DayBreaks for 3/20/18 – Between a Rock and Heaven

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DayBreaks for 3/20/18: Between a Rock and Heaven

From the DayBreaks archive, 2008:

Some people have trouble making decisions about even the most trivial of things.  I’ve had the dilemma myself.  Just today when I went to the Burger King (not something I do often!), I was torn between getting the Angus steak burger or Tenderoast chicken.  I would have preferred the steak burger, but went for the chicken so I wouldn’t feel as guilty.  Silly, isn’t it? 

There are decisions that are not trivial at all.  Who to marry?  What career to pursue?  What home to buy is a pretty big one, too.  We make other important decisions sometimes by default and without a lot of conscious thought: who will be my friends?  I can’t remember ever really asking myself that – it seems that my friends are my friends because we’ve spent time together and it just turned out that way rather than as the result of a conscious decision. 

As we near Holy Week, let’s not forget these words from Henri Nouwen (“A Spirituality of Waiting,” The Weavings Reader): “Jesus went to Jerusalem to announce the Good News to the people of that city. And Jesus knew that he was going to put a choice before them: Will you be my disciple, or will you be my executioner? There is no middle ground here. Jesus went to Jerusalem to put people in a situation where they had to say yes or no. That is the great drama of Jesus’ passion: He had to wait upon how people were going to respond.”

Nouwen is right: up until Jesus showed up on Holy Week, the people really had little to choose from.  There were plenty of rabbis, of course, but only One who made the kinds of demands that Jesus was about to make on them.  Up until he arrived on the scene, people had no choice to speak of: they could choose between sin or a life spent trying to perfectly live the law.  Neither were very attractive nor would either yield good results.  One was destined to lead to shame, degradation and dissolution, while the other would lead to frustration, guilt, discouragement and failure.  But when Jesus offered something different during and after Holy Week, people for the first time had a choice.

Jesus also said that he came to bring a sword.  A choice is much like a sword – it will cut things and make them separate.  There can be no middle ground, there is no living in the space that the sword cut through.  You must be on one side or the other.  It’s not popular these days to be exclusionists, but that’s what Jesus was.  “You are either for me or against me” and “I am the way, the truth and the life – no one comes to the Father BUT BY ME.”  As much as we might wish it were otherwise, that’s the plain and simple truth.  We don’t do anyone favors when we soft pedal the choice that Jesus puts before us – in fact, if we do soft pedal it, we are doing people a great disservice.

We must say either yes or no to Jesus.  The world is waiting to see what we’ll choose. And we need to put that choice in front of the world, too.

PRAYER: Lord, give us hearts and minds of wisdom that when we hear Jesus’ invitation to choose, we will make the right choice that leads to life eternal.  Give us the courage of the truth to speak the truth about the only Way, the only Truth, and the only Life.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

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DayBreaks for 2/23/18 – An Everyday Mystery

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DayBreaks for 2/23/18: An Everyday Mystery

From the DayBreaks archive, February 2008:

Choosing.  How difficult it is, and yet how often we do it!  How many decisions have you made already today?  You decided whether or not to get up when the alarm went off, or to hit snooze a time or two.  You decided what you would wear.  You decided what you would eat, or if you would eat, for breakfast.  You decided (whether you thought about it or not) on the route you’d drive to work, school or wherever you were going.  You decided where to park, how fast you’d drive, whether or not to pass or honk at someone who irritated you.  You decided what you’d listen to on the radio.  You decided what to read in the paper.  You decided if you’d take your lunch or buy it.  Chances are you’ve already made thousands of little decisions already today – and your day is just getting started.

Someone has said that practice is what makes perfect.  We know, of course, that there’s a smidgen of truth in that sentiment – with practice we DO get better (hopefully!)  But we don’t get perfect through practice regardless of the old saying.  The only way we ever get perfect is by God changing us in eternity into Christ’s likeness.  We can make progress until then – but perfection?  No, definitely not.

But if we are to get better with practice, have you ever stopped to think about why it is that we so seldom choose what is best?  It’s nothing new to the 21st century, of course.  It’s been going on since the beginning of time, and humanistic thinking aside, we aren’t getting better at it throughout the millennia.  Adam and Eve were given an entire garden by God and told that they could eat of any tree in the garden – except one.  And which one did they choose?  The ONE.  Jonah had the choice of going to Ninevah or the other direction – so he high-tailed it away from Ninevah.  Saul/Paul could choose to persecute Christians or to let them be.  Judas could have not betrayed Jesus, be he did.  Perhaps you could have chosen to remain faithful to your spouse but you chose unfaithfulness instead.  Drugs, alcohol, greed, thievery, murder, lying – all spring from the well of choice.  See what I mean when I say we’re not getting better at it? 

I’m convinced that we don’t know how to choose wisely sometimes.  How can we possibly know in every circumstance what is the very best thing to do?  If you know the answer, please tell me!  Sure, I know we can pray and God can give us direction, but we still have to choose to go His way and not our own, or He may not give us an answer when we are seeking it. 

So what are we to do?  Maybe all we can hope for in those cases where we’re not sure what is best is to choose what is better.  Mary and Martha were hosting Jesus in their home, and Martha was all a-flutter with her busyness and serving until she got so ticked off at her sister that she even (by implication at least) berates Jesus and Mary – Mary for not helping, Jesus for not telling Mary to help Martha.  Jesus, ever gentle and wise, simply gives Mary a bit of praise: Mary has chosen what is better.  (Lk. 10:42) Notice what Jesus didn’t say: he didn’t say Mary had chosen what was best, but just better. 

What would have been best in that situation?  The Lord only knows, but he didn’t scold Mary for not choosing what was best but encouraged her in her choosing of what was simply “better”.  Maybe that’s why, in all our ways, we should acknowledge Him and let him direct our paths until we reach that which is best.

PRAYER: I’m so grateful, Lord, that you understand our limitations and don’t expect perfection from us.  Forgive us for our foolish choices and help us choose that which is better!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

DayBreaks for 9/15/17 – Your Garden of Gethsemane

DayBreaks for 9/15/17: Your Garden of Gethsemane

From the DayBreaks archive, 9/2007:

Have you ever stopped to think how many decisions you will make in any given day?  We make decisions all the time without even thinking about it.  When we think of decisions, we tend to think of the weightier matters of life – and that’s a good thing.  Weighty matters deserve lots of thought as we try to decide what to do.  Hopefully, if you are a Christian, the very first thing you contemplate is whether or not the thing you are doing is in God’s will.  Regardless of whatever other factors you choose to apply to decisions you are facing and making, that one should be the most prominent. 

How do you know His will?  I’m not going to try to provide an exhaustive list here, but certainly His revealed and written Word is our primary tool for discerning his will.  If we cavalierly throw that out the window, we have no solid basis for a decision.  God expects us to follow the Word when we are facing decisions.  That means we have to accept it as truth, not try to explain it away or rationalize why it doesn’t apply to us.

One of my favorite stories about the life of Jesus has to do with his night in the garden of Gethsemane, my favorite place in the Holy Land.  I am moved by that story – even more, I think, that by the story of the crucifixion itself.  Physical pain is one thing, but spiritual pain can be far worse.  It was in the garden that we’re told Jesus was in agony – not on the cross.  (I’m not minimizing what happened upon those old timbers – I am sure there was incredible agony there, too.)  It was in the garden that he wrestled with both flesh and blood and principalities and powers in the heavenly places.  Why?  Because in the garden he was faced with the decision that would form the crux of his life.  It all culminated there, in the shadows of the olive trees, as the Son of God knelt down in the dirt and made the most crucial decision in all of history: would he do things his way, or God’s way?

There are times and decisions in our lives that are seemingly insignificant (although I’d like to argue that one with you – notice I said “seemingly insignificant”), but then there are moments that clearly rise into the stratosphere in terms of importance.  At those times we are faced with our own garden of Gethsemane.  We must decide whether our prayer will be, “Nevertheless, my will not Thine be done,” or if we’ll echo Jesus’ words: “Nevertheless, not my will but Thine be done.” 

You may be wrestling with a decision today that has life-altering potential, that once made may not be able to be undone ever.  Have you considered what God’s Word would say about it?  If you know how God feels about it, what will you do about it?  You may be facing your own garden of Gethsemane right now.  What will your prayer be?

PRAYER:  Spirit, help us not to fail the test in moments of crisis.  Strip away Satan’s deceptions from our eyes so that we can see what is at stake in the decisions of life!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2017 by Galen C. Dalrymple.  ><}}}”>

DayBreaks for 12/13/16 – The Feast Will be Eaten

DayBreaks for 12/13/16: The Feast Will be Eaten

From the DayBreaks archive, 2006:

It is Christmas season!  Do you feel any of the excitement yet?  I do!  I don’t usually get excited about Christmas until much closer to the holidays (this is a busy time of the year for pastors, after all!), but for some reason, the joy of Christmas has gotten to me early!  I’m not sure why, but I suspect that some of it may be because of a book I just recently finished reading (you’ll hear more about that in the future!) that has awakened me much more to the Presence of Christ – not just at Christmas – but at all times in my life as a believer.  Still, I could choose to be a bah-humbug about it all if I wished to do so.  But that’s not the choice I’ve decided to make. 

Choices are so critical in all aspects of our life.  Some are choices about what to do, and those are the kind that we think of the most: where to live, what to do for a living, what to eat for dinner, what to wear.  It would probably be astounding to know how many decisions a day that we make.  Most of them are insignificant, but there are some doozies every now and then, too. 

But the choices that perhaps have a lot more to do with what and who we are very seldom are about things that we do, but about how we choose to see and respond to life.  We seldom consider that we can choose to be grateful or complainers, grumpy or joy-filled, loving or bitter.  N. T. Wright, in Evil and the Justice of God, wrote: “Indeed, throughout the new Testament we are constantly warned that the choices we make in this life, especially the choices about what sort of person we might become, are real and have lasting consequences which God himself will honor.  But we do not have the choice to sulk in such a way as to prevent God’s party going ahead without us.  We have the right, like the older brother, to sit it out; God has the right to come and reason with us; but the fatted calf is going to be eaten whether we join in or not.”

You can choose your attitude and how you respond to both the good and bad of life.  Much of it has to do with your confidence and trust in God and whether or not you believe He knows what He’s doing in, through and with your life.  You KNOW that God wants you to be filled with the joy of being His child, and He wants you to be infectious with that joy and love.  What will you choose?  Will you join in the party, or will you sit by yourself, bitter and disgruntled?  God’s feast is prepared, the door is open, the music is playing.  Are you read to join in the celebration?

PRAYER:  How Your joy fills us, Lord!  Make our hearts thankful, joyful, loving and excited to be Your children.  Give us Your Spirit of love and peace so that we can share it with others and begin, here and now, to celebrate the feast of life that we have in You!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2016 by Galen Dalrymple.

DayBreaks for 2/19/16 – What Humans Can Do

DayBreaks for 2/19/16: What Humans Can Do

In recent months we’ve been witness to terrifying images coming out of the middle east as terrorists have beheaded newspaper reporters and other captives.  We hear stories about suicide bombers who not only kill themselves, but women, children and babies.  Thankfully, most of us will never see someone tortured to death.  I pray we never do.

In The Undoing of Death, Fleming Rutledge wrote: “But we are implicated in the powers of darkness just the same.  Yesterday there was an article in the New York Times about the movement to save the nuclear sites where the bombs were developed as tourist attractions.  One U.S. Senator said of the B Reactor, where plutonium was made for the Nagasaki bomb, “It would not be a place to spend a fun day; it would be sort of like the Holocaust Museum.”  But the president of the B Reactor Museum Association spoke with pride of the technological achievement: “When you stand in front of the reactor, you realize what humans can do…”  Yes.  When you look at a picture of the Crucifixion, you realize this is what humans can do.”

She makes a good point.  We want to believe the best about ourselves.  We want to deny that humans can do the kind of things “they” do…and then we realize to our great horror that we are “they.”  But we should present the other side of the picture, too: picture Mother Theresa, the apostle Paul on his missionary journeys, the martyrs in the jungles of South America as they carried the love of Jesus to the Waodani.  Yes, we are responsible for the Crucifixion.  We can also do things of such wonder and beauty, empowered by the Holy Spirit, that we scarcely are recognizable as humans.   It is at that moment in time that we must closely resemble the God in Who’s image we were created.  Humans, you see, are capable of both extremes.  That means we can choose.  What have you been choosing?  What will you choose in the moment of decision?

Romans 13:12 –The night is almost gone; the day of salvation will soon be here. So don’t live in darkness . Get rid of your evil deeds. Shed them like dirty clothes. Clothe yourselves with the armor of right living, as those who live in the light.

TODAY’S PRAYER:  Lord, we want to be children of the Light, not of the darkness.  Help us to truly bear your image and likeness to people who so desperately need Your help.  Let us turn away from the unfruitful works of darkness.  May we become all that You intend for us to be!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2016, all rights reserved.

DayBreaks for 08/21/13 – Choices, Habits, Character

DayBreaks for 08/21/13 – Choices, Habits, Character

From the DayBreaks archive, 8/21/2003:

How many choices do you think you make in the course of a day?  I really don’t have any idea, nor do I know of any studies that reflect how many choices, or decisions, we must make in a day.  But I’m sure that when you stop to really think about it, the number must be staggering.  Consider just a few of the things you decide, either consciously or unconsciously, each day: what time to get up, what side of bed to crawl out of, how long of a shower to take, what to eat for breakfast, lunch, dinner, whether to say “yes” or “no” to the many questions you will be asked, whether or not to do someone a favor, what you will think about in the moments your mind is idle, what you will say in response to questions, which way to drive to work, school or home and how to get home.  The list is mind-boggling.  The simple truth is that every time you do something, you made a choice, a decision, to do THAT instead of something else that you could have chosen.  I would venture a guess that we consciously or unconsciously make tens of thousands of choices each day.

It was Augustine when he noted that our choices become our habits, and our habits eventually become our character.  C. S. Lewis echoed that sentiment in these words: “Every time you make a choice you are turning the central part of you, the part of you that chooses, into something a little different from what it was before.  And taking your life as a whole, with all your innumerable choices, all your life long you are slowly turning this central thing into either a heavenly creature or into a hellish creature.”  If, as Gregory Boyd suggests in his book, Satan and the Problem of Evil, “Decisions, however small, are not morally neutral activities.  Certain decisions tend to create future possibilities, while other decisions tend to squelch them” is right (and I think he is), we need to weigh our decisions more carefully perhaps.  Elsewhere in his book, Boyd states: “We are now deciding the kind of eternal beings we will become.  In this period we make choices, though in time our choices make us.

Perhaps this is why Paul wrote in 2 Cor 10:5 that “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”  (NIV)  Paul took pains to point out that it is “EVERY thought” (emphasis mine) that needs to be take captive.  Our choices are the result of thoughts…and over time, our choices lead to habit patterns, and over even more time, those habit patterns define our character. 

You and I need to be more aware of our thoughts and the choices we make.  They are moral decisions – every time – either for good or bad.  Only you can decide which path you will take and what kind of person you will become by the decisions you make.

PRAYER: We make so many decisions each day, Lord, we ask that You help us make them wisely, considering their implications in our lives and future!  In Your name, Amen.

Copyright 2013 by Galen C. Dalrymple.

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DayBreaks for 11/02/12 – Is It Better?

DayBreaks for 11/02/12 – Is It Better?

It is better to be godly and have little than to be evil and rich. 17 For the strength of the wicked will be shattered, but the LORD takes care of the godly. – Psalm 37:16-17 (NLT)

So many things that Scripture says seem crazy.  Consider all the beatitudes proclaimed by none other than Jesus himself in the Sermon on the Mount.  I would imagine that the bulk of those who heard him that day simultaneously thought he was a great orator, but perhaps a bit touched in the head.  Who ever felt blessed for all the kinds of suffering and mourning he describes?

It is when things are tough that Christianity seems to make the least sense.  Those are the times, as they say, that “try men’s souls.”  They leave us gasping for air, doubting His goodness, feeling alone and despairing.  I know.  I’ve felt those things, too.

So what are we to make of statements like that from Psalm 37?  Do we really believe it is better to be godly and have little?  (And bear in mind that we can’t fool God – virtually every American Christian is rich compared to the billions of others in the world, i.e., can any of us American Christians really say we have “little”?)

In what ways is it better?  The passage suggests that godliness and having “little” tend to go hand in hand, as does the opposite – being evil and being rich are likewise coupled.  We know how money makes us act – we never have enough of it.  It becomes an insatiable, burning desire/need in our soul.  It creates insecurities in us fearing we don’t have enough, or that we could lose it and be destitute.  We like to forget that we are called to follow Jesus and he was a homeless man.

Verse 17 says that the strength of the wicked will be shattered.  Humm.  Guess we have to take that one on faith, don’t we?  We cannot see the end of the scenario other than reading a Book that claims to describe how it will turn out.  We must accept that by faith, it will happen as described, or we chose not to believe it and to chase after all the money, pleasure, power and debauchery we can lay hands on.

God puts before us stark choices.  He makes incredible statements like that in Psalm 37 and forces us into a corner where we must choose, we must decide, we can’t take a neutral position.

Ultimately, we are all left to debate the question: is it really better to be godly with little or rich with much?  We are well advised to weigh the decision thoughtfully, carefully, and not to decide impetuously.  Many times in human history things are not as they have appeared to be on the surface.   God certainly seems to delight in hiding truth from our everyday perception.

I pray we all choose wisely.

PRAYER: Lord, we are so tempted to believe our eyes rather than Your Word.  Help us to ponder carefully what You say, and to believe even when it seems counter-intuitive to do so.  You are a mysterious God.  Give us the faith to follow and hold fast to You.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2012 by Galen C. Dalrymple.

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