DayBreaks for 11/27/19 – The Blessing of Darkness, #2

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DayBreaks for 11/27/19: The Blessing of Darkness, #2

Yesterday we looked at Psalm 88 – one of only two Psalms that don’t have any ray of hope or light. I want to explore it a bit further today.

In Psalm 88, Heman is very vocal about the source of his trouble: You (meaning God).  God is not hearing Heman. He has had so much trouble that he believes he is near Sheol (the grave) and he says it is God who has put him there. Not only that, but God has caused his friend to distance themselves (vs. 8) from Heman, making him repulsive to them. It is God’s wrath that is heavy on him (vs. 7). In spite of that, He cries out day and night to God (vs. 9) but feels utterly rejected (vs. 14) and is so despairing that he calls the darkness his only friend (vs. 18).

What are we to make of this? Was God to blame for the darkness around Heman? I honestly don’t know, but Heman believed it. His cries are not unlike those of Job.

What is the lesson here for us? I think it may be this – if God is to blame for it (the Spirit inspired these words, remember!) – then it is a tool God is using for our good, not our harm. And what good could that possibly be? Maybe this: the value of the darkness is that it reveals to us if we are in this to serve God or to be served by Him.

It is in the darkness that we find out the truth about our motives. Satan’s accusation against God was that Job only served Him for what God did for him – that Job’s relationship with God was basically a selfish one.

I suspect that Heman learned a great deal from this darkness. And I suspect he figured it out the right way because he was still calling out to God in the midst of the darkness. He wanted answers – which he may or may not have received  just like Job – but the greatest lesson is what he learned about his motivation for being a worshipper of God.

PRAYER: Father, reveal to us, in our own darkness, the motives of our heart and our reason for claiming to be Your children. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

DayBreaks for 11/15/19 – Hidden Blessings

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DayBreaks for 11/15/19: Hidden Blessings

From the DayBreaks archive, November 2009:

Franklin and Phileda Nelson went to Burma as missionaries in the 1940s. They served there eight and a half years before the government closed the country to further missionary work. They returned to the United States where Franklin served several churches in various pastoral roles.

While in Burma they worked among remote tribes, and Franklin found his sense of gratitude for God’s providence rekindled. When reflecting on his missions work, he said: “In the Burmese hill country, the only way to get to remote villages was by “shank mare.” (That’s walking, in case you’ve never heard the phrase.) It was not at all uncommon for me to walk twenty miles a day in the dry season. When I got back to the States and worked as a pastor and church leader, I rarely walked a mile a day; the telephone and car made walking unnecessary.

“In Burma, if one of us got sick, the nearest hospital was ten days away. In the States, medical care is minutes away. In Burma, we’d go months without bread. Once we asked our daughter Karen to say grace before a meal, and she said, “Why do I have to pray for my daily bread when I don’t ever get any?” I have often coveted that experience for our youngest daughter who never had to wonder where her food came from. It’s hard to have that sense of helplessness and humility so vital to prayer when you sit down to your daily bread and don’t even think about how you got it.   

“I don’t in any way blame people here for not knowing what God can do. We’re victims of our prosperity. But I sometimes wish we had a few more hard times so people could experience firsthand how wonderful it is to be totally dependent on God.

Those last six words haunt me.  I know that I should trust God completely.  I know intellectually that I am totally dependent on God.  But I don’t live as if it’s true. The very statement “…how wonderful it is to be totally dependent on God” – how does that make you feel? 

Our feelings, of course, change nothing in regard to the veracity of the statement.  We are – like it or not – totally dependent on Him.  TOTALLY.  Might we not be far better off if we just simply acknowledge that and live in that knowledge constantly?  Our strivings would cease, our worry lines would diminish, and we would find some of the blessings that Franklin and Phileda found in their hardships – a greater trust in Him in all things.

PRAYER: Help us to not thank you only for the good, but to search for the hidden blessings in suffering and hardship.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

DayBreaks for 10/24/19 – The Bridge: When Faith Comes Hard

Weaving the Bridge

DayBreaks for 10/23/19: The MBridge – When Faith Comes Hard

It isn’t easy to always have faith and even hard to act on that faith. I suspect that it grows even harder as more and more is at stake. For instance, if you are being asked to deny your faith and the life of your family is at stake if you don’t, acting on faith in that case would perhaps be at the most extreme test possible.

The education system today calls faith into question, placing it on the scales to determine if it makes sense or not. We want to reduce everything to mathematical equations and certainties. The world is uncomfortable with uncertainty and things that cannot be proved, hence faith itself is deemed foolish and those who cling to it are ridiculed and proclaimed to be idiots.

Perhaps what Dr. Paul Brand wrote sheds a bit of light on this subject: “I have stood before a bridge in South America constructed of interlocking vines that support a precariously swinging platform hundreds of feet above a river. I know that hundreds of people have trusted that bridge over the years, and as I stand at the edge of the chasm I can see people confidently crossing it. The engineer in me wants to weigh all the factors—measure the stress tolerances of the vines, test any wood for termites, survey all the bridges in the area for one that might be stronger. I could spend a lifetime determining whether this bridge is fully trustworthy. Eventually, though, if I really want to cross, I must take a step. When I put my weight on that bridge and walk across, even though my heart is pounding and my knees are shaking, I am declaring my position.

“In my Christian walk I sometimes must proceed like this, making choices which involve uncertainty. If I wait for all the possible evidence, I’ll never move.” Dr. Paul Brand, Fearfully and Wonderfully

For those who have taken “the step” of faith and have found it true, we heartily assert it is not foolish. Those who have tasted the goodness of God’s love and compassion know it is real. Those who never take the step will never know, nor could we expect them to know, how solid the Bridge and Bridgebuilder is.

I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father but by me.

PRAYER: Give us the courage to believe and to act in faith!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

DayBreaks for 10/22/19 – The Message of the Anointing Oil, #2

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DayBreaks for 10/22/19: The Message of the Oil of Anointing, #2

From the DayBreaks archive, October 2009:

Oil has always been used in medicinal ways, and when David spoke of the Good Shepherd anointing his head with oil, he had several images in mind.  In fact, in Psalm 23, he combined these images into one comprehensive picture.  Here’s the second lesson we can learn about oil, anointing and the Shepherd of our souls:

Part of the job of the shepherd was to prepare the pasture in the high country for the arrival of the sheep during the season of the year when the grass in the lower country was parched and dry.  Preparing that pasture included clearing it of harmful rocks, brush and thorns.  It involved clearing enough of an area so that any predators could be seen before they got too close to the flock.  It meant making sure there was enough water (still waters – sheep won’t drink readily from rapidly flowing water) and grass (green pastures).  The pasture was generally a relatively flat area – a table land (preparing the table).  It also meant another thing: looking for the holes of poisonous asps that lived in the high country. 

The asp lived in a hole in the ground.  They would attack the sheep by popping up out of their hole in the ground and biting them on the nose.  If the snake was a poisonous one, death could obviously result.  If it was non-poisonous, the bite could get infected and lead to serious, if not fatal, conditions in the sheep that was bitten.  In order to help prevent the asps from claiming the lives of sheep, the shepherd would take oil and pour it around the hole of the asp…and then to anoint the sheep’s head and especially their nose with the slippery oil so that if the asp was still able to get out of their hole in the ground, their attempted bite would strike the oil-slicked nose or head of the sheep and glance off. 

In such a way, the shepherd protected the flock from enemies…and he had prepared the table land in the presence of those very enemies.  God has done the same for us through Christ.  Certainly, we can hear echoes of the communion table that the Lord has prepared – and as Max Lucado noted, it was at the Passover feast where Christ had prepared the table that he also sent the enemy (Judas) out without letting him participate in the prepared table. 

God protects us in ways we will never know or understand.  The sheep don’t understand the anointing with oil – they don’t understand how its viscosity and slipperiness works.  They don’t have degrees in chemistry.  All they can do is lower their heads before the Shepherd and let him anoint them and trust that he knows what he’s doing.  We need to do the same!

PRAYER: We are so grateful that you have prepared a table for us in the midst of our enemies, and that you have given the Spirit to anoint and fill us!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

DayBreaks for 10/15/19 – The Longest Distance in the Universe

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DayBreaks for 10/15/19: The Longest Distance in the Universe

From the DayBreaks archive, October 2009:

If you’ve ever driven across the United States, you know how far it is!  And America is a relatively small land mass compared to Asia or the length of Africa.  Even flying overseas to other countries can be a long, long haul!  Traveling takes time.

I suppose that the longest distance that one could travel and remain on earth would either be around the equator, or the north/south meridian that would take one around the globe in a north to south direction.  I hate to think how long such a trip would take.

Some time ago, I read a statement that the longest distance in the world is the 18 inches between the human mind and the human heart.  What did they mean?  They meant that it’s easy to accept something with the mind and intellect, but very hard to really accept it and believe it with the heart.  For example, the Word tells us that we are no longer his enemies, nor even his servants, but His children.  But does it always feel like it to you?  After you’ve been doing things that you know you shouldn’t have been doing it is hard to believe that he welcomes us.  His promise from 1 John 1:9-10 to forgive us if we confess our sins is easy enough to memorize and tuck away in the gray matter of our brains, but it’s not as easy to really believe we’re forgiven and then to live like it.  And while we nod our heads in the affirmative when he tells us that greater is the One that is in us than the one that is in the world, and that we have His power at our disposal – it is much more difficult to act as if it is true because though we have head knowledge, our heart acceptance is woefully lacking. 

What difference does all this make?  We are hampered by the fact that what we know hasn’t traveled the 18 inches to our hearts.  We know we are to love Him, and that if we do love him, it will mean that we will obey Him – we don’t ever seem to really get to around to obeying him as if we love him. 

I wish there was a silver bullet that would enable all that head knowledge to make the journey to our hearts so we could live it out.  I don’t know of such a silver bullet, other than taking what He says on faith – and then to start to live like we believe it.  That means we will take more risks and step out more on faith than we have in the past.  It means we will take on challenges that are too big for us – and which we know are too big for us – and then watch Him make it happen through His own power so He gets the glory – not us. 

How much of what He has said and promised to you has made that longest journey in the world to your heart?

PRAYER: We are so grateful for your patience with us – and we ask that you help us to live what we know intellectually and to live lives of faith, not hesitation!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

DayBreaks for 9/30/19 – Pain and Joy

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DayBreaks for 9/30/19: Pain and Joy

From the DayBreaks archive, September 2009:

How would you feel if someone that you couldn’t see showed up to your door one day and offered you a deal like this one: “Hi!  I’m here to offer you a deal.  I know that you are concerned for your children.  Every loving parent is and you are clearly a loving parent.  Here’s the deal I’ve got for you: I will guarantee you generations of descendants.  I will make sure that they have a place to live.  I will see to it that they are taken care of and loved forever.  But, in order to have me do those things for you, your descendants will have to go through a few minor things, in particular, they’ll have to wait 400 years to get their land and in the meantime, they’ll be slaves to the most powerful nation on earth. How’s that sound? Do we have a deal?”

Chances are, you’d slam the door quickly and tell the visitor to “take a hike.”  And you’d have plenty of company. 

The scenario, of course, is not just a made-up story.  It really happened to a man by the name of Abraham and it is recorded in Genesis 15:13-14.  What is amazing is that Abraham essentially said, “Sure!  Sounds like a deal to me!”

We could always marvel about this grand old man of the faith.  He earned that nickname the hard way – by being tested and purified by the fire many times in his life.  I doubt than many, if any, living today would want to go through the same kind of testing to earn a similar nickname to “father of the faithful.”  But that’s not really the point that I’m after today. 

I’m sure that it was great for Abraham to hear that his children and their descendants would be cared for and loved by God.  But I’m also sure that it was very painful for him to hear about the 400 years of servitude that would precede their taking possession of the land of promise.  And so, at one and the same time, Abraham’s descendants because both his greatest joy…and his greatest pain.

If you look back at your life, isn’t that how it’s worked for you?  That the sources of your greatest joys become the sources also of your greatest pains, and that the things that have caused you the most pain often bring the greatest joys?  As Dr. Gerald Schroeder wrote in The Science of God, “If we mistake pleasure to be the avoidance of pain, we may miss some of the greatest pleasures in life, such as reaching the peak of a mountain or rearing children.  Ask parents the source of their greatest pleasure, and then ask them the source of their greatest pain.  It’s their kids every time.”

For all the complaining and moaning we often do about the pain in our lives, maybe we’re just too short-sighted to reflect back on the pain later and see how God has turned it into joy. 

PRAYER: Thank you for the many ways you teach us and for the fact that even our greatest pain can be turned into life’s greatest joy through your power!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

DayBreaks for 9/25/19 – Snakebit

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DayBreaks for 9/25/19: Snakebit

My son, Tim, recently wrote a brief article in the October 2019 edition of Christianity Today about a story in the book of Numbers. You may recall that the Israelites were in the wilderness when, in apparent desperation, they grumble about God. “Fiery” serpents show up and start biting them and many died. Moses intercedes and God instructs him to fashion a bronze serpent and put it up on a pole so that …if a serpent bit anyone, he would look at the bronze serpent and live (Num 21:9, ESV).

It only takes five verses to cover the tale. As strange as the story is, Jesus alludes to it in John 3:14, saying that he would also be lifted up and that anyone who looked to him would find life everlasting.

But here’s what caught my attention in Tim’s article: “One of my favorite aspects of the Numbers story is what it requires

of the afflicted. If a snake bites your foot, the natural reaction is to look down. We are all tempted to fixate on our troubles and our fears. In order to look for God, in order to be healed, we have to lift our eyes and see God’s provision.”

We are often afflicted, are we not? And when we do, we hang our heads, downcast and we can’t seem to think of anything else but how we’ve been wounded. If the Israelites hung their heads in despair, they would die. They were forced to lift their eyes heavenward if they wanted to survive.

Nothing has changed since then. If we want to survive, we must still look upward. It’s a natural reaction to look at your foot if you’ve been bitten by a snake, it is intuitively unnatural to look upward. God knows our tendencies and that we will fixate on the wrong thing if we aren’t careful.

Struggling? Have you been snake-bit? Look up to see Jesus and find life!

PRAYER: Jesus, let us lift our eyes to you when we need help and when we have been ‘snake-bit’ to find deliverance!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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