DayBreaks for 5/18/18 – No Turning Back

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DayBreaks for 5/18/18: No Turning Back

From the DayBreaks archive, May 2008:

One more analogy from the Space Center: the shuttle is nearing the end of its lifespan, and in just a few more years, it’ll be retired in favor of the Constellation program – a program designed to put men back on the moon (by 2012, I think), and to go to even further places.  The shuttle will be no more, and the space program will return to the kind of rockets and space craft that were used previously.

The shuttle is a very complex piece of equipment.  It is not as complicated as a complete Apollo/Lunar Lander/Saturn V (which had 2 million separate systems – the most complicated piece of engineering ever made), but it is still an amazing piece of machinery. 

There is, as you know, a large central fuel tank, and two slender, white solid rocket boosters, one on each side.  They are called solid rocket boosters because their fuel is “solid”, not liquid.  Here’s the tricky thing about that kind of rocket booster: unlike the liquid fuel contained on the Apollo/Saturn 5, once you light if off a solid rocket booster, there’s no shutting it down until it has totally expended itself.  In other words, you’d better be sure you’re ready to go because you’ll be going somewhere …and going there very fast!

We are familiar with the passage that talks about how futile it is to put our “hand to the plow” and then look backwards. There is to be no going back, not even looking back for a glance, once we’ve embarked on the Christian pathway. There is only to be forward motion.

Another thought: we were all launched into this world at birth.  We will live our lives until we’ve expended all the seconds that God has allotted to us.  We can’t go back into the womb (as Nicodemus wondered when told by Jesus that we must be born again).  Once launched, we must take the journey that lies before us…and complete the course. 

May we choose the right trajectory that leads back to the Father’s house.  You are going somewhere – your engine has been lit by God Himself.  Where will you wind up?

PRAYER: Lord, thank you for the gift of life and the adventure of living.  Help us to keep on moving in the right direction until we arrive safely at home.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

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DayBreaks for 4/26/18 – Why Sin Vanished from Our Vocabulary

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DayBreaks for 4/26/18: Why Sin Vanished from Our Vocabulary

From the DayBreaks archive, April 2008:     

When is the last time that you heard the word “sin” actually spoken outside of a church – other than in a sneering derisive way?  I don’t know if I can honestly recall.  In fact, one wonders if perhaps the word is spoken very often inside churches these days.  Why is that?  No less than 50 years ago, the word could be heard at least every once in a while from politicians, businessmen, teachers, professors and certainly in churches.  Why no more?

It has to do with the shift in our thinking from the realm of spiritual things being relegated to nothing more than personal belief without anything to recommend it to a serious thinker or scholar as being more than just superstition.  When the Bible as God’s special revelation was thrown out, and when the real historical Jesus was made into a farce by the “Historical Jesus movement”, and when universities began teaching that anything the wasn’t scientifically provable should be thrown on the dust heap as so much gibberish, then there was to sin anymore, no mark that we would be missing.  Because, you see, God can’t be scientifically proven, therefore He must not exist. 

So, if you ask most people in our culture what, if anything, they think of sin, Don Everts in The Smell of Sin suggests it would be like asking them what they think of unicorns.  (In fact, I suspect that some might give more credence to the existence of unicorns – perhaps even if only in the past – than they do to the existence of God, although there’s far more evidence for the latter!)  Still, most people know that unicorns are a myth.  As Everts says, “So the debate is: is it a cute myth or a silly myth or a destructive one?  Sin really has joined the ranks of Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny in our culture: something that you once believed in as a child but have since grown out of…So, what does sin smell like to most of our neighbors?  Nothing.  Air.”

Has sin vanished from your vocabulary?  Have you relegated it to something other than what it is?  Have you developed cute names for it (“goof-up”, “mistake”, “slip of the tongue”, “mis-step”, “an oops”)?  God calls it sin.  And He reminds us very clearly: (Ezekiel 18:4, NIV) – For every living soul belongs to me, the father as well as the son–both alike belong to me. The soul who sins is the one who will die.

PRAYER:  Father, keep us from believing fairy tales and give us the wisdom to believe You.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

DayBreaks for 4/23/18 – Something Evil This Way Comes

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DayBreaks for 4/23/18: Something Evil This Way Comes   

From the DayBreaks archive, April 2008:

Michael Shermer, publisher of Skeptic magazine and author of The Science of Good and Evil, wrote on 3/18/04:

“I once had the opportunity to ask Thomas Keneally, author of Schindler’s List, what he thought was the difference between Oskar Schindler, rescuer of Jews and hero of his story, and Amon Goeth, the Nazi commandant of the Plaszow concentration camp.  His answer was revealing.  Not much, he said.  Had there been no war, Mr. Schindler and Mr. Goeth might have been drinking buddies and business partners, morally obtuse, perhaps, but relatively harmless.  What a difference a war makes, especially to the moral choices that lead to good and evil.”

Shermer goes on to quote Russian writer Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn: “If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them.  But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being.  And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?”

This reminds me of the parable Jesus spoke about the Pharisee and that tax collector.  The Pharisee saw himself in rather glowing terms: “Thank you, God, that I am not like others – like this tax collector!”  The tax collector, meanwhile, was downcast and pleaded, “God, have mercy on me a sinner!”

Who do you most closely identify with – the Pharisee or the tax collector?  I hope it is the latter, for we all have the “line dividing good and evil” that cuts right through our own heart.  The sin we do in private goes unseen except by God, giving us all the temptation to sound and act like the Pharisee, but God knows better.  When we approach one another, we’d be wise to recognize that something evil this way comes.

We can’t cut out a piece of our own heart.  We can desperately plead with God to create within us a new heart to replace our diseased one.

PRAYER:  “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me!  Cast me not away from Thy Presence, O Lord, and take not Thy Holy Spirit from me.  Restore unto me the joy of Thy salvation, and renew a right spirit within me!”  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

DayBreaks for 4/19/18 – Habakkuk’s Circumstances – Deja Vu

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DayBreaks for 4/19/18: Habakkuk’s Circumstances (Déjà vu)     

I will refer you to Habakkuk 1.2-4 as a background for this DayBreaks.

Here’s the scenario: Habakkuk, a prophet in Judea, looks around himself and sees that the “righteous” (in whose number he includes himself) are surrounded by the wicked. He sees so-called justice that is really injustice. He sees iniquity. He sees destruction and violence running rampant. Strife and contention are everywhere and the law seems paralyzed. As bad as that is, what really is bothering Habakkuk is that he has been crying out to the Lord for help – and not seeing any help coming to his rescue.

This is going to get a bit sensitive here because I’m going to delve into politics. Bear with me, please. Habakkuk mixed the two – righteousness and justice. As much as some would like to totally separate the two, we can’t. Why is it wrong to steal from someone, both morally and ethically? Because it results in injustice to the person who had things taken. Justice is both a moral and political issue methinks.

And here’s where it’s gonna get touchy: there are many in America today who are feeling a lot like Habakkuk. They are right – there is much to despair over because of what they see happening (or not happening). They can’t understand why God has let some things happen and why he hasn’t come down with an iron rod and set things straight. And as a result, they cry out – but not maybe so much to God as to their friends on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and via email.

I think that Habakkuk had a far better approach to venting his frustration. Isn’t it better to cry out to God when we are despairing? We may not like the answer (or non-answer) we get from God, but it is HIS answer, so it is bound to be better than that which we get from our friends. Our dilemma is whether or not we believe his answers and ways are good or not. He is the God who raises up rulers and tears them down – not for our satisfaction, but for his immutable reasons. 

Indeed, God may yet come down with a rod of iron to fix what is wrong in this world (we know he will eventually, but he can fix things in the meantime, too, if in his infinite wisdom he knows that it is the right thing to do). There IS much injustice. There IS much violence, strife and contention. Those things need to be fixed – and they will.

But rather than crying out to everyone else around us, maybe like Habakkuk we should be crying out to God. Oh, and one more thing: maybe we need to be on our knees a whole lot more on behalf of our president, congresspersons, governors, magistrates, etc. than we have been. I wonder how often those who have railed the most against the political and moral state of affairs in our country are taking the command from Paul that we are to pray for our leaders (1 Timothy 2.2 – and bear in mind the leader Paul told people to pray for at that time as an utterly unjust, evil tyrant named Nero.) What, I wonder, would happen if Christians in the country and around the world truly started to pray for their leaders like we should? Not pray that they be smitten, but pray for their well-being, for righteousness to find a place to rule in their hearts, to seek God’s answers, to find salvation and God’s ways rather than the guidance of human advisors. Remember that prayer is offering our desires to God, but always with the attitude of “nevertheless, not my will, but thine be done.” Might God just hear from heaven and heal our land?

PRAYER: Convict us of the need to pray for all of our leaders far more than we feel the need to criticize them, Lord! In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

DayBreaks for 4/04/18 – The Undoubting Doubter

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DayBreaks for 4/04/18: The Undoubting Doubter

If I were to mention the names of certain disciples to you and ask you to write down the first word that comes into your mind, it is unlikely you would come up with the same words. If I were to mention the name of Judas many of you would write down the word “betray” or “betrayer” but not all of you. If I were to mention Simon Peter, some of you would write down the word “faith,” but not all of you. If I were to mention the names of James and John, some of you would write down the phrase “Sons of Thunder,” but not all of you. But when I mention the word Thomas, there is little question about the word most everyone would write down. It would be the word doubt or the label, “doubter”. Indeed, so closely have we associated Thomas with this word, that we have coined a phrase to describe him: “Doubting Thomas.”
You may be interested to know that in the first three gospels we are told absolutely nothing at all about Thomas. It is in John’s Gospel that he emerges as a distinct personality, but even then there are only 155 words about him. There is not a lot about this disciple in the Bible but there is more than one description.

When Jesus turned his face toward Jerusalem the disciples thought that it would be certain death for all of them. Surprisingly, it was Thomas who said: Then let us go so that we may die with him. (Interestingly, Thomas is said by tradition to have died a martyr’s death in India, having angered local religious authorities by his preaching of the gospel, they ran him through with a spear. How ironic that he would die in that manner after having placed his hand in the spear wound in Christ’s side!)

It wasn’t Peter who said …let us go so that we may die with him. It wasn’t John or Jesus’ half-brother James. Thomas’ words were courageous, yet we don’t remember him for that. We also fail to point out that in this story of Thomas’ doubt we have the one place in the all the Gospels where the Divinity of Christ is bluntly and unequivocally stated. 

It is interesting, is it not, that the story that gives Thomas his infamous nickname, is the same story that has Thomas making an earth shattering confession of faith? How did Thomas move so quickly from the bold confessor to the doubting one? I think it may be that those who are the most hopeful fall hardest when those hopes appear shattered and belief comes hard – if at all. But look at his confession after seeing the risen Christ: My Lord, and my God. Not teacher. Not just Lord. Not Messiah. But God! It is the only place where Jesus is called God without qualification of any kind. It is uttered with conviction as if Thomas was simply recognizing a fact, just as 2 + 2 = 4, and the sun is in the sky. You are my Lord and my God! These are certainly not the words of a doubter. Again, it wasn’t Peter, James or John who uttered those five huge words so laden with meaning.

Today, however, I want to ask you this question: who is Jesus to you? Is he your favorite moral and ethical teacher? Do you call him Lord? He is so much more than just Lord, as Thomas noted: he is God.

If you aren’t willing and ready to let him be both your Lord and God – with all that entails in terms of absolute, utter obedience to even the slightest thing he may ask or command – then we need to rethink our relationship with him. Too much is at stake to not think seriously about this!

PRAYER: Jesus, open our eyes to this profound truth that you are both Lord and God and there is no excuse to not follow every word that came out of your mouth and to commit ourselves unreservedly to humble obedience. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

DayBreaks for 4/3/18 – The Four Saddest Words

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DayBreaks for 4/03/18: The Four Saddest Words

In the 1800s, poet John Greenleaf Whittier wrote one of his most quoted poems in the English language. The poem was titled, “Maud Muller.” You’ve never heard of it? Actually, not many people remember this sorrowful poem, but generations of people have quoted two famous lines from its final stanza.

“Maud Muller” is about a young maiden who, while working the fields one day, sees a handsome young Judge riding by on horseback. She offers him a drink of cool water. Their encounter lasts only a few moments, but it makes a deep impression on both of them. Maud is greatly attracted to the Judge, and she dreams of marrying someone of his gentleness and integrity. She could leave the fields behind and live as the wife of a wealthy and powerful man.

At the same time, the Judge is attracted to Maud. He is tired of his career, and he dreams of marrying a warm, compassionate woman like Maud and settling into a simpler life in the country. But neither Maud nor the Judge acknowledges their attraction to one another. They are from different social classes—they cannot risk breaking the bonds of social conformity.

Maud later marries a man who brings her much pain and hardship. The Judge also enters into a loveless marriage. In the final stanza of the poem, Whittier offers us this warning: “For of all sad words of tongue or pen, The saddest are these: ‘It might have been!'”

What are the “might have been’s” in your life? Recall King Agrippa, who said he was “almost” persuaded to become a Christian? There is no evidence he ever did. When he died and stood before God, he may have considered what might have been.

Have you held off from sharing the good news with someone? Or of giving a kind word and a helping hand to someone in need?

We never know what might have been if we only took that small step in faith and obedience.

PRAYER: Lord, help us to live in such a way that our “might have been’s” are few and far between. Instead, let us live boldly in your service, serving your children. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

DayBreaks for 3/27/18 – The Prison and the Prisoner

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DayBreaks for 3/26/18: The Prison and the Prisoner

From the DayBreaks archive, March 2008:

Thomas Costain wrote a book called The Three Edwards, and in it he tells about an historical event from the 14th century.  Two brothers, Raynald and Edward, were bitter enemies.  Edward mounted war against Raynald, captured him and imprisoned him in Nieuwkerk Castle. 

But this was no ordinary prison.  The room was relatively comfortable and there was no lock on the door – no bolt, padlock or crossbeam.  Raynald, though a prisoner, was free to come or go at will.  In fact, it was better than that: Edward promised Raynald full restoration of all rights and titles on a single condition: that Raynald walk out of his cell.

There was only one problem: Raynald couldn’t walk out of his cell.  The door was smaller than a typical door…and Raynald was enormously fat.  He was so fat that he could not, no matter how much he squeezed and heaved and pushed, get himself through the doorway to his cell. 

So, in order to walk free and reclaim all he’d lost, he only had to do one thing: lose weight.  That would have come easily to most prisoners that were fed bread and water.  But it didn’t come easily to Raynald.  Edward has disguised a great cruelty in his apparent act of generosity to Raynald.  Every day, Edward had Raynald serve the richest, sauciest foods, sweet and tasty, along with as much ale and wine that Raynald could drink.  Raynald ate and ate and grew larger and fatter.  He spent 10 years trapped in that unlocked cell, and was freed only after Edward’s death.  By that time, his health was so ruined that he died soon afterwards.

As I read this tragic story, I was struck by several truths:

FIRST: Satan takes us prisoner by capitalizing on our desires, weaknesses and tastes.  He doesn’t need to create those things in us, he just takes advantage of our appetites.  And then he sets out to do his best to see to it that we stay sated with the pleasures of sin.

SECOND: Raynald had a choice – he could only eat as much as was truly necessary, he could have exercised in his cell, and he could have walked through the cell door after losing enough weight.  But Raynald was too fond of his sweets and tasty delights – thereby becoming his own warden, held in a prison only by his own weaknesses.  The same is true for us – Satan can’t keep us in the prison.  It is our choice – to continue to smother ourselves and indulge in our passions and sin, or to leave the prison behind.

THIRD: We think that the things we long for in our human nature are what will make us happy – that if we have enough of something, then we will be free at long last, not realizing (or at least not admitting to ourselves) that we are only perpetuating our imprisonment.  Freedom awaits us outside the imprisonment of our desires.  What would you rather have: freedom or another piece of cheesecake?

If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross. – Jesus

PRAYER: Father, our hearts and stomachs and eyes lie to us about what it is that we really want and what it is that is really good for us.  Give us the strength through Your Spirit that lives within us to deny ourselves for that which is far better and which will never fade away.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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