DayBreaks for 3/06/20 – That Real Love Requires

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DayBreaks for 3/6/20: What Real Love Requires

“‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mk. 12:31)

That verse from Mark’s gospel is not Jesus expressing a desire, a preference or a wish for us, but it is a command.

Have you ever really thought about the why  behind the giving of this command? I don’t mean “Why does Jesus want us to love one another?” as the answer to that should be blatantly obvious. I mean, why did Jesus feel the need to command us to love our neighbor?

I could be wrong, but here’s my thinking: true love requires a command because otherwise we probably wouldn’t do it. That may sound strange because we might think that love is something that just “happens” to you on a starry summer night when you meet that certain someone and – boom! – you’re hooked and in love and will live in love happily ever after.

Anyone who has had any experience at all with love will tell you that’s a load of bunk. If it were only that easy and permanent! Look around – divorce and broken families abound – because love just ISN’T that easy nor permanent. Neighbors don’t love one another. Love is hard…and when the going gets hard it is a fact that too often the person we thought we’d love forever and who’d love us forever gets “going” to..right out the door.

Our culture has created a fantasized caricature of love that you see on the movie screens, read in the trash novels and on TV. It’s all glorious, glamorous, wonderful and passionate – until it no longer is and then it’s time to find a new person to love.

But that’s not God’s way. God wants us to grow in love, not surrender it when it no longer feels romantic. Thus the command that we are to love our neighbor as ourself. Would you abandon yourself? No. Like it or not, we’re stuck with ourselves. We need the command of God to remind us that our love is to stick it out through thick and thin and not look for reasons to stop loving.

PRAYER: Lord, deliver us from foolish romanticized notions of what it takes for love to last and let us learn to obey your command to always love. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2020 by Galen C. Dalrymple.  ><}}}”>

 

DayBreaks for 2/27/20 – An Unending Honeymoon

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DayBreaks for 2/27/20: An Unending Honeymoon

From the DayBreaks archive, February 2010:

If you are married, think back to your honeymoon.  I would certainly hope that it was a time of great joy for you and your beloved.  Honeymoon’s are supposed to be that way – a time when you can simply focus on one another and the delight that fills the heart and put away all other concerns.  It’s great while it lasts, isn’t it?

In his book The Pleasures of God, John Piper shares why God’s love is superior to any love we will find here on earth:

“Sometimes we joke and say about marriage, “The honeymoon is over.” But that’s because we are finite. We can’t sustain a honeymoon level of intensity and affection. We can’t foresee the irritations that come with long-term familiarity. We can’t stay as fit and handsome as we were then. We can’t come up with enough new things to keep the relationship that fresh. But God says his joy over his people is like a bridegroom over a bride. He is talking about honeymoon intensity and honeymoon pleasures and honeymoon energy and excitement and enthusiasm and enjoyment. He is trying to get into our hearts what he means when he says he rejoices over us with all his heart.

“And add to this, that with God the honeymoon never ends. He is infinite in power and wisdom and creativity and love. And so he has no trouble sustaining a honeymoon level of intensity; he can foresee all the future quirks of our personality and has decided he will keep what’s good for us and change what isn’t; he will always be as handsome as he ever was, and will see to it that we get more and more beautiful forever; and he infinitely creative to think of new things to do together so that there will be no boredom for the next trillion ages of millenniums.” – John Piper, The Pleasures of God (Multnomah, 2000), p. 188

I wish I could be on a honeymoon with my bride forever and never have to worry again about the cost of eyeglasses or dental work or mortgage payments or the rising price of everything else.  I wish I could be creative enough to find new ways to express my delight in her each and every moment for as long as I live.  Alas, as she’ll tell you, I’m not that creative.  But God is.  The honeymoon love of God for us will never end nor will we ever tire of it, for our love for Him will be perfected, too.

Long ago when I first married my wife, I couldn’t conceive of a love that would get more and more beautiful as time passed.  Now, from the perspective of a few years, I can understand that such a thing can be true.  But I still can’t conceive of a love that gets “more and more beautiful forever” – yet that is precisely what we will find in Him!

PRAYER: How we long to fully experience your creative, unending, exciting, joyful, beautiful love forever!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2020 by Galen C. Dalrymple.  ><}}}”>

 

DayBreaks for 1/06/20 – The Ten Trillion Dollar Question

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DayBreaks for 1/06/20: The $10 Trillion Dollar Question

From the DayBreaks Archive, January 2010:

What is the most important question that has ever crossed your mind?  As with all things, the answer to that would depend on who you asked and on what their experiences and beliefs are.  Many would argue that question that we all need to deal with is “Why am I here?”  That’s a good question – and it gets to the core of the issue of meaning and purpose.  It is a question that all should, yet not all do, ask of ourselves.   Sadly, many die without ever coming up with a good answer to that question. 

Another question that arguably is the most important might be “Is there a God?”  

As good of questions as those are, there is at least one that is more fundamental, because it informs the “Why am I here?” question and helps to answer it, and just knowing if there is a God or not is not enough.  It could be argued that it is more important to know what that God is like.  I think perhaps Paul asked the most important question of all in Romans 8:35 where he wrote “Can anything separates us from the love Christ has for us?”  In one of his small devotional books, Max Lucado suggests that this question really gets to the heart of what we all want to know.  How long will God’s love endure?  Can we conceive of being loved forever, or of a love lasting forever? 

But at a deeper level, we want to know that God loves us when we’re dressed in our Sunday clothes and when we’re in our dirtiest clothes.  Here’s some of Max’s thoughts: “I want to know (deep within, don’t we all really want to know?), how does God feel about me when I’m a jerk?  Not when I’m peppy and positive and ready to tackle world hunger.  Not then.  I know how we feels about me then.  Even I like me then.  I want to know how he feels about me when I snap at anything that moves, when my thoughts are gutter-level, when my tongue is sharp enough to slice a rock.  How does he feel about me then?…Will God stop loving me?”

We know that with other human beings there is a line that can be crossed, when it becomes obvious that the relationship has been forever changed.  Or what about the last time you drank until you passed out and threw up?  Of when your business failed or you found yourself standing at the fresh grave of your child and you cursed God in your heart or even out loud?  Does He still love you then?

Paul doesn’t ask questions that he doesn’t answer: “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  And, come to think of it, that’s not really Paul’s answer at all, is it?  It’s God’s answer given to us through the pen of Paul.    

You are loved forever.  Nothing can separate you from the love of Jesus Christ for you.  Amazing, isn’t it?  That knowledge should make a difference in how you feel about yourself and others as you realize Christ loves them the same way – and in how  you feel about Christ!

PRAYER: Thank you, Christ, for your undying, unending, forever love that seeks us out and calls us home!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2020 by Galen C. Dalrymple.  ><}}}”>

DayBreaks for 12/27/19 – Identifying the Guilty

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DayBreaks for 12/27/19: Identifying the Guilty

From the DayBreaks Archive, 12/27/99:

“The late professor Allan Bloom, author of The Closing of the American Mind, told about asking his undergraduate class at the University of Chicago to identify an evil person. Not one student could do so. “Evil” simply didn’t exist as a category in their minds. The inability to recognize and identify evil, said Bloom, is a perilous sign in our society.” – Philip Yancey, The Bible Jesus Read

When I read this, I was really quick to jump to the point in my mind where I said, “Yep! That sounds right. There is no sense of right and wrong, good and evil anymore.” I would have rushed out with the names of people that I think of as being evil: Adolf Hitler, Eichmann, Pol Pot, Idi Amin, Moammar Ghadaffi. There are others that I would have been quick to label as evil, too, because of their lifestyle and apparent total disregard for morals or things of God. Then God straightened me out.

Indeed, we fail to think of ourselves as evil, don’t we? When asked the question, would I have ventured my own name? How quick I was to point my trained religious sense at the faults of others while ignoring my own wickedness! Genesis 8:21 tells God’s reaction after the sacrifice offered by Noah following the flood: The LORD smelled the pleasing aroma and said in his heart: “Never again will I curse the ground because of man, even though every inclination of his heart is evil from childhood.”

The amazing part is that God still loves us. In spite of our evil inclinations, He loves us.

Would you have ventured your own name? Paul understood that he still had to struggle with evil and described his own struggle in Romans. When we think we have reached the point that evil is behind us, evil is within us. We are wise to recognize that, left to our own devices, we are pretty pathetic creatures. We have no righteousness of our own to cling to.

PRAYER: Teach us to number ourselves among the transgressors, Lord, that we don’t become haughty and proud.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

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.  ><}}}”>