DayBreaks for 2/02/18 – The Hands of a Father, #1

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DayBreaks for 2/02/18: The Hands of a Father, #1

From the DayBreaks archives, 1/28/98: (this DayBreaks was written one week after my father died in 1998)

I remember as a child laying in the church pew (I was really young, OK?) and my dad would be resting his arm on the back of the pew with his fingers dangling down towards me.  I’d play with his fingers and hands while the preacher did his thing.  I remember thinking how powerful and strong my dad’s hands were.  He was a farmer then, so you know that they were broad, calloused and hardened from difficult work.

Last week as I sat by my father’s deathbed and I held his hand in mine, the situation had changed.  Once upon a time, it was my dad’s hand that enveloped mine.  Times when I was afraid, times when he was afraid for me (that I’d run into the road or something like that), times when he was trying to keep me from falling.  And certainly times just when he wanted to hold my hand or I wanted to hold his.

They say that at some point in our lives that the child becomes the parent and the parent becomes the child.  I guess that is what happened to my dad and I last week.  No longer could he hold my hand, now it was my hand that surrounded his and it was I who was trying to provide the comfort and assurance that I could. Yet for as much as my heart yearned to keep him from slipping off into eternity, I was powerless to stop it. And for his sake, I’m grateful that even as my hand had to let go of his, I know our Father had taken his hand to lead him home.

As I sat by his bedside holding his motionless hand, I thought about how many times the Father has held my hand and I’ve taken it for granted.  Psalm 37.23-24: If the LORD delights in a man’s way, he makes his steps firm; though he stumble, he will not fall, for the LORD upholds him with his hand.   Daniel 5.23b: But you did not honor the God who holds in his hand your life and all your ways.

I couldn’t begin to tell you how many times my dad held my tiny, weak hand in his.  I wonder how many times God has held my hand and I’ve been so insensitive that I didn’t even recognize it.  But there are even worse things than not recognizing His hand.  I have a choice to withdraw my hand from His (indeed, isn’t that exactly what we do every time we sin?).  I also have a choice to not take the hand that is offered to me (the way of escape from temptation is to take His hand and walk with Him through the test).

If I had the chance for my dad to hold my hand again, I’d grab it in a heartbeat.  I hope and pray that I’ll be as eager to let God hold my hand on this journey through life.  And I pray that I’ll never again be so insensitive to the Father’s hand upon my life.  My prayer for you is the same.

PRAYER: Lord, how desperately we need Your hand to hold ours!  We tremble in fear at the roaring of the world when we think we are alone.  May Your Almighty hand reassure us that we are never alone and we are never to fear with our Father at our side.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

COPYRIGHT 2018 by Galen C. Dalrymple. All rights reserved.

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DayBreaks for 2/01/18 – A Lamp, Not a Searchlight

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DayBreaks for 2/01/18: A Lamp, Not a Searchlight

From the DayBreaks archives, January 2008:

Psalm 119.105: Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.

Have you ever gone backpacking?  I have rather poor eyesight without my contact lenses, and at night when we are backpacking and I take my lenses out, I want to be sure that I don’t have to do any walking around or I can’t see a thing!  It can be awkward to be tripping and stumbling over unseen roots and rocks (not to mention it doesn’t impress my friends with my sheer athletic gracefulness)!!!

This verse from Psalm 119 is trying to tell us that we don’t have to walk in the darkness.  But it is important to remember what a lamp was in the days the passage was written.  Typically, the lamp being described was a small earthenware bowl with an elongated snout on one end into which a wick was laid.  One end ran into the bowl and the other lay on the outer edge of the “snout” and was lit.  It could usually fit easily into the hand.  Travelers carried these lamps at night so that they could see the terrain where they were walking.

It’s worth noting that the Word is described as being a “lamp”, not a high-powered searchlight.  The lamp of olden days gave light to the feet, but couldn’t give light for a great distance.  That’s the way it is with God – He gives us just enough to see the next couple of steps but not the complete pathway.  Why?  I think it is because if we had a high powered searchlight, we wouldn’t need faith, for then we would be walking by sight and not by faith.  God wants us to learn to trust Him with a future that is unknown (to us). 

Are you trying to direct your own steps?  Sometimes we can try to hard to plan the future and we rob ourselves of the excitement and joy of being led step by step.  Our planning tends to remove God and dependence on Him from our minds.  We must approach all of life with the attitude noted in James 4.13-15: “So you should say, ‘If the Lord wants, we will live and do this or that.'”  How often in the course of planning your day, let alone your week, month, year or life, do you stop to take God’s sovereignty into account?

Living day by day, depending on Him alone, is a tremendous adventure.  Don’t try to find the searchlight – be content with the lamp and trust that He truly knows the path.

PRAYER: Give us the wisdom to seek Your light and the courage to walk in Your pathway!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

COPYRIGHT 2018 by Galen C. Dalrymple. All rights reserved.

DayBreaks for 1/26/18 – Freedom from Certainty

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DayBreaks for 1/26/18: Freedom from Certainty

From the DayBreaks archives, January 2008:

I probably need to be very clear today.  What I’m about to say may stir up a ruckus.  Here it is: there are many times in my life that I don’t know what to do, and when God hasn’t given direction.  Whoa!  How’s that for a shocker!?  A pastor saying that he doesn’t know God’s will?  I suppose such a statement could get me booted from some churches, but it’s true.  Let me explain.

There are, at times, seemingly huge gaps between theology and real life – at least for me.  Maybe you’re one of those people who never has any doubts, who every time you ask God for direction, you hear a very clear and direct set of instructions on what to do, when to do it, how to go about it and what the result will be.  Well, that’s not me.  I don’t think it was Moses, either, for that matter.  When God first started talking to him, He simply said go down and Pharaoh will let you go.  It sounded that simple.  As Moses found out after his first few ventures into the throne room of Pharaoh, it wasn’t going to be that easy.  Had Moses done what God said?  Yep.  To the letter.  But it didn’t work.  God knew all along that it wouldn’t.  And so Moses comes back to God and complains about it.  I would too, I think.

There are areas of life where the Bible is less than clear.  That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t seek answers in it.  It may be there and we’ve just missed it.  It may be we think we know what it says already so we won’t take the time or effort to be in prayer and seek it out. 

I recently preached on 2 Peter 1 where Peter says we’ve “already been given all things” that we need for life and godliness.  I take that, by faith, at face value.  If Peter, inspired by the Spirit, says that’s true, who am I to disagree?  But does it always pan out that way in my life?  No – probably partly because I don’t want to work as hard as Peter says I need to in order to experience it (“make EVERY EFFORT”, Peter says).  And, I also find, that even when I do know what Scripture says (such as “Love your neighbor”) that such general principles are good as long as you are living in a general world without specifics.  Andree Seu wrote (WORLD, 1/5/08): “But I consistently live in an insistently specific world where the issues are: ‘Should I take this job?’, ‘Should I marry this man?’, ‘Should I let Calvin learn on the stick shift?’, “Milk without the bovine growth hormones and antibiotics at $4.19/half gallon, or with the undesirables at $1.95/half gallon?” 

I think she makes a good point, and that’s what I mean when I say I sometimes don’t know God’s specific will in a specific situation.  I think I have a general grasp on the general principles which help guide decisions at such times, but I don’t have a specific answer.  And we don’t like to operate on generalities in situations that demand specifics.  We’re uncomfortable, at best, even distraught at times, wringing our hands in indecision.

Why do we do so?  Don’t we have God’s promise that if we seek Him, and that if we love Him and the promise of His appearing, He’ll make all things work out for good for us?  Yes, we have that promise, but we tend to not believe it very much, methinks.  There are disputable matters (see Romans 14:1).  That verse was written under inspiration.  God could have made it so that there were no disputable things at all – or he could answer our uncertainties instantaneously – but he oftentimes doesn’t.  That’s OK.  We can make decisions with less than 100 percent certainty because He knows our limitations and He knows how to fix things we might unintentionally break.  Mankind hasn’t yet broken anything that God can’t, and won’t, ultimately fix. 

How many things in life are you certain of?  I’m certain of some things: Jesus loves me, He is the Son of God, He died for me, He rose from the dead, He will come back again for me, He sees me and knows me and will keep me from ruin if I just have a bit of faith.  Andree Seu concluded her article this way: “…I can move forward with a spiritual commodity that is more true to the real world than ‘certainty’ – ‘confidence.’  Confidence that God loves me.  Confidence that His Spirit lives in me.  Confidence that if I make a mistake His arms will be there to catch this frail saint and put her back on righteous paths, for His name’s sake.”

PRAYER:  Help us to walk in confidence that You are as good as Your promises, that You are as powerful as You claim to be, and that You are more than able to fix things we do wrong in our ignorance.  Do not let us sin presumptuously, Lord, but forgive us even when we do!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

COPYRIGHT 2018 by Galen C. Dalrymple. All rights reserved.

DayBreaks for 1/16/18 – The Prescription for an Untroubled Heart

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DayBreaks for 1/16/18: The Prescription for an Untroubled Heart

John 14:1(ESV) – Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.

Troubled hearts are everywhere. My guess is you have something that is troubling your heart. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t. Scripture tells us to not be anxious – but just like this verse from Jesus, that’s far easier to say than to do. So how do we go about getting an untroubled heart?

Believe in God; believe also in me. Seven simple words, the longest consisting of just seven letters and two syllables. So how does it work?

First, think about what is troubling your heart. Is it fear of illness? Loss of job or home? A child who is in rebellion? A marriage that is falling apart? Ability to pay the bills? My guess is that you can come up with several things. It really doesn’t matter what it is, the cause of troubled hearts is found in this passage, this one little verse. Our hearts are troubled when we believe that God doesn’t know, care, or is powerless and indifferent to do anything. It is much harder to believe in someone or something you can’t see (like God), so Jesus makes it much more personal (“believe also in me”). The disciples had seen, touched and smelled Jesus and had seen his care and concern.

The hard part, of course, is always that we do not know what God will specifically do in any given situation. Will he heal? Will be lose our job? Will we go broke? Will someone die? Will the company be sold or go under? I don’t know the answers to those questions in my own life, let alone yours. But if our faith is based on some specific action that God will do, rather than His character and His promise to make all things work for our good, we aren’t really trusting or believing in God.

We need to also believe in His power. If I were to say to you, “Believe in Galen, believe in me for a trouble-free heart!” would you take that advice to heart? I would hope not! I have neither the power to fix what’s troubling you nor the wisdom to make sure that whatever is going on in your life will work out for your good and not harm. God, and Jesus, however, have both the power to fix it but also the wisdom to know whether or not it would be good for you if they fixed it in the way you want them to fix it.

It’s still easier said than done. But the key is to believe in God and in Jesus. Believe in their power, but even more in their wisdom to do what is right. No matter what happens in life, that is the key to a trouble-free heart.

PRAYER: Lord, we all need to heed your advice to us because our hearts are all troubled! Help us, we pray, to believe in You! In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

COPYRIGHT 2018 by Galen C. Dalrymple. All rights reserved.

DayBreaks for 1/10/18 – God Help the Fish

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Image courtesy from iStock photo.

DayBreaks for 1/10/18: God Help the Fish

When you think of it, we all like fairy tale stories in one form or another. We like stories of frogs becoming princes, of ugly ducklings that become beautiful swans and the down-and-out who rise above adversity yet remain kind, compassionate and humble.

Sam Houston was the first president of the Republic of Texas. It’s said he was a rather nasty fellow with a checkered past.  Later in life Houston made a commitment to Christ and was baptized in a river. The preacher said to him, “Sam, your sins are washed away.”  Houston replied, “God help the fish.”

We see similar stories throughout the Bible as ordinary people, often very poor and outcast, who come to a special relationship with God or Jesus. The woman at the well, the woman taken in adultery, Saul of Tarsus, Zacchaeus and others are all examples. We are uplifted by their stories.

Yet, each and every believer in Jesus is like the pauper who becomes a prince or princess. We have to go through a process much like Sam Houston did – of being convicted of our estate (it must become clear to see!) – before God dresses us in the finest of robes, puts shoes on us, gives us his ring and reinstates us to a place in His own house.

How do you see yourself? You may not feel like the prince or princess just yet, but once your sins have been washed away, you are no longer what you previously were. You are a child of the King and you are growing to look more and more like him with each passing day, week, month and year. The day will come when you will stand beside him in glory, look in the mirror and see both his and your reflection, and will be amazed at how alike you are!

Hang tough! Persevere! Trust Him! He will finish the work he has started!

PRAYER: God, I know my own sin is enough to kill all the fish in the sea, yet you promise me you have washed me clean and that I am your child. Help us all to being to grasp that simple, yet profound, truth. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

COPYRIGHT 2017 by Galen C. Dalrymple. All rights reserved.

DayBreaks for 1/08/18 – A Fisherman Extraordinaire

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DayBreaks for 1/08/18: A Fisherman Extraordinaire

From the DayBreaks archive, 2008:

I’ve recently finished preaching a series of messages from 2 Peter 1:1-11 and I’ve really come to appreciate the apostle Peter more than I ever had before.  I have always liked John, and Paul was, without a doubt, an incredible advocate for the Christ.  Peter – well, I suppose that I remembered too many of the stories from my childhood that seemed to emphasize his flaws.  Peter didn’t write a gospel, but he almost did: most believe that the gospel of Mark was a collection of stories that Peter told about living with Jesus for 3 years.  If so (and it is quite likely true that Peter told those things to Mark who wrote them down), it is interesting how Peter presents himself, especially at the beginning:

  • A man who brashly asks to walk on the water, but who was last seen sinking and on the verge of drowning before the Lord lifted him up;
  • We’ve seen Peter pretending to be a ninja when he attacks the high priest’s servant with a sword during the arrest of Jesus – and we learn that his skills as a swordsman aren’t very good because he wasn’t swinging at the ear, but the man’s head;
  • We find him falling asleep in the prayer meeting Jesus organized in the garden of Gethsemane on the night he was betrayed;
  • We see him sputtering lies and nonsense, denying his dearest friend – at precisely the moment when Jesus most needed him as a friend.

Why did Peter tell those true stories?  Because they make Peter easier to trust, to believe in.  And they give us hope, too.  That’s the irony of a humble man: the more he admits his failings, the more likely we are to throw in our lot with him – to like him.  There is, after all, no fool as dangerous as a man who doesn’t know he’s a fool.  But a fool who confesses it and learns from it – ah, there is a man or woman we can trust, for they are learning life’s lessons and gaining in wisdom.

But what Peter doesn’t tell at all is that he became the undisputed leader of the 12.  In spite of all the above, Jesus never gave up hope in Peter.  He saw things in Peter that Peter never could have imagined.  Peter had likely only ever dreamed of taking over his father’s fishing business and being able to put bread and butter on the table for his family.  And then one day, a stranger came along the sea shore and spoke words that stirred Peter’s heart, and Peter accepted the man’s invitation to learn to catch men instead of fish. 

There are many days when I look at my list of failures (and it’s certainly a longer list than Peter’s!) and think that I’ll be lucky if I can get the job as the groundskeeper outside of the pearly gates – forget about even getting inside.  There are times I’ve felt that surely God must be saving the deepest cell in hell for me and Satan.  When I begin to feel that way, I need to stop listening to Satan as he tries to fill my head and heart with discouragement and start listening to Jesus, who whispers to me that he loves me, that all my sins have already been paid for and taken away and thrown into the depths of the sea.  I need to remember that he calls me precious, beloved, his child.  In short, Jesus whispers to me, “Remember Peter?  See how he turned out?  You’ll be no different, because it wasn’t Peter that made himself change – it was me who changed him, and I’m going to do the same thing with you.”

I know that I’ll not be the second-coming of Peter.  But I don’t have to be.  I just have to be who God made me to be, and who He is changing me to become. 

Peter never would have dreamed that he’d preach the first gospel sermon on Pentecost and that 3000 would believe through the words that God gave him to speak.  After he’d denied Christ in the wee hours of Good Friday, he never dreamed he’d have the courage to go to the cross himself and give his life for Jesus (as Jesus had gone to the cross and given his life for Peter.)  By God’s grace, Peter became all that God meant for him to be.

By God’s grace, we, too, shall become what He wants us to be.

PRAYER:  Lord, thank you for your whispers of reassurance that you love us just as we are and that you’re constantly at work to see us become the finished work of art that you intended us to be before we were born.  Thank you for the love that refuses to let us go, no matter how great our failures!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2018 by Galen C. Dalrymple.

DayBreaks for 11/27/17 – An Unpredictable Future?

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DayBreaks for 11/27/17: An Unpredictable Future?

From the DayBreaks archive, November 2007:

How would you describe the future?  You might describe certain things that you want or hope to have happen in the future, but my guess is that at some point you’d couch your description in terms like, “If I could, I would…”.  I am always amazed at how many of the supermarket tabloids have covers that relate to some prediction of the future by people like Nostradamus, or some modern-day “psychic”.  There is something in us that would like (we think) to be able to predict or know what the future holds.  I think that we’re actually far better off not knowing myself.

When I speak of an unpredictable future, I am not talking about one that is unstable…just one that can’t be very well predicted by human experience.  As humans, we just don’t have the requisite knowledge or skill to be able to predict with any degree of certainty what will take place.  And that’s especially true because to some extent, our “possible” futures are based on our past and present experiences.  But what happens when something totally out of the realm of human experience intervenes?

In his book, Theology of Hope, Jurgen Moltmann mused on the topic of the future and what God’s promises mean related to the future: “A promise is a declaration which announces the coming of a reality that does not yet exist.  Thus promise sets man’s heart on a future history in which the fulfilling of the promise is to be expected.  If it is a case of a divine promise, then that indicates that the expected future does not have to develop within the framework of the possibilities inherent in the present, but arises from that which is possible to the God of the promise.  This can also be something which by the standard of present experience appears impossible.”

The future towards which we move cannot be predicted by any human, no matter how wise he or she may be.  It takes One who is not only all-wise, but all-powerful, to control the events so that the future finds it’s fulfillment for which it was planned.  Certainly, in Genesis when God makes his initial promises to humanity, he was declaring a reality that, at least in time, did not yet exist.  The future is not dependent on the experiences of your life, or of all our lives put together.  It is dependent only on the God who made and formed the promise and who shapes the future to His liking. 

What does the future hold?  I can’t predict it…but that doesn’t mean it isn’t predictable.  With God, all things are possible.  We think of Him interacting with the world as we know and experience it, but that is at least limited, if not false, theology. 

You don’t need to consult actuarial tables to know what the future holds.  They can’t tell you.  God can.  And He does tell us another thing about the future: we don’t have to worry about it because it’s in His perfectly capable hands!

PRAYER:  Thank you, Lord God Almighty, that you hold not only the future of the universe and the world but of each and every one of us who have put our trust in Christ, in your hands.  May we sleep well tonight knowing You are in control!   In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2017 by Galen C. Dalrymple.