DayBreaks for 7/12/19 – The Miracle on a Stick

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DayBreaks for 07/12/19: The Miracle on a Stick

From the DayBreaks archives, July 2009:

They traveled from Mount Hor along the route to the Red Sea, to go around Edom. But the people grew impatient on the way; they spoke against God and against Moses, and said, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the desert? There is no bread! There is no water! And we detest this miserable food!” Then the LORD sent venomous snakes among them; they bit the people and many Israelites died. The people came to Moses and said, “We sinned when we spoke against the LORD and against you. Pray that the LORD will take the snakes away from us.” So Moses prayed for the people. The LORD said to Moses, “Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live.” So Moses made a bronze snake and put it up on a pole. Then when anyone was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake, he lived. – Numbers 21:4-9 (NIV)

I was recently reading Athol Dickson’s The Gospel According to Moses when I discovered new insights into the passage from Numbers 21, above.  Let me share them with you:

FIRST: Remember Israel’s recent history.  They’d been freed from Egypt, only to find themselves apparently left alone as Moses had been up on the mountain for so long the people felt that he was most certainly dead.  Of course, he wasn’t, but they had no way of knowing that.  And so they asked Aaron to make a golden calf so that they could worship it and perhaps receive some help and direction from the “god”.  While this might seem very strange for us, remember that they’d been in Egyptian slavery for 400 years and had become intimately acquainted with the religious worship of Egyptian gods, which included various bulls, frogs, falcons and other animals.  So they clearly thought this golden god could help them.  The result of that episode was that thousands of Israelites died because they’d formed and worshipped a golden calf.  Now, however, they are in trouble again…whining and angering Moses and God.  So, God sent snakes among them and many died and were dying.  God tells Moses, incredulously, to make an image of bronze and put it up where everyone could see it and that if they look at it they will live!  Do you see the irony?  The last time they’d formed an image to worship it, many died as a result.  Now, God says to make an image and it will result in their being saved!  This must have been a real test of obedience for the Israelites: “Hey, Shlomoe, remember what happened the LAST time we made an image of an animal?  Do you think Moses heard God correctly about this bronze serpent thing?”  It required obedience even when the thing commanded not only made no sense, but when there was precedent point 180 degrees the opposite direction!

SECOND: Athol Dickson did a word study on the verses about the bronze serpent, and he made an amazing discovery.  The Hebrew word, nes, which is translated as the “pole” upon which the bronze serpent is mounted, is not a simple word to translate.  In other passages, the word is translated as “example” or “banner.”  In Isaiah 33:23, it is translated “sail”, but another word entirely is used to describe the mast or pole on which the sail is hung.  In fact, nowhere else in Scripture is the word nes translated as “pole” – it is always translated as the object that is lifted up on the pole.  Only here, is the bronze serpent mounted on the “pole” (nes).  So, to use the way the word is normally translated, we’d find a symbol (the bronze serpent) hung upon an example (the nes, or pole).  It seems God deliberately chose this word to hint that it really wasn’t the serpent that was to give them deliverance, but the One behind the serpent.  But, that’s not the most amazing thing.  The most amazing thing is that the word nes has yet another meaning: “miracle.”  The story of the bronze serpent is both an example and a miracle, pointing to the real miracle: the miracle of a God dying on another pole in Roman occupied Jerusalem.  It is as if God is saying, “When the people look upon what hangs on the pole – the miracle – they will be saved.”  Jesus was that miracle.  It was a miracle that a God could die at all.  It was a miracle that our sins could be taken away.  It was a miracle that God would do such a thing for nothing more than a collection of atoms and chemicals known as a human being.  Yet He did all those things.

When you look upon the miracle on the pole, you shall be saved!

PRAYER: Open our eyes to the miracle that is Jesus hanging on a pole for us!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

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DayBreaks for 1/09/18 – A Morsel or a Feast?

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DayBreaks for 01/09/2019: A Morsel or a Feast?

From the DayBreaks Archive, 01/05/09:

“If I can only touch his robe,” she thought to herself.  The poor woman had been bleeding for years.  No one had been able to alleviate her suffering.  There was one more hope, one more chance – and she knew she had to take it.  The Rabbi was coming to town and he was the talk of the village.  The things he’d done elsewhere were incredible – or at least the stories of them were!  He’d healed the lame, given sight to the blind – even those blind since birth!  There were even stories about him raising the dead.  It was worth a chance – it was the last option she could think of.

But the crowds were so large – and she was so embarrassed by her condition.  How could she ever talk to him?  And then it dawned on her, “Maybe I don’t need to talk to him.  Maybe he doesn’t need to touch me.  Maybe it’ll be enough if I can just touch his robe.”  And so, casting caution to the wind and subjugating her fears, she pressed into the crowd.  It was hard to see where he was through the many bodies, but suddenly, there he was – right in front of her.  Did she dare reach out to touch him?  Others were.  He was being bumped and jostled.  But did she have the courage? 

Finally, she stretched out her arm and barely touched the hem of his robe.  And immediately, he stopped and turned, and she was in the spotlight – the very last thing she ever wanted.  “Who touched me?” he asked.  “It was me,” she stammered, eyes wanting to turn down to the ground in shame, but somehow she couldn’t tear her eyes away from his.  But she was healed.

In this miracle, recorded in Mark chapter 5, there are several things worth grasping:

FIRST: the part of the woman in what happened was miniscule.  She just reached out.  What she did isn’t as important as the fact that she did something.  She wasn’t content, in her need and misery, to just sit and hope Jesus would bump into her.  She was tired of being sick and wanted to be healed – now, today.  We are often far to content to remain in our sickness.  After a while, it becomes a part of our identity – and some even seem to revel in their misery and telling others how miserable their life is.  None of that for this woman.  There should be none of it for us, either!  Her healing started when she reached out to Jesus.  It’s the same with us.

The next two lessons are unique to this story in the Bible.  It’s not recorded that they happened anywhere else, but Mark took the time to point them out for us, and I’m glad he did:

SECOND: Jesus healed the woman before he even knew it.  I suppose this could be debated – being God, he certainly knew she was there, but his statement, “I felt power go out from me” is only made here and not in any other case of healing.  There wasn’t any fancy light show, trumpets blaring, or public pronouncements of “Watch this, folks…just watch what I’m going to do for this woman.”  It just happened before Jesus could even apparently think about it.  As Max Lucado put it, it seems as if the Father short-circuited Jesus for a moment – the Divine Christ was a step ahead of the human Christ.  No hoopla.  Just healing.  This tells me that God/Jesus are eager to heal…perhaps just waiting for us to reach out and make some effort, as did this woman.

THIRD: when Jesus addresses this woman, he calls her “Daughter.”  He never says that to anyone anywhere else – not to Mary Magdalene, not to Mary or Martha, not to anyone that we know of.  If you were that woman – full of fear and trepidation, singled out in front of the entire crowd who has grown silent, listening to the interchange – how do you think it would have made you feel to hear him tenderly call you, “Daughter” and not “Woman…” or “You…”?

Tolstoy wrote of a time he met a beggar on the street.  Tolstoy reached into his pocket to give the man some money, but found there was nothing there.  Tolstoy said, “I’m sorry, brother, but I have nothing to give you.”  The beggar’s face lit up and he said, “You have given me more than I asked for – you have called me brother.”

To the loved, to the desperate, to the lonely and love-starved, a single word is not just a morsel, but a feast!

Prayer:  Almighty Creator, Loving Father – thank you for wanting to heal us.  Give us the courage to reach out.  Help us hear your Son’s voice as he calls us “son” or “daughter”.  May we rest in Your everlasting goodness!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

DayBreaks for 10/16/18 – God’s Scalpel

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DayBreaks for 10/16/18: God’s Scalpel

From the DayBreaks archive, 10/10/2008:

One of the books that has most profoundly touched my life was written by C. S. Lewis after the death of his wife, Joy. He had been a single man for nearly all of his life when he met Joy Davidson, an American, and fell in love. She died, tragically after just four years, of cancer. The book is titled, A Grief Observed, and I HIGHLY recommend it. It is at one and the same time one of the most unnerving, yet triumphant messages of faith you’ll ever read. In it, Lewis grapples with death and his feelings towards himself, his dead wife, and his feelings towards God. He is brutally honest, and as time passes (the book was written over some period of time to capture the range of his emotions and thinking) he moves in his writing from great anger and bitterness towards God to where his faith in God’s goodness comes crashing to the forefront.

While in the midst of his anguish, he wrote these very insightful words describing the experience of pain in our lives: “The more we believe that God hurts only to heal, the less we can believe that there is any use in begging for tenderness. A cruel man might be bribed – might grow tired of his vile sport – might have a temporary fit of mercy, as alcoholics have fits of sobriety. But suppose that what you are up against is a surgeon whose intentions are wholly good. The kinder and more conscientious he is, the more inexorably he will go on cutting. If he yielded to your entreaties, if he stopped before the operation was complete, all the pain up to that point would have been useless. But is it credible that such extremities of torture should be necessary for us? Well, take your choice. The tortures occur. If they are unnecessary, then there is no God or a bad one. If there is a good God, then these tortures are necessary. For no even moderately good Being could possibly inflict or permit them if they weren’t.” (I warned you he was brutally honest, didn’t I?!)

Personally, I don’t believe the Bible teaches that the pain and suffering we experience in this world is God-inflicted. I believe it is a result of the struggle between good and evil, God and the powers of darkness, and sometimes it comes about as a direct consequence of sin in our own life. God wants to overcome all the pain and suffering, and He someday will, when the last enemy is defeated (1 Cor. 15:23-26). Until then, God uses even painful things in our lives to make us whole. And if He stopped before the process was complete, we’d never be well.

Can you trust God with the pain in your life? You can. Can you survive the anguish you may face? I believe you can, though I’ve not walked in your shoes. Because through them, as well as through the joys of life, God is only doing what 2 Cor. 3:18 says: “And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”

PRAYER: Jesus, we plead with you to be as tender with us as possible – but to do the work that must be done in us. In Your name, Amen.

Copyright by 2018 by Galen C. Dalrymple.  ><}}}”>

DayBreaks for 7/17/17 – Getting Close Enough

DayBreaks for 7/17/17: Getting Close Enough

From the DayBreaks archive, July 2007:

Preachers face some interesting dilemmas.  It isn’t uncommon for us to visit the sick in the hospital.  And as you know, hospitals are rife with all sorts of disease and infections.  In some ways, it’s amazing that anyone comes out of a hospital alive.  Recent stories about drug-resistant staph infections are scary, aren’t they?  Yet, when someone is sick, you go, hoping and trusting that you won’t get infected.  After all, you may have to get up in the pulpit the next day and preach!!!  And, what if you’re too sick to be there?  I know things would always work out.  But it’s one of the crazy things that go through a minister’s head from time to time. 

Of course, the closer you get to someone who is sick, the greater the chance of infection and the spread of disease.  As I write this, my wife is winging her way to India where she’ll work at an orphanage for two weeks.  She’s got anti-malaria pills to take every day while she’s there, other things to fight dengue fever, special spray to put on her clothes in advance (that will survive 6 washings!!) to hold the mosquitoes in abeyance, and other stuff to protect her from diseases.  We Americans don’t have good immunity to numerous other diseases that are common in other parts of the world.  Proximity to Indian mosquitoes, for example, certainly increases your risk of getting those diseases. 

Proximity to other humans increases our chance of getting diseases they may have.  Sneezing, coughing, vomiting.  The tiny aerosols that spew from our mouths when we sneeze spread disease.  Other diseases are spread though bodily fluids, including sweat from a fever.  Getting close is dangerous.

How close should we get to others?  In Luke chapter 5, Jesus heals a leper.  Sometimes when Jesus healed people of disease or illness, he just spoke the word and the healing was accomplished!  He could heal at a distance – we know that from the healing of the Roman centurion’s son.  But in this case, Jesus specifically chose not to heal at a distance.  He touched the leper.

John Ortberg put it well when he noted that “…only when you get close enough to catch their hurt will they be close enough to catch your love.”  Jesus got plenty close to catch our hurt.  He felt it in his own flesh.  He experienced it in his own heart.  And he got close enough to catch our disease.  Instead, he healed our disease, discounting the risk, so we could catch his love. 

Will we get close enough to others so we can feel and catch their hurt so we can give them His love?

PRAYER:  Thank you, Jesus, for not being afraid to touch us.  Thank you for being willing to feel our hurt.  Thank you for the love you’ve given us!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

DayBreaks for 6/27/17 – The Immaculate Infection

DayBreaks for 6/27/17: The Immaculate Infection

From the DayBreaks archive, 2007

Most Christians have heard of, and understand, what is referred to as the “immaculate conception” – the begetting of Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit rather than through the normal human means of reproduction.  It is a fundamental aspect of Christ’s divinity that cannot be bypassed or glossed over.  If Jesus was begotten through human agency rather than through the Holy Spirit of God that came upon the virgin Mary, well…Jesus then is just like the rest of us in our humanity and he would not have been divine.  It would have made God out to be a liar because His word said that a “virgin shall conceive”.  We should never underestimate the importance of the virgin birth and divine nature of Christ!

But there’s another interesting thing that we should consider about this Jesus that we worship and follow.  John Ortberg, with his brilliant insight, pointed it out in his book, Love Beyond Reason, when he was describing the leper that came to Jesus with a strange request: “If you choose, you can make me clean.”  There are several fascinating things about this story:

FIRST: it was the leper who approached Jesus, not the other way around.  (We shouldn’t take that to mean that Jesus wouldn’t have approached him, but some step of faith on our part is always welcomed by Jesus.)  By law, the leper’s job was to keep himself separated from those who were not infected with that horrible disease.  And, by practice, the rabbis who had so committed themselves to following the law in all its minute detail, made it a point to keep themselves separated from others lest they should become infected by the sinfulness of others.  But this man chose to ignore the demands of the law as taught by the rabbis…and he approached Jesus.  His faith was on display, but an even greater display of faith was on the horizon.

SECOND: what the man says to Jesus is fascinating.  He doesn’t say, “Perhaps you can make me clean.”  No, he’s much more honest and faith-filled than that.  He said, “If you CHOOSE you can make me clean.”  There was no doubting of Jesus’ ability or power.  This man believed with all his heart that Jesus could heal him.  The issue, as he saw it, was one of willingness on the part of Jesus.  “If you choose…”  Why was this the issue for the man?  Several points might be productive to consider: 1) maybe he’d seen Jesus operate before, noting that sometimes he chose to heal and at other times he didn’t – he recognized Jesus’ sovereignty; 2) he might have been unsure of Jesus’ willingness to be approached, perhaps fearful that Jesus would be repulsed by the leprosy and as so many other rabbis had done – shrink away and leave the man behind; 3) this man was used to being ignored and knew that nearly everyone he’d ever met had chosen not to be near him.  Would Jesus be the same?

THIRD: we see the heart of God on display.  Rather than being concerned about his own health and the risk of infection by leprosy, Jesus chose to infect the leprous man with Life!  It wasn’t like John Coffee in the movie, The Green Mile, who had the special ability to take disease away from someone and into his own body.  The man’s leprosy did not pass into Jesus, but as the text says, it was completely gone!  What did pass between the two men was life…and it flowed from Jesus into the body of the dying, diseased man.  This, Ortberg says, was “the immaculate infection.” 

It wasn’t just this man, however, who has been infected in such a way.  All who come to Jesus through faith, come saying “If you choose, you can make me clean!”  Praise be to God, Jesus chooses to do that very thing!   Let all that is within us praise God for the infection we’ve caught from Jesus!!!!!

John 5:24 (NIV) – I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.

PRAYER: Jesus, thank you that you choose to heal us even as we ooze and reek from sin!  Thank you that you choose us to infect us with your life!  May we, in turn, pass the infection on until all the world comes to know you as Lord and Savior!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

DayBreaks for 11/22/16 -The Language of Violence

DayBreaks for 11/22/16: The Language of Violence

We in America have just concluded the most rancorous election that those of us who are alive can recall. Though the election was nearly two weeks ago, people are still marching in the streets, calling one another by horrific names, ascribing the worst possible motives to why people voted as they did. People have called for assassinations because things didn’t turn out the way they wanted. It has been, in word, ungodly, to say the least.

Claude Brown, who wrote Manchild in the Promised Land, in an article, said that people under forty in our society have never lived in America where movie language was not liberally laced with obscenities. He said that profanity is rapidly replacing English as the language of the American people. Then he added this. He said, “Most people don’t know it, but profanity is the language of violence.”

People say, words can’t hurt you. We know better, don’t we? They can hurt you. Words can and do dehumanize. That’s why in war the enemy is always described in language that is dehumanizing. You will never hear the military referring to the enemy as “brothers and sisters,” or as “children of God.” They couldn’t kill them if they referred to them that way. You use language that describes the enemy as less than human, designed to make us think of the “enemy” as ungodly in the sense of “not being made in His image.” Somehow, it’s easier to attack, demonize and devalue others if we can find a way to not see them as being made in God’s image – no matter how well or poorly they reflect that image.

That is precisely the language that is being used in our cities today. The language that is used in our society now is the language that has been coined in warfare. There are words that dehumanize. There are words that make life cheap and ugly. There are words that hurt people. There are words that profane what is sacred and holy about human life. You use them and they will affect your life, and the life of those around you. And they will affect how you think of others.

But there are words that heal. There are words that build. There are words that create. There are words that unite. There are words that can redeem. There are words that can reconcile you to someone from whom you are estranged. There are words that lead to peace. Who will be the people in this society who speak the words of peace? Should it not first and foremost those who claim His image?

Jesus gave us an example of the power of healing words when He said to the thief on the cross: “This day you will be with me in paradise.”

You and I have a choice to speak words of peace and healing, or words that dehumanize those we don’t agree with. I hope we choose the path of healing!

PRAYER: Father, there is much frustration in our land and in our hearts and we try to make ourselves feel better by attacking those who don’t think or act in the same way we do. Let us never forget that even our bitterest enemy on this earth was made in Your image and can be redeemed by words that heal. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

 

DayBreaks for 6/27/16 – Walking Around Holding Our Wounded

DayBreaks for 6/27/16 – Walking Around Holding Our Wounds

Galen is on vacation. From the DayBreaks archive, June 2006:

“I have on my desktop a picture of a boy named Sasha. Sasha is one of the children of Chernobyl, a young boy born after the disaster that happened when the core at a nuclear facility in Russia melted and leaked. This little boy, Sasha, is perhaps 5-years-old, and he is gripping, with a tiny arm, the side of a crib. His other hand is flailing upward toward his ear, his head and shoulders the only portion of his body not mutated. On the right side of Sasha’s chest rises a lump the size of a softball, and his belly grows out disfigured before him as though he were pregnant, a truly painful sight.

“His legs are oversized and blocky, and he has no knees, only rounded flesh flowing awkwardly to his oversized feet, which produce four toes each, the largest of which, as big as my fist, is distanced from the others and pointing itself in an opposite direction. From the bottom of his stomach protrudes a rounded flow of flesh as though it were a separate limb, stopped in half growth. Sasha, the article in which I found the picture states, is in constant pain, lives in constant pain.

“As terrible as it is to compare Sasha to ourselves, I have to go there. I have to say that you and I were not supposed to be this way. As creatures in need of somebody outside of ourselves to name us, as creatures incomplete outside the companionship of God, our souls are born distorted, I am convinced of it. I am convinced that Moses was right, that his explanation was greater than Freud’s or Maslow’s or Pavlov’s.

“I believe, without question, that none of us are happy in the way we were supposed to be happy. I believe that nobody on this planet is so secure, so confident in their state that they feel the way Adam and Eve felt in the Garden before they knew they were naked. I believe we are in the wreckage of a war, a kind of Hiroshima, a kind of Mount Saint Helens, with souls distorted like the children of Chernobyl. As terrible as it is to think about these things, as ugly as it is to face them, I have to see the world this way in order for it to make sense. I have to believe something happened, and we are walking around holding our wounds.” – Donald Miller, Searching for God Knows What, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2004, pg. 87-88

Let’s face it.  We all have wounds.  Some are old, some are new.  They all are infected and nauseating when we recall them.  We’ve inflicted some of them on ourselves.  Some have been inflicted by others.  But it matters little where they came from.  What matters is that they exist and we shouldn’t try to deny them.  In fact, we need to admit them, and seek help to deal with our wounds while at the same time offering to help others with their woundedness.  And we need to find the faith and the courage to take our hurts and pains to the Great Physician who will one day heal all our wounds.  We’ve already been healed by the wounds that He bore in our place. 

“By His stripes, we are healed.” – Isaiah 

PRAYER:  We try hard, God, to pretend that we’re just fine, that we’re not in pain or infected.  But deep in our hearts, we know otherwise – and so do You.  Give us the courage and strength to admit how full of infection we are and to come to the one place where we can truly be healed of that which will take our eternal life away from us.  Thank you that in Christ’s cross we can be made whole once again, forever.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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