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.

DayBreaks for 3/2/17 – Visiting With Isaiah, #4

DayBreaks for 3/02/17: Visiting With Isaiah, #4

Isaiah 6:5-7 (ESV) – And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!” Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.”

These verses take place right after the vision of the One who is seated on the throne. It isn’t surprising that Isaiah had this reaction given his description of the Throne Dweller. But as if often the case, if we forget the context of a passage, we miss nuggets that are priceless.

If you were to go back and read Isaiah chapter 5, you’ll hear woe after woe after woe pronounced by Isaiah to his listeners. He was dishing it out with seeming relish.

But now things have changed. He has not just heard the voice of the Lord but has been in the Presence itself. In spite of all the woes that he’d dished out, perhaps Isaiah needed to understand his own place and his own righteousness (which was no righteousness at all compared to that of the Lord) before he would be a fit servant and messenger for God.

When Doug Fell shared this passage, he described an incident with his young son who at the time was still using a pacifier (they call pacifiers “dummies” in South Africa). His son had come to his dad all excited. His dummy was still in his mouth but he told his dad how excited he was. When Doug asked him why he was so excited, he was informed that it was because his son and dropped his dummy but had washed it before putting it back in his mouth. Doug was rather pleased that his son had taken that initiative. Doug asked him where he had washed it and his son eagerly led his father into the bathroom. Doug was a bit perplexed because he knew his young son couldn’t have reached the sink. His worse fears were realized when his young son led him to the toilet bowl, pointed and said, “In there!”, then proceeded to take the dummy out of his mouth, swish it around in the toilet bowl and pop it back into his mouth before his dad could stop him.

That night, Doug said, when he was tucking his son into his bed, his little boy asked for a goodnight kiss. Doug confessed to a peck on the forehead that night rather than on the lips.
I am a man of unclean lips. We are all people of unclean lips, are we not? It is a symbol of our impurity, of the filth that clings to us on this mortal coil and it should be enough to revolt us. But not God.

God touches the lips of Isaiah with a coal from the altar – from the place of sacrifice. It is a foreshadowing of the sacrifice of Christ that would cleans not only our unclean lips, but all of our iniquities.

Note one more thing: it is not Isaiah who takes the initiative to be made clean. Isaiah cannot get the coal for himself. It is God who takes the initiative to cleanse Isaiah’s uncleanness.

Why does God do such a thing, not just for Isaiah but for you and me, too? Isaiah 43:25 tells us the answer: I, I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins.

God gives us forgiveness not just for our own sake, and indeed, He is under no obligation whatsoever to do so. He does it for his own sake. What can God possibly gain to benefit from our forgiveness? Several things, but certainly it must include these:

FIRST: God’s reputation is at stake. Remember the confrontation between Satan and God in Job? What kind of a God would He be if He created us, knowing we would fall and be great sinners, and not do anything to redeem us? He would be a hateful God, a God who delighted in seeing His creation tortured in eternal flames if He left us hopeless for eternity. But His reputation is at stake and all his claims to be a loving, compassionate, merciful God of forgiveness and grace would be proven to be lies if He just left us as fallen creatures. Praise God He didn’t do that! And praise God that he acts for his own sake as well as ours!

SECOND: God is a God who longs for fellowship and relationship with His creation and creatures. He could not have relationship with us if he were to leave us as unclean people. He is too holy for sin to exist in His presence, so the only way he could have relationship with us was to do something about our uncleanness – so He did do something about it – for His own sake and His own delight so we could fellowship forever as holy, clean beings!

PRAYER: Thank you for acting for your own sake and for letting us reap the benefits of your actions! In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2017 by Galen Dalrymple.

DayBreaks for 3/01/17 – Visiting With Isaiah, #3

DayBreaks for 3/01/17: Visiting With Isaiah, #3

Isaiah 6:4 (ESV) – And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke.

Have you ever lived in a place where lightning storms are commonplace? I have. I rather enjoy the thunder and lightning as long as I can stay inside and be awed by the light show and the sounds.

I recall sitting in an open doorway in the African bush and listening to the peals of thunder that shook the building and the incredible noise rolled through the heavens and along the ground across the vastness of the African plains. I pictured it rolling all the way home to America.

I often sit now in our home in Georgia and listen to the thunder. I don’t mind it one bit, but it scares our dog nearly to death each and every time we have such a storm.

In the passage in Isaiah, it isn’t totally clear to me who it is that is him who called. I tend to believe it is the voice of the One seated on the throne that is calling to Isaiah (God’s voice is often described that way in scripture), but it could be the voice of the seraphim. If it is the latter, imagine what the voice of the One on the throne must be like if even the mighty seraphim sound like peals of thunder! But I think it was the voice of the One on the throne that Isaiah is referring to.

This one seated on the throne is not like the wizard of Oz who has to pretend to be powerful and use fakery to appear great. This One is powerful. This One is the very definition of power. The dwelling of this One is filled with smoke. We shouldn’t think of it as the eye-stinging smoke from a fire, but of incense offered up in worship.

In the Old Testament, the Presence of God Almighty was often shrouded in smoke or thick clouds for a reason. To look upon Him would have been enough to have killed any mortal for the vision would be more than we could bear. So in Isaiah’s vision, he hears the voice from the house filled with smoke, so even the One seated on the throne is hidden from his view.

Try this one on for size: 1 John 3:2 (ESV) – Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.

What Isaiah saw shielded by smoke will become perfectly, crystal clear to us. We won’t see Him hidden behind a smokescreen. We shall see Him JUST as He is – face to face with the Almighty, not as strangers, but as sons and daughters whom He deeply loves ad whom He has been waiting to welcome home!

PRAYER: I cannot imagine seeing You face to face, Lord, yet I believe that I shall, and that on that day, I will not be ashamed (Rom. 10:11)! In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2017 by Galen Dalrymple.

DayBreaks for 2/28/17 – Visiting With Isaiah, #2

DayBreaks for 2/28/17: Visiting With Isaiah, #2

Isaiah 6:2-3 (ESV) – Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!”

The seraphim are interesting creatures and they certainly caught Isaiah’s attention, but not because of their unearthly appearance (which sounds quite amazing!), but because of what they were doing.

It appears that they perhaps circle over the top of the throne as they fly, but even these incredible creatures shield their eyes from the glory of the one seated on the throne, and they cover their feet – often thought of as being a very lowly and humble part of the body – because of the worthiness of the Being on the throne.

But the most amazing thing about these beings is what they say to one another: Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory!

Stop and think about that for a moment. If you were standing (or hovering) over the throne of God, what might you be saying? Perhaps you’d say, Loving, loving, loving is the Lord or hosts, or perhaps Gracious, gracious, gracious or Magnificent, magnificent, magnificent. I could imagine saying all sorts of things, can’t you?

Not these creatures. The thing that so dominated their thinking and their speaking wasn’t the love of the one on the throne, or his grace, mercy, compassion or anything other than His holiness.

What is holiness? What does the word holy mean? It means different, other, set apart (especially for some purpose), special in some great way. What these amazing seraphim are captivated by is how unlike anything else this Lord is! This is intended to let us know that this is a One of a kind God, One who is not like us nor even like the seraphim themselves. He is completely Other.

So, what’s so special about that? Think about his holiness, his total otherness and then think about the Incarnation. This incredible one who is seated on the throne in Isaiah’s vision who is so Other is the one who made himself like us, removing his Otherness and taking on our Sameness – even sameness to the point of dying like King Uzziah did, and dying as we shall.

To echo the words of Isaiah in Isaiah 53:1a: Who has believed our report? Who would believe such a thing could ever happen, that the One whose glory fills the temple, leaving room for no other being to be glorified, would do such a thing?

One more note here: the seraphim are proclaiming his holiness not because of anything He has done, but simply because of who and what He is.

Ready for today’s challenge? Try this one on for size from 1 Peter 1:16 – we are told by God himself that we are to be holy, even as he is holy! Is that some kind of mean, sadistic joke? How can such a thing be? It can only be because He became like us, gave himself for us and even more – gives us His own holiness, the very same holiness that the seraphim talk about without ceasing – through the blood of Jesus.

Isaiah 61:10 (ESV) – I will greatly rejoice in the LORD; my soul shall exult in my God, for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.

PRAYER: Lord, we can scarce believe that you have clothed us with your own righteousness and given us the holiness of Jesus that we may one day stand, unashamed in your holy presence! In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2017 by Galen Dalrymple.