DayBreaks for 12/12/17 – How Christians Can Make God Disappear

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DayBreaks for 12/12/17: How Christians Can Make God Disappear

From the DayBreaks archive, December 2007:

It was the Psalmist that perhaps most eloquently voiced the purpose of creation when he said, in Psalms 19:1-4 (NIV) The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.  Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge.  There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard.  Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world. In the heavens he has pitched a tent for the sun…

Have you ever wondered why God made physical things?  After all, He Himself is a spiritual being, as are we.  Could God not have created spiritual beings without physical bodies and without a physical realm to move around in?  Of course He could!  But He didn’t.  The reason why is unknown to us, other than the fact that God seems to delight in creating, and in the work of His hands – just like a master craftsman delights in a fine piece of jewelry or a chair or vase. 

I think, however, that the main purpose behind His creation – all of it, not just the physical realm – is found in the passage above: it exists to declare the glory of God.  Someone has said that creation is like God’s fingerprints.  From fingerprints alone we can’t tell too much about a person – we can’t know their character, interests, etc. – but we can tell that they were there.  It’s evidence of their existence.  Creation is evidence of His existence and it glorifies His name!

If only spiritual beings (humans, anyway) were as good at it as the physical universe.  We don’t do a great job of declaring the glory of God.  Joel Belz, in the December 8 issue of World Magazine, wrote: For the truest and most effective proponents of godlessness are almost never those who are most blatant about their mission.  They are instead those who purport to pick up any topic at all for further discussion—and then leave God out of that conversation.  Do that with a dozen such discussions, or maybe 20 or 100, and you don’t have to do much more.  You’ve implicitly made your case.  God doesn’t exist—or if He does, He doesn’t matter. 

What struck me about Belz’ statement wasn’t how the godless go about declaring that God doesn’t exist, but how subtly we as believers can, by the lack of our words and actions, also make God disappear.  When we leave God out of the public conversations we have (and the private ones as well), God has disappeared in that instance.  And, as Belz notes, if we do that often enough in dozens or hundreds of conversations, God is as good as invisible – He disappears from life and living. 

How many conversations do you have in the course of a day?  In how many of those conversations is even the name of God voiced (other than when someone uses His name in vain)?  Are you one of those Christians who makes God disappear, or do you, like the physical heavens, declare the glory of God?

PRAYER:  Father, Your Word says that someday we will shine like stars in the universe.  The universe proclaims Your glory – may we add our voices in our daily conversations!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2017 by Galen C. Dalrymple.

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DayBreaks for 11/17/17 – Win the War, Lose the Victory

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DayBreaks for 11/17/17: Win the War, Lose the Victory

NOTE: Galen is traveling…again.

From the DayBreaks archive, November 2007:

There are 79 countries around the world that have a problem with unexploded landmines.  Over 110 million unexploded landmines lie buried in these countries.  There are estimated to be 37 million unexploded mines in Africa, Angola alone has 10 million, with 70,000 amputee children.  A landmine can remain deadly for up to 50 years. 

Gideon is a fascinating character in the Old Testament.  As one of Israel’s judges (more is written about him in the book of Judges than any other character) he defeated 120,000 of the enemy with 300 men armed only with pitchers, ram’s horns for trumpets and lanterns.  Pretty heady stuff.  But he’s also known as the man who asked God for a fleece, even after he’d already been told by God what He was going to do and after God had already given him another sign.  In fact, Gideon had at least 4 signs from God before the battle began!  Still…his name is in the roll call of the great people of faith in Hebrews 11, and mine isn’t!

But what happened after the battle is what is often overlooked.  Gideon had started out fearful and humble.  God won a great victory over the enemies of Israel through Gideon.  And after the battle and its immediate aftermath, Gideon seems to have lost some perspective.  He acted in a very vindictive manner against the foreign kings and against the people of the tribe of Gad.  He told the people that he wouldn’t be king, but that the Lord would rule over them, but there’s no indication that he ever called the nation to repentance and worship of the one true God.  He started living as if he were a king…and in fact, he named one of his sons, Abimelech, which means “my father is king”.  He was wealthy and seems to have grown a bit lackadaisical.  Abimelech was one of 70 sons born to Gideon, and he wound up murdering his 69 brothers.

At the end of the battle, it appears that all will end well with Gideon, that he’s now a solid man with his head screwed on straight.  But there were landmines in his heart and in the things that surrounded him.  And clearly, judging by the results to his family, the dangers of war linger long after the last battle had taken place.  Heroes in battle are not always heroes in everyday life. 

Presbyterian pastor Andrew Bonar wisely said, “Let us be as watchful after the victory as before the battle.”  We have been given a great victory by the Lord our God – victory over death, over sin, over the old man and even victory over the enemy of our souls.  But, let’s not forget that there are plenty of landmines out there waiting for a wayward step.  We need to be watchful. 

No matter who you are, moral laxness will cause problems.  Just because you have won a single battle with temptation does not mean you will automatically win the next one.  We need to be constantly watchful against temptation.  Sometimes Satan’s strongest attacks come after a victory.

Psalms 60:12 (NIV) With God we will gain the victory, and he will trample down our enemies.

PRAYER: Lord, we are grateful for what You have done for us and through us.  Thank You for the victories – great and small, that we experience because of You.  Help us to watch our step and be ever alert, for even though the war is won, we don’t want to lose victories along the way.   In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2017 by Galen C. Dalrymple.

DayBreaks for 10/30/17 – Moving Boundary Stones

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DayBreaks for 10/30/17: Moving Boundary Stones

From the DayBreaks archives:

Long ago, Israel had settled into the promised land and grew fat and content. Well, not quite. Some were content, but others were ambitious. They wanted more and more land for themselves – at the expense of their brethren. How did they solve the problem? Hosea tells us how some did it, in Hosea 5:10: “Judah’s leaders are like those who move boundary stones. I will pour out my wrath on them like a flood of water.”

As you can tell from the passage, their actions did not please God. He hates injustice and greed. Many had become corrupt. Why didn’t God just ignore it and pretend it didn’t happen? Because when leaders go wrong, it isn’t long before the masses go wrong.

I was fortunate enough to attend my youngest son’s college graduation last June at Stanford. The guest speaker was Ted Koppel, the guy from ABC. I have to tell you that I was very impressed with the challenge that he gave the students. He’d been invited by the president of the university, Gerhard Caspar, to talk on “that mess in Washington” and Caspar’s concern about intrusion into the privacy of the President. Caspar got more than he bargained for. Koppel, rather than sharing Caspar’s concern over “privacy”, delivered a very eloquent and impassioned plea for a return to morality. His words were powerful, but perhaps no more powerful than in this statement as the ending summary of his speech: “Aspire to decency. Practice civility toward one another. Admire and emulate ethical behavior wherever you find it. Apply a rigid standard of morality to your lives; and if, periodically, you fail ­as you surely will ­adjust your lives, not the standards.”

We have a tendency to explain away our own improper behavior by “changing the rules”. Changing the rules is “moving the boundary stones” – deciding that the old limits no longer apply and then redefining them to meet out wishes. Koppel’s advice is right on: when we fail morally, “as you surely will – adjust your lives, not the standards.”

When we fail, don’t try to disavow God’s law by saying His standard has become old and outdated – a relic of an ancient age long gone by. God’s law is unchanging. We dare not move the boundary stones for our own benefit!

PRAYER:  Lord, help us to faithfully observe the boundaries that You have set in place, may we glorify You by our obedience.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2017 by Galen C. Dalrymple.

DayBreaks for 10/25/17 – What We Are

DayBreaks for 10/25/17: What We Are

From the DayBreaks archive, October 2007:

What are we?  Ask that question to a variety of “experts” and you’ll get different answers:

A biochemist would probably say that a human is composed of 65% oxygen, 18% carbon, 10% hydrogen – and then goes into a myriad of other atomic components in various trace amounts.  99% is made up of those three, plus nitrogen, calcium and phosphorus.  Whoopee!

One philosopher’s definition follows: “I believe a human being is a creation containing two unique parts, equally important for our ability to interact with everything that surrounds us along an endless mysterious path known as time. One part is crystal clear; it is the physical and material matter occupying space, known as the body. This form of matter has size, shape, and dimensions and can be experienced empirically. The other part of the human being is harder to understand since it has no shape, size, or dimensions and cannot be experienced by empirical knowledge, it is the mind.”

A theologian might say: “The psalmist would say that the riddle of ben-‘adam is hidden in the mystery of God. Only faith can envision the point of convergence. Humankind recognizes itself fully only in the recognition of the Being from whom all reality arises.  The claim of the psalm is that we can say “human being” only after we have learned to say “God.”

Here’s another one that I won’t even venture to try to classify, other than to say it sounds very new-agey: “Human being may be defined as the humantrue life of the individual, lived according to her or his own supraconsciousness of fulfilled intellect, so that the co-operative being of humanity is this undeniable humantrue awareness on the part of, and between, each and every individual, with no authority, meaning or faith above or beyond that. The human individual is a mind and body of the human species, led by the mind. Human being is being fully and truly human.  The second and most important objective is to point out that true human being is to be defined by supraconsciousness – that when both our thinking and activity submits to the guidance of the postconscious which is also embodied in the structure of our society, then will we be wholly fulfilled, i.e., humantrue.”

Yuck.  Drives me nuts.  It appears that there is great confusion about what it is to be human.  We focus on our humanity a lot, but is that the right thing to do? 

I like (very much) this view of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, quoted in Philip Yancey’s Rumors of Another World: We are not human beings having a spiritual experience, but spiritual beings having a human experience.  We are so focused on our flesh and bone that we neglect the spirit and soul.  We think we are humans who, every once in a while, have spiritual insights or spiritual encounters with God, Jesus and the Spirit.  They may be wonderful moments of ecstasy and inspiration…but they are not as present and real to us as the flesh, muscle, blood and sinew that courses through our veins. 

De Chardin would have us remember our origin, and our true definition: that we are spiritual, formed in the image of the One who was and is and is to be, and that we are destined to return to Him and to live as spirits (albeit with some form of incorruptible body, it would appear) eternally.  It is our humanness that is fleeting, it is our humanness that is nothing more than a cloak that hides the spirit.  We would do well to remember our true nature and to concentrate our efforts, attention and affections accordingly.

Ecclesiastes 12:6-7 (NIV) Remember him–before the silver cord is severed, or the golden bowl is broken; before the pitcher is shattered at the spring, or the wheel broken at the well, and the dust returns to the ground it came from, and the spirit returns to God who gave it.

PRAYER: In spite of all appearances, Lord, help us to live wisely in our temporary coats of flesh, so that our spirits, the real us, may live with You forever.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2017 by Galen C. Dalrymple.

DayBreaks for 10/05/17 – Rend Your Heart

DayBreaks for 10/05/17: Rend Your Heart

Joel 2:12-14 (NIV) – Even now,’ declares the LORD, ‘return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.’  Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity.  Who knows? He may turn and have pity and leave behind a blessing — grain offerings and drink offerings for the LORD your God.”

One of the things that I find hardest to understand about God is how patient He is with us.  Seemingly countless times in the Old Testament, Israel, the people that He Himself chose to be His own special people, walked off and left Him behind.  And for every one of those times, He pleaded with them to return to Him.  For every time that I’ve chosen against God, He has pleaded with me to return.  Remember, this is the God who is so great that He that creates with words alone, pleading with His creation.  It defies comprehension. 

The passage above from Joel shows us what it is that the Lord wants from us at times like that.  Israel got to be very good at crying out to God for help – but less good at crying out to Him for forgiveness.  They would go through religious reformation many times – putting on a good outward show, but they seldom participated in true spiritual renewal, from the inside out. 

The ancient Jews had a habit of tearing their clothing when they were bereft or distraught.  It was a sign of the depth of their anguish or sorrow.  In the passage from Joel, God puts it about as clearly as it could be said: “Don’t tear your robes.  I want your heart to be torn.”  Why?  Because His own heart had been torn.  It’s not that God wanted them to suffer as much, or even in like fashion, as He was suffering, but because He wanted their actions to proceed from their hearts.  It’s easy to appear broken on the outside.  It’s also much more painful to have your heart torn – as God’s heart was when His people turn their backs on Him.  But outward change doesn’t penetrate to the heart and result in heart-change.  Heart-change, on the other hand, will become apparent in outward actions. 

God is wise enough to know when our outward actions are merely for show or when they’re for real.  We can fairly easily fool one another by how we act when we’re surrounded by Christians or when we’re in church.  We can never, ever, fool God.  Not even when I pray to him and tell Him I’m sorry for something when deep down inside, I know my heart is not in agreement with my lips. 

We need to learn to pray that our hearts are rent and torn by our sin – and return to Him, “for He is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love.  Who knows?  He may turn and have pity and leave behind a blessing…”

PRAYER: Jesus, we are masters at deceiving ourselves and others.  Give us hearts that break over our sin and then the lips to confess it.  Remove pretense far from us and turn our hearts back to You.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2017 by Galen C. Dalrymple.

DayBreaks for 9/29/17 – Stars and Fear

Multiwavelength Crab Nebula

DayBreaks for 9/29/17: Stars and Fear

From the DayBreaks archive, 9/2007:

I love the mountains.  I love the ocean.  I love the forests.  I love redwoods.  But there isn’t much of anything, not even the Pacific Ocean, that makes me gasp in wonder as much as staring up thoughtfully at the night sky.  The vastness, the coldness of space plays tricks with my frail human mind.  I can’t even begin to grasp it.  When I stand on the beach at the edge of the Pacific, I can touch it, I can feel it, I can taste and smell it in the air.  But I can’t do that with space.  As vast as the Pacific is, I can get some sense of its size by flying over it for hours on end.  Try that with the universe. 

It’s really strange – the stars don’t go away in the daytime, you know.  It’s just that because of the brightness of the sun, we can’t see them.  They’re still there – blazing away. Every second of the day and night the sun alone burns 700,000,000 tons of hydrogen and converts that into 695,000,000 tons of helium and 5,000,000 tons of energy in the form of gamma rays.  At the center of the sun the temperature is 15,600,000 degrees Kelvin.  That’ll cook a hot dog for you…really fast.

I could go on with facts and figures about the sun for a long, long time.  I never tire of the wonder of it all – the immensity.  And to think it all came into being by the words, “Let there be…”  Wow.

I could wander among the stars ceaselessly, mesmerized by the beauty of that part of God’s creation.  (In case you like to do that, too, you can go to this web site for incredible deep space pictures: http://hubblesite.org/gallery/album/.) 

But space is dark, and space is hostile.  It is not a place for the timid or those concerned about security.  Not everyone is cut out to be an astronaut.  And stars are only seen by night.  

I can get frightened by sounds I hear in the dark house at night, or sounds that seem to be just outside the bedroom window.  Night time is a time to be scared, but it is also when the stars can be seen.  An American astronomer spoke these wonderful words: I have lived among the stars for too long to fear the night.  Oh, how I like that!  It makes me think of the Jesus’ words in Revelation 22:16 (NIV) – I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star.

Living in the Presence of that Star will be the most awesome of all.  Here, we see through a glass darkly, but then, oh praise God, then – we shall see face to face!  And there is no reason to fear the night, for there will be no more night…just the brightest Star of all, shining in glory eternally!

PRAYER:  Lord, you tell us that our lives are like a vapor that is here one moment and gone the next.  You have filled our lives with people – some we enjoy, others we don’t – and with moments to make a difference for eternity.  What a privilege you have given to us!  May we use life wisely before the vapor that is our days is gone.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2017 by Galen C. Dalrymple.

DayBreaks for 9/11/17 – As Though It Were Not Serious

DayBreaks for 9/11/17: As Though It Were Not Serious

From the DayBreaks archive, 9/2007:

You know how it is when you receive bad news about someone you love.  It may have come as the result of some tests they were having run – is there a tumor or not?  If so, is it malignant?  Or, someone has been in an accident and you hear their voice through the phone, “I’ve been in a crash – and I’ve got some injuries – but nothing serious.”  Until you get that last little bit of information “It’s nothing serious,” you’re on pins and needles.  Until the lab report comes back clear, you contemplate the possible cessation of your life.  Those words, “It’s nothing serious,” can be some of the most comforting words we’ll hear. 

Sometimes, though, those words can be deceptive.  Consider the diagnosis that comes back and says all will be well, only to later discover that the diagnosis was wrong, that the test results were incorrect.  “It’s no big deal,” is another way of saying about the same thing.  Nothing to worry about…but while it may not be a big deal to that person, someone else who was affected by it may think it is a huge deal.

We have different ways of seeing things, and I understand that.  I suppose it is inevitable.  But it disturbs me deeply when Christians are divided on things that Scripture clearly calls sin.  We’ve heard the culture decrying religious thought and beliefs for so long that we’ve bought into a brain-washed mindset.  Somehow, in our arrogance, we’ve bought the lie that just because the laws of our land (or any other) say that something is legal that it means it must be okay and that it can’t therefore possibly be sin.  Even when the Bible is point-blank on the subject! 

We would do well to remember that God says judgment will begin not with the heathen, but with those of His own house (1 Peter 4:17).  When His own people have become indistinguishable with unbelievers there is great cause for fear.  When His own people cannot tell right from wrong, it is totally incorrect to say, “It’s not serious, it’s no big deal.”  Listen to these words, spoken by God, to His great prophet Jeremiah: (6:14-15) – They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious. ‘Peace, peace,’ they say, when there is no peace.  Are they ashamed of their loathsome conduct? No, they have no shame at all; they do not even know how to blush. So they will fall among the fallen; they will be brought down when I punish them,” says the LORD.  In context, God is talking to His own people, addressing them about what is about to happen because they have minimized the Word of the God and its authority.  Why was God so angry at his people?  We get a pretty good clue in verse 10: To whom can I speak and give warning? Who will listen to me? Their ears are closed so they cannot hear. The word of the LORD is offensive to them; they find no pleasure in it.

It seems that the people of the Lord had chosen not to listen to God’s Word any longer.  Why?  Because they found it offensive.  What was offensive about it?  They didn’t like what it said – it called sin, sin – it pointed out their evil and the evil in the cultures that surrounded them.  And they didn’t like it because they loved the culture more than they loved the Word of the Lord.

How I fear for modern American Christians who can’t see the truth when it’s printed on the pages of the Bibles right in front of them.  And that includes me.

It is serious.

PRAYER: Father, we are so blinded by our human desires and selfishness that we don’t love Your Word and honor its truth.  We close our ears because your word offends us with it’s demands for holiness and righteousness and for turning away from the sins we love so much.  Help us once more to find pleasure in Your Word, to love truth more than convenience and even more than our own lives.  Pour Your Spirit of revelation out upon us that we can have our eyes opened and ears unclogged once more to perceive and practice truth.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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