DayBreaks for 1/29/18 – So It Is True

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DayBreaks for 1/29/18: So It Is True

From the DayBreaks archives, January 2008:

There are those who would tell us that anything we want to believe is true.  I can only laugh.  As if my believing anything makes it true!

I recently spent some time with a friend who was stricken with breast cancer that spread over the course of years into her bones, and now it has spread into her brain.  We went to high school together – and in fact, I wrote about her earlier this week.  I was blessed to go and sit by her side for a while, to hold her hand and reminisce as best we could with her in the condition she’s in.  It is a terrible thing to see the toll that cancer takes on the body. 

At one point in the conversation, as we were starting to talk about how she wanted her memorial service done, she teared up, her lip began to quiver, and it was clear that the spectre of death was very real and close to her at that moment.  It is quite something to look into the eyes of one who knows they are already part way through death’s door.  I’ve been asking myself a lot in the past week or so how it must feel to go to sleep at night and really not know if you’ll awaken again in this world. 

As she cried, I whispered to her, “God loves you.”  She whispered back: “I sure hope so.” 

Death, like its master, Satan, stealthily watches to take its victims – sometimes as a thief in the night, sometimes in broad daylight.  Often, he gives no warning, and thus it is that the Bible gives us the admonition to be prepared to meet not only our Maker, but death, at any time.  We need to pay more attention to that admonition than we do. 

The agnostic professor J. H. Huxley, was on his death bed.  His nurse has told the tale of how, during the very last moments of his life as he lay there dying and breathing his very last breaths, he suddenly opened his eyes and looked up, apparently seeing something that was invisible to mortal eyes.  After staring a short while, he whispered, “So it is true.”

It is true that we are mortal – although we don’t sometimes think death will really come to ME.  But beyond that, it is true – there is a God and we will meet Him.  It is also true that this God loves us deeply.  Why do we resist the idea of God and eternal life so much?  Perhaps because it seems too good to be true.  Perhaps it’s more a matter of thinking that after the things we know we’ve thought and done and not done in life that God must be very, very disappointed and angry at us.  I’m sure he’s disappointed in things we do and he hates the evil we do….but he still loves us. 

It is when we are on our own deathbed that we will come face to face with our faith, and the One in whom that faith has been placed.  May His mercy rest on us all.

PRAYER:  For all who are facing death, Lord, we ask Your Presence, and for Your Spirit to move in their hearts, even as it did for the thief on the cross, and lead them to Paradise through faith in Your beloved Son!  Comfort us in the hour of our death, Lord, and let us wake to see Your face.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

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DayBreaks for 1/25/18 – The Rails of Life

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DayBreaks for 1/25/18: The Rails of Life

From the DayBreaks archives, January 2008:

This past Tuesday night when we got back from being with our youth group, I had a phone call waiting on our answering machine.  It was from the mother of a good friend of mine from high school.  I’d not heard this woman’s voice for probably 38 years (could I possibly have graduated from high school that long ago??!!).  She was calling to tell me that my friend, Lesley, who has struggled with cancer for years, is very near the end of her struggle, and that “we’re counting down the days.”  What a contrast to the phone call we received just before going to youth group that night from our youngest son, letting us know that he and his wife are with child – their first.  We were, of course, ecstatic!

As happy as I was and am for our son and his bride, I was crushed by the news of Lesley.  This “girl” (I still think of her as I knew her in high school) has had a difficult life.  Within a few months after we graduated, she was riding in a car when she was struck by a train and severely injured.  It was touch and go to see if she’d live or die.  She was left with some permanent issues from that accident, but she did survive and went on to become the mother of 3 boys. 

When she was first diagnosed with cancer, her husband left her.  He said he couldn’t deal with it.  Eventually, she found another man – a good one – who loved her for who she was and in spite of her cancer, they married.  For years, they fought her cancer side by side.  Now, the end of the fight is near.  Her mother asked me if I would do her daughter’s memorial service.  Such things are the great privilege of a friend and pastor.

As I thought about this situation, in conjunction with the passing of a young girl from our community with cancer, I shared at the youth group last Tuesday night some thoughts about death and loss.  God’s timing, though strange to us, is always perfect.  Little did I know as I stood there with the youth that I’d get to put into practice so quickly the things I was talking about.  We showed a NOOMA video that made the observation that we can choose whether or not we become bitter about life and what happens, and also that we can choose to focus on what we’ve lost instead of what we have.  Good lessons.

Then, on Wednesday morning, I got an email from a DayBreaks reader with an interview from Rick Warren, whose own wife has been stricken with cancer.  In the interview, he talked about life, it’s ups and downs, and how we often think of life as a series of peaks (the good times) and valleys (the bad times) – and how we move from one to the other so often.  But then he went on and made an observation that I thought was really good.  He said that he didn’t see life as peaks and valleys, but more like a pair of train tracks.  One rail is good, one rail is bad, and they run in parallel throughout our life. 

As I considered Lesley’s situation and the impending memorial service, I realized how true the words were from the video and Rick Warren, and how well they fit together.  The train of our life runs on both tracks…the question is, which track are we going to focus our emotions on?  There is always good and bad…simultaneously.  Perhaps that’s why the apostle Paul encouraged us to consider the good things and “think on these things.”  If we don’t, the badness of the other rail can do us in and lead us into bitterness and depression. 

For those of us who are left behind (and today, 1/21/2008, is the 10th anniversary of my father’s passing to glory), we can choose life over death, joyful memories over painful ones, happy times over sad, love and laughter over loss.  We can claim once again and for all time the memories that mean so much to us of those we have loved and lost. 

And one more thing: we can hold with confidence to the truth that God is busy making everything new, restoring all the loss – and that someday, we’ll see that with our own wonder-filled eyes.

PRAYER:  Thank You, Lord, for our friends and family.  Thank You for the hope of all things being made new, and for the ability to choose to see the good and not just the bad.  You are awesomely wonderful, Father!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

DayBreaks for 1/17/18 – God’s Face Streaked with Tears

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DayBreaks for 1/17/18: God’s Face Streaked with Tears

From the DayBreaks archive, January 2008:

This past week, our small town suffered a great loss.  A young girl, Courtney, was struck down at the tender age of 16 by Ewing’s sarcoma – a rare form of cancer.  She’d become somewhat of a “celebrity” (in a good sense) in our town for her valiant struggle for the past two years.  Her death has hit our town hard and made us all again aware of the presence of the last enemy that will someday be destroyed.

Perhaps my favorite chapter of the entire Bible is John chapter 11 – the story of the raising of Lazarus.  The emotion of the chapter is intense, the message precious. 

First of all, we need to realize that God is a Spirit.  Spirits don’t have eyes, arms, legs, backs or beards.  Spirits are, well…spirits.  Since I’ve never seen one, I can’t tell you what a spirit looks like, but they don’t have bodies per se.  And that complicated things for God.

When God wanted us to know what He was like, He couldn’t just come down in His Spirit and show us.  (I don’t even know if spirits are visible!)  And that’s why the incarnation was so critical.  For us to see God, we had to see something in the form of flesh and blood.  And that takes us to the story of Lazarus.

The shortest verse in the bible – you know it and can quote it – “Jesus wept.”  Perhaps that’s the shortest verse in Scripture because God knew that for the most part, we’re not very good at memorizing Scripture.  But I think it’s the shortest verse in Scripture for a different reason: God knew how important it would be to us so He made it a simple verse that we could remember.

As Jesus stood at the grave of his friend, Lazarus, John says that Jesus was “deeply moved in spirit and troubled.”  Unlike some political candidates or actors, the tears on Jesus’ face were real, just like ours.  They were no act.  They tasted salty, just like ours.  John saw those tears himself.  Think about that.  When Jesus wept at the tomb of Lazarus, for what may have been the first and only time, humanity saw tears run down the face of God.  And it made such an impression on John that he kept it hidden in his heart until he wrote his gospel and shared it with us.

We needed to know that God weeps with us as we stand at the gravesite.  We need to know that He remembers what it felt like to see death take a loved one in its cold, clammy hands.  We need to know that God, with tears running down his face over what has become of His creation, steps forward at moments like that and says, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” And we certainly need to know that as Jesus stands before the resting place of the dead – the most impenetrable fortress of all – he speaks: “Take away the stone.  Lazarus, come forth!” 

It says that those last words were spoken with a loud voice.  Jesus didn’t whisper into the darkness of the tomb, wondering if he could pull this off.  If he hadn’t been sure of his power to do what he was doing, he might have whispered the words where no one could hear – just in case it didn’t work out.  But he didn’t.  He shouted it out so that everyone would know that he held power over the fortress of death.

And as life returned to Lazarus, I feel sure that the tears disappeared from the face of God, to be replaced with smiles and laughter and eyes that sparkled with delight as his friend came forth from the tomb. 

When you weep – remember, God’s face has been streaked with tears.  He knows.  He understands. 

PRAYER: Oh, God, I’m so glad that You have tasted tears.  It is beyond precious that You chose to weep in front of us so that we would know Your love for us.  When we weep, remind us that You still know, You still feel, You still care.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

DayBreaks for 1/15/18 – It Is Finished..It Is Just Beginning

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DayBreaks for 1/15/18: It Is Finished…It Is Just Beginning

John 19:30 (ESV) – When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
I honestly don’t know if there are three more poignant words than those three that fell from the lips of Jesus with his dying breath. “It is finished!” Matthew and Mark record that Jesus cried out in a loud voice but don’t tell us what he said. Luke says that Jesus cried out loudly, Father, into your hands I commit my spirit…and then died. I’m not disturbed by this “disconnect” at all and I could see Jesus having said those final two statements in any order.

While I won’t for a second presume to know what was in the mind of Jesus at that moment, I will venture a guess. We know from his evening in the garden that he was dreading the crucifixion that loomed just ahead. He didn’t want to have to go through it, but we are told that he “joyfully” endured the cross and its torments for us. It is possible that Jesus was referring to the suffering (which none of us can imagine) that he had endured for hours suspended between sky and ground. Who could blame him if that’s what was on his mind? That being said, I think that was the least of the reasons for his shout from the cross.

I tend to think that there was something much more significant in his heart that led to those words, It is finished! I suspect it was more about the following:

FIRST: rather than focusing on the pain, I think he was focused on the reason behind the pain – the price for sin needed to be paid and now it had been paid in full. The sacrifice was finished. The separation of God from man was no longer inevitable.

SECOND: the rule of death that had held sway from the death of the very first human was finished. The stench of eternal death was swept away with the dying breath of Jesus as he cried out.

THIRD: the power of Satan to claim human souls was finished – at least for those who would accept the One who made the sacrifice. Satan could no longer demand the souls of every human being.

FOURTH: the power of a law that could condemn and convict us of sin but which could never be kept or save was shattered and washed away by the blood he’d shed establishing a new covenant.

FINALLY: the ordeal of the incarnation was finished for all practical purposes. There seems to be something quite different about Jesus in his resurrection body. The humiliation of God becoming man was finished. We have no record of Jesus ever being tempted again after his resurrection as he was in his pre-cruficixion days. He seems to have begun to take back some of the glory of his pre-incarnate state with the blinding light of the resurrection morning, the ability to appear and disappear at will, and to ascend into the clouds.

I suppose it is a combination of the above that led to Jesus’ cry. And while that was finished, something new as beginning: the ability for humans to be sinless in God’s eyes, the ability for humans to be reunited with God. While all those things ended with Jesus’ words, for humanity it was just the beginning. We have been given a new chance, a new hope, and new life – and new we must begin to live like citizens of the Light and not of darkness any longer.

How are you doing with that?

PRAYER: Thank you, Jesus, for finishing what you came to do. Help us to live up to the new beginning you died to give us! In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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

DayBreaks for 1/12/18 – The Reaper’s Approach

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DayBreaks for 1/12/18: The Reaper’s Approach

From the DayBreaks archives, January 2008:

From Bizarre News, 1/3/08:

PROVIDENCE, R.I. – Doctors at a Providence, R.I., nursing home say a cat that keeps the patients company seems to be able to predict their deaths.  Staff at the Steere House Nursing and Rehabilitation Center said the 2-year-old feline, named Oscar, will go into the room of a patient whose end is near, curl up next to them and purr, WebMD reported Thursday.  David Dosa, who submitted an essay on the cat to The New England Journal of Medicine — which published the paper Thursday — said the vigilant cat has been present for the deaths of more than 25 residents and often serves as a fill-in for family members who cannot be present at their loved one’s bedside. 

“As people would pass, the question (among staff) was always, ‘Was Oscar at the bedside?'” Dosa said.  “And the answer was invariably ‘yes.’  This is an end-stage dementia unit.  Deaths are common.” 

As for how the cat knows when a patient is near death, experts say there are a number of possibilities ranging from sense of smell to mimicking the behavior of  

humans who care for the dying patients. 

Isn’t it interesting how animals have such perceptive abilities?  Animals have been known to recognize an impending earthquake before they happen.  During the massive tsunami a few years ago that took so many lives in the Indian Ocean area, animals took off for higher ground in advance of any waves appearing.  Dogs (at least some of them) have the ability to sense an epileptic seizure before it strikes, and have even been trained to alert their masters before it happens. Others have been known to be able to smell cancers in humans and have been used as a diagnostic aid.  

But what struck me about this story was that the cat could sense approaching death.  Death is pictured in art as a tattered, black robed man with a scythe (the “grim reaper”) who approaches his victims.  We will probably never know how Oscar the cat could sense the approach of death, but it appears that this cat at least has the ability to detect its approach.

Without being morbid, I was led to wonder what we would do if we could sense the approaching death of others?  Would we, like Oscar the cat, draw near to them, or would we tend to shy away from them, not knowing how to act or what to say – as is sadly the tendency of many people when someone is clearly terminally ill?  What would we say to them?  If they were unbelievers, would we speak of the love of Jesus?  And if we’d do it then, why would we not do it while they’re still healthy and well and can have the blessed privilege of living for Christ in the here and now? 

I also wonder what we’d do if we could sense our own imminent death?  Is there anyone who wouldn’t want to know that death was drawing closer so that they could mend fences, speak those words of love and affection once again to a spouse, children and grandchildren?  Here’s the kicker: intellectually we know that death is approaching with every tick of the clock.  As Francis Schaeffer so aptly put it: “How then shall we live?”

Job 12:10 (NIV) –In his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind.

PRAYER: Lord, give us compassion for the sick and the dying, and help us to never lose sight of our own mortality.  Our hope rests in You!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

DayBreaks for 11/28/17 – I Have Returned Alive

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DayBreaks for 11/28/17: I Have Returned Alive

From the DayBreaks archive, November 2007:

Shoichi Yokoi was a soldier, conscripted into the Imperial Japanese Army in 1941 and sent to Guam shortly thereafter.  In 1944, as American forces reconquered the island, Yokoi went into hiding.
On January 24, 1972, Yokoi was discovered in a remote section of Guam by two of the island’s inhabitants.  For 28 years he had been hiding in an underground jungle cave, fearing to come out of hiding even after finding leaflets declaring that World War II had ended.  “It is with much embarrassment that I have returned alive,” he said upon his return to Japan, carrying his rusted rifle at his side.

There is no question that the Japanese soldiers during WW2 were incredibly loyal and committed to their cause.  Much of the fiercest fighting of the war took place in the Pacific theater.  One of the things that the Japanese had drilled into them through their culture for centuries is that you never surrender.  To surrender was the greatest possible insult and shame that a soldier could face.  If you were a Japanese soldier, there were only 2 ways that you could return home honorably: either as a victor at the war’s end or as a corpse.  Hence, Mr. Yokio’s comment: “It is with much embarrassment that I have returned alive.”  The poor man had stayed at his post, alone and in hiding on Guam, for nearly 30 years.

Many thoughts run through my mind as I read this story:

I’m impressed with such dedication to a cause, such loyalty.  It makes me wonder about my commitment to the cause of the cross. 

I’m intrigued by the mindset that coming home alive is a shame.  Then, I stop to think about our Lord’s instructions that we must lose our lives if we hope to find life.  We must die to who we are in our sinful human natures.  And to come home, to stand before God’s judgment bar in heaven without having fully died, would be a great shame.  I think that I must redouble my prayers and efforts to “put to death” the old man so that a new One can live inside of me.

In spite of the shame of not truly dying to myself as I should in this life, Jesus will see to it that I do come home alive.  And when I do, it will be to a welcome, not to shame.

PRAYER:  Help me to die, Lord, that I may live.  And let that life be in the glory of Your Presence, that we may not be ashamed!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2017 by Galen C. Dalrymple.

DayBreaks for 11/13/17 – The Risk of Mortality

DayBreaks for 11/13/17: The Risk of Mortality

NOTE: Galen is traveling.

From the DayBreaks archive, November 2007:

I’ve got to admit, I’m a bit of a news lover.  I am constantly checking to find out what’s going on in the world.  I find it fascinating.  More often than not, what I find fascinating is the way in which the news is reported, or even the idiocies that are claimed in the news story itself. 

For many of us, on 11/07/07, some great news came out from the Associated Press (imagine that!)  It seems that some medical studies have been done recently that suggest that being overweight isn’t really as bad for you as we’d all been led to believe.  Here’s part of the article:

“This is a very puzzling disconnect,” said Dr. JoAnn Manson, chief of preventive medicine at Harvard’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital. “That is a conundrum.”

“It was the second study by the same government scientists who two years ago first suggested that deaths from being too fat were overstated. The new report further analyzed the same data, this time looking at specific causes of death along with new mortality figures from 2004 for 2.3 million U.S. adults.

“Excess weight does not uniformly increase the risk of mortality from any and every cause, but only from certain causes,” said the study’s lead author Katherine Flegal, of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Galen’s Thoughts: I’ll bet many of you feel better after reading this, don’t you? 

What a fantasy world we live in!  Did you catch the bit of fantasy as you read through this portion of the report?  Here it is: “Excess weight does not uniformly increase the risk of mortality from any and every cause…”  Hum.  Now isn’t that interesting?  When you stop to think about it, what is the risk of mortality that we all face?  Isn’t it 100%?  I seriously doubt that, fatness or thinness aside, anyone’s risk or dying (sooner or later) will go above 100%, or below 100%.  I think that our risk of mortality is pretty doggone fixed right there at 100%, period.

It was just last night that I lay in bed thinking about mortality.  I’m a 55-year-old male, non-smoker.  I watch what I eat and try to not consume too much cholesterol or saturated fats.  I force myself to eat salads when I’d much rather be snacking down on some juicy steak.  Bluch…  Why?  To reduce my “risk of mortality”.  I’ve already had one quadruple bypass.  What are the odds of my reducing my risk of mortality to 98%, or 70%?  Z-E-R-O. 

I’m not saying that we shouldn’t take care of our bodies – they are the gift of God and the temple of the Holy Spirit according to Scripture.  I’m just pointing out, once again, that our risk of mortality is 100% and we’d better get used to that idea instead of trying to pretend that it won’t happen. 

When I was young, I couldn’t really conceive of dying.  If it would ever happen, it would be someday way off in the future, decades away – in fact, so far away that it might as well have been something that would only happen in Never-Never Land.  Now, given my family history, I might be lucky to make it another 15 years before mortality overtakes me.  How ready am I?  Good question.  How ready are you?

PRAYER: May we live this day as if it is our last, may we live tomorrow, if we are granted it, in gratefulness and thanksgiving.  May our lives be fully swallowed up in the Risen One!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2017 by Galen C. Dalrymple.