DayBreaks for 4/10/18 – God’s Strange “No”

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DayBreaks for 4/10/18: God’s Strange “No”

There is a fascinating story in Joshua that is easily missed. Moses has died. After waiting 40 years, Joshua is ready to take up the mantle of leadership from Moses. As they prepare to cross the Jordan and enter into the promised land, Joshua has a very strange encounter.

Joshua 5:13-15 says: When Joshua was by Jericho, he lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, a man was standing before him with his drawn sword in his hand. And Joshua went to him and said to him, “Are you for us, or for our adversaries?” And he said, “No; but I am the commander of the army of the LORD. Now I have come.” And Joshua fell on his face to the earth and worshiped and said to him, “What does my lord say to his servant?” And the commander of the LORD’s army said to Joshua, “Take off your sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy.” And Joshua did so.

Here’s what is fascinating (aside from the fact of the encounter itself). Joshua was going to be the military leader for the campaign (or so he thought). But he finds himself face to face with “a man”. I don’t know how impressive the man may have looked, but he certainly was mysterious. Who was this “commander of the army of the LORD”? Many believe it was Jesus in a pre-incarnate form. (Oddly enough, Jesus, or Yeshua, was Joshua’s name…so Joshua was speaking with Joshua/Yeshua, who would also be a conqueror, but of a different kind.)

The first word this “man” speaks is simply “No.” In other words, “I’m not for you and I’m not for your adversaries.” What are we to make of that? I’m sure Joshua was hoping for something like “Yes, of course I’m for you!”  But he didn’t get that response. 

This “man” was for the LORD God Almighty. He wasn’t for one tribe or another. He was for God’s plan and work. It is as if he’s saying a couple things to Joshua:

FIRST: You are not the commander of God’s army. I am. You will not be fighting, you will not gain the victories. God will. How quickly we forget that in our own battles!!!

SECOND: This “man” is essentially throwing a challenge to Joshua, something like this: “You will make a choice whether or not you will be part of my judgment…will you be an agent of justice/judgment or an object of judgment? If you take the role as an agent of justice but then shirk back, you are all the more likely to become an object of judgment.” It is as if God was saying, “If you act like the inhabitants of the land, you’ll be the first to go into judgment.”

I can’t help but wonder how much I’ve become like the inhabitants of the land, how much the church has become like the inhabitants of the land/world. It is frightening to contemplate.

The day will come when we stand before the leader of God’s army. I hope we will all have chosen to be part of his campaign to bring justice and righteousness to his creation.

PRAYER: Lord, the very idea of becoming objects of judgment is terrifying. Give us the courage to choose wisely and consistently to be on your side! In Jesus’ name, Amen.

COPYRIGHT 2018 by Galen C. Dalrymple. All rights reserved.

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DayBreaks for 3/22/18 – There Was No One There

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DayBreaks for 3/22/18: There Was No One There

From the DayBreaks archive, March 2008:

Have you ever felt absolutely and totally alone?  I am not the kind of person who minds being alone – in fact, I rather enjoy it…most of the time.  But when I worked in high tech, I traveled a lot and there were many times when I’d go to a strange city (or even a strange country) and loneliness would settle over my soul like a shroud.  There are many places where loneliness raises its head and comes to sit next to you.  Once it arrives, it tends to stay.

Some of the loneliest places I’ve been read like a list of places most folks would like to visit: Ireland, Sao Paulo, London, and in America, Mississippi and Alabama.  I don’t know why I felt so alone here in the US, but when you’re in a foreign country (even one like Ireland or England that speaks my native tongue) you can feel desperately alone.  Without my family, my wife, my dogs or friends, loneliness haunts like a spectre.  The more foreign, the greater the haunting.

The story of Gethsemane is one of the most painful stories for me to read in the entire collection of Scripture, and having been there, is even more painful to me.  It appears to be the time of Jesus’ greatest loneliness, with perhaps the exception of the cry of dereliction from the cross itself.  Anticipation of agony is oft times worse than the pain we anticipate.  I wonder if it was that way for Jesus.

In his novel, More Like Not Running Away, Paul Shepherd wrote: “I’d always known, in one place in my throat, how Jesus must have cried in the garden—crying not to die, because there was no fear of death, and not to leave his friends, because he walked alone, and not to suffer, because the blood and bruises and thorns were part of his perfection—but crying because he could not find his Father’s face, because when he would suffer all that he could bear, the pain of every person, living and dead, in that dark moment, there was really nobody there.”

Jesus truly had no peers to swap celestial stories with.  He had no one on the planet who understood what he faced just in a matter of hours.  There was no one else who truly understood the weight of the world’s sin as it came and settled on him like a hot blanket on that Palestinian night.  If ever anyone was in a foreign land, it was Jesus.  If ever anyone found “there was really no one there,” surely it was He.  “We esteemed him smitten by God…” 

For all who have ever felt loneliness, for all who have ever felt that there was “no one there,” take heart in knowing that Jesus has been to that desolate place before you.  And no matter how alone he felt at the moment he cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”, he soon proclaimed with great confidence: “Into Your hands I commit my spirit!”  In the midst of his massively heavy aloneness, He still had confidence in the Father He knew and loved, and was supremely confident that the Father saw and loved Him and would not ultimately let His Holy One be abandoned. 

Dare we hope for the same assurance?  Absolutely, for His Father is our Father and is unchanging.

PRAYER: Fill our loneliness with the confidence of Jesus that we may, in childlike trust and faith, abandon ourselves into Your hands.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

COPYRIGHT 2018 by Galen C. Dalrymple. All rights reserved.

DayBreaks for 2/12/18 – The Spirit and the Wind

DayBreaks for 2/12/18: The Spirit and the Wind

From the DayBreaks archive, February 2008:

John 3:8 (NIV) – The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.

Without a doubt, the aspect of the Trinity that we know the least about would be the Spirit.  Even His name, “Spirit”, seems strange and mysterious to us compared to Father or Son.  We long to lay our eyes upon the Father and upon the Son, but how often have you heard anyone say, “I can’t wait until I see the Spirit!”

As you probably know, the word for Spirit in Greek is pneuma.  It’s translated as breath, wind, spirit.  In John 3:8, it is the word that Jesus uses when speaking of the Holy Spirit.  That just makes it all the more mysterious, don’t you think?  You cannot see the wind itself, but you can see its effects.  So it is with the Spirit.  Jesus says the wind blows where it decides to go, and so does the Spirit.  The wind can be gentle or powerful, so it is with the Spirit.  It is interesting to me, that in Genesis 1:2, the Spirit of God is introduced, and as the KJV puts it, “the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters” – just like the wind that moves over land and sea. 

I have been focusing a lot lately in my life on trying to see and perceive God more clearly though the things that He has created.  Sometimes my eyes are covered and I struggle to see Him in things, but at others, I wonder if I sometimes go a bit too far with my perceptions.  We live in a time when we have a scientific explanation for everything, where even the human genome has been fully mapped, where earthquakes are no longer believed to be an act of God (or the gods to the pagans), where eclipses are understood to be naturally occurring celestial events rather than a sign of displeasure from on high.  Solomon said that “to everything there is a season” but modern man in all our supposed wisdom, says “To everything there is an explanation.”  Something great has been lost, I fear.  Mystery has been subsumed by the mundane and de-mystified.

Here’s my point: what if, just for sake of conjecture, we were to think of the breeze, the wind as being the Spirit passing by instead of being caused by competing areas of high and low pressure in the atmosphere?  After all, the wind and Spirit are used interchangeably in some Biblical texts.  Maybe it isn’t just the movement of air molecules that brushes your face when you step outside today – maybe it’s the breath of the Spirit, or the caress of His hand as the Spirit moves around you. 

Would that not be a better way for us who are believers to think of the wind?  While I’m not possessed of enough wisdom and insight to know whether or not it is true, Scripture says that the Lord will never leave us – and where the Lord is, the Spirit is.  And if we were to start to think of the wind as the Spirit every time we sense the breeze, if we let it draw our thoughts to God would we not be better off than explaining it away as just the difference in atmospheric pressure?

PRAYER: Sometimes, Lord, we listen too much to science and not nearly enough to Your Spirit, that we confess is mysterious indeed to us.  Teach us through the things that You’ve created, capture our imaginations and hearts anew with the awe and wonder we once knew as little children, and direct our thoughts toward You.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

COPYRIGHT 2018 by Galen C. Dalrymple. All rights reserved.

DayBreaks for 2/09/18 – The Promise of a Father

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DayBreaks for 2/09/18: The Promise of a Father

Sometimes just re-reading a verse opens a new universe of thought. In my quiet time, I’m trying to not force any issue or hear a specific message, I’m just trying to hear what Jesus was saying – and beyond that, to the meaning of what he was saying.

Just Thursday morning as I was reading in John 14, I ran across this verse: I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. – John 14:18 (ESV)

Wow. Did you catch the import of that verse? Let me share with you that my dad passed on to glory a bit over 20 years ago. I suppose that one could say that as far as an earthly father is concerned, I am now an orphan – and how I wish that were not so! It’s not that I think my dad wanted to leave me, but he did. His heart would not allow him to live here indefinitely and it finally gave out. But his absence, my “orphanhood” if you will, it is the reality of my daily life. My dad was amazing – not sinless, but a man of extraordinary character and integrity. But, he’s no longer here. It is an uncomfortable thing to feel like an orphan. Jesus says that I am not an orphan.

Some are orphans because of the death of parents, others are orphans because they were unwanted – their parents abandoned them. That must be even more painful than being an orphan by death. I cannot imagine how it must feel to be “unwanted” as a human.

Jesus wants us to know that being unwanted will never be the case with us, either. We will not be orphans in either sense, for he will come to us.

One simple verse…but Jesus wants us to really “get” this. We are not orphans. We will never be orphans. We have a Father who loves us and will never abandon us. Now – with that thought in mind, go have a great weekend!

PRAYER: Jesus, thank you for being our forever Father, for this promise that we will never be orphans in this universe! In Jesus’ name, Amen.

COPYRIGHT 2018 by Galen C. Dalrymple. All rights reserved.

DayBreaks for 2/02/18 – The Hands of a Father, #1

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DayBreaks for 2/02/18: The Hands of a Father, #1

From the DayBreaks archives, 1/28/98: (this DayBreaks was written one week after my father died in 1998)

I remember as a child laying in the church pew (I was really young, OK?) and my dad would be resting his arm on the back of the pew with his fingers dangling down towards me.  I’d play with his fingers and hands while the preacher did his thing.  I remember thinking how powerful and strong my dad’s hands were.  He was a farmer then, so you know that they were broad, calloused and hardened from difficult work.

Last week as I sat by my father’s deathbed and I held his hand in mine, the situation had changed.  Once upon a time, it was my dad’s hand that enveloped mine.  Times when I was afraid, times when he was afraid for me (that I’d run into the road or something like that), times when he was trying to keep me from falling.  And certainly times just when he wanted to hold my hand or I wanted to hold his.

They say that at some point in our lives that the child becomes the parent and the parent becomes the child.  I guess that is what happened to my dad and I last week.  No longer could he hold my hand, now it was my hand that surrounded his and it was I who was trying to provide the comfort and assurance that I could. Yet for as much as my heart yearned to keep him from slipping off into eternity, I was powerless to stop it. And for his sake, I’m grateful that even as my hand had to let go of his, I know our Father had taken his hand to lead him home.

As I sat by his bedside holding his motionless hand, I thought about how many times the Father has held my hand and I’ve taken it for granted.  Psalm 37.23-24: If the LORD delights in a man’s way, he makes his steps firm; though he stumble, he will not fall, for the LORD upholds him with his hand.   Daniel 5.23b: But you did not honor the God who holds in his hand your life and all your ways.

I couldn’t begin to tell you how many times my dad held my tiny, weak hand in his.  I wonder how many times God has held my hand and I’ve been so insensitive that I didn’t even recognize it.  But there are even worse things than not recognizing His hand.  I have a choice to withdraw my hand from His (indeed, isn’t that exactly what we do every time we sin?).  I also have a choice to not take the hand that is offered to me (the way of escape from temptation is to take His hand and walk with Him through the test).

If I had the chance for my dad to hold my hand again, I’d grab it in a heartbeat.  I hope and pray that I’ll be as eager to let God hold my hand on this journey through life.  And I pray that I’ll never again be so insensitive to the Father’s hand upon my life.  My prayer for you is the same.

PRAYER: Lord, how desperately we need Your hand to hold ours!  We tremble in fear at the roaring of the world when we think we are alone.  May Your Almighty hand reassure us that we are never alone and we are never to fear with our Father at our side.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

COPYRIGHT 2018 by Galen C. Dalrymple. All rights reserved.

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.

DayBreaks for 12/4/17 – What We Shall Be

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DayBreaks for 12/04/17: What We Shall Be

From the DayBreaks archive, December 2007:

What do you think heaven looks like?  We read of the streets of gold and the city gates being made up of a huge, single pearl each.  There are descriptions of the river of life that flows through the city and the trees that bear fruit along its banks.  Incredible creatures are there, too, according to Revelation: myriads upon myriads of angels, archangels, and don’t forget the fascinating four living creatures that stand before the throne itself.  What do they look like?  John describes them somewhat for us, but even then, it’s a mind-boggling and mind-stretching scene to try to imagine.  Then, don’t forget the glassy, crystal sea.  It must be beautiful to look upon!

And of course, there’s the Lamb and the Father and the Spirit – all pictured in various places throughout Scripture, but most intriguingly, perhaps in Revelation. 

So, what is it that you think will be the most amazing thing to see?  Will it be God Himself?  Will it be when our eyes are opened and we can see the Spirit?  Will it be the Lamb who was slain before the foundation of the world?  I am sure that when we see Them, it will be beyond our imagining, even though we’ve read about them in John’s apocalypse.  And I’m sure that the four living creatures won’t disappoint, nor will the sight of the angel, Michael, the leader of God’s heavenly army.

But, as I thought about it the other day, while not the most glorious sight, but perhaps the most surprising, may be those who have been at last perfected by the blood of the Lamb.  Not even the most beautiful actress or actor at their finest will begin to compare to a perfected human being.  We’ve never seen a perfected human in the 21st century.  There was only One human who ever lived that was perfect – all that the Father Creator meant for Him to be.  Only one century was privileged to see that.  But even then, his flesh wasn’t perfected – it was subject to decay and failure, just as ours is. 

As I sat during Thanksgiving and watched my family around the table, in the front room, in the kitchen, and I watched them with wonder in my heart and delighted to hear their interactions and laughter, I looked at my wife and thought: won’t she be incredible in heaven?  (I think she’s wonderfully incredible now!)  She’ll have no flaws of any kind, nor will I.  In heaven, we will be perfected – all God ever meant for us to be.  Won’t it be a glorious sight to see?

John 1:14 (NIV) – The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

1 John 3:2 (KJV) – Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.

PRAYER:  Lord, we can’t imagine the delights of Your home, and our home!  We wait with patience, we will finish well, Lord, by Your grace and great power, as we look forward to the day when You complete Your mighty work in us!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2017 by Galen C. Dalrymple.