DayBreaks for 5/18/17 – Courageous Faith

DayBreaks for 5/18/17: Courageous Faith

John 12:42-43 (ESV) – Nevertheless, many even of the authorities believed in him, but for fear of the Pharisees they did not confess it, so that they would not be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God.

Who doesn’t love glory? Who doesn’t love to receive praise and recognition and, yes, honor? On our birthdays we pretend to not care that we’re the center of attention, but we are inwardly pleased to be recognized as having achieved yet another milestone (especially as we get older and the milestones become more significant!) But this is entirely different. Though many leaders of the Jews believed in Jesus (how could they not given all he’d done and how he taught?), they didn’t confess him.

When I read today’s passage, my heart and mind instantly jump into judgement mode: “Shame on them! What cowards!” And to make it worse, I then jump almost instantly to boastful mode, “I wouldn’t have done that! I’d have boldly proclaimed my belief in Jesus – no matter the cost!” But would I really?

We don’t know who these “authorities” were who believed, though we might surmise Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus were among them. But there were others, for John says there were “many” who believed in Jesus. To be a Jewish authority, you HAD to be part of the synagogue, part of the heart and soul of the nation’s faith and religion. To proclaim faith in Jesus would have been religious, social, political and even economic suicide to these men – and those who depended on them. When I think of it in that light and think about my own insecurities about my livelihood and finances, I find myself less than certain that I would have stood up to be counted as a follower of Christ.

It is lessons like this that put my weak faith into perspective. In spite of how I might try to honor my own faith by thinking how great or strong it is, if I insert myself into the shoes of those “many” authorities, I realize how weak my faith may truly be. Are you ready to take a stand for your faith in Jesus if it means the loss of your job, your reputation, your income – perhaps even your ability to ever find and hold work again? That’s what was at stake for these men. That doesn’t mean that they made the right choice – but this lesson in human frailty is sobering to me.

One other thing makes it easier to seek the praise of men rather than God. The praise of this world is immediately accessible as long as I do what the world wants me to do and think. God’s praise is primarily held in reserve for the day I stand before His throne. But His approval is the only approval that will endure and that will matter on that day. He won’t give me approval for following the ways of the society and world, but He will give me approval for even my weak faith in Jesus – and that will make all the difference.  

PRAYER: How we need greater, fearless faith, Jesus! Give us bold hearts and the vision necessary to see that it is only the praise of the Father than matters – and then to live courageous faith. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2017 by Galen Dalrymple.

 

DayBreaks for 5/17/17 – The Immanent or the Greater

Image result for fiery furnace

DayBreaks for 5/17/17: The Immanent or the Greater

Thanks to some writing by Mark Labberton, I’ve been fascinated again with the childhood story of Shadrach, Mescheh and Abednego.  I shared some insights in a DayBreaks before, but here’s one a friend had that I think is worth sharing.

I wrote before about how these young men had to discern the real danger when confronted with the choice of worshipping the golden image that King Nebuchadnezzar had built.  They had to decide for themselves if the greatest danger was in bowing down and worshipping the idol or in not worshipping the real and living God. 

As Hebrews, these three had been well versed in the 10 commandments, and I’m sure, could easily recite them by heart.  So, for them to truly be tempted to worship an idol, well, it probably wasn’t really a temptation for them at all.  Saving their lives might have been a temptation, but they certainly knew it was wrong to worship an idol.  But, here’s the thing: they believed that worshipping anything other than Yahweh was a greater risk and danger than worshipping the idol, however sometimes the immediate or immanent danger seems greater than the far off danger.  Even though they knew what was right and wrong, and they knew in their hearts that failure to be true to Yahweh was the greater danger, the heat from the fire was pressing against their skin, making itself felt RIGHT NOW, and the danger from not worshipping Yahweh probably seemed a long way off.

We are often tempted to compromise for a couple of reasons: we want immediate pleasure rather than delayed gratification, or we want to avoid the immediacy of pain and suffering.  The latter is just as dangerous as the first – and both can be deadly.

Is there some immediate suffering that you can foresee in your life that you’ve been wrestling with and trying to avoid by some compromise?  Are you thinking that you can set the record straight with God at some later point?  That’s very dangerous reasoning.  Remember the words of the writer to the Hebrews: (Hebrews 10:31, NLT) It is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

PRAYER: In our foolishness, Lord, we often forget that it may be better to suffer now than to fall into Your hands later.  Give us courage and open our eyes to understand that just because one kind of suffering may be more immediate, that it doesn’t mean it is the greatest suffering we could encounter.  Let us have no other gods before You! In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2017 by Galen Dalrymple.

 

DayBreaks for 5/16/17 – Drinking With No Complaining

DayBreaks for 5/16/17: Drinking With No Complaining

John 18:10-11 –Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant, cutting off his right ear. (The servant’s name was Malchus.) Jesus commanded Peter, “Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?”

Jesus’ acceptance of the Father’s will for him should be a lesson to us.  He was equally Divine with God, not inferior in any way, yet he submitted himself to the Father’s will without question.  Jesus resolved to drink the cup that the Father had given him to drink – and he would drink it to the very dregs, even as he poured out the cup of his life’s blood to the bitter end. 

How do we respond to the cup that the Father has given us to drink?  We can fight against it, telling Him that he’s asking too much of us, that it’s not fair, that there must be a better way, but in the end drink it through the filter of faith. We can not drink it at all and live our life in rebellion, filling our mouths and bellies with the drink of our own choosing or we can drink it as Jesus did – realizing that it is our sworn duty to obey the One who is the Lord over our very life, who could, if He so chose, un-make us at any moment. 

What is the cup that the Father has given you?  A difficult job, a difficult relationship, difficult children, a parent with Alzheimer’s, a failed career, the lack of a job, a physical problem or handicap, emotional troubles?  Why does God put such things in our lives?  He put the cup in Christ’s life not for his own sake, but for ours.  We think it’s all about us, but very, very little of it is about us and what we want.  It’s about God and about others.  Loving God means more than feeling good about Him – Jesus said several times in John that loving him will result in obedience to him.  It can’t be said any more clearly than Jesus has said it.  Sometimes that obedience will lead to a cross, sometimes to an empty tomb, eventually to an eternal home with our Lord.  And loving others as we love ourselves (let’s face it, even though we may at times be frustrated by our weaknesses and failings, we’re pretty fond of ourselves or we wouldn’t still be here) often involves drinking a cup that we’d rather not drink – for we don’t like everyone, we don’t love everyone and we would rather let them alone.  But that isn’t the cup that God passes to us – he puts people and situations in our lives sometimes for our benefit, sometimes for the benefit of others  – but more often than not, those things are to enable us to learn and grow with little or no visible benefit to ourselves.

I need to identify the cup that God has put in front of me – and to realize that it may vary from day to day – but that the overarching cup that He has asked us to take is to pour ourselves out for others, even as Christ was preparing to pour Himself out for us.

PRAYER: This day, Lord, let me drink the cup you’ve given me without complaining – just for once.  Let me realize that if there is struggle that has come into my life, that it is not without Your knowledge, and not without Your decree that should come to me.  Help us to learn this day from the struggles we have and to trust in You even more by the time this night rolls around.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2017 by Galen Dalrymple.

 

DayBreaks for 5/11/17 – The Wednesday Worry Box

DayBreaks for 5/11/17: The Wednesday Worry Box

Ah, worry. Do I ever worry? I’d like to say that I don’t, but I do. In fact, just yesterday I found myself worrying about whether or not my Medicare Advantage coverage would be in place in time, and also about whether or not my first insurance payment for it would arrive in time. I thought hitting the age when you go on Medicare was supposed to be good because you no longer had those huge insurance payments – but I found myself worrying. Not good.

Sometimes, even I’ve managed to learn that if you will just wait, problems take care of themselves. A man by the name of J. Arthur Rank had a system for doing that. He was an early pioneer of the film industry in Great Britain, and he also happened to be a devout Christian.

Rank found he couldn’t push his worries out of his mind completely; they were always slipping back in. So, he finally made a pact with God to limit his worrying to Wednesday. He even made himself a little Wednesday Worry Box and he placed it on his desk. Whenever a worry cropped up, Rank wrote it out and dropped it into the Wednesday Worry Box.

Would you like to know his amazing discovery? When Wednesday rolled around, he would open that box to find that only a third of the items he had written down were still worth worrying about. The rest had managed to resolve themselves!

If, like me, you find yourself often having a troubled heart, you may want to make yourself your own Wednesday Worry Box. But even more important, lel’s ask God to give us a new perspective. Let’s ask him to give us patience so that you do not jump ahead and worry about a problem that may never come. But most important of all, ask God for more faith. Faith in God is the best remedy for all our problems. Jesus put it plainly, Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me.

Do those problems really work themselves out? I don’t think so. I think what really happens is that they are really resolved by my Father who is looking out for me and my best interests – and I never needed to worry about them at all!

PRAYER: Thank you for being willing to work to resolve my worries before they become realities, and for caring so much about me. Help me have increased faith that you are more than up to the task of dealing with all that worries me! In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2017 by Galen Dalrymple.

 

DayBreaks for 5/08/17 – Don’t Let Being Human Stop You

DayBreaks for 5/08/17: Don’t Let Being Human Stop You

From the DayBreaks archive, May 2007:

One of the most frustrating things that I hear is people who say, “I hope I’m good enough to go to heaven.”  Of course, the corollary to it is: “I’m afraid I’m not good enough to go to heaven.”  Those statements drive me nuts.  Of course you’re not good enough to go to heaven!  None of us are good enough…but that doesn’t mean we won’t go there, thanks to the grace and mercy of God and the sacrifice of the Savior!

Grace.  What a wonder it is, and how little we believe in it!  For those of us who grew up in grace-challenged environments, when the first breath of grace blows through the soul it is like a world that has been dead and frozen for so long has suddenly thawed!  It reminds me of the scene in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe where spring finally breaks in Narnia after a long, long time.  The warmth of the sun is once again felt, the buds open, the flowers appear and the birds sing once again.  Grace.  How little we know of it!

Our world is not fond of grace.  Our world is more than happy, thank you very much, to point out on a constant basis the failures and faults in our lives.  At work you probably hear more about what you’ve done wrong than what you’ve done right.  At school, they mark up your papers with your mistakes, not your successes.  And if you don’t hear it from other folks, there’s that nagging little voice inside your head that says something like this: “I knew you couldn’t do it.  You’re not much good for anything are you?  You can’t even do the simplest things right, can you?  Why don’t you just give up and quit?”  I’ve heard that voice…I’ve had the conversation with myself many, many times.

In Hearing God, Dallas Willard wrote: “The humanity of Moses, David and Elijah, of Paul, Peter and Jesus Christ himself – of all that wonderful company of riotously human women and men whose experience is recorded in the Bible and in the history of the church teaches us a vital lesson: our humanity will not by itself prevent us from knowing and interacting with God just as they did.

Do you think that Moses, David, Elijah, Paul and Peter never made it to heaven?  They were just every bit as human as you and I.  But no one I know thinks that any of those folk are not in heaven.  They’re not there because they were better than anyone else, because they weren’t “too bad” to go, or because they were “good enough.”  There will be a lot more Bob’s, Mary’s, Jane’s and Joe’s in heaven than Moses, Peter or Paul.  And they won’t be there because they’re better, or even as good, as Moses, David and Elijah.  They, like those great names mentioned earlier, will be there because God loves them and they put their trust in His promised son, Jesus.  That’s the only basis for anyone to get there.  Stop hoping and wishing that you were better so you could “get there.”  Start practicing your belief in God’s promises!

John 18:9 (NLT) – He did this to fulfill his own statement: ‘I have not lost a single one of those you gave me.

PRAYER: Father, we listen to the subtle whisperings of the enemy far more than we do to You.  We believe his words of condemnation rather than live in Your victorious grace.  May we become people who trust more in Your Word than in the voices in our head.  In Jesus’ name, Amen

Copyright 2017 by Galen Dalrymple.

 

DayBreaks for 5/03/17 – The Problem with Forgiveness

DayBreaks for 5/03/17: The Problem With Forgiveness

From the DayBreaks archive, May 2007:

You remember the well-known passage that talks about forgiveness and how Peter (bless his heart) came to the Lord (after probably being hurt by someone) with the question recorded in Matthew 18:21-22 – Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?  Jesus answered, I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times. 

We struggle with forgiveness, don’t we?   Who among us hasn’t wanted to ask the same question as Peter?  “But God, you just don’t understand that Ed has hurt me so many times!  I just can’t forgive him again!”  After some time and repeated hurtings, there is just something inside of us that says, “Enough!  No more!  I’m not going to forgive you any more!”  From a human standpoint, it does seem that there should be some limit.  But God’s ways are not designed from a human standpoint. 

Why do we have so much trouble forgiving?  Because we’ve been hurt.  We feel used and abused.  We feel like we’ve been stomped on – again.  Our heart – our emotions – are involved.  And here is the truth that hurts – we want to hurt back.  That’s why we don’t want to have to go on forgiving forever.  We want the person who hurt us to hurt in return so they’ll know what it feels like.  And we want to sit and watch with glee when they “get theirs”!  I wish I could say that it was something noble like wanting justice (which may be the case sometimes), but I’m afraid that more often than not we just want to see the other person suffer like they’ve made us suffer.

Jesus’ response is stunning.  Essentially he tells Peter, “Stop counting.  You just keep on forgiving.  Never hold grudges.”  The rabbis (based on a pattern seen in Amos 1:3, 6, 9, etc.) held that forgiveness should be extended 3 times for a given sin but not a fourth time, so Peter may have felt he was being generous by doubling what was considered acceptable.  Jesus then told a parable about a servant being forgiven a huge debt and then he went out and tortured those who owed him a little.  The point is clear: how can we, who have been forgiven so much, be so quick and anxious and brutal to those who have wronged us and need our forgiveness?

The key is in Matthew 18:35 where Jesus says: This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother FROM YOUR HEART.  The problem we have is that we forgive with our heads, but not our hearts.  Our emotions get the better of us.  We submit with the mind, but not with the heart.  We are quick to appreciate intellectually what God has done for us, but we aren’t so good at translating that into what we should do for others.

The American Indians had a practice of “counting coup” on their enemies.  It involved hitting them after they’d captured or killed one of them.  It showed superiority and proclaimed “victory”.  Are you counting coup by not forgiving?  Is your spirit too prideful to act towards others like God, through Christ, has acted towards you?  I’m sure Peter was stunned and humbled by Christ’s words.  I pray that we will be, too.

PRAYER:  Lord, we have so many things that we need to forgive and move on with life!  Help us to forgive FROM THE HEART, not from our heads.  Thank you that you have forgiven us so completely and so generously.  Make us like you in our forgiveness!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2017 by Galen Dalrymple.

 

DayBreaks for 5/01/17 – Obedience

DayBreaks for 5/01/17: Obedience

From the DayBreaks archive, May 2007:

Listen to this story.  I don’t know the source of the story, but here it is:

“How we admire the obedience a dog shows to its master!  Archibald Rutledge wrote that one day he met a man whose dog had just been killed in a forest fire.  Heartbroken, the man explained to Rutledge how it happened.  Because he worked out-of-doors, he often took his dog with him.  That morning, he left the animal in a clearing and gave him a command to stay and watch his lunch bucket while he went into the forest.  His faithful friend understood, for that’s exactly what he did.  Then a fire started in the woods, and soon the blaze spread to the spot where the dog had been left.  But he didn’t move.  He stayed right where he was, in perfect obedience to his master’s word.  With tearful eyes, the dog’s owner said, “I always had to be careful what I told him to do, because I knew he would do it.”

Galen’s Thoughts: Loyalty.  Character.  Perseverance.  Courage.  Faithfulness.  These are all words that come to mind.  Sounds like a super-hero.  And then I have to stop myself and remember that I’m talking about a DOG!  But what lessons that dog can teach us!

I’m heart broken by this story for several reasons:

FIRST: I grieve for the dog’s sake.  I can’t imagine what it was like – how great the temptation must have been to cut and run through the forest away from the heat and torment of the flames – yet the dog stayed put.  I mourn the loss of the dog, but at a deeper level it makes me mourn my own lack of courage in obedience to the one I call my Master.

SECOND: I mourn that I am not more broken hearted by the loss of eternal souls than I am in the loss of the dog.  What is wrong with me, with us, when we have deeper feelings about the loss of a dog, albeit a tremendously loyal one, than the lives of those that surround us every day?

FINALLY: I am haunted by the final words of the dog’s master: “I always had to be careful what I told him to do, because I knew he would do it.”  What would my Master say about me?  Oh, how I wish Jesus could say, “I always had to be careful what I told Galen to do, because I knew he would do it!”  Instead, in my fear and weakness, I far too often run from the heat of the struggle into perceived safety.  But it is only perceived safety and it certainly isn’t obedience.

The love of the dog’s owner is clear in his tears – he loved his dog.  The pride of the owner is clear in his words – he was justifiably proud of the obedience of his dog.  I look at Jesus and see his tears for me and I know He loves me with all his heart.  I just wish my obedience was loyal enough that Jesus could be proud of me.

PRAYER:  Lord, forgive my lack of obedience and loyalty!  It seems to take no more than even the slightest distraction to pull me away from you sometimes.  Help me to have the kind of character you wish to develop in me.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2017 by Galen Dalrymple.