DayBreaks for 12/05/19 -This Is God’s Love

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DayBreaks for 12/05/19: This is God’s Love

Yesterday I wrote about loving Jesus.  It’s something that I’m working on…and I hope I will never stop working on it.  We don’t have to love Him from afar, you know.  He is within us by the Spirit, closer than our own next breath.  I know my love for Him will never be perfect in this world for there will always be siren songs to lure my heart to other shores that would shipwreck my life if I listen to them.  I am so thankful that He is so patient and is helping me to learn to love Him more as time passes.

So much for human love.  It was Frederick Beuchner, writing in The Magnificent Defeat, who probed the nature of human and Divine love.  “The love for equals is a human thing – of friend for friend, brother for brother.  It is to love what is loving and lovely.  The world smiles.  The love for the less fortunate is a beautiful thing – the love for those who suffer, for those who are poor, the sick, the failures, the unlovely.  This is compassion, and it touches the heart of the world.  The love for the more fortunate is a rare thing – to love those who succeed where we fail, to rejoice without envy with those who rejoice, the love of the poor for the rich, of the black man for the white man.  The world is always bewildered by its saints.  And then there is the love for the enemy – love for the one who does not love you but mocks, threatens, and inflicts pain.  The tortured’s love for the torturer.  This is God’s love.  It conquers the world.

We might be tempted to think that we are the tortured – and that God is the Cosmic Torturer.  Isn’t that the logical conclusion of those who blame God for all the pain and suffering not only in the world but in their own lives?  It’s God’s fault that the earth shook beneath Sumatra and a hundred thousand died.  It’s God’s fault that Katrina killed 1300 in Louisiana and the gulf coast.  It’s God’s fault that a husband or wife or child got cancer.  God is a torturer of poor and helpless beings He created – and who knows why?  That’s the way many see God.

The truth is that God didn’t do any of those things.  The truth is that God is indeed the Tortured – not the torturer, and mankind is the torturer – not the tortured.  We tortured Christ on the cross.  We torture the loving heart of God with our actions that betray Him.  We are clearly the torturers – and yet, God’s love is that of the tortured for those who are torturing Him, even today.

Will God’s love conquer the world in the long run?  Yes.  We have His word on it.  Saint Paul said that there would be three things that remain when it is all said and done: faith, hope and love – with love being the greatest of the three.  The world won’t survive – at least not in the form it presently exists – but the love of God goes on forever and from which we can never be separated (Rom. 8:39).

PRAYER: Merciful and loving Father, thank You for loving us even as we have driven nails into Your hands and feet, spears into Your side, and daggers of pain into Your loving heart.  Have mercy on us and thank You for Your unending love.  May we come to love the world with the same love You have given to us.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

DayBreaks for 12/04/19 – If Jesus Were Not There

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DayBreaks for 12/04/19: If Jesus Were Not There

“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And He said to him, ” ‘YOU SHALL LOVE THE Lord YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.’ “This is the great and foremost commandment.” – Matthew 22:36-38 (NASB)

If you have been a Christian for even a short time, chances are you know this verse well.  It is, I suppose, the single greatest thing that we are to try to do with our life: learn to love God desperately.

Can you remember when you were first falling in love with someone?  I do.  I can never forget the sickness in my stomach and heart at parting from my beloved wife-to-be.  I literally ached inside my chest when I saw her turn her back to go into her home at night, or when she left me to get in her car to drive back to her college.  It was hard to breathe, hard to want to do anything except see her again.  We’d write letters nearly every day, we’d call and talk on the phone nearly every day.  (I never asked my folks about how much the phone bill was, even though our calls were long distance – and to their great credit, they never mentioned it to me, either!)  Love hurts.  But what a wonderful hurting it is!

Jesus statement takes on a new dimension when I think about it compared to the love of my life and how we were when we were falling in love.  In Christian circles we are expected to say, “I love Jesus!” – and we should love him, no doubt.  But while it is one thing to say it, it is another thing entirely to really love Him.  The author, John Piper, in God is the Gospel, confronts us and challenges us to think about whether or not we are truly in love with God.  If you are squeamish, you may not want to read what he had to say: “The critical question for our generation – and for every generation- is this: If you could have heaven, with no sickness, and with all the friends you ever had on earth, and all the food you ever liked, and all the leisure activities you ever enjoyed, and all the natural beauties you ever saw, all the physical pleasures you ever tasted, and no human conflict or any natural disasters, could you be satisfied with heaven, if Christ was not there?

Worth pondering, don’t you think?  I’m not sure how I would answer that question at times.  All of the things that Piper said are things we all love and long for.  It’s harder to love someone you’ve never seen.  It’s hard to love someone who lived 2000 years ago.  Admire them?  Yes.  Want to emulate them?  Certainly.  But love them? 

I want to be able to say that heaven will be nothing, that all those things we could have as Piper described them, would not be nearly enough if Christ was not there.  The point is: Christ is what makes heaven worthwhile.  It won’t be all those other things.  Sure, they’ll be great, but they won’t even qualify as icing on the cake. 

May we learn to love Jesus more than all other things that we might love combined.

PRAYER: Jesus, we aren’t omniscient like you.  You see us – but we’ve never set eyes upon you.  It is hard to love someone from afar.  Help us to draw close to you, to love you more than anything and everything else for you will be our greatest joy in heaven.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

DayBreaks for 11/25/19 – Where Insignificance Goes to Die

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DayBreaks for 11/25/19: Where Insignificance Goes to Die

From the DayBreaks archive, November 2009:

At the northern end of the Locke Hill Cemetery in San Antonio, Texas, is a tombstone marking the final earthly resting place of Grace Llewellyn Smith.  Her marker has no date of birth and no date of death.  One might wonder why – was it because no one knew them?  That’s not likely given the fact that the names of her two husbands are also on her tombstone.  Our best clue as to why her tombstone has no dates of birth and death may be found in the other words that are carved into the granite, that say this: Sleeps, but rests not.  Loved, but was loved not.  Tried to please, but pleased not.  Died as she lived…alone.

Given that epitaph, one can probably assume her date of birth and death aren’t there because no one really cared about her.  Her epitaph would seem to stand as a monument to futility.  Doesn’t it make you wonder about Grace Llewellyn Smith…about her life?  Did she perhaps choose those words herself in advance of her death as her way of telling the coming generations about her life and misery…or did she just live those words and someone else put them in stone?  She had two husbands…yet died alone.  Did she deserve that?  Was she some kind of shrew that drove two men and friends away forever?  Was she as bitter and forlorn as these words make her out to be?  What did she look like?  Was her hair flowing blond, or black?  Were her eyes sparkly or dull?  Did she ever laugh, and if so, at what? 

Bigger questions could – and should – be asked, including this one: what is it that causes some lives to be so productive and fruitful and others to be so empty and futile?  Loved but was not loved…can you imagine the long nights, the empty space in the bed next to her, the sounds of silence that must have filled the house where she lived?  The lack of response to messages and letters she may have left or written?  She loved…but received none back. 

Tried to please..but pleased not…can you hear the words of disappointment chopping into her heart?  “How many times do I have to tell you that I don’t like it when you dress that way!”, or “You’ve never amounted to anything and you never will!” or “Are you stupid –can’t you ever do ANYTHING right!”  The hurtful words keep chopping away – day after day – week after week – year after year – until a lifetime is gone and the words couldn’t hurt any more.

Died as she lived – alone.  How sad.  Dying alone.  How long had she been dead before anyone found her?  A day, or was it a week or more before someone wondered why they’d not seen her?  No one knows anymore.  It sounds like she was dead inside for most of her life. 

This is about as tragic as it gets.  Yet there are many Grace Llewellyn Smith’s in the world: the homeless living in the garbage dump in Ecuador, the party and bed-hopping hoi polloi in glitzy Miami Beach who seek love but don’t find it, the spouse that is now facing life alone who was constantly reminded of how pitifully useless and inept they are by the one who promised to love them until death parted them.  The list is long and varied. 

To human appearances, Grace Llewellyn Smith died alone.  Yet if Scripture is true in saying that not even a sparrow falls to the ground without the Father knowing it, surely neither did Grace Llewellyn Smith die alone.  One can only hope that she knew the Lord, for she surely was loved by Him.  In Jesus is the answer to every one of the critical lines in Ms. Smith’s epitaph: in Jesus we can find rest (“come to me all you who labor and are heavy burdened and you will find rest for your souls”); in Jesus we are loved eternally (“For God so loved the world…”); from Jesus we shall hear ‘Well done, good and faithful servant!’; and we will never die alone (“I will be with you always.”)

Are you a Grace Llewellyn Smith?  Do you know one?  Grab hold of Jesus – and never let go!

PRAYER: Lord, my heart breaks to read Ms. Smith’s epitaph and to ponder her lot in this world.  Open our eyes to the Grace Llewellyn Smith’s who are all around us, living lives of silent desperation, bleeding from a thousand wounds – who need what Jesus alone can give.  When we are broken and hurting, may we turn first to the One who can heal and cure our every hurt.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

DayBreaks for 11/21/19 – The Test of Love

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DayBreaks for 11/21/19: The Test of Love

From the DayBreaks archive, November 2009:

It is so very easy for me to love my wife, my family, my dog! It is not something that I have to work at hard at all.  That’s not to say that my love for them is perfect in any way.  Can I love them more?  Yes, I probably could in theory – but I don’t know how to do that.  I can’t imagine loving them more than I do, and if I did, I might be guilty of loving them too much.  (Jesus suggests that possibility in Mt. 10:37). 

So, how do I know that I love them?  I feel it in my heart.  But I must be careful to not let my feelings trick me and make a fool of me.  Feelings are way too changeable to trust.  There must be a stronger, more stern, proof than my feelings.

Paul Faulkner, a family therapist, described a man who determined in his heart to help out a very troubled teenage girl by adopting her into his existing family.  Why he chose to do it was not clear: she was very destructive, woefully disobedient and as dishonest as the day is long.  One day, while he and the rest of the family were gone at work and school, she cut class, came home and trashed the house looking for money.  When the man got home, she’d already left and the house was in a real mess.

His friends heard about what had happened and they encouraged him to not finalize the adoption.  They all said she would amount to no good, that he didn’t owe her a thing because she wasn’t really his daughter.  His reply to that statement was, “Yes, I know.  But I told her she was.”

Here’s the point: God has chosen to adopt us as His own beloved children.  We rebel, we trash the house, we talk smack about God and His goodness, we complain.  And our actions towards Him often seem to be anything BUT loving.  It would be one thing if God were to love us when we’re good, when we cheerfully obey.  But that’s not much of a test of love, is it?  The measure of His love is tested and revealed for what it is when we trash His house and steal what belongs to Him.  That is the test of real love.

And why doesn’t God just stop the adoption process that He started before the foundation of the world when He chose us in Christ Jesus?  Because He’s told us that we are his sons and daughters.  We may ransack the house, but we cannot dampen His love for us.  We may run roughshod over Him, but He still calls us “son” or “daughter”.  And He will complete our adoption because He told us He would.  Praise God that HIS love passes the test that ours never could!

…just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.  Eph. 1:4-6 (NASB)

PRAYER: For our adoption and the Spirit which is the guarantee of our eventual inheritance, we shout “Hallelujah!” to Your name!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

DayBreaks for 11/01/19 – A Lesson from the Darkness

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DayBreaks for 11/01/19: A Lesson from the Darkness

From the DayBreaks archive, November 2009:

I’ve recently been working my way through the gospel of Mark.  As I’ve wandered those pathways, I’ve come across lots of things that I’d not noticed, or which now puzzle me for some reason but which I’d never considered before.  One such incident is found in the 14th chapter and the 51st verse (in the ESV): And a young man followed him, with nothing but a linen cloth about his body.  And they seized him, but he left the linen cloth and ran away naked.

I knew that this verse was there, but I’d never really pondered why it was included in Holy Writ.  We don’t know who this man was.  There are those who believe it was Mark himself and that because of his shame, he didn’t include his name as part of the narrative.  I’ve also heard suggestions that it was John, but that doesn’t seem too likely because later on we find John entering the courtyard where the trials were being held (he had “connections” we are told).  So, while we won’t know for certain until we get to heaven who it was, I will probably just assume for now that it was Mark.  I wouldn’t especially want to include my name if this had happened to me, not only because of the shame involved of running away naked, but mostly because of the shame of why he ran.

I’ve always considered that it was fear that made the young man run and nothing has caused me to change that opinion.  What struck me this time, though, was how quickly believers (including myself) run from opposition.  I mean, Jesus was right there physically in the presence of this young man, and the approaching gang of soldiers were not Satan himself.  They were just people of the “opposition” so to speak. 

And so I ask myself (as I hope you ask yourself) the question: “Just how much opposition does it take for me to cut and run – even at the risk of losing my dignity in an effort to escape?”  I know this much: it doesn’t take the spectre of Satan himself to send me scurrying into the night.  Far too often all it takes is for the opposition to just “show up” – like in this story from Mark. 

Perhaps God put this story in the Word precisely for us to ask ourselves this very question and to ponder our response.  All I know for certain is that we imagine ourselves as strong and brave and courageous – who doesn’t want to at least think that about themselves? – and to imagine how we’d react in a threatening situation – only to find that when such a situation really happens, we’re scared witless and run off into the darkness like the young man in Mark.

What if we start practicing not running for 10 minutes at a time, an hour at a time, then a day at a time – then an entire week at a time – regardless of whether or not the opposition shows up?  And, of course, we can’t ever afford to overlook the fact that is the opposition Jesus commands us to love.  Of all people, they are the ones who most need to hear from our lips that One has come to love them and set them free from the darkness in their hearts, even as He has set us free from that same darkness! 

PRAYER: In the darkness of confrontation, give us courage to stand our ground and love for the opposition rather than condemnation!  Help us to be compassionate and loving enough to not run and hide!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

DayBreaks for 8/14/19 – How Can it Be?

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DayBreaks for 08/14/19: How Can It Be?

From the DayBreaks archive, July 2019:

“O love of God, how can it be, that You my King, should die for me?”

How much has been written about the love of God?  It really doesn’t matter – even if the entire universe were filled with the writing, it wouldn’t be enough to cover the subject!  We believe in His love (most of the time), and we certainly WANT to believe in it always, but there are times when we just find it hard to believe that although John says He is love, that He loves ME. 

Why?  Why should He love you?  Why should He love me?  Is there something deep within you that requires Him to love you?  Is there something special about my character that causes Him to love me?  While we are all unique and special, is there something about us that God finds irresistible that compels or forces Him to love us? 

The question of “How could he love me?” is a common one, even when it lies unspoken on the lips.  It is also a question that I don’t think we can answer.  I know that I often don’t find myself all that lovable.  How can He find me lovable after all the things I’ve done?  Sure, we can say it’s because we’re made in His image…and it is true that we are made in His image.  But I don’t think that is sufficient to provoke love in His heart for us. 

In his book, The God I Don’t Understand, Christopher J. H. Wright said, “We will never understand why God has chosen to love us, other than the revealed truth that God is love.  It is simply and essentially God’s character and nature to love.  That states the truth, but it doesn’t explain it. … The love of God is generated and motivated within God’s own being, just as the light and warmth of the sun that we feel on planet Earth is generated within the sun itself and owes nothing to anything the earth or its inhabitants can do – other than to be orbiting within reach.”

It is probably just that simple: God loves us because He is God.  Period, over and out.  And if He is truly love, as John proclaimed, it should not be a surprise that He can love even one like me!

PRAYER:  Of all the things that You could have been, how grateful I am that in Your deepest nature, You are love!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

DayBreaks for 6/21/19 – The Certain Reality of Love

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DayBreaks for 06/21/09: The Certain Reality of Love

From the DayBreaks archives, June 2009:

They say that only death and taxes are certain.  Well, there is some truth to that, but it’s not the whole truth.  There are other things that are certain, too, whether everyone wants to admit them or not: God’s Word is sure and certain, Judgment Day is real and will certainly happen, God’s promises are certain.  I’m sure that there are other things that are certain (they all have to do with God in some way or form – except for taxes, that is!)  What has struck me recently (probably given the episode with Casper that I described in yesterday’s DayBreaks) is the certainty that if you love something, love will break your heart.

As I held Casper and watched him go limp in my arms and his eyes dilate, my heart was breaking.  Why?  This was only a dog, after all.  But I love this scamp of a dog with all my heart.  And it hurt to think I was going to hold him as he died and that he would be gone.  I pleaded with him to come back, to not go away.  Perhaps the reason he came back wasn’t because of my CPR, but because God heard my desperate plea not to take Casper away while he’s still such a young dog.

If you love another human, you better believe there will be hurt and pain and heartbreak.  Vast loads of it.  Cascading mountains of it.  Not because we set out to hurt those we love – we just do it anyway through our thoughtlessness, our selfishness, our busted human nature.  On the day I promised Laurel that I would love, honor and cherish her until death do us part, do you think for one moment that I ever intended to cause her so much pain in the years we’ve been married?  Never!  But the truth remains that I’ve caused her pain, my children pain, my friends pain, my co-workers pain…and my God pain.

I have sometimes wondered why God created love knowing it would be so painful.  Eventually I came to the point of view that God didn’t actually create love because love existed before He created anything.  It existed in His very own nature, and in the relationship between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  So God didn’t have to create love – it always has been because He always has been.  Perhaps that is also true of faith and hope, given the fact that Paul said that long after tongues and other things have passed away, three things will remain: faith, hope and love – with love being the greatest.  All of those things, I believe, are as eternal as God Himself because they find their Source in Him.  He is faithful, He hopes for His creation (including us), and He loves all He has made. 

Nonetheless, as I contemplated the certainty of a broken heart because of love, I was drawn once more to the cross and the broken heart of God over our waywardness.  If we feel pain so much over the possible loss of a dog, how much more does God feel pain as a result of things we, the objects of His love, do?  Perhaps His pain over our sin is as infinite as His love.

Prayer: Lord, I am so sorry for all the pain I have caused You – the One who loves me more than anyone or anything else could possibly love me.  Forgive me!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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