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.

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DayBreaks for 12/8/16 – Taking the Joy Out of Christmas?

DayBreaks for 12/08/16: Taking the Joy Out of Christmas?

John the Baptist was born just shortly before Jesus, so I’m sure that he never preached a Christmas sermon in his life. But he did do a lot of preaching. His preaching wasn’t the warm, fuzzy, feel-good gospel. In fact, John couldn’t have had a very good grasp on the gospel itself until Jesus began to proclaim it – no one could have. Glimmers at best, flashes of what was coming, I’m sure, but not really any fine detail. And John’s message was one of repenting. His role was to prepare the people for the coming of the Messiah, much like preachers try to do at Christmas time nowadays.

If John felt that the best way to prepare people for the arrival of the Messiah was to talk about repentance, perhaps we should learn that we, too, should prepare for Christmas by repenting. Repenting in the Biblical sense is more than having a change of heart or a feeling of regret. It is more than a New Year’s Eve resolution. Repentance is a turning away and a turning back. A turning away from sin and a turning back to God.

Not quite a year ago, I stood in Bethlehem shortly after Christams and we saw what is known as Shepherd’s Field. Some time ago, bishop Joe Pennel of the Virginia Conference of the United Methodist Church, attended a Christmas worship service at Shepherd’s Field. As he heard the songs of the season, he thought to himself and later wrote: I did not look to God and say: See how virtuous I am. I did not utter: God, pat me on the back for all of the good things I have done. I did not pretend by saying: God, look at all of my accomplishments, aren’t you proud of me? Indeed, I found myself asking God to forgive me of my sins. That is how it works. The more we turn away from Christ the more enslaved we become to the power of sin. The more we turn to Christ, the more free we become from the bondage of sin. Turning toward Christ enables us to repent.

Someone once said half jokingly: If we are not careful, John the Baptist can take all of the fun out of Christmas. On the contrary, I think that it is John’s message that puts the joy into Christmas. For it is his message that calls us not to the way that Christmas is, but that the way Christmas ought to be. Christmas ought to be free from guilt and self-absorption. For that to occur there must be repentance. And then we are open to the good news that follows!

PRAYER: Jesus, as we draw near to the celebration of your birth, may we repent so that we are prepared to receive the joyous, good news that You bring to earth! In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

DayBreaks for 11/21/16 – The Miracle of the Cross

DayBreaks for 11/21/16: The Miracle of the Cross

The Archbishop of Paris once stood in the pulpit of Notre Dame Cathedral. He was there to preach a sermon, and his sermon was built around a single story. Thirty years earlier, he told, there were three young tourists who had come into this very cathedral. All of the young men were rough, rude, and cynical persons, who thought that all religion was a racket. Two of these men dared a third to go into the confessional box and make a made-up confession to the priest. The two bet that the third young man did not have the nerve to do as they dared.

The third young man went into the confessional box and tried to fool the priest. But the priest knew that what the young man was saying was a lie. There was a tone of arrogance in the young man’s voice – which could not go without notice. After hearing the confession, the priest told the young man his penance. The priest said, “Very well, my son. Every confession requires a penance, and this is yours. I ask you to go into the chapel, stand before the crucifix, look into the face of the crucified Christ and say, ‘All this you did for me, and I don’t give a damn!’ “

The young man staggered out of the confessional to his friends, bragging that he had done as they dared. The other two young men insisted that he finish the performance by doing the penance. This young man made his way into the chapel, stood before the crucifix, looked up into the face of Christ and began, “All this you did for me and I … I … I don’t … I don’t give a ….” At this point in the story, the archbishop leaned over the pulpit and said, “That young man was this man who stands before you to preach.”

That’s the miracle of the cross. When we begin to understand the love on the cross, we want to change our relationship with God. We cannot remain the same.

PRAYER: God, may the miracle of the cross speak to us and change us forever!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

DayBreaks for 10/13/16 – An Open Scandal in Heaven

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DayBreaks for 10/13/16 – An Open Scandal in Heaven

From the DayBreaks archive, 2006:

Genesis 4:8-11 (NIV) – Now Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let’s go out to the field.” And while they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him.  Then the LORD said to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?” “I don’t know,” he replied. “Am I my brother’s keeper?”  The LORD said, “What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground.  Now you are under a curse and driven from the ground, which opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand.

We read this story about Cain and Abel and can easily miss some important things.  First of all, it reads as if it all happens instantaneously, but the fact of the matter is that we don’t know how much time passed between the time Cain killed his brother until God confronted Cain about his actions.  It may have been minutes, hours, days or weeks.  We simply don’t know, and all things considered, it’s not that important – except in this regard: for the period of time that passed (no matter how long or short it may have been), Cain probably thought he’d gotten away with something.  He harbored in his heart the secret vision of killing his brother, of his brother’s blood spilling out onto the ground.  He must have considered what he would tell his mother and father the next time he saw them and they asked where his brother was.  I wouldn’t be surprised if he avoided his parents as long as possible.  It’s a terrible thing to harbor dark secrets in our hearts about the things we have done, wondering, tormented by the fear of discovery, all while hoping that no one will ever find out.

For however long of time that passed, Cain labored under the delusion that his sin was secret, but based on this text, as Chuck Swindoll put it, Cain learned that “A secret sin on earth is open scandal in heaven.”  Rather shocking and frightening when you hear it put that way, isn’t it?  The thoughts that I’ve had today that were angry, bitter, unforgiving, lustful or envious – they cry out to the throne of heaven as clearly and loudly as the blood of Abel.  And they are an open scandal in heaven.  The words I’ve spoken, the bad things I’ve done – they, too, are scandals on the front page of heaven’s newspaper. 

We call it a scandal when a congressman or public figure has their sins and faults splattered across the airwaves and printed on the front page.  Your sins are just as well known to God – even more clearly known, in fact.  And so are mine.

But if you go back and read the rest of the story about Cain and Abel, as Chuck Swindoll put it: “Even after the worst crime ever committed up to that time, the Lord demonstrated grace…God asked the murderous Cain a rhetorical question to convict him of his sin.  But Cain refused to repent.  What will we do?  It’s one thing to repent once your sins find you out, but we need to remember that God always sees our scandalous behavior.  In His grace, He gives us a chance to repent.  May we be wise enough to accept His grace!

PRAYER:  God, help us to remember that our lives are like an open book before you and that nothing we do is really a secret.  May the knowledge that you know, you see, and you are hurt by our sin help us to repent and return to you every time we go astray.  Thank you for your abundant grace and forgiveness.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

DayBreaks for 3/9/16 – More than the Stars of Heaven

DayBreaks for 3/09/16: More Than the Stars of Heaven

NOTE: Galen will be traveling for the next 10 days or so. You will be receiving messages from the DayBreaks archive during that time!

From the DayBreaks archive, 2006:

I wonder how many times in my marriage I’ve had to ask my wife to forgive me?  Or, perhaps more to the point, how many times in my marriage I SHOULD have asked her to forgive me (but let’s not go there!)  Sometimes we get tired of asking for forgiveness.  And there’s something about having to ask the same person so many times that makes it more difficult than just having to ask a stranger to forgive us just once.  Yet it is the truth of the human nature that we do seem to hurt those that we love the most.  Perhaps that’s because we take them for granted, assuming that since they’re bound to us by marriage vows that they’ll always be there.  Now there’s a bad assumption – although in God’s design we should be there for one another until our lives end.  Perhaps it has more to do with the fact that we spend more time with those we love than with others – and that may be the reason we need to ask them to forgive us so often. 

We wrestle with forgiveness.  Not only do we find it hard to ask for forgiveness, but we find it hard to extend forgiveness.  If you’re looking for consolation, perhaps there is some to be found in knowing that the disciples had a hard time forgiving, too.  It seems that they were aware, keenly so, of how many times they were forgiving others – and seemed to show no awareness of how many times they have needed forgiveness from God or others.  And so, in their boldness, they asked how many times they HAD to forgive others.  You know the response: no, not 7 times…but infinitely more (70 times 7!)

Eldon Degge put it well in his poem:

“Blessed is every forgiving heart who forgives his brother not seven times, but seventy times seven.

Blessed is every considerate mind who knows that God has forgiven him, not seventy seven times seven, but more than the stars of heaven.”

Who are you having a hard time forgiving right now?  When was the last time that you were hurt, offended?  How did you respond?  When was the last time YOU needed to seek forgiveness from God for some word, some thought, some action done or left undone?  If you were to compare the number of times that you’ve had to forgive someone else to the number of times God has extended gracious forgiveness to you, how do you think the scales would tip?

TODAY’S PRAYER:  God, our Father Who lives in heaven, but for your forgiving heart we are undone!  We are so quick to strike back at those who hurt us and so slow to forgive them, counting our forgiveness as if it cost us so much.  Help us to remember what Your forgiveness cost you.  Help us to understand the huge discrepancy between the number of our sins and how often we forgive others.  Teach us to be forgiving and loving.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

DayBreaks for 2/23/16 – Lead Us to Calvary

DayBreaks for 2/23/16: Lead Us to Calvary

Galen is traveling. Today’s message is from the DayBreaks archive, 2006:

There is a wonderful old hymn, “Lead Me to Calvary.”  Three of the verses go like this:

King of my life I crown Thee now, Thine shall the glory be

Lest I forget Thy thorn-crowned brow, Lead me to Calvary.

Lest I forget Gethsemane, Lest I forget Thine agony,

Lest I forget Thy love for me, Lead me to Calvary.

Show me the tomb where Thou was laid, Tenderly mourned and wept;

Angels in robes of light arrayed, Guarded Thee whilst Thou slept.

Lest I forget Gethsemane, Lest I forget Thine agony,

Lest I forget Thy love for me, Lead me to Calvary.

May I be willing, Lord to bear daily my cross for Thee;

Even thy cup of grief to share, Thou has borne all for me.

Lest I forget Gethsemane, Lest I forget Thine agony,

Lest I forget Thy love for me, Lead me to Calvary.

“Lead us to Calvary.  There are two ways to go there.  One way is to go as spectators, there for the show, not acknowledging our complicity in any way.  The other way is to go as penitent sinners, knowing our need for Christ even as we acknowledge our acquiescence in his death.” – Fleming Rutledge, The Undoing of Death

How long has it been since you’ve gone to Calvary – not as a spectator, but as a penitent?  What is there today that you need to repent of?  What will you nail to the cross today?

TODAY’S PRAYER:  Jesus, we have much to repent of.  Already today, we’ve been impatient, anxious, envious, perhaps angry, lustful and bitter.  Don’t let those things live in our hearts, Lord.  Lead us ever so gently to your cross that we may fall on our knees in humility and repentance.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2016, all rights reserved.

DayBreaks for 9/30/14 – The Monster Who Was Sorry

DayBreaks for 9/30/14 – The Monster Who Was Sorry

Ephesians 4:31 (ESV) – Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.

I loved this story: “My wife had a second-grader who once drew a picture of a fierce rhinoceros with a disturbing and unvarnished admission as a caption: “I’m as angry as a rhino!” Similarly, in her book, Amazing Grace; A Vocabulary of Faith, Kathleen Norris writes about a little boy who wrote a poem called “The Monster Who Was Sorry.” In the poem the boy explodes about how he hated it when his father yelled at him. In anger he threw his sister down the stairs, wrecked his room, then destroyed an entire town. His poem concludes: “Then I sit in my messy house and say to myself, ‘I shouldn’t have done all that.'”

“Commenting on the boy’s poem, Norris writes, ‘My messy house’ says it all; with more honesty than most adults could have mustered, the boy made a metaphor for himself that admitted the depth of his rage and also gave him a way out. If that boy had been a novice in a fourth century monastic desert, his elders might have told him that he was well on the way toward repentance, not such a monster after all, but only human. If the house is messy, they might have said, why not clean it up, why not make it into a place where God might wish to dwell.’

How’s your house looking?

James 1:19-20 (ESV) – Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; 20  for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.

PRAYER: Forgive our anger that does not work the righteousness of God!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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