DayBreaks for 2/21/18 – An Imitation of the Master

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DayBreaks for 2/21/18: An Imitation of the Master

From the DayBreaks archive, February 2008:

So, how do you plan to spend your day today?  Did you create a “laundry list” of things that you need to get done or should do?  How’s it going so far?  Has the list gotten smaller or bigger as the day progressed?  How much time do you spend planning out your next day? 

It seems that no matter what I do or how meticulously I might try to plan things, it never seems to quite work out like I’d planned.  Perhaps that’s what the writer of Proverbs had in mind when he wrote in Proverbs 19:21 (NLT) – You can make many plans, but the LORD’s purpose will prevail.  I think I’ve got my day all figured out, but NOT!  I often look at the things that come along in the course of a day as being unwelcome events…after all, I’ve got a plan and if I can just run it like clockwork, it’s the best thing, right?  Not really.  Why should I think that my well-laid plans are the best thing for me to do each day, or the best way to do them, or even that they’re the most important things to do on any given day? 

We need to learn to welcome interruptions.  Mark Buchanan says that the devil seeks to distract, but God seeks to interrupt, and how quickly we fall prey to Satan’s distractions but how we equally quickly grow oblivious to God’s interruptions.  Satan wants us to become distracted from God and godly things, but God wants to interrupt our schedules and plans with things which are more important.  Who am I to say that the interruption by the person in the next cubicle is not a portion of a God-directed plan for something greater than the accomplishment of my little plans?  Isn’t that perhaps what the writer of the Proverb was saying?

Jesus’ life was dominated by purpose – he came to offer his life as a ransom.  Reading the gospels, especially John, one gets the sense that Jesus entire life was spent moving towards Jerusalem and the cross.  And indeed, it was always his purpose.  But along the way, many things happened to him that we would consider interruptions.  It isn’t clear that Jesus kept anything like a detailed itinerary of his daily schedule.  In fact, his daily life seemed to be lived by interruption: a woman who touches his clothes and is healed, a dead son begin wept over by his mother, a dinner at a taxpayer’s house, a wedding feast in Cana, a leader of Roman soldiers who entreats him for a healing, little children who wanted to be held, storms on the sea, fishing with his buddies, questions from the scribes and Pharisees – and the list goes on virtually endlessly.  He always found time for telling stories, for people along the route to the cross who hadn’t scheduled a moment of his time. 

So what was Jesus’ secret and what dictated Jesus’ schedule?  How did he number his days aright?  Perhaps Jesus came the closest to answering that himself in Mt. 11:1-11, when he said, The wind blows wherever it pleases.  You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going.  So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”  Jesus listened and watched the Spirit – and did what the Spirit directed.

Peter, after saying Jesus is the Lord of all, describes how Jesus spent his days: God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and…he went around doing good.  (Acts 10:36, 38) 

There you have it: the sum of Jesus’ earthly vocation is that he wandered and he blessed.  Jesus was a vagabond physician, the original doctor without borders.  His purpose was crystal clear – but his methods appear to be random.  Henri Nouwen observed something like this about his own life: “My whole life I have been complaining that my work was constantly interrupted until I discovered the interruptions were my work.”

PRAYER: May we discern Your interruptions, Lord, and may we go with You to do what You want us to do together.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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


DayBreaks for 1/15/18 – It Is Finished..It Is Just Beginning

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DayBreaks for 1/15/18: It Is Finished…It Is Just Beginning

John 19:30 (ESV) – When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
I honestly don’t know if there are three more poignant words than those three that fell from the lips of Jesus with his dying breath. “It is finished!” Matthew and Mark record that Jesus cried out in a loud voice but don’t tell us what he said. Luke says that Jesus cried out loudly, Father, into your hands I commit my spirit…and then died. I’m not disturbed by this “disconnect” at all and I could see Jesus having said those final two statements in any order.

While I won’t for a second presume to know what was in the mind of Jesus at that moment, I will venture a guess. We know from his evening in the garden that he was dreading the crucifixion that loomed just ahead. He didn’t want to have to go through it, but we are told that he “joyfully” endured the cross and its torments for us. It is possible that Jesus was referring to the suffering (which none of us can imagine) that he had endured for hours suspended between sky and ground. Who could blame him if that’s what was on his mind? That being said, I think that was the least of the reasons for his shout from the cross.

I tend to think that there was something much more significant in his heart that led to those words, It is finished! I suspect it was more about the following:

FIRST: rather than focusing on the pain, I think he was focused on the reason behind the pain – the price for sin needed to be paid and now it had been paid in full. The sacrifice was finished. The separation of God from man was no longer inevitable.

SECOND: the rule of death that had held sway from the death of the very first human was finished. The stench of eternal death was swept away with the dying breath of Jesus as he cried out.

THIRD: the power of Satan to claim human souls was finished – at least for those who would accept the One who made the sacrifice. Satan could no longer demand the souls of every human being.

FOURTH: the power of a law that could condemn and convict us of sin but which could never be kept or save was shattered and washed away by the blood he’d shed establishing a new covenant.

FINALLY: the ordeal of the incarnation was finished for all practical purposes. There seems to be something quite different about Jesus in his resurrection body. The humiliation of God becoming man was finished. We have no record of Jesus ever being tempted again after his resurrection as he was in his pre-cruficixion days. He seems to have begun to take back some of the glory of his pre-incarnate state with the blinding light of the resurrection morning, the ability to appear and disappear at will, and to ascend into the clouds.

I suppose it is a combination of the above that led to Jesus’ cry. And while that was finished, something new as beginning: the ability for humans to be sinless in God’s eyes, the ability for humans to be reunited with God. While all those things ended with Jesus’ words, for humanity it was just the beginning. We have been given a new chance, a new hope, and new life – and new we must begin to live like citizens of the Light and not of darkness any longer.

How are you doing with that?

PRAYER: Thank you, Jesus, for finishing what you came to do. Help us to live up to the new beginning you died to give us! In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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

DayBreaks for 1/11/18 – Everything Counts All the Time

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DayBreaks for 1/11/18: Everything Counts All the Time

From the DayBreaks archives, January 2008:

Life is chock-full of seemingly innocent little moments of decision.  You’ll make so many decisions today and do so many things that really aren’t very important.  For example: you’ll decide which shirt or dress to wear today – and all things being equal, it really doesn’t matter what you choose.  You’ll decide what to eat (although if you have health problems, that can be important!)  You’ll decide which bank teller to go to, which check-out line at the grocery store.  While we may agonize over which pair of sunglasses make us look the most cool, it’s really nothing more than a trivial decision.  Much of life revolves around trivial things.

But, there are things in life that aren’t trivial at all.  Consider this from the California Southern Baptist (3/2/2000):

“Recently, Dieter Zander, the pastor of the first GenX church in America, spoke at an Evangelism Conference about reaching people in the age of relativism.  He cited a Barna study that asked people to use single words to describe Jesus.  They responded, “wise, accepting, compassionate, gracious, humble.”  Then he asked them to use single words to describe Christians, they said, “critical, exclusive, self-righteous, narrow and repressive.”

“There is a difference between knowing the good news and being the good news, Zander said.  “We are the evidence!  Everything counts—all the time.”

“With previous generations, a strong preacher could give a good message, even if the church was hypocritical and critical and people would still get saved,” Zander continued, “but not anymore.  I’m seeing a change in what seekers are looking for.  Not something they can relate to.  They are looking for a transcendent God.  They don’t want to be entertained they want to be transformed.”

I think Zander had it spot on: “There is a difference between knowing the good news and BEING (emphasis mine, GCD) the good news.”  I realize that in a very real sense, we cannot be the good news.  Jesus came from heaven to give us the good news and be the good news for us!  But, how we act, what we say, even how we think – in a way we can be the good news or the bad news.  Why does the world think of Jesus in such high terms but Christians in such negative ways?  Could it be because we are not being the good news?  Because as the world looks at us, they don’t see Jesus in us at all, but our old sinful, carping and complaining natures? 

Every encounter we have with another human being is loaded with implications for eternity.  Yes – every single one.  What you say, how you act, what we do and even how we think about them matters.  GenX is still seeking a transcendent God, but for them, the proof of His existence is transformed followers of God, people in whom the love of Jesus is perfected by their treatment of others.  It is, after all, what Jesus said would be the one sign of true belief and discipleship.

When you have that casual conversation by the water cooler today – realize it isn’t as casual as it appears.  When you greet the clerk at the grocery store, be the good news personified.  When you come in the door at home at the end of your long and trying day, remember that God expects you to be the good news at home, too.

For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. (Romans 1:16 KJV)

PRAYER: Father, thank You for sending Jesus, the best news the world has ever known.  Help us to not only know him, but to live like him so the good news may be alive and strong within us.  Help us to realize that as Your children and ambassadors in this world, that everything we do makes a difference all the time.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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 12/13/17 – When Words Don’t Come

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DayBreaks for 12/13/17: When Words Don’t Come

From the DayBreaks archive, December 2007:

You’ve heard of writer’s block – when a writer just can’t think of what to write.  Although it would be a long stretch to call myself a writer, I can identify with that syndrome!   Here’s a news flash for you: preachers get it, too, but I call it “preacher’s block.”  It’s what happens when the week is spinning by like an altimeter on a nose-down jet – and you just can’t seem to find the inspiration or words for the message on the coming Sunday.  You start to sweat, you shift uneasily in the chair, you wander a hallway or two as if you’ll find inspiration there.  Sometimes, it even works.  Do you want to know when I have the greatest trouble with “preacher’s block”?  It’s at Christmas.  For me, Christmas sermons are the toughest of all. 

Words and inspiration can come from the strangest of places – after all, if God could speak through a donkey to Balaam, He can certainly bring inspiration from any corner He chooses.  But sometimes we are just plain fearful – fearful that when we’re confronted with a challenge to our faith, that we won’t have the words.  So, we keep our mouths shut. 

How should we react then?  Remember the story of Moses – how he questioned God’s wisdom in choosing him because of his slowness with words?  Paul, the greatest missionary the world has ever seen, was a lot like Moses.  He said he didn’t come to the Corinthians “proclaiming…in lofty words or wisdom”, but rather “in weakness and in fear and in much trembling.  My speech and my proclamation were not with plausible words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God.” (1 Cor. 2:1-5)  Where was Paul’s confidence?  Was it in his own words and ability to speak them?  No, it was that God was speaking with him, giving life to the words that Paul did speak.

When you think about it, Moses and Paul were two of the people most responsible for the writing of the Word of God.  Both were weak with words.  God chose them precisely BECAUSE they were weak with words!  That weakness made it so that they might have a greater chance of clinging tightly to God who spoke in union with and to them so that they might speak what the hearers needed to hear in order to be drawn to God.  Paul and Moses seemed to suffer from “apologist’s block” in their own person – not trusting in what they had to say.  As a result, they didn’t trust in themselves, but in God.  And that’s just what God loved about them!

When you are given the opportunity to talk with someone about Jesus, to share your faith, do you take advantage of it?  If you find yourself in that position, it’s because God has chosen YOU to represent Him at that moment in time.  If you find or fear you have “apologist’s block” – good!  Just don’t let it stop you from talking to that person anyway.  Whisper a little prayer inside your head, aim it heavenward, and ask God to electrify what you say with His power. 

PRAYER:  Father, give us Your words to speak.  Thank you for making us weak in our own selves so we will lean on You, for Your words hold the power of life!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2017 by Galen C. Dalrymple.

DayBreaks for 12/12/17 – How Christians Can Make God Disappear

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DayBreaks for 12/12/17: How Christians Can Make God Disappear

From the DayBreaks archive, December 2007:

It was the Psalmist that perhaps most eloquently voiced the purpose of creation when he said, in Psalms 19:1-4 (NIV) The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.  Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge.  There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard.  Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world. In the heavens he has pitched a tent for the sun…

Have you ever wondered why God made physical things?  After all, He Himself is a spiritual being, as are we.  Could God not have created spiritual beings without physical bodies and without a physical realm to move around in?  Of course He could!  But He didn’t.  The reason why is unknown to us, other than the fact that God seems to delight in creating, and in the work of His hands – just like a master craftsman delights in a fine piece of jewelry or a chair or vase. 

I think, however, that the main purpose behind His creation – all of it, not just the physical realm – is found in the passage above: it exists to declare the glory of God.  Someone has said that creation is like God’s fingerprints.  From fingerprints alone we can’t tell too much about a person – we can’t know their character, interests, etc. – but we can tell that they were there.  It’s evidence of their existence.  Creation is evidence of His existence and it glorifies His name!

If only spiritual beings (humans, anyway) were as good at it as the physical universe.  We don’t do a great job of declaring the glory of God.  Joel Belz, in the December 8 issue of World Magazine, wrote: For the truest and most effective proponents of godlessness are almost never those who are most blatant about their mission.  They are instead those who purport to pick up any topic at all for further discussion—and then leave God out of that conversation.  Do that with a dozen such discussions, or maybe 20 or 100, and you don’t have to do much more.  You’ve implicitly made your case.  God doesn’t exist—or if He does, He doesn’t matter. 

What struck me about Belz’ statement wasn’t how the godless go about declaring that God doesn’t exist, but how subtly we as believers can, by the lack of our words and actions, also make God disappear.  When we leave God out of the public conversations we have (and the private ones as well), God has disappeared in that instance.  And, as Belz notes, if we do that often enough in dozens or hundreds of conversations, God is as good as invisible – He disappears from life and living. 

How many conversations do you have in the course of a day?  In how many of those conversations is even the name of God voiced (other than when someone uses His name in vain)?  Are you one of those Christians who makes God disappear, or do you, like the physical heavens, declare the glory of God?

PRAYER:  Father, Your Word says that someday we will shine like stars in the universe.  The universe proclaims Your glory – may we add our voices in our daily conversations!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2017 by Galen C. Dalrymple.

DayBreaks for 11/21/17 – A Muddy Foam

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DayBreaks for 11/21/17: A Muddy Foam

From the DayBreaks archive, November 2007:

I like to maintain an even keel.  I think most of us do.  Sure, there are those who are into the extremes: folks who put on a kite-type suit and jump out of an airplane and ride the wind currents coming up off the face of a mountain.  And there’s the other extreme, too: folks who, for whatever reason, are so afraid to even set foot outside of their home that they live as prisoners of their own fears.  But most of us operate “normally” – we try not to get too carried away with anything, thinking that a good balance is what life is all about.  There’s something to be said for that, but I’m not really convinced that it’s all good.

Consider: how would your wife or husband feel about it if you just had neutral or luke-warm emotions towards them?  How would your children feel if you made it a goal in life not to go overboard in truly loving them?  How would your employer feel if you thought your job was okay, but didn’t make every effort to work hard for them?  Chances are you wouldn’t be employed for very long.

How does God want us to live our lives, especially our emotional lives? 

There are many passages of Scripture that relate to this: we are to live sober-mindedly, we are to live peaceful lives characterized by the joy of Christ.  We are to be wary and alert, to test the spirits to see if they’re from God or not.  Sounds rather balanced and reserved, doesn’t it? 

But, I think that there’s an area or two where God wants us to truly go overboard, to cast our caution aside and jump into the deep end of the pool, so to speak.  The first one is in the way that we love God Himself.  We are to love Him more than our very lives if it should come to that.  We are to love Him, not with part of our heart, soul and mind, but with ALL of our heart, soul and mind.  In other words, hold nothing back from this love.  There is no other love like it and there’s nothing better to reserve our love for than for loving Him.  The second one, you can probably guess: we are to love what God loves – goodness, righteousness, holiness…and yes, other people, even our enemies.  It’s far easier to say than to do. 

I like this quote, which I find expresses the feeling I have down deep in my heart about my own poor emotional condition: “I am spellbound by the intensity of Jesus’ emotions: not a twinge of pity, but heartbroken compassion; not a passing irritation, but terrifying anger; not a silent tear, but groans of anguish; not a weak smile, but ecstatic celebration.  Jesus’ emotions are like a mountain river cascading with clear water. My emotions are more like a muddy foam or a feeble trickle.”  – G. Walter Hansenin, Christianity Today

How can we have the emotional passion of Jesus for others and for the Father?  I think that there are probably many possible things that can help us, including praying that God will give us Jesus’ heart for the world, for the lost, for the hurting – to make us compassionate and also capable of true rejoicing.  We also need to learn to see through the surface appearances into the deep realities of eternal destiny and of the human heart so that we can see in others and in situations what Jesus sees in them.  It’s hard to be moved with compassion toward someone who is engaging in blatant and offensive sin, but if we could see them in an eternity without Christ, I have a hunch that we’d all be moved to be more loving and compassionate.  After all, isn’t that how Jesus saw us before we were saved? 

PRAYER:  Father, help us to have the heart that beats with the passion of Christ.  Help us to have the eyes to see past the hurts others may cause us, the offenses we may suffer at their hands, to see them as marred images of what You intended them to be, and to see the reality of their destination if they continue to live without Jesus.  Then, give us the strength to act like Christ towards them.   In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2017 by Galen C. Dalrymple.

DayBreaks for 10/23/17 – Whose Face Would It Be?

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DayBreaks for 10/23/17: Whose Face Would it Be?

What do you think the future of Christianity is in the United States?  Or in the world, for that matter?  There have been some recognizable faces that the world has come to know as “Christians”.  Among those who come readily to mind are Mother Theresa and, of course, Billy Graham.  There are others, too, but many of the “old guard” of the faith have been, or are close, to departing this world for their eternal reward. 

The question has been asked of me: if you had to think of someone who is a Christian that you could point to that is respected by everyone, who is a living witness to the Christian faith, who would it be?  For me, the answer was fairly quick: Billy Graham would be my first choice.  He seems to have managed throughout all these years, to keep himself “unspotted from the world.” 

But, Billy Graham is old and certainly the time for his own departure is near.  Then who, like Elisha taking up the mantle of Elijah, will be the “face” of Christianity in the world?  It’s not an easy question to answer, but I was struck by this brief comment from the Opinion Journal (Wall Street Journal Online), 10/8/07, by James Taranto, about some statements made by an avowed atheist who was chastising Christians for their unwillingness to engage in public “dialogue”.  The first paragraph is taken from Ms. Lalli’s statement, and the second paragraph is Mr. Taranto’s musings on what she said:

Ms. Lalli: I have a question for the Christians out there: If you could pick one living person to be the face of the entire Christian faith, who would that person be?  Even if you could pick three, or even five people, it would still be a challenge.  I imagine it would be hard to figure out whether you wanted to pick those Christians who think most like you, or if you would pick people who could better represent the many colors of Christianity, the subtle differences and big-picture similarities.

Taranto: We lived in Brooklyn for a time in the early 1990s.  Back then, at least, there were Christians there, and it seems unlikely that all of them have left.  Lalli should see if she can find one so that she can ask her question directly.  We’re pretty sure the answer will be Christ.  OpinionJournal, 10/8/07, James Taranto

Can there be a better ambassador for Christianity than Christ?  Certainly, the answer to that is and unequivocal, “No!”  He is by far the best example of Christianity that there ever will be.

Still, I’m forced to ponder the question: if not Billy Graham, who?  And why should we automatically assume that all believers couldn’t be effective ambassadors – that you who read this, and I who write it, can’t be equally as strong of “advertisements” for what a real Christian is like?  After all, isn’t that what we’re ALL called to be and to do?

PRAYER:  Lord, we know that within us dwells no good thing – except for Jesus.  Help us to be better illustrations of the truth of Christianity, of the life of Christ, than we have been in the past.  May we all resolve to live as if the world depended on our resemblance to Jesus.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2017 by Galen C. Dalrymple.