DayBreaks for 7/18/19 – Two Thieves, Two Destinies

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DayBreaks for 07/18/19: Two Thieves – Two Destinies

From the DayBreaks archives, July 2009:

Luke 23:39-43: One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: ‘Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us!’ But the other criminal rebuked him. ‘Don’t you fear God,’ he said, ‘since you are under the same sentence?  We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.’  Then he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’ Jesus answered him, ‘I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.’

In The Jesus I Never Knew, Philip Yancey suggests, quite appropriately, that the two thieves represent the choice of all humanity – the decision about what to do with the person on the center cross.  The first thief picked up the taunts of the religious leaders, suggesting that Jesus should save himself, but his heart betrayed him – for he meant it only in jest.  In his mind, here was a “messiah” who couldn’t even save himself, let alone the people or a thief on a cross.  He saw a powerless messiah.  The other thief had better vision, and not seeking delivery from his painful death, simply asked to be remembered in Jesus’ kingdom.

There are several lessons here:

FIRST: Many have made the same mistake as the first thief, who saw a powerless God, a powerless Christ, and have rejected him as a result.  Who needs a messiah who is crucified, spit upon and beaten and who doesn’t retaliate?  Such a messiah would appear to be a spineless wimp unworthy of the label of “man”, let alone “God”.  Gods are supposed to be powerful!  The problem is that when some look at Christ’s apparent powerlessness on the cross, they see God’s impotence instead of proof of His love.

SECOND: It doesn’t take much to find God’s favor.  The second thief never said, “I believe you are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.”  He didn’t live a good life.  Quite the contrary, but he alone of everyone in scripture called Jesus “king” in a non-mocking way.  He saw something in the quiet carpenter from Nazareth that made him believe there was a coming kingdom – and it was something he wanted.  God doesn’t ask much from you or me – just belief in His Son, and the plea from a heart that is dying to be granted mercy.

THIRD: There are benefits to being close to death and suffering.  They sharpen our focus like nothing else so we can see what really matters.  It is a tragedy that we seem to have to reach the end of the rope of life before we realize we need something else to hang on to.

The Romans, fed on stories of the power of Jupiter, saw nothing to admire in the crumpled form on the center cross.  The Jews, reminiscing about the deeds of God to lead them out of Egypt, saw nothing to admire, either.  But a sinner saw it all – and today is in paradise as a result. 

Two thieves – two crosses – two different destinies.  What do you see and what will you do with the man on the center cross?

PRAYER: Help us to understand, Father, that we make many choices each day about what we will do with the man on the center cross.  Help us to make the decisions that honor Him – the decisions that obedient disciples would make for His glory!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

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DayBreaks for 2/11/19 – I AM #1: The Way

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DayBreaks for 2/11/2019: I AM #1: The Way

John 14:3-6 (ESV) – And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me…”

One can’t blame Thomas. Jesus had just said he was going away without saying where he was going. Bless his heart, Thomas wanted to find Jesus again once he’d gone away, so what Thomas was really asking was, “How will we find you? What path to what place must we follow?”

Jesus’ reply wasn’t what Thomas expected, I’m sure. Where was Jesus going? To death, to the tomb…and then ultimately back to pre-incarnation glory. If we want to find Jesus again after his going away, not only is he the destination, but also the way to get there.

What is a “way”? A path – like a path through the jungle or dense forest. Without pathways through such places we’d get lost and die. The irony here is that not only is Jesus the destination, and the path, but as long as we stay on the path we will not be lost for in addition to being the path, he has promised to never leave us – he walks the path with us.

Stay on the path with him and you will  find him…walking beside you all the way.

PRAYER: Lord, in our search for meaning and happiness and fulfillment we take so many detours off the path to the left and right, thinking “This time it’ll work!”, only to find that the only pathway to that which we hunger for is you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

DayBreaks for 9/21/18 – A Song for Your Funeral

Image result for highway to hell

DayBreaks for 9/21/18: A Song for Your Funeral          

From the DayBreaks archive, September 2008:

Have you given much thought to your funeral or memorial service?  What would you like to be sung, read, said?  I think it’s time well spent to consider such things and let loved ones know how you’d like them to celebrate your life. 

Not surprisingly, many people have a favorite song or two that they want to have sung or played at their service.  Here’s some recent data from Ananova about what songs are popular these days at funerals:

“AC/DC’s Highway to Hell is becoming one of the most requested funeral tunes in Australia.

“Ding Dong the Witch is Dead from The Wizard of Oz, and Another One Bites the Dust by Queen are also popular, reports the Daily Telegraph.

“Funeral managers at Centennial Park, the largest cemetery and crematorium in Adelaide, said only two hymns still rank among its top 10 most popular funeral songs: Amazing Grace and Abide With Me.

“Highway to Hell, which includes the line: “Going down, party time; My friends are gonna be there too”, is just outside the top ten, with Led Zeppelin’s Stairway to Heaven.

“Leading the funeral chart is crooner Frank Sinatra’s classic hit My Way followed by Louis Armstrong’s version of Wonderful World.

“Some of the more unusual songs we hear actually work very well within the service because they represent the person’s character,” Centennial Park chief executive Bryan Elliott said.

“Among other less conventional choices were Always Look on the Bright Side of Life by Monty Python, Hit the Road Jack, and I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead.” – Ananova, Copyright 2008

What does it say about modernity that people would want “Highway to Hell” instead of Christian hymns at their services?  It seems a slap in the face, on the surface, but it shouldn’t surprise us.  In a world where there is no belief in hell (but there is belief in heaven), we’ve allowed hell to become a joke, a “cute” lyric for a song – picturing it as party time with one’s good friends.  Perhaps it’s an attempt at wiping clean the slate of consciousness that keeps nagging the sinner for what they’re doing.  After all, if you can turn something as serious as hell into a joke, there’s nothing left to be afraid of, and you can eat, drink and be merry without fear of consequences. 

Perhaps a more sobering question isn’t “What song do you want played at your funeral?” but this question: “Which song would best describe your life before you died?” 

PRAYER: We deceive ourselves so easily into thinking that You are only a God of love, and not also a God of justice.  Don’t let us fall for cute lyrics when something as important as human souls are at stake.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

DayBreaks for 8/29/18 – Not for Two Minutes

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DayBreaks for 8/29/18: Not for Two Minutes

From the DayBreaks archive, August 2008:

I have a lot of questions that I’d like to ask God.  I know that I have no right to ask Him anything – except that He seems to welcome our questions and He seems to even encourage them.  That doesn’t mean He always tells us the answer.

One of the most difficult questions that anyone can ask God is posed when they stand over the casket of a child.  Marshall Shelley, at one time an editor for a Christian magazine (Leadership), had a baby boy named Toby who was born at 8:20 p.m. on 11/22/91.  Toby died two minutes later, at 8:22 p.m..  Here’s what Marshall had to say: “My wife Susan and I never got to see him take his first steps.  We barely got to see him take his first breath.  I don’t know if he would have enjoyed softball or software, dinosaurs or dragonflies.  We never got to wrestle, race, or read…What would have made him laugh?  Made him scared?  Made him angry?”

It turns out that Toby was born with a very rare genetic disorder.  Three months after Toby died, Marshall and Susan’s two-year-old daughter, Mandy, died.  Understandably, in their deep grief, the Shelleys wrestled with their faith and their God.  “Why,” Marshall wrote, “did God create a child to live two minutes?”

I believe that God gave Marshall the answer that he and his wife needed to hear – an answer that I would not have anticipated.  Marshall shared that answer: “He didn’t.  [And] He didn’t create Mandy to live two years.  He did not create me to live 40 years (or whatever number he may choose to extend my days in this world).  God created Toby for eternity.  He created each of us for eternity…”

It seems that whenever we lose someone we love, or even a pet, we ask “Why?  Why is life so short?”  We are so earth-bound that we can’t see (or we fail to remember) that God didn’t create any of us for just a few minutes, years or decades on this earth.  We are all created to live in eternity and that is His desire for us.  It doesn’t take away the pain of loss that we feel in our hearts, but it gives us a different perspective with which to see the things that happen to us.  And perspective is something we so often lack in this world.

God made you for eternity.  For now, you are here.  Let’s make the most of the present while preparing for forever.

 PRAYER:  We are thankful, Father, that You didn’t just create us to live and few years and then be gone like the morning mist, but that You formed each of us for eternity.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

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.

DayBreaks for 4/20/17 – Almost Home

DayBreaks for 4/20/17: Almost Home

From the DayBreaks archive, April 2007:

The little town of Franklin, TN, was the sight of one of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War.  In the space of only 5 hours, 7000 men were killed and thousands of others wounded.  In that short amount of time, northern troops alone used up 100 wagon loads of ammunition.  Accounts written at the time described bodies being stacked six or seven deep for more than a mile along the Columbia Pike.  No one had ever seen anything like it.  The state of Tennessee didn’t have enough money to turn the entire area into a state park to commemorate the battle, but in the battleground stands the Carter house that now serves as a museum and memorial to this bloody battle. 

As terrible as the battle itself, there was one person who died on that day over 140 years ago that is arguably more tragic than the other 6999.  As the battle of Franklin raged, the Carters’ youngest son, Todd, was outside.  He was running for the shelter of home when he was struck down and died, virtually in the shadow of the house.  He was taken into the home dead.  Even today, more is probably written about that young boy who died in the battle than about any of the others who died. 

Several things about this story that struck me: 

First of all is the power of the death of the innocent.  It just doesn’t seem right when a young child is struck down because of the violence of adults.  Yet it happens.  And when the innocent die, people take notice.  An absolutely perfectly innocent person was struck down by our violence and sin.  And similar to Todd Carter, much has been written and said about him.  Jesus Christ, the innocent, was killed by us and for us.  He was almost home when he was “hit”, but he died willingly as a sacrifice – not running in terror. 

Secondly, I thought about how close we can come sometimes to being “home free” only to fail to actually arrive there.  We can’t control the people and events around us.  We know our intent – to get home safely – but sometimes things interfere with our well-laid plans, and in the shadow of the rooftop we fall.   I am very thankful that God is the One who will get us home.  I rejoice that He recognizes that I can’t make it on my own, that I alone would surely be cut down by Satan’s bullets.  He is able to handle our eternal destinies (2 Tim. 1:12).  We need to finish the race well, 2 Tim. 4:7-8, and not die in the home stretch.

The saddest thing, though, is to hear about those who are almost on the porch of the house and ready to enter, but who Satan snatches at the last moment.  The story of Paul’s defense before Agrippa is heart-wrenching, from Acts 26:28-29a: Then Agrippa said to Paul, “Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?”  Paul replied, “Short time or long– I pray God that not only you but all who are listening to me today may become what I am….”  There is no evidence Agrippa “made it home”.  How tragic and sad.

There are those today who are almost home but who aren’t quite there yet.  What a tragedy if we let them languish so close to heaven’s door. 

PRAYER: Thank You, Father, for the innocent Christ who died for us.  Help us to understand that we don’t control the events that swirl around our lives, but that in You, we are safe forever.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2017 by Galen Dalrymple.

DayBreaks for 3/22/17 – The Time Has Come

DayBreaks for 3/22/17: The Time Has Come

NOTE: Galen is traveling this week. This week’s DayBreaks will be from the May 2007 archives.

John 17:1 – After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed: “Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you.

“The time has come.” 

These words should haunt us, coming as they do from Jesus’ lips.  John, and the other gospels writers have taken us on an amazing journey of discovery of the Son of God.  His power has wowed us.  His love has stunned and surprised us.  His tenderness has given us hope.  And now, can’t you hear the weariness in his voice? 

How we view the arrival of something depends on what we anticipate that “something” will be like: good or bad, blessing or trouble, peace or distress.  I hate it when the appointment comes when I’m supposed to go to the dentist.  I’ve taken others to the hospital for major surgery, and the dread is palpable as we travel in the car.  We hate the moment when we are due to pile into the car for a trip to the funeral parlor for a service for a loved one who has died.  On the other hand, we rejoice when the time has come to leave for the airport to pick up your spouse or children or grandchildren whom you haven’t seen for a long time, or to go to Disneyland or for a much needed and long anticipated 3-day fishing retreat away from the noise and troubles of the world.  In either case, the anticipation can be excruciating. 

Either the sadness and dread can drive us into the ground, or the joy we anticipate gives us the butterflies in our stomachs that makes it hard to keep our feet on the ground when we walk.  In many cases, we don’t know what to expect – and the anticipation, the unknowingness involved – makes us nervous and anxious, hopeful yet not too hopeful lest we should be disappointed.
The time has come.  With Jesus, it wasn’t a question of anticipation for he knew fully what to expect.  He had known all his life – he knew why he’d come to this earth.  Every event of his life had led to this tipping point, this fulcrum.  And when the time comes, what does Jesus do?  He prays.  How did he feel about this “time” which had come?  We see mixed emotions:

FIRST: In the garden we see his human side, struggling and fearful of the great anguish and suffering that lay ahead, begging with the Father that this cup, and this time, could pass.  And who can blame him?  Think of your own most terrifying and dark moment – didn’t you cry out for it to pass?  Didn’t you cry out for God to take it away?  Jesus was as human as we are.  He had all the same feelings as we do.  His nerves fired pain impulses just every bit as exquisitely and perfectly as those of any other human being.  He made no exceptions for himself when it came to being able to identify with us in our humanity, he permitted himself no indulgences or luxuries to bypass human suffering.

SECOND: In Hebrews 12:2, and here, we see something about how the Divine side of Jesus dealt with this time.  He was God – every bit as much God as he was human.  As God, he could see the future outcome of events and happenings, and he could foresee the joy at the end of this “time” which had come.  And that joy was your face and my face.  It was being able to see us eternally before the throne of God in heaven in His Presence, and knowing that it was because of this “time which has come” that it would be made possible.  That joy, of seeing his brothers and sisters redeemed from the pit of hell and cleansed from the stench of sin, that gave Christ the power to move into this time which has come, and pray, Glorify Your Son, that Your Son may glorify You.

The time has come…what does that mean for you and I?  It means the time has come for us to be done with our past lives of sin and rebellion, to put our faithlessness and infidelity to God in the past.  The time has come for us to walk by faith, not by sight.  The time has come for us to take up our cross and follow him.  The time has come for the church to rise up in the power of the Spirit and speak truth into the world once again.  And ultimately, the time will come for us to face our own death and destiny.  Jesus had prepared himself along the way for the moment when his time would come.  Have you?

PRAYER: For Jesus’ resolve in the hour of his trial, Father, we are eternally grateful.  For strength for our own time which has come, we beseech Thee.  For the courage to speak truth into the world and the lives of those around us, we plead.  For Your mercies, which are new every morning, we give You praise.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2017 by Galen Dalrymple.