DayBreaks for 1/28/20 – When Legends Die

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DayBreaks for 1/28/20: When Legends Die

I have been a Los Angeles Lakers fan since I was a kid in fifth grade and we lived in southern California, so when the news broke yesterday about the death of basketball legend, Kobe Bryant (along with his 13-year old daughter and 7 other people in a helicopter crash), I was stunned and saddened. Kobe was only 41, but 4 years removed from hanging up his sneakers. Many seemed immobilized by grief. Reactions came pouring in from every walk of life and corner of the globe in this day of instant, world-wide communications. It seems like such a tragic waste.

Alexa tells me that every day there are approximately 156,021 persons who die around the globe. Most of those are the nameless, faceless masses of humanity – people we have never met or even heard of. They lived and died in obscurity.

I couldn’t help but think today about a craftsman from a small village in Israel – fewer than 500 probably lived there – who died one day in a tiny backwater of the Roman world. His life was mostly lived in obscurity and ended in obscurity to those alive at the time. Only a small handful seemed to weep at his death. When he died, there was no mass communication and if people heard of it, it was slow in spreading and few there were who found it to be of interest.

Why didn’t Jesus give his life in the 21st century so everyone could hear about him like Kobe? I’ve heard the explanations but it confounds human wisdom for Jesus to have lived and died when he did – especially if the goal is to have the world come to know him and what he did for them.

I don’t know Kobe’s eternal destiny. I don’t know if he came to believe in the craftsman who died on the cross. I can only hope he did. But I do know this: for all his fame, wealth and glory, Kobe’s death couldn’t and didn’t save even a single human soul. And his fame couldn’t keep the helicopter in the air in order to save the lives of those nine aboard.  And all his world championships, MVP’s, Olympic gold medals and the hundreds of millions of dollars he made putting a ball through a hoop don’t matter at all to God. Kobe has faced the ultimate question: Who do you believe Jesus is? I can only hope and pray he knew the answer. 

Yet, the one who died two thousand years ago saved souls by the millions through his death. And yesterday, while the news filled the airwaves with news of Kobe’s passing, I didn’t see one story on the news about the king of heaven and what he’d done. It is not God’s way to be flashy, but to be humble and work invisibly.

How many of the 156,021 who died today went to heaven because of Kobe? None. Not one. How many went because of Jesus? I don’t know, but if they didn’t, it isn’t Jesus’ fault, but it could be partly mine. You see, like most of us, I was eager yesterday and today to talk about Kobe’s passing with my friends – far more eager to talk about that than I am to tell others about Jesus’ death for them. May God have mercy on my soul. 

One more thing as I contemplate the death of a legend. One very famous man and his daughter died yesterday that I know of, but the vast bulk of the remaining 156,019 died obscure deaths as far as the news is concerned. But with God no one dies in obscurity because Jesus tells us that God even knows when a tiny sparrow dies and we are of much greater worth than a tiny bird. We are known to him, he counts the hairs on our head and knows our name and he longs for us all to be with him. And he is counting on us to tell those around us that he loves them so that the 156,021 who will die tomorrow will live in His Presence forever.

My condolences to the Bryant family.

PRAYER: Jesus, thank you for living and dying for us. Help us to be eager to tell the world what you’ve done. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2020 by Galen C. Dalrymple.  ><}}}”>

 

DayBreaks for 12/31/19: Trust the Catcher

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DayBreaks for 12/31/19: Trust the Catcher

From the DayBreaks Archive, 12/31/09:

The year is at a close. The decade is done (depending on how you count the start of a decade!) What will the coming year hold? Birth, life, and death. Chances are good that some who read this DayBreaks won’t be alive this time next year. Certainly, someone you know will die in the next year.

In her introduction to Henri Nouwen’s book, The Only Necessary Thing, Sue Mosteller relays a bit of Nouwen’s thoughts about death and life: “Speaking of death and eternal life, Henri leads us to glimpse the reality of our approaching death, not as something fearful and traumatic, but more as a ‘return to the womb of God’ (p. 190). Communion with God grows deep inside us and we gradually learn a trust so tangible that we begin to imagine our death as a ‘letting go’ of the swing on the flying trapeze. Henri quotes the trapeze artist Rodleigh, who says, ‘When I fly to Joe, I have simply to stretch out my arms and hands and wait for him to catch me and pull me safely over the apron behind the catchbar…the worst thing a flyer can do is to try to catch the catcher.’ ‘Dying is trusting the catcher,’ says Henri. ‘Don’t try to grab Him; He will grab you. Just stretch out your arms and hands and trust, trust, trust.'”

Trusting in God is to trust Him as the Catcher. I don’t get the sense from Jesus’ words on the cross that he was worried about trying to grab onto God:“Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” When he had said this, he breathed his last. (Luke 23:46) I sense nothing in his words except absolute trust that the Father was more than able to catch him regardless of what Jesus did at that point.

The story has been told for years about the man who was standing alone on the edge of a cliff when the ground beneath him crumbled and the man plunged over the edge. About 15-20 feet down, he managed to grab a branch that protruded from the cliff face. Desperately holding on, he began crying out for help. No one was there – no one heard. So finally, the man calls out to God: “God, please save me!” To his surprise, he hears a voice: “Do you trust me?” The man, struggling to maintain his grip, replies, “Yes, God, I trust you!” To which God replies, “Then let go…”.

Only God can catch us. Only God is worthy of our trust. But faith and trust are sometimes hard to come by, especially when faced with the ultimate conclusion of this worldly life. During this next year, as you see friends and loved ones die, if they are believers you can have great confidence that God will “catch” them. That death, for the believer, is a trip home, to our origin. It is not something to be feared.

The time will eventually come for all of us – and we must launch out into eternity with nothing in our hands – trusting Him to catch us and land us safely on the other side.

As far as tomorrow – I am not afraid. God can catch me. He can catch us all regardless of the date, regardless of the circumstances. Until then, “just stretch out your arms and hands and trust, trust, trust.”

PRAYER: Lord, you have carried us in your arms from the moment we were born and you will carry us until the day we die.  Thank you for being with us this past year and for the assurance that no matter where we are, you will be with us in the coming year, too.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

DayBreaks for 12/10/19 – A Message for the Grieving

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DayBreaks for 12/10/19: A Message for the Grieving

Do you remember your first brush with death?  It might have been the death of a pet, or when you first saw road kill.  For some, the first touch of death is for a human who was loved but now gone.  It matters little what the first encounter was, for we will most certainly encounter death numerous times during our few years.  People have wondered since the dawn of creation about the dead – where are they, is there a place they go to, if so – what is it like?  Will we see them again?  For Christians, the questions are a bit more focused: do the dead in Christ go to be with him right away, or do they go to some kind of “holding tank” until the end?  Or, are they even conscious until the resurrection?

It appears that the Christians at Thessalonica had questions about such matters and the apostle Paul wrote partly to bring their questioning to an end.  Paul had several things to say that were instructive:

FIRST: We want you to be quite certain, brothers, about those who have died, to make sure that you do not grieve about them, like the other people who have no hope. (1 Thes. 4:13, JB)  As with any group of people, they’d seen loved ones die and be buried.  And they wanted to know more about their plight.  And, thankfully, God wanted them to know more about their status, so He had Paul pen these words.  There are some who will read this that will experience their first Christmas without a particular loved one. Let God speak to you through the words of Paul this year to give you comfort.  But Paul goes on:

SECOND: I want you to know what happens to a Christian when he dies so that when it happens, you will not be full of sorrow, as those who have no hope.  For since we believe that Jesus died and then came back to life again, we can also believe that when Jesus returns, God will bring back with Him all the Christians who have died. (1 Thes. 4:13-14, TLB) What is God telling us in this passage?  That we will see our believing loved ones again.  This passage also hints at something another verse will make even more clear: where the dead believers go in the interim – that Jesus will bring them “with him” – so they must be where he is.

THIRD: For me to live is Christ and to die is gain.  If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me.  Yet what shall I choose?  I do not know!  I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far.”(Phil. 1:21-23, NIV)  Where does Paul say he would go if he departed this life?  “To be with Christ.” 

Just a day or two ago, I was exchanging email with a friend whose wife (both he and his wife are Christians) passed away this past summer, and I asked him how he was doing during this holiday season.  He replied to me, and I wrote back and simply said, “This year she’ll be celebrating Christmas with the One who was born in the stable.”  I believe that with all my heart – she is presently with the Lord, and when He comes back, she’ll come with Him – as will all our loved ones who have died in Christ.

I want to remind us all that the holidays are very difficult times for people who face them alone for the first time – for all who will have an empty chair at the family gathering this year.  Please – reach out to them and share this part of the good news with those who are in Christ – let God speak peace through you to encourage them as to the fate of their loved ones.

PRAYER: Thank You for Your great and exceedingly precious promises and reassurances to us, Lord!  Please give comfort to all those who have lost believing loved ones during this year and make us be instruments of Your grace and comfort.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

DayBreaks for 9/27/19 – The Truck or the Shadow

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DayBreaks for 9/27/19: The Truck or the Shadow

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me – Your rod and Your staff comfort me. – Ps. 23:4

There is a wonderful story that is told about Donald Barnhouse, who was a great man of faith and servant of the Lord.  While his children were still very young (he had 3 at the time), his first wife, Ruth, died of cancer.  One can only try to imagine the feelings that assailed the grieved family!  On the day of the funeral, Mr. Barnhouse and his children attended the service at the funeral home and then got into their car to go to the cemetery for the graveyard service. 

As they drove to the cemetery, Dr. Barnhouse heard the crying of his children but he was so overcome with his own grief and heartbreak that he didn’t know what to say in an effort to comfort his small children.  As they drove, all of a sudden, a very large moving van drove immediately past their car and the shadow of the van momentarily threw them into the shade.  It was the inspiration that Dr. Barnhouse needed.  He turned to his children and asked them this seemingly very simple question: “Would you rather be run over by a truck or by a shadow?”  The children, perhaps thinking that he’d taken leave of his senses, quickly replied through their weeping, that they’d rather be run over by the shadow.  Dr. Barnhouse then said, “About 2000 years ago the truck of death ran directly over Jesus so that only the shadow of death would touch us.”

The point was clear: for those who are His children, death not only holds no fear for us, but it cannot harm us – it is nothing more than a shadow.  It has been nothing but a shadow for all believers since Jesus took the sting of death away and overcame it once and for all time.  Yes, the shadow of death still looms in the dark valley, but David seemed to sense when he wrote Psalm 23 that it was only shadows…that there is no reason to fear it for the Lord God is with us.

PRAYER: We praise You, Jesus, for taking away death’s sting and that You have protected us from what You endured!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

DayBreaks for 9/20/19 – Alaska Lessons #4 – Life

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Tree in Denali National Park, September 2019. Photo by Galen Dalrymple. 

DayBreaks for 9/20/19: Alaska Lessons #4 – Life

I sat on the porch of our cabin in Denali National Park one afternoon in silence and listened to the rustling of the leaves. Fall was coming to Denali, or maybe more correctly, winter was just around the corner. In the one week we’d been there, the fall colors had changed dramatically and the trees that surrounded our cabin shed copious amounts of leaves. As I sat there, listening, I watched them fall quietly to the ground. Winter comes quickly to the tundra – and in human life.

The story of life is portrayed in seeds and by deciduous trees that sprout leaves each spring, bearing them gloriously throughout the summer, yet surrender them to the inevitable in the fall. During winter, they appear dead.

I am well into the fall, perhaps early winter, of my life. I can look back across the years and recount memories of faces and places that are incredibly dear to me. I have lived a wonderful life!

But I know that the season of my life is well along. Many of the leaves of my life have spent themselves and fallen due to the inexorable march of time.

That’s not bad. In fact, it’s a good thing. We spend so much time fighting the inevitable but I think we should embrace it. You see, even as the leaves fall from the tree in fall and the tree, though just slumbering, appears dead in winter, the kernel of life is still harbored within, to be awakened by the gentle warmth of the sun when the right time has come.

For me, the time will come when I, too, appear to be dead, lifeless. But just as the tree “comes back to life” with the sun warms the earth, I will also come back to life when the Son shines his brightest.

All seasons of life should be cherished for the wonder that they are, the treasures they hold, and the promise that lies hidden within.

1 Corinthians 15:20-23 (NKJV) – But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming.

PRAYER: Jesus, thank you for each season of life, including this season I am presently in. Let me welcome the winter because I know that after the sleep, life will erupt immortal! In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

DayBreaks for 6/20/19 – Receiving a Death Sentence

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DayBreaks for 06/20/09: Receiving a Death Sentence

From the DayBreaks archives, June 2009:

I always find video clips of court sessions where the defendant receives a death sentence interesting.  It is the expression, or lack thereof, on the face of the defendant that interests me.  Sometimes there is no reaction, sometimes they are stunned, at other times they have a very strong physical reaction.  I have often wondered how it must feel to them at that moment when the sentence is read. 

Last week, my beloved boxer, Casper had a close call.  We were going out for our daily walk to the mailbox to get the bills and junk mail.  We’d barely walked out of the garage and he collapsed and struggled to get back up.  After a few seconds that seemed like hours, he gave up struggling and lay in my arms.  I felt for his heartbeat and could feel nothing.  He stopped breathing.  I was at first puzzled, hinking perhaps he’d hurt his hind leg, but then the reality hit me: injured legs don’t stop hearts or breathing.  And my worst fear came to mind: that Casper, like the last boxer I had before him, had dilated cardiomyopathy (an enlarged heart).  It is a relatively common problem in boxers and it had taken Ramses’ life when he was just 5 years old.  All I could think to do with Casper was hold him, talk to and pet him, and then it hit me: do CPR and see if you can get his heart beating and lungs working again.  So, I thumped him on the ribcage a few times, gave him a few breaths of air, and (praise God!) he came back.  Today, you’d never know anything happened by looking at him or watching him.

We took him to the vet who ran tests. I expected to hear the worst – to hear a death sentence pronounced on my beloved dog: “Casper has dilated cardiomyopathy.”  But instead, the vet said that the heart looked good, the EKG was perfectly normal.  So, the cause of the collapse remains a mystery.  It made me think, however, about death sentences.

It was the apostle Paul who referred to the sentence of death in 2 Cor. 1:9-10 (NIV): Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us…” 

In context, Paul is describing the sufferings they endured in order to preach the gospel.  I believe that when we were born, we all received a sentence of death due to our sin nature.  If you are born a human, you are born with that sentence hanging over your head.  You can’t avoid it by having your parents sign some kind of waiver.  The only way to avoid the death sentence is to be given a full and complete pardon by the Judge.  As Paul put it, we have been given the sentence of death so that we will rely on God rather than our own wiles and cleverness or our ability to excuse or argue that we’re not guilty of sin.  God has pronounced sentence: The soul that sins shall die and The wages of sin is death.

The problem is that we often fail to remember that we are under a death sentence until Christ gives us the reprieve and grants us real life.  Casper will die someday.  I will die someday.  But by God’s incredible grace, I shall live again.

Prayer: Father, death is such an enemy.  You have told us that the wages of sin is death, but the free gift You offer us is life through Christ Jesus.  May we consciously live in the awareness that all that is in this created world is passing away, including our physical bodies, and that we need the breath of Life more than we could ever imagine.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

DayBreaks for 3/22/19 – Even the Darkness Dazzles

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DayBreaks for 3/22/19: Even the Darkness Dazzles

In order to be God made man and to lead our exodus from this world to the next, Jesus had to die like we do: alone, with no particular glory. Otherwise he would have been an anomaly instead of a messiah, and it would have been hard for us to see what he had in common with the rest of us.

As it was, he died very much like those who died on either side of him, one of them begging to be saved from what was coming, the other asking to be remembered when Jesus got where he was going. Jesus could not do anything for the one who wanted to be spared, but he did a great favor for the other. He told him that the darkness was a dazzling one, with paradise in it for both of them.

Perhaps it was the transfiguration that helped remind Jesus of this dazzling world beyond: when light burst through all his seams and showed those gathered what he was made of. It was as if he experienced a flash-back of his pre-incarnation glory. If we had been allowed to intrude on that moment, it would have been because someone thought we might need a dose of glory too, to get us through the night. Some people are lucky enough to witness it for themselves, although like Peter, James and John, very few of them will talk about it later.

What the rest of us have are stories like the transfiguration and the crucifixion, and the chance to decide for ourselves whether we will believe what they tell us. It is a lot to believe: that God’s lit-up life includes death, that there is no way around it but only through, that even the that death darkness can dazzle.

1 John 1:5 (CSBBible) – This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light, and there is absolutely no darkness in him.

PRAYER: Thank you that there is no darkness in, or for, you and therefore the death darkness for your children dazzles with your glory! In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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