DayBreaks for 7/18/19 – Two Thieves, Two Destinies

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DayBreaks for 07/18/19: Two Thieves – Two Destinies

From the DayBreaks archives, July 2009:

Luke 23:39-43: One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: ‘Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us!’ But the other criminal rebuked him. ‘Don’t you fear God,’ he said, ‘since you are under the same sentence?  We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.’  Then he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’ Jesus answered him, ‘I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.’

In The Jesus I Never Knew, Philip Yancey suggests, quite appropriately, that the two thieves represent the choice of all humanity – the decision about what to do with the person on the center cross.  The first thief picked up the taunts of the religious leaders, suggesting that Jesus should save himself, but his heart betrayed him – for he meant it only in jest.  In his mind, here was a “messiah” who couldn’t even save himself, let alone the people or a thief on a cross.  He saw a powerless messiah.  The other thief had better vision, and not seeking delivery from his painful death, simply asked to be remembered in Jesus’ kingdom.

There are several lessons here:

FIRST: Many have made the same mistake as the first thief, who saw a powerless God, a powerless Christ, and have rejected him as a result.  Who needs a messiah who is crucified, spit upon and beaten and who doesn’t retaliate?  Such a messiah would appear to be a spineless wimp unworthy of the label of “man”, let alone “God”.  Gods are supposed to be powerful!  The problem is that when some look at Christ’s apparent powerlessness on the cross, they see God’s impotence instead of proof of His love.

SECOND: It doesn’t take much to find God’s favor.  The second thief never said, “I believe you are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.”  He didn’t live a good life.  Quite the contrary, but he alone of everyone in scripture called Jesus “king” in a non-mocking way.  He saw something in the quiet carpenter from Nazareth that made him believe there was a coming kingdom – and it was something he wanted.  God doesn’t ask much from you or me – just belief in His Son, and the plea from a heart that is dying to be granted mercy.

THIRD: There are benefits to being close to death and suffering.  They sharpen our focus like nothing else so we can see what really matters.  It is a tragedy that we seem to have to reach the end of the rope of life before we realize we need something else to hang on to.

The Romans, fed on stories of the power of Jupiter, saw nothing to admire in the crumpled form on the center cross.  The Jews, reminiscing about the deeds of God to lead them out of Egypt, saw nothing to admire, either.  But a sinner saw it all – and today is in paradise as a result. 

Two thieves – two crosses – two different destinies.  What do you see and what will you do with the man on the center cross?

PRAYER: Help us to understand, Father, that we make many choices each day about what we will do with the man on the center cross.  Help us to make the decisions that honor Him – the decisions that obedient disciples would make for His glory!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2019 by Galen C. Dalrymple.  ><}}}”>

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DayBreaks for 7/12/19 – The Miracle on a Stick

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DayBreaks for 07/12/19: The Miracle on a Stick

From the DayBreaks archives, July 2009:

They traveled from Mount Hor along the route to the Red Sea, to go around Edom. But the people grew impatient on the way; they spoke against God and against Moses, and said, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the desert? There is no bread! There is no water! And we detest this miserable food!” Then the LORD sent venomous snakes among them; they bit the people and many Israelites died. The people came to Moses and said, “We sinned when we spoke against the LORD and against you. Pray that the LORD will take the snakes away from us.” So Moses prayed for the people. The LORD said to Moses, “Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live.” So Moses made a bronze snake and put it up on a pole. Then when anyone was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake, he lived. – Numbers 21:4-9 (NIV)

I was recently reading Athol Dickson’s The Gospel According to Moses when I discovered new insights into the passage from Numbers 21, above.  Let me share them with you:

FIRST: Remember Israel’s recent history.  They’d been freed from Egypt, only to find themselves apparently left alone as Moses had been up on the mountain for so long the people felt that he was most certainly dead.  Of course, he wasn’t, but they had no way of knowing that.  And so they asked Aaron to make a golden calf so that they could worship it and perhaps receive some help and direction from the “god”.  While this might seem very strange for us, remember that they’d been in Egyptian slavery for 400 years and had become intimately acquainted with the religious worship of Egyptian gods, which included various bulls, frogs, falcons and other animals.  So they clearly thought this golden god could help them.  The result of that episode was that thousands of Israelites died because they’d formed and worshipped a golden calf.  Now, however, they are in trouble again…whining and angering Moses and God.  So, God sent snakes among them and many died and were dying.  God tells Moses, incredulously, to make an image of bronze and put it up where everyone could see it and that if they look at it they will live!  Do you see the irony?  The last time they’d formed an image to worship it, many died as a result.  Now, God says to make an image and it will result in their being saved!  This must have been a real test of obedience for the Israelites: “Hey, Shlomoe, remember what happened the LAST time we made an image of an animal?  Do you think Moses heard God correctly about this bronze serpent thing?”  It required obedience even when the thing commanded not only made no sense, but when there was precedent point 180 degrees the opposite direction!

SECOND: Athol Dickson did a word study on the verses about the bronze serpent, and he made an amazing discovery.  The Hebrew word, nes, which is translated as the “pole” upon which the bronze serpent is mounted, is not a simple word to translate.  In other passages, the word is translated as “example” or “banner.”  In Isaiah 33:23, it is translated “sail”, but another word entirely is used to describe the mast or pole on which the sail is hung.  In fact, nowhere else in Scripture is the word nes translated as “pole” – it is always translated as the object that is lifted up on the pole.  Only here, is the bronze serpent mounted on the “pole” (nes).  So, to use the way the word is normally translated, we’d find a symbol (the bronze serpent) hung upon an example (the nes, or pole).  It seems God deliberately chose this word to hint that it really wasn’t the serpent that was to give them deliverance, but the One behind the serpent.  But, that’s not the most amazing thing.  The most amazing thing is that the word nes has yet another meaning: “miracle.”  The story of the bronze serpent is both an example and a miracle, pointing to the real miracle: the miracle of a God dying on another pole in Roman occupied Jerusalem.  It is as if God is saying, “When the people look upon what hangs on the pole – the miracle – they will be saved.”  Jesus was that miracle.  It was a miracle that a God could die at all.  It was a miracle that our sins could be taken away.  It was a miracle that God would do such a thing for nothing more than a collection of atoms and chemicals known as a human being.  Yet He did all those things.

When you look upon the miracle on the pole, you shall be saved!

PRAYER: Open our eyes to the miracle that is Jesus hanging on a pole for us!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2019 by Galen C. Dalrymple.  ><}}}”>

DayBreaks for 7/11/19 – Elevator Music and Emergencies

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DayBreaks for 7/11/19: Elevator Music and Emergencies

Just this past week I was up in British Columbia doing some salmon fishing with my great friend, Ken.  As is the case with all good things (except God!), they must come to an end, and we found ourselves getting on a puddle-jumper plane to take us back to Vancouver from Campbell River, BC.  This plane look like a flying breadbox.  It wasn’t round – it was more square, and the wings looked about 3 sizes too small to be able to provide enough lift to get the beast off the ground. 

As we prepared to pull away from the gate, they started the familiar ritual of running through the emergency instructions.  As the flight attendant read the instructions (this wasn’t like a big jet that has a tape deck where they play the instructions from a cassette!!!), there was elevator music playing in the background – soothing, calming, almost loud enough to make one drift off to sleep.  And that’s when it struck me: this was a parallel for life and how Satan plays against the Word of God. 

God’s Word is full of instructions – emergency instructions, if you please – about how to avoid a coming firestorm, how to avoid self-inflicted catastrophies and injury in life, how to avoid burn-out, self-destruction, guilt, shame, divorce and a life lived in utter meaningless.  Many people (though fewer than in past decades) know what is in the Good Book because they’ve heard it so many times.  But in the background, subtle but ever present, is Satan’s elevator music.  His music is intended to make us think, “This kind of stuff won’t happen to me, so I don’t need to worry about it.  I’m safe.  All those warnings are just the fantasies of some God who simply likes to be in control and have His own way.”  The elevator music of Satan is designed to make us relax, to not listen as closely, or to think about the consequences of ignoring God’s instructions.  Let’s face it: no one likes to listen to scary warnings about crashing and burning or going down over water, but everyone likes music, right?

Don’t let Satan’s elevator music drown out the voice and wisdom of God.  Let His Word through to your heart and mind and soul, take it serious, for He knows whereof He speaks!

PRAYER: Awaken in us a sense of urgency to hear Your voice and alert us to the subtle lullabies Satan would sing to our hearts to make us dull and sleepy.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2019 by Galen C. Dalrymple.  ><}}}”>

DayBreaks for 7/9/19 – Final Judgment

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DayBreaks for 07/09/19: Final Judgment

From the DayBreaks archives, July 2009:

No one likes the idea of being subject to a judgment against themselves.  We don’t want to be dragged into a court of law by a disgruntled neighbor, co-worker or stranger – even if we are guilty or liable for something.  We don’t like being judged.  Just look at the emotional reaction of people when they even “feel” like they’re being judged!!!

The Bible plainly speaks about judgment.  There’s simply no getting around the fact.  There are those in theological circles that are considered universalists, who hold that even after death, God will continue to hold out the possibility of salvation until eventually everyone gives in and receives salvation because the find the offer irresistible at some point after death – even if it takes thousands or millions of years.  Others (annihilationists) hold that it is only those who have accepted God’s offer of eternal life and that the wicked will just simply cease to exist at death.  The traditional view (which I ascribe to) is that there is eternal reward and eternal punishment, based on our acceptance or rejection of God’s merciful gift.

In musing on this, N. T. Wright wrote: “I find it quite impossible, reading the New Testament on the one hand and the newspaper on the other, to suppose that there will be no ultimate condemnation, no final loss, no human beings to whom, as C. S. Lewis put it, God will eventually say, “Thy will be done.”  I wish it were otherwise, but one cannot forever whistle “There’s a wideness in God’s mercy” in the darkness of Hiroshima, of Auschwitz, for the murder of children and the careless greed that enslaves millions with debts not their own.  Humankind cannot, alas, bear very much reality, and the massive denial of reality by the cheap and cheerful universalism of Western liberalism has a lot to answer for.”

Judgment is a very sobering thought.  It is also a very real reality (as if there were any other kind.)  We have a hard time bearing such searing reality as that of facing the ultimate Judge in the Final Judgment.  But denying it won’t make it go away, no matter how hard we try to click our heels and say “I want to go home…I want to go home…I want to go home” to get away from the great white throne – it won’t happen.

Be ready for it.  Expect it.  Live with it in mind and in heart.  Jesus will be our shield against the wrath of God on that great, and terrible, day. 

PRAYER: Thank You, Jesus, for having already prepared out case before the Judge.  Thank You for telling us the verdict in advance.  You, o Lord, are our only hope and defense!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2019 by Galen C. Dalrymple.  ><}}}”>

DayBreaks for 6/24/19 – Under His Wings

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DayBreaks for 06/24/09: Under His Wings

From the DayBreaks archives, June 2009:

He will cover you with his feathers and under his wings you will find refuge. – (Ps. 91:4)

You may have seen this, but the story is worth repeating. National Geographic several years ago provided a penetrating picture of God’s wings by describing a forest fire in Yellowstone. After the fire, rangers began their trek up a mountain to assess the inferno’s damage. One ranger found a bird literally petrified in ashes, perched statuesquely on the ground at the base of a tree. Somewhat sickened by the eerie sight, he knocked over the bird with a stick. When he struck it, three tiny chicks scurried from under their mother’s wings.

The loving mother, keenly aware of impending disaster, had herded her offspring to the base of the tree and had gathered them under her wings, perhaps instinctively knowing that the toxic smoke would rise. She could have flown to safety but had refused to abandon her little ones. When the blaze had arrived and the heat had scorched her small body, the mother remained steadfast.

The obvious lesson from this story is how the mother was willing to give her life to protect her precious little ones. As long as they stayed under the refuge of her wings, close to her beating heart, they were safe. But if they had ventured out, death would have been certain. As long as we stay close to God (under His protection), we are safe. But the moment we leave His loving embrace, we are fair game for all the terror that is in the world.

I couldn’t help but think of Luke 13:34 when I read this story: O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! Jesus probably spoke these words from the road through Gethsemane as he approached Jerusalem for the crucial event in his life: the crucifixion.

His words are poignant for several reasons:

FIRST: God’s heart is on display. We must never forget the pain that God feels over humanity gone wrong and how it touches and evokes His love. Rather than shrug His shoulders and turn away, God’s reaction is to reach out to save us!

SECOND: Jesus described Jerusalem as the place where prophets were killed. He wasn’t crying out about the righteous in the city and inviting them to run to him for shelter. He was seeking the losers, the killers, the murderers of prophets and even those who were to soon scourge, beat, spit upon and crucify himself. In his love, he wanted to save even them.

What is your response to this one who offers you the safety of His protection? If you understand what He has done for you, it MUST make a difference in your life. Has it?

Prayer: For Your protection this day, we plead.  Hold us close to Your sheltering wings in safety and peace.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2019 by Galen C. Dalrymple.  ><}}}”>

 

DayBreaks for 6/20/19 – Receiving a Death Sentence

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DayBreaks for 06/20/09: Receiving a Death Sentence

From the DayBreaks archives, June 2009:

I always find video clips of court sessions where the defendant receives a death sentence interesting.  It is the expression, or lack thereof, on the face of the defendant that interests me.  Sometimes there is no reaction, sometimes they are stunned, at other times they have a very strong physical reaction.  I have often wondered how it must feel to them at that moment when the sentence is read. 

Last week, my beloved boxer, Casper had a close call.  We were going out for our daily walk to the mailbox to get the bills and junk mail.  We’d barely walked out of the garage and he collapsed and struggled to get back up.  After a few seconds that seemed like hours, he gave up struggling and lay in my arms.  I felt for his heartbeat and could feel nothing.  He stopped breathing.  I was at first puzzled, hinking perhaps he’d hurt his hind leg, but then the reality hit me: injured legs don’t stop hearts or breathing.  And my worst fear came to mind: that Casper, like the last boxer I had before him, had dilated cardiomyopathy (an enlarged heart).  It is a relatively common problem in boxers and it had taken Ramses’ life when he was just 5 years old.  All I could think to do with Casper was hold him, talk to and pet him, and then it hit me: do CPR and see if you can get his heart beating and lungs working again.  So, I thumped him on the ribcage a few times, gave him a few breaths of air, and (praise God!) he came back.  Today, you’d never know anything happened by looking at him or watching him.

We took him to the vet who ran tests. I expected to hear the worst – to hear a death sentence pronounced on my beloved dog: “Casper has dilated cardiomyopathy.”  But instead, the vet said that the heart looked good, the EKG was perfectly normal.  So, the cause of the collapse remains a mystery.  It made me think, however, about death sentences.

It was the apostle Paul who referred to the sentence of death in 2 Cor. 1:9-10 (NIV): Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us…” 

In context, Paul is describing the sufferings they endured in order to preach the gospel.  I believe that when we were born, we all received a sentence of death due to our sin nature.  If you are born a human, you are born with that sentence hanging over your head.  You can’t avoid it by having your parents sign some kind of waiver.  The only way to avoid the death sentence is to be given a full and complete pardon by the Judge.  As Paul put it, we have been given the sentence of death so that we will rely on God rather than our own wiles and cleverness or our ability to excuse or argue that we’re not guilty of sin.  God has pronounced sentence: The soul that sins shall die and The wages of sin is death.

The problem is that we often fail to remember that we are under a death sentence until Christ gives us the reprieve and grants us real life.  Casper will die someday.  I will die someday.  But by God’s incredible grace, I shall live again.

Prayer: Father, death is such an enemy.  You have told us that the wages of sin is death, but the free gift You offer us is life through Christ Jesus.  May we consciously live in the awareness that all that is in this created world is passing away, including our physical bodies, and that we need the breath of Life more than we could ever imagine.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2019 by Galen C. Dalrymple.  ><}}}”>

DayBreaks for 6/19/19 – A Lesson from Screwtape

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DayBreaks for 06/19/09: A Lesson from Screwtape

From the DayBreaks archives, June 2009:

One of the most intriguing and insightful characters in Christian literature must be Wormwood.  Wormwood is a junior devil in C. S. Lewis’ Screwtape Letters.  The book consists of an exchange of letters from Screwtape (a senior devil) and Wormwood (Screwtape’s nephew and a junior devil) who is learning how to tempt humans. The subject of getting humans to fall and disobey gets a great deal of press. 

At one point, Screwtape has this to say to his nephew, Wormwood: “It is funny how mortals always picture us as putting things into their minds: in reality, our best work is done by keeping things out.” 

I don’t know about you, but I’ve often thought of the devil as putting tempting thoughts and images into my mind.  I don’t know how accurate Screwtape’s words are, but the point is well made.  Scripture would tend to back it up, methinks:

But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. – James 1:14 (KJV)  It is our “own lust” that draws us away.  I don’t know about you, but whatever it is I might be lusting for (members of the opposite sex, chocolate, money, glory, etc.) comes from within me – not from outside me – which says something profound about us as humans and what lurks in our hearts.

Is there some kind of antidote for the poison that dwells with us?  If Screwtape was right, it seems to me that the answer is not in trying to keep things out of my mind, but to keep the right things in my mind: Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. Philippians 4:8 (KJV)

May your mind be filled with these good things so there is no emptiness waiting to be filled by the sinful imaginings of our own hearts.

Prayer: Lord, help us to WANT to think on good things and to learn to abhor the evil we are so prone to contemplate.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2019 by Galen C. Dalrymple.  ><}}}”>