DayBreaks for 3/24/17 – Once Again, Lord

DayBreaks for 3/24/17: Once Again, Lord

NOTE: Galen is traveling this week. This week’s DayBreaks will be from the May 2007 archives.

How many times in my life have I had a conversation like this with God: “Oh, God.  I’m so sorry.  I’ve done it again.  I’ve failed you.  I’ve let you down.  I’ve sinned again even after I promised you that I wouldn’t.  You must hate me.  I don’t understand why you continue to forgive me instead of striking me dead – which you have every right to do.  I’ve let you down so many, many times.”  If I had a penny (let alone a nickel) for every time I’ve had that conversation, I’d own all of North America by now.

It gets old, wearisome.  I know that God doesn’t want to hear that from me any more – I figure he must be at least as tired of hearing it as I am of saying it.  I am so grateful that He is a merciful and patient God!

Eugene Peterson recently was talking about this line of thinking and he had an interesting perspective on it that helped me.  Apparently, he, too, has had that conversation with God over and over and over.  He found himself saying it again to God not too long ago, when he said that he had an epiphany, and the Spirit set him straight about one thing.  He said it was as if God spoke these words to him: “No, you never let me down.  You never held me up.  I’m the one who holds you up.”

Wow.  Do you see how, even when we are in the midst of our conviction about our dreaded sinfulness and weakness, that we make it all about US in our human pride?  “I (capital, first person singular) let you down, God.”  It isn’t about me.  The story of the glory of salvation isn’t about my stopping letting God down.  That’s not it at all.  The glory of salvation is that He holds us up, covered in the blood of the Lamb, cleansed and forgiven. 

How foolish to think that I can hold God up, and I’d have to hold him up in order to let him down!  No, He is the lifter of my head, he is the lifter of my soul, the restorer of things broken.  May we learn to shift our thinking from what we can and have done, to glory in what God does!

PRAYER: Oh Lord, you are truly great!  We are nothing more than the sheep of your hand, the clay you have formed and fashioned, and that you have redeemed.  Thank you for lifting us up, for holding us up, for your glory!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2017 by Galen Dalrymple.

 

DayBreaks for 3/15/17 – What We Grab, Grabs Us

DayBreaks for 3/15/17: What We Grab, Grabs Us

There is a story that is told about a mighty eagle that hovered over a lake and suddenly swooped down and caught a two-foot long fish in its talons. Slowly, the bird rose with its ten pound catch, but when it reached about 1,000 feet, it began to descend, until it splashed into the water. Later, both the bird and fish were found dead. Apparently the fish was too heavy for the eagle, but it could not let go, for its talons were embedded in the flesh of the fish.

There is a very real truth illustrated in this story – one that we are loathe to admit when we are in the throes of temptation. The truth is simply this: what we grab, grabs us.

It doesn’t matter what the cause may be, but when we are in a difficult situation, perhaps when we are overly tired, lonely, depressed, frustrated we often reach out for things that the hope will help us cope with the situation or at the very least take some of the pain away for a while. And so, some grab a bottle only to find themselves later on to be alcoholics. Others grab drugs in order to escape, thinking to themselves that “I can handle this”, but of course, they can’t. Any time we start a sentence with “I can…” we are bound to be in trouble because we forget that we can’t do anything good without the power of the Spirit. Still others reach out for companionship, for someone who will listen to their tale of woe and injustice about their spouse and how the spouse isn’t meeting their needs for closeness. They may find themselves in the arms of another person before long only to realize too late that those arms are pulling them down to a broken marriage, family, shame, guilt and a lifetime of pain worse than they could have imagined.

Nearly anyone observing the eagle in the story could have told the eagle that it shouldn’t try to carry such a big fish. But the eagle believed it could handle what it has grabbed. That untruth led to the eagle’s demise.

Sin, no matter the shape or form, no matter the “reason” behind the temptation, takes hold of us after we’ve dabbled in it and if left uncleansed will kill us.

Beware what you grab hold of today. It could kill you tomorrow!

We have a higher purpose, a higher calling as His children: 1 Peter 2:9 (MSG)
But you are the ones chosen by God, chosen for the high calling of priestly work, chosen to be a holy people, God’s instruments to do his work and speak out for him, to tell others of the night-and-day difference he made for you…

If we are going to grab on to something, let us grab on to this: 1 Timothy 6:12 (NKJV) – Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called and have confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.

PRAYER: Lord, our grasping is often brought about by a desperate condition in our life and so we grab for those things that we believe may help us stay sane and survive. Give us the wisdom to be careful about what we grab hold of and what we need to run away from. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2017 by Galen Dalrymple.

DayBreaks for 10/25/16 – The Problem is on the Inside

DayBreaks for 10/25/16 – The Problem is on the Inside

From the DayBreaks archive, October 2006:

I was downtown at our local newspaper just this past week, dropping off some articles about an upcoming community wide seminar that we’ll be hosting at church in November.  It was just slightly after 2 in the afternoon, and I walked up to the door and found it locked, even though there were people inside.  The owner/editor of the paper saw me and came running to the door and unlocked it.  It seems that they were having problems with their burglar alarm and the repair man was there to work on it.  It reminded me of a story that I read by Max Lucado that I’d like to share with you.  In When God Whispers Your Name, Max Lucado writes:

“I rolled out of bed early—real early. I’d been on vacation for a couple of weeks, and I was rested. My energy level was high, so I dressed to go to the church office. My wife, Denalyn, tried to convince me not to go.

“It’s the middle of the night,” she mumbled. “What if a burglar tries to break in?”

“There had been an attempted break-in at the office a few weeks previously.  Ignoring my wife’s concern, I drove to the church, entered the office complex, disarmed the alarm, and then re-armed it.

“A few seconds later the sirens screamed. Somebody is trying to break in! I raced down the hall, turned off the alarm, ran back to my office, and dialed 911. After I hung up, it occurred to me that the thieves could get in before the police arrived. I dashed back down the hall and re-armed the system.

“They won’t get me,” I mumbled defiantly as I punched in the code.

“As I turned, the sirens blared again. I disarmed the alarm and reset it. I walked to a window to look for the police. The alarm sounded a third time. Once again I disarmed it and reset it.

“Walking back to my office, the alarm sounded again. I disarmed it. Wait a minute; this alarm system must be fouled up. I called the alarm company.

“Our alarm system keeps going off,” I told the fellow who answered. “We’ve either got some determined thieves or a malfunction.”

“There could be one other option,” he said. “Did you know that your building is equipped with a motion detector?”

“Then the police arrived. “I think the problem is on the inside, not the outside,” I told them, embarrassed that I was the culprit setting of the alarm.

“Am I the only one to blame an inside problem on an outside source?

“Alarms sound in your world as well. Heaven knows you don’t silence life’s alarm by pretending they aren’t screaming. But heaven also knows it’s wise to look in the mirror before you peek out the window.”

Let’s face it: there’s lots of temptation all around us, but that’s all it is: temptation.  The sin is inside our imaginations, minds and hearts.  When we sin, it is a problem that comes from inside us, and it will continue to be a problem until we learn not to blame everything and everyone else – and begin to confess our need to the One who can give us new hearts and minds that are hungry to please Him. 

PRAYER:  We confess, Lord Jesus, that there is really nothing good within us as humans.  It is only as Your Spirit lives in us that we can be freed from the power of sin.  Help us to want to do what is right, to bring you glory, to stop hurting you through what we do and think and say.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

DayBreaks for 7/14/15 – Avoiding Snakebite

DayBreaks for 7/14/15: Avoiding Snakebite

From the DayBreaks archive, 7/14/2005:

For the record, I don’t like snakes.  I don’t like to touch them.  I don’t like to see them unless they are safely in a cage on the other side of solid glass that’s too strong for them to break through.  Then, and only then, do I enjoy seeing them.  We live in rattlesnake country and so I’m always wary when around brush, rock or wood piles.  I’d just as soon leave the snakes alone.

John Ortberg told a story about a man who worked in a zoo that housed a 13-foot king cobra.  The venom in his venom glands was powerful enough to kill 1000 adult males.  A single bite from such a large cobra has been known to kill a full-grown African elephant.  As it turns out, this particular cobra had a scar by one eye that prevented it from completely shedding its skin when it molted.  That meant that every time the snake shed its skin, the zoo handlers had to grab and hold the angry snake while the vet carefully cut the skin away from the scar.

As I thought about that story, I was certain that I wouldn’t want the job of grabbing the snake.  I wouldn’t have wanted to grab it even if it was a harmless garter snake, let alone a ticked-off 13-foot king cobra.  But the vet, and 4 others, managed to grab hold of the snake and immobilize it long enough for the vet to cut away the dead skin.  But before he finished, the vet cautioned everyone that the most dangerous part was yet to take place: the moment when they had to release the snake, to let it go.  He told them that more people are bitten by snakes when letting go of them than while grabbing them or holding onto them.  I think he should have told them this tidbit of news before they agreed to hold onto the nasty beast to start with.  I would have been very angry at him if he’d not told me that in advance!

Still, it made me think about temptation and sin.  We grab the snake of sin and we’re in trouble.  We don’t know how to let it go without getting hurt.  We find out that the sin was much more powerful and difficult to deal with than we thought it would be when we gave in to it the first time.  But by then, we’re in trouble.  We’ve got a deadly, spitting snake in our hands and it wants to bury its fangs deep into our souls.

Why is it that we don’t just let go and run away?  We’re afraid.  But if we are brutally honest, we don’t really want to let go of the snake of temptation too badly, do we?  We’d rather keep hanging on to it so that we know where it is, and if we decide that we want to indulge our sinful appetites again, we can do so without having to go through the trouble of catching the snake all over again.  We hold it close, afraid of it, but pretending all the while that it is harmless, or at least that it can’t hurt us as long as we hang on to it tightly enough (i.e., “have it under control”).  We’re crazy. 

Are you holding onto a deadly viper of sin in your life?  Let it go…and run!  Run like crazy to the Savior!

Eccl 10:11 – It does no good to charm a snake after it has bitten you.PRAYER: Lord, we delude ourselves thinking we can master our temptations and manage our sinfulness!  Save us from this foolishness! In Jesus’ name, Amen.

© 2015, Galen C. Dalrymple.

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DayBreaks for 2/25/15 – A Subtler Game

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DayBreaks for 2/25/15: A Subtler Game    

From the Lenten devotion of Fr. Robert Barron about the second temptation of Jesus:

“Having failed at his first attempt to tempt Jesus in a direct and relatively crude way, the devil plays a subtler game: “The devil took him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a single instant.”

“This is the more rarefied, more refined temptation of power. Power is one of the greatest motivating factors in all of human history. Alexander the Great, Caesar, Augustus, Marcus Aurelius, Charlemagne, the Medicis, Charles V, Henry VIII, Louis XIV, Napoleon, Nixon, and Kissinger – all the way down to your boss at work. These are all people who have been seduced, at one time or another, by the siren song of power.

“We notice something very disquieting in the account of this temptation: the devil admits that all the kingdoms of the world have been given to him. He owns and controls them. That is quite a sweeping indictment of the institutions of political power. But it resonates with our sense that attaining high positions of power and not becoming corrupt is difficult to do.

“It might be useful here to recall the two great names for the devil in the Bible: ho Satanas, which means the adversary, and ho diabolos, which means the liar or the deceiver. Worldly power is based upon accusation, division, adversarial relationships, and lies. It’s the way that earthly rulers have always done their business.

“A tremendous temptation for Jesus was to use his Messianic authority to gain worldly power, to become a king. But if he had given in to this, he would not be consistently a conduit of the divine grace. He would be as remembered today as, perhaps, one of the governors of Syria or satraps of Babylon (and do you remember the first-century satrap of Babylon?)

“No, Jesus wanted to be the one through whom the divine love surged into creation, and so he said to Satan, It is written: ‘You shall worship the Lord, your God, and him alone shall you serve.

Who are you worshiping?  Who are you serving?

PRAYER: Jesus, it is perhaps because of our lowly estate that we so hunger for power.  Thank you for demonstrating how to deal with this temptation and give us the discernment to recognize when we are being tempted in this way!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

© 2015, Galen C. Dalrymple.

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DayBreaks for 2/13/15 – Just Not Very Much

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DayBreaks for 2/13/15: Just Not Very Much   From the DayBreaks archive, February 2005:

My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin.  (1 John 2:1)

John was a man of strong passions.  He is known by the nick-name of “Old Camel Knees” because he loved prayer so much that his knees were calloused and cracked from time spent on his knees.  He is also known as the apostle of love because of his tender letters and his focus on our need to love one another.  But John had another passion, and it was part of what prompted him to write his letter: that the recipients of his letter would STOP sinning.  Perhaps it shouldn’t surprise us that the apostle of love was so insistent about our not sinning.  Sin is sin because it is rebellion directed at a heart of Love, God’s heart. 

But while all that may be true, we’d miss the point of John’s writing if we don’t meditate on the verse quoted above.  We can argue all we want about whether or not it is possible for a Christian to not sin, but after all, we’re told that with every temptation there’s a way of escape, right?  Doesn’t that logically mean that we should be able to be without sin?  So, is the result of our sin our failure to appropriate the power of the Spirit to keep us from sinning?  Probably so.  But that’s not really what I want to focus on right now. 

Think about this: what is your goal for your own personal holiness?  Is it the same as John had for those who would read his letter: “…that you will not sin”?  In his wonderful book, the classic, The Practice of Holiness, Jerry Bridges asked himself that question and came up with this response: “…I realize that my personal life’s objective regarding holiness was less than that of John’s.  He was saying, in effect, ‘Make it your aim not to sin.’  As I thought about this, I realized that deep within my heart my real aim was not to sin very much.” 

Ouch, ouch, ouch!  I don’t know about you, but I’ve got those sins that I know I need to get rid of, but they continue to plague me.  Could it be because I really don’t want to stop them?  That I cherish them just a bit too much, so they are the exceptions to personal holiness that I allow in my life?  Perhaps I, like Jerry Bridges, haven’t had the right goal: to NOT sin, rather than to not sin very much, and certainly not in a public way!

Does the goal matter?  You bet.  Bridges goes on to use an illustration of a soldier going into battle, a life or death setting.  What’s his/her goal?  To not get hit?  Or, to not get hit very much?  You see the point.  We are in a battle.  It is a life or death situation.  Jonathan Edwards, one of the great preachers of early American history, made lots of resolutions, but perhaps this one was the best: “Resolved, never to do anything which I would be afraid to do if it were the last hour of my life.”  Bridges concludes: “There is no point in praying for victory over temptation if we are not willing to make a commitment to say ‘no’ to it.”

What’s your personal holiness goal?

PRAYER: God, we need to take our sin more seriously…and to also rest in Your mercy and grace for the times we do yield to our temptation.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

© 2015, Galen C. Dalrymple.

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DayBreaks for 3/07/14 – That’s Temptation!

DayBreaks for 3/07/14 – That’s Temptation         

William Willimon, in his book What’s Right with the Church (San Francisco: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1985), tells about leading a Sunday School class that was studying the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness. After careful study and explanation of each of the three temptations, Dr. Willimon asked, “How are we tempted today?” A young salesman was the first to speak. “Temptation is when your boss calls you in, as mine did yesterday, and says, `I’m going to give you a real opportunity. I’m going to give you a bigger sales territory. We believe that you are going places, young man.’

“But I don’t want a bigger sales territory,” the young salesman told his boss. “I’m already away from home four nights a week. It wouldn’t be fair to my wife and daughter.”

“Look,” his boss replied, “we’re asking you to do this for your wife and daughter. Don’t you want to be a good father? It takes money to support a family these days. Sure, your little girl doesn’t take much money now, but think of the future. Think of her future. I’m only asking you to do this for them,” the boss said.

The young man told the class, “Now, that’s temptation.”

Temptation doesn’t have to be blatant. It may not appear as a temptress or in the form of a bottle or needle or any such obvious thing as that. One man’s temptation may not be tempting to another, but we all have our areas of weakness.  Have you taken good stock lately of the times when you’ve been tempted?  Of the times you’ve thought about compromising something? The temptation and sin of compromise is often overlooked by fine-sounding arguments that make it seem OK.

What’s your temptation?

PRAYER: Satan is very crafty, Lord, and can make even bad things sound good.  Keep us from falling! In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2014 by Galen C. Dalrymple.

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