DayBreaks for 7/12/19 – The Miracle on a Stick

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DayBreaks for 07/12/19: The Miracle on a Stick

From the DayBreaks archives, July 2009:

They traveled from Mount Hor along the route to the Red Sea, to go around Edom. But the people grew impatient on the way; they spoke against God and against Moses, and said, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the desert? There is no bread! There is no water! And we detest this miserable food!” Then the LORD sent venomous snakes among them; they bit the people and many Israelites died. The people came to Moses and said, “We sinned when we spoke against the LORD and against you. Pray that the LORD will take the snakes away from us.” So Moses prayed for the people. The LORD said to Moses, “Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live.” So Moses made a bronze snake and put it up on a pole. Then when anyone was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake, he lived. – Numbers 21:4-9 (NIV)

I was recently reading Athol Dickson’s The Gospel According to Moses when I discovered new insights into the passage from Numbers 21, above.  Let me share them with you:

FIRST: Remember Israel’s recent history.  They’d been freed from Egypt, only to find themselves apparently left alone as Moses had been up on the mountain for so long the people felt that he was most certainly dead.  Of course, he wasn’t, but they had no way of knowing that.  And so they asked Aaron to make a golden calf so that they could worship it and perhaps receive some help and direction from the “god”.  While this might seem very strange for us, remember that they’d been in Egyptian slavery for 400 years and had become intimately acquainted with the religious worship of Egyptian gods, which included various bulls, frogs, falcons and other animals.  So they clearly thought this golden god could help them.  The result of that episode was that thousands of Israelites died because they’d formed and worshipped a golden calf.  Now, however, they are in trouble again…whining and angering Moses and God.  So, God sent snakes among them and many died and were dying.  God tells Moses, incredulously, to make an image of bronze and put it up where everyone could see it and that if they look at it they will live!  Do you see the irony?  The last time they’d formed an image to worship it, many died as a result.  Now, God says to make an image and it will result in their being saved!  This must have been a real test of obedience for the Israelites: “Hey, Shlomoe, remember what happened the LAST time we made an image of an animal?  Do you think Moses heard God correctly about this bronze serpent thing?”  It required obedience even when the thing commanded not only made no sense, but when there was precedent point 180 degrees the opposite direction!

SECOND: Athol Dickson did a word study on the verses about the bronze serpent, and he made an amazing discovery.  The Hebrew word, nes, which is translated as the “pole” upon which the bronze serpent is mounted, is not a simple word to translate.  In other passages, the word is translated as “example” or “banner.”  In Isaiah 33:23, it is translated “sail”, but another word entirely is used to describe the mast or pole on which the sail is hung.  In fact, nowhere else in Scripture is the word nes translated as “pole” – it is always translated as the object that is lifted up on the pole.  Only here, is the bronze serpent mounted on the “pole” (nes).  So, to use the way the word is normally translated, we’d find a symbol (the bronze serpent) hung upon an example (the nes, or pole).  It seems God deliberately chose this word to hint that it really wasn’t the serpent that was to give them deliverance, but the One behind the serpent.  But, that’s not the most amazing thing.  The most amazing thing is that the word nes has yet another meaning: “miracle.”  The story of the bronze serpent is both an example and a miracle, pointing to the real miracle: the miracle of a God dying on another pole in Roman occupied Jerusalem.  It is as if God is saying, “When the people look upon what hangs on the pole – the miracle – they will be saved.”  Jesus was that miracle.  It was a miracle that a God could die at all.  It was a miracle that our sins could be taken away.  It was a miracle that God would do such a thing for nothing more than a collection of atoms and chemicals known as a human being.  Yet He did all those things.

When you look upon the miracle on the pole, you shall be saved!

PRAYER: Open our eyes to the miracle that is Jesus hanging on a pole for us!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

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DayBreaks for 7/11/19 – Elevator Music and Emergencies

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DayBreaks for 7/11/19: Elevator Music and Emergencies

Just this past week I was up in British Columbia doing some salmon fishing with my great friend, Ken.  As is the case with all good things (except God!), they must come to an end, and we found ourselves getting on a puddle-jumper plane to take us back to Vancouver from Campbell River, BC.  This plane look like a flying breadbox.  It wasn’t round – it was more square, and the wings looked about 3 sizes too small to be able to provide enough lift to get the beast off the ground. 

As we prepared to pull away from the gate, they started the familiar ritual of running through the emergency instructions.  As the flight attendant read the instructions (this wasn’t like a big jet that has a tape deck where they play the instructions from a cassette!!!), there was elevator music playing in the background – soothing, calming, almost loud enough to make one drift off to sleep.  And that’s when it struck me: this was a parallel for life and how Satan plays against the Word of God. 

God’s Word is full of instructions – emergency instructions, if you please – about how to avoid a coming firestorm, how to avoid self-inflicted catastrophies and injury in life, how to avoid burn-out, self-destruction, guilt, shame, divorce and a life lived in utter meaningless.  Many people (though fewer than in past decades) know what is in the Good Book because they’ve heard it so many times.  But in the background, subtle but ever present, is Satan’s elevator music.  His music is intended to make us think, “This kind of stuff won’t happen to me, so I don’t need to worry about it.  I’m safe.  All those warnings are just the fantasies of some God who simply likes to be in control and have His own way.”  The elevator music of Satan is designed to make us relax, to not listen as closely, or to think about the consequences of ignoring God’s instructions.  Let’s face it: no one likes to listen to scary warnings about crashing and burning or going down over water, but everyone likes music, right?

Don’t let Satan’s elevator music drown out the voice and wisdom of God.  Let His Word through to your heart and mind and soul, take it serious, for He knows whereof He speaks!

PRAYER: Awaken in us a sense of urgency to hear Your voice and alert us to the subtle lullabies Satan would sing to our hearts to make us dull and sleepy.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

DayBreaks for 7/10/19 – Awake During Open Heart Surgery

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DayBreaks for 07/10/19: Awake During Open Heart Surgery

From the DayBreaks archives, July 2009:

How much pain can one person carry?  I honestly don’t know the answer to that question.  I know that I’ve had very little pain in my life compared to millions and probably billions of other humans who have lived on this blue marble.  I can hardly imagine anyone, though, who perhaps bore so much pain as the ancient hero, Job.  His suffering was emotional, financial, mental, physical and spiritual.  I don’t know anyone else who has lost as much as Job did (especially his children!)  The pain of losing just one child would be unbearable…but try to imagine losing all 10 at once.  And for a time, Job, we are told, said and did nothing amiss.  Then, he finally seems to break.  But it wasn’t the loss of the flocks, herds, buildings.  It had nothing to do with his financial empire.  He didn’t even rail against God when his children died.  I’m sure that wasn’t because he didn’t love them – he surely cared a great deal about them.  No, Job seemed to “lose” it when he felt God has slipped away and left him alone.  It was then that Job began to struggle.  It was then that Job came face to face with a darker side of his nature than he’d probably realized existed. 

In The Gospel According to Job, Mike Mason wrote: “Being a believer in God necessarily implies grappling with the dark side of one’s nature.  Many of us, however, seem to be so afraid of our dark side that far from dealing with it realistically, we repress and deny it.  If we do so chronically, we need to ask ourselves whether we really believe in the healing power of Christ’s forgiveness and in His victory over our evil natures.  Perhaps we have never frankly come to grips with the fact that we ourselves are evil.  If we have not, then we are ill prepared for those times when believing in god is like being away during open heart surgery. For our Creator is not yet finished with us; He is still creating us, still making us, just as He has been all along from the beginning of the universe.   But for the short span of our life here on earth we have the strange privilege of actually being wide awake as He continues to fashion us, to watch wide-eyed as His very own fingers work within our hearts…the only anesthetic is trust…trust is not a passive, soporific thing.  When there is stabbing pain, trust cries out.  It is only mistrust, fear and suspicion that keep silent.”

Your life has had some level of pain.  I am frequently asked “Why?  Why is there so much pain involved with being a Christian?  You’d think that a loving God would do everything possible to spare His children pain!”  There is a certain rationale to that argument.  But I think it misses the point that Mike Mason makes: God is doing open heart surgery on us – our hearts MUST be changed if we are to live forever.  If they are not changed, we will die of our fatal condition.  No one does open heart surgery just for practice or for the fun of it.  It is only done when it is necessary to save or extend a life.  We are awake during the process.  

If God doesn’t do His surgery on our heart, we will most certainly die.  There will be pain.  But would any father not allow the pain in order to spare the life of the child?  Certainly, a good father would agree to have the child operated on so that the child could live.  The pain is part of the process of healing and being made well. 

What makes the surgery on our hearts bearable at all?  Trust.  Trust that God is reliable and doing what is not only good for us, but necessary for us if we are to live with Him in His home.  Belief that God knows precisely what is needed in your heart and mine – and that He will complete the work that is necessary.

PRAYER: Though this surgery is painful, Lord, we open our hearts to You and invite you to do what is necessary to make us fit to be Your children and to live in Your Presence throughout all eternity.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

DayBreaks for 7/9/19 – Final Judgment

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DayBreaks for 07/09/19: Final Judgment

From the DayBreaks archives, July 2009:

No one likes the idea of being subject to a judgment against themselves.  We don’t want to be dragged into a court of law by a disgruntled neighbor, co-worker or stranger – even if we are guilty or liable for something.  We don’t like being judged.  Just look at the emotional reaction of people when they even “feel” like they’re being judged!!!

The Bible plainly speaks about judgment.  There’s simply no getting around the fact.  There are those in theological circles that are considered universalists, who hold that even after death, God will continue to hold out the possibility of salvation until eventually everyone gives in and receives salvation because the find the offer irresistible at some point after death – even if it takes thousands or millions of years.  Others (annihilationists) hold that it is only those who have accepted God’s offer of eternal life and that the wicked will just simply cease to exist at death.  The traditional view (which I ascribe to) is that there is eternal reward and eternal punishment, based on our acceptance or rejection of God’s merciful gift.

In musing on this, N. T. Wright wrote: “I find it quite impossible, reading the New Testament on the one hand and the newspaper on the other, to suppose that there will be no ultimate condemnation, no final loss, no human beings to whom, as C. S. Lewis put it, God will eventually say, “Thy will be done.”  I wish it were otherwise, but one cannot forever whistle “There’s a wideness in God’s mercy” in the darkness of Hiroshima, of Auschwitz, for the murder of children and the careless greed that enslaves millions with debts not their own.  Humankind cannot, alas, bear very much reality, and the massive denial of reality by the cheap and cheerful universalism of Western liberalism has a lot to answer for.”

Judgment is a very sobering thought.  It is also a very real reality (as if there were any other kind.)  We have a hard time bearing such searing reality as that of facing the ultimate Judge in the Final Judgment.  But denying it won’t make it go away, no matter how hard we try to click our heels and say “I want to go home…I want to go home…I want to go home” to get away from the great white throne – it won’t happen.

Be ready for it.  Expect it.  Live with it in mind and in heart.  Jesus will be our shield against the wrath of God on that great, and terrible, day. 

PRAYER: Thank You, Jesus, for having already prepared out case before the Judge.  Thank You for telling us the verdict in advance.  You, o Lord, are our only hope and defense!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

DayBreaks for 7/8/19 – The Image and the Reality

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DayBreaks for 07/08/19: The Image and the Reality

From the DayBreaks archives, July 2009:

You saw no form of any kind the day the LORD spoke to you at Horeb out of the fire. Therefore watch yourselves very carefully, so that you do not become corrupt and make for yourselves an idol, an image of any shape, whether formed like a man or a woman, or like any animal on earth or any bird that flies in the air, or like any creature that moves along the ground or any fish in the waters below. And when you look up to the sky and see the sun, the moon and the stars–all the heavenly array–do not be enticed into bowing down to them and worshiping things the LORD your God has apportioned to all the nations under heaven. – Deuteronomy 4:15-19 (NIV)

Anyone who has read Scripture knows that God prohibited Israel from fashioning idols and worshipping them.  That’s not a new revelation to any of those who regularly read DayBreaks.  But why did God have so much to say about it, not only in Deuteronomy, but in other books of Scripture?  I mean, after all, it’s not like the stone or wood or metal carving is going to come to life and threaten God in any way, shape or form.  God certainly isn’t afraid of any rival or competitor.  He’s more than willing to take on any “god” that wants to challenge Him. 

So why such a strong prohibition?  While I certainly don’t agree with all of his writing or theology, N. T. Wright captured it pretty well, I think, in his book, Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection and the Mission of the Church:  “When human beings give their heartfelt allegiance to and worship that which is not God, they progressively cease to reflect the image of God.  One of the primary laws of human life is that you become like what you worship; what’s more, you reflect what you worship not only back to the object itself but also outward to the world around.”

It is an interesting observation, that if we take the time to consider, we’ll probably be forced to admit it is true: “One of the primary laws of human life is that you become like what you worship…”  If we worship money, what happens to us?  We become more driven to have more of it, more greedy, more materialistic.  If we worship beauty, we may become preoccupied with our physical appearance and spend vast amounts of money to stay young looking and beautiful.  Those who worship the god of sex wind up treating others simply as objects to be used for pleasure.  Those driven by the idol of power treat others as competitors, pawns or partners to achieve power. 

Man was created as a worshipping creature.  Our hearts are prone to worship many things.  Even Christians have hearts that are still in the process of being re-made so we must guard our hearts carefully, as the Lord said in Deut. 4:15 (above).  We must watch carefully the things that fascinate us and draw us and attract us and motivate us.  Those things just may be gods in disguise.

PRAYER: Lord, we are often blind to the gods in our lives and too prideful, thinking that we would never bow the knee before anyone but You.  May we learn from Peter’s overzealousness, “Though everyone else may leave you, I will never deny You!”  Teach us to recognize the things in our lives that could become, or which may be, gods – and give us the grace to cast them out of our lives.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

DayBreaks for 7/05/19 – The Angel and the King

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DayBreaks for 07/04/19: The Angel and the King

From the DayBreaks archives, July 2009:

Recent days saw the passing of Farrah Fawcett, Michael Jackson.  Farrah Fawcett was one of Charlie’s Angels, and was considered and eulogized by some as being “America’s Angel” (meaning America’s favorite angel).  Michael Jackson, of course, was called the “King of Pop.”  Interesting how both are being idolized in the press.

Both deaths, of course, were sad and tragic, but the reactions (especially to Michael’s death) seems to me to be way over the top.  People weeping who never knew him at all, making all sorts of outrageous statements about how the thing that had given their life something beautiful and hopeful are not just outrageous, but revealing and sad.  It reveals the depraved status of our souls when people have been raised without a God-consciousness and awareness of where meaning comes from.  I mean, if people think that the only thing that can give them joy in life is a moon-walking singer – no wonder they weep in desperation when that singer is gone.  How spiritually bankrupt has our culture become?

I didn’t know Farrah nor Michael.  They had kudos here on earth.  What was their reception like beyond the veil of tears?  God alone knows.  But of this I am confident: their fame meant nothing to God.  He wasn’t impressed with either “America’s Angel” or “The King of Pop”.  He wasn’t impressed with their looks, their ability to dance or sing or act.  The only thing He cared about was looking at their heart to see if it was covered with the blood of Jesus.  I can only hope such was the case.

The same will be true for each person who reads this message and for all those who never read it.  Earthly achievement just doesn’t impress God at all, nor does He want us to find our meaning and joy in things of this world.  He has offered us so much more and created us for vastly greater things. 

PRAYER: Teach us a wise perspective on what has value and what You search for in us, Lord.  Help us learn that things of the spirit are far more critical and valuable than anything of the flesh.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

DayBreaks for 7/4/19 – The Bottom Line on Salvation

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DayBreaks for 7/4/19: The Bottom Line on Salvation

From the DayBreaks archives, July 2009:

There have been many discussions and disagreements throughout church history about salvation.  I’ve even argued with myself about it from time to time throughout my life.  There is just something about us humans that likes to make things tougher than they really are.  I don’t know why that is so, but perhaps it is because we all want to be able to take some amount of credit for a positive outcome.  We like to appear heroic to ourselves and to others, and that means we must make some sort of superhuman effort to achieve something.  Think about it: who’s more heroic in your eyes – someone who has climbed Everest or someone who has hiked up a 3,000-foot peak?  Is the astronaut more heroic than the pilot of a Piper Cub?  Why?  Because they’ve worked long and hard and done something that seemingly no one else (or few others) have achieved. 

And so when it comes to salvation, we want to be at least a bit heroic – or we want to feel that way.  So, we make it harder than it is. 

A DayBreaks reader recently sent me the quote below from Kirk Cameron, the actor who is now doing lots of Christian work and who is a believer.  Here’s what Kirk had to say: “I used to be confused about how I was “saved”.  Was I saved by a belief I mustered up within my own heart, or was I saved by something God did in the purpose of His own heart?  Spurgeon shed more light on this crucial subject of who does the saving, when he said, “…even our repentance needs to be repented of.”  The point is that no earthly faith, repentance, good works, or belief that I have ever mustered from what exists in my own natural heart has ever saved me.  The Bible is clear: my faith doesn’t save me, Jesus does (Ephesians 2:8-9).  A believer’s faith in Jesus is a gift from God.  My faith is the connecting channel through which God saved me by His own love and grace.  So if you ever wonder if “your faith has saved you,” you may find this question helpful: “Is my trust in my own ability to hold on to Jesus, or is my trust in Jesus’ ability to hold on to me?”  If you have received that humble, repentant faith that causes you to love God and trust in Jesus and Lord and Savior, then I would be very confident in echoing Jesus’ words, “Your faith has saved you.” –  Kirk Cameron

To all who say, “I hope I have enough faith so I can be saved,” I think we must reply, “Rubbish.  It isn’t your faith that saves you – it is Jesus that saves you.  Now, do you have faith in that?”

PRAYER: For the wonder of salvation this day, we praise You!  For the blessings of the past, we praise You!  For the eternity that awaits because of Your faithfulness, we praise You, o Great God!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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