground—his clothes, his books, his watch, and even the goat that provided him with milk (since chronic stomach problems kept him from drinking the local water). To his dismay, the chief took this goat. In return, the chief gave him a carved stick, shaped like a walking stick.

“Livingstone was most disappointed. He began to gripe to God about what he viewed as a stupid walking cane. What could it do for him compared to the goat that kept him well? Then one of the local men explained, “That’s not a walking cane. It’s the king’s very own scepter, and with it you will find entrance to every village in our country. The king has honored you greatly.”

“The man was right. God opened Central Africa to Livingstone, and as successive evangelists followed him wave after wave of conversions occurred.  Sometimes, in our disappointment over what we don’t have, we fail to appreciate the significance of what God has given us.”

Disappointments are a dime-a-dozen.  I just finished teaching the story of Joseph in one of our Bible studies.  The thing that struck me about Joseph is that he had plenty of opportunity to be disappointed and discouraged at many of the things that had happened to him.  The jealousy of his own brothers seemingly knew no bounds.  He was thrown into a pit, presumably to be left for dead, but wound up being sold by his own blood into a life of slavery.  He went to prison after being falsely accused.  He was forgotten by someone he’d helped who could have gotten him out of prison.  He lived with the pressure of answering to the most powerful man in the world, and lived with the risk of failing in his mission to save the lives of the Egyptian people if his plan went awry.  He lived with the frustration of not knowing how his father and brothers were doing – or if they were even alive – for they were alienated by affection and distance.  He had plenty of opportunity to be disappointed in how his life had gone. 

Why didn’t Joseph get discouraged?  Because he knew he didn’t really answer to the most powerful man in the world – he answered to God, the very God who orchestrated all the events of his life.  I’m so impressed with his attitude in Genesis 45, realizing that God had led him through all those things for His purposes. 

If you are living a life of frustration and disappointment, I believe it is because we don’t see God’s hand in everything – turning evil to good for us – and we blame others for bad things, or even ourselves.  And seeing God’s overarching guidance and direction relieves us from the necessity of revenge, bitterness, unforgiveness, etc., as we learn to trust Him and to realize that the things that others may mean for our own harm, will instead turn out to our benefit.  

Are you disappointed with something that’s been taken from you or given to you?  Don’t judge too quickly – God has already given you His scepter to give you admittance to His home!

PRAYER: May we trust in You fully, and in Your goodness to us, even in the face of great evil.  Help us to not be disappointed with the lot in life that You may have charted out for us, but to see all of our lives as opportunities to know and experience Your leading.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2017 by Galen C. Dalrymple.

DayBreaks for 11/8/17 – The Crushing Weight

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DayBreaks for 11/08/17: The Crushing Weight

From the DayBreaks archive, November 2007:

How do you deal with pressure?  Some folks love it, others hate it.  Pressure can come from a variety of sources: it can be imposed from someone in authority telling you want to do and when it has to be done, or from having wasted precious time when you could have been working on something important.  It can be generated by the manipulative expectations of parents, children, spouses or friends.  We can generate our own pressure based on unreasonable and impossible expectations we place on ourselves.  Other pressures are more physical: that squeezing of the chest that indicates a heart attack or the weight of a car falling on top of you. 

The following comes from Sidney Greidanus’ book, Preaching Christ from Genesis: “The nuclear submarine Thresher had heavy steel bulkheads and heavy steel armor, so it could dive deep and withstand the pressure of the ocean.  Unfortunately, on a test run in 1963, the Thresher’s nuclear engine quit, and it could not get back to the surface.  It sank deeper and deeper into the ocean.  The pressure became immense.  The heavy steel bulkheads buckled; the Thresher was crushed with 129 people inside.

“The Navy searched for the Thresher with a research craft that was much stronger than submarines.  It was shaped like a steel ball and was lowered into the ocean on a cable.  They finally located the Thresher at a depth of 8,400 feet: one and a half miles down.  It was crushed like an egg shell.  That was not a surprise, for the pressure at that depth is tremendous—3,600 pounds per square inch.

“What was surprising to the searchers was that they saw fish at that great depth.  And these fish did not have inches of steel to protect them.  They appeared to have normal skin, a fraction of an inch thick.  How can these fish survive under all that pressure?  How come they are not crushed by the weight of the water?  They have a secret.  Their secret is that they have the same pressure inside themselves as they have on the outside.  Survival under pressure.

“John assures us, “The one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.”  We will be victorious in the battle against Satan because Jesus poured his Spirit into our hearts.  “You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.”

If we don’t have the Spirit functioning inside of us, we, like the Thresher, will be crushed by the enemy.  Alone, we are not able to sustain our lives under his relentless pressuring attacks.  Is it any wonder that we fail when we struggle against Satan in our own strength and wisdom?  We must be filled with the overflowing of the Spirit to survive, and not just to survive, but to thrive in our situation. 

Ephesians 3:14-19 (NIV) – For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name.  I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge–that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

PRAYER: Daily, Lord, we are put under pressure to compromise and surrender the ground You’ve given us to protect.  Fill us up completely, so that not only are we equal to the pressure, but that the Spirit within us will flow out of each pore of our bodies and souls that Your glory and goodness may abound!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2017 by Galen C. Dalrymple.

DayBreaks for 10/24/17 – Adapt, Improvise, Overcome

DayBreaks for 10/24/17: Adapt, Improvise, Overcome

From the DayBreaks archive, October 2007:

I can read some things and never be moved by them.  I fly by them like a bat flying by in the dark of night – quickly, silently, invisibly.  And then there are things that I read that strike me in either a positive or negative way, evoking some response.  I came across such a thing just last week, when I read the following quotes from a CNN chat that was posted on GetReligion.org on 10/08/07.  The article was about the president and his faith and things he’s said.  Just to set the stage, in one speech, the president stated that Timothy McVeigh (the Oklahoma City bomber), professed to be a Christian.  The chat set the discussion straight on that point, but it was the last part of the quotation that struck me.  Here’s a bit of the chat:

“Um, someone might want to let President Bush know that Timothy McVeigh professed no religious belief. Lou Michel, the author of a well-researched book on McVeigh (he spent countless hours interviewing the terrorist before he was executed), had this to say during a CNN chat:

“Question from chat room: Does McVeigh have any spiritual-religious beliefs?

“Lou Michel: McVeigh is agnostic.  He doesn’t believe in God, but he won’t rule out the possibility.  I asked him, “What if there is a heaven and hell?”

“He said that once he crosses over the line from life to death, if there is something on the other side, he will – and this is using his military jargon – “adapt, improvise, and overcome.”

McVeigh’s answer is very sad, yet it seems to echo a concept that is misguided and misplaced.  It is misplaced because it shows that he is totally trusting in himself and his abilities to manage his own eternal destiny, to even be able to manipulate in the afterlife (if such, according to McVeigh, exists).  It is misguided because it doesn’t take into account the Word of the Lord concerning the importance of choosing in this life to follow Christ. 

Mr. McVeigh crossed over the line from life to death a long time ago now (June 11, 2001).  I’m confident that he’s since learned that he can’t change things, and that he cannot overcome the will of God and whatever sentence God has pronounced on his soul.  But I fear it appears that he learned that a bit too late.

Personally, I’m interested in crossing over the line from death to life.  And that’s what happens to us first of all when we accept Christ, and ultimately when we awaken from our deathbed in heaven’s glory. 

John 5:24 (NLT) – I assure you, those who listen to my message and believe in God who sent me have eternal life. They will never be condemned for their sins, but they have already passed from death into life.

PRAYER:  Jesus, I pray that the blindness of arrogance will be lifted from our eyes and that we will realize that today is the day of decision – not after we’ve died.  Help us to understand the urgency of our response to your offer of salvation.  We put our trust in you to carry us from this world of death to an eternity of life.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2017 by Galen C. Dalrymple.

DayBreaks for 10/13/17 – Living in Spite House

A Spite House in Boston, MA

DayBreaks for 10/13/17: Living in Spite House

There once was a millionaire who owned a lot in an exclusive residential area of New York City. This particular lot presented a very unusual problem. The lot was five feet wide and about a hundred feet long. He couldn’t do anything with such an odd sized lot, so he decided to sell it one of the neighbors on either side. But when he went to the neighbors, they didn’t want to give him anything for it. They basically said, “Look, you can’t build on it and you can’t sell it to anyone else. So take our offer or leave it.” The millionaire was so angered by their refusal and rebuttal that he decided to get even.

He hired an architect and a contractor, and had a house designed for that weird shaped lot. It was five feet wide and ran the entire length of the property. He moved in and set up house in this narrow house. Each room was barely wide enough for a single piece of furniture. His hatred for the people on either side of this small lot made him decide to ruin the look of the entire area.

The neighbors complained that it was a blight to the neighborhood. But the city fathers couldn’t find any code forbidding it. This millionaire moved into it, and lived there the rest of his life. The only one who was really punished was him. He moved into a long narrow little house that held only hate and discomfort. The house became known throughout the neighborhood as “Spite House.” It still stands to this day as a monument to one man’s hatred.

When I heard this story, I thought, surely this is an exaggeration. So, I did some checking and not only did I learn it was true, but what was even more shocking is the fact that there are at least twelve “Spite Houses” to be found in a simple search online.

There’s one in Carlsbad, New Mexico, built to block the Mayor’s view and annoy him. There are two in San Francisco; One at Deadman’s Point, Maine; one in Huntsville, Alabama; one in Boston, one that is supposed to be haunted and has been turned into a Bed & Breakfast in Fredrick, Maryland; and a triangle shaped “Spite House” in Montlake, Washington, a suburb of Seattle.

Isn’t that silly?

But here’s the question: are you living in a “spite house”? If so, confess it, move out and never go back again!

PRAYER: Jesus, protect us from the heart of bitterness and spite! Let us be bigger and better people than to erect houses of spite against those around us! Keep us from this ugliness! In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2017 by Galen C. Dalrymple.

DayBreaks for 9/25/17 – From Coward to Courage

DayBreaks for 9/25/17: From Coward to Courage

From the DayBreaks archive, 9/2007:

From In the Grip of Grace by Max Lucado: “During the early days of the Civil War a Union soldier was arrested on charges of desertion.  Unable to prove his innocence, he was condemned and sentenced to die a deserter’s death. His appeal found its way to the desk of Abraham Lincoln.  The president felt mercy for the soldier and signed a pardon.  The soldier returned to service, fought the entirety of the war, and was killed in the last battle.  Found within his breast pocket was the signed letter of the president.”

Application:

What a poignant story.  A soldier running from duty, most likely because of fear.  Captured, caught, condemned to die, he pleads for mercy – an appeal of the sentence that would have caused him to be hanged and remembered as a coward.  The plea lands on the desk of the commander in chief.  And mercy flowed down to a man who didn’t deserve it. 

We’ve all needed a pardon from time to time.  Just as with the soldier who had exhausted every appeal, except to the commander in chief, we were out of appeals, too. Like him, if our Commander in Chief hadn’t granted mercy, death was certain.  The case had been heard already and sentence passed.  This was the only hope left. 

What touched the heart of president Lincoln?  I don’t know.  By offering a pardon, others might desert when the times got tough and hope for a similar pardon.  Some of the generals were no doubt angry about the president’s pardon – after all, discipline must be maintained in a military organization.  They probably felt he was soft, or too old, or just to tired to think straight and make a good decision.

Imagine the relief and happiness in the heart of the soldier when he heard the president’s decision!  He was free.  He could have gone home.  Who would want him in their unit when the chips were down?  But instead of running home, he ran back to the front lines and fought for the rest of the war, only to be killed in the last battle of that great conflict.  What happened?  He was touched by the president’s act of grace.  His pardon was so precious to him that it changed his life.  He carried his pardon with him the rest of his days.   

The grace of Christ has caused men and women to do strange and heroic things.  To die singing songs of praise, to willingly submit their necks to the noose, their bodies to the flames, or their heads to the sword.  The grace of Christ turned Peter from a denier and coward to a martyr.  The grace of Christ empowered Thomas the doubter to be skinned alive (according to tradition).  The grace of Christ empowered 160,000 Christians around the world last year to say “Jesus Christ is Lord!” before their lives were offered as martyrs.

Have you found courage in the grace of Christ?  Has it changed your life forever?  Tell someone about it.  Don’t run from the battle – run to it.  The cause of Christ will move forward.  He’s looking for good soldiers who will, if necessary, die knowing their pardon has been established by the Commander in Chief.  This IS the call of the Master to us.  What will your answer be?

PRAYER:  Father, make us bold because of our thankfulness of what You’ve done for us!  Thank You for pardoning us and calling us into Your service!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2017 by Galen C. Dalrymple.