DayBreaks for 2/6/19 – The Pathway to Rain

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DayBreaks for 2/06/2019: The Pathway to Rain

From the DayBreaks archive, 2009:

Jeremiah 14:1-11 (NLT) – This message came to Jeremiah from the LORD, explaining why he was holding back the rain: “Judah wilts; her businesses have ground to a halt. All the people sit on the ground in mourning, and a great cry rises from Jerusalem. The nobles send servants to get water, but all the wells are dry. The servants return with empty pitchers, confused and desperate, covering their heads in grief. The ground is parched and cracked for lack of rain. The farmers are afraid; they, too, cover their heads. The deer abandons her newborn fawn because there is no grass. The wild donkeys stand on the bare hills panting like thirsty jackals. They strain their eyes looking for grass to eat, but there is none to be found.”  The people say, “LORD, our wickedness has caught up with us. We have sinned against you. So please, help us for the sake of your own reputation.  O Hope of Israel, our Savior in times of trouble! Why are you like a stranger to us? Why are you like someone passing through the land, stopping only for the night?  Are you also confused? Are you helpless to save us? You are right here among us, LORD. We are known as your people. Please don’t abandon us now!” So the LORD replies to his people, “You love to wander far from me and do not follow in my paths. Now I will no longer accept you as my people. I will remember all your wickedness and will punish you for your sins.”  Then the LORD said to me, “Do not pray for these people anymore.”

We are in the middle of a drought right now here in California.  How foolish if we think that the Lord no longer holds back the rain for the same reason He withheld it in the past!  Yes, he sends rain on the just and unjust, but He is also equally able to withhold it at any time He chooses. 

But what I found especially intriguing about this passage was in verses 7-9 where the people plead with the Lord to help them.  It is a wonderful sounding plea, also reflecting some of our own doubts and confusion about why God acts as He does.  I know there have been plenty of times when I was confused by what God was doing or not doing, when it seemed He was a stranger or powerless to do anything (that, by the way, is a horrible assumption – just because He doesn’t act certainly doesn’t mean He’s powerless to do so!)  Pay careful attention to the reason the people approach the Lord: they say that their wickedness has caught up with them and that they’ve sinned, but they beg for His help for the “sake of Your own reputation.”  They never ask for forgiveness – they only get as far as a confession, which is short and not very convincing.  They never get past the confession to asking for forgiveness and they show no inclination towards repentance.  Instead, it is as if they are trying to convince God that it’s in His own best interest to just forgive them and send them rain.   

How many times have I tried to appeal to God’s self-interest thinking I could manipulate Him into a certain desired behavior?  I’m not even sure that God can have “self-interest”!  My repentance had better be real.  True repentance moves the heart of God but fake repentance, even when there are lots of fine sounding words, never does.  And if God’s mercies don’t rain down upon us, we will all die of the drought.

PRAYER: Father, we say things hoping we can get You to “fall” for them as if You were another human from whom we can hide the truth.  Lord, we have sinned against you.  We ask you for forgiveness.  We desire to repent from the evil we do and to experience once again the refreshing mercies that fall from Your throne of grace.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

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DayBreaks for 8/09/18 – The Confession Hotline

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DayBreaks for 8/09/18: The Confession Hotline

From the DayBreaks archive, August 2008:

Some time back, Time magazine carried a story about a new phone service that was being offered.  It was an “apology sound off line,” and people could call up at any hour of the day or night in order to get things off their chest.  The line, at the time, would receive up to 200 phone calls per day.

They also created a second number, which charged a higher price for their services, that people could call and pay to have someone listen to their confessions.  That line received as many as 10,000 calls per day.

The first line makes sense to me in a way because it’s better to vent into a telephone mouthpiece than to become violent or abusive towards someone who is present.  The second service – the confession hotline – was more intriguing.

Why would someone call a confession hot line and pay to have someone hear them confess the deepest and darkest secrets in their lives?  I am not sure, but I think it probably has something to do with the human heart and how hard it is for the heart to bear up indefinitely under the weight of our hidden sin and shame. 

But there is another reason that has been suggested, too: it is the one place where people could turn and know that they go to vent out their guilt and be guaranteed that no one would judge them for their evil.  There seems to be some craving in us and at some level, we know the truth does, indeed, set us free.

There was something about Jesus that seems to have made him a safe person so it was easy to confess to him.  Why is it not that way with other people?  Probably there is a plethora of things that enter into an answer for that question: we don’t trust them to keep it a secret, we are too ashamed of what we’ve done to have another human know, we’re afraid that they will think less of us, or that they’ll react with utter disgust and disdain – and that when we see them again, we’ll always have those dirty feelings hanging over our head.  No one wants to be in the presence of those who think you’re dirt or scum.

That’s a shame.  Jesus doesn’t feel that way about us when we confess to him.  Look at how he dealt with all those in Scripture who confessed their shame and sin – not one went away feeling like dirt.  Not one seems to have departed concerned that Jesus somehow thought less of them and would always think less of them.  Not one seems to have been of the opinion that Jesus wouldn’t ever want anything to do with them again.  And if anyone was ever in a position to judge them, it was the Son of God.

When will we learn that confession is important and that when someone confesses to us, it’s not our job to judge them or set them straight?  They’re already aware it’s wrong or they wouldn’t be confessing to start with.  They already feel the shame – they are confessing to be set free from that pit.  Let’s not throw dirt on top of them as they’re trying to dig out.

Jesus offers us the greatest confessional hotline of all time.  Let’s use it more often!  It’s free!

PRAYER: Jesus, help us to become like you so that when others confess to us, we are tender, gentle and restorative rather than judgmental and condemning!  We confess to you now that we are sinners – and we welcome your promised forgiveness!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

DayBreaks for 4/04/18 – The Undoubting Doubter

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DayBreaks for 4/04/18: The Undoubting Doubter

If I were to mention the names of certain disciples to you and ask you to write down the first word that comes into your mind, it is unlikely you would come up with the same words. If I were to mention the name of Judas many of you would write down the word “betray” or “betrayer” but not all of you. If I were to mention Simon Peter, some of you would write down the word “faith,” but not all of you. If I were to mention the names of James and John, some of you would write down the phrase “Sons of Thunder,” but not all of you. But when I mention the word Thomas, there is little question about the word most everyone would write down. It would be the word doubt or the label, “doubter”. Indeed, so closely have we associated Thomas with this word, that we have coined a phrase to describe him: “Doubting Thomas.”
You may be interested to know that in the first three gospels we are told absolutely nothing at all about Thomas. It is in John’s Gospel that he emerges as a distinct personality, but even then there are only 155 words about him. There is not a lot about this disciple in the Bible but there is more than one description.

When Jesus turned his face toward Jerusalem the disciples thought that it would be certain death for all of them. Surprisingly, it was Thomas who said: Then let us go so that we may die with him. (Interestingly, Thomas is said by tradition to have died a martyr’s death in India, having angered local religious authorities by his preaching of the gospel, they ran him through with a spear. How ironic that he would die in that manner after having placed his hand in the spear wound in Christ’s side!)

It wasn’t Peter who said …let us go so that we may die with him. It wasn’t John or Jesus’ half-brother James. Thomas’ words were courageous, yet we don’t remember him for that. We also fail to point out that in this story of Thomas’ doubt we have the one place in the all the Gospels where the Divinity of Christ is bluntly and unequivocally stated. 

It is interesting, is it not, that the story that gives Thomas his infamous nickname, is the same story that has Thomas making an earth shattering confession of faith? How did Thomas move so quickly from the bold confessor to the doubting one? I think it may be that those who are the most hopeful fall hardest when those hopes appear shattered and belief comes hard – if at all. But look at his confession after seeing the risen Christ: My Lord, and my God. Not teacher. Not just Lord. Not Messiah. But God! It is the only place where Jesus is called God without qualification of any kind. It is uttered with conviction as if Thomas was simply recognizing a fact, just as 2 + 2 = 4, and the sun is in the sky. You are my Lord and my God! These are certainly not the words of a doubter. Again, it wasn’t Peter, James or John who uttered those five huge words so laden with meaning.

Today, however, I want to ask you this question: who is Jesus to you? Is he your favorite moral and ethical teacher? Do you call him Lord? He is so much more than just Lord, as Thomas noted: he is God.

If you aren’t willing and ready to let him be both your Lord and God – with all that entails in terms of absolute, utter obedience to even the slightest thing he may ask or command – then we need to rethink our relationship with him. Too much is at stake to not think seriously about this!

PRAYER: Jesus, open our eyes to this profound truth that you are both Lord and God and there is no excuse to not follow every word that came out of your mouth and to commit ourselves unreservedly to humble obedience. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

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 8/11/16 – Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow

DayBreaks for 8/11/16 – Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow

From the DayBreaks Archive for August, 2006:

From News of the Weird, 7/10/98, UPI by Chuck Shepherd: “The New York Times reported in June that NASA has successfully field-tested an oil-spill-catcher that could have cleaned up the disastrous 1989 Exxon Valdez spill in about a week. A Huntsville, AL, hairdresser named Phillip McCrory came up with the idea to put discarded hair into mesh pillows, and a NASA researcher determined that 1.4 million pounds of hair would have soaked up the Valdez’s 11 million gallons in about a week. By contrast, Exxon Corp. spent $2 billion over several years and caught only about 12 percent of the oil.”

This kind of gives new meaning to the concept of having oily hair, doesn’t it? I couldn’t help but think about how easy it is to clean something up when you’ve got the right tools – like say, 1.4 million pounds of hair. What was a huge task with the wrong tools is made quick and easy when you’ve got the right ones.

A few thoughts: Sin is no different. People try to clean up their lives with all kinds of things: by trying to be a good person, by trying to stop being unfaithful or to stop swearing or drinking. By giving to their church and sitting in the pew some try to alleviate their bleeding consciences. Others, trying to get rid of their guilt, go to secular counselors who wind up telling them that “You’re OK! See, we’re all OK! What you did is normal and natural and you only did what you had to do.” But the problem with all of that is that it doesn’t really take away the scum from our lives. There is only one thing that can take our sin away and that is the blood of Jesus. And it is instantaneous. It is effective. All the things that we try to do from a human perspective can’t really clean our conscience, because deep inside we know the explanations for why we did what we did can’t undo the wrong we participated in.

The quality of the clean-up is important, too. The Valdez disaster was terrible, costly and as you can see from the story, the recovery efforts weren’t very successful. Yet, if sin was as easy to get rid of as oil spills, we wouldn’t have needed Jesus. We needed him at the beginning when we became believers – to claim his blood as our cleansing agent, and we need him constantly to cleanse us from the blackness of our sin. What if Jesus’ cleansing were only as effective as Exxon’s efforts and you were left with 88% of your sin?

I Jn 1:9: If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from ALL unrighteousness.

Jesus blood is the perfect cleansing agent – while we may sin from time to time, it is forgiven totally, completely and without reservation. Don’t carry your burden of sin and guilt for one more moment. He died to make you clean!

PRAYER: Behold, what manner of love you have shown us that you call us your children and dress us in the finest clothing and invite us to the party of all eternity!  Help us to stay clean and alert as we go through this day.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2016, Galen C. Dalrymple. All rights reserved.

 

DayBreaks for 7/25/16 – The Most Important Trash Can

DayBreaks for 7/25/16 – The Most Important Trash Can

No matter where you go in Disneyland or Disney World. They are everywhere. No, I’m not talking about families or smiling faces or Mickey Mouse ears. I’m talking about garbage cans. If you pay close enough attention, you’ll find one approximately every thirty feet or so.  Do you know why?

If you think it’s just because there is so much trash in Disney’s confines, you’d be right…but that’s not why. Walt Disney himself is responsible for the fact that they are about 30 feet apart. You see, Walt reasoned that is took someone about 30 steps to eat a hot dog from start to finish, so about every 30 feet there is a trash receptacle waiting to receive the associated trash. In order to keep the place clean it was important to have enough garbage cans so people could get rid of their garbage frequently.

We, as humans, need to frequently unload our “garbage”, our sin. James puts it clearly: if we say we are without sin we are not – we are liars, which makes us sinners. Guilty…every last one of us. And we need to get rid of our garbage.

Fortunately, God has made it easy for us to do so…though at great cost to Himself. If we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive us…(1 John 1:9). 

Do you know one of the things I’m so very grateful for about that verse? It doesn’t say “If we confess our sins and never ever commit them again He is faithful and just to forgive…”  If that were the grounds for our forgiveness, I would still be in my sin…and so would you. Oh, I understand the concept and importance of repentance, but I also understand the nature of my weakness. If my forgiveness were conditioned on my perfect repentance, it would be works and performance based. I’ve tried to live that kind of life and it is very discouraging.

Disney put his trash bins 30 feet apart. God has placed the confessional booth within reach of every single human being who wants to come to Him…and you don’t even have to walk 30 steps to get there!

PRAYER: Father, thank You for making forgiveness and salvation so easily accessible to us, even though it was far from cheap for You to do so. May we take advantage of the opportunity afforded us to come to You in confession and find Your faithfulness and justness on display! In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2016, Galen C. Dalrymple. All rights reserved.

DayBreaks for 5/06/16 – Confession and Grace

DayBreaks for 5/06/16 – Confession and Grace

From the DayBreaks archives, May 2006:

Psalms 66:9-12, 18 (NLT) – Our lives are in his hands, and he keeps our feet from stumbling. You have tested us, O God; you have purified us like silver melted in a crucible.  You captured us in your net and laid the burden of slavery on our backs.  You sent troops to ride across our broken bodies. We went through fire and flood. But you brought us to a place of great abundance…If I had not confessed the sin in my heart, my Lord would not have listened.

The relationship between our sin, confession and God’s gracious reply to our call for help is very clear in this passage.  The pictures of “oppression” under the hand of God are stark and almost shockingly brutal:

  1. We are melted like metal in a crucible of great heat. Of course the purpose is to produce something that is of greater value. The final product of such smelting is purer silver or gold.  Gold sells for nearly $1277 an ounce today – and that’s a lot more than you get for just an ounce of ore that holds gold.  The finished product always has greater value that the raw material.  But it is interesting to contemplate: the finished product was in the raw materials all along – it just needed to be extracted to achieve its full, potential value;
  2. Like animals, we were captured in his net and slavery resulted. I can see this several ways: first, slaves were captured peoples in the ancient world for the most part. They’d been subdued by a power greater than they and slavery was the natural result; second, Jesus promised to make his followers fishers of men – but had they not already been caught in Jesus’ net?  God has always been the first and greatest “fisher of men”, and the “burden of slavery” is that of being a slave to the king of the entire universe, not the king of a tiny corner of the world.  It brings to mind the saying that “I’d rather be a servant in heaven than a ruler in hell.”  The burden of the slavery to God includes carrying our own cross on our backs, even as Jesus did in Jerusalem;
  3. The troops that ride across the broken bodies could have been literal enemy troops, or even such things as disease and infirmities that break us. Surely Christ must have felt that his body was being trampled by vast hordes of troops – and indeed, the Roman troops did “ride across” his broken body with their whippings, beatings, etc.;
  4. Fire and flood were both used by God for judgment. Fire burns out the impurities and tests the validity of something (as the metal in the crucible). Without fire, there’s not much purification.  Even today, doctors sterilize instruments through great heat.  The flood washed away the evil in the day of Noah – providing a fresh beginning for humanity that was accompanied by a covenant with God. 

But here’s a key point: the result of all this wasn’t devastation, but being brought to a place of great abundance – it was good things, not bad, in hindsight at least, that came out of these trials and sufferings.  In other Psalms, we see that even the writers had problems in the midst of their sufferings in seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, but in hindsight, we can nearly always find the silver lining if we look faithfully enough.

Finally, note the importance of confession if we want God to hear us.  He won’t put up with our pretension of holiness, or our denial of our evilness.  He will accept a heartfelt confession.  How much of our unanswered prayer is because of the lack of confession in our life?   Probably much more than we’d like to admit.

I need to spend more time in confession to God after truly allowing the Spirit to search my heart and reveal my sinfulness to me.  I dare not trust my own heart and mind to do that searching, for my heart is “deceitful above all things” as Scripture notes.  I must invite the Spirit in and when He points out things, I must confess if I want God to hear me once again. 

PRAYER: Thank you for the privilege of suffering for you.  Thank you for catching us in the net that you’ve thrown into this world to capture our hearts.  Help us to humble ourselves that our confession before you may be quick, honest and pure.  Thank you for the promise of your forgiveness.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2016, Galen C. Dalrymple. All rights reserved.