DayBreaks for 7/12/19 – The Miracle on a Stick

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DayBreaks for 07/12/19: The Miracle on a Stick

From the DayBreaks archives, July 2009:

They traveled from Mount Hor along the route to the Red Sea, to go around Edom. But the people grew impatient on the way; they spoke against God and against Moses, and said, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the desert? There is no bread! There is no water! And we detest this miserable food!” Then the LORD sent venomous snakes among them; they bit the people and many Israelites died. The people came to Moses and said, “We sinned when we spoke against the LORD and against you. Pray that the LORD will take the snakes away from us.” So Moses prayed for the people. The LORD said to Moses, “Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live.” So Moses made a bronze snake and put it up on a pole. Then when anyone was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake, he lived. – Numbers 21:4-9 (NIV)

I was recently reading Athol Dickson’s The Gospel According to Moses when I discovered new insights into the passage from Numbers 21, above.  Let me share them with you:

FIRST: Remember Israel’s recent history.  They’d been freed from Egypt, only to find themselves apparently left alone as Moses had been up on the mountain for so long the people felt that he was most certainly dead.  Of course, he wasn’t, but they had no way of knowing that.  And so they asked Aaron to make a golden calf so that they could worship it and perhaps receive some help and direction from the “god”.  While this might seem very strange for us, remember that they’d been in Egyptian slavery for 400 years and had become intimately acquainted with the religious worship of Egyptian gods, which included various bulls, frogs, falcons and other animals.  So they clearly thought this golden god could help them.  The result of that episode was that thousands of Israelites died because they’d formed and worshipped a golden calf.  Now, however, they are in trouble again…whining and angering Moses and God.  So, God sent snakes among them and many died and were dying.  God tells Moses, incredulously, to make an image of bronze and put it up where everyone could see it and that if they look at it they will live!  Do you see the irony?  The last time they’d formed an image to worship it, many died as a result.  Now, God says to make an image and it will result in their being saved!  This must have been a real test of obedience for the Israelites: “Hey, Shlomoe, remember what happened the LAST time we made an image of an animal?  Do you think Moses heard God correctly about this bronze serpent thing?”  It required obedience even when the thing commanded not only made no sense, but when there was precedent point 180 degrees the opposite direction!

SECOND: Athol Dickson did a word study on the verses about the bronze serpent, and he made an amazing discovery.  The Hebrew word, nes, which is translated as the “pole” upon which the bronze serpent is mounted, is not a simple word to translate.  In other passages, the word is translated as “example” or “banner.”  In Isaiah 33:23, it is translated “sail”, but another word entirely is used to describe the mast or pole on which the sail is hung.  In fact, nowhere else in Scripture is the word nes translated as “pole” – it is always translated as the object that is lifted up on the pole.  Only here, is the bronze serpent mounted on the “pole” (nes).  So, to use the way the word is normally translated, we’d find a symbol (the bronze serpent) hung upon an example (the nes, or pole).  It seems God deliberately chose this word to hint that it really wasn’t the serpent that was to give them deliverance, but the One behind the serpent.  But, that’s not the most amazing thing.  The most amazing thing is that the word nes has yet another meaning: “miracle.”  The story of the bronze serpent is both an example and a miracle, pointing to the real miracle: the miracle of a God dying on another pole in Roman occupied Jerusalem.  It is as if God is saying, “When the people look upon what hangs on the pole – the miracle – they will be saved.”  Jesus was that miracle.  It was a miracle that a God could die at all.  It was a miracle that our sins could be taken away.  It was a miracle that God would do such a thing for nothing more than a collection of atoms and chemicals known as a human being.  Yet He did all those things.

When you look upon the miracle on the pole, you shall be saved!

PRAYER: Open our eyes to the miracle that is Jesus hanging on a pole for us!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

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DayBreaks for 7/8/19 – The Image and the Reality

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DayBreaks for 07/08/19: The Image and the Reality

From the DayBreaks archives, July 2009:

You saw no form of any kind the day the LORD spoke to you at Horeb out of the fire. Therefore watch yourselves very carefully, so that you do not become corrupt and make for yourselves an idol, an image of any shape, whether formed like a man or a woman, or like any animal on earth or any bird that flies in the air, or like any creature that moves along the ground or any fish in the waters below. And when you look up to the sky and see the sun, the moon and the stars–all the heavenly array–do not be enticed into bowing down to them and worshiping things the LORD your God has apportioned to all the nations under heaven. – Deuteronomy 4:15-19 (NIV)

Anyone who has read Scripture knows that God prohibited Israel from fashioning idols and worshipping them.  That’s not a new revelation to any of those who regularly read DayBreaks.  But why did God have so much to say about it, not only in Deuteronomy, but in other books of Scripture?  I mean, after all, it’s not like the stone or wood or metal carving is going to come to life and threaten God in any way, shape or form.  God certainly isn’t afraid of any rival or competitor.  He’s more than willing to take on any “god” that wants to challenge Him. 

So why such a strong prohibition?  While I certainly don’t agree with all of his writing or theology, N. T. Wright captured it pretty well, I think, in his book, Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection and the Mission of the Church:  “When human beings give their heartfelt allegiance to and worship that which is not God, they progressively cease to reflect the image of God.  One of the primary laws of human life is that you become like what you worship; what’s more, you reflect what you worship not only back to the object itself but also outward to the world around.”

It is an interesting observation, that if we take the time to consider, we’ll probably be forced to admit it is true: “One of the primary laws of human life is that you become like what you worship…”  If we worship money, what happens to us?  We become more driven to have more of it, more greedy, more materialistic.  If we worship beauty, we may become preoccupied with our physical appearance and spend vast amounts of money to stay young looking and beautiful.  Those who worship the god of sex wind up treating others simply as objects to be used for pleasure.  Those driven by the idol of power treat others as competitors, pawns or partners to achieve power. 

Man was created as a worshipping creature.  Our hearts are prone to worship many things.  Even Christians have hearts that are still in the process of being re-made so we must guard our hearts carefully, as the Lord said in Deut. 4:15 (above).  We must watch carefully the things that fascinate us and draw us and attract us and motivate us.  Those things just may be gods in disguise.

PRAYER: Lord, we are often blind to the gods in our lives and too prideful, thinking that we would never bow the knee before anyone but You.  May we learn from Peter’s overzealousness, “Though everyone else may leave you, I will never deny You!”  Teach us to recognize the things in our lives that could become, or which may be, gods – and give us the grace to cast them out of our lives.  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 6/14/19 – The Most Frequently Spoken Word in Heaven

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DayBreaks for 6/14/19: The Most Frequently Spoken Word in Heaven

What is your conception of heaven? Do you picture it as some sort of ethereal, cloudy, up-in-the-air-somewhere existence? You probably don’t picture it as floating around on a cloud with a harp, but you might picture it as a place where all that happens is singing praises 24×7 in a world where 24×7 is meaningless because time is no more. While I deeply love worship, I certainly hope there’s more to it than that – and I think it will be much more than that!

You know what I look forward to? Meeting Jesus and loved ones and great people of faith from all the ages are part of it, and I hope that my beloved pets will be there. But what I really look forward to is learning constantly and getting answers to the things that I don’t understand while I’m limited by my finite mind and the view from this world’s portal.  

C.S. Lewis once said that the most frequently spoken word in heaven would be, “OH.” As in, “Oh, now I understand.” Or, “Oh, now I see what God’s plan was.” Or, “Oh, now I see the reason for the trial I went through.”

Can you identify with that? I sure can.

We are told that God’s plan will work out for us for the good if we love him. But that doesn’t mean we understand why babies are stillborn, why someone kills one of our children in an act of violence, why cancer stalks us or why we are rejected and cast out. I honestly don’t think we’ll know those answers until we get to heaven. I suspect I’ll be saying “Oh!” a lot. For now our challenge is to trust him that all that happens is meant for our good and not our harm.

Jeremiah 29:11 (CSBBible) – For I know the plans I have for you—this is the LORD’s declaration—plans for your well-being, not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.

PRAYER: Give us patience and perseverance, Lord, until the answers to our confusion are made clear! In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

DayBreaks for 6/04/19 – In the Beginning

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DayBreaks for 6/04/19: In the Beginning

From the DayBreaks archive, May 2009:

Do you know which book of the Bible is widely considered to be the oldest?  You might be tempted to think it is Genesis, because it deals with beginnings…and next to John chapter 1, it takes us back to the oldest events that ever took place in the time and space of this world.  But that doesn’t mean it was the first of the books which was written.  Moses wrote Genesis, and Moses lived somewhere in the vicinity of 1400 B.C. 

In answer to my earlier question, most scholars (I do not count myself as such, so I’ll take their word for it!) believe that the book of Job is the oldest book we have in Scripture.  No one really knows for sure how old the book is, or when or where Job lived, although guesses on all three accounts have been ventured.  But there is generally unanimous agreement – there is no older book in Scripture. 

What’s the big deal about that?  In and of itself, nothing.  But when one considers the subject matter of the book, it becomes rich with meaning.  In The Gospel According to Job, Mike Mason noted: “It is fascinating to think that as we open this text we may be faced with the earliest of all written accounts of a human being’s relationship with Yahweh, the one true God.”  I would hasten to add to Mason’s comment by noting that it is intriguing that it deals with pain and suffering the believer faces in his/her relationship with God. 

In the beginning (in the sense of being the oldest book in Scripture), we see a man of like passions unto us – and we can immediately identify with him.  He’s a man who works, has a family, a home, friends – and who faces struggles and disasters on a scale that perhaps (hopefully) none of us will ever experience.  We get to watch this ancient saint wrestle with his faith, his friend’s understandings of God and causation, and even with God Himself. 

Mason also noted: “Many reject Jesus, but no one rejects Job.  Rather, the world respects Job, and not with the grudging respect accorded Christ, but with a deep affinity untinged by reserve or fear.  In the eyes of the world Job is less a saint than a comrade in arms.”

I accept Jesus as the Lord, but I struggle to understand him.  It is, in some ways, difficult to identify closely with a sinless God in human skin.  But Job?  Now that’s another story…I can identify with him much more easily.

What should we make of all this?  For me, it says that I need to live my life as an open book, revealing myself not as a prince on a white horse, but as a battered and bruised human.  When I do that, I can point others to God because they will first of all be able to identify with me.  If we as Christians portray ourselves as “holier than thou” and better than others, will people identify with us?  No.  They will resent us.  This is perhaps the greatest danger of hypocrisy – that others won’t be able to identify with us, and through hearing about what Jesus has done to remove our sin and guilt (though we are still masters at sinning!), they won’t give us the time of day. 

So the earliest book deals with pain and suffering and relationship to God.  How fascinating that the newest book in Scripture (Revelation) deals with the removal of all that suffering – but with an even deeper relationship to God, all accomplished through the blood of Jesus!

Prayer: While we thank You for Jesus and what You have revealed of Yourself through Him, I also thank You for stories of sinners like me, who find even in the midst of the greatest struggles in life, that a relationship with You is not only possible, but is the only thing that survives in the end.  Help us be open books to those around us, that people may read of Jesus in our lives and deeds.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

DayBreaks for 5/31/19 – With Unveiled Faces

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DayBreaks for 5/31/19: With Faces Unveiled

From the DayBreaks archive, May 2009:

Glory.  Every school boy dreams of it, of having one blinding moment of glory: winning the Olympic 100-meter dash, being the greatest hitter ever, racing 100 yards for the winning Super Bowl score.  Not everyone will experience those moments of glory, so they settle for something less spectacular.  Brian Kelly did.  He wanted to leave the earth in a burst of glory.  He died and was cremated in July 1994.  His instructions were to pack his ashes into a canister-sized fireworks shell and be fired into the air.  On August 12, 1994, at a pyrotechnician convention in Pittsburgh, the 2 pounds of the earthly remains of Brian Kelly were fired into the air, and he erupted in brilliant colors.  Then, blackness settled in.  It’s a kind of glory, I guess, but it faded quickly.

Paul, in 2 Corinthians 3 and 4 talks about glory.  Isaiah said the “whole earth is filled with His glory.”  Not just isolated pockets, but the “whole earth.”  He’s not just talking about the glorious things that God has made, not talking about that at all.  If you read Paul closely, you’ll see that the ministry we have of Jesus is entrusted into our hands, and that we ourselves are to shine with His glory!  That means that “we’re it”.  You and me – we are the ones who either display or darken the glory of God.  Paul gets very pointed about this in 2 Corinthians 3:7-11, where he wrote that God’s glory is in the gospel and person of Christ: “Now if the ministry that brought death, which was engraved in letter on stone (the law of Moses), came with glory, so that the Israelites could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of his glory, fading though it was, will not the ministry of the Spirit be even more glorious?  If the ministry that condemns men is glorious, how much more glorious is the ministry that brings righteousness!  For what was glorious has no glory now in compassion with the surpassing glory (Jesus!).  And if what was fading away came with glory, how much greater is the glory of that which lasts!

Paul was referring to how Moses’ face glowed from being in God’s Presence. His face shone…but then it started to fade.  The glory wasn’t Moses’ own…it was God’s, and Moses couldn’t hold or keep it.  So, Moses veiled his face – in the beginning to hide the radiance which was hurtful for others to look upon, but after it began to fade, he hid his face so others wouldn’t see that the glory was fading. 

But get this: that’s not the case with us. Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold. We are not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face to keep the Israelites from gazing at it while the radiance was fading away. But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away. Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts. But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. 2 Corinthians 3:12-18 (NIV) (emphasis mine, GCD)

Moses only saw God’s back, but we know “the glory of God in the face of Christ.”  Moses had to veil his face, but we can walk around without a veil.  Moses had to hide the fading glory on his face, but we’re invited to openly display it – because it doesn’t diminish with us, but in fact, it shines in us with “ever-increasing glory.”  Moses every day, became a bit more like his old self, but every day, by the Spirit that comes from the Lord, each day we become a little less like our old self and a bit more like Jesus!  We carry not only God’s name and nature, we also carry His all-surpassing glory!

For we do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. 6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.  

Here’s perhaps the kicker that keeps us straight on this matter: But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.   

All we can do is carry His glory in clay jars, jars that are fragile and rather boring in and of themselves.  We carry it inside of us – we are the clay jars – chipped, cracked, we break easily and we are just as prone (if not more so) to carrying trash as we are to carry treasure.  Believe it or not, the world will either see His glory in you and me, or they will not see it at all.  They see His glory any time that they see our plainness transformed, when something God-like breaks out from our plain and ordinary lives and others see it – even if it’s only its backside glimpse.  But it is there, within us, unmistakable if we are His. 

If God doesn’t go with us, there will be no glory in the clay pot that is our earthly body and spirit.  All we have to distinguish us from everyone else is what’s in this clay pot, this clay jar.  Unless God fills our jars, our bodies, with His mercy-loving, grace-giving, justice-doing Presence, we are nothing.  BUT…here it is, this is it: if He does go with us and we stand in constant awareness of His Presence, our task is simply this: to live with an unveiled face.  Our job is nothing more, and nothing less, than keeping the clay jar uncovered.

It is often in the brokenness of the clay jar (much like that which was seen when Gideon’s men broke their clay jars during their night victory over their enemies) that the glory of God is best revealed. 

Prayer: Our clay jars are weak and prone to fracture and leakage, Lord.  May our clay jars reveal Your glory and may our faces be unmasked and unveiled so that the ever-increasing glory of the Jesus who fills us can be seen!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

DayBreaks for 5/28/19 – Satan’s Psy Ops

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DayBreaks for 5/28/19: Satan’s Psy Ops

We can actually learn a lot about some of Satan’s strategies in spiritual warfare by studying the military strategies of some of the warriors of old. In his book Head Game, author Tim Downs writes:

“Psy-ops stands for Psychological Operations, a form of warfare as old as the art of war itself. An early example of this can be found in the battle strategies of Alexander the Great. On one occasion when his army was in full retreat from a larger army, he gave orders to his armorers to construct oversized breastplates and helmets that would fit men 7 or 8 feet tall. As his army would retreat, he would leave these items for the pursuing army to discover. When the enemy would find the over-sized gear, they would be demoralized by the thought of fighting such giant soldiers, and they would abandon their pursuit.

“Satan likes to play head games with us, too, often leaving us demoralized by fear or doubt. We assume Satan is bigger or greater than he really is. And the quickest way to thwart our enemy’s psy-ops is to gaze upon the greatness of our God. Perhaps all it takes is a quick look at Job 38:4–7: Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?  Tell me, if you understand.  Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know!  Who stretched a measuring line across it?  On what were its footings set, or who laid its cornerstone while the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy?

Satan is no powder-puff to be toyed with or minimized – at least not if you are human.  But we also don’t need to fear him.  Our Father is more than capable of keeping that little bully in his place.  We’re even encouraged to “resist Satan” as we make our way through this world.  Will that antagonize him?  You bet.  And that’s just fine, because we aren’t alone in our resistance.  Our elder Brother went before us and antagonized him, and then defeated him.  All our enemy has to look forward to is doom and torment.  We, on the other hand, will be recipients of far better things, and we will witness the removal of our arch-enemy as he is thrown into the pit forever and ever. 

Prayer: May we find the courage that comes from knowing that no one and nothing in the universe can begin overthrow You, or even to threaten You.  We rejoice in Your victory and pray for the day when we shall see Satan once and for all put in his place!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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