DayBreaks for 8/31/11 – You Have Forgotten Some

DayBreaks for 08/31/11 – You Have Forgotten Some

For you know that God paid a ransom to save you from the empty life you inherited from your ancestors.  And the ransom he paid was not mere gold or silver.  It was the precious blood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God. – 1 Peter 1:18-19

I love this story about how the devil once came to Martin Luther and tried to use the biblical truth about our sinfulness and our fallible nature as Christians to create in Luther a spirit of discouragement and defeat.  He presented Luther with a long list of sins which Luther was guilty of; sins of commission and sins of omission. Then Luther with his characteristic wit turned to the devil and said, “No, you must have forgotten some, for sure. Think a little harder.” Sure enough, the devil thought of some more, and he put them down. “That’s very fine,” said Luther. “Now write with red ink across them all, ‘The blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin’ (1 John 1:7).” There was nothing the devil could answer to that.

Do you believe 1 John 1:7?  Do you believe that you have been cleansed from ALL sin?  God paid a tremendous ransom for you…do you think He’ll just throw that out as having been useless, or that He will keep that which He’s purchased?

What does it mean that we’ve been cleansed from all sin?  It most certainly doesn’t mean that we don’t still sin…James is clear that if anyone says he doesn’t sin then he is a liar.  It must mean that though we still sin, we have been cleansed of all of it already through our confession of Christ.

We have been cleansed from all sin…we have been cleansed from all sin…we have been cleansed from all sin.  We need to repeat that over and over until it settles in and takes root.

PRAYER: We wrestle to accept our cleansing, Lord, because of our continued failures.  When the enemy tries to discourage us, may we answer with the truth of Your Word, that we have been cleansed from all sin!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2011 by Galen C. Dalrymple.

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DayBreaks for 08/30/11 – Who Gets In First

DayBreaks for 08/30/11 – Who Gets In First

I’m sure that you’ve had experiences like mine where you’ve waiting in a long line or even a bustling mob, waiting until the door to the movie theater, ball park, high-tech store opens and people surge in.  It seems to happen about every Christmas when the latest iPhone or iPad or iTouch or Gameboy or PS3 Playstation is released.  People will line up for up to several days in advance to be certain that they can get that one special present (more often than not for themselves), so they want to be the first ones to get in.

“But what do you think about this? A man with two sons told the older boy, ‘Son, go out and work in the vineyard today.’ 29 The son answered, ‘No, I won’t go,’ but later he changed his mind and went anyway. 30 Then the father told the other son, ‘You go,’ and he said, ‘Yes, sir, I will.’ But he didn’t go. 31 “Which of the two obeyed his father?” They replied, “The first.” Then Jesus explained his meaning: “I tell you the truth, corrupt tax collectors and prostitutes will get into the Kingdom of God before you do. 32 For John the Baptist came and showed you the right way to live, but you didn’t believe him, while tax collectors and prostitutes did. And even when you saw this happening, you refused to believe him and repent of your sins.” – Matthew 21:28-32

What an enormous propensity we have for self-justification!  What an enormous capacity we have for being shown what is right, and not accepting it!

Jesus stings the religious leaders, saying John showed them what was the right way to live – but they wouldn’t accept it.  They were too smug in their self-certainty and goodness.  It wasn’t John’s failure, it was theirs.

The tax collectors and prostitutes, probably the two most looked-down upon groups in that time, believed John’s word and Jesus says that they are the ones who will be allowed first into the kingdom.  Jesus wasn’t saying that the righteous folks couldn’t get in, but change was needed for them to come to the point of belief.  The difference: one group (the tax collectors and prostitutes) heard words of hope and future possibilities for a new life, while the other group heard it as a personal attack.  I wonder how often I lean to one side or the other?

It is those who think they deserve to be first in line who may be left outside staring through the gates into the heavenly city, watching those who knew they never deserved it as they sing praise to the Lamb.

PRAYER: Humble us, Lord!  Open our ears to not just hear the truth but to let it permeate deep into our hearts and minds.  Let us believe!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2011 by Galen C. Dalrymple.

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DayBreaks for 08/29/11 – Holding Fast to Our Confession

DayBreaks for 08/29/11 – Holding Fast to Our Confession

Since therefore we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. – Hebrews 4:14, ESV

Jonathan Schwartz called 911 in New York City in July to report that he had stabbed his mother to death.  A few minutes later, but before police arrived, Schwartz called back 911 to report a correction: “No, she committed suicide.”  (The mother’s body was found with multiple stab wounds, and police, notwithstanding Schwartz’s “correction,” charged him with murder.) – NY Daily News, 7/4/2011

This is none of the more stunning examples of someone going back on a confession that I’ve ever heard of.  It isn’t unusual to hear that someone suspected of a crime make a confession, but later recanted that confession.   I can’t help but wonder if they ever meant it in the first place – even if the original confession was the truth.

We all, from time to time, struggle with our “confession” that Christ is Lord of our life, that we are sinners.  How do we do that/  We do it when we confess our sins to Him, but don’t really repent (or even intend to.)  I suspect that is a denial of our confession.

The word confession is also used to describe our belief that He is Lord and that He is the son of God.  We can “withdraw” that confession in ways, too, such as when we fail to be witnesses to His Divinity, Lordship, and when we fail to tell others who He is.  We have failed at such times to live up to the confession we’ve made with our lips.

Someone once said that words are cheap.  They were both right and wrong.  It’s pretty cheap to say something when it won’t cost you anything, but when there is a cost involved is when we tend to fail to live up to our confession.  Peter struggled with it when the cost would have been high on the night of Jesus’ betrayal.  But he didn’t fail when it came time for his martyrdom.

Even if you have failed to live up to your confession many times, take courage: it wasn’t too late for Peter to finally live up to what he’d said he believed with his mouth, and it’s not too late for you or I, either.  In fact, we can start this very moment.

PRAYER: May our courage and strength that comes only from Your Spirit rise within us when our confession is at stake so that we may be counted among those who have held fast to their confession!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2011 by Galen C. Dalrymple.

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DayBreaks for 08/26/11 – Servants of Another

DayBreaks for 08/26/11 – Servants of Another

Who are we to pass judgment on the servant of Another?

In Mark 9 is an amazing story. The disciples were arguing about who would be the greatest and Jesus takes them down a notch.  Just when Jesus gets done speaking and you think that they’ve finally got it, John opens his mouth and tells Jesus about something that happened: they ran across a man who was casting out demons in the name of Jesus.  It bothered the disciples (probably because they’d just failed to be successful in that endeavor themselves), and John tells Jesus: We told him to stop because he wasn’t in our group.  Petty jealousy, can you say?

Are we much different than John or the rest of the disciples?  We build walls around our own beliefs, churches and denominations, label everyone on the “inside”, everyone who is “in our group” as being Christians and good – but those on the outside of the walls we have erected are at worst, doomed, or at best, highly suspect as to whether they are really disciples of Christ or not.  Believe me, I know how that works because I used be one of those wall-builders and protectors.

I spent the 20 years of my life in an extremely conservative, legalistic church.  There are times that I wish that I hadn’t, but the real truth is that I owe them a lot.  They were the first to teach me Bible stories when I was little, to teach me the importance of the Word.  They taught me a great reverence (if not outright fear) of God.  They taught me that without Jesus, things are hopeless.  I’ll forever be grateful for those things.  After the first 20 years, I found my faith being built up more by people “who weren’t in our group.”  If someone asks me today who my spiritual mentors have been, my list includes Cad Williams (my first Sunday school teacher), my dad and a Biblical scholar by the name of Homer Hailey – all three of whom were part of the “group” I grew up in.  My mentor list has now expanded outside of that group to include authors/preachers like Mark Buchanan who taught me about our wildly untamable God and how exciting it is to have a relationship with Him; Philip Yancey who has taught me much about grace and suffering and God’s faithfulness; John Ortberg who inspires me to live a more godly life and to try to be a better preacher; Brennan Manning who educated me about God’s tenderness and mercy; Michael Card who made the Word come alive in song and brought joy into my life; and David Platt who has challenged me to see the world through new and fresh eyes and to live a more radical Christianity.  Those people are from a wide range of backgrounds and denominations.  I am forever indebted to them.  They are all different, but serve the same Master.

Last Sunday I shared the following passage as part of my message for that day: They are God’s servants, not yours.  They are responsible to Him, not to you.  Let him tell them whether they are right or wrong.  And God is able to make them do as they should.­­  (Rom. 14:4)

Others may look strange, sound strange and smell strange, but in the case of the man who was casting out demons that John had rebuked and told to “Stop!”, Jesus essentially told John: Look at the fruit of the man’s life – is it good or bad, and remember – a bad tree can’t produce good fruit!  Look at his faith – is s/he doing it for his glory or in my Name for My glory?  If the fruit is good, and the faith is good, they should all be good with us and we should thank God that His kingdom is being advanced!  Let’s stop judging who is in and who is out – and leave the servants of God to do His work!

PRAYER: Forgive us for our blindness to the good works and faith of those who are outside our immediate faith circle, Lord!  Let us pray for the furtherance of Your kingdom – no matter who is doing the work, as long as the fruit and faith are good!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2011 by Galen C. Dalrymple.

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DayBreaks for 08/24/11 – Distance and Proximity

DayBreaks for 08/25/11 – Distance and Proximity

Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. – Hebrews 4:16

One of the best book titles from years gone by was J. B. Phillip’s, Your God Is Too Small.  It challenges our view of God (and in so-doing, of ourselves) and deserves a read on its own merits.  That being said, sometimes you run across something about God and our human perspective that just screams out to be shared.  Using Phillip’s book title, the article from the link below invites us to jump into the deep end of the pool of the greatness of God, to see ourselves in perspective, and to understand how distance and proximity relate to how we see and think of God.

So, rather than blathering on with my own thoughts today, I want to provide you with this link to a post at patheos.com that REALLY deserves to be read (as many there on the evangelical portal do!)  Here’s the link:

http://www.patheos.com/Resources/Additional-Resources/Faith-with-a-View-Robert-Crosby-08-16-2011?offset=0&max=1

Please – take the time to go and read it.  You’ll be blessed – and probably challenged in your thinking about your God and what He’s like!

PRAYER: Your people long ago were afraid to get close to You on the mountain, Lord, for fear of Your greatness.  Too often I lose my perspective and think I am great…and that You are small.  Draw me close to You again so my perspective can be corrected!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2011 by Galen C. Dalrymple.

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DayBreaks for 08/24/11 – Taming Envy

DayBreaks for 08/24/11 – Taming Envy

How to tame envy...

When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, 21 envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God. – Galatians 5:19-21

We read the above passage and get into Paul’s cheering section rather quickly: “You tell ‘em, Paul!  Tell those adultering, idol-worshipping pagans where to get off!  Blast ‘em, preacher!”  I’m of a bit different mind-set.  There are too many things in that list that describe me to get very enthused about Paul’s pronouncements about those who do such things.

In Shakespeare’s nineteenth sonnet, the speaker has suffered hard times, and says: I all alone beweep my outcast state, And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries, And look upon myself and curse my fate, Wishing me like to one more rich in hope, Featured like him, like him with friends possessed, Desiring this man’s art and that man’s scope, With what I most enjoy contented least . . .

What is the problem?  A simple 4 letter word: envy. We don’t know what has pained him so, but it has caused him to look at the blessings others are enjoying and he wants those things for himself.  Envy is a constant companion for many of us.  We see what others have and wish we had it – and we look at what we have and are “contented least” with it.  So what is the remedy to this envy malady?

Matthew Levering in his The Betrayal of Charity: The Sins that Sabotage Divine Love, says it doesn’t have to destroy us.  Matt Emerson, a regular writer for patheos.com, notes that the first great virtue we need to engage in this struggle is a reliance on God.  No matter what kinds of medicine may be prescribed in the treatment, we have to come to terms what I can’t cure my envy – that’s something only God can do.  Some have suggested that the solution comes from turning inward to solve the envy problem – even suggesting that if we work hard enough, we can attain to all that someone else has.

The problem occurs when we can’t.  And then we’re envious all over again.  I’ll never play baseball like Matt Kemp, take photos like Trey Ratcliff or Ansel Adams, sing like Andrea Bocelli or create art like Michelangelo, have the wealth of Bill Gates, oratory of Billy Graham, or compassion of Mother Theresa.

If there is a way out, it surely is God, and the understanding that we are creatures who come from a Creator and who will ultimately live in a different place than this material world.  Our envious desire of material things (while not necessarily evil in itself) needs to be set against the backdrop of our eternal destiny.  As Emerson put it: What seems best in a world of bill-paying and traffic jams may, in light of our eternal good, dissolve as insignificant. In other words, we might be fortunate not to have won the lottery or to have won great fame because however great those conditions seem, they may, in the end, imperil our souls.

One more point: we need to understand that we aren’t “owed” anything.  Levering says In a real sense, no one is deserving at all; all good is God’s gift and we must rejoice in it as such.  Instead of desponding over what we lack, we might spend more time dwelling in gratitude on what we already have.

Emerson suggests we take Levering’s advice and add in Shakespeare’s wisdom because at the end of that same sonnet the speaker regains his good cheer because his thoughts turn to his beloved. When we think of Christ as our beloved, there’s something very edifying in the closing lines of the sonnet: For thy sweet love remembered such wealth brings / That then I scorn to change my state with kings.

PRAYER: Jesus, I want to be done with looking at things in this world, even the successes of other believers in their efforts for You, and being envious of them! May I rejoice in Your goodness to them and in Your wondrous gifts to me!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2011 by Galen C. Dalrymple.

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DayBreaks for 8/23/11 – Of Fig Trees and Pharisees

DayBreaks for 08/23/11 – Of Fig Trees and Pharisees

The fig tree and appearances...and reality.

In the morning, as Jesus was returning to Jerusalem, he was hungry, 19 and he noticed a fig tree beside the road. He went over to see if there were any figs, but there were only leaves. Then he said to it, “May you never bear fruit again!” And immediately the fig tree withered up. 20 The disciples were amazed when they saw this and asked, “How did the fig tree wither so quickly?” 21 Then Jesus told them, “I tell you the truth, if you have faith and don’t doubt, you can do things like this and much more. You can even say to this mountain, ‘May you be lifted up and thrown into the sea,’ and it will happen. 22 You can pray for anything, and if you have faith, you will receive it.” – Matthew 21:18-22

I know that Jesus used this to teach a lesson to his disciples.  The lesson Jesus draws is about faith and doubt.  It is hard to miss that part of the story because Jesus makes it so explicit.  Perhaps we should just leave it at that in the interest of pure exegesis.

But I think that there’s also another lesson that isn’t usually associated with this passage.  Jesus looks at the tree and curses it because the tree was all show – and no substance.  It was much like the Pharisees – with whom he’d had a confrontation the day before – beautiful on the outside, but there was no substance.  They looked good, but weren’t good.  It is so easy to get down on the Pharisees because Jesus allows us to see them as He saw them.  Lest we get too carried away, however, I need to remember that it is probably easier to be like the Pharisees than different from them.

I try (who doesn’t?) to look good on the outside – physically, socially, intellectually and spiritually.  When it comes to spiritual matters, I can say my “Praise the Lord!” when someone experiences something good, so that I sound like I’m always thinking about the Lord and how good He is (and He is!)  Another case in point: I can pray in public when I go out with other Christians to eat at a restaurant, making a show of bowing my head so it’s obvious what I’m doing, even suggesting we pray if others don’t bring it up first…but what if in my heart of hearts it is all a show?  I mean, if I don’t normally give thanks for each meal when I’m at home by myself or with my family, one must ask themselves the question: why am I doing this in public?  What’s my motivation?  Is it truly thankfulness, or am I just putting on a show because I think my Christian co-diners expect it, or because I want them to think I’m spiritual?  And what about watching my language when I’m around other Christians, but not when I’m with foul-mouthed co-workers?  Aren’t those things nothing more than pretending to be fruitful, to present a look of a fruitful Christian but not the reality in my heart?

Pharisees are a dime a dozen.  Real followers, real disciples, are rare treasures.  Which am I?  Which are you?

PRAYER: Lord, we can be such hypocrites – and never even really think about how hypocritical we are!  Open our eyes to our own attempts to appear holier than we are and humble us before your cross.  Grow us into being real followers and not just show-boats.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2011 by Galen C. Dalrymple.

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