DayBreaks for 7/12/17 – Busted Snakes and Clutter

DayBreaks for 7/12/17: Busted Snakes and Clutter

From the DayBreaks archive, July 2007:

Hezekiah was a man of God.  He’s not one of the better-known characters in the Scripture.  Maybe you don’t even know who he was.  Let me update you if your memory, like mine, is a bit faded these days.  Hezekiah was one of Israel’s kings, and he was a good one.  2 Kings 18:3 says that Hezekiah did what was right in the Lord’s sight.  That’s pretty high praise.  The people had been led into idolatry, but Hezekiah brought them back into God’s pathways once again.  He tore down the Asherah poles that were used in idolatrous worship.  He broke up the altars that had been used for sacrifices to false gods.  As Thom Rainer puts it in Simple Church: He took out the godless clutter that had been competing for the attention and the affection of the people.

But he did more than tear down the Asherah poles and altars.  He did something that would have been considered unthinkable by many of the Israelites.  Do you remember that during the wilderness wanderings, the Lord had sent a plague of snakes into the camp because of the people’s sin?  At that time, Moses was instructed to fashion a bronze serpent and put it up on a pole so that the people who had been bitten could lift their eyes in faith to the serpent on the pole and be saved from death.  It’s a fascinating story, all by itself.  What you may not have remembered or realized is that when Hezekiah got busy with his housecleaning, with removing the clutter from the spiritual life of the nation of Israel, one of the things he did was to break the bronze snake that Moses had made. 

Hezekiah didn’t pretend that he’d dropped the snake and it broke by accident.  He intentionally and purposefully broke it.  Bear in mind that this snake had been in the possession of Israel for hundreds of years.  It would have been a relic.  It had been actually touched by Moses, and it had been made at the express command of the Lord Almighty Himself. 

It took nerve for Hezekiah to bust up that snake.  Why did he do it?  Because it had become clutter.  As amazing as it was – and as fascinating as it must have been to have seen something hundreds of years old that Moses had made himself – it had become clutter because people revered it.  It had become an object of adoration.  It took the attention of people away from the True and Living God.

What’s the point?  Good things can become bad things if we pay them undue attention.  The image of the snake was never meant to be worshiped.  It was meant to be a tool to draw people to worship Jehovah.  But that which was good became bad because people worshiped the image instead.  Can you imagine how the people must have reacted to hearing that their king had destroyed the serpent made by the hand of Moses?!?!  Talk about an unpopular thing to do!

Change is hard.  Change can be very unpopular.  Yet change can also be absolutely vital. 

It’s scary how easily good things can become bad.  It calls for deep introspection.  Is there something that was once good which I have unduly exalted in my mind or heart? 

Break the snakes in your life.  Get rid of the clutter.  Let’s get back to what it’s all about.  It’s not about people’s favorite images or programs or how they think things should be done.  It’s about God and His glory and a proper worship of His Person.

PRAYER:  Open our eyes, Father, that we may see where we are either guilty of, or in danger of, taking something holy and worshipping it instead of You.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2017 by Galen C. Dalrymple.  ><}}}”>

DayBreaks for 7/06/17 – Caleb and Courageous Conviction, #4

DayBreaks for 7/06/17: Caleb and Courageous Conviction, #4

Our visit with Caleb comes to an end today, but there are a few more reflections I’d like to share.

Where does Caleb want as his inheritance? The hill country. That shouldn’t surprise most of us as we all love the hills and beauty of the mountains. But I don’t really think that’s why Caleb longed for this territory. Yes, he’d seen it before and gave a glowing report of the area 45 years or so earlier. He’d not forgotten what he’d seen there – and he longed to see it again. It had captured his heart and mind for four-and-one-half decades. But I think there are possibly deeper reasons for Caleb’s desire for this place.

But first, think about it for a minute. Caleb was 85 – get that and let it settle in – eighty-five years old! In order to take that hill country, what must you do?

FIRST: you must overcome the fear of the giants, the descendants of Anak, who lived there. Those very people had terrified the 10 spies 45 years ago and no one had yet routed them from their land. Yet Caleb wasn’t afraid. Why? The rest of the world looked at the giants there and said, “No way! We’d be slaughtered!” The Israelites looked at one another and said, “We’re like grasshoppers in their eyes!” Caleb looked at them and said, “They’re nothing compared to God!” It all depends on our focus, doesn’t it?

SECONDLY: to take hill country, you must attack uphill – and that, my friends, is the recipe for a military disaster. Yet Caleb’s 85-year-old heart and legs were crying out for just one more challenge – one more charge against the greatest of odds. He didn’t want to settle down in the lowlands and live a life of ease! He wasn’t afraid of the giants at the top nor discouraged by the steep slopes. As far as he was concerned, the victory was already won because God has promised it! He wanted one more adventure with God before he was finished. How hungry are you for adventures with Him?

So why did Caleb want this land? This is conjecture, but again, I think there were several reasons:

I think when he first saw it, he fell in love with the place. Who wouldn’t, after 400 years of slavery in Egypt and the hot burning sands of the Egyptian desert! Here was lush green, fertile land and beauty.

But I think there were far more significant reasons he may have wanted the hill country. I think he wanted the younger generations to learn something from the impending victory over the hill people giants. He wanted them to see and understand that nothing is ever impossible for those who have God’s promises in hand. They’d heard stories of the giants that terrified their parents and grandparents leading to the wilderness wandering. And here was an 85-year-old man with enough courage to take them on..uphill. This generation needed to learn from the older generation. And the younger generations today need to learn from us who are older. But that puts the onus on us, doesn’t it? What kind of example are we setting for them? Are we just getting old and long in the tooth and therefore we have quit attacking hills and giants when the Lord has said we should charge up the hill? Are we content now to settle into a pew and snooze quietly into the sunset? Our giants today are cultural and moral giants, but they can be defeated as surely as Anak’s descendants. No matter how old you are, you can still teach those who are younger about God’s faithfulness and goodness, about how He rewards the courageous who step out on His promises boldly with attack uphill, even in their old age. There is great power in an enduring witness of a life lived well to the end!

There’s an interesting historical note here. Many years after Caleb died, the hill country was still in the possession of his descendants. And finally, a young shepherd king rose to the throne of Israel and put his first capital in Hebron for a number of years. This was the land Caleb had conquered! Why did David choose Hebron? It was partly because of Caleb’s actions around 400 years earlier – it was conquered and secured territory. Jerusalem was not. Why? Because the hearts of the Israelites had grown faint again after coming into the Promised Land and they’d failed to remove the inhabitants of the Jerusalem area. It fell to David to take possession of what would become the new capital, Jerusalem.

One final thought before we say goodbye to Caleb for now. I was reading about endurance runners in Sports Illustrated and one of them made this comment (paraphrased): Endurance isn’t so much a matter of the legs – it is a matter of the heart and the mind.

Let us not think about the age of our limbs or the decades of our service to Christ, but rather about how we can finish well, like Caleb; of our how hearts can rise to a new challenge even now and how we can bless the younger generations as we do.

I don’t know about you, but I sure am looking forward to meeting Caleb who surely must be one of the most neglected heroes in the Bible!

PRAYER: Oh, God, how amazingly wonderful you are! Thank you for such a shining example that Caleb has set before us! Give us hearts and minds to rise to the challenge for as long as we live! In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2017 by Galen C. Dalrymple.  ><}}}”>

DayBreaks for 6/05/17 – What To Do With Believers

DayBreaks for 6/05/17: What to Do With Believers

First, let me say that 20 years ago yesterday (6/04/97) marked the first ever DayBreaks. I thought about re-sharing the first DayBreaks I ever sent out, but decided against it. Instead, I just want to say this: I never expected DayBreaks would last so long. There have been times I’ve debated whether or not it was time to stop, but I never sensed a clear direction from the Lord to do that, so for now, we’ll continue on. But even more than that, I’ve come to love many of you who have written over the years, shared parts of your life (good and bad) with me as you wrote and told me your stories. I am humbled and honored at your trust. In addition, some of my best friends have come through DayBreaks – and I shall cherish our friendship and relationship as long as I live. Thank you to all who have shared this journey with me!

From the DayBreaks archive, June 5 ,2007:

An article I recently read by Mark Buchanan made an interesting observation about Jonah chapter 1 and Acts, chapters 27 and 28.  Both of those passages tell the story of a God-worshipper who is on board a ship, surrounded by unbelievers.  In both cases, a violent storm blows up on the sea and the “mighty ship was tossed” (to borrow a line from Gilligan’s Island!)  So severe was the storm in both cases, that the crew reached a conclusion that they would rather have not reached: all the cargo on the ship would need to be thrown overboard.  It wasn’t a case of their profits going up in smoke, but of their profits going down to Davey Jones’ locker.  But, at least in the case of Jonah, he was considered “cargo”.  Somehow, the pagans felt this disaster in the making was due to someone who had offended the gods, and Jonah was singled out. 

Remember: Jonah is on board because he’s fleeing from God.  When confronted by the pagan sailors, he’s boastful about himself and disdainful toward them.  As it turns out, there’s only one way for those pagans to survive the storm: they have to get rid of the God-worshiper – they have to throw him overboard.  And they do just that.

Not so in Acts.  There, the apostle Paul is on board the ship precisely because he has been following God.  He’s a prisoner of Rome, on his way via ship to be tried in front of Caesar, but even more important, he’s a man on a mission sent from heaven, who has been being obedient to that calling.  When the pagan sailors panic, Paul is wise, humble, and helpful – quite the opposite of his predecessor, Jonah.  Paul lets those terrified shipmates know that he cares deeply for them.  It turns out, there’s only one way for those pagans to survive the storm: they have to put the God-worshiper, the one who showed concern for them, in charge.

The point that Buchanan draws is this: the more that we genuinely care for the people in this storm-wracked world—the less we boast and denounce, the more we bless and serve—the more they will let us – and the Jesus we serve – into their lives and lives and souls will be redeemed and saved!

PRAYER: May we be the kind of God worshippers that You are pleased with.  May we answer Your call, may we be meek and humble, may we care and not denounce unnecessarily!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2017 by Galen C. Dalrymple.  ><}}}”>

DayBreaks for 5/17/17 – The Immanent or the Greater

Image result for fiery furnace

DayBreaks for 5/17/17: The Immanent or the Greater

Thanks to some writing by Mark Labberton, I’ve been fascinated again with the childhood story of Shadrach, Mescheh and Abednego.  I shared some insights in a DayBreaks before, but here’s one a friend had that I think is worth sharing.

I wrote before about how these young men had to discern the real danger when confronted with the choice of worshipping the golden image that King Nebuchadnezzar had built.  They had to decide for themselves if the greatest danger was in bowing down and worshipping the idol or in not worshipping the real and living God. 

As Hebrews, these three had been well versed in the 10 commandments, and I’m sure, could easily recite them by heart.  So, for them to truly be tempted to worship an idol, well, it probably wasn’t really a temptation for them at all.  Saving their lives might have been a temptation, but they certainly knew it was wrong to worship an idol.  But, here’s the thing: they believed that worshipping anything other than Yahweh was a greater risk and danger than worshipping the idol, however sometimes the immediate or immanent danger seems greater than the far off danger.  Even though they knew what was right and wrong, and they knew in their hearts that failure to be true to Yahweh was the greater danger, the heat from the fire was pressing against their skin, making itself felt RIGHT NOW, and the danger from not worshipping Yahweh probably seemed a long way off.

We are often tempted to compromise for a couple of reasons: we want immediate pleasure rather than delayed gratification, or we want to avoid the immediacy of pain and suffering.  The latter is just as dangerous as the first – and both can be deadly.

Is there some immediate suffering that you can foresee in your life that you’ve been wrestling with and trying to avoid by some compromise?  Are you thinking that you can set the record straight with God at some later point?  That’s very dangerous reasoning.  Remember the words of the writer to the Hebrews: (Hebrews 10:31, NLT) It is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

PRAYER: In our foolishness, Lord, we often forget that it may be better to suffer now than to fall into Your hands later.  Give us courage and open our eyes to understand that just because one kind of suffering may be more immediate, that it doesn’t mean it is the greatest suffering we could encounter.  Let us have no other gods before You! In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2017 by Galen Dalrymple.

 

DayBreaks for 5/09/17 – The Believer’s Definitive Question

DayBreaks for 5/09/17: The Believer’s Definitive Question

From the DayBreaks archive, May 2007:

So you struggle with being faithful. Join the crowd.  I don’t know a single person who doesn’t struggle with obedience, and even with their faith itself, from time to time.  It’s normal – and I think, at least to a certain extent – it is healthy to at least question faith once in a while to be certain that we don’t grow stale and complacent.  We need not fear the testing of faith.  There is greater danger in an untested faith when the time of trial comes.

There seems to be something about us humans that is a lot like a moth: we like to dance close to the flame.  In our case, it is the flame of temptation.  We seem to be drawn to certain things as individuals, and while it may vary from person to person, even as Christians we seem drawn to the flame.  The flame represents that which is familiar to us, something we’ve grown accustomed to and we find it to be predictable.  But, like the moth, we forget that the flame can burn us and kill us.  It’s a very dangerous place to be.

Still, many people show a tendency to get close to the flame of old temptations once again.  And not only do we have that tendency, we show an eagerness for it when we ask the question (when we clearly know the answer more often than not): “Would it be wrong for me to do this?” 

In his book, Grace Walk, Steve McVey suggests that the definitive question for the believer shouldn’t be whether or not we can do something, but instead, Am I abiding in Christ at this moment?  An unsaved person evaluates behavior on the basis of right and wrong, but the lifestyle of a Christian is to flow from the activity of Christ.  McVey’s point is that we have Christ in us and we are in him – so why would we even want to dance close to the flame?  Somehow, I can’t picture Christ walking around asking “Would it be wrong for me to do this?”, can you?  I think rather, he’d be focused on abiding in the Father’s love and not thinking about doing wrong, but about doing good. 

John 9:4 (NLT) – All of us must quickly carry out the tasks assigned us by the one who sent me, because there is little time left before the night falls and all work comes to an end.

PRAYER: Lord, we know that we are to abide in You, to let you live Your life through us.  It’s hard to give up our own life, even to One as powerful as Your Spirit.  Help us to have the mind of Jesus that is concerned about abiding in Your love and acting out of that love for the world.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2017 by Galen Dalrymple.

DayBreaks for 5/01/17 – Obedience

DayBreaks for 5/01/17: Obedience

From the DayBreaks archive, May 2007:

Listen to this story.  I don’t know the source of the story, but here it is:

“How we admire the obedience a dog shows to its master!  Archibald Rutledge wrote that one day he met a man whose dog had just been killed in a forest fire.  Heartbroken, the man explained to Rutledge how it happened.  Because he worked out-of-doors, he often took his dog with him.  That morning, he left the animal in a clearing and gave him a command to stay and watch his lunch bucket while he went into the forest.  His faithful friend understood, for that’s exactly what he did.  Then a fire started in the woods, and soon the blaze spread to the spot where the dog had been left.  But he didn’t move.  He stayed right where he was, in perfect obedience to his master’s word.  With tearful eyes, the dog’s owner said, “I always had to be careful what I told him to do, because I knew he would do it.”

Galen’s Thoughts: Loyalty.  Character.  Perseverance.  Courage.  Faithfulness.  These are all words that come to mind.  Sounds like a super-hero.  And then I have to stop myself and remember that I’m talking about a DOG!  But what lessons that dog can teach us!

I’m heart broken by this story for several reasons:

FIRST: I grieve for the dog’s sake.  I can’t imagine what it was like – how great the temptation must have been to cut and run through the forest away from the heat and torment of the flames – yet the dog stayed put.  I mourn the loss of the dog, but at a deeper level it makes me mourn my own lack of courage in obedience to the one I call my Master.

SECOND: I mourn that I am not more broken hearted by the loss of eternal souls than I am in the loss of the dog.  What is wrong with me, with us, when we have deeper feelings about the loss of a dog, albeit a tremendously loyal one, than the lives of those that surround us every day?

FINALLY: I am haunted by the final words of the dog’s master: “I always had to be careful what I told him to do, because I knew he would do it.”  What would my Master say about me?  Oh, how I wish Jesus could say, “I always had to be careful what I told Galen to do, because I knew he would do it!”  Instead, in my fear and weakness, I far too often run from the heat of the struggle into perceived safety.  But it is only perceived safety and it certainly isn’t obedience.

The love of the dog’s owner is clear in his tears – he loved his dog.  The pride of the owner is clear in his words – he was justifiably proud of the obedience of his dog.  I look at Jesus and see his tears for me and I know He loves me with all his heart.  I just wish my obedience was loyal enough that Jesus could be proud of me.

PRAYER:  Lord, forgive my lack of obedience and loyalty!  It seems to take no more than even the slightest distraction to pull me away from you sometimes.  Help me to have the kind of character you wish to develop in me.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2017 by Galen Dalrymple.

 

DayBreaks for 4/27/17 – The Real Danger

DayBreaks for 4/27/17 – The Real Danger

Note: Galen is traveling this week.

From the DayBreaks archive, April 2007:

As a child, I was fascinated by the story of Shadrach, Meshech and Abednego.  My mind would swim with images and imaginings of what it looked like, of the sounds of the roaring furnace, of the great king Nebuchadnezzar in all his finery as the music blared and the masses bowed down.  That is, they bowed down with the exception of three people: the Hebrew boys otherwise known as Azariah, Mishael and Hananiah. 

I always thought that this was a story about idolatry.  I’d always thought that the temptation they faced was to worship the golden idol of the Babylonian king.  After all, that’s how I remember the story from the flannel graphs that my Sunday school teacher used to help us “see” the stories.  It is only recently that I believe God opened my eyes to a more significant truth.  The story is about idolatry, all right, but the idol that the young men were being tempted to worship wasn’t really the 90-foot tall golden sculpture. 

No, the real test was one about worship.  What would be worshipped?  They’d been taught as Jewish children that “the Lord our God is One” and that “No one is like the Lord our God.”  They knew full well that He was the only One who was worthy of worship.  The idol that these boys were confronted with – and which they were tempted to bow down and worship – was themselves, their earthly lives.  If they worshipped the idol, they’d save their lives – if they didn’t, they might lose their lives.

Would these three young men be wise enough to recognize which was the greater danger: to die in a fiery furnace, or to worship and esteem something else (even if it is your physical life) higher than the worship of God is idolatry?

We are our own greatest idol.  We need to cast aside the idol of self that leads us to hoard money, love, compassion, wisdom, possessions, pleasures.  Even if it comes to laying down our lives in order to worship God, doesn’t God have a right to ask that of us?  Of course He does. 

Do you recognize your own self-worship and idolatry?  Every time we choose our way, our dreams, our own joys rather than His, we are bowing down to the idol of self-worship.

PRAYER:  Father, help us to recognize our idolatry and our self worship.  Give us the wisdom to be able to discern the greatest danger – the danger of not giving you the worship and glory that you alone deserve.  Tear down our idols of self-interest that we may be true worshippers!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2017 by Galen Dalrymple.