DayBreaks for 7/10/19 – Awake During Open Heart Surgery

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DayBreaks for 07/10/19: Awake During Open Heart Surgery

From the DayBreaks archives, July 2009:

How much pain can one person carry?  I honestly don’t know the answer to that question.  I know that I’ve had very little pain in my life compared to millions and probably billions of other humans who have lived on this blue marble.  I can hardly imagine anyone, though, who perhaps bore so much pain as the ancient hero, Job.  His suffering was emotional, financial, mental, physical and spiritual.  I don’t know anyone else who has lost as much as Job did (especially his children!)  The pain of losing just one child would be unbearable…but try to imagine losing all 10 at once.  And for a time, Job, we are told, said and did nothing amiss.  Then, he finally seems to break.  But it wasn’t the loss of the flocks, herds, buildings.  It had nothing to do with his financial empire.  He didn’t even rail against God when his children died.  I’m sure that wasn’t because he didn’t love them – he surely cared a great deal about them.  No, Job seemed to “lose” it when he felt God has slipped away and left him alone.  It was then that Job began to struggle.  It was then that Job came face to face with a darker side of his nature than he’d probably realized existed. 

In The Gospel According to Job, Mike Mason wrote: “Being a believer in God necessarily implies grappling with the dark side of one’s nature.  Many of us, however, seem to be so afraid of our dark side that far from dealing with it realistically, we repress and deny it.  If we do so chronically, we need to ask ourselves whether we really believe in the healing power of Christ’s forgiveness and in His victory over our evil natures.  Perhaps we have never frankly come to grips with the fact that we ourselves are evil.  If we have not, then we are ill prepared for those times when believing in god is like being away during open heart surgery. For our Creator is not yet finished with us; He is still creating us, still making us, just as He has been all along from the beginning of the universe.   But for the short span of our life here on earth we have the strange privilege of actually being wide awake as He continues to fashion us, to watch wide-eyed as His very own fingers work within our hearts…the only anesthetic is trust…trust is not a passive, soporific thing.  When there is stabbing pain, trust cries out.  It is only mistrust, fear and suspicion that keep silent.”

Your life has had some level of pain.  I am frequently asked “Why?  Why is there so much pain involved with being a Christian?  You’d think that a loving God would do everything possible to spare His children pain!”  There is a certain rationale to that argument.  But I think it misses the point that Mike Mason makes: God is doing open heart surgery on us – our hearts MUST be changed if we are to live forever.  If they are not changed, we will die of our fatal condition.  No one does open heart surgery just for practice or for the fun of it.  It is only done when it is necessary to save or extend a life.  We are awake during the process.  

If God doesn’t do His surgery on our heart, we will most certainly die.  There will be pain.  But would any father not allow the pain in order to spare the life of the child?  Certainly, a good father would agree to have the child operated on so that the child could live.  The pain is part of the process of healing and being made well. 

What makes the surgery on our hearts bearable at all?  Trust.  Trust that God is reliable and doing what is not only good for us, but necessary for us if we are to live with Him in His home.  Belief that God knows precisely what is needed in your heart and mine – and that He will complete the work that is necessary.

PRAYER: Though this surgery is painful, Lord, we open our hearts to You and invite you to do what is necessary to make us fit to be Your children and to live in Your Presence throughout all eternity.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

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DayBreaks for 6/28/19 – The Pure in Heart

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DayBreaks for 06/28/19: The Pure in Heart

From the DayBreaks archives, June 2009:

Matthew 5:8: Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

Have you ever wanted to see God? Have your ever thought that if you could just see Him for a moment that it would be easier to believe and obey? It might be for a short while, but probably not in the long run. There were many who saw and heard him but didn’t believe. But seeing isn’t believing.

In the sermon on the mount, Jesus utters the words found in Matthew 5:8. What is the connection between being pure in heart and seeing God? What is the message Jesus wants us to understand?

Several thoughts come to mind:

FIRST: I’m glad that Jesus said “pure in heart” and didn’t insist it was only those who were pure in deed that would see God. In my heart I want to do what is right, in my flesh I find it harder to live out. While what is in our hearts should find expression in the outcome of our actions, there is sometimes a disconnect. God judges the heart (1 Sam. 16:7).

SECOND: A French writer, Francois Mauriac, had an interesting insight. He concluded that self-discipline, repression of desires and logical and rational arguments are not sufficient weapons to use in fighting our impulses to sin. And that has been my experience, too. No matter how hard I try to discipline myself, I yield to temptation. Mauriac ultimately concluded that there was only one good reason to be pure, and that is what Jesus was saying in this verse. As Mauriac put it, “Impurity separates us from God. The spiritual life obeys laws as verifiable as those of the physical world…Purity is the condition for a higher love – for a possession superior to all possessions: that of God. Yes, that is what is at stake, and nothing else.”

This was the meaning of the parable of the pearl of great price: there is nothing (no earthly pleasure or heavenly delight) that can compare to possessing God Himself and having Him as your own. The desire to “have” God and to be His, to see His face, is the only motivation that can overcome the impurity of our hearts and make us pure enough to be able to see His face.

Why is it that the pure in heart can see God? Because it is simply the condition to be in His presence.  The point is clear: do you want to see God? Be pure in heart…singularly devoted to Him, seeking Him and His way and will above all other ways and wills…even your own!

Prayer: Cleanse our hearts and make them fully devoted to You!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

DayBreaks for 12/04/18 – The Secret to a Wise Heart

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DayBreaks for 12/04/18: The Secret to a Wise Heart

From the DayBreaks archive, November 2008:

We don’t like to think about death at all, let alone our own death.  We’d like to just ignore it until it happens.  We are more than content to live under a grand illusion that we have an unlimited number of days to live.  And so we drift aimlessly from day to day, moment to moment, never considering death.

Moses had an interesting prayer that he offered up in Psalm 90:12 (NIV) –Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.  There are two key things in this brief passage that we should note:

FIRST: we have to be taught to number our days correctly.  We can’t figure it out on our own – or at least, we won’t figure it out ourselves.  We are too happily living out our delusion about limitless days, trying as hard as we can to be oblivious to our impending demise.  I don’t know if mankind ever really knew how to number his days correctly.  I doubt that we were created with that sense of limited days because when Adam and Eve were created, they weren’t created to die.  That’s something that came about after the fall.  It was only after death entered onto the stage that it became necessary to learn, to be taught, that we have a finite number of days allotted to us and that we don’t know how many days we have.

SECOND: we can’t have a heart of wisdom until we learn to number our days.  Why?  Because we can’t live wisely until we learn to number our days.  Considering our mortality leads us to view each day of life differently, to cherish it and appreciate it in ways we can’t even imagine if we don’t consider our finiteness.  We can’t live rightly until we know we will die rightly.  And we must contemplate death if we are to live rightly.

Towards that end, as I shared with our congregation last week, I’ve added something to my daily prayer that seems to be helping me to do a much better job of numbering my days and living accordingly.  It’s very simple, and I’d encourage you to add something similar to your morning prayer: “Lord, if this is to be my last day, may I live it in Jesus with great joy and wonder.”

Prayer: We need hearts that are wise, Lord, hearts that consider our deaths so that we can live more appropriately in each moment of the time we have been given.  Teach us, Lord, to number our days.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

DayBreaks for 4/23/18 – Something Evil This Way Comes

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DayBreaks for 4/23/18: Something Evil This Way Comes   

From the DayBreaks archive, April 2008:

Michael Shermer, publisher of Skeptic magazine and author of The Science of Good and Evil, wrote on 3/18/04:

“I once had the opportunity to ask Thomas Keneally, author of Schindler’s List, what he thought was the difference between Oskar Schindler, rescuer of Jews and hero of his story, and Amon Goeth, the Nazi commandant of the Plaszow concentration camp.  His answer was revealing.  Not much, he said.  Had there been no war, Mr. Schindler and Mr. Goeth might have been drinking buddies and business partners, morally obtuse, perhaps, but relatively harmless.  What a difference a war makes, especially to the moral choices that lead to good and evil.”

Shermer goes on to quote Russian writer Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn: “If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them.  But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being.  And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?”

This reminds me of the parable Jesus spoke about the Pharisee and that tax collector.  The Pharisee saw himself in rather glowing terms: “Thank you, God, that I am not like others – like this tax collector!”  The tax collector, meanwhile, was downcast and pleaded, “God, have mercy on me a sinner!”

Who do you most closely identify with – the Pharisee or the tax collector?  I hope it is the latter, for we all have the “line dividing good and evil” that cuts right through our own heart.  The sin we do in private goes unseen except by God, giving us all the temptation to sound and act like the Pharisee, but God knows better.  When we approach one another, we’d be wise to recognize that something evil this way comes.

We can’t cut out a piece of our own heart.  We can desperately plead with God to create within us a new heart to replace our diseased one.

PRAYER:  “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me!  Cast me not away from Thy Presence, O Lord, and take not Thy Holy Spirit from me.  Restore unto me the joy of Thy salvation, and renew a right spirit within me!”  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

DayBreaks for 12/15/17 – Getting the Question Right

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DayBreaks for 12/15/17: Getting the Question Right

From the DayBreaks archive, December 2007:

Do you know people who want to ask you a question, but they dance around the real issue?  They never just come right out and ask what they want to know!  And what is even more frustrating to me is when I ask a question and get an answer to a question I didn’t even ask!  Perhaps that’s why politics revolts me so.  It seems that you can’t get a straight answer out of nearly any politician these days.  Everything is carefully crafted to try to appease as many special interests as possible in the hopes of raising money and getting elected, and even worse, to mislead the public about the real effects of proposed legislation.  Rare is the politician who will answer a question straight-forwardly about their personal convictions about topics.  Instead, they’ll pontificate in politically correct ways until the questioner forgets what question they even asked!

Asking the right question is an art.  No one, of course, does it as well as God.  In his book, Hearing God, Dallas Willard reflects on the scene in the garden after Adam had sinned.  “When God came to Adam after he had sinned, he did not ask, ‘Adam, where is God?’, but ‘Adam, where are you?’  We must purposefully, humbly and intelligently cultivate the ability to listen and see what is happening in our own souls and to recognize therein the movements of God.”  (Hearing God, pg. 214)

God didn’t come to the garden to lay a guilt trip on Adam.  He came to begin the process of restoration.  The first step in that process is always an honest questioning of ourselves to ascertain where we are.  Adam may have been tempted to think that because of his sin that God would not return again to the garden, or if He did, Adam didn’t want to be found.  It’s understandable – I’ve felt those things myself many times.  But the question God asks is intended to get Adam into the soul-searching mode.  It also revealed to Adam that God had not left in disgust or rage.  God came back to the garden and was concerned about Adam and where he was.  It wasn’t a question about Adam’s physical location, but of his heart.

When you’re thinking that God isn’t around these days because of what you’ve done, go back and let God ask you the same question He asked Adam, “Where are YOU?”

PRAYER:  Thank You for not abandoning us in the garden or in the wilderness of our sinful lives.  Thank You for Your great concern for us.  Teach us to search our souls in accordance with Your Word!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2017 by Galen C. Dalrymple.

DayBreaks for 10/05/17 – Rend Your Heart

DayBreaks for 10/05/17: Rend Your Heart

Joel 2:12-14 (NIV) – Even now,’ declares the LORD, ‘return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.’  Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity.  Who knows? He may turn and have pity and leave behind a blessing — grain offerings and drink offerings for the LORD your God.”

One of the things that I find hardest to understand about God is how patient He is with us.  Seemingly countless times in the Old Testament, Israel, the people that He Himself chose to be His own special people, walked off and left Him behind.  And for every one of those times, He pleaded with them to return to Him.  For every time that I’ve chosen against God, He has pleaded with me to return.  Remember, this is the God who is so great that He that creates with words alone, pleading with His creation.  It defies comprehension. 

The passage above from Joel shows us what it is that the Lord wants from us at times like that.  Israel got to be very good at crying out to God for help – but less good at crying out to Him for forgiveness.  They would go through religious reformation many times – putting on a good outward show, but they seldom participated in true spiritual renewal, from the inside out. 

The ancient Jews had a habit of tearing their clothing when they were bereft or distraught.  It was a sign of the depth of their anguish or sorrow.  In the passage from Joel, God puts it about as clearly as it could be said: “Don’t tear your robes.  I want your heart to be torn.”  Why?  Because His own heart had been torn.  It’s not that God wanted them to suffer as much, or even in like fashion, as He was suffering, but because He wanted their actions to proceed from their hearts.  It’s easy to appear broken on the outside.  It’s also much more painful to have your heart torn – as God’s heart was when His people turn their backs on Him.  But outward change doesn’t penetrate to the heart and result in heart-change.  Heart-change, on the other hand, will become apparent in outward actions. 

God is wise enough to know when our outward actions are merely for show or when they’re for real.  We can fairly easily fool one another by how we act when we’re surrounded by Christians or when we’re in church.  We can never, ever, fool God.  Not even when I pray to him and tell Him I’m sorry for something when deep down inside, I know my heart is not in agreement with my lips. 

We need to learn to pray that our hearts are rent and torn by our sin – and return to Him, “for He is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love.  Who knows?  He may turn and have pity and leave behind a blessing…”

PRAYER: Jesus, we are masters at deceiving ourselves and others.  Give us hearts that break over our sin and then the lips to confess it.  Remove pretense far from us and turn our hearts back to You.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2017 by Galen C. Dalrymple.

DayBreaks for 7/25/17 – The Wheat, the Tares – and the Line Through the Heart

DayBreaks for 7/25/17: The Wheat, the Tares, and the Line Through the Heart

Matthew 13:24-30 (NLT) – Here is another story Jesus told: “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a farmer who planted good seed in his field. But that night as the workers slept, his enemy came and planted weeds among the wheat, then slipped away. When the crop began to grow and produce grain, the weeds also grew. “The farmer’s workers went to him and said, ‘Sir, the field where you planted that good seed is full of weeds! Where did they come from?’ “‘An enemy has done this!’ the farmer exclaimed. “‘Should we pull out the weeds?’ they asked. “‘No,’ he replied, ‘you’ll uproot the wheat if you do. Let both grow together until the harvest. Then I will tell the harvesters to sort out the weeds, tie them into bundles, and burn them, and to put the wheat in the barn.’”

Jesus’ parable about the wheat and tares seems strange. In that parable, the lesson is not to try separate the wheat and tares. In due time, they will be separate by the Judge of all. So, why wouldn’t Jesus want us to go out there are start sorting it all out? I think there are obvious reasons: what we think is a “tare” may in fact be wheat in its early stages. How many of us would have seen Saul of Tarsus (a believer in God, even before his conversion, no doubt) as wheat instead of a tare?

One preacher asked the people at his church to imagine what would happen if they adopted a policy of weed-pulling, drawing a circle around their little town and making a vow that no evil would cross that line, that no weeds would grow within that border. He told them, “You know, you and I could spend the rest of our lives protecting that boundary, standing shoulder to shoulder with pitchforks and clubs, making sure that we kept drugs and alcohol and pornography and gambling safely on the other side. I think it would take all of our energy and most of our time. But what if we did it? What if we succeeded? What would we have? We would have a town characterized by the absence of evil, which is not the same as a town characterized by the presence of good. And maybe this is what Jesus was talking about all along, that it’s better to have a wheat field with weeds in it than a field with nothing in it at all.”
When that church in North Carolina later began a ministry to the children of a nearby trailer park, they had to decide what kind of ministry it would be. They could have chosen to root out all the sources of evil in that place-to chase down the drug dealers and the deadbeat dads, to confiscate handguns and arrest child abusers. Instead, they chose to put up a basketball goal, to tell stories from the Bible, to put their arms around little children, and sing songs about Jesus. And two years after they started that ministry, two years of going out there Saturday after Saturday to do those things, the pastor got a note in his box at church with five words on it: “Adrian wants to be baptized.” Adrian. The terror of the trailer park. That little girl who had made their work most difficult during the previous two years. Who would have guessed?
Instead of pulling weeds in the field where she lived, they just tried hard to BE  wheat themselves, and somehow Adrian saw that and fell in love with it and wanted it for herself. After she was baptized, there was a little more wheat in the field. And because she was there, soon, there was even more.

I know far too many Christians who continually want to cull the field, making decisions on the basis of assumed or real belief, behaviors, attitudes, speech, political stances, etc. One pastor’s wife looked back into her genealogy and traced it back over 500 years. In the process, they that she had a relative who was burned at the stake in Switzerland. Why? Because he had a different understanding of baptism than those who tied him to the stake, that’s why. They weeded him out. Then they burned him up.
As for me, I don’t always know whether I am weed or wheat. I believe it was Alexander Solzhenitsyn who said: If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. That includes my heart and it includes yours, too. For all I know, I may even be the weed in somebody else’s garden. Perhaps in your garden.

If Jesus was content to let the weeds be, why shouldn’t I? He’ll sort it out when the time is right for he is far better qualified to do so than any human.

PRAYER: Forgive me for thinking my answers are all the right ones, that I am in any way qualified to separate the wheat from the tares! Let humility rise within us, Lord, and let us just get about the business of being wheat and not something else that is deceitful. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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