DayBreaks for 1/23/20 – Indiscriminate Compassion

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DayBreaks for 1/23/20: Indiscriminate Compassion

From the DayBreaks Archive, January 2010:

In the past 10 days our television screens have been filled with images of incomprehensible devastation in the nation of Haiti.  Just today, one of the headlines is stating that the government of Haiti is claiming that 150,000 bodies have already been buried – and who knows how many have yet to be found and buried?  Stories of children who have lost their parents, parents who have lost children, elderly individuals who have essentially been left to die because no one could get water or food to them in time.  Photos and videos of people shrieking in anguish as they’ve been informed of the death of a loved one, or when they recognized their crushed bodies in the makeshift morgues prior to burial.  It would take a truly hard-hearted person to not be filled with compassion at times like this.  I don’t know of anyone who hasn’t been touched by this unparalleled disaster in the western hemisphere. 

Compassion at such times is relatively easy to come by.  There are other times, however, when we struggle to find a compassionate bone in our bodies.  We tend to look at people who have as much as we do (or more) and when they are faced with disaster, we tend to not be as compassionate as we are for the Haitians. 

Perhaps we would be well advised to consider the nature of Jesus’ compassion.  How did Jesus evaluate who was worthy of compassion and who wasn’t worthy?  I don’t see that he ever discriminated when confronted with suffering or need.  Brennan Manning made it pretty clear in Abba’s Child when he wrote: “What is indiscriminate compassion?  ‘Take a look at a rose.  Is it possible for the rose to say, ‘I’ll offer my fragrance to good people and withhold it from bad people’?  Or can you imagine a lamp that withholds its rays from a wicked person who seeks to walk in its light?  It could do that only by ceasing to be a lamp.  And observe how helplessly and indiscriminately a tree gives its shade to everyone, good and bad, young and old, high and low; to animals and humans and every living creature – even to the one who seeks to cut it down.  This is the first quality of compassion – its indiscriminate character.”

Have you thought about the compassion that Jesus has shown you?  Did you deserve it by your exemplary behavior?  Do you feel that Jesus was obligated to be compassionate to you?  Jesus isn’t obligated to do anything for us, but he is compassionate toward all of us because he can’t help being compassionate to all. He would no longer be Jesus if he stopped being compassionate. As His children, we should be the most compassionate people on earth. But I wonder: are we?

PRAYER: Jesus, teach us to follow in harmony with your compassionate heart that we may be more like you!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2020 by Galen C. Dalrymple.  ><}}}”>

 

DayBreaks for 12/25/19 – A Reason for the Incarnation

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DayBreaks for 12/25/19: A Reason for the Incarnation

Why did Jesus take on flesh?  Philip Yancey, in Finding God in Unexpected Places, pondered that question and came up with various possibilities.  Certainly, he came to show us what God is like.  He also came to show us what a man “fully alive” was meant to be.  He came to seek and save the lost.  He came not to be served, but to serve.  He came to give himself as a ransom for many through his selfless sacrifice.

God loves matter – the mountains, the trees, the animals, the heavenly orbs, the beauty of a diamond, the rings of Saturn – all made by His hand for His own pleasure.  Creating gives God pleasure.

The creation’s sin, however, created a separation or gulf between God and man.  All the great characters of the Bible struggled with this separation and cried out in terms like these: “God, you don’t know what it’s like living down here!” Job, eloquent as ever, put it more bluntly: “Do you have eyes of flesh?  Do you see as a mortal sees?”

All these Biblical characters had a point – and God recognized the truth of that point by visiting Planet Earth Himself.  The author of Hebrews puts it in absolutely stunning terms when he said that Jesus’ life on earth was a time when he “learned obedience,” “was made perfect,” and became a “sympathetic” high priest. 

How does one learn sympathy?  There is only one way and it is evident in the Greek roots of the word used for sympathy: sym and pathos, meaning “to feel or suffer with.”

Of the many reasons for the Incarnation (Yancey concluded): “…surely one was to answer Job’s accusation.  Do you have eyes of flesh?  Yes, indeed.”

Merry CHRISTmas to you all!

PRAYER: Teach us to have spiritual vision as well as physical vision.  You who came to have human eyes, please give us eyes like yours that we may see what you see, think like you think, and be conformed to your image.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

DayBreaks for 12/12/19 – Immanuel in Confinement

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DayBreaks for 12/12/19: Immanuel in Confinement

Condensed from Today’s Christian, 2006:

“Locked behind the razor-wire fences of a Florida prison is no place to spend a holiday. I’d spent 15 Christmases under these less-than-festive conditions, but this year my situation looked even bleaker. I was stuck in confinement—a prison inside a prison where the supposed troublemakers are sent. In reality, anyone can find himself in the hole by irritating the wrong person.

“Because I was going to be locked in a cell 24 hours a day through Christmas, I figured nothing memorable could happen. Beyond a five-minute shower three times weekly, there wasn’t much to look forward to.

“In a way, that Christmas was like the first Christmas 2,000 years ago. Most people went about their lives paying bills, cooking dinner, traveling to and fro. A few shepherds working the late-night shift got a spectacular celestial show from some angels who proclaimed, Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace and good will to men! (Luke 2:14). And some wise men, eastern Magi, had begun their journey to Jerusalem looking for someone called “The King of the Jews.” But for the rest of the world, it was just another day. No holiday music, no discount sales, no trees with lights.

“Christmas night in confinement, alone in my cell, I read in my Bible about Paul and Silas, who were also inside a prison. Despite their miserable predicament, they were praying and singing hymns to God while the other prisoners listened.

“The lights went out and I stared at the ceiling from my bunk, wondering if I could praise God in the midst of my circumstances. I could hear a mouse nibbling on some crackers I left out for him. Then suddenly I heard a voice come out of the vent above the toilet. It was Andrew in the next cell. “Merry Christmas, Roy,” he said.

“Merry Christmas, Andrew,” I replied.

“Do you know any Christmas songs?” Andrew asked.

“Yeah, I know a few.”

“I’ll sing one if you’ll sing one,” he said.

“What should we sing?”

“Joy to the World.” And he sang every verse. I sang the chorus with him. Then it was my turn and I chose “Silent Night.” Then he sang “O Come All Ye Faithful,” and I answered with “Feliz Navidad.”

“I have another song,” Andrew said, and sang “O Holy Night.” Silence filled the quad as everyone listened. It was a moment I’ll never forget. It not only reminded me of Paul and Silas, but it made me realize every day is Christmas when God has arrived. It wasn’t just another day, and I wasn’t alone. Emmanuel was in confinement with me, in my cell, blessing me.

Galen’s Thoughts: We often hear of people finding Christ in prison.  Some of the conversions are, no doubt, real and some may be merely machinations intended to curry some form of favor from the powers that be.  There is no doubt in my mind, however, that Christ can indeed be found behind prison walls, in hospital wards and every other place that humans can be found.  Christ goes to places of confinement to bless others. 

It was when He was in the flesh that He himself was in confinement…in a body that He Himself made.  He was captive in flesh and bone…for the same reason that He can be found in prison cells…so that He can bring blessing to us in our human confinement.

PRAYER: Jesus, thank you for enduring confinement in human flesh to bring us the blessing of eternity.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

DayBreaks for 11/28/19 – The Blessings of Darkness, #3

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DayBreaks for 11/28/19: The Blessing of Darkness, #3

The two Psalms in scripture that have not a single ray of light or hope are Psalm 39 and 88. And while you may think it is strange to be talking about this topic on Thanksgiving, let me assure you that it is very, very appropriate.

In Psalm 39, the writer concludes that God has turned his face away from the sufferer. This is about the worst thing that an ancient Jew could have imagined. The implication is that God no longer sees because he no longer cares.

In Psalm 88, the writer concludes that darkness is his only friend, the only companion that is still with him – not even God is nearby. God couldn’t find him if he tried because the darkness is all there is.

It is interesting that these two Psalms are in Scripture, but they are prophetic. It would be Jesus who would cry out that God had turned his face away and forsaken him on the cross. And it was that same Jesus who would be swallowed up by the darkness that covered the earth during his crucifixion, but more so the darkness of our sin he took upon us and the darkness of the sealed tomb.

Jesus knows the darkness, too. He didn’t only know the blazing glory of heaven, but the darkest darkness of the entire world as he bore the sins of the entire world.

But the story doesn’t end in darkness, does it! The One who suffered that darkness revealed to us the faithfulness of God, the one we might accuse of our misfortune and the world of blackness that swallows us up. He rose in glory like the sun and he is the reminder to us that no matter how dark our darkness may be on this Thanksgiving – or at any other time in our lives – that God sees things through to the Light and will bring us even out of the darkness of the tomb into His eternal Light!

PRAYER: Jesus, we long to live surrounded eternally by your Light. Give us strength to persevere in this world that is often so dark. We give you thanks this day for the glorious future that you have guaranteed to us! In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

DayBreaks for 11/27/19 – The Blessing of Darkness, #2

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DayBreaks for 11/27/19: The Blessing of Darkness, #2

Yesterday we looked at Psalm 88 – one of only two Psalms that don’t have any ray of hope or light. I want to explore it a bit further today.

In Psalm 88, Heman is very vocal about the source of his trouble: You (meaning God).  God is not hearing Heman. He has had so much trouble that he believes he is near Sheol (the grave) and he says it is God who has put him there. Not only that, but God has caused his friend to distance themselves (vs. 8) from Heman, making him repulsive to them. It is God’s wrath that is heavy on him (vs. 7). In spite of that, He cries out day and night to God (vs. 9) but feels utterly rejected (vs. 14) and is so despairing that he calls the darkness his only friend (vs. 18).

What are we to make of this? Was God to blame for the darkness around Heman? I honestly don’t know, but Heman believed it. His cries are not unlike those of Job.

What is the lesson here for us? I think it may be this – if God is to blame for it (the Spirit inspired these words, remember!) – then it is a tool God is using for our good, not our harm. And what good could that possibly be? Maybe this: the value of the darkness is that it reveals to us if we are in this to serve God or to be served by Him.

It is in the darkness that we find out the truth about our motives. Satan’s accusation against God was that Job only served Him for what God did for him – that Job’s relationship with God was basically a selfish one.

I suspect that Heman learned a great deal from this darkness. And I suspect he figured it out the right way because he was still calling out to God in the midst of the darkness. He wanted answers – which he may or may not have received  just like Job – but the greatest lesson is what he learned about his motivation for being a worshipper of God.

PRAYER: Father, reveal to us, in our own darkness, the motives of our heart and our reason for claiming to be Your children. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

DayBreaks for 11/26/19 – The Blessing of Darkness, #1

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DayBreaks for 11/26/19: The Blessing of Darkness, #1

There are Psalms of lament and then there are Psalm 39 and Psalm 88 and they set a new standard for “darkness” in the Psalms because all the rest of the Psalms of lament have at least some ray of light, of hope, in them but not these two.

Why did God include these Psalms?

Psalm 88 says that it is a psalm composed by Heman the Ezrahite. That’s not a name you are probably familiar with, but it would appear to be that he was the grandson of the prophet Samuel. Heman was appointed by David as one of the leaders of the Temple music/worship (1 Chron. 6:33). He was a singer.

When we think of our worship leaders we tend to think of those who sing praises and are happy and cheerful. Heman, at least at the time he was inspired to write this was not having a mountaintop experience. In fact, he was very, very low: ..I am like the slain lying in the grave, whom you no longer remember… (vs. 5). He goes on in verses 6-8 and five times in those three verses he is clear that it is “You” (God) who is to blame for this mess and darkness. From my youth, I have been suffering and near death. I suffer Your horrors. I am desperate. (vs. 15)

Is it okay for believers, even our revered leaders, to despair at times? Is it wrong for anyone of us to have the feelings expressed by Heman? No. Remember: God chose to have these words recorded for us, and He Himself inspired these words to be written for our benefit so we could know that we can be honest with him about where we are. Even in his darkness, though, Heman cries out to God. And there’s a lesson for us, too. It isn’t wrong to despair in the darkness, but rather than closing God out we need to cry to him.

PRAYER: When we are surrounded by darkness, Lord, let us emulate Heman and pour out our hearts to you knowing that you understand and do hear, even when we think you may not be listening. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

DayBreaks for 11/14/19 – It Is Here

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DayBreaks for 11/14/19: It Is Here

From the DayBreaks archive, November 2009:

All this I have told you so that you will not go astray. They will put you out of the synagogue; in fact, a time is coming when anyone who kills you will think he is offering a service to God. They will do such things because they have not known the Father or me. I have told you this, so that when the time comes you will remember that I warned you. I did not tell you this at first because I was with you. – John 16:1-4 (NIV)

Jesus often couched his messages and teaching in riddles or parables that were designed to be understood only by those who had open hearts and eyes.  In what is surely a sad commentary on human nature, not even those who were the closest to Him often grasped what He meant.  But in this passage from John 16, Jesus spoke in point blank terms.  There was no mistaking His message to those who followed Him: “…a time is coming when anyone who kills you will think he is offering a service to God.” 

We have lived in religious freedom in the United States of America for about 235 years.  What a blessing!  I fear that we’ve come to a point in our country where we no longer experience much religious freedom.  Of course, I’m speaking in relative terms – we have far greater religious freedom than in China where churches are forced underground, or in Muslim countries or even in countries where Buddhism or Hinduism are practices.  In such countries, lives are sacrificed – literally – on the altar of obedience to God every day.  We aren’t there yet in the United States.  I hope we never will be – but such hoping on my part may just be wishful thinking for myself and those I love.  It may be best for the kingdom of God if such persecution were to come to this land. 

Seldom does persecution arrive “full blown.”  There are usually steps and phases – the proverbial slippery slope – where small things are first lost.  Then, if no one notices or raises an alarm, the next step is taken…and the next…and the next, until finally one wakes up to find the persecutor knocking on the door.  Think it isn’t happening here?  Consider this excerpt from “Cross and Culture”, an evangelical blog written by my youngest son, Tim: “Bill McGurn has an excellent article on two “Christian Girls, Interrupted.”  The first girl, Amanda Kurowski, was ordered by a judge to attend public school because, essentially, the judge determined that the girl should be exposed to ways of thinking other than those of her religious parents.  Amanda’s parents are divorced; her mother has primary custody, but her father has been concerned about the effect of home-schooling on her “socialization.” 

“The judge determined “that Amanda is generally likeable and well liked, social and interactive with her peers, academically promising, and intellectually at or superior to grade level.”  Yet due to her “rigidity on faith,” the court concludes that Amanda “would be best served by exposure to different points of view at a time in her life when she must begin to critically evaluate multiple systems of belief and behavior and cooperation in order to select, as a young adult, which of those systems will best suit her own needs.”  In other words, the judge determines, essentially, that she must be sent to public school in order to get away from her mother’s narrow religiosity and be exposed to other worldviews.  Pretty extraordinary stuff.  As McGurn writes, “Just how extraordinary [this line of reasoning is] might best be appreciated by contemplating the opposite scenario: the reaction that would ensue were a court to order a young girl out of a public school and into an evangelical one so she might gain “exposure” to other “systems of belief.”

Religious freedom still exists in America – provided you aren’t a vocal Christian of the evangelical stripe.  Are you ready for the knock on the door?  Will your faith stand the test – or has it already been compromised? 

PRAYER: Lord, we pray for renewal and repentance in our country that we might return to You!  We pray that we would love our enemies, regardless of what they might do to us, that Your kingdom may grow.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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