DayBreaks for 1/23/20 – Indiscriminate Compassion

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DayBreaks for 1/23/20: Indiscriminate Compassion

From the DayBreaks Archive, January 2010:

In the past 10 days our television screens have been filled with images of incomprehensible devastation in the nation of Haiti.  Just today, one of the headlines is stating that the government of Haiti is claiming that 150,000 bodies have already been buried – and who knows how many have yet to be found and buried?  Stories of children who have lost their parents, parents who have lost children, elderly individuals who have essentially been left to die because no one could get water or food to them in time.  Photos and videos of people shrieking in anguish as they’ve been informed of the death of a loved one, or when they recognized their crushed bodies in the makeshift morgues prior to burial.  It would take a truly hard-hearted person to not be filled with compassion at times like this.  I don’t know of anyone who hasn’t been touched by this unparalleled disaster in the western hemisphere. 

Compassion at such times is relatively easy to come by.  There are other times, however, when we struggle to find a compassionate bone in our bodies.  We tend to look at people who have as much as we do (or more) and when they are faced with disaster, we tend to not be as compassionate as we are for the Haitians. 

Perhaps we would be well advised to consider the nature of Jesus’ compassion.  How did Jesus evaluate who was worthy of compassion and who wasn’t worthy?  I don’t see that he ever discriminated when confronted with suffering or need.  Brennan Manning made it pretty clear in Abba’s Child when he wrote: “What is indiscriminate compassion?  ‘Take a look at a rose.  Is it possible for the rose to say, ‘I’ll offer my fragrance to good people and withhold it from bad people’?  Or can you imagine a lamp that withholds its rays from a wicked person who seeks to walk in its light?  It could do that only by ceasing to be a lamp.  And observe how helplessly and indiscriminately a tree gives its shade to everyone, good and bad, young and old, high and low; to animals and humans and every living creature – even to the one who seeks to cut it down.  This is the first quality of compassion – its indiscriminate character.”

Have you thought about the compassion that Jesus has shown you?  Did you deserve it by your exemplary behavior?  Do you feel that Jesus was obligated to be compassionate to you?  Jesus isn’t obligated to do anything for us, but he is compassionate toward all of us because he can’t help being compassionate to all. He would no longer be Jesus if he stopped being compassionate. As His children, we should be the most compassionate people on earth. But I wonder: are we?

PRAYER: Jesus, teach us to follow in harmony with your compassionate heart that we may be more like you!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2020 by Galen C. Dalrymple.  ><}}}”>

 

DayBreaks for 1/06/20 – The Ten Trillion Dollar Question

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DayBreaks for 1/06/20: The $10 Trillion Dollar Question

From the DayBreaks Archive, January 2010:

What is the most important question that has ever crossed your mind?  As with all things, the answer to that would depend on who you asked and on what their experiences and beliefs are.  Many would argue that question that we all need to deal with is “Why am I here?”  That’s a good question – and it gets to the core of the issue of meaning and purpose.  It is a question that all should, yet not all do, ask of ourselves.   Sadly, many die without ever coming up with a good answer to that question. 

Another question that arguably is the most important might be “Is there a God?”  

As good of questions as those are, there is at least one that is more fundamental, because it informs the “Why am I here?” question and helps to answer it, and just knowing if there is a God or not is not enough.  It could be argued that it is more important to know what that God is like.  I think perhaps Paul asked the most important question of all in Romans 8:35 where he wrote “Can anything separates us from the love Christ has for us?”  In one of his small devotional books, Max Lucado suggests that this question really gets to the heart of what we all want to know.  How long will God’s love endure?  Can we conceive of being loved forever, or of a love lasting forever? 

But at a deeper level, we want to know that God loves us when we’re dressed in our Sunday clothes and when we’re in our dirtiest clothes.  Here’s some of Max’s thoughts: “I want to know (deep within, don’t we all really want to know?), how does God feel about me when I’m a jerk?  Not when I’m peppy and positive and ready to tackle world hunger.  Not then.  I know how we feels about me then.  Even I like me then.  I want to know how he feels about me when I snap at anything that moves, when my thoughts are gutter-level, when my tongue is sharp enough to slice a rock.  How does he feel about me then?…Will God stop loving me?”

We know that with other human beings there is a line that can be crossed, when it becomes obvious that the relationship has been forever changed.  Or what about the last time you drank until you passed out and threw up?  Of when your business failed or you found yourself standing at the fresh grave of your child and you cursed God in your heart or even out loud?  Does He still love you then?

Paul doesn’t ask questions that he doesn’t answer: “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  And, come to think of it, that’s not really Paul’s answer at all, is it?  It’s God’s answer given to us through the pen of Paul.    

You are loved forever.  Nothing can separate you from the love of Jesus Christ for you.  Amazing, isn’t it?  That knowledge should make a difference in how you feel about yourself and others as you realize Christ loves them the same way – and in how  you feel about Christ!

PRAYER: Thank you, Christ, for your undying, unending, forever love that seeks us out and calls us home!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2020 by Galen C. Dalrymple.  ><}}}”>

DayBreaks for 12/26/19 – Twice Wrapped, Twice Freed

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DayBreaks for 12/26/19: Twice Wrapped, Twice Freed

It was during the night that the Savior was born. In the darkness. How ironic that the Light chose to be kindled in the dark, but also how meaningful!

There are those today who have set up elaborate and expensive arrays searching for life in the universe. It is a hot topic among astronomers and astrophysicists to name a few. Many movies have been made speculating on whether or not the life that might be out there is friendly or if it will be hostile toward humanity. As a Christian, though, I have to say that we already know there is intelligent life out there in the universe– and we know what that Life is like. It is not filled with hate – but it is filled with love. We know that because of the event we celebrated yesterday – the birth of a baby, wrapped in “swaddling clothes” who came to bring Light and Life, to seek and save the lost. We saw that life, that love, because we have seen Jesus.

Now, however, Christmas is over. The baby in swaddling clothes will be packed up and stowed away for another year. But if Christmas means anything, it is in how it points forward to the next great “holy day” of the Christian calendar, Easter Sunday.

We don’t know when Christ was actually born, but we do know much more certainty about when he died. Again, the irony strikes me: at his birth he was wrapped tightly in strips of linen cloth (that’s what swaddling clothes were in the first century) and when he died, he was once again wrapped tightly in linen strips even as he was at his birth.

As with the birth, so with the death: he quickly left the swaddling clothes behind and he likewise burst forth from the second set of wrappings in great glory.

The end of Christmas starts the great story rumbling forward and points to the coming celebration of his death, burial and the defeat of death for us.

As we leave Christmas behind, let us begin even now to look forward to our next great celebration.

PRAYER: Lord Jesus, we have celebrated your birth but we cannot stay at the manger. Even as the swaddling clothes held you only temporarily, we look toward the grave wrappings that could not bind you any more than death could, in total awe and wonder for your finished work on our behalf. Help us start now to prepare for the rest of your story. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

DayBreaks for 12/05/19 -This Is God’s Love

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DayBreaks for 12/05/19: This is God’s Love

Yesterday I wrote about loving Jesus.  It’s something that I’m working on…and I hope I will never stop working on it.  We don’t have to love Him from afar, you know.  He is within us by the Spirit, closer than our own next breath.  I know my love for Him will never be perfect in this world for there will always be siren songs to lure my heart to other shores that would shipwreck my life if I listen to them.  I am so thankful that He is so patient and is helping me to learn to love Him more as time passes.

So much for human love.  It was Frederick Beuchner, writing in The Magnificent Defeat, who probed the nature of human and Divine love.  “The love for equals is a human thing – of friend for friend, brother for brother.  It is to love what is loving and lovely.  The world smiles.  The love for the less fortunate is a beautiful thing – the love for those who suffer, for those who are poor, the sick, the failures, the unlovely.  This is compassion, and it touches the heart of the world.  The love for the more fortunate is a rare thing – to love those who succeed where we fail, to rejoice without envy with those who rejoice, the love of the poor for the rich, of the black man for the white man.  The world is always bewildered by its saints.  And then there is the love for the enemy – love for the one who does not love you but mocks, threatens, and inflicts pain.  The tortured’s love for the torturer.  This is God’s love.  It conquers the world.

We might be tempted to think that we are the tortured – and that God is the Cosmic Torturer.  Isn’t that the logical conclusion of those who blame God for all the pain and suffering not only in the world but in their own lives?  It’s God’s fault that the earth shook beneath Sumatra and a hundred thousand died.  It’s God’s fault that Katrina killed 1300 in Louisiana and the gulf coast.  It’s God’s fault that a husband or wife or child got cancer.  God is a torturer of poor and helpless beings He created – and who knows why?  That’s the way many see God.

The truth is that God didn’t do any of those things.  The truth is that God is indeed the Tortured – not the torturer, and mankind is the torturer – not the tortured.  We tortured Christ on the cross.  We torture the loving heart of God with our actions that betray Him.  We are clearly the torturers – and yet, God’s love is that of the tortured for those who are torturing Him, even today.

Will God’s love conquer the world in the long run?  Yes.  We have His word on it.  Saint Paul said that there would be three things that remain when it is all said and done: faith, hope and love – with love being the greatest of the three.  The world won’t survive – at least not in the form it presently exists – but the love of God goes on forever and from which we can never be separated (Rom. 8:39).

PRAYER: Merciful and loving Father, thank You for loving us even as we have driven nails into Your hands and feet, spears into Your side, and daggers of pain into Your loving heart.  Have mercy on us and thank You for Your unending love.  May we come to love the world with the same love You have given to us.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

DayBreaks for 12/04/19 – If Jesus Were Not There

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DayBreaks for 12/04/19: If Jesus Were Not There

“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And He said to him, ” ‘YOU SHALL LOVE THE Lord YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.’ “This is the great and foremost commandment.” – Matthew 22:36-38 (NASB)

If you have been a Christian for even a short time, chances are you know this verse well.  It is, I suppose, the single greatest thing that we are to try to do with our life: learn to love God desperately.

Can you remember when you were first falling in love with someone?  I do.  I can never forget the sickness in my stomach and heart at parting from my beloved wife-to-be.  I literally ached inside my chest when I saw her turn her back to go into her home at night, or when she left me to get in her car to drive back to her college.  It was hard to breathe, hard to want to do anything except see her again.  We’d write letters nearly every day, we’d call and talk on the phone nearly every day.  (I never asked my folks about how much the phone bill was, even though our calls were long distance – and to their great credit, they never mentioned it to me, either!)  Love hurts.  But what a wonderful hurting it is!

Jesus statement takes on a new dimension when I think about it compared to the love of my life and how we were when we were falling in love.  In Christian circles we are expected to say, “I love Jesus!” – and we should love him, no doubt.  But while it is one thing to say it, it is another thing entirely to really love Him.  The author, John Piper, in God is the Gospel, confronts us and challenges us to think about whether or not we are truly in love with God.  If you are squeamish, you may not want to read what he had to say: “The critical question for our generation – and for every generation- is this: If you could have heaven, with no sickness, and with all the friends you ever had on earth, and all the food you ever liked, and all the leisure activities you ever enjoyed, and all the natural beauties you ever saw, all the physical pleasures you ever tasted, and no human conflict or any natural disasters, could you be satisfied with heaven, if Christ was not there?

Worth pondering, don’t you think?  I’m not sure how I would answer that question at times.  All of the things that Piper said are things we all love and long for.  It’s harder to love someone you’ve never seen.  It’s hard to love someone who lived 2000 years ago.  Admire them?  Yes.  Want to emulate them?  Certainly.  But love them? 

I want to be able to say that heaven will be nothing, that all those things we could have as Piper described them, would not be nearly enough if Christ was not there.  The point is: Christ is what makes heaven worthwhile.  It won’t be all those other things.  Sure, they’ll be great, but they won’t even qualify as icing on the cake. 

May we learn to love Jesus more than all other things that we might love combined.

PRAYER: Jesus, we aren’t omniscient like you.  You see us – but we’ve never set eyes upon you.  It is hard to love someone from afar.  Help us to draw close to you, to love you more than anything and everything else for you will be our greatest joy in heaven.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

DayBreaks for 11/29/19 – It Is for Us

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DayBreaks for 11/29/19: It Is for Us

A real woman named Joy teaches underprivileged children in an inner city church.  Her class is a lively group of 9-yr-olds who love life and aren’t in the least afraid of God.  But there is an exception – a timid, withdrawn girl named Barbara. 

Her difficult home life had left her afraid and insecure.  For the weeks that Joy was teaching the class, Barbara never said a word.  Not once.  The other kids sang, talked, giggled and laughed.  Not Barbara.  She was silent.  Always there, always listening, always speechless.

Then one day Joy taught a lesson about heaven.  Joy talked about seeing God and about eyes that would never fill with tears and lives that would never come to an end.  Barbara sat fascinated, never taking her eyes off Joy.  She listened hungrily, taking it all in.  Then she raised her hand, and in her tiny voice said, “Mrs. Joy?”  Joy almost fell over.  Barbara had never said anything.  “Yes, Barbara?”  Then little Barbara let it out: “Is heaven for girls like me?” 

Oh, I would have loved to see Jesus’ face when this little girl’s tiny question reached his ears!!!  This was like a desperate prayer that a good God somewhere in heaven would remember a forgotten soul somewhere on earth.  It was a hope that God’s grace would seep into the cracks of Barbara’s life and bathe her in the grace the church and her family had failed to give her.  It was a voice wondering if this God could take a life that no one else could use or seemed to want, and to use it as nobody else could.  It was a plea for God to do what He does best: to take the ordinary and dull and unspectacular and make it sparkle and shine and be supernaturally extraordinary and special.  It’s hoping that what God did when he parted the Red Sea would happen again, that God who used a stone to drop the giant Goliath, or that he who could turn the water into the finest wine could take little Barbara and see her safely to heaven.  Would the God who fed 5000 with a boy’s box lunch do something for her?  Would he take three spikes and a wooden beam and make them the hope of all humanity – including Barbara?  Would God take this rejected little girl and make her feel precious?  (Adapted from Max Lucado’s Cast of Characters)

The answer to those questions are all answered: “Yes!”  God would and did do something for this little girl who so desperately wanted God’s heaven.  “Yes!” God did take 3 nails and a wooden cross and instead of a monument to bloody and excruciating death make them into a symbol of life cleansed and set free.  “Yes!” God can take this little girl, and thousands like her – male and female alike – and whisper into their ear who very precious they are.

One more: “Yes!” No matter what your home life has been like, no matter how difficult your life experience may be – God answers, “Yes!  Heaven is a place for people JUST LIKE YOU!”

Won’t you accept the gift He offers you?  It’s free for the taking.

PRAYER: Thank You for making heaven a place for people like us – sinners all, redeemed ONLY by the blood of the Lamb!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

PRAYER: Jesus, we long to live surrounded eternally by your Light. Give us strength to persevere in this world that is often so dark. We give you thanks this day for the glorious future that you have guaranteed to us! In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

DayBreaks for 11/25/19 – Where Insignificance Goes to Die

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DayBreaks for 11/25/19: Where Insignificance Goes to Die

From the DayBreaks archive, November 2009:

At the northern end of the Locke Hill Cemetery in San Antonio, Texas, is a tombstone marking the final earthly resting place of Grace Llewellyn Smith.  Her marker has no date of birth and no date of death.  One might wonder why – was it because no one knew them?  That’s not likely given the fact that the names of her two husbands are also on her tombstone.  Our best clue as to why her tombstone has no dates of birth and death may be found in the other words that are carved into the granite, that say this: Sleeps, but rests not.  Loved, but was loved not.  Tried to please, but pleased not.  Died as she lived…alone.

Given that epitaph, one can probably assume her date of birth and death aren’t there because no one really cared about her.  Her epitaph would seem to stand as a monument to futility.  Doesn’t it make you wonder about Grace Llewellyn Smith…about her life?  Did she perhaps choose those words herself in advance of her death as her way of telling the coming generations about her life and misery…or did she just live those words and someone else put them in stone?  She had two husbands…yet died alone.  Did she deserve that?  Was she some kind of shrew that drove two men and friends away forever?  Was she as bitter and forlorn as these words make her out to be?  What did she look like?  Was her hair flowing blond, or black?  Were her eyes sparkly or dull?  Did she ever laugh, and if so, at what? 

Bigger questions could – and should – be asked, including this one: what is it that causes some lives to be so productive and fruitful and others to be so empty and futile?  Loved but was not loved…can you imagine the long nights, the empty space in the bed next to her, the sounds of silence that must have filled the house where she lived?  The lack of response to messages and letters she may have left or written?  She loved…but received none back. 

Tried to please..but pleased not…can you hear the words of disappointment chopping into her heart?  “How many times do I have to tell you that I don’t like it when you dress that way!”, or “You’ve never amounted to anything and you never will!” or “Are you stupid –can’t you ever do ANYTHING right!”  The hurtful words keep chopping away – day after day – week after week – year after year – until a lifetime is gone and the words couldn’t hurt any more.

Died as she lived – alone.  How sad.  Dying alone.  How long had she been dead before anyone found her?  A day, or was it a week or more before someone wondered why they’d not seen her?  No one knows anymore.  It sounds like she was dead inside for most of her life. 

This is about as tragic as it gets.  Yet there are many Grace Llewellyn Smith’s in the world: the homeless living in the garbage dump in Ecuador, the party and bed-hopping hoi polloi in glitzy Miami Beach who seek love but don’t find it, the spouse that is now facing life alone who was constantly reminded of how pitifully useless and inept they are by the one who promised to love them until death parted them.  The list is long and varied. 

To human appearances, Grace Llewellyn Smith died alone.  Yet if Scripture is true in saying that not even a sparrow falls to the ground without the Father knowing it, surely neither did Grace Llewellyn Smith die alone.  One can only hope that she knew the Lord, for she surely was loved by Him.  In Jesus is the answer to every one of the critical lines in Ms. Smith’s epitaph: in Jesus we can find rest (“come to me all you who labor and are heavy burdened and you will find rest for your souls”); in Jesus we are loved eternally (“For God so loved the world…”); from Jesus we shall hear ‘Well done, good and faithful servant!’; and we will never die alone (“I will be with you always.”)

Are you a Grace Llewellyn Smith?  Do you know one?  Grab hold of Jesus – and never let go!

PRAYER: Lord, my heart breaks to read Ms. Smith’s epitaph and to ponder her lot in this world.  Open our eyes to the Grace Llewellyn Smith’s who are all around us, living lives of silent desperation, bleeding from a thousand wounds – who need what Jesus alone can give.  When we are broken and hurting, may we turn first to the One who can heal and cure our every hurt.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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