DayBreaks for 12/04/19 – If Jesus Were Not There

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DayBreaks for 12/04/19: If Jesus Were Not There

“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And He said to him, ” ‘YOU SHALL LOVE THE Lord YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.’ “This is the great and foremost commandment.” – Matthew 22:36-38 (NASB)

If you have been a Christian for even a short time, chances are you know this verse well.  It is, I suppose, the single greatest thing that we are to try to do with our life: learn to love God desperately.

Can you remember when you were first falling in love with someone?  I do.  I can never forget the sickness in my stomach and heart at parting from my beloved wife-to-be.  I literally ached inside my chest when I saw her turn her back to go into her home at night, or when she left me to get in her car to drive back to her college.  It was hard to breathe, hard to want to do anything except see her again.  We’d write letters nearly every day, we’d call and talk on the phone nearly every day.  (I never asked my folks about how much the phone bill was, even though our calls were long distance – and to their great credit, they never mentioned it to me, either!)  Love hurts.  But what a wonderful hurting it is!

Jesus statement takes on a new dimension when I think about it compared to the love of my life and how we were when we were falling in love.  In Christian circles we are expected to say, “I love Jesus!” – and we should love him, no doubt.  But while it is one thing to say it, it is another thing entirely to really love Him.  The author, John Piper, in God is the Gospel, confronts us and challenges us to think about whether or not we are truly in love with God.  If you are squeamish, you may not want to read what he had to say: “The critical question for our generation – and for every generation- is this: If you could have heaven, with no sickness, and with all the friends you ever had on earth, and all the food you ever liked, and all the leisure activities you ever enjoyed, and all the natural beauties you ever saw, all the physical pleasures you ever tasted, and no human conflict or any natural disasters, could you be satisfied with heaven, if Christ was not there?

Worth pondering, don’t you think?  I’m not sure how I would answer that question at times.  All of the things that Piper said are things we all love and long for.  It’s harder to love someone you’ve never seen.  It’s hard to love someone who lived 2000 years ago.  Admire them?  Yes.  Want to emulate them?  Certainly.  But love them? 

I want to be able to say that heaven will be nothing, that all those things we could have as Piper described them, would not be nearly enough if Christ was not there.  The point is: Christ is what makes heaven worthwhile.  It won’t be all those other things.  Sure, they’ll be great, but they won’t even qualify as icing on the cake. 

May we learn to love Jesus more than all other things that we might love combined.

PRAYER: Jesus, we aren’t omniscient like you.  You see us – but we’ve never set eyes upon you.  It is hard to love someone from afar.  Help us to draw close to you, to love you more than anything and everything else for you will be our greatest joy in heaven.  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 11/22/19 – The Renewal of All Things

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DayBreaks for 11/22/19: The Renewal of All Things

From the DayBreaks archive, November 2009:

As a general rule, I don’t like it when I have to renew my driver’s license, or my prescriptions, or my eyeglasses, or memberships to various organizations or subscriptions to magazines.  I don’t like renewing things.  I suppose there are several reasons for that: it implies that what I’ve got is older and not as up-to-date, and in fact, may be approaching the end of its useful life, which hints at the passing nature of all that exists in this world.  It is also expensive to have to renew car licenses – among other things!  Renewing stuff – bah humbug!  That, however, is not true of all things.  There are things that I don’t mind renewing at all: renewing my promises of love to my family and friends. 

My truck has a bad power window on the driver side.  I probably need a new window motor – but I’m thinking instead of getting a renewed one instead because it will probably be cheaper to get a refurbished one instead of a new one.  I’m cheap.  I’ll almost always take the cheapest route if I think it is worth the risk.  But there is always that risk – that nagging suspicion that something that has been merely “renewed” is not as good as a brand new one.  Usually that suspicion proves to be true.  It is more costly to buy new things than to renew old ones. 

We are “new creatures” – not just renewed ones – in Christ.  And that was expensive.  God wasn’t content to simply renew us – that wouldn’t be good enough.  We needed to be made new through-and-through, not just renewed and spiffed up on the outside.  We needed new hearts, new spirits, new life deep inside where the real “us” lives.  Our old hearts, hearts of flesh and stone, could never be renewed enough – they needed transplanting entirely – we needed new ones.  And God chooses to create that heart in us bit by bit.  We probably couldn’t stand it if it happened all at once!  We might not survive that experience!

We are, also, being ‘renewed’ day by day: Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. – 2 Corinthians 4:16, NIV)   We are renewed in the sense that with the dawning of each new day we are reminded that God will provide the strength for that one day, the courage for facing whatever life brings our way, renewed in a sense of purpose and meaning.  This is good renewal.

Here’s another one, from Matthew 19:28, where Jesus was describing his return to earth when he said, I tell you the truth, at the renewal of all things, the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne.  The word for “renewal of all things” in Greek is palingenesis, used to describe the great conflagration after which history, having been purified, starts over.  This was a radically new concept when Jesus applied it to himself.  He was making the claim that his return would be accompanied by such power that even the material world and universe would be purged entirely of decay and brokenness.  It would be a time, as Timothy Keller put it in The Reason for God, that “All will be healed and all might-have-beens will be.”

At the end of the Lord of the Rings, Sam Gamgee, the faithful hobbit friend of Frodo and Gandalf, discovers that his friend Gandalf was not dead (as Sam thought he was) but very much alive.  Sam cries out, “I thought you were dead!  But then I thought I was dead myself!  Is everything sad going to come untrue?”  Keller said: “The answer of Christianity to that question is – yes.  Everything sad is going to come untrue and it will somehow be greater for having once been broken and lost.”

Let us await with patience the renewal of all things – when all will be as glorious as the moment God first spoke things into existence – including us!

PRAYER: We groan as we await the fullness of completely new hearts and the renewal of Your creation, Lord.  Teach us patience, fill us with trust, overflow our hearts with hope for the glorious future that awaits us as part of Your renewed creation!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

DayBreaks for 11/21/19 – The Test of Love

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DayBreaks for 11/21/19: The Test of Love

From the DayBreaks archive, November 2009:

It is so very easy for me to love my wife, my family, my dog! It is not something that I have to work at hard at all.  That’s not to say that my love for them is perfect in any way.  Can I love them more?  Yes, I probably could in theory – but I don’t know how to do that.  I can’t imagine loving them more than I do, and if I did, I might be guilty of loving them too much.  (Jesus suggests that possibility in Mt. 10:37). 

So, how do I know that I love them?  I feel it in my heart.  But I must be careful to not let my feelings trick me and make a fool of me.  Feelings are way too changeable to trust.  There must be a stronger, more stern, proof than my feelings.

Paul Faulkner, a family therapist, described a man who determined in his heart to help out a very troubled teenage girl by adopting her into his existing family.  Why he chose to do it was not clear: she was very destructive, woefully disobedient and as dishonest as the day is long.  One day, while he and the rest of the family were gone at work and school, she cut class, came home and trashed the house looking for money.  When the man got home, she’d already left and the house was in a real mess.

His friends heard about what had happened and they encouraged him to not finalize the adoption.  They all said she would amount to no good, that he didn’t owe her a thing because she wasn’t really his daughter.  His reply to that statement was, “Yes, I know.  But I told her she was.”

Here’s the point: God has chosen to adopt us as His own beloved children.  We rebel, we trash the house, we talk smack about God and His goodness, we complain.  And our actions towards Him often seem to be anything BUT loving.  It would be one thing if God were to love us when we’re good, when we cheerfully obey.  But that’s not much of a test of love, is it?  The measure of His love is tested and revealed for what it is when we trash His house and steal what belongs to Him.  That is the test of real love.

And why doesn’t God just stop the adoption process that He started before the foundation of the world when He chose us in Christ Jesus?  Because He’s told us that we are his sons and daughters.  We may ransack the house, but we cannot dampen His love for us.  We may run roughshod over Him, but He still calls us “son” or “daughter”.  And He will complete our adoption because He told us He would.  Praise God that HIS love passes the test that ours never could!

…just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.  Eph. 1:4-6 (NASB)

PRAYER: For our adoption and the Spirit which is the guarantee of our eventual inheritance, we shout “Hallelujah!” to Your name!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

DayBreaks for 11/19/19 – The National Rush to Therapy

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DayBreaks for 11/19/19: The National Rush to Therapy

From the DayBreaks archive, November 2009:

Ft. Hood, Texas.  Sadly, that name is now in the archives along with Columbine, Lockerbie, Auschwitz (though this was a much larger scale) and others.  It is a name that will “live in infamy” to borrow a phrase from Franklin D. Roosevelt.  On a beautiful fall day, blood was spilled mixing its color with the leaves.  Thirteen died (as of this writing) and many more were wounded.  It was a tragedy that should not have happened – just as Cain should not have slain Abel, David should not have had Uriah killed, and Saul should not have killed Stephen.  Yet human tragedy seems to be the legacy of the human race.

On November 9, 2009, David Brooks, writing in the New York Times in an article titled “A Rush to Therapy”, analyzed the events and news coverage in the aftermath of Ft. Hood.  I have no interest in sitting in judgment on Maj. Hasan – I am more than willing to leave the judging to God as He alone is qualified to sit in judgment.  I don’t have that right, but He does.  What was interesting about this article was Brooks’ focus on how people have tried to explain away the man’s behavior.  He was stressed out from hearing about others stresses (secondary stress syndrome – we even have a name for it).  As a pastor, I can understand that – I’ve been there before and most assuredly will be again.  Others suggested that he acted out of a fear of going to Afghanistan into a war zone (then why did he create one of his own?)  Others said it was “pre-traumatic stress syndrome” – anticipation of the events of the foreseeable future that cause him to snap like a dry twig (yet couldn’t we blame everything on such a “syndrome” if we want to?) 

I want to be fair and honest about this, so I now tread carefully.  I don’t know what was the “straw that broke the camel’s back,” but it seems to me that all the efforts to explain it away, to reassure us as to why it happened, have missed a very crucial point: the existence of evil.  Major Hasan was not different from anyone you meet on the street.  Everyone has struggles and they’re happy to tell you about them if you’ll stop long enough to listen.  Everyone has things they dread in the future (aging, loss of income, health issues, fear of death or abandonment, fear of conflict.)  But not everyone responds as Major Hasan did.  He chose to act evilly.  Why did he kill and wound so many?  Because of evil in the heart.  So it has always been – and so it will always be until we let God create new hearts within us. 

On the same day as Brooks’ article came out, it was announced that the Beltway Sniper (John Allen Mohammad) would not receive clemency and would be executed that same evening at 9:00 p.m..  Something inside of me “cheered” at that news.  After all, I wanted to see “justice” done to this man who held much of the eastern seaboard hostage to a murderous terror spree some years back.  What beat in his heart?  Evil.  I recall people trying to excuse his behavior, too.  I have no doubt that he suffered disappointments, possibly abuse.  Yet that didn’t make him a murderer.  It was his choice about how to respond to those things that made him a murderer.  He could have chosen to go another way – to become a counselor or social worker who helps people who have experienced the things he did, but that wasn’t what he chose.  He chose to act evilly.

But then God puts a check in my heart.  “How have you responded to evil, Galen?”  Well, Lord, there have certainly been times when I talked about someone who hurt me behind their back.  I’ve thought thoughts about them that should never be thought – let alone spoken.  I may have intentionally wronged someone or acted in an evil manner.  But those, too, were choices.  And where do they come from?  From the same heart that drove Hasan or the Beltway Sniper to do what they did.  Perhaps my actions weren’t as evil in the eyes of society, but they are still evil. 

Enough of the evil.  Enough of denying its existence in the hearts of others – and in our own hearts.  Let us all pray that God creates that new heart within us that David pled for when he recognized his own need: Create in me a clean heart, O God, and take not Thy Holy Spirit from me.  Restore unto me the joy of Thy salvation and renew a right spirit within me.  (Ps. 51:10) 

PRAYER: Create in us clean hearts, Father and a spirit that is fashioned after Your Own.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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