DayBreaks for 11/18/19 – Fearfully and Wonderfully Made

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DayBreaks for 11/18/19: Fearfully and Wonderfully Made

From the DayBreaks archive, November 2009:

I have long been fascinated by the miracle of creation.  We can’t wrap our minds about how God called things into existence from things that didn’t exist (Romans 4:17), but we believe by faith that He did exactly that.  It is easy in the hustle and bustle of our daily existence to lose sight of the wonder of the creation.  As a means to remedy that failing on our part, I hope to do a series (not every day) of messages on various aspects of the creation that will hopefully lead us to give glory to the Maker of heaven and earth. 

Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation, for through him God created everything in the heavenly realms and on earth. He made the things we can see and the things we can’t see— such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world. Everything was created through him and for him. (Colossians 1:15-16, NLT)

We can see parts of God’s creation – and then there are parts that our eyes can’t see.  We can’t see the spirit world with the angels and demons, God and the Spirit or the four living creatures – at least not from an earthly vantage point.  No telescope has ever been made that can reveal that invisible domain to us.  Paul offers such things (thrones, kingdoms, rulers and authorities) as part, but not all, of the elements of the “unseen world.”  There is another aspect of the unseen world that we don’t often consider: the minutely small things He has formed. 

Consider molecules and atoms.  Every cubic centimeter contains approximately 45 billion billion molecules (give or take a few, but who’s counting?)  There are that many molecules in every cubic centimeter you see around you.   How many cubic centimeters are there in the world?  When you figure that out, let me know.  Then, consider how many cubic centimeters there are in the solar system – then expand your thinking to the Milky Way and then to the rest of space (the Milky Way consists of perhaps as many as 450 billion stars and is one of perhaps 150 billion galaxies).  Gets mind numbing rather rapidly, right?

But that’s just molecules.  Let’s get atomic.  Molecules are formed by various atoms bonding together.  How big is an atom?  You could line up 500,000 atoms side by side behind a width of a single human hair.  Consider a millimeter – 1/1000ths of a meter, about the length of this – if you printed it on paper.  Cut that up into 1000 equal widths and you have one micron.  Microorganisms (living beings like paramecia and amoeba) are about 2 microns wide (.002 millimeters)  If you wanted to see a paramecium with your naked eye, you’d have to enlarge the drop until it was 40 feet across.  If you wanted to see a single atom in that same drop, you’d have to make the drop 15 miles across.  Each atom is 1/10,000,000 of a millimeter, or to put it in other terms, equivalent to a single page of flat paper compared to the height of the Empire State Building. 

And you are made up of 7 billion billion billion atoms, 7 x 1027 (or 7,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 atoms which is just a scientific way of saying, “A whole bunch!”)  That’s if you weigh precisely 154.323584 pounds.  If you weigh more, well, you’ve got even more atoms.  If you weigh less, don’t feel cheated.  You’ve still got enough.  Each blood cell in your body contains approximately 1,240,000,000 molecules of oxygen.  Without which – by the way – you’d cease to exist.  Now get this: we are in utter amazement at the scope of the universe (I’ll talk about that in the future), but you have FAR more atoms in your body than there are stars in the entire universe! 

What does all this mean?  It means we can give a shout of praise out to the Creator for we are “fearfully and wonderfully made!”  (Ps. 139:14)

PRAYER: Lord, when I consider the works of Your hands, what is man that You are mindful of him, that You should care for him?  We, though we are just dust, give You praise for the wonders You have wrought!  In Jesus’ name, Amen

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

DayBreaks for 11/14/19 – It Is Here

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DayBreaks for 11/14/19: It Is Here

From the DayBreaks archive, November 2009:

All this I have told you so that you will not go astray. They will put you out of the synagogue; in fact, a time is coming when anyone who kills you will think he is offering a service to God. They will do such things because they have not known the Father or me. I have told you this, so that when the time comes you will remember that I warned you. I did not tell you this at first because I was with you. – John 16:1-4 (NIV)

Jesus often couched his messages and teaching in riddles or parables that were designed to be understood only by those who had open hearts and eyes.  In what is surely a sad commentary on human nature, not even those who were the closest to Him often grasped what He meant.  But in this passage from John 16, Jesus spoke in point blank terms.  There was no mistaking His message to those who followed Him: “…a time is coming when anyone who kills you will think he is offering a service to God.” 

We have lived in religious freedom in the United States of America for about 235 years.  What a blessing!  I fear that we’ve come to a point in our country where we no longer experience much religious freedom.  Of course, I’m speaking in relative terms – we have far greater religious freedom than in China where churches are forced underground, or in Muslim countries or even in countries where Buddhism or Hinduism are practices.  In such countries, lives are sacrificed – literally – on the altar of obedience to God every day.  We aren’t there yet in the United States.  I hope we never will be – but such hoping on my part may just be wishful thinking for myself and those I love.  It may be best for the kingdom of God if such persecution were to come to this land. 

Seldom does persecution arrive “full blown.”  There are usually steps and phases – the proverbial slippery slope – where small things are first lost.  Then, if no one notices or raises an alarm, the next step is taken…and the next…and the next, until finally one wakes up to find the persecutor knocking on the door.  Think it isn’t happening here?  Consider this excerpt from “Cross and Culture”, an evangelical blog written by my youngest son, Tim: “Bill McGurn has an excellent article on two “Christian Girls, Interrupted.”  The first girl, Amanda Kurowski, was ordered by a judge to attend public school because, essentially, the judge determined that the girl should be exposed to ways of thinking other than those of her religious parents.  Amanda’s parents are divorced; her mother has primary custody, but her father has been concerned about the effect of home-schooling on her “socialization.” 

“The judge determined “that Amanda is generally likeable and well liked, social and interactive with her peers, academically promising, and intellectually at or superior to grade level.”  Yet due to her “rigidity on faith,” the court concludes that Amanda “would be best served by exposure to different points of view at a time in her life when she must begin to critically evaluate multiple systems of belief and behavior and cooperation in order to select, as a young adult, which of those systems will best suit her own needs.”  In other words, the judge determines, essentially, that she must be sent to public school in order to get away from her mother’s narrow religiosity and be exposed to other worldviews.  Pretty extraordinary stuff.  As McGurn writes, “Just how extraordinary [this line of reasoning is] might best be appreciated by contemplating the opposite scenario: the reaction that would ensue were a court to order a young girl out of a public school and into an evangelical one so she might gain “exposure” to other “systems of belief.”

Religious freedom still exists in America – provided you aren’t a vocal Christian of the evangelical stripe.  Are you ready for the knock on the door?  Will your faith stand the test – or has it already been compromised? 

PRAYER: Lord, we pray for renewal and repentance in our country that we might return to You!  We pray that we would love our enemies, regardless of what they might do to us, that Your kingdom may grow.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

DayBreaks for 11/11/19 – A Day in the Vineyard

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DayBreaks for 11/11/19: A Day in the Vineyard

From the DayBreaks archive, November 2009:

For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. When he had agreed with the laborers for a denarius for the day, he sent them into his vineyard. And he went out about the third hour and saw others standing idle in the market place; and to those he said, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and whatever is right I will give you.’ And so they went. Again he went out about the sixth and the ninth hour, and did the same thing. And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing around; and he said to them, ‘Why have you been standing here idle all day long?’ “They said to him, ‘Because no one hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You go into the vineyard too.’ When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the laborers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last group to the first.’ When those hired about the eleventh hour came, each one received a denarius. When those hired first came, they thought that they would receive more; but each of them also received a denarius. When they received it, they grumbled at the landowner, saying, ‘These last men have worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden and the scorching heat of the day.’ But he answered and said to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for a denarius? Take what is yours and go, but I wish to give to this last man the same as to you. Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with what is my own? Or is your eye envious because I am generous?’” – Matthew 20:1-15 (NASB)

The world has been going through tough times economically.  Certainly it has affect you or someone you love.  Jobs are hard to find.  People are taking jobs that they otherwise would not have even applied for, let alone considered.  I know people who would be thrilled to find a job at minimum wage right now.  They would jump at the chance to earn any money.  I’m sure you know people in that situation, too.

The story of the laborers in the vineyard has always been an interesting story to me.  We have a sense of fairness that is built in us by God.  As we consider this story, it is a good exercise for us to put ourselves in the place of those hired first and who worked all day for a denarius (the wages for an entire day’s labor).  We would be glad for the work, right?  We would feel a denarius was fair wages – so there’s no complaint there.  But if we came to the end of that day and learned that people who’d been hired at the end of the day for just one hour got the same pay – wouldn’t you be a bit upset?  Then, let’s place ourselves in the situation of the last-minute hires: we’d be happy for the work and pay and extremely surprised by the unexpected generosity when we received the wages for a full day.  We wouldn’t appreciate the argument put forth by the full day workers – we might be afraid that they’d convince the vineyard owner that he was, indeed, being foolish and not thinking clearly. 

The story is intended to make us appreciate grace – the grace that God has shown to us.  It may be informative for us to hear the rabbinic version of the story.  In the version told by rabbis of the time, the late workers worked so hard that they accomplished in one hour what took the other people a full day to accomplish – and they were rewarded for their extra-hard work.  This, however, is not part of the biblical story.  Jesus says absolutely nothing about how hard either the full-day workers or one-hour workers worked.  That’s not the point.  Jesus’ emphasis is on the generosity of the employer (God in the parable), who lavishes His rewards on both the long-time workers and the newcomers.  As Philip Yancey put it: “No one gets cheated and everyone gets rewarded, far beyond what they deserve.”

PRAYER: Help us not to be envious, Lord, of what You give others nor to compare it to what You have chosen to give us.  May we realize that we have no claim at all on Your goodness, nor any reason to expect goodness from You at all.  Let us understand a bit more fully the depth of the riches of Your grace that abounds toward us!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

DayBreaks for 11/07/19 – The Tragedy of Life

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DayBreaks for 11/07/19: The Tragedy of Life

From the DayBreaks archive, November 2009:

What are your plans for the rest of your life?  Are you planning for and looking for a “day” to arrive when you will do this, or that, or stop doing something (like work) so that you can “really live”?  We are all, to some extent, awaiting something to change so that we can feel freer or can retire only to do what we want to do and not what we have to do.  So, we make plans…

Look here, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we are going to a certain town and will stay there a year. We will do business there and make a profit.” How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone. What you ought to say is, “If the Lord wants us to, we will live and do this or that.” Otherwise you are boasting about your own plans, and all such boasting is evil. – James 4:13-16 (NLT)

Is there anything wrong with making some plans?  No, there’s not.  There are plenty of scriptures that teach us that very lesson by encouraging us to even look at creatures as simple as the ant who stores up for the rainy season.  So, I don’t think that’s what James had in mind when he wrote his epistle.  What is wrong is that we take God out of the entire scheme of things and forget about what He may want, or what He may do.  That’s always the key message I’ve taken away from this passage.  In a way, it’s like making myself into God and deluding myself into thinking that because I planned something, that it will inevitably happen because of who I am. 

But perhaps there’s another message for us in this passage that I’ve missed.  Remember the old saying about “Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today”?  Our plans tend to involve the future.  We put things off that are unpleasant (tasks we don’t like) or that are delightful (like taking the time to enjoy something God has given us – like our present level of health.)  We put off so many things! 

But is not part of the argument from James that we don’t know if tomorrow will come?  Therefore, we should live life today – not always looking to the future.  If we don’t, we’ll be deaf and blind to what God has already placed immediately before us, we will fail to appreciate enough the blessings of today if we are so focused on how we will enjoy things in the future (even eternal life!) 

Richard L. Evans said: “The tragedy of life is not that it ends too soon, but that we wait so long to begin it.”  We are told that we “have eternal life” (1 John 5:13, among others).  Why aren’t we living like it? 

PRAYER: Lord, may we find the glory in each day and the blessing in each moment rather than being consumed by bitterness, despair and longing for the future.  Open our eyes to allow us to live in eternal life this day and every day hereafter.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

DayBreaks for 11/04/19 – Cheap Guilt

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DayBreaks for 11/04/19: Cheap Guilt

From the DayBreaks archive, November 2009:

It was, I believe, Deitrich Bonhoeffer who originated the phrase “cheap grace” to describe the attitude of the heart that cheapens what was necessary for us to receive forgiveness and salvation.  There were some who would say, even in Biblical times, that we should “sin that grace may abound” (Romans 6:1).  Such are purveyors of the doctrine of cheap grace.  We are reminded that we were saved not with the blood of bulls and goats, but the blood of the very Son of God (1 Pet. 1:19).  There’s nothing cheap about that, nor about the sheer volume of grace that flows through Calvary from the throne of God!

But cheap guilt?  Is there such a thing?  In The Gospel According to Job, Mike Mason makes an argument for why he believes such a thing does exist: “But guilt too can become cheap.  Cheap guilt enervates and paralyzes.  Like a giant leech it latches onto the conscience and saps all the dignity and vitality out of it.  True contrition, on the other hand, purifies the conscience, bathing it as in tears even while energizing it with the vision and the power for positive change.”

If I had a nickel for every person and every time that someone said to me that they feel like giving up because of their sin and shame and guilt (suspecting that those things add up to too tall of a pile for God to deal with in His grace), I’d own the L. A. Dodgers!  I can’t honestly say that I’ve ever felt so guilty that I felt like just giving up this relationship with Christ.  That could be because I am in denial about the depth of my sin, or it could be because I understand that I’ve been washed in the blood of Christ and touched by His grace – and that God’s grace is far greater than any guilt I may carry. 

Guilt is a crushing burden to haul around on our backs.  That’s why Jesus carried all our guilt and shame on his back to the cross – so we wouldn’t have to carry it anywhere ever again.  Hebrews 10:1-2 (NLT) says: The old system under the law of Moses was only a shadow, a dim preview of the good things to come, not the good things themselves. The sacrifices under that system were repeated again and again, year after year, but they were never able to provide perfect cleansing for those who came to worship. If they could have provided perfect cleansing, the sacrifices would have stopped, for the worshipers would have been purified once for all time, and their feelings of guilt would have disappeared.  Don’t miss the point of this argument: the old law couldn’t take away sin (“provided perfect cleansing”, vs. 2), but the sacrifice of Jesus which has purified believers “once for all time” (Heb. 10:10) allows “their feelings of guilt” to disappear.  But we have to accept by faith (even if we can’t understand with our minds and hearts that it is so) that we have perfect cleansing and our feelings of guilt should have disappeared.

Have you still been toting a knapsack full of guilt on your back?  It may be because you are victim of “cheap guilt”, letting it paralyze you instead of knowing that your guilt has been removed and that you are freed from guilt for all time.  We must not confuse conviction of wrong-doing in our lives by the work of the Holy Spirit with guilt.  One is positive and leads to repentance and restoration…the other leads to the pit.

PRAYER: Make us sensitive to our sin in a way that leads us to repentance, Lord, not to guilt that you died to take away from us!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

DayBreaks for 11/01/19 – A Lesson from the Darkness

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DayBreaks for 11/01/19: A Lesson from the Darkness

From the DayBreaks archive, November 2009:

I’ve recently been working my way through the gospel of Mark.  As I’ve wandered those pathways, I’ve come across lots of things that I’d not noticed, or which now puzzle me for some reason but which I’d never considered before.  One such incident is found in the 14th chapter and the 51st verse (in the ESV): And a young man followed him, with nothing but a linen cloth about his body.  And they seized him, but he left the linen cloth and ran away naked.

I knew that this verse was there, but I’d never really pondered why it was included in Holy Writ.  We don’t know who this man was.  There are those who believe it was Mark himself and that because of his shame, he didn’t include his name as part of the narrative.  I’ve also heard suggestions that it was John, but that doesn’t seem too likely because later on we find John entering the courtyard where the trials were being held (he had “connections” we are told).  So, while we won’t know for certain until we get to heaven who it was, I will probably just assume for now that it was Mark.  I wouldn’t especially want to include my name if this had happened to me, not only because of the shame involved of running away naked, but mostly because of the shame of why he ran.

I’ve always considered that it was fear that made the young man run and nothing has caused me to change that opinion.  What struck me this time, though, was how quickly believers (including myself) run from opposition.  I mean, Jesus was right there physically in the presence of this young man, and the approaching gang of soldiers were not Satan himself.  They were just people of the “opposition” so to speak. 

And so I ask myself (as I hope you ask yourself) the question: “Just how much opposition does it take for me to cut and run – even at the risk of losing my dignity in an effort to escape?”  I know this much: it doesn’t take the spectre of Satan himself to send me scurrying into the night.  Far too often all it takes is for the opposition to just “show up” – like in this story from Mark. 

Perhaps God put this story in the Word precisely for us to ask ourselves this very question and to ponder our response.  All I know for certain is that we imagine ourselves as strong and brave and courageous – who doesn’t want to at least think that about themselves? – and to imagine how we’d react in a threatening situation – only to find that when such a situation really happens, we’re scared witless and run off into the darkness like the young man in Mark.

What if we start practicing not running for 10 minutes at a time, an hour at a time, then a day at a time – then an entire week at a time – regardless of whether or not the opposition shows up?  And, of course, we can’t ever afford to overlook the fact that is the opposition Jesus commands us to love.  Of all people, they are the ones who most need to hear from our lips that One has come to love them and set them free from the darkness in their hearts, even as He has set us free from that same darkness! 

PRAYER: In the darkness of confrontation, give us courage to stand our ground and love for the opposition rather than condemnation!  Help us to be compassionate and loving enough to not run and hide!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

DayBreaks for 10/30/19 – What Will It Be?

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DayBreaks for 10/30/19: What Will It Be?

From the DayBreaks archive, October 2009:

Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. (Eph. 5:1-2, NIV)

To those who are perishing, we are a dreadful smell of death and doom. But to those who are being saved, we are a life-giving perfume. And who is adequate for such a task as this? (2 Cor. 2:16, NLT)

Did you take a shower or bath this morning or last night?  Why?  If you really get down to it, most of us shower not so much for purely hygienic reasons, but because we don’t want to…well…smell!  No one wants to walk around stinking.  I’ve been in a closed car with passengers who were from the street or who were homeless and I must say, at times the smell was nearly unbearable – especially in the colder time of the year when the windows couldn’t be put down.  It’s not pleasant!  A little sweat if you’ve been playing basketball or some other sport is one thing, but the odor of a human body that hasn’t been washed perhaps for a few weeks can be overpowering. 

There is a story about a time that Dr. Lyman Beecher had received a letter which was critical of him, and when he was asked about why he didn’t reply to the letter, this is what he had to say: “One evening as I walked through a field toward my home, I encountered one of nature’s most undesirable of all creatures. I had several books in my hand which I began to throw at the creature. Unfortunately, the result of my actions was a horrible smell produced by that animal—a skunk. I determined that such an animal should be left alone.”

To a large extent, how we respond to situations determines whether or not we give off a life-giving perfume or the rotting smell of dead flesh.  There will always be unbelievers (those who are perishing, according to the 2 Cor. 2:16 passage above) who will find anything to do with us to be offensive (because we carry a message that they don’t want to accept).  We can’t compromise that message.  But how we deliver it can also either be sweet smelling, or downright repugnant.  Dr. Beecher understood that it was his actions that caused the skunk to release its powerful odor.  He could have ignored the creature, but his own actions were hostile and elicited the release of “skunk perfume.” 

If we choose to respond to attacks and criticism in a fleshly, non-Christian way, only evil will result.  Even if we respond in a Christian way, we may still be persecuted and the persecution may increase.  But at least if we respond as Jesus would have responded, we will present ourselves as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.  And after all, isn’t He who we want to please? 

Let’s not be vindictive and small minded.  There are greater things at stake than just our own comfort.  Jesus took the nails – the least we can do is take some criticism in a God-honoring way.

PRAYER: Our nature, Lord, is to strike back any time that we are hurt, criticized or offended.  Let us learn to place all such things at your feet and trust you to deal with them in due time so that we may present ourselves to you as a fragrant offering!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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