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.  ><}}}”>

DayBreaks for 9/26/19 – Struggling With the Will

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DayBreaks for 9/26/19: Struggling with the Will

Matthew 26:39-42 (ESV) – And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping. And he said to Peter, “So, could you not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Again, for the second time, he went away and prayed, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.”

To my way of thinking, this scene in the garden is the crux of all eternity. What transpired there had the ability to doom us forever or open the doorway to paradise.

But what was it that was so hard for Jesus to do? Was it the fear of death? It doesn’t seem possible to me given his power over death. Was it the coming separation from the Father, when God would turn his face away? I’d imagine there was some of that in it. Certainly the humiliation and pain of the crucifixion could not be a good thing to contemplate at all. But I think that we have the clues right in this passage itself.

Jesus gives us the clue twice in this passage. Two times he mentions “his will” versus the will of the Father. And in between he tells Peter that the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. I’d always taken that to refer to the disciples who were sleeping, and that is true. But I think it runs deeper than that.

I think what we’re witnessing here is Jesus’ own statement about his struggle with his will. His spirit is willing to proceed full speed ahead, but the flesh and will embodied in that flesh is weak. Let’s not forget that Jesus was flesh and blood just as are we.

And for the first time in all eternity that we’re aware of, Jesus’ will and the will of the Father were at odds. It must have been a very strange thing for Jesus to find himself in that situation. Yet for him to be tempted in all ways that we are, wouldn’t he  need to come to the point that his fleshly will and that of the Father contradicted one another? At this moment his will was clearly different than the Father’s.

So Jesus statement, “not my will”, was the moment of surrender of his will to the Father. One more thing to note from Luke 22:43. It was precisely when Jesus prayed for the Father’s will and not his own that the angel came to strengthen him – not before. As John Ortberg (who inspired these thoughts from his message this past Sunday) put it: “That angel is still on duty and he makes house calls.”

I don’t know about you, but it is worth knowing that Jesus understands how hard the will dies and surrenders. It’s not impossible – but it can be very, very hard. If you are struggling with the will, don’t give up. When you truly surrender, you will find the Comforter immediately by your side.

PRAYER: Jesus, I’m glad to know that you didn’t find the surrender of the will to be easy and that you understand my own struggle with my will. Help us all in our surrender.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

DayBreaks for 9/25/19 – Snakebit

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DayBreaks for 9/25/19: Snakebit

My son, Tim, recently wrote a brief article in the October 2019 edition of Christianity Today about a story in the book of Numbers. You may recall that the Israelites were in the wilderness when, in apparent desperation, they grumble about God. “Fiery” serpents show up and start biting them and many died. Moses intercedes and God instructs him to fashion a bronze serpent and put it up on a pole so that …if a serpent bit anyone, he would look at the bronze serpent and live (Num 21:9, ESV).

It only takes five verses to cover the tale. As strange as the story is, Jesus alludes to it in John 3:14, saying that he would also be lifted up and that anyone who looked to him would find life everlasting.

But here’s what caught my attention in Tim’s article: “One of my favorite aspects of the Numbers story is what it requires

of the afflicted. If a snake bites your foot, the natural reaction is to look down. We are all tempted to fixate on our troubles and our fears. In order to look for God, in order to be healed, we have to lift our eyes and see God’s provision.”

We are often afflicted, are we not? And when we do, we hang our heads, downcast and we can’t seem to think of anything else but how we’ve been wounded. If the Israelites hung their heads in despair, they would die. They were forced to lift their eyes heavenward if they wanted to survive.

Nothing has changed since then. If we want to survive, we must still look upward. It’s a natural reaction to look at your foot if you’ve been bitten by a snake, it is intuitively unnatural to look upward. God knows our tendencies and that we will fixate on the wrong thing if we aren’t careful.

Struggling? Have you been snake-bit? Look up to see Jesus and find life!

PRAYER: Jesus, let us lift our eyes to you when we need help and when we have been ‘snake-bit’ to find deliverance!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

DayBreaks for 9/24/19 – Armchairs and Earthquakes

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DayBreaks for 9/24/19: Armchairs and Earthquakes

From the DayBreaks archive, September 2009:

Do you have a favorite armchair that has grown accustomed to your shape and form – a place you like to sit (or recline, if you’re lucky) and just veg?  I have one.  It’s in our front room and from there I can watch TV, plug in my notebook and surf the internet, process email, read, study, write or listen to music.  I am very fond of this chair (as is my dog, Casper, who likes to crawl up on my lap, especially if I pop out the footrest and get really comfortable!) 

Armchairs are great.  They are made for one purpose and one purpose only: to make you comfortable.  Ya gotta love ‘em!

There are, however, drawbacks to armchairs.  For all their comfort, the greatest danger is that they’ll make us too comfortable.  I can fritter away an entire afternoon sitting in my chair entertaining myself instead of cleaning out the garage, washing the car, doing some yard work or even washing the dishes!  All of those things need to be done, but when I’m all comfortable in my chair, I seem to lack motivation to get up and do any of those things that might even remotely resemble work!

Still, I’m convinced that God doesn’t begrudge us some relaxation and comfort.  In fact, I’m sure He doesn’t.  After all, one of the names for the Messiah and the Spirit is “Comforter.”  That being said, it is true that God doesn’t want us to get too comfortable – at least not with things of this earthly life. 

It is easy to sit in our armchairs and pontificate.  We can wax eloquent on politics or the latest world events.  We can speak with great passion about the needs of the orphans and hungry.  We can talk and give lots of facts about the plight of those living in the third world and what should be done to make their existence better.  It’s easy to sit in an armchair and talk about important things…but it’s even easier to do nothing BUT talk about them. 

We need to consider that our God is the kind of God who is alive and who is not hesitant to take action, who shakes the earth from its place (Job 9:6) from time to time.  It seems that it is His penchant to shake the earth around us particularly when we get too comfortable in our armchair.  And when He does, our armchair shakes right along with it.  The question then becomes, what will we do when that happens?  What will become of all those trite and quaint sayings we have about God as we sit in our comfy chair?  Will they change?  Will they turn to accusations or recriminations? 

I’ve lived through numerous earthquakes in my many years of living in California.  I don’t enjoy them, but I will confess that they get your attention and make you pay attention.  We should be grateful for the earthquakes of life, for those times when God shakes us out of our comfort induced, sleepy haze.  It may be uncomfortable and stir us up – but more often than not, that’s precisely what we need!

PRAYER: Thank you, Jesus, for not letting us grow too comfortable that we forget our responsibilities and fail to serve You or others!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

DayBreaks for 9/23/19 – Alaska Lessons #5 – The End of the Road

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DayBreaks for 9/23/19: Alaska Lessons #5 – The End of the Road

On our last full day in Denali National Park, we were driven to Kantishna, Alaska which is only 2.5 miles up the road from where we had been staying. It’s the end of the road…literally…92.5 miles into Denali National Park. It was strange to stand at the signpost that marked the end of the road and it made me think.

During our time in Denali we’d seen grizzlies, moose, caribou, ruffled grouse, golden eagles, ptarmigan, otters, seal lions, beluga whales, magnificent foliage, spectacular lakes and ponds left by glacial melt, looming mountains, massive glaciers, glorious sunrises and sunsets. If you have never been to Alaska you cannot possibly understand what I’m trying to describe. It is breathtaking.

And it’s easy to get caught up in the wonderment of it all, to be swept off you feet and to forget things that should not be forgotten. The end of the road sign reminded me of that.

At the end of my road, what will my story be? In the end it isn’t about grizzlies or moose, mountains or lakes. It’s all about people – creatures far more magnificent than the mightiest grizzly or the hugest moose. They are more magnificent because they are made in God’s image, and though we hope the animals we have loved will be part of the afterlife, we don’t know for sure. But the people we have loved – and hated – do have an eternal destiny. At the end of the road, God won’t ask what I thought of the wonder of Alaska. He’ll ask if I put my faith in Jesus. He’ll ask if I fulfilled the two greatest commandments: 1) loving him with all I have within me, and 2) loving my neighbor as myself. Part of that last command is to tell them about Jesus. When I’m at the end of the road, how many will I have brought to the cross to find the love and forgiveness to be found there? That’s what will matter.

Ecclesiastes 12:13 (CSBBible) – When all has been heard, the conclusion of the matter is this: fear God and keep his commands, because this is for all humanity.

PRAYER: I am prone, Lord, to get too caught up in the things that surround me in life rather than the people who surround me. Give me greater boldness to introduce friends and loved ones to you so that at the end of the road I shall not be ashamed and found before you empty-handed. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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