DayBreaks for 1/9/20 – Not Quite White

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DayBreaks for 1/09/20: Not Quite White

From the DayBreaks Archive, January 2010:

As some of you know, photography has become one of my hobbies.  There’s not much that I enjoy more than getting off to some place that is pretty or interesting or which has wild animals and taking pictures of them.  I can’t say that I’m much good at it – but I hope to get better and I’m reading things to help me learn. 

I was recently able to spend part of a day in Yosemite where there was snow on the ground – not a lot of it, but enough to make the place even more magical than it already is.  There is a challenge to taking good pictures in the snow.  The color white reflects back 36% of the light waves that hit it.  Camera light meters, however, have a real problem with white.  They see white and rather than seeing all of it, they see only 18% (half) of the light waves bouncing off a white surface.  As a result, cameras, left to automatic exposure, will typically render white snow as a dingy gray.

As I struggled a bit to get good exposures in Yosemite in the snow, I got to thinking about how the Bible says white is symbolic of purity and black is representative of sin.  We would like to think that we’re “white” spiritually.  This is never clearer than in the case of those who think that they’re “pretty good people” who don’t smoke, drink or cheat.  They think they are good enough through their own efforts.  But just like the camera has a problem with recognizing whiteness, so our inner eyes often struggle to see our own dingy grayness and instead we choose to think we see purity when it is in fact lacking.  We make the problems we may have (even sin problems) someone else’s fault: they provoked me to anger, they cheated me so I’m justified in talking about them behind their back, or she wore too short of a skirt and made me lust. 

That thinking doesn’t fly in God’s Kingdom.  We can contribute to creating sinful environments that will either trip us up, or those around us, but ultimately, we are responsible for how we respond.  We are responsible for our own sin. 

The best any of us are on our own is like the blackest black you can imagine.  It’s what the prophet was saying when he said, “All our righteous deeds are as filthy rags” (Isa. 64:6).  They aren’t even gray – they’re filthy black!

Then, in steps Jesus, armed with the ability and knowledge to turn us white once again.  Just as a photographic exposure can be adjusted to make the white more “white”, Jesus can take our sin-stained souls and brighten them up so that we will “shine like stars in the universe” (Phil. 2:15). 

The eye of the camera is fooled by whiteness…and we can let our spiritual eyes be fooled, too. 

PRAYER: Jesus, thank you for cleaning us up and making us shine!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

DayBreaks for 12/30/19 – The Right Goal

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DayBreaks for 12/30/19: The Right Goal

From the DayBreaks Archive, 12/27/99:

Who do you want to be like? Who is your hero? I recently asked that question in my adult Sunday school class and got some interesting answers, but not the answers that you might have expected. What do you think the Jews of Jesus’ time would have answered to that question? Some would probably have suggested that they wanted to be like their father, Abraham. Some may have chosen Moses or David or Daniel or Elijah.

Jesus would one day tell them what the answer should have been, and the answer would have set them all back, just as it does me. His answer is found in Matthew 5:48: Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

No Jew would have dared to suggest that they could have been like God. As I think of my own life, I think that I would have also picked some of the characters from the Scriptures. I would be content to be a man of faith like Daniel, to deal with temptation as did Joseph, to be a man after God’s heart like David. I would be happy to be 1/10th the Christian that the apostle Paul was. But you see, that’s the problem. We set our sights too low. God has already set the target for us when he said, Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

It seems that God has a far loftier goal than we set for ourselves. The fallacy of my thinking that I’d be content to be 1/10th the Christian that Paul was is that you can’t be 1/10th of a Christian. You are either a Christian or you are not. And in God’s eyes, if you are a Christian – you are entirely Christian and your goal shouldn’t be set to be anything like another human – but to be like Christ, to be like God Himself.

Why does God set that goal for us? Because He knew how low we’d set the target if left to our own thinking. He knew we’d be content to be better than our neighbor. But He also knows that being better than our neighbor would never suffice.

God has high ideals for you. That’s actually good news. The even better news is that He has made Himself responsible for helping you reach the target! Colossians 1:28 says that it is IN CHRIST that we are presented perfect. Ephesians 1:13 tells us who those are who are IN CHRIST: And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit…

We won’t get there on our own, but to those who believe, who are therefore “in Christ” – well, you just can’t get more perfect than that!

PRAYER: Let us dream the dreams you have for us, Lord, to be led by your Spirit to be holy and righteous, knowing that it is only by the blood of Jesus that we ever reach that perfection.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

DayBreaks for 12/06/19 – Which One is Crazy?

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DayBreaks for 12/06/19: Which One is Crazy?

There are plenty of people in this world who think that Christians are a bunch of crazies who should be put into a looney bin.  I can understand that point of view, actually.  There is plenty in the Good Book that seems crazy when you stop to think about it.  That doesn’t mean it isn’t true – in fact, it is actually an indicator of the truth of the story.  No one would have made up these kind of crazy things: people past childbearing holding their toddlers on their knees, a big boat that saved the human race, young boys felling giants with one projectile, people receiving sight, a virgin birth, the dead being raised.  It’s pretty wild stuff, and I for one can totally understand how unbelievers think we may be nice people by and large, but that we’re not playing with a full deck.

Surprisingly, some Christians think other Christians are crazy, too.  This is usually a label that one believer gives to another when the recipient of the label takes the Word at face value and tries with all their power to live out what they believe to be true.  One might call it fanaticism, another craziness.  Either way, it’s sad that we should ever think someone is crazy for trying to live out the Word as they feel led to do by the Spirit.

In Crazy Love, Francis Chan describes the dilemma when talking about how his family, led by their convictions, moved into a house half the size of their previous home so that they would have more money to give to the Lord’s work and more time as well.  The cynics said he was crazy.  Francis’ response to them was: “…in the context of eternity…am I the crazy one for selling my house?  Or are you for not giving more, serving more, being with your Creator more?  If one person ‘wastes’ away his day by spending hours connecting with God, and the other person believes he is too busy or has better things to do than worship the Creator and Sustainer, who is the crazy one?  If one person invests her or his resources in the poor – which according to Matthew 25, is giving to Jesus Himself – and the other extravagantly remodels a temporary dwelling that will not last beyond his few years left on this earth, who is the crazy one?

When people gladly sacrifice their time or comfort or home, it is obvious that they trust in the promises of God.  Why is it that the story of someone who has actually done what Jesus commands resonates deeply with us, but we then assume we could never do anything so radical or intense?  Or why do we call it radical when, to Jesus, it is simply the way it is?  The way it should be?

“Obsessed people are more concerned with obeying God than doing what is expected or fulfilling the status quo.  A person who is obsessed with Jesus will do things that don’t always make sense in terms of success or wealth on this earth.  As Martin Luther put it, ‘There are two days on my calendar: this day and that day.”  (Lk. 14:25-35; Mt. 7:13-23, 8:18-22; Rev. 3:1-6)

How crazy are you?

PRAYER: Lord, give us the faith to do crazy things in the eyes of the world, but which are truly reflections of trust in Your promises.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

DayBreaks for 12/02/19 – Liberating Restrictions

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DayBreaks for 12/02/19: Liberating Restrictions

How do you feel deep down inside, about rules?  Do you like them?  If so, under what conditions?  You may like rules that you have for your kids that keep them orderly and under control so that the decibel level in your home isn’t higher than that of an F-18 taking off, but resent rules when they are applied to you at work or in the home or through a neighborhood association or a church.  We do love our freedoms!  And that isn’t bad.

There is a common misperception about Christianity – that it is a religion that is like a straight jacket – bound around us so tightly that we cannot move or scarcely breathe.  Not a very pretty or attractive picture, is it?  Yet it is real and it is yet another reason that many refuse to yield to the Spirit’s call to come to the cross and find the freedom that is real freedom that comes only through Christ.

How would you answer those who say that Christianity is nothing but a set of rules intended to subjugate and keep people from having “fun” and a good life?  I liked the illustration Timothy Keller gives in The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism: “Disciplines and constraints, then, liberate us only when they fit with the reality of our nature and capacities.  A fish, because it absorbs oxygen from the water rather than air, is only free if it is restricted and limited to water.  If we put it out on the grass, its freedom to move and even live is not enhanced but destroyed.  The fish dies if we do not honor the reality of its nature.  In many areas of life, freedom is not so much the absence of restrictions as finding the right ones, the liberating restrictions.”

Well put.  The fish was designed to be free to move, swim and live in the water.  It’s the only place it can truly be free – in any other environment it will quickly die.  As humans, made in the image of God, we were designed to live in a certain way, too.  And we are only truly free when we find the Way we were meant to live and then remain in that way. 

Throughout the centuries, people have tried many, many things in order to find freedom from demons that haunt them and emotions that eat away at the soul.  The “way” of life in the gospels is the way we find true life.  They are not restrictions that limit and repress, they are liberating restrictions that frees us to rise up on wings like eagles!

PRAYER: Help us to not long for what we are not meant to have or for ways we are not meant to live!  Thank You, Lord, for the restrictions that free us and keep us from the restrictions that would bind and kill.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

DayBreaks for 10/11/19 – Lessons from Legion

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DayBreaks for 10/11/19: Lessons from Legion

From the DayBreaks archive, October 2009:

They went across the lake to the region of the Gerasenes. When Jesus got out of the boat, a man with an evil spirit came from the tombs to meet him. This man lived in the tombs, and no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain. For he had often been chained hand and foot, but he tore the chains apart and broke the irons on his feet. No one was strong enough to subdue him. Night and day among the tombs and in the hills he would cry out and cut himself with stones. When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and fell on his knees in front of him. He shouted at the top of his voice, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? Swear to God that you won’t torture me!” For Jesus had said to him, “Come out of this man, you evil spirit!” Then Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” “My name is Legion,” he replied, “for we are many.” And he begged Jesus again and again not to send them out of the area.

In my opinion, this is one of the more intriguing miracles that Jesus performed.  I have often pictured this encounter taking place in broad daylight, but a close reading of the text would indicate that it was probably not the case.  Jesus and his disciples had left the other side of the Sea of Galilee late in the evening, encountered a storm, and had finally made it to the other shore.  Chances are it was dark – the time when ancients believed demons were especially active.  They also believed demons frequented dirty, filthy places – graveyards, especially.  It seems as if they had just reached shore when this man, who was so strong because of his possession, that he could break metal chains, comes charging out of the graveyard to confront Jesus. 

I won’t go into the details of the story except to make several observations.  It is interesting how the man switches back and forth between singular expressions of speech and plural.  This clearly was a seriously possessed man – and a very confused one, too.  It is interesting that the demons were fearful that Jesus would torture them.  This probably refers to him sending them back to the pit of hell.  What a contrast to the rather comical view of hell that is often presented by many today that would have us believe that the demons shriek with laughter in hell over the plight of the damned.  Such is not the case – it is a place of torture, not just for the condemned, but for the demons, too.  They want no part of it.  How foolish of those who reject God because they think that they’ll be happier with their friends in hell – picturing it as an eternal beer-bust party!

But here’s what really has me thinking about this passage: having stood in the place where this transpired, I’d never tried before to put myself in the place of the possessed man.  No, I am not possessed by demons that cause me to break chains or wander unclothed, yelling and cutting myself with rocks.  But, are we not all possessed at some level by demons that haunt us – be they ghosts of past failings or the present specters of temptation?  I know within myself rage temptations that would want to have nothing to do with Jesus.  And sometimes, I feel as if I’m losing the battle – as this poor man must have felt from time to time.  I need to understand that it isn’t just those foaming at the mouth or who are derelict that need what Jesus has to offer – I, too, am in desperate need.

Here’s what really scares me and bothers me: just as this man didn’t want his demons sent too far away, I have to ask, “Do I want my temptations sent so far away that I can’t recall them and invite them back into my heart when I want them?”  I fear that I can’t always answer in the affirmative to that question.  There is a part of me that longs for that very thing – and another part that longs for the status quo, temptations and all.  And that dichotomy haunt me.

The good news is that the demoniac, once his demons were gone, sat quietly and “in his right mind” at the feet of Jesus.  When I am in my right mind, I will do the same.

PRAYER: Free us, Lord, from the demons of temptation that haunt and pursue us, and for our love of sin that causes us to hold tightly to our temptations when we should be casting them away.  Have mercy on us and clothe us in our right minds that we might sit at Your feet!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

DayBreaks for 10/02/19 – God’s Heaviest Grief

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DayBreaks for 10/02/19: God’s Heaviest Grief

From the DayBreaks archive, September 2009:

Have you ever known someone who had tremendous potential, but they squandered their opportunities pursuing meaningless things? Perhaps you look back at your own life with a certain measure of regret for “what might have been.”  There isn’t a one of us who can’t look back at our past and say that about one thing or another.  Not one. 

On the other hand, there are others who seemingly have nothing going for them – ordinary men and women – who manage to achieve incredible things.  Mother Theresa was so small physically, and not greatly educated, but has there been anyone in the 20th century who made a bigger impact on people and the world than she did?  Maybe, but not many.  Einstein was a mail clerk, for Pete’s sake.  He wasn’t an educated mathematician or physicist to start with.  In fact, he was singled out by his early teachers and being too dumb to learn.  Yeah, right!!!

So it is that we see this paradox: there are those we’d never suspect who shake the very foundations of the world, and those who we believe could make a huge difference – but they wind up wasting their lives and talent.  When the funerals come around for both the wasters and the achievers, they will all be nice funerals and nice things will be said.  But not all that is said will likely be true. 

The Christian writer, A. W. Tozer, once said, “A man by his sin may waste himself, which is to waste that which on earth is most like God.  This is man’s greatest tragedy and God’s heaviest grief.”

Well put, don’t you think?  We were made by God to do things – to achieve, to create, to invent and to change and grow to be more like our Father.  Because we are made in his image, we are capable of magnificence with his help! And because we often don’t represent what God is like by our actions and when we waste the life that God has blessed us with it must deeply grieve Him!

How are you doing at becoming and achieving all the potential that God put into you and your DNA?  Have you wasted much of your life in the pursuit of the frivolous?  Do you have many regrets at opportunities you had but which you lost?  Why not turn all that around today and recommit yourself to becoming more like Him and to fulfill all that He’s put into your ability to become?  There is nothing that would give Him greater joy!

PRAYER: We are often too tired and lazy, Lord, to make much effort at becoming all You have gifted us and created us to be.  May we live up to the potential You have created in each one of us that we might bring You joy!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

DayBreaks for 10/01/19 – The Reason for the Wind

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DayBreaks for 10/01/19: The Reason for the Wind

From the DayBreaks archive, September 2009:

I think we often misjudge the Israelites.  When they left Egypt in the beginning, they were headed on a route that would take them toward the coast of the Mediterranean.  Imagine their consternation when God told them to turn around, go back the other way and head towards the Red Sea.  Try to put yourself in their place: they knew the Egyptians would be as mad as a nest of hornets, and now, instead of heading away, they’re heading back towards where they came from!  Noah showed great faith, Abraham demonstrated his faith as did all the patriarchs, but this must rank right along with one of the greatest acts of faith of a large body of believers in all history.  The pillars of cloud and fire were leading them into what appeared to be a death-trap where they would be stuck between the Egyptians and the sea.  Yet they marched on.

The book of Exodus records precisely what happened in Exodus 14:21 – a strong east wind began to blow and it blew all night long, drying out the seabed and piling up the waters for the Israelites safe passage. 

Have you ever contemplated what God did and why?  I mean, He is God…all He would have needed to do was just say, “Waters, part!  Ground, be dry!” and it surely would have been so.  But that wasn’t what God did.  Or, he could have said, “Wind – be a super wind and dry the ground instantly and push the waters apart!”  It would have been far more spectacular, wouldn’t it?  Surely, it would have clearly been seen as the hand of God controlling even the forces of nature.

Gerald Schroeder hit it on the head, I believe, with his observation from The Science of God, when he noted “Of course, the natural appearance of the wind was exactly the intent.  Choices had to be made.  For the Israelites, to trust in the Divine or to surrender to the Egyptians?  For the Egyptians, to follow the Israelites onto the seabed or to retreat?  Had the wind been obviously supernatural, the decisions would have been predictable, and free will would have been compromised.”  Note in reading the story that the wind was so obviously NOT supernatural, that the Egyptians did in fact follow Israel onto the seabed, and only when they were trapped in the waters did they acknowledge the miracle: “The Eternal fights for them.” (14:25)

Schroeder then goes on to make sure the point is clear: “The biblical message: not every extraordinary event in nature is labeled ‘miracle, made in heaven.’  Sometimes we must read between the lines to apprehend its full significance.”

Are you looking for miracles that are so clear that you’ll have no doubt – in other words, something so clear that you’ll not have to act in faith?  God didn’t provide that luxury to Israel more often than not, and I doubt He will for us.  Many miracles go undetected because we are looking for such a huge, supernatural happening that when the wind blows we attribute it to nothing more than fluctuations in air pressure. 

May God open our eyes to the miracles that surround us each day…but give us the faith to act when it seems to be nothing out of the ordinary. 

PRAYER: Forgive our desire and insistence of super-visible miracles and our ignorance of normal, everyday miracles that come constantly from Your hand!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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