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 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.

DayBreaks for 4/25/17 – Don’t Beat Your Donkey

DayBreaks for 4/25/17: Beating Your Donkey

Note: Galen is traveling this week.

From the DayBreaks archive, April 2007:

The story of Balaam and his talking donkey is in Numbers 22.  Balaam was on his way to do something wrong, riding happily along on his donkey, when the way was blocked by an angel that the donkey could see but that Balaam couldn’t.  (That should have been the first clue that Balaam was blind to spiritual things!!!)  Because Balaam couldn’t see the angel and he was impatient, he started to beat the donkey.  Imagine his surprise when the donkey asked why he was beating her (vs. 28)!  Well, if it wasn’t humbling enough for Balaam to be questioned by a donkey, in Numbers 22:32, he is asked by God’s angel (who Balaam can now see): Why have you beaten your donkey…?  I have come here to oppose you because your path is a reckless one before me. 

In a World Magazine, May 2, 1998 article titled “Donkey Talk”, Jay Grelen noted how a friend told him that he (Jay) acted as if he had a “sense of entitlement”, i.e., that he deserved to be treated a certain way, to be given certain privileges and treatment.  Jay was shocked, but came to see the words from his friend like the words from the donkey of Balaam.  Note what he says in his article: “Here’s what He (God) tells believers throughout the Bible: ‘I have redeemed you, yes, but I still hate, yes, with a burning passion, the sin in you as much as I hate the sin in those yet unredeemed.’  I needed to hear that.  I had convinced myself that my sins, especially the “small ones”, were less reprehensible in me than in others.”

“God exposed my superior attitude (which I kept neatly hidden even from my view) and showed how my sense of superiority led to my Sense of Entitlement.  ‘Of course I deserve more money, a better house, a book deal, a Pulitzer Prize, a comfortable life.’  ‘Why do you want to with a Pulitzer Prize?’, God asked.  “You know, God, so we can have believers succeeding in secular journalism.  So I can be a witness of You.’  ‘Tell me again?’  ‘Um, so I can make more money and be famous and rich and have a book deal.'”

“…a Sense of Entitlement fuels discontent and ingratitude – but I needed a reminder that when I think I deserve more, I’m saying God hasn’t given me enough.  In complaining about my situation, I’m biting the Hand that blesses me by already giving me more than enough…”

Galen’s Thoughts:  In the Old Testament, Shimei, one of Saul’s descendants was spitting on and mocking David as he fled from Absolom’s rebellion.  One of David’s men wanted to kill Shimei for disrespecting the king, but David wouldn’t let him.  David said, in essence, “No.  He may be right.  God may want me to hear what Shimei is saying.  I may need to hear it – no matter how uncomfortable it is.” 

Is God using some of your two-legged friends in your life as a “talking donkey” to give you a message you might not otherwise hear?  If so, don’t beat them – thank God for them!  You may be headed down a crooked and perverse path and He is warning you – perhaps even through the words of a donkey!

PRAYER:  Thank you, Lord, for the many ways you try to break through to us, to get our attention and turn us back to your ways.  Let us have ears that hear, hands that are willing, and hearts that are eager to obey.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2017 by Galen Dalrymple.

DayBreaks for 3/13/17 – Looking at Dead Hearts

DayBreaks for 3/13/17: Looking at Dead Hearts

Ezekiel 36:26 (NIV) – I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.

Some of you are old enough to remember when the first heart transplant took place. It was an amazing feat. The first transplant was performed in 1967 in Cape Town, South Africa by Dr. Christiaan Barnard. The recipient was Louis Washkansky, a fifty three year old grocer with a debilitating heart condition. Unfortunately Mr. Washkansky survived only 18 days after the operation, but I remember when the story broke about the heart transplant. The entire world seemed captivated by this seemingly impossible accomplishment.

The first successful transplant was performed on Dr. Barnard’s third patient, a Jewish dentist named Dr. Philip Blaiberg. He survived for nearly two years.

After his surgery, Dr. Barnard carried Dr. Blaiberg’s old heart in a plastic box and showed it to him. The two men sat on the hospital bed examining the scars and thickening of the dead useless heart.

Dr. Barnard said, “Dr. Blaiberg, do you realize you are the first man in the history of humankind to sit and look at your own dead heart?”

What an amazing story! Of course, today, thanks to modern anti-rejection drugs, people are living much longer after heart transplants than in those early days.

We’re thankful for physicians like Dr. Barnard, but we’re even more thankful that we worship a God who is the only surgeon who can put an entirely new heart in an individual. That is the only heart transplant that really matters. It is when God replaces a heart filled with malice, anger, hatred, envy, guilt and a host of other negative, destructive emotions with a heart filled with love, joy, peace and wholeness.

Do you perhaps need a heart transplant? To you need a new beginning in life? That’s what God offers us – each one of us – every day. Perhaps we all need to sit still for a moment and let God show us our dead heart and cause us to marvel at the new heart that beats within us!

PRAYER: God, the truth is that we all need a heart transplant and so we ask You today to create in us a clean heart that loves the things You love, that hatest the things You hate and that longs to do Your will! In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2017 by Galen Dalrymple.

DayBreaks for 3/09/17 – Because You Have Met Me

DayBreaks for 3/09/17: Because You Have Met Me

From the DayBreaks archive, March 2007:

Exodus 4:4-5 (NIV) – Then the LORD said to him, “Reach out your hand and take it by the tail.” So Moses reached out and took hold of the snake and it turned back into a staff in his hand.  “This,” said the LORD, “is so that they may believe that the LORD, the God of their fathers–the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob–has appeared to you.

The nerve of some Biblical people amazes me.  Moses, while we’re told that he was the meekest man, was very bold at times with God.  His first known encounter with God in the wilderness at the burning bush shows how stubborn we as humans can be.  All of a sudden, out of the blue, Moses is drawn to the bush and told that God wants to send him on a mission to lead Israel out of 400 years of captivity and slavery in Egypt.  God speaks of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph – and the promises He made to them and how He intends now, in the time of Moses, to fulfill those great promises.  And what does Moses do?  He hems, haws, and otherwise tries to avoid the mission.  He gives God lots of excuses (not reasons) why he’s not the right person.  Moses would learn that it didn’t pay to argue with God.  But he hasn’t learned it yet.  And so he worries that Israel will not believe that God wants to relieve them of their slavery, and he asks God for signs to give to the people that will convince them.

And so, finally God makes the statement to Moses that’s found in Exodus 4:5, after having Moses’ staff turn into a serpent: This is so that they may believe that the Lord, the God of their fathers – the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob – has appeared to you.

I’d missed this for nearly 55 years now.  It wasn’t the serpent that would convince people that Moses had been sent by God.  It was really nothing more than God telling Moses that the people will know that He sent Moses because Moses has met God.  (God has appeared to him.) 

Each day as I wander through the streets of town, go into buildings or stores, pull up to the gas pump, buy a Dr. Pepper – I wonder if people can tell that I have met God?  What kind of evidence is there that I’ve met Him – and He has met with me?  And it’s not just that I’ve met Him – He lives within me in a way I don’t know if He did with Moses!  The evidence of having met the Maker is radical and life-changing.  From this encounter onward, for as long as he lived, Moses was a changed man.  He still had moments of weakness and doubt, but the people would follow him because he knew the Lord’s name…another way of saying, he knew God. 

Having met God doesn’t make us perfect, but if it hasn’t changed us – RADICALLY changed us – perhaps we’ve never met him like Moses did in the wilderness.  We don’t have to have a burning bush in our life to meet Him.  Yet, He is all around us, and in us.  We need to learn to do what Moses finally did: stop arguing and fighting with Him and let Him have His way in us, to use us for His glorious purposes (which will, by the way, work to our benefit!) and to let others know we have met God and been sent by Him.

PRAYER: Sometimes, Father, much to our great embarrassment, we hide the fact that we have met You.  We are too fearful, weak-kneed and stubborn to bear witness for you.  May we truly meet You even now, may we be radically changed by that encounter, so that wherever we go, people will know you exist and that by our changed lives, they will know we have met the Living God.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2017 by Galen Dalrymple.

DayBreaks for 3/08/17 – Moses’ Journey to the Promised Land

View from Mt. Nebo.

DayBreaks for 3/08/17: Moses’ Journey to the Promised Land

From the DayBreaks archive, March 2007:

In Exodus 33, as Israel comes near the end of their wilderness wanderings, Moses grows concerned about whether or not the Presence of the Lord will go with them.  He even tells God that he doesn’t want Him to let them move forward even a foot without the assurance of God being with them.  God gives Moses assurances – more than one – but Moses still seems to be beset with doubts.  And so he asks to see God.  Amazingly, God agrees.

On the surface, this story could be about any one of us who struggles with doubts about God’s Presence at times in our lives.  Some moments His Presence is so palpable that no one possessed of a sound mind would doubt it.  But then there are those other moments, aren’t there?  Moments when He no longer seems present, and we may even start to wonder if He ever was at all, or if it was all just a mind-trick we played on ourselves.  Let’s be honest.  Sometimes it is a struggle to believe at such times.

And so Moses doubted God’s presence, but he also knew that he wanted God’s Presence more than anything – even more than going to the Promised Land without Him.  Moses asked to see God’s glory, but instead, God showed Him His goodness. 

Sometime later, Moses trekked up the mountain called Nebo.  He didn’t make the journey alone.  He sat on the mountain top with the very God who had shown him His Presence once before.  God showed him all the land “from Gilead as far as Dan.”  And I suspect that it was a marvelous spectacle.  But somehow, I think it really didn’t matter that much to Moses.  As Moses sat there on top of the mountain in the sunshine and viewed the Promised Land with God, Moses was already in the Promised Land that he’d longed for – he was in God’s Presence.  And as Moses lay down upon the top of that mountain and died, at that moment, he needed and wanted nothing else.

You can’t go to the promised land with God.  And as long as you are with God, you are in the promised land.

Genesis 15:1 – After this, the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision: “Do not be afraid, Abram.  I am your shield, your very great reward.”

PRAYER: As much as we long for heaven, Lord, may we never mistake the place for the Inhabitant.  May we find in You our peace when we live, and when we lay down to die. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2017 by Galen Dalrymple.

DayBreaks for 3/3/17 – Visiting With Isaiah, #5

DayBreaks for 3/02/17: Visiting With Isaiah, #5

Isaiah 6:8 (ESV) – And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here I am! Send me.”

Now, I think, we get to the crux of this passage. Isaiah has had an incredible vision. He has realized his own uncleanness after pronouncing woes on everyone else. He has been cleansed by a coal from the altar of offering. And now, God asks two questions: Whom shall I send? And Who will go for us?

I think these are two different questions. One is who God will choose to send in His infinite wisdom? The second is more about who will be willing to go on God’s behalf. In between the two questions lies a vast crevasse called human will and obedience.

If I had been Isaiah, I would have much preferred to stay in the incredible worship scene around the throne, watching the seraphim, hearing the praises of God ringing throughout the ethereal sphere. I would have preferred to stay in that relatively safe, secure, lovely place. I would have preferred to say, “Hey, how about sending Joe? He’d be great for your mission!” My guess is that you would have been a lot like me.

But that’s not what Isaiah said. Here I am! Send me! His encounter with this God who had cleansed him led him to such gratitude that he was willing to do anything that this great God would ask.

I would have done as Moses did, offering excuses right and left: I’m too weak, I’ve got too many flaws, I am too broken, I’m not smart enough or gifted in the right areas. But that misses a key point: God wired us to be weak and broken. God could have created us without the capacity for sin, but He didn’t. He knew the character of Isaiah, that he was a sinner just like me. But God wanted a partner and Isaiah said yes even before he knew where God wanted to send him! Here I am! Send me. I can almost picture Isaiah jumping up and down like Shrek did in the first Shrek movie, yelling, “Pick me! Pick me!”, waving his arms trying to get God’s attention.

Isaiah would be embarking for a mission for God: a mission to turn the hearts of the people back to God so they could be spared destruction. And, Isaiah would fail in that mission – at least as far as we’d describe failure. The people would not turn, they would not repent and God would send them into slavery.

Here’s a point to consider: God wasn’t calling Isaiah to be successful. Did God think Isaiah’s ministry was a failure and was God angry with Isaiah for the lack of results? No. I don’t believe so. God knew when he called Isaiah that Isaiah would “fail”. But He called him anyway. And Isaiah went, not knowing that God knew he would “fail”. Why? Obedience is why. An encounter with the cleansing of God has a way to cause us to obey out of gratitude.

I wonder, would Isaiah have said “Yes” if he’d known he would “fail”? I don’t like to fail. I know you don’t, either. When God calls us, though, he isn’t calling us to be successful, or even to fruitfulness (Isaiah wasn’t very fruitful) – He is calling us to faithfulness.

So, here we are, at the end of our visit with Isaiah, and we are confronted with questions:

Is my response to God’s call predicated on my own sense of whether or not I’m capable or likely to be successful? Or will I be like Isaiah and say “Yes” even before I know where God may send me – trusting in Him to take this shattered, broken vessel and do something for His own name’s sake?

What is my role in what God is doing among the nations? Can I say no? Yes, I can. And in doing so I will miss all that God intends for me to be and do, and most of all, I’d be missing out on a great adventure of relationship with Him.

What is your role in what God is doing in the world? Do you care about people coming to Jesus? God cares about it far more than any human could ever care about it. But he wants to send us. He waits to hear our response to the same questions he asked in Isaiah 6:8.

Do we think it would be too great of a sacrifice for us to make to leave our comforts behind to risk it all with God? David Livingstone had this to say (may not be word for word, but close enough that you’ll get the point): If an earthly commission by an earthly king is thought to be an honor, how can a commission by the Heavenly King be thought a sacrifice?

PRAYER: Search my heart, God. Let me not think of any call from You as a sacrifice, but as the greatest honor in the world. Let me not worry about my abilities or the likelihood of success, but simply of obedience. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2017 by Galen Dalrymple.