DayBreaks for 12/7/16 – Bad Reception

DayBreaks for 12/07/16: Bad Reception

I’m sure that you’ve had some version of this discussion if you have, or ever have had, a cell phone:

“I have full signal, it must be you.”

“No, it must be you, I haven’t moved and I have 5 bars.”

How often have you received a call back from the person you thought you were talking to and with great frustration you ask, “At what point did I lose you?”

Or maybe it goes more like this:

“Do you have reception? How many bars to you have?”, or:

“Can you hear me now?”

What do all these things have in common? They’re people talking about the quality of reception (or lack thereof) that they have on their cell phones. Why? Because bad reception causes interruption to communication. Sometimes we even get so frustrated with dropped calls that we stop trying any more.

Those things are all understandable when we talk about cell phones, but what about our spiritual reception? What causes a “bad signal” or blocks the exchange of information in our communication efforts with God? You may not want to take the blame, but chances are, it’s YOU! You can be sure that God always wants to hear from you, so He’s not going to be the one who creates the static on the line.

There’s another factor that enters into this equation, though, and it is this: for there to truly be communication, not only must there be someone who is communicating something, but there must also be someone who is listening. And that, I’m convinced, is where a great deal of our problem with prayer comes into play. We’re too busy talking, or thinking about other things, to hear the “still, small voice” of God.

Perhaps you are frustrated with your prayer life…feeling that you just “aren’t getting through”, that you’ve got a bad connection. Please, don’t let what you perceive as a “dropped call” stop you from reaching out. Keep “dialing”, but be sure that you’re also ready to listen for His voice at all the other times of your life, too…not just when you reach out to Him. It seems to me that there are as many instances in the Bible when God spoke to people when they weren’t praying as times when He responded directly to a prayer request. If we’re not listening, we won’t hear Him under any circumstances.

PRAYER: Teach us the sound of Your voice, let us recognize when You speak and listen closely to what You are saying. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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


DayBreaks for 3/29/16 – The Language of God

DayBreaks for 3/29/16 – The Language of God

From the DayBreaks archives:

(By Doug Dalrymple) – In the RSV translation of this psalm, we hear the same phrase repeated in v1 and v5: For God alone my soul waits in silence  Later, in v8, we’re told, “…pour out your heart before Him.”

We’re tempted to imagine that these two are mutually exclusive: “waiting in silence” and “pouring out our hearts.”  But in our life before God, I think there is a sense in which each of these is necessary for the other to be effective.  Without a spirit of silence before God it is difficult to pour out our hearts to Him; and we can only truly pour out the contents of our hearts to Him if we nurture a spirit of silence.

Someone once said, “The language of God is silence. Everything else is a bad translation.”  For us, silence is one of the most difficult things in the world.  On the one hand, we desire silence, stillness, rest.  But at the same time we can’t stand it and always feel as though we need to fill up the silence with something, almost any kind of noise, whether in our thoughts or through constant speaking or through some outward means of distraction like television or reading.  Even when we force ourselves to sit still in a quiet room and shut our mouths, our minds fight against real silence.  I know mine does.

But in the context of our life in Christ, silence is about more than simply being quiet.  It is about real prayer, about listening, about expectation, about being fully present, in communion with the God who in His grace calls us into communion with Himself.  I think of psalm 46: “Be still and know that I am God.”  I think of the verse from psalm 131: “I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a child quieted at its mother’s breast.”  I think of the example of Mary the sister of Lazarus who “chose the good portion” and sat in silence at Christ’s feet while Martha served distractedly.  I think of the image of St. John with his head on Christ’s breast at the last supper, listening to the all-encompassing heartbeat of the incarnate God.

When we wait in silence on God, not only do we open ourselves to hear God, but our heart can begin to pour itself out to Him without need of words.  Words, in fact, often get in the way.  There is a place for words in prayer, of course.  But too often we concern ourselves overly much with finding the right words for prayer and fitting our heart’s contents into prefabricated verbal boxes.  Too often we lie to ourselves in our words, in what we say and think of ourselves, of others, and of God.  But practicing silence before God fosters humility of heart, and a humbled heart speaks for itself.  Beyond words, in silence, as St. Paul writes, the Holy Spirit prays for us on our behalf.

Habakkuk 2:20 (NIV) – But the LORD is in his holy temple; let all the earth be silent before him.

TODAY’S PRAYER:  Father, teach us to speak and understand Your language.  Help us to come to You with hearts prepared to listen and learn.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

DayBreaks for 10/26/15 – If You Kept a Record…

DayBreaks for 10/26/05: If You Kept a Record…

Psalm 130:3-4 (NLT) – LORD, if you kept a record of our sins, who, O Lord, could ever survive? But you offer forgiveness, that we might learn to fear you.

How many times have you been overwhelmed by your sense of wrongdoing, of your own sin? Maybe a better question is: how many times a day does your sinfulness “get you down”?

I don’t know what was going on in the life of the Psalmist when this was written, but clearly, the writer was stricken with a sense of guilt that led to the question, “Lord, if you kept a record of our sins…who…could ever survive?”
What is the answer to that question? It’s a very simple one: no one. That is, IF God was the kind of God who kept record of our sins. The Psalmist is voicing things from a human perspective in the question, and anyone who believes in God and has even a rudimentary sense of sin, must have in the back of their mind all the failings and faults that accumulate like junk in an attic.

Then, however, the Psalmist lets us in on a great secret about God. Are you ready for this good news? He offers us forgiveness rather than a recitation of our laundry list of sins. He offers it…through Jesus and His completed work on the cross, but we have to accept it. But, once it is accepted, God takes that list of our wrongs and trashes them, burns them forever and removes them from us as far as the east is from the west!

I grew up in a very legalistic and conservative church, one that spoke a lot about condemnation and damnation. It was not pleasant to be bombarded by that week after week. Seldom, if ever, do I recall hearing these glorious words from the letter to the Romans 8:1: So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.

Struggling with your guilt today, thinking that God has a massive data vault filled with a record of every sinful act, every sinful thought, every good deed that you failed to do? If you belong to Christ Jesus, that is not the case. They are gone forever, and you guilt and shame should be, too.

TODAY’S PRAYER: God, thank You that You have taken our long list of sins and thrown them away, that you don’t keep a record of our sin any longer! Let us trust in these words of comfort and assurance! In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2015 Galen C. Dalrymple.  ><}}}”>

DayBreaks for 6/19/15: Learning to Hear the Voice

DayBreaks for 6/19/15: Learning to Hear the Voice

There is a positive message to be learned from these words of Jesus. The lesson is that we must keep ourselves alert to the way God is working in the world. Remember that those who were seeking to discredit Jesus were religious people. Their problem was that they just didn’t expect God to be acting as Jesus said he was acting, so they missed the movement of God in their midst, and in fact, they called it evil. Today God may be speaking to us in causes that are unpopular, or in political events that cause us to feel threatened and insecure. The cries for justice and fairness in the world may come from quarters that we are not accustomed to listen to. We need to exercise diligence so that we don’t miss the voice of God today just because it happens to be spoken by unfamiliar lips.

A man once sat in on a class with his wife who taking in music appreciation. The instructor was asking the class members to listen for the recurring theme as it was passed from one instrument to another and was modified. The man quickly lost it, but others in the class, who had benefited from their training, were able to keep track of the theme and even state which instrument was playing it.

It is a law of life that we hear what we have trained ourselves to hear. What we must do is to train ourselves to listen for the voice of God in areas where we have not expected to hear it. We hear that voice only by attentive listening: by asking ourselves whether there is a valid message in those things which make us uncomfortable.

Jesus spoke of an unforgivable sin, not because any act is unforgivable, but to warn us that our own hardness of heart can close the channels through which God’s forgiveness flows and, as a consequence, leave us feeling alienated. Let us, therefore, affirm the good that is in others, so that our own hearts become generous and accepting of others, even as God is generous and accepting of us.

PRAYER: It is hard for us to hear Your voice, God, when we surround ourselves with too much cacaphony! Teach us to hear and recognize Your voice of guidance and comfort. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

© 2015, Galen C. Dalrymple.

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DayBreaks for 5/12/15 – The Big Mouth

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DayBreaks for 5/12/15: The Big Mouth

Ecclesiastes 5:1 (NIV) – Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. Go near to listen rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools, who do not know that they do wrong.  Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God.  God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few.  As a dream comes when there are many cares, so the speech of a fool when there are many words.

What is it about us that makes us so like the sound of our own voice?  We prattle about this and that, pontificate and pronounce our opinions on everything as if we were something special.

How smart is that, really?  Or, let me ask the question a bit differently: how often has your mouth and your words gotten you into trouble because you said something that either was true or was deceitful, hurtful, boastful, derogatory or just plain malicious?  Or, how many times have you stuck your foot in your mouth and said something really “stupid”? 

It isn’t unique to unbelievers…we Christians are often just as bad because we think we’ve got all the truth locked down so tightly that we just couldn’t possibly be wrong about our opinion on this or that.  And, it’s not wise.

There are times when I think I don’t say enough, but you know what I’ve found?  I have found that I learn immensely more when my mouth is shut and my ears are open than the other way around. 

The writer of Ecclesiastes cautions us to not be quick with our mouths or to utter anything before God.  He wasn’t talking about just when we go into worship, but at all times because we are never out of God’s Presence.

I suspect there would be a lot less hurt and pain in the world if we kept our words to ourselves and listened more to others.

PRAYER: Teach us to be good listeners but people of few words! In Jesus’ name, Amen.

© 2015, Galen C. Dalrymple.

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DayBreaks for 12/11/14 – A Time for Listening

DayBreaks for 12/11/14 – A Time for Listening

Barbara Brown Taylor tells about the day the great poet, W. H. Auden, read some of his works at Princeton . The hall was packed with hundreds of students and faculty. They had come to hear “the great one.” But when Auden (then an old man) began to read, his voice was so soft that even the microphone couldn’t pick him up. So people began whispering to their neighbor: “What did he say?” And those who thought they had heard a part of what he’d said, whispered back the part they’d heard – or what they remembered from a prior reading of Auden, triggered (in that moment) by what they thought they’d heard. While others, not quite hearing – and not quite knowing – guessed at what he was saying. And pretty soon, the whispers drowned out the poet.

Isn’t that sad? They were at least partly responsible for their own frustration. On reflection, though, doesn’t that sound a bit like what happens in many churches today?  Why is it that there be so much interest in the word of God, yet so little clarity about the word of God and what it teaches? Perhaps, like those students and faculty at Princeton, we are better at whispering than at listening and in all our own noise-making, we have drowned out what God wants us to hear.

There have been many times in my life that I wish God would scream. Or shout. At least raise his voice. Getting in my face, as it were. As to why God doesn’t, I have no answer. I wish I did. I don’t know why He speaks so softly…unless, of course, His voice would kill us if we even heard Him in a normal voice (which is probably true). Perhaps it is just a measure of His tenderness toward us.

What I do know is what we know about the Incarnation and the birth of the Christ Child. God came to the world (with the barest hint of a whisper) in the form of a child. A speechless child.

How is your hearing?

Proverbs 20:12 (NLT) – Ears to hear and eyes to see— both are gifts from the LORD.

PRAYER: God, I’m grateful that You don’t yell at me, though there are times I wish I could hear You better. Open my ears to hear You! In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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DayBreaks for 2/5/14 – Disappointment #5 – Struggling With Prayer

DayBreaks for 2/05/14 – Disappointment #5 – Struggling With Prayer

1 John 5:14-15: This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that he hears us – whatever we ask – we know that we have what we asked of Him.

Does that verse describe your own personal experience with prayer? Do you have faith? Have you received everything you prayed for? Of course not. I’m asking silly questions, aren’t I? Yet the experience of having prayed – and not received – is real and troubling when we wrestle with life. Eugene Peterson once noted: Most of the people we meet, inside and outside the church, think prayers are harmless but necessary starting pistols that shoot blanks and get things going.

Was John wrong? I don’t think so. John had a confidence from personal relationship with Jesus. It wasn’t so much a conviction about the power of God (though that is implied and a given), but a confidence rooted in knowing God is listening. 

In Jesus’ teaching on faith and prayer, he said faith the size of a mustard seed could move mountains, that the size of the faith didn’t need to match the size of the request before God would act. We often act as if we can only get more people to pray that God will have to pay attention, so we recruit “prayer warriors” to batter down the doorway to God’s throne room. We read, we meditate, we try so hard to increase our faith. But Jesus never said for us to increase our faith. The problem is that we don’t rely or act on even the smallest amount of faith. God doesn’t require great faith – a small one will do just fine, thank you! If we are like the disciples (people of “little faith”), chances are we have enough.

Faith isn’t the same as confidence. The disciples, if anything, were too confident – think they had been successful before, so surely they could be successful again – trusting in their own ability to cast out demons. That’s not biblical faith. Biblical faith isn’t confidence as much as it is a dependence – not blind, but justifiable dependence. Faith may be smaller than its object, but the effect of faith cannot be any greater than its object. Or, said differently, that mustard seed of faith is sufficient when I pray not because my faith is stronger than my need, but because God is more powerful than my faith. 

As John Koessler said: Prayer’s greatest demand may be that it requires that we restrain our tendency toward activism and wait for God. But this gets to the crux of our disappointment with prayer: we address Him but get no answer, so we think He is unmoved. But have we forgotten that silence is also the mark of a good listener? Isaiah 65:24 says he listens so well that he knows what we’ll say before we speak.

Another possibility: we may be waiting for God to speak when we should be talking to ourselves. We may have focused so much on hearing from God that we have neglected to address ourselves in response. It is popular to think of prayer as a two-way conversation (and in my experience, sometimes it is), but if the Psalms are models of prayer then prayer isn’t a two-way conversation but a one-way conversation that moves in two directions – 1) we speak to God; 2) we speak to ourselves. Martyn Lloyd-Jones said “ have to take yourself in hand…to address yourself, preach to yourself, question yourself.

Prayer can be frustrating and disappointing when we don’t receive what we prayed for or “hear” from Him. No, it’s not easy, but it is simple. Koessler: It is as simple as the infant’s cry or the beggar’s reach. The power of prayer does not lie in the rigor of its method or the beauty of its vocabulary. Its strength is not in the supplicant’s posture or the prayer’s length. The essence of prayer is in the asking. Prayer is fundamentally an expression of our need…We cannot impress Him with our language. We will not shock Him with our bluntness. (The Surprising Grace of Disappointment)

When you are next frustrated with prayer, ask yourself: 1) Is God perhaps just being a good listener, waiting for me to come to the point I pray in accordance with His will? 2) Am I preaching to myself (as David so often did) after addressing God? It was often in addressing God that David came to realize what was real and what was really his need…and then he preached to himself. For the most part, God has already given us the answers in His Word. We just don’t want to have to wrestle with how to apply it to our lives and we think prayer may be an easier way out. God doesn’t do things the easy way or He’d not have sent His Son. He won’t let us off easily, either, for struggle is the pathway to growth and maturity.

Don’t let disappointment with prayer/God dissuade you. Pour it out. Then, address yourself with what He has already told us. That is what worked for David, and I suspect it will work for us, too.

PRAYER: Father, forgive us for thinking You don’t hear and don’t care! Thank You for being the best listener and Father possible! Help us in our weakness to apply Your truth to every situation, to discern where the Word has already spoken answers and revealed truth about who You are and what You are like. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2014 by Galen C. Dalrymple.

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