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 6/28/19 – The Pure in Heart

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DayBreaks for 06/28/19: The Pure in Heart

From the DayBreaks archives, June 2009:

Matthew 5:8: Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

Have you ever wanted to see God? Have your ever thought that if you could just see Him for a moment that it would be easier to believe and obey? It might be for a short while, but probably not in the long run. There were many who saw and heard him but didn’t believe. But seeing isn’t believing.

In the sermon on the mount, Jesus utters the words found in Matthew 5:8. What is the connection between being pure in heart and seeing God? What is the message Jesus wants us to understand?

Several thoughts come to mind:

FIRST: I’m glad that Jesus said “pure in heart” and didn’t insist it was only those who were pure in deed that would see God. In my heart I want to do what is right, in my flesh I find it harder to live out. While what is in our hearts should find expression in the outcome of our actions, there is sometimes a disconnect. God judges the heart (1 Sam. 16:7).

SECOND: A French writer, Francois Mauriac, had an interesting insight. He concluded that self-discipline, repression of desires and logical and rational arguments are not sufficient weapons to use in fighting our impulses to sin. And that has been my experience, too. No matter how hard I try to discipline myself, I yield to temptation. Mauriac ultimately concluded that there was only one good reason to be pure, and that is what Jesus was saying in this verse. As Mauriac put it, “Impurity separates us from God. The spiritual life obeys laws as verifiable as those of the physical world…Purity is the condition for a higher love – for a possession superior to all possessions: that of God. Yes, that is what is at stake, and nothing else.”

This was the meaning of the parable of the pearl of great price: there is nothing (no earthly pleasure or heavenly delight) that can compare to possessing God Himself and having Him as your own. The desire to “have” God and to be His, to see His face, is the only motivation that can overcome the impurity of our hearts and make us pure enough to be able to see His face.

Why is it that the pure in heart can see God? Because it is simply the condition to be in His presence.  The point is clear: do you want to see God? Be pure in heart…singularly devoted to Him, seeking Him and His way and will above all other ways and wills…even your own!

Prayer: Cleanse our hearts and make them fully devoted to You!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

DayBreaks for 6/26/19 – Unfulfilled Expectations

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DayBreaks for 06/26/09: Unfulfilled Expectations

From the DayBreaks archives, June 2009:

The boy was 10 years old. He was known as Phineas. His grandfather, in his will, had left him an island – Ivy Island. Phineas had never seen the island, but dreamt of it often. He pictured how he’d build a house, raise cattle and grow prosperous. But he’d never seen it. All that was about to change. After several requests and years of asking, his father finally agreed to take him to see the island. The father, young boy and a hired hand climbed into the wagon and slowly made their way toward the coast of Connecticut. Finally, as they crested a hill, the father told Phineas that if he ran to the tree line and looked toward the sea, that he’d see his island. The young boy leaped down from the wagon, ran though the trees and caught his first glimpse of Ivy Island – the place of his dreams. However, what he saw wasn’t what he expected. Instead of a beautiful, green island surrounded by the beautiful blue sea, he saw 5 acres of swampy marshland.

Phineas grew bitter and it affected the rest of his life. In fact, later on, Phineas (who was to become known as P.T.), coined the phrase, “There’s a sucker born every minute.” You know him as P.T. Barnum, the circus huckster who lured people with promises of freaks and absurdities.

There is something about bitterness that is ugly. Scripture talks about bitterness in this way from Heb 12:15: See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.

Brain tumors are sometimes very difficult to remove because they grow “roots” that intertwine with the brain stem and other parts of the brain. These roots are very difficult, if not impossible, to extract. Bitterness has the same potential to get into our heads and grow into all the little, dark places where it settles in and makes itself at home.

When it seems like life lets you down, we can become bitter. The promise of a raise wasn’t kept, the recognition that was earned wasn’t delivered, the marriage that was supposed to last forever doesn’t. These are facts of life. They do happen and they happen in some way or form to everyone.

What do you do about it? First, in the Hebrews passage, part of the solution seems to be to not overlook God’s grace – rather than meditating on the wrong has been done to us, focus on how much we have received from God that we had no right to expect. Second, realize you can’t stay in a protective shell – you have to move on. You could choose to shelter your heart if your love has been betrayed, but what a horrible life that would be! Love again – take the risk. Let Jesus bring you healing. Don’t give bitterness a place to grow in your heart. It was meant to hold God’s love, not bitterness.

PRAYER: Give us hearts that hold no bitterness.  Give us eyes to see that we deserve nothing from You.  Give us hope in Your eternal love for us!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

DayBreaks for 6/25/19 – What He Doesn’t Require

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DayBreaks for 06/25/09: What He Doesn’t Require

From the DayBreaks archives, June 2009:

A friend of mine was teaching a class on John the Baptist. He had some good thoughts that can related to our everyday life and ministries…and by the way, you DO have an everyday ministry whether you are on full-time church staff or not, so don’t think that this doesn’t apply to you!

John the Baptist was an interesting character…living in the wilderness, eating locusts and honey, dressed in what today wouldn’t pass for clothes for a homeless person. He probably didn’t smell too good and probably looked like a wild man – I picture him as being wild looking with crazy hair and beard (I could be wrong!) I picture him yelling out his message in order to prepare hearts for the coming of the Promised One – no subtle gospel messages from John’s lips!

So what are the points? Well, Jesus said that no man born of woman was greater than John the Baptist (Matthew 11:11). But let’s stop and think about John for a moment. What did he do? He went about the business of being what God called him to be. The road-maker. The path-preparer. Not once in his entire life did John perform a miracle!

What is it that makes for greatness? It isn’t miracles. Miracles are not the measure of greatness, nor is the number of miracles or magnitude of miracles a sign of greatness that impresses Jesus. What impresses God is a life that is lived in accordance with its purpose – like John’s. That is fulfilling the command to be a living sacrifice.

Sometimes in your ministry (whether it is full-time church work or a ministry in the secular world), you can feel like a failure because you couldn’t pull off that “miracle” and reach that lost person for Christ, or keep that couple from divorcing, or turn that teen from self-destruction. You are not a failure because you couldn’t do a miracle. Miracles are God’s business…not yours or mine. And don’t let anyone put pressure on you to be a “miracle worker”. Sometimes we expect our church leaders to do heroic and seemingly miraculous things with their own families, with the local body and in the community. They should reach everyone for Christ, visit all the sick, and live perfect lives as role models. But that isn’t fair…and it isn’t God’s demand for anyone.

Don’t get discouraged in your work for God. God doesn’t require you to do miracles. He just asks for your faithfulness. Are you giving it to Him?

Prayer: May our hope and trust lie in You and not in anything we can do.  Help us to be faithful as our reasonable sacrifice to You!  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 6/19/19 – 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.  ><}}}”>

DayBreaks for 6/06/19 – Bring on the Heat – NOT!

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DayBreaks for 6/06/19: Bring on the Heat – NOT!

Romans 12:19-21 (CSBBible) – Friends, do not avenge yourselves; instead, leave room for God’s wrath, because it is written, Vengeance belongs to me; I will repay, says the Lord. But if your enemy is hungry, feed him. If he is thirsty, give him something to drink. For in so doing you will be heaping fiery coals on his head. Do not be conquered by evil, but conquer evil with good.

I remember when I was young, I had a bit of a temper (or so my late mother used to say). I remember her talking about this verse and how I should respond with kindness to someone who wronged or hurt me. And I especially focused in on the part about…For in doing so you will be heaping fiery coals on his head. I liked that part a lot! It gave me a way, ever permission so I believed, to get revenge and cause pain in return – after all, fiery coals on the head would hurt!!!!

But as I read this verse yesterday, it struck me how twisted my youthful thinking was. The writer wasn’t advocating we do this so we can cause pain in return for the pain someone caused us. He was just stating a simple truth based on cause and effect: doing a good deed for someone who hurt you will probably cause them to rethink things a bit and may cause their conscience to pain them a bit. But we shouldn’t do good things for that motive. We should do it for what’s mentioned in the last sentence: that is how evil is overcome.

Isn’t that what Jesus did? He returned good for evil and as he himself said, Be of good cheer, for I have overcome the world.

One more thought: we may think that we cannot return good for evil. But if it was impossible, we wouldn’t be told that we CAN conquer evil with good. I need to work on that!

Prayer: Jesus, help my motives to be pure in doing good so that evil can be overcome! In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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