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.

 

DayBreaks for 8/26/16 – The God Who Weeps

DayBreaks for 8/26/16 – The God Who Weeps

Jesus wept. – John 11:35

This is probably the first verse that most of us ever memorized. Why? Because it was short and easy. But short and easy can make it more likely that we’ll miss the incredible power of God’s word to tell us something important in just 9 letters combined into two words.

I have often wondered why Jesus wept. I’ve heard many different interpretations, but the most common are that 1) he was moved by the grief of his friends; 2) he was grieving himself over the loss of Lazarus; 3) he was agonizing over the effects of the fall on humanity – and death was included as part of that fall. I don’t know for sure why he wept, but I rather doubt it was the second one – after all, Jesus knew perfectly well what he was going to do in Bethany that day. But whatever we do, we shouldn’t let our not knowing why Jesus wept distract us from the fact that he did weep.

The shortest verse in the Bible is probably also one of the most poignant and important verses of all time. Some ancients believed that the gods lacked emotions. Their reasoning was that if the gods had emotions then they could be swayed by people and events and that they would no longer be gods. So, they held that the gods must be stoic and untouched emotionally from human affairs. Jesus destroys that notion. Jesus shows us a God who weeps. This is important for at least two reasons: 1) it gives me hope that my prayers can move God, just as God was moved by the requests of Moses and David and many others throughout history; 2) it comforts me to know that Jesus understands heartbreak caused by living in the human condition. It makes me able to go to him and know he “gets it”. And it gives me hope that when I weep, he weeps with me, even as he wept with his friends in that cemetery in Bethany.

You may need someone to weep with you, to share your sorrow and grief. Jesus is that Person you need. He is “the man of sorrows”, “acquainted with grief.” Scripture doesn’t tell us those things just to be telling us facts about Jesus, but to know he sympathizes with us to the point of sitting beside us and crying himself.

PRAYER: Holy Spirit, thank you for inspiring John to record that Jesus wept. May all who weep today find comfort in His Presence beside them! In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

 

DayBreaks for 7/20/16 – Where Was God in Auschwitz?

DayBreaks for 7/20/16 – Where Was God in Auschwitz?

From the DayBreaks archive, July 2006:

I’ve read a lot in the past few years about the Jewish holocaust.  What a horrible and terrible chapter in the life of humanity!  One of the loudest questions of all time is asked about the Holocaust, and was echoed by Harold Schulweis in For Those Who Cannot Believe:  “The Holocaust mocks my faith.  For at the core of that faith is the conviction that God breathed into the nostrils of human beings an inviolable human soul, that God created the human being in His image and in His likeness.  The taunting dissonance between that faith and the facts of the Holocaust disturbs my belief.  The picture of a child hanged in the presence of parents in the concentration camp brings to mind a rabbinic commentary on the hanging of a criminal based on a verse in the book of Deuteronomy 21.23: A criminal sentenced to death and hanged must not remain overnight upon the tree because it is “a reproach to God.” Why a reproach to God?  The rabbinic answer is offered in the form of a parable: Once a noble king had a twin brother who violated the law and was hanged on a tree in the public square.  People passing by the corpse of the king’s twin took him to be the king and shouted, “Behold, the king is dead!”  The king was humiliated.  

The parable is breathtaking.  God and man, at some level, are as it were twins.  To deface the image of man is to blaspheme the Creator of that image.  God is not raised by lowering the human image…Who before the memory of cremated children can declare the twinship of God and man? …But where was the Adonai (the Lord) in Auschwitz?  Where was the power and mystique of Adonai within the hell of the Holocaust?”

“Where was Adonai in the Holocaust?  Adonai was in Niuvelande, a Dutch village in which 700 residents rescued 500 Jews, including 100 Jewish children.  Adonai was in Le Chambon-sur-Lignon, whose citizens hid and protected 5000 Jews under the inspired leadership of Pastor Andre Trocme.  Adonai was in the rat-infested sewers of Lvov, where Polish sewer workers hid 17 Jews for 14 months.”  His list goes on, and he finally says: “Holocaust scholars now estimate that there were between 50,000 and 500,000 Christian rescuers.  Whatever the number, there were too few.  Sadly there are always too few moral heroes in history.”

“How ironic that our children … know the names of Klaus Barbie, Goebbels, Goering, Eichmann, Himmler and Hitler but not the names of those who risked their lives to hide and protect the Frank family….When the rescuers are asked “Why did you risk all this?” they typically respond “What else could I do?  What would you do?”

For today, let’s just ask ourselves the questions that Schulweis’ book asked: “That question places a mirror to my soul.  Would I open the door?  Would I hide this pursued pregnant woman?  Would I take care of her needs?  When rations during the war were so meager would I risk getting extra food without raising suspicion?   Would I take an infant into my home whose cries might reveal our hiding place?  What would I do with their refuse or with their bodies after their death?  Stefa Krakowska, a Polish peasant, hid 14 persons in her home, ranging from age 3 to age 60, in a home in which a simple pail served as the toilet.  When an older Jewish woman fell sick and knew herself to be dying, she turned to Stefa.  “My God, my dead body may bring disaster to you. What will you do with my body?” She feared for the others’ safety.  She died.  At night, secretly and in stages they buried her dismembered body in Stefa’s garden.” 

“Sadly, there are always too few moral heroes in history.”  What a haunting observation.  But there is good news, too. To be a moral hero you don’t have to be a king, wealthy, powerful or attractive.  What you do have to do is be faithful…and that’s something that any man or woman can choose to do.  You, and I, can be moral heroes for the cause of Christ.

I’m often afraid to speak out because God’s point of view isn’t popular.  As a group, Christians today lack the moral courage to speak, live and act on our convictions and on what we know to be truth.  Let’s be the moral heroes that this world so desperately needs and that God wants us to be.  Let it never be said that in our day there were no moral heroes.  Let us be those heroes to our friends, family, co-workers and even our enemies.

PRAYER:  Give us moral courage to follow You through life and death.  Let us, as we stand around the campfire when You are on trial in this world, not deny You, but let us speak Your name boldly, proudly, humbly.  Let us be the heroes You need us to be in our own day and age.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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