DayBreaks for 3/24/17 – Once Again, Lord

DayBreaks for 3/24/17: Once Again, Lord

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

How many times in my life have I had a conversation like this with God: “Oh, God.  I’m so sorry.  I’ve done it again.  I’ve failed you.  I’ve let you down.  I’ve sinned again even after I promised you that I wouldn’t.  You must hate me.  I don’t understand why you continue to forgive me instead of striking me dead – which you have every right to do.  I’ve let you down so many, many times.”  If I had a penny (let alone a nickel) for every time I’ve had that conversation, I’d own all of North America by now.

It gets old, wearisome.  I know that God doesn’t want to hear that from me any more – I figure he must be at least as tired of hearing it as I am of saying it.  I am so grateful that He is a merciful and patient God!

Eugene Peterson recently was talking about this line of thinking and he had an interesting perspective on it that helped me.  Apparently, he, too, has had that conversation with God over and over and over.  He found himself saying it again to God not too long ago, when he said that he had an epiphany, and the Spirit set him straight about one thing.  He said it was as if God spoke these words to him: “No, you never let me down.  You never held me up.  I’m the one who holds you up.”

Wow.  Do you see how, even when we are in the midst of our conviction about our dreaded sinfulness and weakness, that we make it all about US in our human pride?  “I (capital, first person singular) let you down, God.”  It isn’t about me.  The story of the glory of salvation isn’t about my stopping letting God down.  That’s not it at all.  The glory of salvation is that He holds us up, covered in the blood of the Lamb, cleansed and forgiven. 

How foolish to think that I can hold God up, and I’d have to hold him up in order to let him down!  No, He is the lifter of my head, he is the lifter of my soul, the restorer of things broken.  May we learn to shift our thinking from what we can and have done, to glory in what God does!

PRAYER: Oh Lord, you are truly great!  We are nothing more than the sheep of your hand, the clay you have formed and fashioned, and that you have redeemed.  Thank you for lifting us up, for holding us up, for your glory!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2017 by Galen Dalrymple.

 

DayBreaks for 3/14/17 – The Conflict Wars

DayBreaks for 3/14/17: The Conflict Wars

Ephesians 4:32 (MSG) – Be gentle with one another, sensitive. Forgive one another as quickly and thoroughly as God in Christ forgave you.

It’s a story that is repeated on every elementary school playground, nearly every day in our country. Two fourth-graders get into it during recess; something about “he did this, so I did that” and it kind of goes south from there. When they get back to class, Billy trips Joey. After lunch, Joey breaks Billy’s pencil on purpose. When nobody is looking, Billy writes on Joey’s desk, and later, Joey steals Billy’s folder. After school, Billy and his friends face Joey and his friends, and they call each other names. Somebody gets hurt. Somebody else gets hurt worse. And then there is no telling when or if these conflicts will ever end.

Sound familiar? Sadly, that kind of tit-for-tat doesn’t just take place on the playground of children. We have all experienced this sort of escalating pettiness many times in our lives and in our more lucid moments we all readily admit that it is silly, right?

But let me suggest to you that we can remove the names “Billy” and “Joey” and insert the words “husband” and “wife” and the story is much the same. Or we could insert the names of two rival high schools, or two rival companies, or “The Hatfields” and “The McCoys.” Or Republicans and Democrats, or “pro-life” and “pro-choice,” or Israel and Palestine, or America and almost any Arab nation you care to name. Conflict at any level is conflict. And if not preventable, most conflict is at least resolvable…but not until one side refuses to retaliate and instead decides to reconcile.

It isn’t right to give in to something that is clearly proscribed by God’s Word. But we need to make sure that we are on solid footing when we take our stance that we aren’t engaging in schoolyard pettiness just because of something I “feel” or “think”. And if we find ourselves engaged in a conflict war with someone, let us seek resolution that leads to reconciliation rather than black eyes all around. Consider how Jesus could have dealt with us – and then think about how he actually did deal with us and our pettiness. Maybe just maybe, we can learn something from his example.

PRAYER: Father, help us to be the sort of people who seek to prevent conflict when appropriate, but if not, help us be more interested in reconciliation than in proving our point. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2017 by Galen Dalrymple.

DayBreaks for 3/2/17 – Visiting With Isaiah, #4

DayBreaks for 3/02/17: Visiting With Isaiah, #4

Isaiah 6:5-7 (ESV) – And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!” Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.”

These verses take place right after the vision of the One who is seated on the throne. It isn’t surprising that Isaiah had this reaction given his description of the Throne Dweller. But as if often the case, if we forget the context of a passage, we miss nuggets that are priceless.

If you were to go back and read Isaiah chapter 5, you’ll hear woe after woe after woe pronounced by Isaiah to his listeners. He was dishing it out with seeming relish.

But now things have changed. He has not just heard the voice of the Lord but has been in the Presence itself. In spite of all the woes that he’d dished out, perhaps Isaiah needed to understand his own place and his own righteousness (which was no righteousness at all compared to that of the Lord) before he would be a fit servant and messenger for God.

When Doug Fell shared this passage, he described an incident with his young son who at the time was still using a pacifier (they call pacifiers “dummies” in South Africa). His son had come to his dad all excited. His dummy was still in his mouth but he told his dad how excited he was. When Doug asked him why he was so excited, he was informed that it was because his son and dropped his dummy but had washed it before putting it back in his mouth. Doug was rather pleased that his son had taken that initiative. Doug asked him where he had washed it and his son eagerly led his father into the bathroom. Doug was a bit perplexed because he knew his young son couldn’t have reached the sink. His worse fears were realized when his young son led him to the toilet bowl, pointed and said, “In there!”, then proceeded to take the dummy out of his mouth, swish it around in the toilet bowl and pop it back into his mouth before his dad could stop him.

That night, Doug said, when he was tucking his son into his bed, his little boy asked for a goodnight kiss. Doug confessed to a peck on the forehead that night rather than on the lips.
I am a man of unclean lips. We are all people of unclean lips, are we not? It is a symbol of our impurity, of the filth that clings to us on this mortal coil and it should be enough to revolt us. But not God.

God touches the lips of Isaiah with a coal from the altar – from the place of sacrifice. It is a foreshadowing of the sacrifice of Christ that would cleans not only our unclean lips, but all of our iniquities.

Note one more thing: it is not Isaiah who takes the initiative to be made clean. Isaiah cannot get the coal for himself. It is God who takes the initiative to cleanse Isaiah’s uncleanness.

Why does God do such a thing, not just for Isaiah but for you and me, too? Isaiah 43:25 tells us the answer: I, I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins.

God gives us forgiveness not just for our own sake, and indeed, He is under no obligation whatsoever to do so. He does it for his own sake. What can God possibly gain to benefit from our forgiveness? Several things, but certainly it must include these:

FIRST: God’s reputation is at stake. Remember the confrontation between Satan and God in Job? What kind of a God would He be if He created us, knowing we would fall and be great sinners, and not do anything to redeem us? He would be a hateful God, a God who delighted in seeing His creation tortured in eternal flames if He left us hopeless for eternity. But His reputation is at stake and all his claims to be a loving, compassionate, merciful God of forgiveness and grace would be proven to be lies if He just left us as fallen creatures. Praise God He didn’t do that! And praise God that he acts for his own sake as well as ours!

SECOND: God is a God who longs for fellowship and relationship with His creation and creatures. He could not have relationship with us if he were to leave us as unclean people. He is too holy for sin to exist in His presence, so the only way he could have relationship with us was to do something about our uncleanness – so He did do something about it – for His own sake and His own delight so we could fellowship forever as holy, clean beings!

PRAYER: Thank you for acting for your own sake and for letting us reap the benefits of your actions! In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2017 by Galen Dalrymple.

DayBreaks for 2/13/17 – Neither Do I Condemn You

DayBreaks for 2/13/17: Neither Do I Condemn You

Most readers of DayBreaks are familiar with the story from John 7:53 – 8:11 about the encounter of Jesus with the woman who was caught in the act of adultery. But, in case you’re not, the scribes and Pharisees brought the woman to Jesus. They wanted Jesus to stone her. Jesus’ reply no doubt took them back a bit: Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her. Because of Jesus’ comment, the religious leaders backed off and went away. When you read the story, it is clear that the religious zealots rejected this women and were quick to condemn her. So, what would Jesus do? How will he handle this ticklish situation? Since Jesus knew that her accusers had no right to condemn her (because of their own sins), Jesus turned his attention to the woman after her accusers had left and said five words that must have put her at great ease: Neither do I condemn you.

As a former pastor, I can’t start to tell you how many people I’ve talked with over the years who felt condemned by God. They believed He had turned his back on them because of something they’d done or not done, and the words, “neither do I condemn you” are as foreign to them as someone speaking Martian. Why? Because their view of Christianity is that if you “perform” right, God is for you, and if you don’t, you’re on his “bad” list and you’d better now walk outside for fear of being hit with a lightning bolt.

Think about the story for a minute. Did the woman deserve forgiveness? No. Did she deserve justice? Yes. Did she come groveling to Jesus begging mercy? No! But she found it anyway because that’s what Jesus longs to give to us all. 

Of course, the question will always be raised: “Does this mean we can we can do whatever we want? No, because Jesus followed up his statement to her with “Go and sin no more.” But that doesn’t in any way diminish he extravagant statement of grace and mercy.

Perhaps you are in need of hearing both of those statements from Jesus: “Neither do I condemn you – go, and sin no more.”

Then, when you do sin, as you inevitably will, hold on this promise: 1 John 1:9-10 (ESV): If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Perhaps today you need to hear the voice of Jesus saying, Neither do I condemn you. Why? Romans 8:1 (NLT) So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.

Do you belong to Jesus? If you do, there is no condemnation and he does not condemn you. Rest in that knowledge!

PRAYER: Jesus, thank you for this story in Scripture and the hope that it offers to each one of us who need to know that you do not condemn us! In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2017 by Galen Dalrymple.

DayBreaks for 1/16/17 – Fish and Chips with Jesus in Galilee

DayBreaks for 1/16/17: Fish and Chips with Jesus in Galilee

Note: Galen is traveling this week so he’s recycling some old DayBreaks.

FROM THE DAYBREAKS ARCHIVE, January, 2007:

John 21:7-9 (NIV) – Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, ‘It is the Lord!’  As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, ‘It is the Lord,’ he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water.  8 The other disciples followed in the boat, towing the net full of fish, for they were not far from shore, about a hundred yards.  9 When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread.

The New Testament is full of wonderful stories.  I don’t know that I could pick out one of the great stories to call it my favorite, but I love the story of Jesus greeting the disciples in the morning of the Sea of Galilee.  I love to fish, and I especially love to fish in lakes.  There is something about the early morning stillness, the calm and cool before the heat of the day, the makes my blood tingle even with just the anticipation of such a scene. 

But this was no ordinary morning, and this is no simple story.  Sure, it can be read as a tranquil meeting on an early Galilean morning, but if we don’t grasp the greater implications, it remains just a nice story.  This was one of the few meetings of Jesus with the disciples after his resurrection, and it was filled with tension, for as far as the disciples could ascertain, there was still the issue of Peter’s denial hovering like an unwelcome specter in the background.  But in their hearts’ core, each disciple knew that it wasn’t just Peter who had denied Jesus.  In their own way, they all had – by running and hiding, fleeing from the garden and from the trouble, and not defending the Master when needed.  And so, as Peter identified the stranger on the shore, the disciples were filled with excitement, hope, and undoubtedly, some trepidation.  Why had Jesus come?

In his work, The Importance of Being Foolish – Learning to Think Like Jesus, Brennan Manning observed: “In Jesus’ post-Resurrection encounter with the apostles on the beach along the Sea of Tiberias, when one might have expected, as Raymond Brown says, ‘the impact of unbearable glory’, Jesus serves fish and chips.  There is no mention, apparently even no memory, of their betrayal.  Never a reproach or even an indirect reference to their cowardice in the time of testing.  No sarcastic greeting like, ‘Well, my fair-weather friends…’  No vindictiveness, spite, or humiliating reproach.  Only words of warmth and tenderness.  The same in the Upper Room as Jesus says, ‘Peace be to you.’”

Is the difference between us and Jesus any more pronounced than in how Jesus handled this situation?  We want, no – demand, apologies.  We slink around with hurt feelings, nursing them, wanting them to be understood, empathized with, for the pain we feel to be felt by those who hurt us.  Nothing could be more ungodly or un-Christlike.  If we’d been treated (by our friends, let alone our enemies) as Jesus had been, it is highly unlikely that we’d have taken the time to rise early, get fish, start a fire, and cook a meal for those who had hurt us.  We may not even have been willing to sit at table with those who hurt us.  But Jesus saw it as an opportunity to be with friends, to share some fish and chips, but mostly, to share in the love he felt towards these weak and flawed human friends.

Perhaps there is no trait that is more reflective of God than His forgiveness.  We don’t have to extort forgiveness from Him.  He gives it to us without us even asking for it (remember the Prodigal Son story?)  Make it a goal to this week reflect the forgiveness Jesus modeled on the seashore.  Make it your goal to be a forgiving woman or man, one in whom the image of Christ is clearly visible, one who shares the glory of a sunlit lakeside with those who may have hurt you.

Psalm 130:3 – NIV – If you, O LORD, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand?

PRAYER:  Father, forgive us for wearing our feelings on our sleeves, for taking such umbrage at anything that anyone does to us that we don’t like, or that hurts us.  May we learn the secret of the Spirit of love enables you to not keep a record of sins.  Make us like Jesus! In His name, Amen.

Copyright 2017 by Galen Dalrymple.

 

DayBreaks for 10/31/16 – Forgiveness and Present Realities

DayBreaks for 10/31/16 – Forgiveness and Present Realities

From the DayBreaks archive, October 2006:

NOTE: Galen is taking a short vacation.

Psalm 79:8-9 – Oh, do not hold us guilty for our former sins! Let your tenderhearted mercies quickly meet our needs, for we are brought low to the dust. Help us, O God of our salvation! Help us for the honor of your name. Oh, save us and forgive our sins for the sake of your name.

As I read and meditated on this passage, I found it interesting that David pleads with God to not hold us guilty of former sins.  What about the present ones?  What about all our future ones still waiting to be born? 

Surely, the plea is that God not hold us guilty at all, for we haven’t committed present or future sins yet – and at some point they will all be “former” sins – certain when we stand in judgment they will all be former!  Yet in a way, I suppose that we can only ask for forgiveness for the things that we have done – not for things we may yet do.  Our confession should be specific.  We cannot confess the truthful, yet painful, details of sins we’ve not yet committed. 

The Psalmist makes no claim to deserve such favor from God, only holding on to the “tenderhearted mercies” that belong to God, which David is confident will be quickly poured out to meet the needs of those who have humbled themselves.  Interestingly, his plea for God’s help is not for our sake or benefit, nor is it because we deserve it, but for the honor of God’s name.  Have you thought about how it would look if the Lord’s people are destitute forever, if there is no relief from the guilt and shame of sin, no ultimate vindication for those who cling to their faith like a drowning man holds to a piece of wood?  If such were the case, why would anyone want to be a follower, to be able to say “O God of OUR salvation”?  At some point, salvation must become a much more present reality than the way we experience it today, else there is nothing to draw us to it.  So, it is for the sake of the Lord’s name that we pray for His mercy to be poured out.

The day will come when the present reality is, pure and simple, the eternal reality.  At that time, all my sins will be in the past, already forgiven.  As I struggle through this life, that truth gives me strength to face another day full of hope and reassurance.

I am far too prone to see the benefits of God’s mercy and forgiveness and favor for my own benefit and comfort.  I need to learn to seek his mercies for the sake of His name.  How often do my reactions to unpleasant things in this life dishonor his name?  If I truly learn to celebrate His mercies for His name’s sake, I’ll be much better off and He will be glorified.

PRAYER:  Father, sometimes it is hard to believe that You forgive us so freely, for we know that there is nothing in us that could cause You to love and forgive us.  Help us to understand that You forgive us for Your own honor and sake, and that regardless of Your motive in forgiving us, that Your forgiveness is real and eternal.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2016 by Galen C. Dalrymple. All rights reserved.

DayBreaks for 10/12/16 – He Had Heart Problems

DayBreaks for 10/12/16 – He Had Heart Problems

From the DayBreaks archive, 2006:

From the blog by my oldest son, Doug Dalrymple:

“He had problems of the heart.” 

That’s how one acquaintance described him.  (Ed. Note: that was an Amish woman describing the man who killed the children in the local Amish school.)
Tormented by the memory of past sins and tortured by loss, he gunned down the little ones, the daughters of the Amish. As if multiplying his pain and placing it on the shoulders of others would lighten the burden he bore. It never does. But we must bear each other’s crosses and not deny our own, and never work to fashion new ones for our neighbors.
Christ teaches us that love of God is most perfectly expressed by love of man who bears God’s image. The killer in this case knew intuitively that the opposite is also true: hatred of God is most perfectly expressed in hatred of man, especially the most helpless and innocent among us.
“We must not think evil of this man,” a grandfather tells his grandsons as they stand by their sister’s coffin.
Lord have mercy on the souls of these lost daughters. Lord have mercy on the soul of their killer.

Galen’s Thoughts: we were all sickened by the news out of the sleepy, peaceful Pennsylvania countryside.  “How could it be?” we asked with perplexed hearts.  And this wasn’t the first time that kids were gunned down in school by someone.  I fear that it won’t be the last, either.  As horrific as it has been, even the national news has commented on the forgiveness and “towering faith” of the Amish.  They are different than most of us in many ways, but their faith stands as if it were a granite sentinel for all to see.  They have visited the home of the shooter, to express their condolences and love and forgiveness and to care for the widow and her children.  Isn’t that a perfect example of “Love your enemies”? 

Perhaps the stunning grace of forgiveness is the one thing that sets Christianity apart from every other religion.  While radical elements within Islam burn cities where a cartoon of their “prophet” was publicized, Christians whose children have been murdered are offering forgiveness.  Even in this dark hour, the Light of the World is shining brightly.

Yes, the killer certainly had problems of the heart.  So do I.  You do, too.  That is the source of all our problems – a sickness in our hearts, and there’s only one cure for that illness, and its name is Jesus.

Matthew 15:18-20 (NIV) – But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man ‘unclean.’  For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.  These are what make a man ‘unclean’; but eating with unwashed hands does not make him ‘unclean.’

Jeremiah 17:9 (KJV) – The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?

Psalms 51:10 (NLT) – Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a right spirit within me.

PRAYER: Father, forgive us, for we know not what we are doing.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2016 by Galen C. Dalrymple. All rights reserved.