DayBreaks for 1/24/20 – Marks of Clarity

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DayBreaks for 1/24/20: Marks of Clarity

From the DayBreaks Archive, January 2010:

There are times in my walk with God when things seem very clear.  But then again, there are times when I long for even the slightest inkling of clarity.  At times my relationship with the Lord is so real and palpable that I can’t help but be overwhelmed with the wonder of it all.  But then again, there are times (if I am to be honest with God, you and myself) when it all seems very unreal and like a sham.  And I find myself pondering from time to time: which is real?  Which reflects the real me and my relationship with God?  Am I only fooling myself when I feel so close to Him that I weep? 

William Cowper was a Christian songwriter of years gone by.  He wrote some of the favorite songs of the church, including the hymns O For a Closer Walk with God, God Moves in a Mysterious Way His wonders to Perform, and There Is a Fountain Filled With Blood.  For a period of time, he lived in a house with John Newton, a converted slave-trader and author of Amazing Grace.  It is interesting how little grace Cowper actually experienced.  For long years he feared that he had committed the unpardonable sin and was hounded by false rumors of an illicit affair.  As a result, Cowper suffered a nervous breakdown, tried several times to kill himself, and was kept for some of his life in a straightjacket in an insane asylum for his own protection.  During the last quarter of his life, he avoided church entirely.

He wrote these word: “Where is the blessedness I knew, When first I sought the Lord?  Where is the soul-refreshing dew Of Jesus and His Word?  What peaceful hours I once enjoyed!  How sweet their memory still!  But they have left an aching void The world can never fill.  Return, O Holy Dove, return Sweet messenger of rest!  I hate the sins that made Thee mourn And drove Thee from my breast.”

There are many who might consider Cowper a prime candidate for the title of Christian hypocrite for his struggles, a man who wrote beautifully and convincingly about things he found hard, if not impossible, to put into practice.  I prefer to think of his hymns as being the real marks of clarity in a very troubled life.  He was the one who wrote: “Redeeming love has been my theme, And shall be till I die.”  Perhaps I am naïve, but I see in Cowper’s struggle my own struggles and in his struggling faith, a reflection of my own.

PRAYER: Father, thank You for redeeming love that loves a wretch like me!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

 

DayBreaks for 12/18/19 – Illuminated Cats and Despairing Prophets

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DayBreaks for 12/18/19: Illuminated Cats and Despairing Prophets

In his book Horns and Halos, Dr. J. Wallace Hamilton tells about one of the weirdest auction sales in history. It was in Washington, D.C., in 1926, where 150,000 patented models of old inventions were declared obsolete and placed on the auction block. Prospective buyers and on-lookers chuckled as item after item was put up for bid; such as a “bed-bug buster” or an “illuminated cat” that was designed to scare away mice. Then there was a device to prevent snoring. It consisted of a trumpet that reached from the mouth to the ear; and was designed to awaken the snorer and not the neighbors. The list was a long one, indeed!

This auction of old patent models was worth at least 150,000 laughs; but if looking a little deeper, those 150,000 old patent models also represent 150,000 broken dreams – a mountain of disappointments.
It may seem strange to talk about broken dreams and disappointment this close to Christmas. After all, this is the season to be jolly. But it’s not jolly for everybody, is it? For those who have lost loved ones this is the loneliest time of the year. And in a world that glorifies materialism, those who are struggling financially may find it to be most disappointing.
John the Baptist knew about disappointment. John is in prison, knowing his future isn’t looking too bright, and he’s looking for a sign – that the long-awaited Messiah has really arrived. That’s ironic, don’t you think? John the Baptist is the one who first proclaimed his coming, who baptized him, who witnessed the Spirit descend on him and heard the voice from heaven. But much has happened to John since we last saw him preaching and baptizing people in the wilderness, and now his heart is cast down.

You, too, may be cast down, but listen to the words of Jesus in response to John’s question: And he answered them, “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”  – Luke 7:22-23 (ESV)
Only by the power of the Incarnate one do such things happen. You may not be able to see an appealing future. You may feel you can’t take one more step. You may be diseased inside and out, deaf to words of encouragement, dead on your feet and surrounded by bad news. Jesus can deal with those and far more. Let us not be ashamed to own him this season.

PRAYER: Lord, for all who struggle this Christmas, let them find hope in the Incarnate One and his immense power and great compassion.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

DayBreaks for 11/28/19 – The Blessings of Darkness, #3

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DayBreaks for 11/28/19: The Blessing of Darkness, #3

The two Psalms in scripture that have not a single ray of light or hope are Psalm 39 and 88. And while you may think it is strange to be talking about this topic on Thanksgiving, let me assure you that it is very, very appropriate.

In Psalm 39, the writer concludes that God has turned his face away from the sufferer. This is about the worst thing that an ancient Jew could have imagined. The implication is that God no longer sees because he no longer cares.

In Psalm 88, the writer concludes that darkness is his only friend, the only companion that is still with him – not even God is nearby. God couldn’t find him if he tried because the darkness is all there is.

It is interesting that these two Psalms are in Scripture, but they are prophetic. It would be Jesus who would cry out that God had turned his face away and forsaken him on the cross. And it was that same Jesus who would be swallowed up by the darkness that covered the earth during his crucifixion, but more so the darkness of our sin he took upon us and the darkness of the sealed tomb.

Jesus knows the darkness, too. He didn’t only know the blazing glory of heaven, but the darkest darkness of the entire world as he bore the sins of the entire world.

But the story doesn’t end in darkness, does it! The One who suffered that darkness revealed to us the faithfulness of God, the one we might accuse of our misfortune and the world of blackness that swallows us up. He rose in glory like the sun and he is the reminder to us that no matter how dark our darkness may be on this Thanksgiving – or at any other time in our lives – that God sees things through to the Light and will bring us even out of the darkness of the tomb into His eternal Light!

PRAYER: Jesus, we long to live surrounded eternally by your Light. Give us strength to persevere in this world that is often so dark. We give you thanks this day for the glorious future that you have guaranteed to us! In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

DayBreaks for 11/27/19 – The Blessing of Darkness, #2

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DayBreaks for 11/27/19: The Blessing of Darkness, #2

Yesterday we looked at Psalm 88 – one of only two Psalms that don’t have any ray of hope or light. I want to explore it a bit further today.

In Psalm 88, Heman is very vocal about the source of his trouble: You (meaning God).  God is not hearing Heman. He has had so much trouble that he believes he is near Sheol (the grave) and he says it is God who has put him there. Not only that, but God has caused his friend to distance themselves (vs. 8) from Heman, making him repulsive to them. It is God’s wrath that is heavy on him (vs. 7). In spite of that, He cries out day and night to God (vs. 9) but feels utterly rejected (vs. 14) and is so despairing that he calls the darkness his only friend (vs. 18).

What are we to make of this? Was God to blame for the darkness around Heman? I honestly don’t know, but Heman believed it. His cries are not unlike those of Job.

What is the lesson here for us? I think it may be this – if God is to blame for it (the Spirit inspired these words, remember!) – then it is a tool God is using for our good, not our harm. And what good could that possibly be? Maybe this: the value of the darkness is that it reveals to us if we are in this to serve God or to be served by Him.

It is in the darkness that we find out the truth about our motives. Satan’s accusation against God was that Job only served Him for what God did for him – that Job’s relationship with God was basically a selfish one.

I suspect that Heman learned a great deal from this darkness. And I suspect he figured it out the right way because he was still calling out to God in the midst of the darkness. He wanted answers – which he may or may not have received  just like Job – but the greatest lesson is what he learned about his motivation for being a worshipper of God.

PRAYER: Father, reveal to us, in our own darkness, the motives of our heart and our reason for claiming to be Your children. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

DayBreaks for 11/26/19 – The Blessing of Darkness, #1

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DayBreaks for 11/26/19: The Blessing of Darkness, #1

There are Psalms of lament and then there are Psalm 39 and Psalm 88 and they set a new standard for “darkness” in the Psalms because all the rest of the Psalms of lament have at least some ray of light, of hope, in them but not these two.

Why did God include these Psalms?

Psalm 88 says that it is a psalm composed by Heman the Ezrahite. That’s not a name you are probably familiar with, but it would appear to be that he was the grandson of the prophet Samuel. Heman was appointed by David as one of the leaders of the Temple music/worship (1 Chron. 6:33). He was a singer.

When we think of our worship leaders we tend to think of those who sing praises and are happy and cheerful. Heman, at least at the time he was inspired to write this was not having a mountaintop experience. In fact, he was very, very low: ..I am like the slain lying in the grave, whom you no longer remember… (vs. 5). He goes on in verses 6-8 and five times in those three verses he is clear that it is “You” (God) who is to blame for this mess and darkness. From my youth, I have been suffering and near death. I suffer Your horrors. I am desperate. (vs. 15)

Is it okay for believers, even our revered leaders, to despair at times? Is it wrong for anyone of us to have the feelings expressed by Heman? No. Remember: God chose to have these words recorded for us, and He Himself inspired these words to be written for our benefit so we could know that we can be honest with him about where we are. Even in his darkness, though, Heman cries out to God. And there’s a lesson for us, too. It isn’t wrong to despair in the darkness, but rather than closing God out we need to cry to him.

PRAYER: When we are surrounded by darkness, Lord, let us emulate Heman and pour out our hearts to you knowing that you understand and do hear, even when we think you may not be listening. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

DayBreaks for 8/30/19 – When the Good Falls Apart

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DayBreaks for 08/30/19: When the Good Falls Apart

NOTE: Galen is on vacation for the next couple weeks and may not respond to any comments until he returns on 9/9/19.

From the DayBreaks archive, August 2009:

The other day in a Bible study that I was teaching, I was marveling about Enoch.  Yep, Enoch…the fellow who gets approximately 3 verses in Scripture.  You know him as one of the two men who never “died” – God took him without his death because, as Genesis puts it, “Enoch walked with God.”  What struck me about Enoch is that God didn’t choose to tell us stories about how Enoch lived out his faith.  There are no great deeds of recorded faith in action such as we see over and over with the patriarchs, or with Isaiah, Daniel or David.  I’m not sure what we should make of that, but if you look at the names of those who were contemporary with Enoch, it’s pretty easy to see that he lived in very wicked times…leading up to the great flood.  And we know that the world was getting more filled with evil as the flood approached.  Still, Enoch managed to live with God.  And maybe the reason we’re not told of great exploits of faith is because he just lived a faithful life, persevering in the midst of a rising tide of evil, walking with God in the midst of a wicked and evil generation.

As we talked about Enoch, some in the class started reflecting on how wicked the world is that we live in – and the talk almost became despairing.  (It seems to do that often with older folks – and this was a class for seniors.  Perhaps it is easier as we age to look back at a time in our lives many years ago and think that it was better when in fact it may not have really been all that different, I don’t know.)  Some said that they thought it took greater faith to do things similar to Abraham (leaving the only home you’ve known for a far, unknown and strange land, being willing to sacrifice a son, etc.) than to walk faithfully every day.  I tend to think that they are wrong about that.  It seems that as humans, we have an uncanny knack to be able to rise to heights when the situation calls for it (not always, of course!).  It may take greater faith in the long run to walk faithfully day after day…for 365 years in Enoch’s case…than to put one great display of faith together for a passing moment. 

Regardless, Psalm 11:3-4 says, When all that is good falls apart, what can good people do?  The LORD is in His holy temple; the LORD sits on His throne in heaven.  David asks the question that so many of us have asked at some time or another in our lives: when all that is good and decent and holy seems to be falling apart, what are we to do?  You’ll notice that David didn’t then launch into a list of “Do A, B and C to turn things around.”  Instead, he answers the question with a declarative statement: God is in His temple, enthroned on high.  What does that have to do with his question?  Simply this: God’s rule isn’t affected by the storms of our lives and our problems don’t perplex Him in the slightest.  That’s not to say He doesn’t care about them, but He knows perfectly well what to do when the good falls apart.  He is still on the throne, issuing decrees to His servants and angels.  While this world and all that is in it may go down the tubes, God’s rule won’t.  Human wreckage doesn’t discourage Him.  In fact, a quick look at the life of someone like Joseph shows us that God specialized in turning disaster into triumph. 

If you are considering how bad the world is, let me try to re-direct your thinking and your vision upward – to the throne room of God, where He still, and always will, sit in Majesty!

PRAYER: We get fearful as we see the tidal waves of evil beating upon our culture, upon the church, upon our own lives, Lord.  Help us to redirect our vision when times are tough and to remember that you remain on the throne now and forever!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

DayBreaks for 8/09/19 – The Psalm of Darkness

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DayBreaks for 08/09/19: The Psalm of Darkness

From the DayBreaks archive, August 2009:

O LORD, the God who saves me, day and night I cry out before you. May my prayer come before you; turn your ear to my cry. For my soul is full of trouble and my life draws near the grave. I am counted among those who go down to the pit; I am like a man without strength. I am set apart with the dead, like the slain who lie in the grave, whom you remember no more, who are cut off from your care. You have put me in the lowest pit, in the darkest depths. Your wrath lies heavily upon me; you have overwhelmed me with all your waves. Selah You have taken from me my closest friends and have made me repulsive to them. I am confined and cannot escape; my eyes are dim with grief. I call to you, O LORD, every day; I spread out my hands to you.  Do you show your wonders to the dead? Do those who are dead rise up and praise you? Selah Is your love declared in the grave, your faithfulness in Destruction? Are your wonders known in the place of darkness, or your righteous deeds in the land of oblivion?  But I cry to you for help, O LORD; in the morning my prayer comes before you. Why, O LORD, do you reject me and hide your face from me? From my youth I have been afflicted and close to death; I have suffered your terrors and am in despair. Your wrath has swept over me; your terrors have destroyed me. All day long they surround me like a flood; they have completely engulfed me. You have taken my companions and loved ones from me; the darkness is my closest friend. – Psalms 88:1-18 (NIV)

This may be the darkest passage in Scripture.  Before we write it off as being guilty of spiritual hyperbole, we need ask ourselves: “Haven’t I felt that way at one time or another?”  Aren’t there times in your past where you have cried out to God, feeling that you were in the “pit”, that you were “cut off” from His care and even His vision?  I don’t know anyone who hasn’t, at some point or another, suffered from those feelings. I think we need to accept this Psalm as being direct from an honest, anguished heart – a prayer with a sharp tip that is pointed upward to God.

Why would God choose to include such a passage in His Word?  It might discourage people from becoming believers, right?  Imagine if all believers all of a sudden were possessed by a dark spirit such as filled David’s heart.  Do you think anyone would find Christianity attractive?  It might even discourage some believers from continuing in their faith.  If David was a man after God’s own heart and he felt this way, what hope is there that my relationship with God would be a more fulfilling one, or one even as “good” as David’s when he’s expressing himself this way?

In The Gospel According to Job, Mike Mason offers one suggestion: “…there can be a strange comfort in the reading of this psalm in times of trouble.  It is good to be reminded that such a black outpouring really is Scriptural, that prayer need not be upbeat and optimistic.  The true believer does not always rise from his knees full of encouragement and fresh hope.  There are times when one may remain down in the dumps and yet still have prayed well.  For what God wants from us is not the observance of religious protocol, but just that we be real with Him.  What He wants is our hearts.

The effectiveness of our prayers and prayer life should never be judged by how it makes us feel, or how well we feel we prayed.  It should be judged by honesty.  God wants the real you and I – whether we are up or down, filled with hope or bitterly discouraged. 

PRAYER:  Lord, I know that at times I have prayed with the hidden motive of trying to manipulate You.  I know I have not always been honest in my talking with You.  Father, I want to give you my heart regardless of its condition, to be real and genuine with You and before You.  Help me to be real.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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