DayBreaks for 7/06/17 – Caleb and Courageous Conviction, #4

DayBreaks for 7/06/17: Caleb and Courageous Conviction, #4

Our visit with Caleb comes to an end today, but there are a few more reflections I’d like to share.

Where does Caleb want as his inheritance? The hill country. That shouldn’t surprise most of us as we all love the hills and beauty of the mountains. But I don’t really think that’s why Caleb longed for this territory. Yes, he’d seen it before and gave a glowing report of the area 45 years or so earlier. He’d not forgotten what he’d seen there – and he longed to see it again. It had captured his heart and mind for four-and-one-half decades. But I think there are possibly deeper reasons for Caleb’s desire for this place.

But first, think about it for a minute. Caleb was 85 – get that and let it settle in – eighty-five years old! In order to take that hill country, what must you do?

FIRST: you must overcome the fear of the giants, the descendants of Anak, who lived there. Those very people had terrified the 10 spies 45 years ago and no one had yet routed them from their land. Yet Caleb wasn’t afraid. Why? The rest of the world looked at the giants there and said, “No way! We’d be slaughtered!” The Israelites looked at one another and said, “We’re like grasshoppers in their eyes!” Caleb looked at them and said, “They’re nothing compared to God!” It all depends on our focus, doesn’t it?

SECONDLY: to take hill country, you must attack uphill – and that, my friends, is the recipe for a military disaster. Yet Caleb’s 85-year-old heart and legs were crying out for just one more challenge – one more charge against the greatest of odds. He didn’t want to settle down in the lowlands and live a life of ease! He wasn’t afraid of the giants at the top nor discouraged by the steep slopes. As far as he was concerned, the victory was already won because God has promised it! He wanted one more adventure with God before he was finished. How hungry are you for adventures with Him?

So why did Caleb want this land? This is conjecture, but again, I think there were several reasons:

I think when he first saw it, he fell in love with the place. Who wouldn’t, after 400 years of slavery in Egypt and the hot burning sands of the Egyptian desert! Here was lush green, fertile land and beauty.

But I think there were far more significant reasons he may have wanted the hill country. I think he wanted the younger generations to learn something from the impending victory over the hill people giants. He wanted them to see and understand that nothing is ever impossible for those who have God’s promises in hand. They’d heard stories of the giants that terrified their parents and grandparents leading to the wilderness wandering. And here was an 85-year-old man with enough courage to take them on..uphill. This generation needed to learn from the older generation. And the younger generations today need to learn from us who are older. But that puts the onus on us, doesn’t it? What kind of example are we setting for them? Are we just getting old and long in the tooth and therefore we have quit attacking hills and giants when the Lord has said we should charge up the hill? Are we content now to settle into a pew and snooze quietly into the sunset? Our giants today are cultural and moral giants, but they can be defeated as surely as Anak’s descendants. No matter how old you are, you can still teach those who are younger about God’s faithfulness and goodness, about how He rewards the courageous who step out on His promises boldly with attack uphill, even in their old age. There is great power in an enduring witness of a life lived well to the end!

There’s an interesting historical note here. Many years after Caleb died, the hill country was still in the possession of his descendants. And finally, a young shepherd king rose to the throne of Israel and put his first capital in Hebron for a number of years. This was the land Caleb had conquered! Why did David choose Hebron? It was partly because of Caleb’s actions around 400 years earlier – it was conquered and secured territory. Jerusalem was not. Why? Because the hearts of the Israelites had grown faint again after coming into the Promised Land and they’d failed to remove the inhabitants of the Jerusalem area. It fell to David to take possession of what would become the new capital, Jerusalem.

One final thought before we say goodbye to Caleb for now. I was reading about endurance runners in Sports Illustrated and one of them made this comment (paraphrased): Endurance isn’t so much a matter of the legs – it is a matter of the heart and the mind.

Let us not think about the age of our limbs or the decades of our service to Christ, but rather about how we can finish well, like Caleb; of our how hearts can rise to a new challenge even now and how we can bless the younger generations as we do.

I don’t know about you, but I sure am looking forward to meeting Caleb who surely must be one of the most neglected heroes in the Bible!

PRAYER: Oh, God, how amazingly wonderful you are! Thank you for such a shining example that Caleb has set before us! Give us hearts and minds to rise to the challenge for as long as we live! In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2017 by Galen C. Dalrymple.  ><}}}”>

DayBreaks for 4/27/17 – The Real Danger

DayBreaks for 4/27/17 – The Real Danger

Note: Galen is traveling this week.

From the DayBreaks archive, April 2007:

As a child, I was fascinated by the story of Shadrach, Meshech and Abednego.  My mind would swim with images and imaginings of what it looked like, of the sounds of the roaring furnace, of the great king Nebuchadnezzar in all his finery as the music blared and the masses bowed down.  That is, they bowed down with the exception of three people: the Hebrew boys otherwise known as Azariah, Mishael and Hananiah. 

I always thought that this was a story about idolatry.  I’d always thought that the temptation they faced was to worship the golden idol of the Babylonian king.  After all, that’s how I remember the story from the flannel graphs that my Sunday school teacher used to help us “see” the stories.  It is only recently that I believe God opened my eyes to a more significant truth.  The story is about idolatry, all right, but the idol that the young men were being tempted to worship wasn’t really the 90-foot tall golden sculpture. 

No, the real test was one about worship.  What would be worshipped?  They’d been taught as Jewish children that “the Lord our God is One” and that “No one is like the Lord our God.”  They knew full well that He was the only One who was worthy of worship.  The idol that these boys were confronted with – and which they were tempted to bow down and worship – was themselves, their earthly lives.  If they worshipped the idol, they’d save their lives – if they didn’t, they might lose their lives.

Would these three young men be wise enough to recognize which was the greater danger: to die in a fiery furnace, or to worship and esteem something else (even if it is your physical life) higher than the worship of God is idolatry?

We are our own greatest idol.  We need to cast aside the idol of self that leads us to hoard money, love, compassion, wisdom, possessions, pleasures.  Even if it comes to laying down our lives in order to worship God, doesn’t God have a right to ask that of us?  Of course He does. 

Do you recognize your own self-worship and idolatry?  Every time we choose our way, our dreams, our own joys rather than His, we are bowing down to the idol of self-worship.

PRAYER:  Father, help us to recognize our idolatry and our self worship.  Give us the wisdom to be able to discern the greatest danger – the danger of not giving you the worship and glory that you alone deserve.  Tear down our idols of self-interest that we may be true worshippers!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2017 by Galen Dalrymple.

DayBreaks for 3/24/17 – Once Again, Lord

DayBreaks for 3/24/17: Once Again, Lord

NOTE: Galen is traveling this week. This week’s DayBreaks will be from the May 2007 archives.

How many times in my life have I had a conversation like this with God: “Oh, God.  I’m so sorry.  I’ve done it again.  I’ve failed you.  I’ve let you down.  I’ve sinned again even after I promised you that I wouldn’t.  You must hate me.  I don’t understand why you continue to forgive me instead of striking me dead – which you have every right to do.  I’ve let you down so many, many times.”  If I had a penny (let alone a nickel) for every time I’ve had that conversation, I’d own all of North America by now.

It gets old, wearisome.  I know that God doesn’t want to hear that from me any more – I figure he must be at least as tired of hearing it as I am of saying it.  I am so grateful that He is a merciful and patient God!

Eugene Peterson recently was talking about this line of thinking and he had an interesting perspective on it that helped me.  Apparently, he, too, has had that conversation with God over and over and over.  He found himself saying it again to God not too long ago, when he said that he had an epiphany, and the Spirit set him straight about one thing.  He said it was as if God spoke these words to him: “No, you never let me down.  You never held me up.  I’m the one who holds you up.”

Wow.  Do you see how, even when we are in the midst of our conviction about our dreaded sinfulness and weakness, that we make it all about US in our human pride?  “I (capital, first person singular) let you down, God.”  It isn’t about me.  The story of the glory of salvation isn’t about my stopping letting God down.  That’s not it at all.  The glory of salvation is that He holds us up, covered in the blood of the Lamb, cleansed and forgiven. 

How foolish to think that I can hold God up, and I’d have to hold him up in order to let him down!  No, He is the lifter of my head, he is the lifter of my soul, the restorer of things broken.  May we learn to shift our thinking from what we can and have done, to glory in what God does!

PRAYER: Oh Lord, you are truly great!  We are nothing more than the sheep of your hand, the clay you have formed and fashioned, and that you have redeemed.  Thank you for lifting us up, for holding us up, for your glory!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2017 by Galen Dalrymple.

 

DayBreaks for 3/17/17 – Would I Say Yes?

DayBreaks for 3/17/17: Would I Say Yes?

There are moments that grab us by the throat and really force us to take a HARD look at ourselves in the mirror. More often than not, I don’t like what I see when that happens.

This past Sunday our lead teacher was telling us about a trip he’d taken the prior week to Lima, Peru to meet with a set of pastors from around the world. These pastors meet once a year and have done so for about ten years now. He shared with us some of the ways the discussion had changed over those ten years.

He said that when they first met, the subject of the Muslim population and faith came up and there was a sense of resignation and desperation. Based on the statistics that were available at that time, they were told that in 100 years, based on the birth rate in Muslim countries and the pace with which the Muslim faith was growing that the population of the world would be 99% Muslim in 100 years. The pastors, all Christians, found that to be discouraging because as Christians we believe that the only way to the Father is through Jesus (John 14:6). There was a sense of despair among the Christian pastors.

In between that time and the meeting they held this past week, much in this world has changed. This year, the reports of the pastors from some of the darkest parts of the world we quite different. They spoke of how literally millions of Muslims are coming to Christ – in unprecedented numbers. Why is this happening? There were two factors:

FIRST: because of thousands upon thousands of visions that are being given to Muslims around the world. These aren’t just happening in one country or two – but all over the world, where men and women who didn’t have any knowledge of Jesus had a vision (or visitation) by Jesus that has led them to faith. I’ve read stories about these visions and they are incredible. We must never think that God is not at work.

SECOND: the rise of radical, militant Islam is driving people from the faith in which they grew up. The vast majority of Muslims are repulsed by the actions of ISIS and other such groups. ISIS was trying to terrify people into becoming Muslims, but God is using that horrible group (and others like it) to bring millions to know Jesus.

Prior to the teaching time, there was a baptismal service where several people were baptized. They were asked the normal questions that the church has always asked those who are desiring to become Christ-followers. And every person who was asked gave the expected response that they recognized that they were sinners who could be saved only by the grace of God and that they believed in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. It is always wonderful to witness such things.

But here’s what grabbed my attention at the start of the teaching time. As our lead teacher shared the stories about Muslims coming to faith, he also shared that the stories they heard about the persecution of Christians and the church were heartrending. Millions are coming to Christ, but thousands upon thousands are being martyred for their commitment to Christ. And because it is a fact of life in Muslim countries, when someone wants to become a Christian, the church asks the usual questions, but then the church in those places adds another question that goes something like this: “Are you ready and willing to die for your faith in Jesus Christ as a martyr?” If those wanting to become Christians say no, the church (at least in some places) tells them they are not ready to become followers of Jesus.

That question was not asked of me when I became a believer, and I doubt that it was asked of you, either. And I asked myself: how would I answer that question? Am I ready and willing for martyrdom just to follow Jesus? Are you? And if I had been asked that question, would I have proceeded with the decision to become a Christian? Just because it wasn’t asked doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t all be ready to say yes. After all, we are all asked to take up our cross…and follow in his footsteps, even if they lead to death.

PRAYER: Jesus, I know that I should be willing to die for you because you already died for me. I am grateful that I live in a land where I am not confronted with that as an ever-present reality. I pray for those for whom martyrdom is a very real possibility at any given moment on any given day. I thank you for their faith, for their example to us. And I pray, Father, for their steadfastness even as I beg your forgiveness for my own lack of obedience and fear. Give us God-sized faith that will stand in any test, I pray, 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 10/24/16 – Another Ram in the Thicket

DayBreaks for 10/24/16 – Another Ram in the Thicket

From the DayBreaks archive, October 2006:

The story of Abraham and Isaac has always intrigued and fascinated (and horrified) me.  There are obvious lessons to be learned from the story: the faith of Abraham, the obedience of Abraham, the trust of Isaac (even when it became apparent that he was the “sacrifice”), the importance of trusting God.  I’m not sure if Abraham or Isaac was the most relieved when the angel stopped Abraham’s hand and they saw the ram caught by its horns in the thicket.  And I have searched the haunted halls of my heart asking myself if I could have ever done what Abraham did – and I’m driven to my knees in humility by the answer.

But, perhaps instead of taking the extreme case of sacrificing a child, we need to look at other things that are much more close to home.  As Chuck Swindoll put it in Fascinating Lives of Forgotten People: “What it is that you are gripping so tightly?  A possession?  Your vocation?  A dream?  A consuming relationship?  The Lord may be in the process of taking it from you.  He’ll gently tug on it at first, giving you the opportunity to release your grip.  If you resist, He’ll eventually have to pry your fingers away…My advice?  Voluntarily release it.  Trust the Lord to provide.  He has another ram in the thicket.  You can’t see it right now, but He has it waiting.  Only after you have placed your sacrifice on the altar will you be ready to receive God’s provision.”

We all grip tightly to things in our world and in our lives.  I seriously doubt that God is asking any of us right now to sacrifice a child.  But I don’t doubt for a moment that He’s asking each of us to let go of something that has become a god in our life.  What do I mean?  Anything that we put our confidence and trust in is an idol, a god, if you will.  And we all have confidence in something in this world that pulls us away from trusting Him entirely and completely.  Do you know what those things are in your life?  I think that they’re probably the things that we fear happening the most: losing jobs, a stock market crash, losing our health, losing a friend that may not be a positive influence. 

What are you afraid of the most?  Is it possible that right now God is trying to teach you to surrender that to Him, trusting Him completely for all that you need today, tomorrow and forever?  As Chuck said, “He has another ram in the thicket.”  Do you believe that?

PRAYER:  Thank you, God, for all that You have entrusted to us.  Help us to recognize that You are the source of all good things and that we have been given all we have to benefit others.  May we hold our possessions with very loose hands.  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.