DayBreaks for 4/7/17: Still Running

DayBreaks for 4/7/17: Still Running

It is hard to fathom, but next week we begin “Holy Week”. There are parts about Holy Week that I love, but parts that make me terrified and feel like a worm. It is a week that will take us from the mountain of festive palms in the hands of the cheering throngs to the mountain of Golgatha’s despair. Perhaps that is why I have such strong reactions to it, why some resist it so. I mean, do we really need the emotional rollercoaster of Holy Week? What’s so wrong with just jumping from one parade to the next and skipping all the sacrifice and death stuff? What’s wrong with simply moving on to the joy of Easter, with its white bonnets, Easter eggs, family, friends, big ham dinner, and of course the empty tomb?

I think we already at least suspect, if not know, the answer to that. For starters, an empty tomb, at face value, is a lot easier to deal with than a dying, bleeding Savior on a cross. And then to remember that the bleeding Christ is the same one who invites ME to “Take up YOUR cross and follow me.” (By the way, that’s His invitation to you, too.) We are invited not just to remember His pain and suffering, but to enter into it ourselves – spiritually, emotionally and if it comes to it, physically. So, with all the pain and suffering that comes with Holy Week, is it any wonder that the human tendency is to try and ignore the events of the week and simply move on to the Easter celebration?

But as much as we’d like to skip Holy Week we know that the only way to Easter is through the cross. We know where the parade of Palm Sunday leads and we also know that we’re part of that parade. That is to say, we know this intellectually. Our hearts are another story. Our hearts may be more in sync with the disciples and the fear and disbelief that led them to run away. We do ourselves a favor if we remember that 2000 years ago His disciples ran from Him. It would seem that 2000 years later Jesus’ disciples are still running away.

Mark 14:50 (NLT) – Then all his disciples deserted him and ran away.

PRAYER: Lord, deep in my heart I know that we are meant to walk up the hill to Calvary with you – carrying our own crosses that cannot be denied if we are to be true disciples. But Lord, we don’t want to make that walk. Forgive us, enable us, to walk in your footsteps and not run. In Jesus’ name, Amen.  

Copyright 2017 by Galen Dalrymple.

 

DayBreaks for 3/29/17 – How We View the World

DayBreaks for 3/29/17: How We View the World

What is your general attitude toward the world you live in, towards life?  Do you generally see life as a trudge through the mud, or as an exciting and fulfilling adventure?  I know that there are days when we are overwhelmed one way or another, but as a general rule, how do you see the world and your life in it? 

You might not think that how you generally feel about the world is all that important.  After all, who does it affect but you, right?  Wrong.  I think that the way Christians (and others) feel about the world around us and our role in it makes a huge difference.  I was recently re-reading Viktor Frankl’s book, Man’s Search for Meaning, and he described one event that occurred one dark, cold night in the Auschwitz concentration camp.  Frankl wrote: I shall never forget how I was roused one night by the groans of a fellow prisoner, who threw himself about in his sleep, obviously having a horrible nightmare.  Since I had always been especially sorry for people who suffered from fearful dreams or deliria, I wanted to wake the poor man.  Suddenly I drew back the hand which was ready to shake him, frightened at the thing I was about to do.  At that moment I became intensely conscious of the fact that no dream, no matter how horrible, could be as bad as the reality of the camp which surrounded us, and to which I was about to recall him.

I dare say that none of us have ever been in a situation as horrifying as Frankl.  He found himself in a horrible dilemma: do I compassionately awaken the man who was having such frightening nightmares, or would the reality of the world of the prison camp be even worse than the imagined world taking place in the mind of the dreamer?  What would I have done?  I don’t honestly know.  But I know this: my world is nowhere as terrifying as a concentration camp.  My life and world is really, all things considered, very pleasant and tolerable.  Even beautiful. 

But here’s my point for today: if I view my world as being a horrible thing, chances are that I won’t do anything to “wake people up” who may be sleeping their way through life.  But if I can learn to see the beauty of the life that God has given me, the beauty of God through His creation, I will be more likely to do what I can to help people who are sleeping to wake up and see the beauty of the life lived with the Lord.

The Presence of the Lord can turn the desert into a well-watered land.  Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me.

PRAYER: Father, help us to see the truth about our lives.  We have hard times, but help us not to turn them into high drama that isn’t warranted.  May we see and experience the beauty of life lived in fellowship with You, and may we have the wisdom and courage to awaken the sleeper and help them see the glory of the Lord!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2017 by Galen Dalrymple.

DayBreaks for 2/2/17: Should I Pray to be Delivered from this Hour?

DayBreaks for 2/02/17: Should I Pray to be Delivered from this Hour?

John 12:27-28 (NLT) – Now my soul is deeply troubled. Should I pray, ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But this is the very reason I came! Father, bring glory to your name…”

Wow. Just WOW! To place this verse in context, Jesus is in Jerusalem for the Passover. He has just foretold his coming death. He has also just said that his disciples must be where he is. Where would he be? He would soon be in the garden, on trial, on the cross and in the tomb. This is a sobering reminder that if our Master didn’t escape a troubled heart or a troubled life, we should not expect to, either. As David Platt said recently, we tend to think as believers we are guaranteed a safe life. We are not. In fact, if anything, we are guaranteed a troubled life if we are to inhabit all the spaces Jesus did not only physically, but also if we journey with him spiritually and emotionally – and he want to some very foreboding places in his heart.

It is interesting that Jesus shares his thoughts out loud here. Should he pray to be saved from this hour?, he asks. In matter of fact, he did make that very request some mere days or hours later in the garden. Yet, in spite of his deeply troubled heart, even here he resolves himself with the knowledge that God had a purpose for his coming, for this very hour. He came not to be delivered, but to deliver, not to be spared, but to spare others.

How do I view my own life in that regard? Do I have even an inkling of the call God has put upon my life? How often do I pray to be delivered from “this hour” when in fact, it may be that my struggle, even my death, may be the thing that will bring the most glory to the Father. My first inclination is to pray for my own preservation rather than to see my “hour” as an opportunity for his glory.

Jesus refused to pray for deliverance. Maybe I should pray less for deliverance and be more concerned about how God can use my situation and my obedience in that dark hour for His glory.

PRAYER: Lord, I am very self-centered and as I read this verse, it becomes clearer to me. Thank you for the power of your word to show us not just your love and goodness, but our weaknesses and failures, too. Use those hard times and difficult hours in our lives to bring you glory. May we be more like our Master and seek your glory and your purposes above all else! In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2017 by Galen Dalrymple.

DayBreaks for 1/02/17 – Out of Egypt We Are Called

DayBreaks for 1/02/17: Out of Egypt We Are Called

After trying everything else, Shelly was present for her first Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. Skeptical and listening half- heartedly at first, the words of Martha caught her attention. Martha told the group, “I just knew that I could handle alcohol and my other problems on my own, but I couldn’t. Seven years ago I came to my first A.A. meeting and since that time I have grown as a person beyond anything I could have ever imagined.”

Martha exuded confidence and depth. She spoke of a power “higher than I,” the God of Jesus Christ, and the way in which God now lived at the center of her life. Her words oozed with sincere encouragement and concern. Most of all, Martha exhibited a thankfulness which words could not express. Shelly, who came to the meeting doubtful that anything she would hear would change the way she felt or thought, made her way to Martha when the meeting was over. “I want what you have,” Shelly told Martha, “I want what you have.”

Shelly wanted the compassion and depth and hope which Martha knew, but she may not have realized fully how Martha came to know those things. Martha learned compassion from a time of deep personal suffering. She acquired spiritual depth from hours of praying when there was nowhere else to turn. She discovered hope by taking one step at a time because “one day at a time” was too much to be expected.

Shelly said, “I want what you have. Where do I get it?” And Martha told her, “It comes from being right where you are and doing just what you are doing.” Martha went on to tell Shelly the oddest story about learning compassion when we are hurting, and learning love when we are excluded, and learning hope when we are helpless. In short Martha said that it is out of Egypt that we are called.

Many symbols could be used for times of suffering-Egypt, darkness, a flood, a storm-but no matter the symbol, they represent something that is not fun but painful. Everyone has had suffering in their life to varying degrees. Some seem to suffer very little while others suffering defies comprehension.

Perspective is so important because it determines how we will deal with suffering in ourselves or others. If we can come to truly realize that our homes are not ours, our bodies are not ours, even the air that we breathe isn’t ours (it ALL belongs to Him), then when bad things happen to us we can realize that it isn’t directed against us personally and that the God who charted our course in some heavenly hallway knew all those things would happen and are part of a plan beyond our comprehension.

Someone once said that when we are in the midst of the raging sea of life storms and wonder why, that it is perhaps then that God whispers to us: “It is because your enemies cannot swim.” In other words, it is a safe place for us even though it may be uncomfortable. Indeed, the God who leads us into the storm not only can cause us to swim in it – but even to walk atop the waves. He’s done it before. He can do it for you. And with Him, you are safe.

PRAYER: Help us to have a kingdom perspective when you call us out of Egypt to face struggles. Let us look to you in the midst of the storm. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2016 by Galen Dalrymple.

DayBreaks for 10/12/16 – He Had Heart Problems

DayBreaks for 10/12/16 – He Had Heart Problems

From the DayBreaks archive, 2006:

From the blog by my oldest son, Doug Dalrymple:

“He had problems of the heart.” 

That’s how one acquaintance described him.  (Ed. Note: that was an Amish woman describing the man who killed the children in the local Amish school.)
Tormented by the memory of past sins and tortured by loss, he gunned down the little ones, the daughters of the Amish. As if multiplying his pain and placing it on the shoulders of others would lighten the burden he bore. It never does. But we must bear each other’s crosses and not deny our own, and never work to fashion new ones for our neighbors.
Christ teaches us that love of God is most perfectly expressed by love of man who bears God’s image. The killer in this case knew intuitively that the opposite is also true: hatred of God is most perfectly expressed in hatred of man, especially the most helpless and innocent among us.
“We must not think evil of this man,” a grandfather tells his grandsons as they stand by their sister’s coffin.
Lord have mercy on the souls of these lost daughters. Lord have mercy on the soul of their killer.

Galen’s Thoughts: we were all sickened by the news out of the sleepy, peaceful Pennsylvania countryside.  “How could it be?” we asked with perplexed hearts.  And this wasn’t the first time that kids were gunned down in school by someone.  I fear that it won’t be the last, either.  As horrific as it has been, even the national news has commented on the forgiveness and “towering faith” of the Amish.  They are different than most of us in many ways, but their faith stands as if it were a granite sentinel for all to see.  They have visited the home of the shooter, to express their condolences and love and forgiveness and to care for the widow and her children.  Isn’t that a perfect example of “Love your enemies”? 

Perhaps the stunning grace of forgiveness is the one thing that sets Christianity apart from every other religion.  While radical elements within Islam burn cities where a cartoon of their “prophet” was publicized, Christians whose children have been murdered are offering forgiveness.  Even in this dark hour, the Light of the World is shining brightly.

Yes, the killer certainly had problems of the heart.  So do I.  You do, too.  That is the source of all our problems – a sickness in our hearts, and there’s only one cure for that illness, and its name is Jesus.

Matthew 15:18-20 (NIV) – But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man ‘unclean.’  For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.  These are what make a man ‘unclean’; but eating with unwashed hands does not make him ‘unclean.’

Jeremiah 17:9 (KJV) – The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?

Psalms 51:10 (NLT) – Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a right spirit within me.

PRAYER: Father, forgive us, for we know not what we are doing.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2016 by Galen C. Dalrymple. All rights reserved.

DayBreaks for 9/22/16 – Only If We Despair

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DayBreaks for 9/22/16 – Only If We Despair      

From the DayBreaks archive, 9/19/2006:

Copyright © 2006 Christianity Today. September 2006, Vol. 50, No. 9, Page 118

“But it is important for Christians not to confuse the existence of bad news with our reaction to the bad news—and here it is useful to look at The Screwtape Letters.

“C. S. Lewis’s famous novel was conceived and written during World War II, when so much looked bad. One of the most striking moments in the story arrives when the inexperienced junior devil, Wormwood, chortles over the horrors of war. Screwtape sternly admonishes his nephew not “to forget the main point in your immediate enjoyment of human suffering.” In war, says the senior devil, people die. But hell gains nothing from mere human misery and death, he warns. It is the state in which people die that matters.

“Lewis is not suggesting that we celebrate our suffering or that we stand blind to the suffering of others. His point, rather, is that Christians should not mistakenly think that bad news here on earth means Satan is winning. Men have done terrible things to each other ever since Eden. The horrors of war—like the other pains and scars of life—pose a challenge to faith. Lewis suggests that what truly matters is how we meet that challenge: the battle, that is, in the spiritual realm.

“As the writer of Hebrews said to discouraged believers, “Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the Cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart” (Heb. 12:1-3).

“Lewis’s vision of Satan is far more useful and scary than Hollywood’s. The film industry loves making movies about hell. In these high-budget visions of the underworld, demons usually emerge to do bad things to people, causing death and destruction here on earth. The hero either slays them or works some mystic incantation that sends them back, after which life on earth returns to what it was before. The demons are just like other Hollywood bad guys: terrorists, serial killers, the ruthless rich out to rule the world. In these visions, the bad thing about Satan is that he wants to do bad things to us here and now.

“C. S. Lewis’s marvelous imagination, by contrast, should remind us that this vision is dangerously wrong. The terrible tragedies that befall the world work to Satan’s benefit only if we despair. Suffering, as Screwtape reminds his nephew, often strengthens faith. Better to keep people alive, he says, long enough for faith to be worn away. The death of a believer is the last thing the Devil wants.”

Galen’s Thoughts: Sometimes I’m tempted to think that Satan loves misery and death.  I’m not sure that’s right.  After all, I rather doubt that Satan licks his chops when he contemplates his own fate in eternal hell.  So Lewis’ point is a good one: he only relishes death of humans when they die without Christ.  He’d much rather that we as believers stay alive long enough to give him more time to beat us up, to wear down our resolve and surrender to the suffering of this world, blaming it on God with the result being that we reject Him.  I don’t know about you, but I, for one, don’t want to give Satan that satisfaction.  How much better that we spend our time, not in thinking that the suffering is what matters, but that the souls of men and women are what truly is important.

PRAYER:  We are a depressed and discouraged society.  The enemy even attacks us from within the sheepfold, Lord!  But help us stay focused on the ultimate realities with which we are faced.  Help us to realize that our despair plays into Satan’s hands.  May we find comfort and assurance and sustenance beside You in green pastures beside the still waters.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

 

DayBreaks for 9/13/16 – Suffering, Control and Faith

 

DayBreaks for 9/13/16 – Suffering, Control…and Faith

From our worship bulletin 9/11/16:

Most mornings, I read a bit from The Gospel According to Job, a book I discovered a number of years ago and it’s been a tremendous help, as I have wrestled with questions about pain and suffering (Galen’s note: I concur, this is a great book!)  Job, of course, is the book of the Old Testament which tells the story of a man who experiences suffering and the journey he’s on to make sense of it. So, as I was reading this morning, the author, Mike Mason, says this: Whatever our theology might be, in any tragedy there is just something in our finite minds, that gravitates immediately toward the theory of human causes. If human beings bear direct responsibility for everything bad that happens to them, then the plain corollary of these theses is that we also have the power to affect our own good. Such a thoroughly watertight system of cause and effect, Job correctly sees, leaves no room for dependent faith, no room for the gospel.

Now, of course we have to bear responsibility for our actions, and yes, some of our “suffering” is the result of our sin. However, belief that every bad thing that happens to us is a product of our personal sin is just not in the bible. Still, you will find people who teach that it all comes back to us. A friend of mine lost a child to sudden infant death, and at that time he and his wife were involved in a church (or a cult) which believed one’s suffering was always the result of their sin. So, his child died, and it was believed he and/or his wife had some un-confessed sin in their life. When my friend shared this with me, I was incredulous. I asked him how he dealt with this accusation. He said they first left the church. Good! Second, he said he figure out something. If the people (particularly the leaders) in that church could blame the death  of his child on the sin of the parents, then that meant other parents could avoid a similar tragedy by “obeying” God. Of course, if it wasn’t their sin that caused the child’s death (which it wasn’t) then those parents had to face the reality that something like this could happen to them.

You see, I think it gets back to us having the control and not God. With that theology comes the mistaken belief that somehow we have the ability to ward off all suffering. Now, do I wish I had the power to do that? Absolutely! (Galen’s note: when I’m asked what super power I would have if I could, I inevitably reply with the power to take away suffering.) But that is not the way of the Lord. Would I like to have answers to every question I pose to God? Yes, but in the end, if all suffering is a result of my choices, the maybe it isn’t about my faith but more about finding a way to gain control. Perhaps, if we get control, we can eliminate any walk of faith. Mason goes on to say: Job knows he can neither reason his way out of it (though he may realize how irrational his negative thoughts are), nor pray his way out (thought he continues to pray automatically), nor run away (though he may be sorely tempted to try), nor do anything whatsoever to ameliorate his circumstances. He knows he is powerless to help himself, and so it is up to God to help him. To adopt such a stance under conditions of trauma is the highest kind of faith.

PRAYER: Father, we don’t want trauma, suffering or pain. But when it comes our way, may we seek You and Your help! In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2016, Galen C. Dalrymple. All rights reserved.