DayBreaks for 3/15/17 – What We Grab, Grabs Us

DayBreaks for 3/15/17: What We Grab, Grabs Us

There is a story that is told about a mighty eagle that hovered over a lake and suddenly swooped down and caught a two-foot long fish in its talons. Slowly, the bird rose with its ten pound catch, but when it reached about 1,000 feet, it began to descend, until it splashed into the water. Later, both the bird and fish were found dead. Apparently the fish was too heavy for the eagle, but it could not let go, for its talons were embedded in the flesh of the fish.

There is a very real truth illustrated in this story – one that we are loathe to admit when we are in the throes of temptation. The truth is simply this: what we grab, grabs us.

It doesn’t matter what the cause may be, but when we are in a difficult situation, perhaps when we are overly tired, lonely, depressed, frustrated we often reach out for things that the hope will help us cope with the situation or at the very least take some of the pain away for a while. And so, some grab a bottle only to find themselves later on to be alcoholics. Others grab drugs in order to escape, thinking to themselves that “I can handle this”, but of course, they can’t. Any time we start a sentence with “I can…” we are bound to be in trouble because we forget that we can’t do anything good without the power of the Spirit. Still others reach out for companionship, for someone who will listen to their tale of woe and injustice about their spouse and how the spouse isn’t meeting their needs for closeness. They may find themselves in the arms of another person before long only to realize too late that those arms are pulling them down to a broken marriage, family, shame, guilt and a lifetime of pain worse than they could have imagined.

Nearly anyone observing the eagle in the story could have told the eagle that it shouldn’t try to carry such a big fish. But the eagle believed it could handle what it has grabbed. That untruth led to the eagle’s demise.

Sin, no matter the shape or form, no matter the “reason” behind the temptation, takes hold of us after we’ve dabbled in it and if left uncleansed will kill us.

Beware what you grab hold of today. It could kill you tomorrow!

We have a higher purpose, a higher calling as His children: 1 Peter 2:9 (MSG)
But you are the ones chosen by God, chosen for the high calling of priestly work, chosen to be a holy people, God’s instruments to do his work and speak out for him, to tell others of the night-and-day difference he made for you…

If we are going to grab on to something, let us grab on to this: 1 Timothy 6:12 (NKJV) – Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called and have confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.

PRAYER: Lord, our grasping is often brought about by a desperate condition in our life and so we grab for those things that we believe may help us stay sane and survive. Give us the wisdom to be careful about what we grab hold of and what we need to run away from. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2017 by Galen Dalrymple.

DayBreaks for 3/14/17 – The Conflict Wars

DayBreaks for 3/14/17: The Conflict Wars

Ephesians 4:32 (MSG) – Be gentle with one another, sensitive. Forgive one another as quickly and thoroughly as God in Christ forgave you.

It’s a story that is repeated on every elementary school playground, nearly every day in our country. Two fourth-graders get into it during recess; something about “he did this, so I did that” and it kind of goes south from there. When they get back to class, Billy trips Joey. After lunch, Joey breaks Billy’s pencil on purpose. When nobody is looking, Billy writes on Joey’s desk, and later, Joey steals Billy’s folder. After school, Billy and his friends face Joey and his friends, and they call each other names. Somebody gets hurt. Somebody else gets hurt worse. And then there is no telling when or if these conflicts will ever end.

Sound familiar? Sadly, that kind of tit-for-tat doesn’t just take place on the playground of children. We have all experienced this sort of escalating pettiness many times in our lives and in our more lucid moments we all readily admit that it is silly, right?

But let me suggest to you that we can remove the names “Billy” and “Joey” and insert the words “husband” and “wife” and the story is much the same. Or we could insert the names of two rival high schools, or two rival companies, or “The Hatfields” and “The McCoys.” Or Republicans and Democrats, or “pro-life” and “pro-choice,” or Israel and Palestine, or America and almost any Arab nation you care to name. Conflict at any level is conflict. And if not preventable, most conflict is at least resolvable…but not until one side refuses to retaliate and instead decides to reconcile.

It isn’t right to give in to something that is clearly proscribed by God’s Word. But we need to make sure that we are on solid footing when we take our stance that we aren’t engaging in schoolyard pettiness just because of something I “feel” or “think”. And if we find ourselves engaged in a conflict war with someone, let us seek resolution that leads to reconciliation rather than black eyes all around. Consider how Jesus could have dealt with us – and then think about how he actually did deal with us and our pettiness. Maybe just maybe, we can learn something from his example.

PRAYER: Father, help us to be the sort of people who seek to prevent conflict when appropriate, but if not, help us be more interested in reconciliation than in proving our point. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2017 by Galen Dalrymple.

DayBreaks for 3/13/17 – Looking at Dead Hearts

DayBreaks for 3/13/17: Looking at Dead Hearts

Ezekiel 36:26 (NIV) – I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.

Some of you are old enough to remember when the first heart transplant took place. It was an amazing feat. The first transplant was performed in 1967 in Cape Town, South Africa by Dr. Christiaan Barnard. The recipient was Louis Washkansky, a fifty three year old grocer with a debilitating heart condition. Unfortunately Mr. Washkansky survived only 18 days after the operation, but I remember when the story broke about the heart transplant. The entire world seemed captivated by this seemingly impossible accomplishment.

The first successful transplant was performed on Dr. Barnard’s third patient, a Jewish dentist named Dr. Philip Blaiberg. He survived for nearly two years.

After his surgery, Dr. Barnard carried Dr. Blaiberg’s old heart in a plastic box and showed it to him. The two men sat on the hospital bed examining the scars and thickening of the dead useless heart.

Dr. Barnard said, “Dr. Blaiberg, do you realize you are the first man in the history of humankind to sit and look at your own dead heart?”

What an amazing story! Of course, today, thanks to modern anti-rejection drugs, people are living much longer after heart transplants than in those early days.

We’re thankful for physicians like Dr. Barnard, but we’re even more thankful that we worship a God who is the only surgeon who can put an entirely new heart in an individual. That is the only heart transplant that really matters. It is when God replaces a heart filled with malice, anger, hatred, envy, guilt and a host of other negative, destructive emotions with a heart filled with love, joy, peace and wholeness.

Do you perhaps need a heart transplant? To you need a new beginning in life? That’s what God offers us – each one of us – every day. Perhaps we all need to sit still for a moment and let God show us our dead heart and cause us to marvel at the new heart that beats within us!

PRAYER: God, the truth is that we all need a heart transplant and so we ask You today to create in us a clean heart that loves the things You love, that hatest the things You hate and that longs to do Your will! In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2017 by Galen Dalrymple.

DayBreaks for 3/09/17 – Because You Have Met Me

DayBreaks for 3/09/17: Because You Have Met Me

From the DayBreaks archive, March 2007:

Exodus 4:4-5 (NIV) – Then the LORD said to him, “Reach out your hand and take it by the tail.” So Moses reached out and took hold of the snake and it turned back into a staff in his hand.  “This,” said the LORD, “is so that they may believe that the LORD, the God of their fathers–the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob–has appeared to you.

The nerve of some Biblical people amazes me.  Moses, while we’re told that he was the meekest man, was very bold at times with God.  His first known encounter with God in the wilderness at the burning bush shows how stubborn we as humans can be.  All of a sudden, out of the blue, Moses is drawn to the bush and told that God wants to send him on a mission to lead Israel out of 400 years of captivity and slavery in Egypt.  God speaks of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph – and the promises He made to them and how He intends now, in the time of Moses, to fulfill those great promises.  And what does Moses do?  He hems, haws, and otherwise tries to avoid the mission.  He gives God lots of excuses (not reasons) why he’s not the right person.  Moses would learn that it didn’t pay to argue with God.  But he hasn’t learned it yet.  And so he worries that Israel will not believe that God wants to relieve them of their slavery, and he asks God for signs to give to the people that will convince them.

And so, finally God makes the statement to Moses that’s found in Exodus 4:5, after having Moses’ staff turn into a serpent: This is so that they may believe that the Lord, the God of their fathers – the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob – has appeared to you.

I’d missed this for nearly 55 years now.  It wasn’t the serpent that would convince people that Moses had been sent by God.  It was really nothing more than God telling Moses that the people will know that He sent Moses because Moses has met God.  (God has appeared to him.) 

Each day as I wander through the streets of town, go into buildings or stores, pull up to the gas pump, buy a Dr. Pepper – I wonder if people can tell that I have met God?  What kind of evidence is there that I’ve met Him – and He has met with me?  And it’s not just that I’ve met Him – He lives within me in a way I don’t know if He did with Moses!  The evidence of having met the Maker is radical and life-changing.  From this encounter onward, for as long as he lived, Moses was a changed man.  He still had moments of weakness and doubt, but the people would follow him because he knew the Lord’s name…another way of saying, he knew God. 

Having met God doesn’t make us perfect, but if it hasn’t changed us – RADICALLY changed us – perhaps we’ve never met him like Moses did in the wilderness.  We don’t have to have a burning bush in our life to meet Him.  Yet, He is all around us, and in us.  We need to learn to do what Moses finally did: stop arguing and fighting with Him and let Him have His way in us, to use us for His glorious purposes (which will, by the way, work to our benefit!) and to let others know we have met God and been sent by Him.

PRAYER: Sometimes, Father, much to our great embarrassment, we hide the fact that we have met You.  We are too fearful, weak-kneed and stubborn to bear witness for you.  May we truly meet You even now, may we be radically changed by that encounter, so that wherever we go, people will know you exist and that by our changed lives, they will know we have met the Living God.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2017 by Galen Dalrymple.

DayBreaks for 3/08/17 – Moses’ Journey to the Promised Land

View from Mt. Nebo.

DayBreaks for 3/08/17: Moses’ Journey to the Promised Land

From the DayBreaks archive, March 2007:

In Exodus 33, as Israel comes near the end of their wilderness wanderings, Moses grows concerned about whether or not the Presence of the Lord will go with them.  He even tells God that he doesn’t want Him to let them move forward even a foot without the assurance of God being with them.  God gives Moses assurances – more than one – but Moses still seems to be beset with doubts.  And so he asks to see God.  Amazingly, God agrees.

On the surface, this story could be about any one of us who struggles with doubts about God’s Presence at times in our lives.  Some moments His Presence is so palpable that no one possessed of a sound mind would doubt it.  But then there are those other moments, aren’t there?  Moments when He no longer seems present, and we may even start to wonder if He ever was at all, or if it was all just a mind-trick we played on ourselves.  Let’s be honest.  Sometimes it is a struggle to believe at such times.

And so Moses doubted God’s presence, but he also knew that he wanted God’s Presence more than anything – even more than going to the Promised Land without Him.  Moses asked to see God’s glory, but instead, God showed Him His goodness. 

Sometime later, Moses trekked up the mountain called Nebo.  He didn’t make the journey alone.  He sat on the mountain top with the very God who had shown him His Presence once before.  God showed him all the land “from Gilead as far as Dan.”  And I suspect that it was a marvelous spectacle.  But somehow, I think it really didn’t matter that much to Moses.  As Moses sat there on top of the mountain in the sunshine and viewed the Promised Land with God, Moses was already in the Promised Land that he’d longed for – he was in God’s Presence.  And as Moses lay down upon the top of that mountain and died, at that moment, he needed and wanted nothing else.

You can’t go to the promised land with God.  And as long as you are with God, you are in the promised land.

Genesis 15:1 – After this, the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision: “Do not be afraid, Abram.  I am your shield, your very great reward.”

PRAYER: As much as we long for heaven, Lord, may we never mistake the place for the Inhabitant.  May we find in You our peace when we live, and when we lay down to die. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2017 by Galen Dalrymple.

DayBreaks for 3/07/17 – Replicating the Story of Jesus

DayBreaks for 3/07/17: Replicating the Story of Jesus

From the DayBreaks archive, March 2007:

I was recently blessed to hear Eugene Peterson speak at a conference I attended.  He is a humble, thoughtful man of seemingly bottomless wisdom.  He is slow to speak – weighing his words carefully to be sure they convey truth from the Truth.  I greatly appreciated being able to sit at his feet for a while and learn.

At one point he was talking about the church and how it is perceived by the world.  There is much that can be said on that topic, but what Peterson focused on was how the church itself replicates the life of Jesus.  Consider how Jesus could have come into the world: with great fanfare and leaflets falling from the sky that was magically translated into whatever language was spoken by the person who picked them up.  He could have come with a PowerPoint presentation that flashed across the underbelly of the clouds above our heads, replete with musical background, bold and contrasting colors and maybe some video clips of what hell is like so we’d all be scared straight.  Or, he could have come and spent his entire time upon this earth turning rocks into bread and obliterating hunger and disease so that no one on earth would every go to bed hungry or wake up sick again.  Wouldn’t those things have been spectacular?!?!?!

But, that’s now how Jesus came, is it?  Not one of those things happened when he showed up.  Here’s part of the point: Jesus never, during his entire 30+ years of life on this earth, left the world of poverty into which he was born.  He spent his life as one of the “people of the land” – despised by the ruling religious hierarchy because they were unlearned, sweaty laborers who couldn’t ever seem to put two cents together at one time, but who were always scrambling for their daily bread.  He was humbled, he was broken, he was in the midst of a very sinful people, he seemed powerless before the forces arrayed and conspiring against him.  And, he bled…and bled…and bled…from his hands, back, feet and side.

The church, just like Jesus, could have come in a different way.  God could have preached the first gospel sermon on the day of Pentecost by shouting out loud from heaven so that all the entire universe heard and understood every single syllable and word.  He didn’t.  He used a human mouth (just like He did with Jesus).  The church (like Jesus) exists in the middle of a very sinful people (and the church itself, being made up of people, is sinful).  The church seems powerless against the stratagems of Satan, and is made up of badly fractured, dislocated and broken folk.  And (if the church is true to its calling to be the very body of Christ on earth), as the body of Christ literally bled, the church will bleed, too.  We will bleed out mercy and compassion on the downtrodden like the blood of Christ.  We will bleed because of our stand for faithfulness, to accomplish the will of the Father, even as Christ’s blood fell for the same reason. 

Do you ever wonder why the church has such a bad reputation in the world?  Granted, some of it we bring on ourselves with our hypocrisy and leaders who fall like dominoes, but here, I think, is the core reason: Jesus was a stumbling block because he was broken, bleeding, appearing powerless and as one who associated with sinners.  And that is EXACTLY what the church is to be about, too.  We are to be a broken people (because that’s what we truly are – and once our brokenness is seen and admitted – we cannot be hypocrites any longer).  We are to bleed literally and figuratively because of our love for Christ and for the lost that He loves.  And the church appears powerless.  So, why does the church stink to the world?  Because the church, as Jesus’ body, takes on His nature of being a stumbling block. 

Each of us as Christians are to be “little Christ’s”.  Let’s get on with replicating his story and stop publishing our own!

PRAYER: God, we’ve got a long way to go to be very good reflections of Christ.  As His body here on earth, we feel powerless, we feel bloodied sometimes and broken.  Even as we struggle with what we see in the church and in ourselves, let us remember that you see us differently because we are “in Christ.”  If we are to be stumbling blocks to the world and individuals in it, let it be for all the right reasons – because we are living the story of Jesus visibly, out loud, each day.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2017 by Galen Dalrymple.

DayBreaks for 3/06/17 – Why Can’t I See the Beauty?

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DayBreaks for 3/06/17: What Can’t I See the Beauty?

I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like it when they perceive something as being truly beautiful. It could be a work of art, a piece of music, a flower or mountain meadow. There are people who are considered beautiful, though it is often said of us humans that beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

I was reading some of Ann Voskamp’s writing on Friday evening and she was taking about a disciple that she was forcing upon herself – that being learning to see and appreciate the beauty of what God has made and then giving Him thanks for it.

There are few things I enjoy more than the beauty of nature. Two of my most favorite memories of natural beauty took place when I was with my best friend, Ken. One was up in the high Sierra’s in California near Highlands Lake when we hiked up a ridge and sat at the top looking down into a meadow of wildflowers in a meadow with meltwater ponds. The second one was night when we were coming back in our small boat from fishing and we were heading due east as the sun was setting over the slivery smooth water and wake directly behind the boat.

I don’t find it too hard to see beauty. But as I thought about it, I wondered why it is that I don’t see beauty in the pinnacle of God’s creation: humans. It bothered me that I don’t perceive the people that I meet as being beautiful (I’m not talking especially here about physical beauty, but the more hidden kinds of beauty like intellectual beauty, emotional beauty or spiritual beauty. Why, if humans are made in the image of God Himself, is it that I struggle so to see the beauty in humans that God apparently sees in us?

It is possible that I can’t see it because of how the fall has made us all more than a bit ugly. I suspect that has a lot to do with my struggle. But then it dawned on me that perhaps the reason I can’t see the beautiful image of God in my fellow man may not be their fault so much as the fault of my own fallen nature that keeps me from seeing the image of God in others. Goodness knows I struggle to even find a scintilla of it in myself.

God saw/sees enough beauty in His creation, including humans, that He went to great lengths to redeem His creation. We are told that all of creation groans and travails for its redemption. We have never seen the creation in its perfected state so even the beauty we do see and appreciate so much is nothing compared to what it must have been like in Eden. We have never seen a perfected human, either. God has. And even in our fallen state, He loves us and died for us.

I need to work harder to see the image of God in others no matter how hidden or marred it may be by sin. After all, I’ve been marred, too.

PRAYER: Jesus, help us to see the beauty in others that you see and to appreciate them more than we do. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2017 by Galen Dalrymple.